[WFB] Mantic Empire Of Dust Actual Build Review

My previous contact with Mantic miniatures has been limited and sweary. After putting together a bunch of their early Ghouls (which, honestly, I wasn’t really enthusiastic about to begin with) and having a miserable time of it, I wrote them off as pound shop Citadel and sacked off a whole edition of WFB rather than have to deal with them again.

Having put together an Empire of Dust army box, two sets of Enslaved Guardians, and the Revenant Champion (in “waving a flag about” configuration), I have… not exactly and completely made my peace with Mantic, but I’ve found them no worse than others in a lot of ways.

I’ll work my way through the contents in order of assembly and have a good gripe about the bits that weren’t good. I’m a French-dictation kind of reviewer: everything starts off a 5/5 and for everything that pisses me off I deduct a point.

Skeleton Archers: These were quite fun to do once I’d worked out that specific plastic legs off the sprue needed to go with specific metal bodies (some have a locating lug for the upper body and a slightly chunker back than the skinny ones that slot right into the upper body, no lug required). While I was slightly worried about some of the lunging sideways shooting legs they look neat now they’re done. 4/5.

Skeleton Warriors: Oh no, metal accessories on plastic bodies! These always used to annoy me back in the day and I had to take a little salt break after putting the standard bearer together (still not sure he’s gonna stand up on his own, and I’m starting to think I should have used a metal body).

It took me a while to realise I was slightly short of heads (only eighteen, which means picking some fun options from the plastic sprue) and, as with the Archers, some of the bodies are fussy about which legs they fit onto. These felt like rougher casts too, as I had to shave off some metal and plastic to get them to go together; perhaps putting all the Skeleton legs on bases and then testing all the bodies for fit in turn might have been a better way to go about this, or perhaps Mantic could have stretched a point and put in some instructions?

I do like that their hands are open, and allow for the choice of spear or sword, and I also like the plethora of spears and swords on the sprue, which suits me a lot more than the grab-bag of assorted ‘hand weapons’ GW’s original Skeleton Warriors ended up with. I like my Grave Monarchs to look a bit more orderly and have matching weapons, that’s all. I’m slightly less keen on the historical-style open hands into which the swords have to slot. The plastic ones were OK, but some of the metal ones were a bit tight or crooked, and the arms are so spindly that trying to bend the fingers open exerts too much pressure on the lower arm. I cheated on a few of them and chopped the hilts off the swords, aligning them with the top of the hands. I’ll go back and fill those gaps later on, or eventually. 3/5.

Balefire Catapult: This is where the lack of instructions made me gnash my teeth a couple of times. It wasn’t hard to work out how it should fit together, based on the box image, but the angle of photography on the box images isn’t very clear as an assembly guide. Also, some of the parts on the plastic sprue are a bit… nondescript, and I was very glad that one of my crew could just have a metal body stuck on his legs and call it a day. Also, for a small model it doesn’t half have a lot of bits that overhang bases; I’ve bunged it on a Mantic unit filler that’s about 40mm by 60mm and it’s still poking off in a couple of places. At least they did ship it with a base though, and it was infinitely easier to assemble than the original metal Skull Chucker (at least all the pieces had lugs and sockets), so it’s not too bad. 4/5. 

Pharoah: He was fine. Took me a minute to sit his arms naturally but I’m used to that. My only complaint was not having a proper solid base for him – I fixed it by gluing a flat one from my stash over the socket, but I could easily have filled it with some jank off the Skeleton sprue instead. 4/5.

Cursed High Priest: Take a good look at that whisper-thin white metal staff which has no points of contact with the rest of the miniature and ask yourself how long that’ll last in a figure case. Also, the head doesn’t fit at all snugly on the body; I’m still not sure if it’s cast properly or if I should have cut something off or what. 3/5.

Revenant Champion: It’s 2018. I thought we, as a hobby, were past bullshit like this spindly little shite with his separate arms, hands on flagpole and body. That’s four points of contact, on a metal model so requiring superglue, and all of them have to be aligned perfectly for the pose to look right. One of the worst cases of Privateer Elbow I’ve ever seen, managing to come off with it in both arms. Some liquid green stuff in the one joint I couldn’t quite be arsed with and he’ll look fine, but I’m not happy about this one. I get that they wanted to make a multi part kit but I’d have thrown that idea out and gone for a nice solid two piece job – body and banner. 2/5. 

Enslaved Soldiers: Small gripe: I know Mantic probably uses generic packaging for all its regiments, and the boxes have to be big enough to fit plastic sprues, but every time someone ships me a huge cardboard box full of inflatable fillers and a tiny bag of metal bits at the bottom, I roll my eyes.

Wooden bases? OK, I can live with that, although it does low-key annoy me that not everyone’s at the same basic height. They have tiny feet which don’t sit flush with the sheer, toothless surface of the base, so I had to assemble them upside down and let gravity do a lot of the work for me.

They also have a mild case of Privateer Elbow, but at least it’s only one arm that has to line up with a hand and a shoulder, and at least the shoulders are nice chunky ball and socket jobs with some flexibility to them. Once again, I think I’ve been spoiled by GW plastic sprues where there’d be clearly labelled pairs of limbs that went together; I had to do a bit too much guessing and squinting at lugs, and coupled with their unstable relationship with bases, Teddy ended up leaving the pram a couple of times.

They look weirdly small on their bases – I think because they’re compact and sit fully within the 40mm rather than being all lanky and overhangy like the GW Ushabti. It’s a better design, but it looks slightly off and I’ll have to busy up those bases with something later on. 2/5 for assembly but 4/5 when they’re done, because they do look boss.

Overall: A resoundingly average hobby experience. I want to mess around with these kits some more and see if I can’t kitbash some Skeleton Horsemen, but it’ll depend on what the joints are like on Mantic cavalry kits (whether they have the same peg and lug arrangement as the infantry, and whether or not the heads are separate). I’d really like it if I could order more Guardian bodies and put the spare arms to use.

I’m not sure how well they’ll fare when they’re put in a case – there’s a lot of brittle joins in here – but at least an effort’s been made to keep poses within their base area for the most part, and they annoyed me much less than the Ghouls did, so either Mantic have improved their casting/cutting or I’ve mellowed over the last six years. Either way. 3/5.

 

[WFB] An Ancient Scroll Has Been Unearthed…

With the B.I.G. Bash out of the way, my next target is the imaginatively named Bringing Back Sixth Edition in Upminster: a 1500 point event for the King of Editions, the Edition of Kings!

(I’m mentally referring to the event as ‘Bringing Sixthy Back’. Let’s see if that catches on…)

I’d originally planned to roll up with the original Sylvanian Nightmare (Black Knights with the Drakenhof Banner, three Vampire Thralls with Summon Wolves, two Black Coaches, two single base Bat Swarms, chaff to fill and all the Skeleton Crossbowmen I can raise), but two things put me off. One: I don’t have enough Wolves or Crossbowmen any more. Two: I’d quite like to have some friends at the end of the event.

If I’m going to be buying a bunch of new models anyway, why not pick something a bit less… fun-hostile… and a lot more affordable? (I like Iron Wind’s Skeleton Crossbowmen and $30 for 12 isn’t bad money, but in the quantities I’ll be needing them…)

And the thing is, I’ve always wanted a Tomb Kings army. I just never quite got around to it back in the day. But B.I.G. had a Mantic ‘Totally Not Tomb Kings’ box deal and I like to pay where I play and circumstances dictated and here we are.

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Here’s some rationale and rhyme and reason.

The Crook and Flail on the Prince are a bargain. Always Strikes First and extra attacks? Give it ‘ere. He doesn’t get defensive kit because at T5 and W3 he’s already one of the beefiest Heroes around, and anything which can put the hurt on him will probably not blink at a paltry 6+ armour save.

The Staff of Ravening is a bit of a choice. I’m sticking to my guns here and leaning into more aggressive spellcasting rather than Dispel Scrolls and bunkering up: it may turn out not to be a great decision and I may resort to the traditional and boring Golden Ankhra if my Liche proves too hard to protect. As it is he’s going to chill near but not in the Tomb Guard and try to stay out of trouble.

The Skeleton Archers are what they are: they fill Core slots, give a presence in the shooting phase, and don’t give up too many Victory Points if sent to their death. I am very much looking forward to actually doing something in the shooting phase, by the way, thanks for asking.

Ushabti may not be the best choice around but I don’t care. I’ve always wanted some, Mantic’s substitute models are nice enough, and they fulfil the role that the classic line of six heavy cavalry does in most 6e armies – corralling the opponent, threatening double charges, and guiding the battle to where I want it. Because I’m going Construct-heavy I also want a Battle Standard Bearer and because the Icon Bearer profile is comparatively squishy I’ll forgo magic banners and give him an extra wound and an actual saving throw that’s worth a whole fart in a tin cup.

The Tomb Guard are there to protect my characters, by offering a Look Out Sir and a 5+ Ward from their standard, and to deny some Victory Points. VP denial armies were very common down our way in 6e: between a third and a half of the army’s total value would be concentrated in one unit which was quite hard to kill and if the enemy wanted to win big they’d have to concentrate on wiping that out, meaning that the rest of your forces had free reign. Or they could deal with the other stuff but know that a Major Victory was out of reach because they hadn’t touched the big box o’ points at the army’s heart.

Tomb Guard are pretty good for this, and certainly the best melee infantry the Kings have to offer. Toughness 4, reasonable saves (not as good as Grave Guard but they do have the Ward banner), and crucially, they come back. Being able to spring d6 models back into this unit at the drop of an Invocation could be massive, and it puts them just ahead of their Old World cousins in my estimation.

Finally, there’s the Screaming Skull Catapult. It’s a cheap Rare choice and honestly, one of these might not be the best pick I could make. I’m sure a Bone Giant would be more aggressive, or a Casket of Souls better at keeping my Liche alive. But the Skull Chucker, as I continue to know it, is dirt cheap, and it’s more of that novel ‘shooting’ stuff to play with, and… I’ve just realised it doesn’t have the Skulls of the Foe upgrade, so I might drop a couple of Tomb Guard to make room for that.

I have most of this stuff in hand now – merely need to decide if it’s worth chasing another Mantic box deal to expand the army or whether picking up the individual units will please me more. I’ve already had recommendations for Bone Giants (there’s a nice pair of sculpts from Reaper that should do the trick) and part of me’s getting thirsty for an eighth edition build-up.

Of course, Necrosphinxes and the like currently go for mad money on Fleabay, so I might have to resort to… desperate measures.

Bit excessive, maybe?