Bondsmen Faction starter box from The Drowned Earth

"The Drowned Earth is a skirmish scale tabletop miniatures game where brave heroes and villains risk the dangers of the wilds for glorious riches and ancient technology!"

I met James Baldwin a few years ago at a painting class and our paths have crossed a few times. Each time we discussed getting a review together for his tabletop game and miniatures called The Drowned Earth. But every time, life happened, things drifted, and well...to put it simply it didn't happen. Until now that is.


James has sent me a selection of items from his range including the rule book (which is also available as a FREE PDF download but without the added world fluff. Just in case you fancy a taster of the game system), a selection of single miniatures which come in impressive and original packaging, and one of the faction starter boxes which I thought I would start off with.


In talking with James, I've found that a part of his decisions involves trying to create his products in the most environmentally friendly ways possible. Interesting to actually see a recyclable logo on the packaging here which I've not noticed on a hobby product like this before.

This ethos has also lead him to go for metal miniatures rather than resin. Any errors at the caster can just be melted down again for more casting; unlike resin.


As this is primarily a gaming product you not only get five highly detailed figures but also full colour, double sided cards with those all important games stats and skills. Easy to tell who is who with the card art too.

The Bondsmen faction are essentially hired muscle and assassins. Though they would have you believe otherwise. To quote "A Bondsman may tell you he is part of a great tradition of hunting down transgressors and dangerous criminals, but the truth is quite different. Their only qualification is brutality, martial skill and a complete lack of moral qualms. Officially they are bounty hunters and thief takers. In reality more often than not they are slave-catchers, assassins and hired muscle."

Limossk the leader


Split into six parts which is the most out of the set.

As you'll see from all the following close up photos, flash and mould lines are minimal at most. I know the mould lines might look quite pronounced in some of the photos but keep in mind that many of them are enlarged.


Limossk really has a mutated raptor feel, especially with those claws. This is quite a theme throughout The Drowned Earth with dinosaurs, both with more traditional looking dinosaurs (and figures...yes, dinosaur figures!) and more humanoid versions, called Sorrians.

Can see that the waist cut has been done to make casting more accurate for the details. In general with all these figure, the cuts and joins are excellent and go together really well. This waist however, I had to trim to fit as the upper body was a bit too wide.


The arms and head all fitted exactly where they should once the pour points were cleaned up. Pretty typical for digital sculpting which really is one of the biggest plus points with the sculpting method.

In the bottom right you can see pretty much the only casting flaw in the whole kit. Luckily it is in a join. After drilling out and a bit of sanding it was fine though. However; I'm pretty certain that if you're more inexperienced with modelling that they would replace the part for you.


You can really see the hollowed ball joints (couldn't think of a better term for it) which you find across most of the figures.

Alaya, Jorra, and Gersla


The human trio element of the set.

Jorra the mech


Metal minis really are tricky to photograph I'll admit.

It's really easy to find where parts go on these figures as the joining points are well shaped. Means that if you get them well glued after cleaning then they won't be coming apart during games.


The pour point on the long ponytail is a bit of a shame as it completely covers where it connects to the head. No ball to match the socket there sadly. Will need to be pinned. Though really with parts like this, I'd advise pinning anyway for added strength.

Alaya the medic


That cut for the right arm is crazy. At first I thought the odd shaped edge towards the back might need some trimming, until I fitted the arm into place. It matches the shoulder skull exactly and creates a great join.

He right arm sits well into place too which ends up being creating an impressively posed figure.


The hair this time has it's ball connection but I would still pin. That's a lot of hair for a small join. Does look good though.

Gersla the scout


Gersla needed a little surgery to get her arms to sit where they should. There was a little rectangle of metal which I feel may have been an unfinished cut on the part of the sculptor as there is no slot for it to fit into on the right arm. Shame though as that would've created an awesome connection point.

Not sure if you've noticed but the design style of the female figures from this set and indeed the rest of the range is sensibly done. No silly combat heels or bikini armour. Just badass ladies who won't take any crap.


Like I said before; bit of clean up here and there but nothing unexpected.

Fancagne


Classed as 'tough', Fancagne is a serious lump of metal. And this one is an aggressive beast, both as a figure and in game too. I'd easily guess that King Kong was used for reference at some stage.

In this setting they are known as The Berengeii.


Bit of clean up needed around the undersides of the hands and right foot but in general nothing major at all. Will need some good glue to keep him in his base slot. Possibly some filler added for more connecting surfaces as there's a little gap.


Both parts of his axe fit into place quite well, especially the axe head which I only pushed into place for the assembled photos.

You can see some ripples from the 3D printed master on the blade. Generally those are really shallow but easy to sand on that section if they do bug you.

Final thoughts


This whole range and setting really has it's own character. Each figure really is an individual; okay, maybe not so the beast in the range but those are dinosaurs and cool by default.

From the perspective of a modeller and painter, there is a lot to be said about the high quality of sculpting and casting. If you're ever tempted to creates something with a post apocalyptic and jungle like then definitely check out this range. Can really picture plants taking over from a destroyed urban setting.

£41.95 for this set is pretty good too for five high quality white metal figures and cards needed to game with them at a legal 100 point force straight out of the box.

You can expect to see a follow up to this first review soon. 

Where can I buy?

The Drowned Earth is based in the UK and can be bought directly at https://thedrownedearth.com

You can follow them on Facebook to keep up with releases, tournaments, and other goings on.


So that's it. My first look at The Drowned Earth and what has turned out to be a set of pretty cool figures. In the follow up to this I'll be showing you their alternative to the classic blister pack which I may have gotten a little overexcited about. Until then...stay safe.


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A Moment in Time from El Greco Miniatures

Today I return with my first actual review of the year!

It has been a troubling time for us all recently with all the negativity going around the world, so it is very nice to be able to immerse our-selves in this marvellous hobby of ours to escape from the daily grind. I am happy to be reviewing my first ever purchase from El Greco’s own branded range.

If you have been living in a cave or just do not know about El Greco Miniatures, they are a store based down in Cornwall (I say down because I am waaaay up North) where you can find many of the awesome miniatures from all across the world. Especially historical subjects.

With Brexit hitting the UK, and it seems Europe too (specifically on shipping costs etc), I recommend you look at using UK based stores such as El Greco Miniatures and Mr Lee's Minis.

Today I am looking at the resin 54mm kit A Moment in Time 1755. The First Nations history is something I have a very deep interest in. I have a very dear friend over in Canada who is Full Blood Cree so I have an emotional link to this genre too.

While looking for a kit from El Greco, A Moment in Time was a clear winner. So let’s take a look at the kit and see what I thought about it.

The kit...

The theme of the kit is two scouting characters, which I assume are Iroquois warriors, that have happened across a clock sitting in a shallow brook. One of the characters is crouching down and looking at the clock and I can imagine he is pondering on how it arrived at its location and who it could have belonged to. The other is stood up looking into the distance with possibly the same thoughts on his mind.

The kit is cast in resin. Scaled at 54mm and is sculpted by Alan Ball with the box art painted by Marion Ball.

On opening the delivery package I can see that El Greco has put some thought into the presentation of this kit.

    


The box is super rigid and printed with the company logo. It is wrapped in a printed sleeved with a full colour printed box art adhesive label added to it.

 
Opening the box there is a contents sticker also on the inside of the lid which is a nice detail to keep track of what is, or should be in the box.


There is an information leaflet with all the relevant info on it, and two packets of scenic foliage which is a very nice touch to add to the base once painted.


Inside the wood shavings packaging is a ziplock bag with the miniatures inside, and the scenic base.


The base is cast in one piece and is full of detail. Tree sections and roots are nicely sculpted. The ground is suitably detailed with varying texture. Instead of just mud the rocks look very real and the brook bed is so nicely done too.

This is one of the nicest scenic bases I have seen and is not just a throw away piece like many bases. Ending up being swapped out for home made scenes.




In hand you can see the sculpting is real nice. The clothing textures are done well and the folds and creases are as you would expect them rather than seeming forced or exaggerated.

The anatomy is fine and the feathers are small but still detailed. One of my most hated things to paint but I still love the aesthetic of the native genre.


The clock which looks like it was made in the style of a fusee bracket or mantel clock type is nice and crisp with no casting defects. I think it may need some weathering or damage doing to it as it has fallen of some ones wagon perhaps? Who knows? It all adds to the mystery of how it got to its resting place.

The sculpted aspect of this kit is really good and it will be nice to paint at some point in the future.

What about the casting quality?

On close inspection with my old man specs on I can see the casting was done quite well. It wasn’t flawless but it was one of the cleanest kits I have seen cast.

As you know I do like to hunt for mould lines. I found several but they are really fine and placed for the most part in places you will not see once ready to paint. The only issue with one of the mould lines is it was placed on the wrong side of the arm. The mould has been cut along the folds of the shirt, but if the mould had been cut on the underside of the arm there was much less detail for a mould line to run along.

So that was my only criticism of the kit.

The mould lines will take minutes to remove which is much better than what I have witnessed in recent times, so this made me happy to see. There was zero flash to remove and all parts were cast perfectly; no bubbles or miss-aligned parts. 

I can see the kit will be quite easy to assemble and I look forward to painting it once my mojo returns for this part of the hobby.

To summarise; I am happy to have chosen A Moment in Time and I am very happy with the overall quality of the product. El Greco has put together a good product and their service is spot on too. If I was asked to recommend a store and a product then this is one of the best experiences I have had when shopping on line for a new project.

Where can I buy from?

If you wish to purchase the kit head over to https://www.elgrecominiatures.co.uk
It has a very nice price tag of £46.50 (or £38.75 without VAT) and as I say the service is top class. Take a look through the whole store and see what they have in stock; you will not be disappointed.

You can follow their social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram too which will keep you up to date on new lines added to their offering.

Do you collect miniatures of this genre and have you painted this kit?

Please let us know about your experiences as we would love to see your feedback and your work from any of the El Greco products.

All that is left to say is I hope you are all keeping very well during these dank times and just remember to not drink the paint water...



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Have a product you would like us to review? Contact us and we'll be happy to talk.
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Painting Secrets for Fantasy Figures book from AMMO by Mig

Last year I took a look at the Encyclopedia of Figures Modelling techniques Vol.0 from AMMO by MIG book as a warm up to this; the first book in their range aimed at the fantasy miniature painting market. This isn't the most recent title in the range but it's still relevant to the subject of painting incredible looking miniatures for our collections.


What I didn't mention is that this is the first book with BigChild Creatives who have really made a name for themselves since they burst into life with their Black Sailor's Kickstarter.

BigChild have also built a reputation for having consistently excellent box arts for their miniatures, and also painting box art pieces for other companies in their recognisable style. 


Straight away you're met with Ruben Martinez' Crystal Brush winning Ulrik the Slayer and a prologue giving a little insight into what to expect from this book. These range from "introductory articles on colour and painting techniques" to more specific subject matters as the book continues.

Ruben is also the project editor for this book and the painting manager at BigChild.

Brief overview

As with any book (unless written by Terry Pratchett that is), this is split into chapters with each by a different artist, using a different miniature, and covering a different subject.

Chapters:
  1. Colour theory. Ruben Martinez. 12 pages,
  2. Special techniques. Miguel Ángel Matias. 10 pages,
  3. Painting a male face. Rodrigo H. Chacón. 8 pages,
  4. Painting a woman's face. Marc Masclans. 10 pages,
  5. Textures. Luis Gómez Pradal. 10 pages,
  6. Lighting effects. Fabrizio 'Rusto' Russo. 10 pages,
  7. Fantasy creatures. Rodrigo Ciprés. 10 pages,
  8. Tabletop miniatures. David Arroba. 6 pages,
  9. Authors gallery. 10 pages.
Certainly looks like ten is the golden number for chapter length, although I didn't count the four pages each has which are purely photos of the completed miniature.

Ruben Martinez - Colour Theory


Ruben sneaks in and grabs the first chapter. Talk about abuse of position. I am of course joking and I honestly don't blame him for wanting to be the one to set the benchmark for what you can expect.

Starting off with a crash course in colour theory. Condensed into a mere two pages for the core of it and then more tips throughout his section.


You'll find some useful tips about planning and using reference images. Always something I'm pretty terrible at. The rest of the chapter follows a more familiar step-by-step format on the Honuk figure from the Black Sailors: Pirates of the Storm Coast line at BigChild.

It's interesting so see how Ruben brings other colours into areas of his painting to adjust the feel, atmosphere, and look of the overall piece. And there's a good part about how he tackled the turtle like textures on the skin and shell.


Every chapter has a lovely, full colour, double page spread showing the finished article so you can really get a good look over it.

Miguel Ángel Matias - Special Techniques


On to the Special Techniques chapter which does touch on some techniques like glazing, painting hair, and cloth. Even talks about brush size choice and encourages you to actually use more of your brush that just the tip and front third. May be a scary one for those of you who like to keep their brushes in pristine condition rather than seeing them as tools to create the marks you want.

Good choice of figure using Zhou Kang from the Black Sailors: Legends of the Jade Sea line from BigChild. Good mix of materials and shapes to paint.

I do feel that it is a little light on explaining actual techniques and more focuses on methods of creating materials using/ applying paint. But perhaps my views on what is a technique aren't the same as others.


The fabric section uses what Miguel calls "mixed technique", using brush work and airbrush glazes. Not totally sure the photos really help to enforce the text descriptions. That might be more due to purple being one of those tricky colours. And yes...I did have my glasses on.

Perhaps some explanation of creating volumes or lighting directions could've been of use in this early stage of the book. Just to help readers picture where to create light and shadow.


No Fantasy painting book would be complete without an (or many) explanations of non-metallic metal (NMM for short). Miguel gets in with his version. However; he covers a golden metal alongside a more blueish steel rather than the standardised grey which you usually see. He also discusses two methods of creating the effect too which I do like.

I do admit that perhaps more photos of stages and a more in depth explanation of value contrast could've really reinforced the methods discussed here.


Rodrigo H. Chacón - Painting a Male Face


I started to notice a trend at this point where two part priming is discussed. It seems to happen a fair bit throughout. Sometimes with added information about lighting considerations. I must admit that I did start to get a feeling that perhaps the book could've been split into two main sections at this point.
  • Section 1: covering prep and techniques like priming, lighting, colour theory, values, contrast, glazing, outlining (or edge highlighting), and other more technical terms which often get mentioned throughout the step-by-step explanations.
  • Section 2: the step-by-step sexy stuff from the individual painters.
But anyway...I got distracted with thoughts. 

I'd say that this is the most focused chapter of them all. Fully titled "Painting a Male Face: Old Man and Boy", and that is exactly what you get. Which I like. For me a heading gives you a hint at what you will read or learn, and with this chapter you get that without distraction.


Covering different methods to help show age difference is a nice touch. You get skin which is something I often hear people say is a weak spot of theirs, eyes, beard, and hair. All very much focal points on almost any miniature. Not bad going when you think this is also one of the shorter chapters.

I actually found myself wanting more in between steps with some parts feeling like they were cut short, either for book space or some other reason. But with it being such an important area of painting (more than NMM personally) it could've been given a bit more space.

One main complaint though, and this might sound really petty. The choice of bust. Lovely as it is, Spira Mirabilis only sell their miniatures for 48 hours and so if someone wants to paint along on the same mini they either have it already, spend a large amount from someone reselling, or go that route that I will never advocate.

Marc Masclans - Painting a Woman's Face


What better to follow a chapter on male faces that one focusing on those intimidating female faces!

However; Marc himself even says in the introduction that it will "not be restricted to painting the face only; we will also see how to frame the face within other defining feminine features such as skin complexion, hair, and bust." Perhaps 'painting a female figure' might have been a better title?

This figure is a bit of an odd/ original one coming from Celestial Genesis called Nuwa the Listener.

Unlike many other methods I've seen for painting female skin, Marc doesn't focus heavily of using an airbrush to create smooth transitions from the get go. In fact he mainly seems to reserve it for delicate glazing while using the brushstrokes to really do the work for him. Being that I don't airbrush, and not because I don't view it as a valuable tool and skill set; no prejudice against airbrushing here; it was interesting to read a primarily hairystick method. 


It shows that Marc has done a fair amount of teaching. There are more images than explanations, and some text connects to multiple image angles too.

Whilst he does touch on sections like the tail, DNA strand, and last details; Marc really kept the focus on that skin area. Weighing more towards the all important face and hair which can really frustrate people when painting. Shame there wasn't a few more pages to expand on this though.

Luis Gómez Pradal - Textures


Luis certainly went for a more obscure selection of miniatures. Which is a good change from all the humanoid subjects. The Smoking Caterpillar from Creepytables.

"Textures" is a pretty huge subject to cover and could lead to all sorts of expectations. So I'll narrow it down:
  • Creature skin texture,
  • Liquid bubbles in a glass container,
  • Eyes (though that is really a one paragraph description),
  • Golden NMM (version 2)
  • Wood tree stump.
Pretty specific for such a generic, all covering chapter title.


Unfortunately, with the bubbles being quite a unique texture, it had a single paragraph text description rather than something slightly more expanded. 

Gems could've also been covered too as they aren't touched on elsewhere within the book. But that's my head again looking at things from a different angle.


You can see the eye paragraph with accompanying photo just under my thumb. Could've been more in depth with so many different eye types being well painted but that is just me. 

The tree stump in comparison gets a lovely eight photo, almost full page description. Just feels a little unbalanced to me. 

Fabrizio 'Rusto' Russo - Lighting Effects


The addition of Rusto is a nice change as his method and style of painting feels quite unique here. Much more feeling like a canvas painter working with underpainting and building colours by using quite transparent paint layers.

Painting a weighty metal version of Vlad Dracul from Pegaso Models (yes...Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, and many other names) sculpted by Andrea Jula. Fabrizio decided to go down a more cinematic colour scheme than the more historical looking box art.

Again here, the title of "lighting effects" doesn't really cover what is talked about. Yes, he does talk about lighting briefly and does create glowing red eyes on both Vlad and his mount. But it really is more of a step by step on painting red armour, a massive white horse, and a bit of info on painting a gold looking stitched freehand.


Lots of photos throughout to really help to visually communicate what the text describes. Really helps to see what is being said when methods are done differently.

Rodrigo Ciprés - Fantasy Creatures


Fantasy creatures... Seriously broad subject. Massively wide subject. And so we have a really obscure figure from Celestial Genesis called Uzeon - The Wing of the Cryptick Mist. A strange mix of organic and inorganic in a hellish vision. 

There are some interesting stages in creating the other worldly looking flesh parts but it would've perhaps been useful to have a more classic fantasy creature with less bionic looking sci-fi sections and yes...a third version of NMM.


Slight slip up from the translating team here too with a whole section still in the original Spanish. Oops.

This chapter did read a bit like an instructional manual too. Very much 'I did this, then this, then this...'. Could be the translating but it can be quite an easy chapter to skip over after having had Masclans and Rusto leading up to it.

David Arroba - Tabletop Miniatures


Ah... then we have David Arroba who still looks like a youngster even with his stubble (you lucky fella you). Painting...some tabletop miniatures. Yes...tabletop miniatures. This felt a bit disjointed and perhaps like it should really be a separate book aimed at that market. Especially when more display type painting takes up nearly 92% of the books contents.

But, with David being the excellent painter that he is he delivers not just one guide, but two.

First up is a Quick painting guide taking you through ten steps to get a decent looking figure on to your table. Good stuff.


Then David expands with a further ten stages to take that initial figure further. Which is great for gamers wanting to get that bit more from their armies without long processes.

However; guess what returns...that's it (I hope you guessed correctly). NMM Mk4. That's four methods of doing non-metallic metal without an in depth explanation of value contrast and zero methods for an approach using metallic paints. It's a shame because I know there are some interesting methods using metallics too but I'm guessing people aren't asking for that.

Author's Gallery


You can't have this many painters together in a book without showing other work of theirs. That would just be a wasted opportunity. Good to see a brief bio from each of the painters too.

Final thoughts

Quality wise you get 123 pages of glossy full colour pictures which feels quality. Though the pedantic head I have feels the need to mention proof reading as there are a fair few typos and it sometimes changes between English UK and English US. Minor I know but at 26.50€ it would be nice to avoid that (and the untranslated paragraph) where possible.

I'm a little torn on this and I'll explain why; but also bare in mind that there have been other books released since this one which I hope have improved on the format.

I honestly don't feel like I've learned any 'painting secrets for fantasy figures' from this book. There are some excellent tips for introducing colour into your painting in ways you perhaps wouldn't have considered to help create ambience. Some good pointers for skin painting on human and non-human miniatures. Pointers for creating material textures too. And of course...methods for the often craved and sort after non-metallic metal (NMM). Perhaps more of the "why" could've been explained rather than so much "how".

But I feel the structure perhaps lets it down.

As I mentioned earlier in my review, perhaps splitting the book in to two sections could've made for a stronger book.
Major and reoccurring techniques and terminology being explained in the first part. This would help more novice painters understand things like volumes, values, hue and saturation, glazing, opacity, and other terms which it sometimes feels like the writers have an expectation that the reader already has an accomplished level of knowledge in.
The second section would be the bigger step-by-step sections but with more focus rather than painting everything. More like the male and female skin chapters.


Last up; I really feel that less would seriously be more. Many sections have areas where it feels like things have been edited for space and miss part of what you do. Less subjects, less chapter titles (if even needed), and more information and insight into each project in the book could've worked better.

I mentioned too that David's 'tabletop miniatures' section felt disjointed. Really I would say that a separate book aimed squarely at the gamers out there would appeal to them more. I highly doubt that gamers will buy this for one chapter after all.

This is a good book for those who have a solid grasp on painting already and want more insight into the models painted or the painters included within this book. But it's a bit of a jump for novice or even intermediate due to a lack of glossary of terms really and I would steer you in the direction of the Encyclopaedia series of books to build that knowledge. 

Where to buy?

You can buy this and any of the other books published by AMMO by Mig from stores stocking their products or direct at https://www.migjimenez.com

You can follow AMMO by Mig on social media on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

If you've made it this far (and I've just realised how much there is, sorry), thank you. I hope you're safe and well, and getting in some hobby time.

Until next time. Take care.


Want to support GMR?
Have a product you would like us to review? Contact us and we'll be happy to talk.
If you would like to buy us a coffee or Donate to the running of GMR, anything is greatly appreciated.