November 16th, 2010
In Focus Review - BattleTech Mech Models
from Iron Wind Metals
I can't cover a game like BattleTech without covering the models too. So I contacted Iron Wind Metals to take a look at some of the Mechs I've always liked the most, plus a few others that were included at random. BattleTech models are all lead-free pewter, and are produced by Iron Wind Metals exclusively.
Here's a rundown of the models and mini-reviews of each one...
The Atlas re-sculpt is a 13-piece model, and comes in a single blister pack. Many of the pieces making up this model come on thick metal sprues. By design the Atlas is one of the largest Mech models available, because it represents one of the largest Mechs in the game at 100 tons.
This model is quite large in presentation too. Once assembled he's really close to being 2.5 inches tall, with a hex base I bet he breaks the 2.5 inch mark. That's another thing, this model doesn't come with a hex base, and you'll really need one if you want to play this model in BattleTech. Iron Wind Metals does offer the appropriate hex bases, also cast in pewter, but they come separate in packs of 4 for $6 direct from their site.
The pieces included in this kit are the head, right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg, hips, missile launcher for the hip, ammo box/pouch for the right side of the hip, gun barrel for the torso mounted gun, right hand, left hand, upper torso and back piece for the upper torso. There's also a couple of tiny pilot holes in the head, which can be used for antennas, but I didn't have a bit small enough for my pin vice, or a pin or wire thin enough to utilize that option.
Liberating the pieces from the sprues may require metal cutting capable snips/clippers. That's what I used on some of them, because a few will break free via bending back and forth, but others will require cutting them free with something like clippers that can handle cutting metal. You could use a hobby knife on some, but I'd recommend clippers, because the metal in some places is really thick and it's no fun running to the ER for stitches when the knife slips.
There's a lot of mold lines, and a lot of flash to remove around the edges too. Actually a close look at the legs reveals that they're really close to being miscast, because one side of the leg armor is higher than the other, and the same is true at the bottom. This was fixed pretty easily by simply filling away at the top and bottom to even them out, but this issue offsets the detail lines engraved in the model on the front of the leg armor too.
I also opted to pin the legs on this beast, because there was no way I was going to get him standing on his own unless I did. I tried without pinning, and it wasn't working very well. Like most of these multi-part models there's a lot of fiddly parts, and there's no rushing the assembly process either. I used some BSI CA glue accelerator to help, but that's about all you can do. If you do rush you'll knock off one part while trying to glue another on, and it starts to get ugly fast.
The preparation (cleaning and assembly) time alone took me about 20+ minutes on this model, as there's a lot of cutting away the mold lines and filling away the left over metal sprue bits, and reshaping a little where needed. Both the arms and legs are designed with via a ball and socket design, as there's a cup cut into the shoulders and upper thighs, and there's little rounded balls poking out from the hip and upper torso. So that helps a little.
In terms of how well the pieces fit, I really can't complain. The arms could probably used pinning too since they're large pieces like the legs, but I was able to get them attached with medium viscosity gap filling CA alone, and it seems like they're not going anywhere.
Overall this is a fantastic model, and I remember the old Atlas sculpt, but this is definitely a nicer rendition. My only complaint would be that the leg details being a little cockeyed is a bummer, and it annoyed me, because aside from the Mad Cat, the Atlas is and always will be my favorite sculpt.
This models sells for $12.95 USD direct from Iron Wind Metals. As large as this beast is, you're definitely getting your moneys worth with this fella. And it's an Atlas, what's not to like?
This is a 6-piece model. The right and left arms, right and left legs, feet with baseplate attached and the chassis make up the entire model. Once again clean up and assembly wasn't super fast, but this one cleaned up a lot faster than the Atlas.
Aside from profile mold lines down the middle of the legs and arm pieces, the chassis was surprisingly rather clean, and didn't require much prep work. The same can be said of the feet. The feet are molded to a simple flat baseplate, which is more like an integral base, but it isn't the proper size to be a full on hex base which is needed to play BattleTech. Actually none of these models come with the hex bases needed to play BattleTech.
I also learned that gluing one of the legs to one of the feet is the easiest way to start to build this model, and then once solid I balanced the chassis to get the right angle I wanted, and proceeded to attach the other leg to the chassis and other foot. Lastly the two arms are so small that attaching them takes next to no effort.
Being this is a 35 ton Light Mech, it's a baby compared to the Atlas, but compared to most other Light Mechs he's quite large as 35 tons is pretty much the limit for Light Mechs. The Cougar sells for $9.95 USD via Iron Wind Metals, which is pretty much the standard price point for most of the biggest Light through Medium Mechs.
Like the Atlas, I think the Mad Cat is also the poster child for the entire BattleTech universe, because you immediately think BattleTech/Mechwarrior when you see an Atlas or Mad Cat. Those two models pretty much define what it is to be a Mech. At least to me they do. Also like the Atlas this is a resculpt model too, as they no longer offer the original sculpt, and this one has taken its place in the product line now.
The Mad Cat is a 12-piece model. The pieces included are right arm, left arm, right missile launcher, left missile launcher, chassis, lower chassis plate, right leg, left leg, two feet, and two small guns that attach to the sides of the cockpit.
This was much cleaner than the Atlas, as there's some mold lines present, but they're for the most part accessible, and easy to remove. A few pieces also require liberating from thick metal sprues, but overall I think I spent no more than 10 minutes preparing this model.
The pieces also fit together rather well. The arms have little posts, and the the lower torso plate has posts as well for the legs, and the parts both attach to the pre-drilled sockets nicely. I had to drill a wee bit deeper into the leg sockets to get them to fit flush, but that's an observation more than a complaint.
Being the Mad Cat is such a prestigious Mech, I expected it to be a really nice sculpt, and I'm not disappointed at all. I actually think it's beyond my expectations detail-wise. There's a lot of tiny micro-details to be found if you look closely, like around the missile packs, and on the chassis itself.
Overall this is one of the absolute must-have models in the entire range. At $12.95 USD it's priced to sell, because this thing could be $15 and it's nice enough that I bet you anything it would sell at that price too. Thankfully it's not that much, but being this is a Heavy Mech it's quite large at roughly 75 tons, and if this were a GW model I bet you anything it would carry a $$17-20 USD price tag. It's truly that nice.
This is another fairly large model. The Kodiak comes as 4 separate pieces the body, left arm, right arm, and left leg from the knee down. After a little filing the parts fit together rather well. However I would suggest pinning for this big fella, because all of the parts are quite large and thick. I got away with medium viscosity gap filling CA glue, but I didn't want to take the extra time to pin him.
The pose is quite dramatic, as the left leg from the knee down fits into position as if the knee is bent, positioning the leg so that the model appears to be running forward. My only complaint is that this model also looks to be a little miscast along the mold line going around the profile. It's most obvious at the very top near the head and shoulders of the model. After some cutting and filing I was able to reset the offset, but it was really annoying to deal with.
I was also really surprised by the price-tag on this model, because the Kodiak is priced at $13.50 USD, and the Atlas is much bigger, made up of a lot more parts even, but he's only $12.95 USD. I've always been a fan of the Ghost Bear clan Mechs, so I really can't complain too much, as the sculpt is really nice, there's a bunch of detail, and he is rather large. Plus .55-cents more USD over the Atlas isn't much in the overall scheme of things.
Here's another smaller Mech at a glance, but upon reading up on it I found that this is actually consdiered a Heavy Mech. He's just short. This is an Inner Sphere variant of the Black Hawk, and with that being the case their design is 10 tons heavier putting this at around 60 tons, pushing it right into the Heavy Mech class.
This model is made up of 8-pieces the right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg, cockpit/chassis, feet sculpted to a baseplate and right plate/weapon and a left plate/weapon. A word of warning, do not build the model without first attaching the little plates with weapons that go on the underside edge of the cockpit. If you do build it and decide to put them on later, you'll may end up having to tear it back apart to attach them. Unless you have some tiny child-like fingers, don't build it without attaching them first, because once the legs are in place it's tough getting in to where those need to be attached.
That warning aside, I did notice some pitting on the topside of the legs. Many of these parts come on thick metal sprues too, so you'll want some clipper/cutters handy. My biggest gripe is that there's a mold line smack dab right down the middle of the cockpit windows, and I don't see how there's any way to remove it without cutting away at the window framework.
I don't usually get too worked up when it comes to assembling models, as I've pretty much seen it all, but this one had me cussing like a sailor, because of that cockpit mold line and the messed up shoulder bits. I can fill in the pitting with green stuff, and then file it down, but that's a bit more work than what should be needed. If someone also has a tip for removing mold lines in places where you can't get a hobby knife tip or a small file, I'd love to hear it.
Thankfully the model once prepared assembled up nicely, but it's a bit of a balancing act since the arms attach directly on top of the thigh region of the legs. The easiest way I found is build a single leg first and attach the chassis/cockpit to it, and slowly move ahead from there. This is another $12.50 USD priced model, and being a Heavy class Mech that's about average for a Heavy/Assault class model.
With a name like the Awesome you would expect it to be a really kick-ass BattleMech model, and it is in more ways than one. Of all the models I've covered in this article so far, this is the easiest to prepare and assemble. This is a 3-piece model that's it. There's a right arm, left arm and body piece.
Clip away the two arms from a sprue, file down the minor mold lines and flash bits, and glue the arms into place. It's that simple. Even the body piece was pretty clean of mold lines and flash, as there's a bit of a profile line showing, but it was very faint and extremely easy to remove.
I've always been a fan of the Awesome, not only due to the cool name, but it's an awesome looking Mech too. The pose isn't anything special, but it's a nice sculpt anyway, because it's still an Awesome, which is a quite impressive 80 ton Assault class Mech.
At $12.95 the Awesome is also priced reasonably right up there with the rest of the Heavy/Assault-class Mechs in the BattleTech model range, and best of all it requires very little clean up and assembly.
Marauder IIC (Re-seen)
This is a 16-piece model, and there's really too many parts to list, some which I can't actually name either. This is a model that definitely requires some previous Mech model building skills. Thank god I opted to build this after most of the others.
The hardest part is getting the legs in place properly to support the weight of the model without it toppling over. Even once I had it assembled with optimal balance, it still wanted to dip backwards until I glued the feet down to a base.
There's also two little tiny micro-flaps that go right above where the arms attach, and two tiny flaps to attach to the rear of the chassis, and two more tiny ones to position on the front-side. For the tiny parts I found that a good CA accelerator is the best way to handle attaching them, this way they stick the first time, and they don't end up slipping off.
I also opted to pin the arms and legs both, because as big as this piece is, it just wasn't going together without pinning. Even pinning the legs was really tricky, and doing so really tried my patience. In terms of mold lines and flash, it was a fairly clean model. A few minor mold lines were present, but the flash was minimal. Many of the parts are attached to metal sprues too, so sprue clippers that can handle metal cutting is also a good idea to have on-hand.
This model once assembled is a true work of art. It's about 2.25-inches tall, making it almost as large as the Atlas, but a hair shorter. As much as I love the Atlas and Mad Cat most, the Marauder IIC has had such an impact visually on me, that I think it could very well be tied for 2nd place with the Mad Cat on my “coolest looking Mechs of all time” list.
I've seen pictures of these before, but up close and personal it's even most visually impressive. At $13.50 USD it's worth every penny, because they could easily charge a little more and likely get it if they wanted too. It's that big, and that amazing of a model.
This is one of the smaller Medium class Mechs. This is also one of the easier to assemble models, because the Centurion is a 2-piece model. This model comes as a body and a right arm with weapon attached. Simply attach the right arm via the stub and socket provided and assembly is complete.
This model is a breath of fresh air after assembling the Marauder IIC. There's a couple of minor mold lines present, and minor flash bits, so clean up took about 2 minutes tops. While this isn't one of my favorite Medium class Mechs, the sculpt is quite nice, and it's very detailed.
This is also a pretty old sculpt, because on the bottom of the integral base it's marked FASA, and FASA has been dead for about a decade now. At $10.50 it's priced about average for a bigger Light, and smaller Medium class Mech.
This is a little fella, one of the Light class Mechs. The Fire Falcon is a 6-piece model. There's a right weapon, left weapon, left leg, right leg, main chassis and a baseplate with the feet molded onto it already. By looking at it you'd think this would be a really quick and easy assembly job, but what I've learned halfway through this article is that almost any of these “chicken-legged” walkers almost always ensure assembly will be some work.
Getting the chassis to sit at the right angle, and having the upper sockets and foot sockets all four to line up perfectly is a lesson in patience for sure. I was cussing someone out again as I built this little fella. The good news is that once you have that part done, attaching the little stubby weapon turrets to the left and right side of the chassis is a piece of cake.
I'm very familiar with the Mechwarrior/BattleTech universe, but I have to admit I've never seen this little fella before now. I actually like this little fella. He has some character, and the pose is really nice, as he's clearly on the move, which is what Light Mechs do best, haullin' ass. At $8.50 USD he's priced logically, as he's quite small and many of the smaller Light Mechs are also in this same price range. Fair enough.
This is surprisingly a single piece cast model. There's no assembly at all to speak of, and clean up took about 1 minute, as all I could find is remnants of a faint mold line. This is a much older sculpt too, because it's marked Ral Partha underneath, and Ral Partha ceased to exist in 2001, and then Iron Wind Metals was born. This leads me to believe that this is one of the original Medium class Mechs.
At $9.95 I think he's a bit small for that much money, because visually he really looks like a Light Mech, but weighs in at roughly 45 tons, so it's clear he's a Medium.
I've always been amused by this Mech. This is the walking trashcan Mech. It looks a lot like R2D2 with longer legs and some bigger weapons. This is also a single 1-piece design, so there's no assembly what so ever to speak of. The faint mold lines that could be found were removed with ease, and overall this model was almost ready for primer almost right out of the package.
At 30 tons this is definitely a Light class Mech, and he's priced reasonably at just $8.50 USD. This is a Mech just to have for the pure fact he looks like R2D2, that is if R2D2 was designed by Skynet. Cool stuff.
Black Widow Company Lance
Now in addition to all of the blister pack single models Iron Wind Metals has to offer, they also put together some really nice Lance and Star packs, which are multiple model bundles, usually at a small discount compared to buying the models separately.
The Black Widow box comes with variants found in the Starter book Wolf and Blake. In the box you'll find the GRF-Griffin Francine, UZL-25 Uziel Jacob, ZEU-9WD Zeus-X Stacy and BLR-45 Battlemaster Calvin models packed in single blister packs, but the cardboard is trimmed down to fit into the larger plastic box. As an added bonus Iron Wind Metals also throws in a really nice Wolfs Dragoons all pewter coin.
The Griffin in this set comes as a 9-piece model. What really surprised me is that this is the first blister pack I've seen that came with extra parts. There's an extra left arm with a single barrel weapon, and a smaller barrel weapon to attach to the right arm that's also extra. I opted to build it with the bigger right arm weapon, and the dual barrel weapon left arm.
That aside assembly is quite simple, although the tiny missile rack is a little tough to get into place, as it's so thin where it attaches that pinning really isn't an option, unless I hack the stem off and rebuild it with brass rod or a paperclip. Cleanup wasn't very involved, as the mold lines were faint and minimal, and only minor flash tabs were found around the edges.
The Battlemaster comes as a 4-piece model. This surprised me, because this is a really impressive sculpt, and I thought for sure it took more pieces than this to make such a nice model. It's all in the sculpting I guess. All that's required is attaching both the right and left arms to the ball joints in the shoulders, and then the upper torso to the hips, and the model is complete.
The arms are attached to a rather large metal sprue, so some sprue cutters would be a good idea to have around, otherwise clean up and assembly is quite minimal with this piece. Once assembled the Battlemaster stands as tall as the Atlas at roughly 2.5-inches, making him one impressive and towering Assault-class monstrosity.
The Zeus-X is another Assault-class beastie. To my surprise this is simply a 3-piece model, as it comes as a body and both arms separately. Not nearly as tall as the Battlemaster, but still quite tall and intimidating the Zeus-X is an admirable looking foe.
Clean up and assembly is a cake-walk, since all you have to do is attach the arms, and clean up any mold lines and flash. There's also no nasty mold lines or flash to speak of, so clean up is almost non existent.
Lastly we have the Uziel. As soon as saw this model I wanted to run the other way. Yes this is another “chicken legged” model, which meant assembly would be interesting to say the least. There's 8-pieces that make up the Uziel. The pieces include the main chassis, right and left legs, right and left arms, a baseplate with both feet molded onto it, and one smaller weapon bit.
As expected getting the legs to hold while getting the feet in place is hard enough. But achieving this plus getting the chassis to sit at the right angle, so that the model doesn't look stupid, but still manages to balance is a test of patience. I never liked this Mech much either, but he's part of the set, so I can't complain much. In the PC games he was always quite useful tho.
This is the one Mech I've had the hardest time finding a Record Sheet for as well. It looks like the only way to get an Uziel Record Sheet is to buy the Wolf and Blake Starter book, because I couldn't find it listed in any of the other currently available Record Sheet compilations.
This set carries an MSRP price-tag of $39.95 USD, and I've seen this selling for a few dollars less even at the Warstore.com. Separately the Zeus-X is $13, Uziel $10.50, Griffin $10.50 and the Battlemaster is $13, plus they give you the Wolf Dragoons coin in pewter for free. So you do save about $7 and get a free coin by going the boxed set route. Also this is probably the best boxed set of all the boxed sets that they have to offer, as this has the most visually impressive variety of models in it. At least I think so.
Iron Wind Metals is the only company licensed to make BattleTech models for the BattleTech board/miniatures game. There's also so many great models available, that sitting down and selecting models to play with can be a daunting task to say the least.
I've also learned that it's an even bigger inconvenience if you get the models first, and then try and find all of the Record Sheets you need to play them in the game. This is due to the fact that BattleTech is split up into different eras, and the Record Sheets are sold in books based on the eras.
To avoid any confusion later I would suggest picking up the Record Sheets from the era that you want to play, and then to purchase the models listed within it. It will make things a lot easier.
See while you can mix and match the different era Mechs in the game versus each other, it can get costly fast if you find that you have to buy three different books worth of Record Sheets just to play the models you purchased. The models aren't separated into eras, they're listed alphabetically at the Iron Wind Metals site, which is why I suggest picking up the Record Sheets for the era you want to use first, then start shopping around for models.
I have however noticed that when IWM announce new models in their news section, they'll list them as from TRO 3075 or TRO 3085, etc, which means from the Technical Read Out 3075 or 3085, which is helpful. They just need to organize them that way through their online store listings to be optimally helpful.
As for the models, some aren't perfect, but the sculpts are really impressive, some of which are even amazingly quite old, but still look good even by today's standards. If you want to play BattleTech there's really no other option other than Iron Wind Metals for official models, unless you have some of the Introductory Boxed Set plastic models, but that set is out of print at the moment, and the new one isn't done yet.
Cost-wise they're no less or no more expensive than any of the other Intellectual Property-based models that are out there at present. It's a mater of if you like BattleTech or not, and if you do then you can't find any better models than these to play it with period. Iron Wind Metals is also continually releasing new models for BattleTech. I've only covered some of the Mechs, but they make infantry, vehicles, ProtoMechs and Aerospace models for BattleTech as well.
This month I hear that they're releasing some of the highly anticipated 3085 era models, which are completely new designs. Actually most of the later era models are quite radical in design compared to what I'd call the classic-era Mechs like those reviewed here today.
I also hear that there's some new LAM (Land-Air-Mech) models that debuted in the TRO 3085 , so I'm crossing my fingers that those will pop up soon. I'm sure before long that we will see them, because the old LAMs are some of the most highly sought after models out there, which were pulled out of production in the 90s due to too them looking to much like the classic 80s RoboTech cartoon series characters.
What models are produced can sometimes be driven by the fanbase too. On the official Catalyst Game Labs forums for Iron Wind Metals, there's a couple of guys who post there who work as middle man between Iron Wind Metals, sculptors and those who want a model made. From what I've gathered players/fans can request a model to be made by funding it.
A single person (or a group) can cover the cost to fund having the green and mold made, but IWM has to approve the project first. If they do decide to green light the project, then I've been told that IWM will give the person, or the people who funded it store credit in the amount they paid to fund the project in return. So essentially they aren't loosing anything, they're just making a really big order from IWM.
There's two different groups that handle these projects, one is called Fan Financing Group, and is the larger of the two groups. The other group is called the Australian Financing Group, and they focus more on the Aerotech models, but will do Mechs if needed too. The difference is that going through FFG the the funding person is paid back with IWM store credit in the amount funded, where as the AFG only gives the person funding the project 24x of the model funded to do what ever they see fit with them.
It appears to be a pretty popular thing to do, because browsing those forums there's tons of announcements stating "the Sling has been funded", "the Thunderbolt has been funded" and so on. I have no real figures as to what it can cost, I guess it can differ based on what ever the sculptor quotes you, but one guy used the number $600 as an example, and I saw another post stating it cost $800. So I'm guessing it could be more or less than that, depending on the model.
So what I covered here today is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so many more models to choose from, actually about 6 pages worth the last time I checked for Mechs alone. There's always more to come too, be it IWM projects or fan funded ones. I don't see players running out of new Mech or BattleTech models in general to choose from any time soon.
If I had any complaints it would be that the quality control could be a little better on some of these models, like the legs on the Atlas, and the pitting on the BlackHawk KU I encountered. That covers the complaints.
Now for my observations..Some of these are really best suited for experienced model builders too, because any of what I'd call the "chicken-legged walkers" for example require patience and some model building experience. Only after you've built a few will the process move along more smoothly. Pinning is almost pretty much required on some of the larger and heavier models too.
So a pin vice and some brass rod (or really thin paper-clips) and some snips/cutters that can handle cutting metal will really come in handy with these models. I actually broke a pair of cutters I've had for a bout a year now while building these, as I attempted to cut away some of the thick integral base to make my Griffin look nicer on the hex base. Therefore I can't stress enough how vital proper cutters can be.
They don't include bases with the models either. On the base topic tho, I do understand that Tin is at an all time high, and it's a main component used in metal models. So I do understand that it's just not a financially viable option to include their metal bases with every model. They're also not the only company to make models and not include bases with them.
I will also say this, the bases that they do make are absolutely outstanding, and are definitely the best bases you can get for heavier BattleTech models. Being all metal like the models, they're very helpful with the heavier models, and the bigger models in odd poses which tend to want to topple over. I couldn't have used a cheaper plastic hex base on the Marauder IIC for instance.
All in all, I can't see playing BattleTech myself personally without these models. Catalyst Game Labs doesn't require that you use official BattleTech models to play any of their BattleTech games, so you could use the paper stand-ups, and any of the alternative Mecha-genre models out there as proxies if you wanted to. I wouldn't want to, but others do, and others will. I'm also not saying that there isn't some equally as nice alternative Mecha models out there, because there is.
The CAV models from Reaper have always been very nice, and the Heavy Gear stuff is equally as impressive in its own right. The difference is the subject matter. None of the competition's models can be an Atlas, and while there are some really nice looking obvious MadCat design copy cats (no pun intended) out there, there can still only be one true MadCat, and the only company that can bring you the Mad Cat or an Atlas officially is Iron Wind Metals.
As my photos reveal, these are truly some amazing models. If they can't sell a gamer on playing BattleTech nothing else will. Also be sure to check out their website if you haven't already, there's a lot of other great models to dig into.