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  • Writer's pictureBlaxkleric

Top Ten Manufacturers Of 2021 - A "Fantorical" Viewpoint

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

My increasing interest in 3D printed miniatures and the companies selling them certainly had an impact upon my painting preferences across these twelve months. Admittedly, the likes of "Zealot Miniatures" and "Rocket Pig Games" don't even feature in this list, as I never got around to finishing quite enough of them to warrant it. But their impact, both in financial terms (as they were expensive acquisitions) and as a distraction from other fantasy-focused ranges (e.g. Frostgrave) was arguably quite profound.

Similarly as transformative was an unexpected, and quite sudden change in attitude to my pre-painted "Heroclix" collection - which somewhat inexplicably died a total death during these twelve months. Instead, I became much more enamoured with historical and science-fiction based wargaming, even going so far as to once again try my hand at fielding enough 15mm plastics for a game of "Flames Of War" by "Battlefront Miniatures"...

No. 10 - "Warlord Games" - "Epic Battles: American Civil War"

There can be little doubt that my enthusiasm for this range of 15mm scale plastic soldiers was incredibly high when they were first announced by “Warlord Games”. Indeed, I even went so far as to scour my local newsagents looking for Issue 393 of "Wargames Illustrated" so as to obtain a free sprue of figures. Sadly however, my plans to field a vast swathe of ragged-looking Confederates for Black Powder soon departed once I realised just how unsuited to my 'black lining' painting technique the strips of ten models were, and just how long it would actually take me to 'pick out' all their straps, hats, beards, water bottles and rifles.

No. 10 - "Mongoose Publishing" - "Judge Dredd Miniatures Game: Block War"

Whilst I have pottered about with this somewhat 'infamous' range of "Kickstarter" funded figures for some years, I was rather surprised to find myself painting quite so many models from it during these twelve months. Much of this productivity was down to my aspiration to replicate the action depicted within the pages of the “2000 A.D." and “Judge Dredd Megazine” comic book crossover event from 1992 entitled “Judgement Day" during "Zomtober". However, it was actually all started by a trip to the LVL Up Gaming Store in Bournemouth a month earlier, where I spent an enjoyable afternoon play-testing some homemade 28mm Judge Dredd rules.

No. 9 - "Catalyst Game Labs" - "Battletech"

Strangely, despite having never played a tabletop game of "Battletech" I pre-ordered several boxes of these 1:285 scale plastic models just as soon as I saw "Catalyst Game Labs" announce them, and then impatiently waited several months as their release date was repeatedly pushed back. Such situations usually dampen my enthusiasm for a project, but when I did finally get my hands on such sets as the Battletech: Inner Sphere Battle Lance box, I was so energised into crafting a Weird War Two setting where the Axis and Allies fought using giant walkers, that I finished pigmenting over twenty mechs in total.

No. 8 - "Kitbash Games" - "Supers Unlimited"

Having previously dabbled with this range of 28mm scale resin miniatures, courtesy of their creator kindly sending me a couple of characters as a free gift, I suddenly found myself somewhat shockingly preferring to paint these original villains/heroes over my usual mainstay of established "Heroclix" capes and meta-humans. This preference came about because the models matched up so well size-wise with my old “Secrets Of The Third Reich” collection by "Westwind Productions", and resultantly were used to play some skirmish games of Weird War Two at the LVL Up Gaming Store in Bournemouth.

No. 7 - "Atomic Mass Games" - "Marvel Crisis Protocol"

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of the year was managing to get a good number of these 40mm scale super-heroes tabletop ready. but not then actually getting a game in. Indeed, one of my main motivators for finishing the likes of Daredevil - who arrived broken and subsequently required some repairs before my project mojo returned - was to complete enough figures to fill out a full roster. Disconcertingly, the rules for this game have now undergone some significant revisions, so many of the cards/statistics which came with the starter set are now out of date and invalid.

No. 6 - "Alternative Armies" - "The Ion Age"

I've always liked the 'beakieness' of the Prydian Army's Retained Knights ever since I first laid eyes upon the 15mm figures, as they remind me of the old "Rogue Trader" era Space Marine from yesteryear. So when the annual “Forgotten Heroes” challenge arrived, I thought it would be a lot of fun to use the sculpts as proxies for Horus Heresy Warhammer 30,000 shenanigans, and started painting up a number of (not) Blood Angels. Admittedly, my deadline for the project slipped quite a bit, but it didn't stop until I had a sizeable number of 'tactical marines', including command and heavy weapons, as well as a couple of vehicles to boot.

No. 5 - "Privateer Press" - "Warcaster"

Due to never really getting on with assembling the multi-part metal miniatures by "Privateer Press" in the past, I wasn't initially completely convinced I wanted to buy any of their 'new' 35mm scale Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika range. However, I soon succumbed when I saw the Iron Star Alliance Squad Starter Set, and rather enjoyed working on all the metallics my colour choice for the 'torchbearers of civilization' contingent contained. Furthermore, the Paladin Annihilators gave me a great excuse to start using “Scalecolor” Cobalt Alchemy.

No. 4 - "North Star Military Figures" - "Frostgrave"

To be completely honest I am not the biggest fan of the sculpting for many of the Frostgrave figures I have ended up pigmenting. I found the look of the White Gorilla, Bear (Rearing To Attack) and Wolves to be both utterly uninspiring, and disconcertingly off-putting when it came to considering putting on an actual game. Yet despite these hurdles, I still managed to build quite the menagerie of creatures and animals for my adventurers to face should they ever once again set foot within the city limits of Felstad's ruins.

No. 3 - "Battlefront Miniatures" - "Flames Of War"

Perhaps I should have realised just how many infantry figures a "Flames Of War" fifty-point force required before buying the “Hit The Beach” Starter Set and getting to work on a German D-Day Defence force, having previously tried to paint up enough soldiers for a British Deserts Rats army. Nonetheless, my enthusiasm for this project not only successfully lead to almost half-a-dozen MG34 and K98 Rifle Teams being tabletop ready, along with accompanying Panzerfaust, Mortar and command bases. But also a couple of small-level games to try out the rules.

No. 2 - "Games Workshop" - "Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game" and "Epic"

There can be little doubt that a return to Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game halfway through the year completely rekindled my interest in all things "Games Workshop". The Nottingham-based manufacturer had essentially gone right off my radar for well over a year before I returned to J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord Of The Rings", and then later would cause me to enter a 6mm scale plastic painting frenzy with a load of classic "Epic" Space Marines.

No. 1 - "Crooked Dice Game Design Studio" - "Colony 87"

Despite never getting near an actual game of "7TV", "Crooked Dice" were almost twice as popular as their nearest rival, and throughout the year caused me to visit a fair few of my favourite science fiction franchises, such as "The Planet Of The Apes", "Blake's Seven", "Ghostbusters" and "Krull". In addition, the release of some more Alien Pets for their fantastic Colony 87 range had me painting all manner of weird and wonderful extra-terrestrials, alongside a carousel of X-Commandos, Great Apes and even a terrifically-tall resin Treant.

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