An order from Critical Mass Games arrived in my letterbox last week, having taken a mere four days from the UK to my house. Along with the few bits and pieces I had ordered, Craig kindly included a number of items for reviewing. What follows is what I’ve managed to get based and undercoated so far.
As many of you know, the Critical Mass Games-verse features four main factions plus an expanding range of alien mercenary groups. Each faction has a distinct appearance and technology type as well as a, one assumes, distinct set of tactics.
Back in 2009, Critical Mass Games débuted with the humanoid ARC Fleet. At the time, the Halo-esque helmets and body armour caused quite a stir in the 15mm-o-sphere. With almost no background presented, we were left with evocative names and lots of questions – what does ARC stand for? Are we talking about a fleet of world ships or does the ARC Fleet have a planetary point of origin? Are the ARC Fleet soldiers human? And how augmented are the ‘Augments’?
I personally didn’t get into the ARC Fleet when they were released – I already had GZG New Israelis and UNSC; and Rebel Minis Earthforce Marines, so I had a reasonable selection of armoured infantry – that is, until the ARC Fleet Grav bikes were announced. I do like Grav bikes, and I particularly like grav bikes created by John Bear Ross. AFGB1 is a lovely, one-piece model, with a separate resin stand. The grav bike and attached rider just looks fast - a SciFi Valentino Rossi geared up to cruise the New Hope City air corridors. CMG has actually released two other versions of the grav bike, a two-seater and a missile launcher attack bike, but this is the model that captured my imagination.
The second range CMG released were the caninoid Protolene Khanate. While the ARC Fleet use rather clunky grav tech for their vehicles (apart from the grav bikes), the Protolene favour walkers – both bipedal battlesuits and gigantic four legged all-terrain vehicles. As I already have a pile of Protolenes awaiting painting, Craig very kindly sent me some Protolene Mercenaries and some battlesuits to review - the latter are still awaiting assembly.
For us old Traveller fans, the arrival of the Protolene Khanate was like someone announcing the return of the Vargr in digitigrade form (yay!), though without tails (sad!). I intend using my RAFM Vargr as character figures, while deploying the Protolene when packs of Vargr are required.
The Kaamados Dominion, the third range from Critical Mass, appear to be a reptilian race, though the lightly armoured Naga and the diminutive Squamata Imperialis have quite different morphologies. The Vivipara, the third form, may in fact be Naga in body armour. The Kaamados Dominion appears to favour wheeled and tracked vehicles, and large, pyramid-like buildings.
During the 15mm Science Fiction Figure Exchange on TMP, Craig from CMG posted a picture of a Kaamados Dominion Draco Aganath Maxima Battlesuit painted up as part of his exchange group. While I like the Kaamados Dominion Naga, I hadn’t really considered the other figures in the Kaamados Dominion range, as I really wasn’t looking for more Battlesuits. After seeing Craig’s figure I changed my mind.
The Maxima is armed with two twin barrelled heavy guns of some sort – not quite BFGs, but very close – and a heavier version of the style of armour worn by the Vivipara Infantry. The legs are just slightly out of proportion to the body, which adds to the alieness of the Maxima, yet matches of the body proportions of the lightly armoured Naga. The implication being, I suppose, that a Naga operates the Maxima suit. I like to think that the Naga is entirely encased in the battlesuit's armour and that the suit’s head and optics unit is actually a little remote turret on the front of the thorax carapace. The Maxima is a beautiful model, highly detailed and I can see it playing a role as a character in an ItEN or 5150: A New Hope crew, or even in a 15mm Space Hulk Game.
The final faction, the Praesentia, is perhaps the most mysterious. With Phaseshifters, Enlightened, and Ancients, and with each form progressively physically larger than the one before, one wonders if they continue to grow as they age? The Praesentia also appear to favour combat droids – the RAL – and combat drones. The drones, also of various sizes, appear to use a much more elegant form of grav tech to that of the ARC Fleet.
Again, I had not intended buying any Praesentia as, initially, they didn’t appeal to me. Again, I changed my mind once I saw some Enlightened painted up on a blog in a slightly different fashion. The Praesentia are superbly sculpted figures with lots of movement and action in their chiton-like clothes. Their staff weapon is cast separately and I did have some difficulties getting the wrist lugs to engage properly – partially due to my out-of-practise fingers and failing eyesight – but patience won on the day.
And finally, the Mercenaries. I have picked up packs of most of these, excepting the Drone Walkers, the Vadorian Assassins, the Blockheads and the Astagars. The Blockheads are too similar to the Praesentia RAL, so I will continue to pass on them, and the Drone Walkers and the Astagars aren’t really my thing, but I am beginning to reconsider the Vadorians just because I have seem some painted in a slightly different fashion which begins to make sense to me.
This time around, I went for more Ygs Fighters and the Vorq’La. We have been discussing around the Dropship how to finish off “incomplete” ranges and I wanted to try a proof of concept on the Ygs. Taking one of new pistol-armed Ygs, I carefully removed his pistol and with two pieces of plastic rod, some plastic scrap and a flat-sectioned paper clip, I fashioned an energy weapon for him. The power cable is a bit of thread, but I’m thinking of upgrading it to a piece of string to get the scale correct – I have seen guitar string used for this sort of thing but I don’t have access to any guitars. The left hand rifle-Yg in the above picture is a prime candidate for having his rifle drilled out and extended with some plastic rod to make a SAW or sniper rifle.
I am intrigued by the Vorq’La. Of the five figures in the pack, the halberd-armed one is completely different, lacking both a tail and the exaggerated digitigrade leg structure of the other four, as well as having a differently shaped head. He reminds me a little of the mysterious sentinel figure often seen in 1970’s science fiction book cover art. I like him, though, and he will be a bodyguard type in my skirmish games.
Of the four other Vorq’La, two are armed with rifles, one with a pistol and dagger, and one with a sword and what looks like electronux – electrified knuckledusters. All four have separate heads (five choices) and three have separate tails. To me, the heads look particularly rodent-like or marsupial-like, though they appear to have head crests like a triceratops rather than marsupial ears. One head in particular has an exaggerated display of teeth (the ‘fierce face’) that actually changes its shape when compared to the other heads – see the left hand rifle-Vorq above.
I do like the Vorq’La, they are superbly detailed and genuinely interesting figures and I hope we see more of them. If you are interested in the Vorq’La, or any of the other figure packs in the Mercenaries range, Critical Mass Games is having a 20% off-all-Mercenaries sale until 31 October 2011. Check their webstore for details
In the second part of this article, we’ll have a look at more Praesentia – including drones and RAL – as well as some buildings and some Protolene battlesuits.