Here are my painted versions of the latest three miniatures released for Star Wars Imperial Assault: Emperor Palpatine, Ahsoka Tano and Maul.
I can feel my enthusiasm for Imperial Assault dying a little bit more each day. When it first came out in 2014, I couldn't have been more excited. Star Wars was finally getting the deluxe war-game treatment: good sculpting, innovative rules, and the support of a tried-and-true gaming company in Fantasy Flight Games. I invested a lot of time, energy and love into collecting, painting and converting the miniatures.
It quickly became evident that the situation wasn't perfect. The miniatures were made out of cheaper, bendier plastic. The game play focused on unknown Rebel characters rather than the beloved heroes from the movies or TV shows. And new figures arrived at a glacial pace, leaving lots of holes in the cast (In fact, because Imperial Assault coincides with a raft of new movies and TV shows, charismatic new characters appear in the Star Wars universe much faster than the sculptors sculpt. As a result, with every year that goes by, there's a bigger deficit of miniatures. It reminds me of Tristram Shandy, who wrote his autobiography at a slower rate than he lived his life, so that the longer he lived, the further behind he lagged in his writing).
Underlying all of these problems is Fantasy Flight Games' rigid approach to gaming. They keep each miniature closely bonded to the rules, with character specific cards and counters. Miniature development is slow because the miniatures are subordinate to games development.
But, even with these downsides, Imperial Assault seemed worth the investment -- especially since it was the only game in town if you wanted to paint a lot of Star Wars miniatures. But Fantasy Flight Games has just continued to disappoint me, and now I feel pretty listless about the whole thing. The quality of miniature became inconsistent. And the slow pace of new releases stuttered to almost nothing in the past year. For instance, the only character from the original trilogy released in 2017 was Emperor Palpatine.
And then Fantasy Flight Games announced that they were producing a new Star Wars war-game with better quality miniatures. Star Wars Legion should have been excellent news. Thirty years ago, Games Workshop showed how much fun it can be when a company releases many different games set in the same general universe. The hobbyist's opportunities for creativity multiply as he or she re-purposes, converts and assembles miniatures in various combinations. Mutually complementary games means more miniatures, more variety, and more reward for the miniature painter (who can paint one miniature and then use it in two, three, or four games). And so, at first, I thought that Star Wars Legions was the answer to many of the problems be-deviling Imperial Assault.
Nope. Fantasy Flight Games decided that they would make Legions in a slightly different scale than Imperial Assault. They are just different enough that setting miniatures from the two games together looks awkward and silly. The message was clear: There is only one way to enjoy our products: in silos.
That, of course, is their prerogative. But that's where I check out. I like this hobby because painting gives me a sense of freedom and plenitude. I feel like a rich man when I paint a Skaven and can then use him for Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Advanced Heroquest and Mordheim (not to mention D&D, Descent, Frostgrave or any number of generic fantasy games). That a gaming company would do its best to foil that sort of fun seems sad. More to be pitied than scorned.
So I just don't know what more I'll paint in the Imperial Assault range. I guess I'll just play it by ear. But, to quote Catullus, my love for the game has cacked it, uelut pratiultimi flos, praetereunte postquam tactus aratro est.
For all my whinging, I did enjoy painting Palpatine. I love his face, with its bluish pancake make-up, red-rimmed eyes and yellow teeth. Jeepers, the man rules an entire galactic empire but can't find a dentist. The sculptor, Niklas Norman, created an ambiguous expression that a painter can pull into a grimace or smile. I went for the smile. I always thought that Palpatine was a hundred times creepier when he looked happy.
Above we have Ahsoka Tano, the erstwhile Jedi from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. I'm pleased that the sculptor, Adam Martin, opted to give her more realistic features, rather than giving her a cartoon-like proportions that mirror her appearance on the animated shows (In contradistinction, see the miniature for Hera Syndulla -- her sculptor, Gabriel Comin, made her look much too much like an animated cartoon).
In general, Ahsoka is a lovely miniature, with a dynamic pose and good detail. I did, however, have to replace her bendy-lightsabers with copper wire.
Above is the miniature for "Maul, Seeker of Vengeance". He's sculpted by Cory DeVore, which means that each of the three miniatures in this post had different sculptors. There are so many different sculptors in Imperial Assault that there's no consistency and you never know what you're going to get. And what we got here is an awkward and unimpressive pose: bum thrust out, arms extended, torso tilted. Get this man a chiropractor. I honestly don't know how you screw up Darth Maul, who's such a naturally terrifying figure... but somehow they managed to do it.
Oh Imperial Assault, you break my heart.