Hobby Highlight: Miniature Superlatives

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December 26,2012 > June 11, 2018

I am DONE.  I have painted everything for DreadBall.  And then some…

My gaming club (CORT) went “all-in” for the first two DreadBall Kickstarter campaigns, and I grabbed the 2nd Edition Kickstarter bundle.  As part of our acquisition program, I made a commitment to my mates that I would paint the entire lot.

I initially anticipated twelve teams, a few giants, and a handful of MVPs.   That was an ambitious, but manageable oath.  Then, there was another set of teams, giants, and MVPs.  Not to mention a new game.  Then, there was a second edition.  Not to mention new, second edition components.  My commitment had serious “mission creep.”

Every team, MVP, Giant, Staff, Accessory…  Done.  600 plus models.  It was a hell of a project, and now I’m going to go drink a beer. Maybe more.

[returning to the keyboard after two pints]

In the five and a half years it took to paint these little galactic athletes, I learned a lot.  Miniature painting is a peculiar past time that affords moments of clarity on various topics; health, wellness, legacy, relationships, endurance, persistence, and dedication to name a few.  Practically, I did learn a bit about pushing wet pigment around on toys.

Below lies my assessment of DreadBall miniatures.  I call the proceedings my “DreadBall Superlatives.”  Fourteen Rushes, fourteen categories.  These opinions are mine and mine alone.  All of this took longer that I’ll ever admit.  Please share your opinions on my purely subjective distinctions in the comments.

Bur first, there are preambles!

I.  I chose very early to mimic the color (ahem, colour) schemes of Mantic’s production photos.  In part because I wanted to challenge myself, and also because I thought it would be a soft promotional tactic when fielding the teams in public spaces.

II.  I used Army Painter primer and paints.  I used a combination of Army Painter and Citadel tones/washes.

III.  I chose very early to strive for “table top standard.”  My gaming club plays games.  We don’t paint games.  We’re middle aged men with eye glasses to see, and pint glasses to drink beer.  None of us are scrutinizing the level of miniature detail from 30″ away.  Also, time.  With several hundred miniatures to paint,  aiming for “TTS” quality helped move the process along.

[Lengthy diatribe] Despite being a professional artist, I only began painting miniatures in 2010 with Games Workshop’s 3rd edition of Space Hulk.  This relatively new past time has been an interesting diversion from my normal studio practice of painting larger works on canvas.  In one way, painting a miniature is instant gratification.  I can finish a “TTS” miniature within a day, whereas a canvas may sometimes take three months.  In another way, painting a miniature is like a glorified coloring book.  I’m slapping paint onto a fully realized image that happens to be three-dimensional.  The process is fun, but it’s technique driven and strictly complementary/secondary to the work of the illustrator & sculptor.  As such, it’s no where near as rewarding or fulfilling for me as creating unique works from conception to final execution.

SUPERLATIVE CRITERIA

Form follows function.  In Dreadball, this refers to a) the physical game, and b) the theme.

a) [Lengthier diatribe] DreadBall is a board game.  It just happens to be a board game published by a miniatures gaming company.  Consequently, DreadBall has many miniature game trappings.  Nonetheless, there is a cardinal rule that must be observed in board gaming – FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION.  If Coaches are not familiar with this concept, it’s a phrase coined by the exemplary American architect Louis Sullivan.  DreadBall is a tactical sport, and positioning is a vital concept for game mastery.  Positioning is based on a hex (pun not intended).  The hex is tantamount.  The hex is the alpha and the omega.  A DreadBall miniature merely rests on top of the hex.  The miniature must be subservient to the hex in order for the game to function.  If a miniature crosses the plain of it’s own hex, it disrupts adjacent hexes and the miniatures that rest upon them.  An illustrator and a sculptor must be cognizant of this fact.  Often they are not.  It does not matter how clever/unique/original a player design may appear.  If the physical sculpture breaks the hex plain – it sucks.  Creativity must materialize within the parameters of game play.  The parameter is the hex.  Break the hex, and the miniature is broke.  If that conceit reads broken to any Coaches – go play a war game with a ruler.

b) DreadBall is the greatest sport in the galaxy.  It’s science fiction.  The miniatures need to aesthetically complement the setting.  Sculptors and illustrators have a wide berth in this case with only two requirements: science fiction and sports.  Nonetheless, some DreadBall miniatures look like they belong in entirely different genres.

Also, humor.  DreadBall is dealing with an absurd premise.  Intergalactic warring factions of outrageously different species are competing in an organized and sanctioned sport.  It’s preposterous.  If illustrators and sculptors (and game designers and flavor writers) can embrace the ludicrous theme – so much the better.  In my opinion, games that are heavily miniaturized need more levity.  Coaches, check yourself and lighten up.  We’re playing Space Jam.

Without further ado, here’s are Prof Wojo’s DreadBall Miniature Superlatives!

1.  BEST TEAM SCLUPT = Marauders

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One of the first two teams onto the pitch, the Orx and Goblins perfectly embody the theme of DreadBall. Criticism can be laid on their similarity to other sports titles as well as a 1/3 of the positions missing (Strikers). Still, these sculpts are varied, unique, and charmingly reflective of the greatest sport in the galaxy.

WORST TEAM SCLUPT = Koris

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In what will become multiple appearances on this superlative list, the Koris are my biggest disappointment. Their illustrations were so rich and their gimmicky game design is so much fun. But never has a team fallen so short from conception to execution. The Koris details are soft and/or absent, the mold lines are legion, and the scale is woefully small.

2.  BEST TEAM CAPTAIN SCULPT = Reek Rolat and Raiden (TIE)

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Once a former MVP, Reek ‘Payback’ Rolat was transitioned into a Team Captain for the second edition.  He belongs with his Veer-myn.  A super sized, crunchy Guard with the armor and “Mantic Straps” all-over.  Raiden is the best embodiment of the Team Captain sculpt: distinct but recognizable.  How do you improve on a team of mean green sumo lizards?  Put some ceremonial armor on him.

WORST TEAM CAPTAIN SCULPT = Kal Terza and Supreme Leader (TIE)

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Are these truly the “worst” Team Captain sculpts?  No.  But they are the laziest.  In the transition between editions, TWO teams were left without a Team Captain sculpt; the Hobgoblins and the Teratons. The Hobgoblins got a unique sculpt for their Team Captain. The Teratons? Not so much. It’s just a Teraton Keeper.  A nice model, if only a subtle modification from a Guard.  But it’s no Team Captain.  The Martians Supreme Leader… Oh where to start… Never mind that the Supreme Leader would never disgrace himself on a DreadBall pitch.  These superlatives are about the hobby.  No, this Team Captain is the worst because it’s miniature is from an entirely different game with no modifications to allow it function on a DreadBall pitch.

3.  BEST MVP SCULPT = Buzzcut

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Dashing pose. Dynamic armor. Deadly snarl. Buzzcut can ram through Morg n’ Thorg any day. This miniature is the embodiment of a Most Valued Player.

WORST MVP SCLUPT = ORABB1

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What could have been! ORABB1 is a rogue medi-bot. That’s a fascinating premise to build upon. Unfortunately, this build is horrible. A five piece metal horror show that can barely withstand game play regardless of adhesive. But the most egregious part is the robot’s scale.
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A DreadBall model LITERALLY comes up short. To the left, an excellent model of a medi-bot. To the right, a catastrophe.

4.  BEST SUPPORT STAFF SCULPT = Fergus (Mercury)

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DreadBall has so many incredible, and incredibly funny, coaches. Fergus steals the show. Bling, blabber, and boast. 100% perfect.

WORST SUPPORT TEAM SCLUPT = Cheerleaders

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Get woke. Seriously. You’re telling me that in a game system about galactic conflict, all cheerleaders are scantily clad female humans? Listen, this writer is a cisgender heterosexual male who loves female homosapiens with hourglass figures. But this is ridiculous. The gaming industry can do better. Lets get some Judwan cheerleaders. Lets get some Matsudan cheerleaders.

5.  BEST PRONE SCLUPT = Teraton

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Prone models are awesome, and they help make DreadBall unique.  If a coach doesn’t use a prone model for a fallen player – they are committing an atrocity worse than drowning kittens. Laying your model on the pitch?  Go play another sports game.  A prone model abides by the law. The law of ‘form follows function.’  It just so happens that the prone model for the Teratons is LOL.

WORST PRONE SCULPT? = Nameless

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I’m no longer convinced this is the worst prone sculpt.  Honestly, there is no bad prone sculpt in the DreadBall line.  Perhaps the Hobgoblins, only because their pose is too dramatic.  But the Nameless get the nod here for… squishiness.

6.  BEST GIANT SCULPT = Brank ‘Boom-Fist’

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He commands attentions.  Big, bold, and battle armored.  Giant design space is awkward, filling into a three-hex base.  Brank is not totally in the clear in these regards, but he’s less egregious than others.

WORST GIANT SCLUPT = Karadon

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I love Karadon.  I hate Karadon.  It what should be the coolest and funniest model in the DreadBall line, Coaches are left with a model best suited for Team Captain.
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Karadon is truly, the “littiest giant.” For shame.  To the left, MVP (NON Giant) Grak.  To the right, MVP (NON Giant) Buzzcut.

7.  BEST IP (Intellectual Property) SCULPT = Hector Weiss

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I support various IPs entering the DreadBall pitch.  In science fiction, anything goes!  For those fantasy nuts still reading, just say, “A wizard did it!”  Hector Weiss is a clever nod to what I believe is a often over/under looked inspiration – Speedball 2.  I hope we’ll see second edition stats for him in the future.

WORST IP SCLUPT = Judge Dredd

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An active NPC model of the pitch?  DreadBall ticks off another mark for originality.  Referees are awesome, albeit completely ridiculous from a thematic point of view.  Alternative referees?  Yes please!  And so there is Judge Dredd.  Perfect fit, with witty rules to boot.  Except…
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The cast for Judge Dredd is tragic.  Underneath Dredd’s right epilate, is a gapping hole.  It’s not just my one sculpt.  It’s every one of my EIGHT Dredd sculpts (I once hosted a Judge Dredd DreadBall tournament).  This never should have happened.

8.  BEST COMPONENT SCULPT = Eye in the Sky

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What an upgrade!  Again with the absurdities; an anthropomorphic eye-in-the-sky is decidedly backward thinking when it comes to science fiction.  It’s almost charming its so naive.  But it’s funny and flavorful.  I’ll take more please.

WORST COMPONENT SCULPT = DreadBall & Base(s) (2nd edition)

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Cool idea.  Crummy execution.  The miniature bases are not compatible with first edition models, and the ball peg’s fit into either base is unreliable.  Sad Coach.

9.  BEST TROPHY = Azure Forest

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Originally, I thought the idea of DreadBall miniature trophies was daft.  No longer!  They’re great!  Not only are the fun and easy to paint, they look great on the pitch as Score counters.  The Azure forest trophy beautifully complements the lush illustrations of it’s jungle pitch.  DreadBall NEEDS more of this.  MORE planetary pitches!  MORE custom trophies!

WORST TROPHY = DreadBall “Grid”

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And then there’s this.  It’s not rubbish, but it’s not a ruby either.  I just don’t understand the cropped pitch.  It’s not a strike zone.  It’s not a sin bin.  It’s not a launch lane.  It’s just a bunch of hexes.

10.  EASIEST TEAM TO PAINT = Ada Lorana

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Great team with great sculpts!  Painting them wasn’t exactly effortless, but it wasn’t a chore. Spray Matt. Paint highlight. Wash. Drybrush and detail highlights again. Spray gloss. Hand paint base in Matt finish. DONE!

HARDEST TEAM TO PAINT = Crystallan

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Great team with great sculpts!  These rocky rollers were a total bear to beautify.  Picking out the translucent blue plastic was an essay in patience and/or insanity.

11.  EASIEST MVP TO PAINT = Slalaran Vesh

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Wet-on-wet, wash-on-wash, and a bit of highlighting. DONE!

HARDEST MVP TO PAINT = Grak

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Fun bits to paint, but wow is there a lot of ’em.

12.  EASIEST TEAM CAPTAIN TO PAINT = Graggot

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Beautiful resin casts are also beautiful to paint. It’s a pretty simple equation. Good data in = good data out. For Graggot, it was only four colors followed by a wash and a bit of drybrushing.

HARDEST TEAM CAPTAIN TO PAINT = Kryphos

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The Koris. Again! Same complaints as before, now applied to painting. Kryphos is too small and too soft. With no dynamic relief, there’s less to work with and that leaves a painter up to their own devices.  A challenge for some.  But for me?  Nope.  I prefer painting better models.

13.  WTF (Where the F***) AWARD = Koris Portal Tokens

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In order for a component rule to function, you need the component. With great mystery then do we have a team with a very clever gimmick missing the very component needed to function! Truly, WTF.  If there are any Koris Coaches out there, I would love to see how you created your portal tokens.

14.  FUNNIEST AWARD = Drake

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Wrapping up on a high note – Drake!  Drake takes the cake.  This model is positively gonzo.  A human boy riding an armored miniature dinosaur.  There’s accompanying flavor text which may or may not confirm the boy is a hologram.  It doesn’t matter.  This physical sculpt is bloody hysterical and it’s a prime example of why I love DreadBall.

Agree, or disagree below.  Long live DreadBall. Long live CORT.

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