+ inload: Battle Bling review +

+ Let the forges burn hot! 
Battle Bling
Titan accessories review +

+ *Warhorn noises* +

+ Mentioned a few times in my inloads on Adeptus Titanicus have been my desire for two things: more Titans, and more options. With mechadendrites crossed for the much-hinted at Rapier or something similarly exciting being revealed soon, it's largely fallen to third parties to produce upgrades beyond the basic weapons available from GW and FW. +

+ These have largely started popping up on 3D-printing sites and so forth; but those lacking a 3D printer have largely been left feeling a little like Tantalus. I was therefore pleased to see some entrepreneurial and intrepid hobbyists like Battle Bling and Winterdyne [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] begin to sell physical prints and casts. +

+ Today's review looks at Battle Bling's output. As I understand things (from their appearance on the excellent Maximal Fire, God Engine Cast and Full Stride podcasts [+appendnote: all well worth a listen+], this two-man studio sculpts and prints both their own designs and some from outside the studio, such as Artisans of Vaul's great Lucius-Alpha Warlord head, as mentioned in this inload [+noosphericinloadlink.embedded+], modelled by Gaugamela in the pictcapture at the opening of this inload. + 


+ Shop and communication +

+ Battle Bling sell through an Etsy store [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+] and eBay [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+]. I made two orders – an initial foray for heads through eBay, and a larger order through Etsy; both nice smooth transactions, as you'd expect through these third-party shops. +

+ I had a couple of questions about one of the Warlord weapon arms before placing the second order. These were answered politely and clearly within the working day – all nice and professional. +

Postage and packing were free within the UK, which was lovely. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have put together a cart in an online shops, only to balk at the P&P at the last minute. It's a particular problem with eBay bits stores, I find, and relieving to have the P&P baked into the cost of items. +

+ The smaller order came very swiftly – within three days, if I recall – while the second took nearly a fortnight. Perhaps demand has slowed Battle Bling down a little; but nice and swift, either way. The larger order came parcelled in a sturdy box with a handwritten address. +

+ appendnote: I've always found unboxing videos a bit of a weird concept, but hopefully pictures of blurry objects within bubblewrap is of use to someone on the fence about whether to order... +

+ Within, each item was individually bagged in a plastic bag within separate sealed bubblewrap. Arguably the double-layering is a little excessive; but on the other hand, a few small pieces I've received over the years have found their way out of bubble wrap and rattled around. While I would have preferred some biodegradable wrap, I can't fault the thoroughness. Key thing is that everything arrived safely and swiftly. +


+ On to the good stuff: mechanical joins +

+ First out of the bag was the Warlord Titan shoulders; perhaps surprisingly, the most complex single kit in the order. At £9 for two shoulders (i.e. enough for both arms of one Warlord), this was the only kit that I hesitated on buying; nearly deciding that I could work out a way to easily swap out at the elbow rather than shoulder. +

+ Warlord Titan shoulders +

+ Having magnetised my Warlords at the shoulder, in the end I ended up deciding it was worth it. Forgeworld's equivalent, like the Mori Quake Cannon [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+], are slightly more expensive (particularly when you take P&P into account), but include the arm connection. +

+ On reflection, I think it's good to have the option of whether to buy the weapon alone for a slight discount, or together with shoulders, so fair do's to Battle Bling here. 

+ The kit itself comes in five parts. I was pleased to see a muted grey hue that shows the details nicely, rather than the more common white or clear that I've seen from other 3D printing services like Shapeways. +

+ Some 3D prints I've bought have been delivered with a dense, complex lattices of brittle scaffolding that needs to be carefully removed. It was with a sigh of relief that I saw the 3D print supports here were notable by their absence; a few stubs the only evidence that they were there (you can see them on one piece at the upper left of the image). Kudos to the designer here, not only for supplying the finished product largely clean, but placing the supports where they will be hidden once assembled. +

+ One of the great advantages of 3D prints over resin casts is the lack of shrinkage and warping. Having fought with my Forgeworld upgrade arms to get the 5mm magnet in cleanly, it was a relief to test fit the Battle Bling one here and have it fit snugly, as seen above. So snugly, in fact, that I had to use a stack of magnets to get it back out! +


+ Reaver Titan Magnet Arm upgrade kit +

+ Much along the same lines are these Reaver Titan Magnet Arm upgrades, intended to replace the standard arms entirely, and making magnetising both easier and hidden. At the other end of the pricing scale to the Warlord shoulders, you get enough here for three Reavers for £4. +

+ Not a huge amount to say about them other than they look clean, magnets fit well, and will doubtless make hot-swapping things a bit easier all-round. +


+ Weapon upgrades +

+ Much of what I've said about the shoulders above applies equally here – the colour and quality of the supplied accessories is excellent. The telltale striations of 3D-printing are all but absent in the kits, and the parts that fit the plastic kit are perfectly-sized. +

+ Reaver/Warbringer Plasma Cannon arm +

+ Shown here is the Battle Bling Reaver Plasma Cannon Arm alongside a Laser Blaster from the GW plastic Reaver. As you can see, the size and aesthetics match very nicely, without the details being direct copies of existing designs. The guns included recesses in the barrels, so no drilling necessary. Priced at £8, which seemed about right to me. It's comparable to, but slightly cheaper than what I'd expect from an official equivalent . +

+ The weapon comes in two parts; the gun itself and an ammo chamber, which appears to be able to be added to either side, allowing you to build a left or right arm. +

+ The design seems a nice midway point between the Warhound and Warlord plasma weapons; and fits in very well. Slightly bulkier than the GW weapons, it gives the Titan a solid look. +

+ There is also a Nemesis Warbringer version, which I didn't order. From the pictures on the shop, it looks identical, but is £1 dearer. Not sure if there is any difference, but that could either do with being consolidated, or clarified by Battle Bling. Perhaps £9 is their pricing standard for Warbringer weapons in general? With no other options, it stands out as a bit of an oversight at the moment. +


+ I thought I'd treat both of these Warlord upgrades together, as the comments largely apply to both. +

+ Lascutter Weapon Arm +

+ Plasma Burner Weapon Arm +

+ Unlike the Reaver weapons, these are mono-sided: that is, they only fit on the right arm. This is clearly labelled on the shop; and you can message the team to request a mirrored version – a nice bit of customer service. +

+ Both scale nicely with the GW/FW equivalents, as shown in the Lascutter picture aginst the Forge World Mori Quake Cannon. As noted with the comments on the shoulder kit, these are just the guns – you'll need to build them into your plastic kit, or order the separate shoulders. +

+ Lovely designs; the Lascutter a nice update of a classic weapon that incorporates a modern aesthetic, and the Plasma Burner a cool new riff on the plasma weapon concept. It's nice to see this creativity, and I'm looking forward to other weapons from Battle Bling. Neither has official rules, of course, but you could either sub them in for others (the Lascutter might make a fun counts-as powerfist, while the plasma burner could be a plasma annihilator or perhaps a gatling blaster to represent its short range), or come up with your own rules. I'm hoping that the community will playtest third party weapons like this; it seems entirely within the wheelhouse of the target market. +


+ Conversion kits +

+ The Holy Grail of third party upgrades for me is a variety of alternative Reaver heads, including one modelled after the 'long-faced' original variant. Battle Bling haven't made that yet – though they have already updated some of my favourite old Adeptus Titanicus heads in the form of the jut-jawed Command Head, classic plastic Warlord head (bought as a pair) Gothic splendour of the Custodian Head. The latter has been updated to be an option for the new Warmaster Titan – probably a good idea in light of the additional size that affords them. +

[+APPENDNOTE: If you're interested in more shots of the head inspired by the classic plastic Warlord, you can see my painted efforts below. There's also a painting tutorial in this inload [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]. +]

+ I'll wait patiently for the Reaver options, but if, like me, you remember the old Titans fondly, you'll be pleased with the 'Oldeus Pattern' Warhound Kit. Coming in eight parts – chassis/body, top armour, and two sets of arm options – this is the same quality typical of the rest of the order:

Side-on traditional weapon mounts

Cowled modern weapon mounts

+ I thought it was a particularly nice touch to include options for a 'proper old-school' style, with side-mounted guns close to the body, as well as a design that split the difference between old and new, with the guns held horizontally and with shoulder pads. +

+ This kit is available for £16 as a pair only; and requires the plastic Warhound kit to complete. +


+ Coming back to variant heads for a minute I liked the command head so much that it was what encouraged me to make my first order – the smaller one. What I got it visible below; primed in black. 

+ Thus far, the only clear fault in any piece from Battle Bling was in the command head, which had a very small hole in the front of the jaw – you can see it between the two disc details. I say 'fault' – I'm assuming it's a slight printing flaw, though it could conceivably be a weird design choice. Don't imagine so, however. +

+ This image also shows the heads inspired by the original plastic kit, two arm missile mounts for the Reaver, and an adorable little shipping create with 'Battle Bling' written on it. This was a little three-piece freebie in my first order; I was half-expecting something similar in the larger order, but I won't deduct any points for them throwing in a fun addition in my first! +


+ Fitting +

+ I did a quick dry fit on the plastic titan, and confirmed that the Warlord shoulder kits will nicely accommodate GW plastic, FW resin and Battle Bling 3D-print weapons. I guess that's heavily implied, but for anyone hesitating over an order, wondering whether these kits are 100% compatible, I can reassure you that they all fit together beautifully. +

+ Fitted with magnets and in in place on a work-in-progress Reaver, the Battle Bling Missile Launcher arms demonstrate the fitting nicely. +

+ Not being hugely au fait with the technology of 3D printing, I'm assuming that the material is some from of resin, but will happily be corrected. The key thing is that it doesn't strike me as fragile and brittle as other 3D prints I've bought, but nor is it quite as flexible as typical resin, such as you might buy from Forge World. When assembling, pay particular care and attention with clippers and knife until you get the hang of the particulars of the material. +


+ In terms of aesthetics, I think the design is spot-on. I'm always pleased to see third party designers – who are often hobbyists and enthusiastic fans themselves, as it is clear the Battle Bling team are – add their own spin to things, rather than make a direct copy. While the kits are compatible with the official kits, there are lots of specific differences, and it's refreshing to see new stuff – alternative heads, unofficial guns etc. – rather than duplicates of the official material. +

+ Even where similarity is necessary, it's nice to see that they've added a twist. This is likely to remain on the good side of GW legal as much as anything else, but the difference between the standard kit shoulder [REF: pictcapture above] and the Battle Bling upgrade is a good example of differentiation done well – and creatively – rather than just paying lip service . +

+ Any improvements possible? +

+ It's never all sunshine and lollipops, but happily the problems are few and far between; very much thoughts for future kits rather than genuine problems.

+ Firstly, no notes are included on assembly. This is a very minor thing for experienced hobbyists, and common for third-party kits. Anyone who's built a plastic Titan won't struggle, and to be honest, I think assembly notes would be a bit coals to Newcastle for the market, but a few videos or step-by-steps for beginners would be a nice way for Battle Bling to add value and make things beginner-friendly. It's a criticism I have of the Forge World kits, too – sometimes things that appear obvious to the designer (which way up an ammo cell is meant to go, for example), aren't to the recipient. +

+ The heads did have a few fitting problems – the prominent cables beneath the chin on the Lucius-Alpha and original-style heads get blocked by the plastic torso armour, restricting the possible poses, or requiring a trim. A slight redesign wouldn't go amiss on these, in my opinion. +

+ Unmodified, the cables on the heads only just fit; restricting posing. +

+ In addition, I found it slightly unclear as to what exactly you get from the shop photographs, as the different products aren't hugely consistent: some are just illustrated with scans; others include pictures of printed parts; others show painted models. It'd be nice to have at least one thing that's consistent – and personally I'd prefer that to be a flat shot of the printed, unpainted pieces as a priority, with painted inspirational models really useful. +

+ From what I've seen, this is largely down to the company being relatively new, not having painted examples of everything, and bringing in bits both from in-house and external designers. Nevertheless, I'd have been miffed to have ordered a weapon on the assumption that it would come with a shoulder (for example), and hope that this is on Battle Bling's plans for the future. +

+ Happily, they're running a painting competition through May on their Facebook page [+noosphericexloadlink embedded+], which I hope gives them a good source of photographs to use for their store. +


+ Summary and judgement +

+ Three mechadendrites up. All indications are that Battle Bling are a good company that makes excellent products for a decent price point. +

+ If they're taking suggestions, then an option of being able to buy arms as full sets – that is, an arm weapon and a shoulder, akin to the Forgeworld approach – wouldn't go amiss. I'd also suggest some consolidation of whether they want to offer complete modularity in their range, or a smaller range of more complete options. +

+ If modular, then break down things like the original Warlord heads into two separate heads (I had no use for the one with the Imperial Eagle, for example), and allow the purchase of one Oldeus-pattern conversion kit. If the second option, then decide on a price for (for example) Reaver Arms, and chuck in an arm connection along with each weapon. That'd allow a smaller, more easily navigable range that's rip for growth. All that said, I'm no businessman; and if it's working for Battle Bling, then long may it continue. +

+ The designs and prints are excellent in quality, the drawbacks few, minor, and easily dealt with by the sort of hobbyist who's buying upgrades for this wonderful game. I have no hesitation at all in recommending them enthusiastically. +

+ From indications on their Facebook page, the range is set to expand steadily, with releases every Wednesday. I for one will be checking in – just don't take too long with that second Reaver head! +


1 comment:

Suber said...

Wow, fantastic discovery, looking forward to seeing the final results!