Friday, 18 December 2015

Throwback Star Wars Miniatures I – Old school intro



Hello everybody, Hephesto here joining in for a few Star Wars-themed posts. Tis the season for it after all!

I was recently discussing my Herculean efforts to reorganize my display cabinets with Marticus and the Star Wars section came up. With a new movie series, Star Wars era and potentially a slew of new goodies, board-, miniature and video-games around the corner we figured it would be fun to have a quick look back at some of the tabletop escapades the franchise has been involved with.



So over the next few blog posts I’ll be going over some of the cool bits and bobs in my collection while discussing some of the games the franchise has spawned as well as some of the actual characters, stories and funny things in there. To keep things organized I’ll be going through the collection of a faction basis, starting with the classical Galactic Empire versus Rebel Alliance conflict today.

And I’m certain it will be quite the trip down memory lane as well, heck already saw several minis from the SWM game that reminded me of some very cool, older videogames. For example, does anybody out there remember Komari Vosa?

This failed Jedi apprentice was the main ‘bounty’ in 2002’s rather excellent Bounty Hunter videogame. Focusing on how Jango Fett got that contract with Tyranus and Kamino, the game offered some very nice, vertical level design with a mixture of 3rd person shooting, platforming and........

bounty hunting. The game also really showed how much a dev team can do when given time to produce the game they want to make, rather than just another franchise tie-in that needs to be released in a hurry as a marketing tool. Looking at you there Battlefront EA……............
It’s also rather cool the Playstation recently added the game to their collection again, so anybody who missed the it back in the day and wants to find out how Jango met Zam Wessell, where he got that iconic ship or how he’s connected to the Mandalorians can pick it up for a few bucks. Also really helps they got Temuera Morrison and Clancy Brown are part of the voice acting talent, LucasArts always did a great job in the sound design department! In fact there have been quite a few videogames, books, comics and other media over the years that managed to do some overlooked characters a lot more justice than the movies ever did. A topic we’ll come back to later.


Now on to some Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance miniatures. These are a mixture of the Miniatures Game and Starship Battles lines, both produced by Wizards of the Coast. The Miniatues Games used pre-painted minis, not unlike Wizkids Games’ Heroclix and Mage Knight lines, while utilizing similar mechanics as WotC’s pre-pained D&D game. Each model came with a character card, while the various expansions and starters had rather lovely, printed maps with squares. Starship Battles on the other hand, while producing some rather cool models, forwent scale completely and opted for a reference card and point system that led to some fun, yet odd gaming.


Now these are definitely not the most high end models and pre-paints of all time, but there is still a lot of functionality one can get from picking up some leftover on Ebay etc. Most of them are very easy to repaint or do tiny corrections on and there’s just a lot of things you can do with a handful of rebased models. Just see what Beasts of War did for Salute 2015 (link):

In addition there are tons of smaller rulesets out there that will allow you to get these models on the table, while the current slew of Fantasy Flight Games are bound to get use out of them as well. Imperial Assault can always use some alternative models, while many of these are ideal for the rpgs (especially the Fringe models I’ll be going through in another post) while some of these capital ships could be useful for Armada. And then there's the, sadly out of production, range from Knight Models.
Speaking of odd scaling, also found some leftover minis from the ancient, electronic battleship adaptation for Star Wars. No idea where the actual game has disappeared to in all it's over-sized and overpriced awesomeness, but scale-wise the miniatures made very little sense.Still back then all that mattered where the shiny lights and official movie sounds and you could probably still use use them as upgrades to other Star Wars games. A buddy is planning on picking up Star Wars Risk, which is effectively a Battle of Endor reskin of the old Queen's Gambit. So these may very well end up replacing the card ship tokens.

Now on the the empire, starting of with some higher ups. Including two of my favorite characters, Grand Moff Tarkin and Grand Admiral Thrawn. The first assisted the Galactic Empire in organizing its military and sectorial command and was put in charge of overseeing the completion of the Death Star, while the second is probably the most fleshed out 'villain' from the old extended universe and effectively the head of the remaining Empire forces after the Battle of Endor. In fact I can heartedly recommend the Thrawn trilogy and recent Tarkin books for those looking for some solid, well-written Star Wars fiction.

Next up, the Dark Trooper project, taken from 1995's Doom-like shooter Star Wars: Dark Forces. This is still one of my favorite Star Wars videogames and definitely my favorite series, with the Jedi Knight series and Kyle Kattarn growing out of this excellent, old school shooter.
Dark Forces was quite something special. Even though a lot of people consider it to be just a Doom clone, the game engine and method of level design were entire different due to its DOS / Mac-focused development cycle. In fact it was one of the very first FPS games that created believably designed environments.

Games like Doom and Wolfenstein were a lot of fun to run around in and had tons of very clever level design, but in essence they were little more than mazes populated by enemies and power-ups. Dark Forces on the other hand managed to go beyond that and create military installations and space stations that looked like they had a function and would actually be able to house all those enemies.

And who doesn't love a horde of Stormtroopers? And yes, yes, Garindan is effectively a Fringe / underworld character, but he just looks cool when surrounded by Stormtroopers.
 

On to the Rebel Alliance, which on paper could be a boring set of minis. But over the year the Miniatures Game managed to built up a nice selection of original trilogy-specific, human forces as well as lots of alien creatures. And that really makes these often not that popular back in the day and now cheap to pick up minis, ideal for rpg and custom games purposes. Just grab some cheap heroes, give them a touch-up with a brush and throw them against a horde of Stormtroopers.

 
There's even a whole set of commandos to send on shield generator destruction duty, complete with Ewok buddies. Empire beware though, they may very well be cannibalistic.
  ........................................and the Empire will be defeated by Ewoks...............

The Rebels ships from the Starship Battles line were particularly nice and definitely show off how you can get quite striking color schemes with very few colors.

And that does it for this first blog post, see you guys and gals soon with some Clone Wars, EU and Fringe-themed madness. For the time being though, let us just stick with ye olde school for an outro!