Wednesday, February 3, 2016

WASTEMAN... Let's talk about it.

THAT is one hell of a logo, right there.

WASTEMAN... Let's talk about it.

*setting the Way Back Machine to February 2015...*

Sometime in February of 2015, I became aware of a company called ThunderChild Miniatures (TCM hereafter, and for reference: by way of various ads that had popped up in my Facebook feed.  As a certified miniature junkie, such ads for various companies and impending Kickstarters are commonplace on my feed; in fact, that's basically all that I utilize Facebook for in the first place.  But these... these caught my eye.  They were bright, colorful, and absolutely oozing with style.  I had to know more.

How could you *not* be intrigued by a teaser like this?
One of MANY ads, this one showcasing the "Kritters" faction

Cut to March 7, and the Kickstarter for WASTEMAN, the premier game from TCM, launches.  I remember it vividly, in fact, because I was so anxious for the launch to begin I was actually the first backer.  I was, apparently, that crazy weirdo rabid fan.  I ultimately backed the project at a level that would get me one of everything available in the Kickstarter.

Now, you have to understand something about TCM and how it relates to me.  TCM is a company that is run by literally one man.  A single person with an idea and the motivation to make it happen.  A single person to create the game rules, the artwork, the digital elements (website design/maintenance, etc.), the sculpting, the photography, the marketing, the "studio" painting, the casting, the shipping, the paperwork... All of it.  This fact, all by itself, typically will get me on board with a project if only because I personally want to see a fellow artist succeed (assuming I believe they deserve to succeed based on the quality of the work, of course). 

The project was run tightly, with a myriad of updates and a flurry of posts at the end to bring the overall project well into the success column.  I was ecstatic, legitimately.  It felt like a personal victory, seeing something I felt so strongly deserved to succeed in this gaming climate we find ourselves in where big established companies with teams of people are running projects on the very same platform and making, literally, millions of dollars.

Over the course of the past year, TCM has been wonderfully transparent with updates about the creation process, letting the backers know each time a milestone had been reached.  Updates for the printing of the rulebook, the casting of the models (now in metal, cast by a third party due to the quantity), etc., were all posted up in a timely fashion to keep the project backers in the loop.

And now, nearly a year later, here we are.  The product (or at least most of it, Phase 2 will only be 5 models or so) is finally in hand.  Let the objective review begin!

I'm a wordy son of a bitch.  So sue me.

Now, the first thing to understand is that TCM is a company run out of Europe, and I happen to be an American (hey don't blame me, I don't like Trump, either; we're a bunch of crazies over here apparently).  This means that while TCM did manage to start sending out packages very close to the scheduled goal of November 2015, the first packages sent out were smaller bundles, and apparently the more local ones to the business.  Because of this, I've only just received mine, and you can read the date on this post as well as I can.  Am I mad/hurt/angry/thrashing in self-righteous despair?  No, not at all.  It was a brutal wait, certainly, watching other backers get their toys, but it was worth it.


All of the minis I've received thus far (not counting ones ordered direct from TCM's "Rad Town Ruins" line) are of the metal variety.  The minis themselves are 90%+ single-piece sculpts, with only maybe 3 or 4 having multiple pieces and needing to be assembled.  Because of this and the style of the sculpting, the minis only have a single mold line running up one side, across the top, and down the other, and it's usually very easy to scrape/file off.  I've not found a mini yet with any mold slippage offset.  They were cast cleanly and obviously inspected well for defects.

Now, I'm going to say something, and I want you to read it and take it in before you read the justification below it.  You know, just as an interesting social experiment.  See how it makes you feel.  Note your gut reaction, and what it inherently means to you.

These minis feel old.

Depending on how you read that, and your personal experience in the hobby, it could mean a wide variety of different things to you.  What that statement means to ME is a very good thing.

TCM's miniatures are all hand sculpted, and the artist's style is very evident in the sculpting itself.  These are not miniatures produced in painstaking, sterile detail on a computer screen, printed out and cast up in bulk in a Chinese factory.  These are individual pieces, sculpted at scale.  The robots have sometimes lumpy, sometimes inconsistent metal plating.  The humans having bulging faces and inconsistent weaponry.  The ladies are thick, and the men bulky.  They invoke in me a nostalgia not just for the miniatures of yesteryear, but for the time period they so powerfully invoke.

These are miniatures with a heart and soul.

And that's not to say I love all of the sculpts, because seriously, I honestly don't.  And that's a good thing. The range has a healthy variety, and I shouldn't necessarily think everything is equally wonderful.  But I appreciate every last piece, and I recognize what went into their creation, and I'm glad to put them on my shelf.  There are some miniatures in this line I will never put on the table, but at the same time, there are some that I will practically giggle with glee about every time I put them down to play.

The miniatures are rather large, as well, compared to the typical industry standards.  They are roughly 35mm scale if not a little larger, and many of what might have been humans at one time but can no longer claim as such are meant to stand taller.

A typical man-sized mini (roughly a bit bigger than your average Space Marine), and one of the Behemoth models in the line

The quality of these miniatures is apparent, and the craftsman's hand is obvious; these are not your everyday mechanical sculpts, nor should they be.


My actual rulebook, photographed in the midst of my unboxing.

The rulebook itself is of a surprising quality, I will be the first to admit.

I'm a harsh critic of anything written to be published, and sloppy writing is a huge buzzkill for me.  Needless to say, having never seen anything from TCM in regards to a rulebook or published material aside from the website, I was nervous.  Not because the website led me to believe it would be bad (quite the opposite, actually), but because I know that it's a sticking point for me and it could very easily kill the emotional momentum I had built up for myself.

The book itself is well put together, similar to a Warhammer codex/armybook from days past.  It's a softbound book, but large, and full color!

The writing inside is clean and concise, and while not much time is spent on the background of the game's world (but certainly enough to make the wheels start turning in your own brain), even the rule explanations play with a backdrop of in-world terminology and explanation.  This makes reading the rules *feel* better, and without a doubt more entertaining, than a simple list of do's and don'ts.

Model entries themselves are not listed in the book with the sole exception of Behemoths (the largest models in the game, all of which are played on the table in a different manner than the typical denizens of the wasteland).  While I personally would have loved to see more background for the individual characters, we do at least get base-line descriptions for the different "factions" of the game, helping a player put some motivation behind their favorite pieces on the table.

Why do all of my pictures involve the "Kritters"?  Is my subconscious trying to tell me something?

Lastly, I was pleasantly surprised to find a handful of very interesting and stylistically varied scenarios in the back of the book, giving players a good group of options to get started playing and a wonderful jumping off point for ideas on creating our own scenarios.

Also of note, the game itself plays with a deck of cards (called M.A.D. Cards) that add random elements to the game where players can accumulate them as they play and invoke dastardly circumstances to occur throughout the course of a game.  The rules written on the cards are easy to understand, and each card has its very own hand-painted piece of artwork.  Just incredible.

There are honestly quite a lot of different ones, too!


One of the important things about games being published on Kickstarter that I feel is too often ignored in reviews like this one is the simple question, "Well, that's all great... but where is this game GOING?"

According to the creator, WASTEMAN is a game that's not going to stop any time soon.  The final Kickstarter packages were sent only a few days ago, and already the community is seeing previews of brand-new models that will be added to the online store soon.

Cannot get these guys soon enough!
According to the creator, he also has started work on the follow up book in the WASTEMAN world, complete with new models, new story, and new game mechanics.  Here's hoping we see something from it later this year!

On top of all that, TCM is putting together a newsletter of sorts, designed not only to keep us "Wastefans" informed, but to slow-drip original fictional content, artwork, music, etc.

Did I mention earlier that WASTEMAN has a soundtrack?  One that was completely created by TCM, all original music, in fact.  All of the backers should be receiving it as a digital download in the coming months.  Yeah, I know.  Absolutely bananas.

Not really relevant... but fun.  :D


WASTEMAN is not a game for everyone.  It's a game with a unique and stylistic line of miniatures.  It's a game with a relatively simple rule set for tabletop play, but a rule set that inspires varied objectives and scenarios and seems to very much want for the gamers to form a narrative while they play.  It's a game mired deeply and un-apologetically in late 80's/early 90's styles with a hearty helping of metal music culture mixed in, yet manages to avoid the all-too-prevalent aggressively "retro" attitude some era entrenched properties showcase.

I repeat, WASTEMAN is not a game for everyone.  But it sure as hell is a game for me.

I mean, just look at this.  His name is LOWbot.  He's a little robot that punches things.