When The Plastic Soldier Company or PSC, released their fleet-level spaceship combat game, Red Alert, in 2018 I was intrigued. But, ultimately, I was underwhelmed. Based on the well-established Command & Colours mechanics, the game turned out to be a bit boardgame-y for my tastes. I was extremely taken with the spaceship designs. However, a price-tag of almost £100 made me think it wasn’t worth it just for the miniatures.
So when, at Beachhead 2020, I came across their grab-bag of mixed spaceships for £10 I snatched it up with enthusiasm.
It should be said that I don’t, currently, play any fleet-level spaceship games. I’ve played Battlefleet Gothic and dabbled in Full Thrust and Starmada. But I’ve never found enough local interest to sustain a single system. I do, though, love miniatures-neutral games and the fleet-level spaceship game genre seems to be particularly richly served with options. £10 for 34 ships felt like a no-brainer. It was time to get in there and build a couple of fleets I could pull out for whatever game caught my eye.
It’s full of star… ships
Quickly, then, let’s look at what you get in the pack.
You get what amounts to three fleets. The main two each consist of three big, carrier-type ships; three battleships, three heavy cruisers, three light cruisers and three destroyers.
I should add that these classes are entirely off the top of my head to give you an idea of the size and apparent capability of each. They aren’t a technical description.
The third “fleet” is a merchant navy convoy of four identical, grey transport ships. The propulsion units on these, though, are the same as those on the red fleet. As a result, there is a thematic connection to the red fleet that could easily allow you to include them in that fleet as heavy cruisers or light carriers.
Other than that similarity between the merchantmen and the red fleet, the aesthetics of the fleets are very distinct. To my mind, the green fleet has a more appealing, brutalist look to them. Its squared-off, angular design seems more modern. But the more rounded, slightly organic appearance of the red fleet is a more true-to-life interpretation of what an actual interstellar space combat vessel would look like (whilst still being, almost certainly, completely wrong).
The big upside on this set is simply the price. Let’s take a more critical look, then, at what you get for your money other that lots of ships
Let’s see what they’ve made of!
The material is a hard plastic resin. This is not “boardgame plastic”, but it’s also not hard styrene. It gives a decent edge to the details that are crisp and well defined, but things like weapon barrels are very much a part of the main ship. Other than the fact that I can’t speak knowledgeably about the toxicity of the plastic (although I’m sure it’s fine), the larger minis could be safely handed to a toddler without risk to either party. Throw them across the room, dip them in mashed sweet potato or use them for a teething ring. I’m pretty sure they would be unscathed at the end of it.
That said, there are some pretty obvious mould lines here and there. PSC has tried to design the moulds to minimize these and keep them mostly to the underside of the ships. Perfectionists may find these less acceptable, though. The material makes it quite difficult to scrape or file these lines away without affecting the moulded details.
Some of the larger ships are also clearly two-part models. They have been pre-assembled with what I assume is cyanoacrylate (super) glue or similar, though, as they are impervious to attempts to separate the parts.
A few ships do have a visible bend in them – either in a thinner engine mount or in the waist of the ship itself. My guess is that they were removed from a mould a little early or more roughly than necessary, while the material was still pliable. It’s not something you’d spot at a glance, but it’s important to know that they aren’t perfect. This isn’t the sort of plastic resin you can re-form by running it under a hot tap.
Not a leg to stand on
All of this pales, somewhat, in the face of the most pressing shortfall which is the absence of bases.
This make sense because PSC clearly intends the miniatures to be suitable for a range of different games with different basing conventions. But it isn’t helped by the fact that you must support even the smallest of the ships with two rods and, because of the way the ships are designed, these rods aren’t always going to be the same length.
Consequently, the simplicity of a pre-assembled, single-piece spaceship mini loses some of its appeal when basing them will be a trial-and-error process.
If you are a spaceship miniatures enthusiast, you may like to own these minis simply for the joy of having yet another pair of fleets to play with. If you aren’t, but think you might occasionally like to do some deep-space fleet combat, they are by far the cheapest entry-point product on the market. Some Dropfleet Commander minis, for example, cost twice the cost of this bag for a single ship. But in either case, it would be wrong to assume that the PSC spaceships grab-bag is a trouble-free solution to your spaceship battle needs.
It’s all about the money, money, money!
Still, whatever criticism I could level at the products, we come back again and again to “34 ships for £10”. Not since the EM4 mechs has there been a better-value sci-fi wargaming product. You would, in my opinion, be mad not to buy them while you can.
PSC also sells a separate bag of 34 merchant vessels for the same price, and a single space platform (i.e. space station) for £3.99 (which also comes with a stand). The merchant bag just contains another 34 of the 4 merchant ships that come in the grab-bag. I’m not entirely sure why anyone would want 34 identical merchant ships but, if you do, they are still in stock.
At time of writing, both the grab-bag of mixed spaceships and the space platform were out of stock. PSC has given no indication of when they would be back in. Also, the PSC website is a confusing mess. For any of these products, you will need to use the search function and search for “space”. The space platform seems to vanished from the site for now.
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