lunedì 9 giugno 2014

Review: Chariot Elves & Rangers

Let's start this blog with a review. Last Christmas I decided to get myself some Magister Militum 15mm Fantasy miniatures, and today we look at Chariot Wood Elves & Rangers.

The reason why we group them together is that they look somewhat similar and while Elves are unmistakably Elvish, the Rangers could easily passed for Elves as well (in fact, that's how I used them: as armoured Elvish Rangers).

My purchase experience at Magister Militum was very good. They are owners of the Chariot range, after Chariot was sold in the 2000s, after many years as an independent manufacturer. There are very few information about the original company, but their miniatures somewhat reflect some "retro" looks that is special and, to my eye, pleasant. The Magister Militum website (even the old one, before their recent update) was easy to navigate; the marvellous option of keeping a wishlist helps a lot when one needs to think carefully about what to buy and when. Placing order is straightforward, prices are very reasonable and my order was packed just in a matter of hours! Very good!
Postage services are reasonably priced, if a bit slow. When I ordered, at the beginning of December, I hoped I could use my holidays to paint my new purchase, and instead received them only in mid-January :( and we're talking Scotland to northern Italy, so it's not even an intercontinental shipment. The order was well packed, though, and nothing missing, so cheers for Magister Militum.

Now let's come to the miniatures themselves! These are the packs I got:

ELF5 Wood Elf, with Bows
ELF6 Elven Thieves

ELF8 Mounted Elf Bowmen

FHM1 Ranger with Sword and Bow

FHM2 Mounted Ranger, firing bow

What immediately attracted me about these figures is the classic look. Nowadays Wood Elves seem to be fitting two stereotypes: on one side, the wild savages with painted skin and extra-large bows, popularized by Warhammer; and on the other, the kinky creatures wearing tight leaf-shaped plate armour and fancy Japanese-style weapons, which Peter Jackson's movies have made famous. I don't like either. I like the 70s and 80s style, Robin Hood-themed, hooded and cloaked figures, like the old D&D art of Larry Elmore or the MERP images of Angus McBride. And here fit these figurines. The only drawback (at least for me) is that in the good ol' times, when Chariot came out with its figures and before fantasy was mainstream and stuff, figurines were also smaller, that is true 15mm.

From L to R: 1) Blood Dawn Orc; 2) Chariot Orc; 3) Baueda Carolingian Archer; 4, 5) Chariot Rangers; 6) Chariot Elven Thief; 7) Chariot Wood-elf; 8) Essex Varangian Guard
From L to R: 1) Chariot Mounted Elf; 2) Baueda Lombard Mounted Followers; 3) Essex Kataphractoi; 4) Chariot Mounted Ranger
In spite of the smallish size, which is not so obvious anyway, the sculpt is a delight. Look at them, they are so well done, with a lot of details such as bags leaning from the belts, and bows on the back of the Rangers. The cloaks of the Elven Thieves are masterful in their drapery. They are also fun to paint, and there aren't many difficult points to reach with the brush. The only disappointment here is how limited the poses are: all the packs have just a single pose, except FHM1 which has two: a little more effort wouldn't have hurted.

Now, it's worth mentioning that horses don't escape this single cast/single pose rule. They are the same for the mounted Rangers, the mounted Elves and, to be true, the mounted Wraith Kings as well. Slightly oversized, harnessed steeds. Now being somewhat a purist I don't like the idea of a harnessed horse with Wood Elves, but that's a small detail. The big one is that Rangers won't fit the steeds; not even if you try to bend the riders' legs or file the horses' sides: the Ranger's ass will never touch the saddle. Most disappointing. Guess I will have to find some alternative horses to couple with the mounted units.


Not a comfortable ride for the Ranger

We have looked at the sculpting, which if you forget the horses is very good; now let's take a view of the cast, and don't expect to be as pleased. First of all, the material used for the figs is some kind of very hard resin/pewter, difficult to bend, easy to break. The miniatures have generally a lot of extra material from cast which you need to cut off, but sometimes this "extra" is thicker than bows or swords, so you need to be very careful and take a long time to properly clean the minis. Glitches are more common than you would wish, so a foot not attached to the base, or a misfit hand are not so rare as they should, as a result of unperfect casting. This is a pity, because it really devalues miniatures which were finely sculpted in the first place.

So, would I suggest buying Chariot Wood Elves and Rangers? Well, if you like the style yes, for lack of anything similar in this scale. Otherwise, there are a lot of alternatives with better quality. For me, in the end I am quite satisfied with them: cleaning (and glueing the parts I mistakenly separated) was a real pain, I would certaily like greater variety, I still have to find some fitting horses for the mounted units but, well, I still these Elves better than many others.

Did you try these miniatures as well? Agree/disagree with me? Feel free to comment and share.

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