Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Michael J. Tresca gave 5 stars to: Alligator Assortment - 12 per pack

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

Alligator Assortment - 12 per pack by SmallToys
5.0 out of 5 stars Cheaper than the Visejaw Crocodile, June 16, 2015
Inspired by my success with giant spiders, I picked up a pack of party favor alligators to fill the role of packs of crocodiles and alligators in my Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons game. Crocodiles are large sized, so the Visejaw Crocodile is the nearest approximation at $8 each. Or you could just buy this 12-pack of crocodiles for eight bucks (including shipping).

The crocodiles, which you can buy from Amazon here, come in three poses: crocodile, crocodile with its mouth open, and alligator. You can tell the difference because the alligator has a pointed snout.

Like the giant spiders, you can get 12 of these critters for cheap or pay the same price for just one. Overall I was happy with how they turned out.

Michael J. Tresca gave 5 stars to: ~ 12 ~ Spiders ~ Approx. 2 Inch Plastic ~ New ~ Science, Insects, Halloween Table Sprinkles

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

~ 12 ~ Spiders ~ Approx. 2 Inch Plastic ~ New ~ Science, Insects, Halloween Table Sprinkles by Rhode Island Novelty
5.0 out of 5 stars Cheaper than $264!, June 16, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
One of the changes of the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons is that there is no longer a sliding scale for certain common monsters like monstrous spiders. They have been returned to their "giant" status, and you can't very well have a giant spider that's tiny-sized, can you? So now the only kind of giant spider is a large-sized spider, which made a lot of miniatures useless. A large monstrous spider miniature retails for $22 with shipping included. But I'm here to tell you that you can have 12 giant spiders for under five bucks.

It doesn't help that giant spiders tend to come in packs. For the moment I'm leaving aside the medium-sized wolf spiders because I have plenty of those that fit the bill (specifically, the deathjump spider from D&D miniatures).

The answer: party favors. Party favors are surprisingly well-sculpted and colorfully painted. I ordered them for $4.49 and free shipping thanks to Amazon prime (you can order yours here). What you get is four different types of spiders, three of each: the flat-thorax huntsman spider, the hairy house spider, the smooth black widow spider, and the brown recluse. Mind you, I had to interpret what these spiders were meant to represent by the shape of each sculpt, so this list isn't necessarily accurate. I based them all first and then painted them according to the type of spider I thought they should represent.

Did it work? 12 giant spiders (four types, three each) would normally cost me $264 in D&D miniatures or even Reaper Bones' giant spider at $6 (shipping included). Not bad for a toy!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Michael J. Tresca gave 5 stars to: Slimes (2) Dark Heaven Legends Miniature

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

Slimes (2) Dark Heaven Legends Miniature by Reaper
5.0 out of 5 stars Large slimes, but no gray ooze, June 14, 2015
In the adventure The Battle of Emridy Meadows there's a possibility of encountering a gray ooze. I don't know what it is about Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, but gray oozes show up a lot. I bought the gelatinous cube option for the Reaper Bones II Kickstarter and got two slimes in the bargain. There's just one problem: gray oozes are medium size and these two slimes are large.

It occurred to me that the translucent slimes are best served by the color beneath them. Since the other two large notable oozes in D&D are the ochre jelly and black pudding, I just painted the bottom of each (in the case of the black pudding, this wasn't even necessary since it's a black base). Then I used a black wash for the black pudding and a yellow wash for the ochre jelly. To pick up the detail of the sculpts, I used a drybrush (gray for the black pudding, flesh color for the ochre jelly).

Both oozes still pick up the light behind them and are translucent enough to seem gelatinous. The ochre jelly in particular is striking. There's an art to the type of ooze the sculpt represents. Ochre jelly, for example, can compress itself to squeeze through an opening, while black puddings are more or less giant blobs. The slimmer ooze fits the ochre jelly better.

These sculpts are perfect for what they represent. But we still need a good medium-sized gray ooze.

Michael J. Tresca gave 4 stars to: Gnoll Warrior - Dark Heaven Bones Miniature

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

Gnoll Warrior - Dark Heaven Bones Miniature by Reaper
4.0 out of 5 stars More werewolf than hyena, June 14, 2015
When my campaign needed a lot of gnolls I quickly realized that I wasn't going to have enough gnolls to fill out a group of 12. Fortunately I hadn't yet opened my Kickstarter box of Reaper Bones II and it turned out there were no less than eight gnolls included in the set. This review covers the four gnoll warriors.

To begin with, there seems to be some disagreement as to what a gnoll is. This is a problem that has plagued Dungeons & Dragons since the introduction of the gnoll. Originally, gnolls were inspired by the gnole from Lord Dunsany's The Book of wonder: How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art upon the Gnoles. The accompanying artwork makes them look like little hairy black beasts. The Original Dungeons & Dragons boxed set characterized them as a cross between gnomes and trolls who are "otherwise similar to hobgoblins." Advanced Dungeons & Dragons described them as hyena-men.

Now, there's a lot of misunderstanding as to what a hyena is, and this has led to confusion on what a gnoll is. Hyenas are not, in fact, related to wolves. They actually have more in common with cats. They're fascinating weird creatures who could perhaps be best described as cats that pretend to be dogs. As a result, nobody's entirely sure how to sculpt a gnoll, which started out as diminutive hyena monsters and have since transformed into hulking werewolf types.

Tre Manor's gnoll warriors are the pinnacle of their evolution into huge killing machines. They wield a spike flail in one hand, a spiked shield in another, with a spiked gauntlet on the flail-wielding hand. Did I mention they're fond of spikes? The gnoll warrior also sports a fearsome-looking sagittal crest common to striped hyenas. The tail is bushy, also like a striped hyena.

I wanted these gnolls to stand out as a group but also wanted them to have enough in common with the other gnoll miniatures I have (which all seem to be colored a brownish-red), so I painted them a muddy yellow common to the spotted hyena and then gave them a brown wash over everything. Gnolls, I assume, are dirty, and their equipment should reflect that.

The wide stance of all of the gnoll sculpts may be an issue for some. These sculpts are big; too big to fit on a one-inch round base. They do fit diagonally in a one-inch square however. Also, the spiked flail is usually associated with priests of Yeenoghua specifically, so their inclusion in nearly every gnoll sculpt may also make them unsuitable as regular troops. That said, this is a handsome sculpt that worked out well for my gnoll horde.

Michael J. Tresca gave 3 stars to: Boneflail Gnoll Cleric

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

Boneflail Gnoll Cleric by Reaper
3.0 out of 5 stars What it says on the tin, June 14, 2015
This review is from: Boneflail Gnoll Cleric (Toy)
The adventure, Battle of Emridy Meadows, features a crusade against Gnaragg the Dog King. Gnaragg is fond of using a flail, so Boneflail was a suitable substitute...who is pretty much what it says on the tin.

Boneflail likes bones: a bull skull covers his groin, a fanged skull covers his right shoulder, and there are a variety of bones stitched into his belt, wrist bands, and bandolier. To Boneflail, every piece of hide is better with bone.

Boneflail also likes his flail. A little too much, actually as the head of the flail seems attached to his saggital crest. It's an easy fix to snip it, but a curious oversight in the mold that wasn't carried over to the gnoll warriors, who also carry flails. More to the point, Boneflail was awesome when he first debuted -- he held a flail as his right as a cleric -- but now that it seems every gnoll wields a flail he's not quite so special.
Boneflail also covered his wooden shield with hide, so he gets points for creativity. Unfortunately, standing next to the gnoll warriors with their spiked shields, he looks like a bit of a wuss.

One interesting point about Boneflail is that sculptor Tre Manor must have gotten bored with the typical werewolf-like posture of gnolls and gave
Boneflail the tail of a spotted hyena, with a "pompom"-like appearance.

This is one of those sculpts that on its own would be great, but next the other gnoll warriors he just looks like a poor imitation, and certainly not a powerful cleric.

Michael J. Tresca gave 4 stars to: Bloodmane, Gnoll Champion

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

Bloodmane, Gnoll Champion by Reaper
4.0 out of 5 stars Fits right in with any gnoll group, June 14, 2015
This review is from: Bloodmane, Gnoll Champion (Toy)
As part of The Battle of Emridy Meadows adventure, our heroes go after Gnaragg the Dog King. They first come across his consort, Norghu, who wields a glaive. Bloodmane, the Gnoll Champion, was a viable miniature.

Bloodmane's not all that original; he's basically a copy of the gnoll warrior, right down to the same spiked shield they use. It's interesting to note his spiked shield has three arm straps instead of two; you can actually see the additional strap behind the arm of the gnoll warriors. Bloodmane's a little different because he wears the skulls of three of his enemies (humanoids) at his hip, has a curved dagger at his hip, and wields an axe and...that's about it.

This is the sculpt I would have preferred to be the typical gnoll warrior. His armament is a little more traditional and, if he wasn't wearing the dagger and skulls, would fit right in with any other gnoll group.

Michael J. Tresca gave 2 stars to: WF

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

WF: Toghra the Despolier, Gnoll Warlord by Reaper
2.0 out of 5 stars More shaman than warlord, June 14, 2015
In The Battle of Emridy Meadows adventure, the PCs fight Gnarrag the Dog King (who ironically, rides a displacer beast, but I digress). Theoretically, this sculpt is perfect to depict him. In practice, I thought Toghra was actually a shaman, not a gnoll warlord.

I'm guessing the idea is that Toghra is a taskmaster of sorts who whips his charges into submission. That thing in one hand is supposed to be a whip, but it looks more like a ceremonial flail to me. He's got a lot of angry wooden faces carved into his armor and he seems to be wearing a kind of tunic that's open down to his navel. His polearm is intricately carved and made of bone, topped by some sort of beetle. In short, Tohgra's attire looks like he made it himself.

One of the problems may be that Tres Manor sculpted the other figures, but Jason Wiebe sculpted Toghra. The hulking menace the other sculpts project just isn't in Toghra's appearance.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. But as a warlord, this figure simply doesn't work. He looks less menacing and more like he's chanting some sort of prayer. As a gnoll shaman this sculpt will do fine. But for a warlord, you're better off using the gnoll warrior.

Michael J. Tresca gave 3 stars to: Reaper Miniatures 77159 Bones - Ghast

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

Reaper Miniatures 77159 Bones - Ghast by Reaper
3.0 out of 5 stars Like zombies and ghouls and wights, only a ghast, June 14, 2015
The Battle of Emridy Meadows features seven ghouls in Gnarrag the Dog King's den, which is a little strange. Also, who has seven ghouls? Well now I have four thanks to the Reaper Bones II Kickstarter.

Gnolls as hyena intersects with ghouls in a curious way. H.P. Lovecraft's ghouls had a lot of canine-like features and hyenas have been (incorrectly) listed as scavengers and carrion-eaters. This may be why the two are associated with each other through their demonic deity, Yeenoghu. D&D ghouls don't look much like the ghouls of Lovecraft's stories -- a Lovecraftian ghoul isn't just a scavenging reanimated corpse but a full transformation into a new species -- and the hyena heritage of the gnolls fits the bill nicely.

Ghasts are another thing entirely. Lovecraft referenced them in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath as looking nothing like ghouls. Vulnerable to sunlight, they hop around like kangaroos on hoofed feet and tear apart their prey. Although they have a strong sense of smell, they don't actually reek so bad that it would incapacitate someone. D&D took some strange liberties with them. But that's okay, because ghasts and ghouls look similar.

One of these ghast sculpts made an appearance as a minion of the vampire queen in the first Reaper Bones Kickstarter as a Necropolis Ghast, so that brings my ghoul count up to five. However, the sculpt has a lot in common with the zombie sculpt from Dungeon Command, which happens to be the exact sculpt as the terror wight from the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures game. Their appearance and posture is nearly identical with the exception that the ghast sculpt has no hair.