A rather big 'out of the box' this time, as the forces of the undead march relentlessly onto my desk. This is the Kings of War Undead Army from Mantic, a set of 110 miniatures that I'd been coveting for some time and which were bought for me as part-present-part-model exchange by my brother.
These will form the backbone of my soon-to-be Vampire Counts army. I say soon, but of course, it will take me quite a while to work my way through this lot! In fact, this box arrived with the parts to make an extra 10 zombies (I had to count them several times to make sure) so this won't all be finished until at least the middle of next year - it all rather depends on when the next VCs army book comes out and whether that gets my creative juices flowing in that direction.
I took a quick look over the slim rule-set that was included with the miniatures. Kings of War is a very simple game from the look of things, but I'm not going to be rushing to give it a try over 8th edition Warhammer any time soon. On the whole it's too simple [and available for free download here, so judge for yourself]. However, I'm all in favour of other companies developing rule sets for fantasy battles - it wouldn't be a good thing is GW were the only developers in town. Of course, Mantic are a young company, so there's plenty of time for things to evolve in interesting directions.
One area where Mantic have developed rather well in a short time is in the quality of their miniatures. In fact it's rather common for people to suggest that the undead from Mantic are far superior to the current offerings from GW. There's some milage in this, particularly the zombies: the Mantic offerings are right on trend - wonderfully posed, shambling and lurching, while dropping to pieces - whereas the GW models are rather funny looking (to say the least - look at their massive meat-puppet hands).
Here's my son having an extreme close-up look at the zombies - he's really started to get involved in various hobby activities, even though he's only two and a half (although I've only let him loose on my crappy 1980s plastic orks!). Overall this is a fantastic set and really worth the money - £50 from Mantic, about £45 from other suppliers. I've spent a great amount of time looking over miniatures from non-GW manufactures over the last 18 months or so, and I have to say that these are by far the best alternative in terms of the sculpts and the price. Oddly enough, the only miniatures in this set that I'm not that fussed about are the elite 'revenant' skeletons - grave guard style wights - these don't work so well with the additional armour on the models, leaving looking rather flat and two dimensional. This is only a slight downside, however, because these are the smallest troop type in the box, so it doesn't really change what is an amazing deal.