Eldfall Chronicles is the new kid on the tabletop miniatures skirmish game block. Last week we reviewed the game’s rules and how it plays – you can find that review here. This week we’re casting a critical eye on the game’s models. Before we dive in we’d like to thank Freecompany for providing a review copy of the game.
I’m not really much of a gamer compared to my colleagues, so for me the draw with Eldfall Chronicles was more around the miniatures – what does the game have to offer the hobbyist and painter? In this article we’ll be looking at the game’s miniatures, how they’re constructed, and whether they’re worth the money.
NB: I didn’t paint everything before this review, but I painted (and photographed) enough to get a good overview of each faction, and each class of monster.
Eldfall Chronicles has four factions at launch, each with its own pleasingly distinct aesthetic, in some cases drawing heavily on real-world cultural touchstones. These are:
- The Empire of Soga – Snowy Sengoku Japan with demon hunters, Samurai, and Fox-Girl mages. They’ve mostly got the sort of armour, weapons, and attire that you’d expect from that description. Faction colour: Dark Red.
- The Sand Kingdoms – Mystical Ancient Egypt/MENA, lots of people in billowy trousers, veils, all that sort of thing. Also includes an actual literal magic carpet for bonus Fantasy Aladdin points. Faction colour: Interestingly, despite being called the Sand Kingdoms, theirs is Teal Blue.
- The Helian League – High/Light Elves with some greco-mediterranean influence. Lots of bronze-y/brass plate armour with scale-mail ornaments coupled with warm off-white cloth. They seem to like fire and the sun rather a lot. Faction colour: Warm off-white/gold
- Coalition of Thenion – Dark Elves, they’re dark elves. Not so much obvious real-world historical influence on this one, their attire is basically like elves in a fantasy game. The only exception to this is the Night Temple priestess who’s got a very elaborate gown, devil tail, and some enormous bat wings, a bit like Morrigan from Darkstalkers. Remember Darkstalkers? No? You whippersnappers. Their faction colour: Dark Purples/Magentas.
There are also a bunch of monsters available in the Earthen Creatures expansion. These include a big Colossus (sort of living statue centaur thing), two Earth Elementals (kind of like treemen with rocks and vines and stuff), two Gargoyles (Egyptian sphinxes) and two Golems (rocks in humanoid shape). I was somewhat disappointed that the two Earth Elementals are essentially the same, pose and all, except for their head and back ornament (one is rocky, one is wood-y).
Things I liked:
- For the most part, the miniatures are incredibly detailed and characterful. Even where the sculpts cleave a little too closely to the anime-aesthetic, the character of each miniature is very clear and distinct, and you can easily tell at a glance to which faction a character belongs.
- The resin is, in my experience, really good; it’s certainly comparable with that of Forge World (no Finecast dreck here!). If you look with a magnifying glass you might notice a few microscopic print lines, but ultimately you definitely won’t notice them with the naked eye, so it certainly doesn’t bother me.
- Even in places where the use of a real-world culture as inspiration is very apparent, it doesn’t feel that overdone. The Soga Empire are very clearly based on Sengoku-era Japan, but that’s honestly fine, the Samurai aesthetic works very well, and ultimately it’s not one that’s been heavily explored in fantasy miniatures.
- Each faction has a key colour in their art (Soga – dark red, Therion – dark purple, Sand Kingdoms – Blue-Teal, Helian League – Off-white/gold) that will help more neophyte painters get to grips with creating schemes that tie their faction together.
- No basic troops to slog through, every model is a character, thank Ra or Amaterasu or whoever. You only have 4-5 models to take into account so you can really lavish all your attention on each of them.
- Each faction’s offering includes roughly the same format, with three regular-ish people and one “more impressive” fantasy-esque model (Vizier of Conjuration, Kitsune Spellmaiden, Night-Temple Priestess, Flameshaper) to let painters really go to town.
- The resin didn’t require any special treatment before painting, I’m not sure how the miniatures were manufactured, but the resin was clean and completely free of residue upon arrival, with no release agent or grease to contend with.
Things I didn’t like:
- Pretty much every spear or stave was bent and needed hot water treatment to resolve. By and large, assembling these miniatures is not that beginner friendly, in some cases bending the pieces to an alarming degree of almost-breaking tension to make them fit was necessary, and no instructions are included.
- While the faction designs are clever and coherent, in some places they don’t feel particularly inspired, looking at you, “Coalition of Thenion, Not Dark Elves Honest Guv”, Here’s hoping that Freecompany are just getting started, will spread their wings, and create something more unique down the road.
- Some parts were broken in transit (The oni horns were absent from the crown of the Clan Champion being the main gripe).
- It feels as though the sculptors didn’t always take painting into account when they created the models, there are instances where parts are very difficult to access with a brush, and the models can’t really be painted disassembled. As such, the models can be pretty difficult to paint, and novice painters might get frustrated when compared to the miniatures they’re used to.
- In some places the detail is annoyingly difficult, for example where there’s a relief pattern the edges aren’t as sharp as they could be, making painting ornate trims an exercise in frustration, looking at you. Magic Carpet.
- The design is very clearly based heavily on anime, if you like that, good news! If you don’t, you are probably not going to like these miniatures. As with everything styled after anime, there’s cheesecake fanservice left, right, and centre, though it certainly never crosses into fully gratuitous territory. If I had to compare the design choices in that regard to a different game, there are subtle fingerprints of Infinity in evidence. To be honest, I don’t really mind this aspect, but I’m a little surprised that a new company would skirt the line so closely. The designers are already working on new miniatures, so I’m hopeful that we’ll see some different body types in future, it’d be nice to have some variety here (for example, characters who look older than 21, male characters that aren’t chiseled ab-machines). There are, of course, some exceptions (the Onitaishi, Citadel Guard, Helrin Expatriate, and the Kitsune Spellmaiden off the top of my head) but to my mind they sort of prove the rule for the rest. That said, looking at the initial miniatures from the upcoming Northern Wind expansion, I think that more variety is already on the minds of the Freecompany artists.
Freecompany certainly aren’t resting on their laurels, having already released a batch of new miniatures and announced a Kickstarter for a whole expansion, launching in May of 2023. Hopefully we’ll be able to review these miniatures when they’re available as well, I’m particularly taken with the new Slayer Dragoon and upcoming Oni Warrior, hopefully I can get my hands on them at some point! Wink wink!
All in all, after spending a good deal of time with these miniatures over the past week and a half I’m very, very impressed. The few criticisms that I’ve outlined above are trivial compared to the amount of fun I’ve had painting the figures, I’ve had an absolute blast let me tell you. From a purely painting standpoint, for any hobbyist that wants to step outside of the Games Workshop hegemony I can recommend the models from Eldfall Chronicles wholeheartedly. Bravo to Freecompany for coming up with something fresh and interesting, here’s hoping they can find a foothold and expand their niche as they go.
In summary: Really nice models, very high quality and beautifully sculpted. If you like the aesthetic (and for some of you that might be a big if) you should definitely get these when they become available in your area.
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