One of the things that many people may not know about the TGN Editor's Choice Awards is that I don't vote in them any more. I like having a bit of distance from the voting process and I also find that tabulating the votes means that I have to either make sure I vote first or risk having my choices prejudiced by the standings of the products as the Jury votes. I restrict myself now to only voting in the case of a tie and thankfully for the last two years that hasn't been required of me. That said, I still like to participate in this end of year list making as much as the next person. So what follows is my list of the top products in each of the seven categories that we used this year.
Since she was released there wasn't really anything in the sci-fi genre this year that matched Lt Kara Black by Studio McVey. More so than the continuing series of incredible releases from Corvus Belli, the wonderful Nova-Rus Bear Jeep by Antenociti’s Workshop or the Kem Var Leader from MERCS Miniatures, Kara Sloan really epitomized for me what a sci-fi sculpt is about.
I've already gushed about the mini in the other two award write-ups so I don't think I need to say more about the figure.
If Kara Black hadn't been released then the hands-down favourite would be the Kem Var Leader form MERCS Miniatures. It has a great level of detail and a wonderful "take that!" pose that really fires the imagination.
It is always tough to pick a single fantasy miniature from the large number of excellent sculpts that get released each year. The fantasy field has a wider range of great sculptors and companies producing figures to an incredible level. Each year there is a trove of great fantasy miniatures and this year was no exception.
More so than in any other genre, fantasy figures are about more than just the technical execution of the figure. Sometimes great fantasy sculpts are about the character, the pose or the details that bring the miniature alive.
While I really did like the Otherworld Miniature Wraiths, my favourite release of the year had to be the Mantic Games Ghouls. They are creepy, twisted and also useful for more than just fantasy games. Delightfully creepy, full of character and they look as if they are going to stagger off their bases and come slake their appetites on your flesh.
Alternative Adventure Miniature
My immediate vote in this category is for the gut wrenching WWII German Zombie set that was offered by Mantic Games and Warlord Games. Consisting of sprues of the Mantic Zombies and the Warlord Games WWII German infantry they can be combined, with some work, into some chilling Weird War Zombies. Sadly since these are more of a Reese Pieces type of delightful accident instead of a planned miniature release I don't feel it fair to pick it.
Which makes picking a favourite rather difficult because of my stubborn fascination with Weird WWII and Weird War Zombies in particular. Some would call it an affliction really. So I find it quite difficult to really not be fascinated with anything that isn't related to, in some way, or usable in a Weird WWII game. I look at something like Patrick Keith's Sister Maria mini and try to figure out how I would use her in SoTR or AE-WWII.
So it should come as no surprise that my Alternative Adventure pick is the MI-13 squad pack from Grindhouse Games. Not only are their neat alternative British WWII commandoes but they can be used in Incursion, SoTR and AE-WWII. Which really is all that I am looking for in a mini some times :-)
There is nothing I like more than good terrain. I have a lot of it (even after culling most of my older sci-fi terrain) and I am always on the lookout for more because to me, nothing makes a game good like realistic and well done terrain. The amount of good terrain that we, as gamers, have access to is staggering. Even more so when you consider how many different scales it is often available in.
I have a personal fondness for terrain that can be used in multiple games and multiple genres and so while I really like the Micro Art Studio Crate Heaps they are clearly for sci-fi. Contrast this to the North African Shelled Adobe Ruin from Kerr & King which could be used for almost any 15mm game you'd want to run.
One of my favourite terrain manufacturers is JR Miniatures. I think they are an unsung star of the industry and create an amazing amount of great terrain each year. They make a very useful range of painted RVT rubber terrain and I use their rubber roads and rivers almost every time I game. This year they have focused on 15mm releases and they put out a series of 15mm WWII Arnhem terrain that works for sci-fi as well as WWII games. The 15mm Ruined Rowhouse #2 is on my "to buy" list for this year and it is such a great terrain piece that I almost started a Flames of War British army just to justify the terrain. Happily it will look just as good with my new 15mm sci-fi figs and I can't wait to get one or two of them to paint up and put out on the table.
Hands down, for me, the best accessory released this year were the Warmachine and Hordes tokens from Privateer Press. They are well designed, look good, are solid tokens and they make it easier to play the game. I picked them up as soon as they were released and I immediately put away the old Gale Force Nine Warmachine and Warcogs tokens I was using previously. The tokens are clearly a evolutionary product based on gamers using, and commenting, on the other Warmachine token sets available and these are the end result of a lot of thought into what Warmachine and Hordes gamers need. It took a long time for Privateer Press to deliver these but these were worth the wait.
The only other real contender for me was the African American Head Set form Dragon Forge Design. I am actually surprised that it took this long for someone to release something like this and while I wish there were fewer heads based on celebrities it answers a real need for there to be sculpted heads that look like authentic African Americans. Just painting the correct skintone on most models often doesn't work because of the lack of authentic facial features and so these are a great addition to and modelers toolkit if they want to add African American figures to their games.
Rules or Expansion
I am lucky in a lot of ways but one of the more interesting is that I get to see a lot of rule systems in various stages of development and also in their final forms. I am also lucky in that I often have the means to purchase quite a few rule sets and so between previews, freebies and my own purchases I get to see a lot of rules over the course of a year.
Picking the best ruleset is therefore pretty difficult for me because I just really like games and rules. So it is often difficult to pick one that really stands out technically or for its gameplay. But there are two main contenders; Warmachine Prime Mk II and Tomorrow's War. Both are contenders not for any superiority of mechanics but just because they excite my imagination and want me to play games.
Warmachine is a great effort to return the game to a more simple and playable level. Its no secret that I quit playing Warmachine some time ago primarily based on the difficultly in playing the game. Warmachine Mk II removed those problems by taking the numerous special abilities and condensing them into a much smaller list. As well most units in the game had abilities removed and some, like my beloved Blood Gorgers, had the majority of their special rules removed.
That said, nothing this year has really stirred my imagination and got me unpacking old figures and terrain as much as Tomorrow's War by Ambush Alley Games. Tomorrow's War is a sci-fi ruleset written for 15mm sci-fi minis but usable for 28mm gaming. Not only have I been pulling out my old sci-fi and AT-43 figures but I have also bitten the bullet and purchased a few 15mm sci-fi figures to use with the rules.
Regardless of the professional polish, art or background material, I think that the best rules are ones that make you want to put on games and this year Tomorrow's War has done that for me.
Now you may have noticed that there isn't a pick for Historical Miniature. I don't play historical games in anything other than 6mm scale and when I see minis like the amazing Perry Miniatures War of the Roses infantry I try to imagine how they'd look as fantasy Human Levy troops. Now it is one thing to admire the sculpting or pose of figures like the Heavily armoured German pikemen from The Assault Group or the Mutineer Miniatures' Highlander infantry but I have not and really probably never will be a historical gamer and as such I don't really see the utility of a lot of historical minis. Unless, of course, they are 28mm WWII minis that I can use in a Weird WWII game. I think you might be seeing a pattern.