Pressed Into Service Review: Kings of War, Morgoth’s Revenge
As a miniature gamer there is no feeling in the world quite comparable to opening a big boxset of miniatures. For the miniature lover, tearing through the shrink wrap of a new boxset, preparing to slip the cover off with “scchhllloompp,” and gazing at the lovely sprues within sets the heart racing. Yes, I know what’s inside. I saw the pictures and content list on the back of the box. Heck, I saw the preview figures on the internet months ago! None of that matters at the moment of opening. For that moment anything is possible…
Even if you aren’t filled with enchantment beyond reason, as I often am, at the disclosure of a fresh box of plastic goodness, you have to be impressed with Mantic Games’ starter boxset offering. Morgoth’s Revenge is a starter boxset for Mantic Games’ Kings of War fantasy miniature range and includes over 100 multi-part plastic, 28mm figures.
Mantic has been tearing up wargaming news lately as a younger game company that has been able to produce mold injected plastic sprues. Something many smaller companies avoid due to the heavy initial investment of having a metal mold machined. Mantic has also priced their product very competitively and the market has taken notice. Don’t be surprised if you see some of these figures landing on a table near you soon.
When you open the box you may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of plastic sprues. They practically burst out of the box upon opening. On offer are playable forces for both the Undead and the Dwarves. The forces are quite large, comparable to what you would find in competing fantasy mass battle games. The Undead force contains 55 troops and a war machine and the Dwarves 45 and a war machine.
There is a nice variety in the contents, created by the customizability of the multi-part figures. For example the Dwarf Ironclads can be equipped with hand weapons and shields or two-handed weapons and the Ironwatch can be equipped with guns or crossbows. Even the dwarf war machine can be made into two different types.
The Undead lack much of the equipment customization of their dwarven counterparts but make up for this with a larger variety of units (four different troop types) and customizable pieces on the sprues. The skeleton warriors do have the option for spears which adds another element of choice but their war machine can only be built one way.
The figures themselves are quite nice, the overall theme of the Undead force is a kind of “classic” fantasy undead. Something you would imagine marching forth from a combination of Transylvania and Medieval England. The skeleton and revenant miniatures are really well scaled in comparison to Mantic’s vision of a normal human. By this I mean you can imagine the skeleton if covered with flesh being the size of a human instead of having bones as large as a fleshed out model. The zombie and ghoul miniatures are also nicely proportioned.
The details on these figures are crisp and you can mix up enough components to make some nice varied figures with the skeletons and revenants. However, the zombie and ghoul sprues lack the variety of the former and even with the use of the little included bits you are going to end up with duplicates (expected in a mass battle game, but worth mentioning). The options for skeletal hounds or to have troops “erupting” from the earth are also welcome additions.
The Dwarves are nice renditions of a fantasy staple. They are obviously short but not radically so and they are appropriately broad and well-muscled. Their broad shoulders, squat stances, and angry expressions give the impression of a race of maniacal linebackers. They are quite fierce looking for dwarves and will look intimidating ranked up. Traditionally a defensive force, these are dwarves that look like they will take the fight to the enemy.
The sculpting is crisp and detailed and will take paint well. I was surprised that some of the two-part bodies don’t match up well here and I have a leave a bit of a gap. Not a “deal breaker” by any stretch, but unexpected on this type of model. Perhaps I assembled this specific model using the wrong body, but if that is the case (this body must match these legs) there is less poseability in the Ironclads than I had originally thought. Also these broad shouldered folk can be difficult to rank up when equipped with shields so be mindful as you assemble them (a common problem with games that rank up).
The Ironwatch sprues lack the variety of the Ironclads and you will end up with many duplicates here as well. That said, the crossbows are nicely sculpted and have the welcome edition of being strung (an often overlooked detail). The side of some of the figures has some “detail melt” around the face (probably due to the location of where the two halves of the mold meet).
Special mention should be made of Mantic’s bases. Their plastic bases have a circular depression which fits the bottom of the figures snugly. Posing figures for the purposes of making sure they rank up is very easy because they can “snap-fit” into the bases and later permanently glued into place.
As many of these figures have analogs in the popular Games Workshop, Warhammer Fantasy Battle game you may be wondering how these figures scale with them. As you can see they are around the same size and will not look out of place on the table, battling it out with Games Workshop’s fantasy figures. That said they are different enough that I would hesitate to mix the ranges in an army. Especially the dwarves which look very different and are tall enough to stand out. The skeletons, revenants, and ghouls would be fine but the zombies would stand out in a unit with GW’s current figures.
Though you can use these miniatures with GW’s fantasy game, Morgoth’s Revenge contains a print copy of the Kings of War fantasy rules (along with some dice and brief information pamphlets on the forces within). These rules were developed by ex-GW game designer Alessio Cavatore. The presentation is a bit underwhelming. The rules are printed on a folded glossy pamphlet which may turn off those used to getting a small book or magazine. Give it a chance however, because Alessio delivers when it comes to quality.
A detailed review of the rules is beyond the scope of the review, so, succinctly as possible, Kings of War a nice mix of fantasy and historic gaming rules sensibilities. Fantasy elements are certainly present in droves, including some humorous elements such as “Throwing Mastiffs.” However, Kings of War dispenses with elements such as removing individual casualties, elaborate spells, and long magic items lists. Units gain wound markers effecting their moral until they are forced to route due to a failed moral test. The rules are “You go – I go” style wargame rules and the turn sequence and many other tropes will seem familiar to veterans.
Though not as popular as say Warhammer, if you can swing it with your play group, this is an excellent introduction to fantasy wargaming. The rules are streamlined but not overly simplistic, allowing rookie and veteran fantasy gamers to have a satisfying game experience. Some additional scenarios would have been nice (there are only three), but that is something that can be added as web content. Oh, and speaking of the internet, all these rules and army lists are available for free on Mantic’s website, so go check them out!
+ over 100 multi-part plastic models for $64.99!
+ nicely detailed easy to assemble figures
+ circular “snap-fit” bases allow you to test fit figures as you rank them
+ most figures are easy and quick assemblies
+ useable in other fantasy games
+ streamlined (not dumbed down) ruleset to get you playing right away
– lack of variety in some of the unit sprues
– some “soft” details are present on certain figures
– presentation of paper materials (rules etc.) lacks polish
It’s hard to talk about Mantic without mentioning GW, so let’s briefly discuss the elephant in the room here. Is Mantic Games producing Games Workshop quality plastics? Not in all cases, but there are sprues in this set that give the old warhorse a serious run for its money. In my opinion, the undead in this boxset are comparable in quality to the current analogous GW plastics. The dwarf sprues, though perhaps lacking the refinement of Games Workshop’s, may be more appealing to some gamers due to their proportions and stylistic differences.
Mhorgoth’s Revenge is an excellent first effort from this very young miniature company and displays the savvy of the minds behind it. Many gamers would be satisfied by the dollar to figure value alone here, but it is important not to discount the actual quality of the figures on offer. The fact that these figures are so nice, combined with the price point ($64.99) of the boxset makes Mhorgoth’s Revenge a fantastic entry points into the miniature wargaming hobby. One of the current best values in miniature gaming without a doubt!