Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Grolar Unboxing


After almost two years of waiting for it (first announced in Warmachine: Vengeance, released on March 19, 2014) the Grolar is finally out and available for purchase. It has been so long that I have forgotten about this model multiple times, only to be reminded by some random post/comment/army list.

I won't quite say it is worth the wait - 23 months is a ridiculous amount of time to wait for any single model to come out, let alone a non-character heavy warjack - but it is very nice to finally have the Grolar in hand. It has great rules and a fantastic model to go along with it.

Anyone with any interest in the model has no doubt bought one (or two, or three out of disbelief and a fear that they will poof out of existence) for themselves, so if you're a Khador player, you know what's in the box.

That said, I do think it is worth checking out the Grolar's box set to highlight some of the things that probably held up its release for so damn long, the things that make it a particularly remarkable kit for Privateer Press to have produced, and finally to pay tribute to a once great and now largely overshadowed warjack: the noble Kodiak (who shares the box with the Grolar and is very tellingly not featured on the cover despite being the originator of this chassis type).

Breakdown starts after the link.


Box and Contents




The first thing to notice about the box is that it is quite large (not that you can really tell by that picture, but take my word for it). I don't have any of the other plastic heavy kit boxes sitting around for comparison but it seems to be 25% or so bigger than the previous plastic heavy kit boxes.



And this here is probably the reason why. Instead of the old "bags 'o parts" that you'd get with the original heavy warjack kits, now the parts come on proper sprues! Those take up a lot more space and aren't as flexible to pack (especially since PP kept them all together and bagged them, which is a nice touch) so if the box is bigger it is probably to accommodate the stack of sprues in there.



Another really interesting thing of note are the instructions that are included in this kit. This is the most robust and thorough set of instructions I've seen PP include with one of their sets. Traditionally the instructions have just been a rough assembly diagram on the back of the box (which, in fairness, was all you really needed with those relatively simple kits).



PP has stepped their game up now that they're producing more complex plastic kits. I can see even a new hobbyist having a fairly easy time assembling this kit with this set of instructions. I particularly like how they break out the "core" assembly and then have separate instruction sets for each variant.



The sprues themselves aren't anything super special on their own - though I do appreciate how they numbered the parts for ease of assembly reference, and each sprue is effectively one "module" (torso, legs, Grolar parts, Kodiak parts) - but they are very remarkable for PP. The material is a dark, hard plastic, similar to what I've seen with Malifaux models and a departure from material they've used in other plastic sets.


To my knowledge there are only two other plastic kits like this one: the Reliant/Stormclad Heavy Warjack Box Set and the Transfinite Emergence Projector. The Reliant was the first of the Vengeance warjacks to be released (August 2015) but was unfortunately not too popular so I didn't get a chance to see that kit in person.



I did, however, assemble my own Transfinite Emergence Projector when I played Convergence. That kit was similar in a number of ways - same type of plastic, came on sprues, detailed set of instructions - but it felt like more of a one-off thing at the time it came out (since PP hadn't released or teased another plastic kit like that).


The player base is still waiting on the other two Vengeance heavy warjack kits - Inflictor/Seether for Cryx and Guardian/Indictor for Protectorate - and I think it is very safe to assume that they will be the same as the Grolar, and the Reliant before it. While that is good news overall (I think these kits are a remarkable step up in quality over the previous plastic kits) it has been a long, frustrating wait for these warjacks.

Rampant Delay Speculation
So, what the hell took PP so long with these kits? Even going by the release of the Reliant its still a 17 month gap between when the rules for the models came out and when the kits were actually available. This was made more irksome for the player base due to how noteworthy some of those releases were (both the Grolar and the Inflictor are very solid entries for their factions) and the small release cycle of that book (making it seem like there were even fewer releases than there already were).

The general cause appears to be obvious. All of these kits were seriously hurt by what will end up being their greatest feature: the greatly improved plastic (I quickly grew to hate the plastic PP used in their other heavy warjack kits) and means of production (sprues instead of loose parts). Both of those features are ultimately a great thing for the consumer, but it seems like it was hell for PP to make the transition from whatever they were doing before to this new set up.

I think you can see the difficulty in getting consistent, quality castings for these heavies in not just the general delay they've endured, but the delays between the individual kits. The Reliant kit came out August 2015 followed by the Grolar in February 2016; a 5-6 month gap depending on how you count it. Various online retailers have their PP pre-orders listed out through May 2016 with no sign of either of the two remaining heavy kits up through that point. Assuming at least one of those kits shows up as a June 2016 release, that's a 3-4 month gap (and we're already past the 2 year overall mark). At this point, although it looks like all of the Vengeance warjacks will be out by the end of 2016, it may be just barely.

That continued delay of the heavy kits leads me to believe that getting these kits translated into this new medium and production service has been very difficult for PP. Even when they already have one figured out, it is still taking them several months worth of turnaround time to get the next one done and out the door. I'm sure they've had to learn a lot of hard lessons about what shapes and cuts they can consistently make work, how to then translate into sprues for production/storage/packaging, and then at the end of it all they need to actually get the things checked, packed, and shipped (along with putting together the assembly doc, which is another printing/packing step).

There is also the "x-factor" of plastic production in general being a really hot commodity right now. Almost every "major" miniatures game has shifted to plastic over the past 5-10 years which means that there is a much greater demand from the factories able to produce plastic miniatures. My understanding is that has been strained even more by the rise of Kickstarter and the slew of new miniature lines it has introduced, many of which are in plastic and add even more demand to an already crowded production market.

So PP is contending with a lot of different factors: actual production P&A, difficulties with new molding/production processes, and finding slots in factory production runs to slot into. You can imagine how hiccups anywhere in the process can cascade into significant delays, and that is without factoring in outside complications such as holidays or shipping complications (things I'm more familiar with having followed several Kickstarters through production, and something I think PP keeps transparent from their players).

Why is it important to understand/appreciate where these kinds of significant delays can come from? Especially now that the Grolar is actually out, so who cares, right? Two reasons come to mind:

1) As stated earlier, there are still two other heavy kits that people are waiting on and I'm sure they're grinding their gears to get them just as much as I was waiting for the Grolar (maybe less so for the Indictor, but the Inflictor looks to be fairly popular in Cryx).

2) Much more importantly, these issues do not exist in a vacuum. Its not like there was anything specific to the Grolar that caused it to be so delayed (though it was probably a more difficult kit to get right than the Reliant, hence why that kit came out first). They didn't need to wait for the duergar to mine enough Unobtainium from the balrog pits in order to forge more Piston Hammer bits.

Point being: if these Vengeance warjacks have run into production issues like this, it stands to reason that other kits made using similar means may run into similar delays. Therefore, we shouldn't be surprised when some things take awhile to show up. We're already seeing this now with the significant gap between when the second set of colossals were announced and when they've started to come out. Reckoning was released June 2015 and the first new colossal (the Sepulcher) will release May 2016 (assuming no delays). That's 11 months; less of a delay than the Vengeance warjacks, but still a large gap, especially when you consider how much of a delay there was between the first colossals and the book itself, Colossals.

Now that PP has previewed two of the upcoming new colossal kits - Kraken/Sepulcher kit and Prime Axiom/Prime Conflux kit - we know that they're continuing with a similar production method for these new colossals (the plastic looks different but that could just be lighting) and, based on what happened with the Vengeance warjacks, one can only assume that they ran into similar issues (especially considering how much bigger and more complex the colossals are). It does speak well of lessons learned on PP's part that it has "only" been an 11 month gap this time around. The size and scope of these new colossal kits alone (they are dual model plastic kits, which is more effort than just producing new models) could have easily resulted in delays as long or longer than the Vengeance warjacks, but they appear to have figured out ways to keep that sort of in check.

PP still has a long ways to go in terms of righting their production issues and unfortunately as the consumer all we can do is sit there and take it. But understanding why they may be running into these issues helps to temper release date expectations when new stuff is revealed - for instance, I am not expecting an actual Rager model before 2017 - and hopefully their turnaround time will improve as they get a better handle on this new production process.

Assembly Experience

I didn't think I'd get the chance to put the Grolar together before posting this, but fortunately I squirreled away some time last evening to start working on it. To my pleasant surprise, I was able to get the whole kit off the sprues, cleaned up (decently well enough), and put together in around 2.5 hours. I am pretty impressed with that turnaround time, considering how complex the kit is, and how long it would have taken me to assemble the simpler (but much more irritating to work with) older plastic heavies.

This plastic, much like the plastic used in Wyrd's models, is awesome to work with. It is strong enough that you don't need to worry about it easily bending or breaking, but it is soft enough to easily cut and shave. It also has the right consistency to allow for easy filing, making cleaning the pieces infinitely easier and faster than models made from PP's other plastic.

The pieces are molded in ways that mostly minimize mold lines being in prominent and/or hard to clean places (mostly; there are still some corners that are a bit tricky to clean). The mold lines themselves are also what I would call a very reasonable size: not so big that they're time consuming to clean, but also big enough that you do need to do some clean up. The placement of the mold lines, combined with the relative ease of filing away most of them, made clean up significantly easier, faster, and more pleasant than it has been with any other PP plastic kit I've worked with.

I did not run into any miscast parts, nor was anything broken off the sprue, bent, or otherwise damaged. Because a number of parts are assembled by joining two halves together there are some gaps that, at least for me, ranged from "minor" to "noticable" but none were especially egregious. I did have some halves not line up perfectly but I am willing to chalk that up to me being in a bit of a rush to get the kit together. I'm sure any misalignment can be corrected with a bit of filing/knife work, and any gaps that do come up can very easily be filled (if they're even in a place where you are likely to see them).

The arms are rounded sockets at the shoulder and "elbow", giving you some ability to pose the arms. The head and torso are also rounded sockets, though you have less flexibility with posing there due to how those fit together (though you can angle them as you see fit). It feels like a step up from the Prime chassis kit, but its been so long since I assembled those that I can't remember how much leeway you had with the arms. The legs are keyed so there isn't much wiggle room there unless you're comfortable doing some higher level modifications to the model, and even then it would be tricky to do much with the legs coming pre-bent (still workable thanks to the knee pads being separate parts but I think it would involve lots of cutting/filling/pinning to readjust the legs).


My Grolar ended up with a bit of "big arms pose" going on which in hindsight is going to make him fun to store. But it beats having every warjack standing flat footed with its arms by its sides. I still have a few small things I want to clean up - the gun arm, head, and boilers were the last things I assembled and I mostly just wanted to get them on the model - and for the first time in forever I'm probably going to be drilling out gun barrels (haven't done that since...the Winter Guard Rifle Corps came out I think?) Its a silly little thing to do, but it really does help to make guns actually look like guns when the model is painted and it is thankfully much easier with plastic.

One last note for the truly crazy modelers out there: this kit is remarkably magnet friendly. The torso, legs, and arms are shared between the variants, but the kit gives you completely separate heads, forearms, and boilers for each type. It would be pretty easy to magnetize each of those parts for swapping, even the boiler (you probably wouldn't even need to magnetize that part with how it sits on there). That is all assuming that you a) care enough to magnetize all of those parts, and b) want a Kodiak for some reason.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I really like this new style of plastic kit. The labeled sprues and very clear instructions make it an easy assembly task for hobbyists of all levels (it even helped me when I missed the little nubs that are supposed to go on the back of the gun) and the material is much more pleasant to work with than the lighter plastic PP has been using up to this point. I'm looking forward to an eventual Berserker/Mad Dog/Rager kit in this style eventually, and I'm quite excited to put together a Victor or two if this is how it will arrive.

Better late than never, but only just so at this point. Here's hoping all the Vengeance warjacks make it out before 2017.

Thanks very much for reading!



2 comments:

  1. Its about time! If I remember correctly, this spells the end of Warmachine as we know it, right? Can't wait to see it painted.

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    1. Pretty much. I'm just waiting out the clock until the Warmachine equivalent of the Mayan apocalypse happens. Thinking about it, the Blindwater faction has that central american vibe doesn't it? And the Croak Raiders are pretty beefy....damn, maybe I was right!

      Looking forward to painting it up for sure, though I have some mercenary painting ahead of me before I'll be able to get to that. :)

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