Keith at Armies Army was kind enough to send me a review pack of his new Neo-Sov Figures back in early February. But due to an unannounced shutdown of the UK-US 15mm Wormhole (Patent Pending), they didn't arrive until late last week. So even though these figures have already been covered by a few fellow bloggers, I still wanted to give them a proper review.
Let me get this out of the way first - I personally hate near-future gaming. Being in the US military for the last 12 years has left me with no desire to play anything recognizable. To me, science fiction battles should have towering mecha in bright colors, daring adventurers with silly fantasy-inspired weapons, and faceless minions with high-tech and horribly inaccurate blasters. So, with that being said...
I really do like these figures.
What Armies Army offers is a squad of soldiers wearing familiar-looking gear. Basic fatigues and combat boots, load-bearing equipment with canteens and pouches, and familiar knee, shoulder, and groin protection. Seven of them are armed with basic AK rifles, one has an RPG, one a machinegun (though not an RPK), and the NCO a machine pistol/SMG. These are the same weapons you'd find in actual Russian (or other former Soviet) military forces, or any third-world military or paramilitary force buying Russian surplus or knockoffs.
All ten poses in this first offering are unique. They range from a couple of stationary firing poses (feet anywhere from together to shoulder-width), some advancing poses, and one half-kneeling figure. All of them are dynamic - they are clearly in the middle of a firefight, rather than standing around straight or waving guns over their heads.
What sets these figures apart from most modern ranges are the helmets. These troops are wearing fully enclosed headgear rather than something you'd find today. It looks like it has very advanced optics, built-in communications, and even a light hostile-environment breathing apparatus. It reminded me more of helmets found on old Cobra forces from G.I.Joe than any real-world military concept headgear. These helmets really open some doors for the figure range as a whole... I'll discuss that a bit later.
The ten figures I received were very clean and well-detailed. They have the typical mold line running from toe-to-head-to-toe, but didn't suffer from any misalignment or bent weapons. A few seconds per figure with a small file and they were ready to paint. The only thing I can really complain about are the cast bases. These are just a bit too thick to blend into a penny or washer without a ton of extra work. But this problem is far from unique to Armies Army - in fact, these are far from the worst bases seen on 15mm figures. I just filed them smooth on this first squad - on future squads I'll use a Dremel to make them a bit thinner.
So... Who Are They?
The initial G.I.Joe impression gave me a few ideas on how to use these figures. I pictured them as assault troops for a hostile third-world dictator, and tried to come up with an appropriate paint scheme. I figured the uniforms and weapons were all old surplus items, so I painted my test figure with Vallejo Heavy Khaki, the load-bearing equipment P3 Cryx Bane Highlight, and the rifle Reaper Master Aged Pewter. And, thinking that the helmets were unique to that particular dictatorship - I tried to paint them Vallejo Blood for a Red Skull appearance...
Okay... didn't work. That is one UGLY paint job.
You know what? Military paint schemes just aren't my thing. So let's try something else. I saw a gallery sometime in the last few months - it was a Pig Iron 28mm figure beautifully painted in granite and orange. Couldn't find it again, but just knowing the basic colors gave me a good place to start. So this time, I went with Cryx Bane Highlight as the fatigue color, Cryx Bane Base on the boots, gloves, and helmet, Vallejo Fire Orange on the web gear and facemask, and a bit of work with Secret Weapon Stone wash and Wonder Wash original black.
Much better! It's amazing how much a differenet paint scheme changes a figure at this scale. So I threw that first one into a Simple Green bath and painted the other eight figures.
The new paint scheme inspired a few more possible backgrounds for these figures. Instead of a near future dictatorship - what about a ruthless post-apocalyptic enclave? I could easily work these into my not-Invid Invasion setting. The Dominion invaded Earth because of the sudden appearance of their Blue Crystals. Maybe most of those Crystals appeared in what we call the First World today, and that's where the invasion was concentrated. If so, a current third world state might emerge as a major power. Maybe somewhere in central Africa? This country wasn't hurt by the Dominion, but also didn't have the high-tech weapons and mecha of the Global Expeditionary Forces. Instead, they are forced to defend their borders with century-old weapons and tanks. I'm going to try painting a Proxie Models Trencher Tank to match this squad... a vehicle like that could easily be produced by a future nation unable to access the most current technologies.
Armies Army has produced a great little range of figures. They are perfect for near-future Tomorrow's War games, and have plenty of potential in more distant settings. And be sure to keep an eye on Keith's blog - he has posted some weapon conversions, and is openly discussing future releases for the Neo-Sovs.