Critical Mass Games added the Star Marines to the Mercenary range a little while ago, and Craig kindly sent me two packs for review (along with a ton of the newer Mercenary vehicles - coming soon!). I was pretty excited when they were first released. Just from looking at the catalog photo...
...I could tell these were going to be some nice, bulky figures with thick armor and awesome shoulderpads. Since I have an odd tendency to paint figures in football team colors, these should have been a dream come true. In full (and somewhat embarrassing) disclosure, I didn't immediately recognize their influencing design.
My initial opinion changed a bit when I first had them in-hand. I didn't like them as much as I did from the photo. The visored helmet looked great in the photo, but seemed hilariously undersized compared to other figures. There was something vaguely video-game like about them, but I still wasn't seeing it. While contemplating how to put them into service (robots, a headswap, etc), someone over at the Google Plus 15mm Sci Fi community dropped three words that immediately changed my opinion.... Starcraft Terran Marines.
Once I stopped smacking myself in the head, I knew just what I was seeing. The human operator's torso is recessed, with bottom of the figure's visor at roughly nose level. When I compared it to slender-ish figures (like Critical Mass ARC Recon and Oddzial Osmy NVL), the armor's proportions worked almost perfectly. So, with the new image in my mind, I wondered how to give these a paint scheme that fit their video-game nature. Well, what about washed silver metallic with solid-color accents?
Just what I had in mind - simple to apply, and it did a good job of showing off the details. And there are loads of details to be found. There were no corners cut when these were sculpted - caps on the toes and heels of the boots, extended plates covering the knees and elbows, perfectly proportioned fingers holding the weapons with realistic grips, and nice greeblies on the back, chest, and outer shoulders. A skilled painter could spend hours on these, picking out the individual components. And the castings are excellent. A couple figures had some flash between the upper thighs - easily removed with a hobby knife. And a few did have a noticeable mold line across the top, but it was easily cleaned and didn't cut across the visor (one of my biggest complaints with other visored figure ranges). I only have one real gripe with these figures - the cast base is about 2.5mm thick, and I learned that the pewter Critical Mass Games uses doesn't file as easily as some others. So my Star Marines sit noticeably high on their bases. But I do know that thicker bases help keep the castings cleaner, so it's a trade-off I'm happy to live with.
There's good variety among the five poses. But for now, all we have are the rifle poses. If these prove to be successful, hopefully we can talk Craig and Dale into adding another pack or two. These would definitely benefit from heavy and support weapons as well as a command figure or two. I could see these being fielded as complete armies with those additional figures. But as it is now, they are great additions to larger forces or good for smaller skirmish games. Especially, in my mind, skirmishes fought in starship interiors. Which inspired me to try a secondary color scheme before painting the rest:
I decided to paint a "red team" and a "blue team." That would give me some extra flexibility with them - they could be cooperative or competing protagonists in a game, racing against each other through rooms and corridors, slaughtering aliens and small automatons. Or, on a proper tabletop setting, one team could be hired as mercenaries for the attacker, while another team is hired by the defender.
The Star Marines compare pretty well to other 15mm Power Armor figures. Here they are with Critical Mass' own ARC Fleet Augments and with GZG NAC, Brigade Models PA, and Kremlin MANITOU. They look just as protected and lethal as any "equivalent" trooper they might encounter.
And they do stand out compared to non power armored infantry. They could have been just slightly larger for that instant "wow" effect, but it's quite clear that they have more armor than most fatigued 15mm figures. Here they are with a Critical Mass ARC Fleet Recon trooper, an Armies Army Rusk soldier, a Rebel Minis Homeguard trooper, and a Blue Moon Orion Republican.
And just for fun, here's the Red Team battling some Astagar Fighters aboard a Paper Make It Space Base. I can't think of a more suitable environment for the Star Marines.