Category Archives: Reviews

Defiance Games UAMC Box Set

A few days ago, one of my customers gifted me with a box of Defiance Games marines, and they showed up on our doorstep this morning. Of course, I had to open the box and have a peek early.

I’ve always had a thing for plastic figures. Part of it is because they’re easier to convert, part of it is because they remind me of the 1:72 scale model soldiers I used to collect when I was a kid, and they’re easier to clean up and assemble. So whenever I have a choice, I tend to go for plastic over metal.

These figures are cast in a pretty hard plastic, and each sprue yields enough components to build 2 figures.

My first impression was that the tooling process didn’t do the parts any favors, since a lot of the detail is a little soft and indistinct. In this regard, they remind me a bit of the old Space Rangers plastic armored troopers (now sold by EM-4 Miniatures) that I had back in the 1990s. My follow-on thought, however, was that they’re better than some people give them credit for. I mean, very few things still look good when blown up to 8000% of their actual size, and these figures look significantly better in tablevision than they do in photographs.

There are 3 leg sets, 2 torsos, 4 25mm round bases, 2 open faced helmets, 2 closed face helmets, one bare head, one head in a cap, a backpack, a right arm holding a carbine with vertical foregrip, 2 right arms holding rifles, a right arm holding a rifle with attached grenade launcher, a right arm holding a SAW with an attached grenade launcher, 4 left arms, and 6 belt pouches.

The weapons are interesting in that they look more realistic than a lot of other offerings on the market, and yet there’s a hint of cargo cult about them. For example, they’re liberally festooned with Picatinny rails, but there aren’t any iron sights, optics, or any other rail accessories, so it’s almost as if the sculptor or concept artist just thought rails were there to look cool.

That said, I really like their size relative to the figures, and they look nice. They’d look even nicer if the sculptor had added at least some sort of ACOG or ELCAN style sight to the upper rail.

The SAW is an ergonomic disaster with the grenade launcher attached to it, so the first thing I did was cut off the grenade launcher to see how it looked. That was a huge improvement, although I wish the sculptor had kept the front horizontal grip, as shown below:

That wasn’t a big problem, however, since I was able to use one of the rifle-carrying left arms to hold up the modified SAW. The end result looks okay, but I’m still torn. On one hand, I think it would look more ergonomically sound if I just cut the right arm off and grafted the SAW onto one of the rifle-carrying arms like a M249, but on the other hand, I’m thinking about making a sling for it and seeing how that turns out because I like the smartgun-style hold.

Speaking of which, I built 4 guys:

I gave them all caps and backpacks when I first built them, but I suddenly changed my mind about 10 minutes ago and replaced the heads with the open-faced helmets with visors down. I’ll explain why later.

The first time I saw these helmets up close, the thought that leapt to mind was “That looks like something Crye Precision would come up with”, and sure enough, have a look at this:

Crye Precision AirFrame Chops

I’m ambivalent about the fully enclosed helmets because I think they would look much better with long sleeves and gloves than with short sleeves. The bare head is something I might use once or twice. I like the caps and the open-faced visored helmets the most.

Given how the box contents break down, I’m probably going to end up with 12 guys done up in full gear with rucks. The rest of them will get the carbines and be used as dismounted vehicle crew, lightly equipped scouts, or something like that.

I like these figures. I’m looking forward to painting some of them this weekend!

Painting The Lazy Way 2: Zuzzy Terra-Flex Mat


Several months ago, I purchased a 3×3-foot Ruined Lands terrain mat from Zuzzy Miniatures. I also posted an out-of-the-box review, but didn’t get around to actually painting the mat until yesterday. So, this post is a continuation of the review as well as an opportunity to add another painting article to Chez Ebbles.


First, a couple of photos. (Click ’em to see the full size versions.)

I only used four colors, and the mat’s surface detail does most of the work.

Paints Used

  • Vallejo Game Color Charred Brown
  • Vallejo Game Color Earth
  • Vallejo Game Color Black
  • Vallejo Game Color Cold Grey

Painting Overview

  1. The entire mat was painted with a 1:1 mix of Charred Brown and water, using a large flat paintbrush. I used a whole bottle of Charred Brown in a disposable cup.
  2. Next, the mat was drybrushed gently with a 1:1 mix of Earth and water.
  3. Another drybrushing pass, with a bit more pressure, on random areas of the mat.
  4. A final heavy drybrushing pass on random areas of the mat, with special attention paid to the rocks and areas of dried/cracked soil.
  5. The burnt tree limbs and areas of charred undergrowth were painted with thinned-down Black.
  6. The burnt tree limbs and areas of charred undergrowth were drybrushed with a 1:1 mix of Black and Cold Grey.

The most important thing to remember: thin your paint! The 1:1 paint-to-water mix goes a much longer way than unthinned paint, and because acrylic paint is transparent to varying degrees, colors blend better when really thinned out. So, that first layer of Charred Brown and water serves to tint the dark gray latex of the mat to a deep, rich soily-brown color, and the first drybrushing pass brings out the surface relief nicely. The subsequent drybrushing passes serve to give the surface a nice, uneven variation in soil color.

The mat took me about 7-8 hours to do, but it was a fairly easy and undemanding task. I used one entire bottle of Charred Brown, less than a third of a bottle of Earth, and about the same amount of Black and Cold Grey as if I were painting a couple of 28mm figures.


Unpainted, the Zuzzy mat looks nice enough. Painted, even by a lazy painter like me, a Zuzzy mat completely blows every other gaming landscape solution out of the water. I can’t go back to fighting battles on Planet Green Cloth now, so you could say that I’ve been absolutely spoiled by the Zuzzy mat. Painting one is an easy task, but requires a fair amount of time, so a large Zuzzy mat would be a fun group project, even for unskilled painters. Draft some family members or invite some gaming buddies over, give each of ’em a nice big tank brush, assign them an individual area of responsibility, and you’ll have a finished mat in no time flat.

More Citadel Wash testing

Following up on the Citadel Washes review I posted a few days ago, I painted a couple of human figures to see how the Citadel Washes work on clothing and flesh.

2 Copplestone troopers and one of the bots from the review

(Now, I’m nowhere nearly as good a painter as I used to be in my youth, back when I could actually see what I was doing with the brush, so pardon the lack of eyes and absence of fancy highlighting.)

The fatigues are a 1:1 mix of Vallejo Caiman Green and Vallejo Khaki, while the boots, undershirts, weapons, and gear are a 1:1 mix of Vallejo Black and Vallejo Cold Grey. The fleshy bits are a 3:1 mix of Vallejo Dwarf Skin and Elf Skintone. The lady’s hair is Vallejo Scorched Brown, while the guy’s hair is Vallejo Beasty Brown. The fatigues and gear received a wash of Devlan Mud, while the exposed flesh and hair received a wash of Ogryn Flesh. I applied a coat of straight Future to seal the paint, and brushed on a layer of Vallejo Matte Varnish after the Future dried.

When I get some more air-drying clay, I’ll be blending the figures’ integral stub bases into the slottabases, then finishing the bases properly.

Citadel Wash Set Review

I mentioned in the Carnifex review that I had also purchased the new Citadel Wash Set, which comes with all 8 of the new washes. I had a chance to try them out earlier while painting up some Copplestone Castings Terminator Robots to use as security robots.

The washes, with a Vallejo Game Color 17ml bottle

The 8 colors, in order of usefulness, are: Devlan Mud, Badab Black, Ogryn Flesh, Gryphonne Sepia, Thraka Green, Baal Red, Asurmen Blue, and Leviathan Purple. They come in dinky little 12ml bottles that, at first blush, made me grumble a little about how it seems that every time Games Workshop comes out with a new line of paints, the bottles shrink and the prices grow. I popped open the lids, and was annoyed to see that the bottle design doesn’t significantly improve on the problems that the older flip top bottles had. I’m planning to transfer them to spare Vallejo dropper bottles, because I really don’t like flip top pots.
The next step was to paint something so I could give them a try. Since I needed the Copplestone robots for an upcoming game anyway, it was a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. I basecoated the robots in Vallejo Sombre Grey, then painted the weapons, shoulders, hip actuators, knee actuators, and the thigh piping a 1:1 mix of Vallejo Black and Vallejo Cold Grey. The same 1:1 mix of Black and Cold Grey was applied to the bases.

I had 5 robots finished, so I looked over the colors. I decided to use the Badab Black wash because I wanted a dark, slightly desaturated, and somewhat oily look to the robots. I basically just dipped the brush in the pot and glopped the stuff all over the figures, with the occasional pause to wick away the excess with the brush. This is the result:

Group shot: 5 Copplestone Castings Terminator Robots
Close-up shot

I was more than a little surprised at how easy the washes were to use. The consistency is quite a bit thicker than than I expected, they go on smoothly, and they settle down into the recesses nicely. Straight from the bottle, they do stain and darken colors significantly, so they would seem to work best with lighter shades of the colors you want to use. I think they would be terrific to use for beginners, or getting those boring figures that you have to paint a lot of out of the way quickly.

I don’t think advanced painters are going to get much out of these washes, especially if they’re already used to mixing their own washes and glazes. For beginners, though, they’re a good confidence builder, as the initial results are fairly tableworthy, and they can move on to layering and highlighting from there. Also, they dry pretty flat, as you can see in the photos. (The figures aren’t even varnished yet.)

My initial grumbling about the small quantity and flip top pots aside, I like these washes.

Update: More testing here.

Tyranid Carnifex Review


My wife and I visited the local gaming store the other day just to pick up some dice I needed for a game. We walked out with a brick of green 12mm 6-sided dice, the new Citadel Wash set, and a Tyranid Carnifex. Heh. So much for just buying the dice.

I took a look inside the box last night, but didn’t have time to really get into it since I still had some work to finish. Today’s a light day for work, so I figured I’d take a poke at building the thing. Here are my impressions:

The size of this thing is unreal. I knew it was big, it looks big on the box, and it looks big in photographs. Seeing it in the flesh is something else…this thing is big. It towers over everything else I have by at least a good inch and a half, and that includes my Space Marine dreadnought and the Tau battlesuits. Here are some photos of the finished model:

Group shot with my Space Marines and a couple other Tyranids

Same setup, Carnifex rotated for a side view

Box Contents

The box contains a glossy black and white instruction booklet, three sprues, and a 60mm base.

The first sprue contains 5 and a half 2-part heads, a pair of Devourer arms, a pair of Deathspitter arms, two large scythe arms, two decorative head bits, six carapace spikes, a spiked mace tail attachment, and a scything tail attachment.

By “5 and a half heads”, I mean five whole heads, with an optional damaged half that can replace the right side of the normal head. The normal head is pretty much just that, a huge version of the normal Tyranid head. The other 4 heads are: one with a pair of very prominent tusks, one with a giant dripping tongue that would do Gene Simmons proud, complete with a couple of scrotum-like venom glands hanging off the chin, another head with a gaping maw showing a bio-plasma weapon, and a strange head with two very prominent vane-like structures arranged like a pair of horns and three pairs of eyes.

The two decorative head bits are a blade-like protrusion that sort of looks like a rhinoceros horn in profile, and a ridged, V-shaped bony mass. Either one of them fits on the frontmost ridge of most of the heads.

The second sprue contains a 3-part upper torso, two giant crab pincer arms, three choices of carapace, a pair of legs, the lower torso, and half of the ball socket attachment that secures the lower torso to the upper torso.

The three carapaces included are: a smooth carapace, one with spore cysts, and one with spine banks.

The third sprue contains weapons and accessories. There are two smaller scything arms, a pair of Venom Cannon arms, a pair of Barbed Strangler arms, four spikey shoulder armor bits, a large Adrenal Gland biomorph bit, and some scrotum-like Venom Gland sacs that the instructions suggest gluing to the arms.

The Barbed Strangler arms come in three pieces. The right arm is holding the weapon, and the left arm is holding a giant sac filled with spheroid projectiles, which connects to the weapon with a long, meaty-looking hose. The third piece is a barrel half for the weapon itself. A cute touch is that you can see round bulges along the hose, which visually suggests projectiles being moved to the weapon from the sac.

The Venom Cannon arms come in two pieces. The right arm is holding the weapon, and the left arm has the fingers growing into a long tube that enter the weapon body on the left side.

The instructions also show several possible configurations and armament options for the model.

Build Notes

The lower body was pretty simple, only requiring that you glue the legs to the sides of the lower torso, glue the feet to the 60mm base, and then glue the hemispherical ball socket dealie onto the “waist” part. The legs are not posable, and use rectangular slots and tabs for fitting. I didn’t use any of the optional tail attachments.

The upper torso comes in two left-right halves, and a third upper center piece that fills the gap between the left and right halves. Building the upper torso was kind of like building one of these old ERTL USS Enterprise models from the 1980s–a little frustrating and requiring some clamping and a lot of cleanup work. The last part to go on is the carapace, and I chose the smooth carapace.

All of the heads assemble identically–just glue the halves together, glue on either of the two optional decorative bits, then glue the completed head into the neck socket. I chose to use the tusked head.

I still haven’t decided what arms to put on the thing, but they all connect to the torso by way of a ball at the shoulder and 4 sockets on the upper torso. Right now I’m leaning towards the large scythe arms to fill the two uppermost arm sockets, and I’m torn between giving it a pair of Deathspitters or using one of the larger weapons.


I really like this model. It’s big, it’s frightening, and because of the large number of included options, you have a lot of choice in how you want the thing to look. I feel like I got my money’s worth out of this model, which is a pleasant difference from how I felt about the Space Marine Terminators I reviewed a couple of months ago.

Update: I decided to use the 4 scythe arms and tool it up into a giant slashy stabby bitey endgame boss. I also took some photos for scale and added them to the entry.