Thursday, 23 February 2017

So, I started modelling again.....Part 5: Ships and forum

Well, things continue onwards. I signed up for dakkadakka, and ended up posting there, rather than here.  Basically, I've painted 20 ramships, started painting a terror ship, and some onslaughts.

I ended up stripping down the wings off the terror ship, as it was too big.

Also started on a hammer class. Please excuse the glare. Gonna put a big jaw on it.

I did however find this extremely interesting item at a charity shop though.

The story behind this is too fecking long to explain within the context of this post. I may write about it. I will be building it here.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Remembering Transformers: The Power Core Combiners

It was the year 2010, and still no hover cars. I'd begun collecting Transformers again by this point. Not to a great extent, but Transformers Animated had brought me back into the fold by being such a good show, so I could say I was a Transformers fan again without a qualifier. It was a good time for the brand. The movies, as overtly terrible as they were, brought a lot of money into the brand and prompted a lot of toys. Transformers were very easily found, at all prices and sizes. And what's more, after a couple of years of sharp changes, the original Transformers style was coming back, and they weren't relying on the movie cast. While the Revenge of the Fallen line is infamous for its complexity, but it did a lot of fan pleasing things in later waves. This evolved into the TF2010 toyline between movies, a wider celebration of the brand, which ran concurrently with the collector-focused Generations line and Reveal the Shield sublines. Fans were basically getting all they wanted, and then Hasbro threw in another line to fill in the gaps, Power Core Combiners. These looked to be both inexpensive, and really fun to mess with. The basic idea was to have a small transformer, a commander, combine with 4 drone vehicles, whom would automatically transform into a limb. This “Power Up Mode”, would have shades of the old scramble city gimmick in that you could swap limbs, although a drone could only be an arm or a leg, not both. If not sold with drones, the commander would have a 4 mode Mini-Con partner instead, whom functioned as a multi-purpose accessory. Visually, these toys would lean towards classical transformer designs, rather than the movie aesthetic, although the combined forms tend towards bayverse with a lack of actual hands. In terms of fiction, things were a bit vague, but also leaned towards the bayverse.

These looked to be everything I wanted as a collector at that time.

I'd developed a mild fixation on the scout class, so I was on board, and this would see the return of another favourite of mine, Mini-Cons. The scout class had hit a level of quality that it honestly rivalled the deluxe price point around ROTF, and there had been a renaissance of toy-first, more conventionally designed characters. Plus, combination is always fun.. Play value should have been great. And yet the Power Core Combiners hit discount like a straight-to-video sequel. Starring a less famous Baldwin brother.

Bombshock & Combaticons, a first wave highlight

The PCC toys versus Objectivity and Subjectivity: a discussion
Back when I was writing reviews proper, I would always aim for objectivity. What do I mean by this? Well, my opinion, your opinion, everyone's opinion, is dictated by personal taste and context, its entirely subjective. It is not the same as the truth, and striving for objectivity is the acknowledgement of this. The fandom does not view Transformers like actual children do, and the fandom itself does not have a unified view on most things, including what makes a good toy. The best you can do is try to acknowledge your own biases, and accept that a commonly held opinion can just easily be wrong as right. Power Core Combiners got hit very hard with subjective complaints. That is to say, it wasn't designed in a way that immediately pleased collectors. But, as this worked so well for Armada, why didn't this line take off? Well, because there's some objectively bad things about them.

Crankcase and the Destrons, a sucessful repaint

On the more subjective end of the complaint spectrum, there is the entire gimmick, and the engineering decisions that resulted. Some fans took against the fact these toys didn't have a traditional five member combination, the spring-loaded conversion also hampering articulation. The fact that a toy is easily transformed and doesn't prioritise articulation isn't automatically the same thing as being a bad toy, see Armada again, but for many it is. Part of this is undoubtedly the somewhat curious choice to cast the power core connectors in blue. If they'd been black, people probably wouldn't have minded as much, but would that really have made the toys better? The connectors themselves seem to a result of the sheer challenge in doing a three mode transformer at this size, a compromise, but Hasbro deliberately didn't hide them. 

They put them in the fricking logo.

I kinda respect that. On that theme, many also took issue with the combined forms, in that they often weren't fully humanoid, routinely lacking hands and having odd proportions. This is a complaint which I'm not gonna dismiss out of hand, as Transformers are people, but we are talking about a mode that is purely about blowing stuff up, so.....OK? I also find myself wondering if the old “its not G1, so I don't like it” mindset may be at play here. A lot of these toys invoke classical characters, but stop just short of actually being them. Would it have made a difference to the public perception of these toys, if, say, Bombshock was named Onslaught? Well, people would have been far more forgiving if the PCCs if they were named legacy characters, at least at first.

 Presenting the infamous Doubleclutch and Rallybots

As for objective flaws, they were there, and I can't pretend otherwise. They honestly mucked things up with startling regularity, varying from tolerance issues, to mis-assembly and flat-out bad design. Doing a triple changer at this size is a very considerable challenge. Double Clutch is pretty notorious for having 4 corrective retools, Bombshock has his legs mixed up, and Mudslinger has fragile thighs, to name three big offenders. Surprisingly, the Mini-Cons themselves don't come up often in the same conversation. Sure, they are made from translucent plastic, which tends to cause breakages a few years down the line, but the only mould called on it by the wiki for it is Beacon, whom isn't translucent. What did however come up during my research was an oversight in the design of the line. You see, the moulds intended to be sold with Mini-Cons had a port on the chest for armour mode, but the moulds for the five packs largely didn't. The toys weren't as interactive and interchangeable as they looked, with some lacking proper fist holes. Wave three did a mix and match, and produced sets that just didn't work as well as the originals, including a Protectobot team with three military drones in it, and a Decepticon whom can't hold his axe(1).All this certainly contributed to the bad reception of the line, which resulted in later waves not getting a full release, which had of course featured new moulds without those issues. I had largely avoided these problems, the worst I encountered being a stress mark and an enthusiastic spring. Then this happened.


Ahem, thanks to @copplex for selling me a replacement, as Sledge is that nice of a toy.

What the PCC line did well
Right, we've spent a few paragraphs acknowledging the weaknesses of the line. Why should you pay any attention to it? And why do I even remember them?

They did a Dinobot Combiner. There you go, case closed. Checkmate. Humanity fulfils its destiny. Toyline completely justified.

Oh, you want a serious answer?

Remember how I mentioned that the Power Core Combiners came from a good period in the brand? When toy budgets were high, oil prices were a bit lower, and they got creative? When they made notably good scouts, with many joints, and frequent accessories? Yeah, PCCs do still benefit from that trend. These were toys that were over-ambitious and quirky, not ones where corners were cut, and I've got a lot of time for stuff like that. More specifically, the PCCs tended towards notably good head sculpts, uncommon altmodes, and tended to have play value coming out of their ears. No hover cars, unfortunately, when it worked, it proper worked. And when it didn't? Well, these toys were and are inexpensive. Here's list of toys that are either curious or superior examples of the line.

Huffer & Caliburst: A good all-rounder paired with another good all-rounder.

Smoulder & Chopster: An evil fire truck with a flaming axe.

Sledge & Throttler: A nicely articulated robot, whose altmode and mini-con has the functions of at least 3 Constructicons.

Icepick & Chainclaw: An evil snowplough, whom can look like Jack Frost.

Undertow & Waterlog: An evil speedboat. Speedboats in general are pretty rare. Like once a leap year rare.

Heavytread & Groundspike: A rare Autobot tank that isn't Warpath(2), Heavytread has arguably the best torso mode in the line.

Bombshock & the Combaticons: Lotsa guns.

Grimstone & the Dinobots: See above.

Steamhammer & the Constructicons: 4 unique altmodes, pleasing combined form, and knives.

 Steamhammer, from my personal collection.

A financial failure, the Power Core Combiners quickly dropped into obscurity. The line would would in effect be replaced by the Human Alliance basic figures in Dark Of The Moon, which enjoyed much greater success. Combination would return in the Fall of Cybertron line, but would also prove to be something of a failure in execution, a much worse one due to budget cuts. A little later, there would be a Japanese release of these toys under the United Ex banner, where they were tied into the G1 continuity as pre-existing characters, and given nicer paint jobs. Such is the way of things, although information on the actual toys is a bit thin on the ground. The fandom largely ignored these repaints after the PCCs had finished, so its not clear if any of the faults were replicated there. The PCCs did however get a level of support from two different third party companies, an oddity given that these weren't a G1 property. Maketoys made a set of modular weapons that could partsform into limbs, and a completely new commander mould to make their version of The Fallen. TFC Toys meanwhile would go a different route, creating 4 transforming robots closely based on WW2 vehicles and their crew. I don't normally go in for such things, but those Iron Army sets remain in my glass case. A completely successful combiner would not appear until Combiner Wars. At no point would hover cars appear, real or otherwise, although you could make the case for some of the Fall Cybertron stuff.

The Maketoys Missile Launcher, jungle colours variant. Note Heavytread is featured prominently.

The TFC Toys Iron Army set combined. Again, note Heavytread being used as example.

The Power Core Combiners was an exceptionally ambitious line, that didn't fulfil that ambition. It definitely wasn't for the want of trying, as the toys were very creative, but it just didn't quite work out well, and writing this article took the shine off the nostalgia for me. Having a toy break was probably what did it, but I can't deny the line had some nasty problems around wave 3 or so. That said, if you want to call the line a failure, you must acknowledge that it was an interesting one, and there were some legitimately good toys in there. The PCCs had a lot of unusual concepts, rare altmodes, and a basically good play pattern once the bugs were worked out. So check 'em out.

In the meantime, its 2017, where's my damn hover car?

Foot notes
  1. Oh, and there was the famous “Spastic” incident, later on.
  2. Or Guzzle.

Images not by myself are variously copyright of Hasbro, Make Toys and TFC Toys, used under fair use provisions.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

So, I started modelling again.....Part 5: The 2nd Generation Ships

Well, slightly more progress this time. Based on the experience I gained from the still un-named Terrorship, here's the nearly complete 2nd ship.

I found myself toning down the guns slightly, and I need to think about if I should put some more on. The first was made with an eye towards having torpedo tubes if I wanted, this one kind of needs the same......

Then there's the escort prototype. It proved to startlingly easy to make from the bits I had, being a hoarder helps at times, buuuuut, it needs further orkying.

The short term plan just now is to complete the terror ship and a 3 strong escort squadron, to get a 500 point fleet together.  This is based on the limited selection of tactics articles that still exist, oh, and,


More soon.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

So, I started modelling again.....Part 4: Slacked off a bit

January hasn't been too productive to be honest. Real life in the form of a cold, the day job, a sudden compulsion to write, and my landlord put a dent in my progress. That said, that doesn't mean I haven't done anything since my last update here. Presenting the currently unnamed Terrorship.

Butt shot

I'm quite pleased with it, and here's the next, although its still a good distance from completion.

I've also got some ideal bits for the Ravager class torpedo caddy. (And yes, the box is important.)

More to come. I'm hoping to attend the Robin convention in February, to get some bits, if time allows.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Remembering Transformers: Armada

This article has its roots on twitter, mainly collecting articles by @inkybauds, but also thoughts that have been bubbling away in the back of my head. While I am old enough to have experienced Generation 1 first hand, the first Transformers toys and media, I'm not wedded to the concept as many fans, and TakaraTomy, seem to be. I'm more than happy to enjoy the new iterations of the brand, the new spin of things, without immediately comparing it to a toyline or cartoon only slightly younger than I am. This leads me to the seemingly very unpopular opinion I wish to discuss, I like Transformers Armada. I liked it at the time of release. I like it now. I like those Armada toys I still have better than the G1 toys I still have. While I am enjoying Titans Return, probably more than you are, I am more interested in those infrequent Armada homages and remakes, than revamping everybody from the 80's. The latest cartoon accurate Masterpiece release? Not my thing. Combiner Wars Armada Megatron? My thing. The only thing more my thing than that thing would be a continuation of Transformers: Animated. Today, I will ramble about why.

Unpopular with fans at a time when Hasbro had money trouble, Beast Machines marked the end of the beast era proper. And, by extension, the original Transformers continuity. The planned sequel, Transtech, was dumped and while its replacement was worked on, a stop-gap measure was needed. This was quickly provided by Takara, whom had their own problems with the brand in the late 90's. For the new millennium, they produced “Car Robots”, a new continuity(1), featuring a mixture of new toys and toys previously unreleased in Japan. This did feature beast modes, but in a purely antagonistic manner, and the proportion of beastformers declined over time. Hasbro rebranded it as “Robots in Disguise”, and played up the references to the original continuity in the redubbed cartoon. It worked very well. Unfortunately, while Robots In Disguise proved to be a far greater success in the West than in Japan, one aspect that was less popular was complexity. Those few original designs featured where often shellformers of an infamous kind, or needlessly complex, and parents complained. It seems this filtered through to the design studios at some point, and ended up influencing what was being worked on. Like RID, the new series would be another new continuity, paying tribute to the Generation 1 concepts and reusing names, but was doing its own thing. It would also have a Japanese cartoon that would be redubbed. But more importantly, it would favour simple, colourful and blocky designs for kids to enjoy. Intricate transformations and balljoints basically disappeared, replaced by unique play features, again, for kids. This would be activated by tiny transformers called Mini-Cons, paired with each full size toy, or sold in teams like the old Micromasters. This is what was called Transformers: Armada.

It didn't go down well with people, but it also so sold so well they couldn't make toys fast enough.

 Demolishor & Blackout, a typical 1st wave Armada set. Not pictured: everything they do.

This design approach was of course the complete antithesis of what much of the older fandom wanted, and in those early days of the internet, boy did we hear about it. Beast Wars kids, having been raised on complexity and balljoints, were less than impressed with the simplifications being made, and the absence of beast modes. G1 purists, initially cocky that vehicles were back in fashion, were less than impressed at another new continuity that reused names but was otherwise indifferent to 80's homages. Later releases would help placate both groups, but a series that favoured new kids over old collectors? This always gonna annoy people, and actual children LOVED it. All the while this was going on, the internet was slowly breaking down barriers between east and west, while anime was the new hotness, so another aspect of the fandom was acting up. Not only was there derogatory comparisons to Pokemon, there would prove to recognisable differences in both toys and the cartoon, nothing significant, but enough for people to feel superior about imports and fansubs. Some of my first experiences of the fandom as an alleged adult was viewing endless moaning about bricks, bad dubbing and missing paint apps. I didn't necessarily agree with the tone of these discussions.

 A comic from 2005, its audience older collectors, published by Fun Publications.

Having missed the beast saga entirely, this aggro passed over my head. Those Armada toys I did get seemed light years ahead of the G1 toys I had in the attic, and while that's probably a sampling error, let's think about why that was. Your average 80's Transformer could only move its arms up and down; in Armada that was the entry level for Mini-Cons. G1 toys, especially the early ones, had lots of easily lost bits that were vital to the experience; in Armada that was limited to missiles and guns. G1 toys were sometimes held up to be more realistic and less kiddy; I was around for the Micromasters and Pretenders. Armada toys were regarded as “Play Skool”, I was amazed they sculpted detail now, rather than using stickers. It would be Transformers Animated before I truly started collecting again, six years later, but it was Armada that got me buying the occasional toy and paying attention to the fanbase. If I'm thankful for the series for anything, its that. 

 The Space Mini-Con Team, a notable set of Mini-Cons. Not pictured: their combined gun mode.

Being Fair
There were of course good reasons to dislike Armada though, and it would be intellectually dishonest of me to pretend otherwise. The supporting cartoon was pretty poor, and the western version only made it worse. Animation mistakes and “gotta catch em all” plot lines abound, although its generally accepted things picked up in later arcs(2). The comic fared better, and featured some G1 pandering, but it was a Dreamwave production, so your mileage may vary. As for the bits that matter, the actual toys, some were not well-received at the time or aged well. This was reinforced by Armada being in the habit of releasing recolours with a frequency not previously seen, and as the same character, rather than a seeker style new personality. And, even accounting for the marmite factor, its hard to disagree with much of the criticism for the toys. For an example, I refer you to noted youtubist TJOmega and his Plastic Addict series, where Armada toys did tend to turn up. Here's his harsh-but-fair analysis of the infamous Side Swipe toy. This probably ruins my argument.

Yeah, he's less likely to do caustic/comedic reviews these days. Check out the Random Reviews.

Anyway, having some bad toys and weak media is not the same as having a bad line though. Other Transformer lines have done similar and worse. Armada's play pattern was a good one, and while not everything worked, the colour and variety made up for weaknesses. The undoubted reason for this was the tiny Mini-Cons themselves. Not only did they make great pocket money toys, they basically turned larger toys into playsets. You can see shades of this in the modern Titans Return line, where having a small partner robot has made the vehicle mode more fun. Mini-cons could and would trigger just about anything, in either mode, so there was always something to do. These tiny dudes were also very visually varied, not always being humanoid, and they've aged very gracefully too. Compared to modern toys of a similar size, they hold their own, these toys introducing level of complexity and articulation, yes, the same traits the larger toys lack, which has yet to be truly bettered. Some were also headmasters, some were targetmasters, some combined, some had gears, some had missiles, one was AN ACTUAL BICYCLE, the list goes on. Mini-Cons proved to be so good, the concept not only persisted in Armada's two sequels, but in completely new moulds for Classics, Universe, Power Core Combiners, the Japanese version of Prime, and the Thrilling 30 bit of Generations. Basically, Mini-Cons rock, and haven't stopped rocking since 2002.

Also, Armada has a notably good video game adaptation. I just wanted to work that in somewhere.

The Big Things
Are the larger toys as good? That's less clear cut. If you are on board with playing with your Transformers as opposed to merely posing them, there's plenty to recommend. Armada toys always do as much as they can, as uniquely as they can, and they pre-date modern cost cutting trends. There's no end of missiles, spring-loaded mechanisms, geared mechanisms and electronic gimmickry, if that's your sort of thing. Treadheads got Megatron and Demolishor. The seekers were back, with this iteration of Starscream having enduring popularity. Cool cars abounded. There was a faction switching toy that was also a double headmaster. Optimus Prime got two different power-up partners. Megatron even got one, the generally awesome Tidal Wave, a massive toy based around three different combining ships. Play value can easily match a tranformer from any other line. Articulation is not a strong point, but many toys feel only a joint away from being fine. That having been said, three toys do stand up above all others as examples as both of the Armada ethos and answering the articulation complaints. 

 Tidal Wave & Ramjet, an impressive toy from wave 4. Not pictured: everything they do.

The Beast Wars repaints! You know, the recoloured transmetal moulds they put out as they couldn't make actual Armada toys fast enough? Because they actually sold really well?

Ha ha, just kidding. Good toys are they, but that isn't why I'm here. Coming at number 3 is Hoist, an excavator whom was retooled into two different Beast Wars characters. Coming at number 2 was the Supercon release of Optimus Prime, known as “Bendy Prime”, whom will probably be on display until I die. And at number 1, there's Unicron.

Yes, Unicron. The star of the 1986 film. Rendered in plastic, as what must be the single greatest act of fan-pandering ever made in the brands history.

Yes, even more than the Masterpiece line.

 Unicron, A.K.A mecha-satan. Not pictured everything he does.

While, as mentioned, I don't venerate G1 as much as other people, there was a huge hit of nostalgia for me with this one. Unicron was explicitly tied to the film which I loved as a kid, and was a huge part of a comics too. And not to put too fine a point on it, Unicron was incredible. And he still is. Gigantic, but articulated down to the fingers. Endless sculpted detail. Many gimmicks. A missile launcher of such complexity and noise that it scared my Grandad's dog, and no, it wasn't aimed anywhere near her. Even the haters had something nice to say about Armada after that. And this toy has been released four times, later versions replacing the head with something more G1, with a platinum edition on the way.

Armada doesn't get enough respect. Its never quite overcome the bad impression that the cartoon made, and fans always react badly to a Transformers series doing something different. The fact is though, the brand would be in a very different state without Armada selling so well. We'd probably find ourselves like He-Man or MASK or whatever, known, but no-longer relevant. Sometimes a hard reset is needed to keep things fresh. Armada got two direct sequels, and that success eventually allowed for the Classics line of 2006 and the modern films. And more importantly than that, the toys aren't as bad as some claim, its just they are designed differently.

If you are tired of G1 remakes, and want a change of pace, Armada is the toyline you should look at.

Foot notes
  1. Uhhh, its complicated, just go with it for now 
  2. A direct comparison to G1 cartoon is very tempting. Maybe another day.

Images not by me are copyright of Hasbro etc.

Monday, 26 December 2016

So, I started modelling again.....Part 3: Its cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere

Due to both work and family commitments, December is not a great time for me to get things done. Mind you, creativity grabs me when it wants, resulting in this monstrosity.

A little context. Back in the day I was fond of Battlefleet Gothic, a somewhat insane game of space combat. Think of it as more tall ships and Admiral Nelson than fighters and Admiral Ackbar. It was on my radar due to it getting a PC game,, which I intend to get eventually, but I soon realised the rules had since passed into the public domain. Papercraft fleets were also a thing. So, me and a few mates ended up playing a game. I shan't bore you with a recap, the fleets were very unequal as it turned out, but will happily boast that I took out two ships via boarding actions, which made for a moral victory. If not actual victory. Anyway, I decided to take a stab at scratchbuilding an Ork Terrorship, and here we are. Its mainly off-brand lego, green stuff, and assorted plasticard. Some details, like the bridge come from a 1/750 destroyer kit, while the main guns are from WH40k. Scale is a worry here, but, you know, first try. And it ain't done.

Will I make of these? I don't know. Depends how much I end up playing the game. To a certain extent, you have to scratchbuild ships for BFG though. Its been out of production for years, and most of the miniatures have the mixed blessing of being metal pieces, so after market prices are a bit insane.

Mind you, working way up to an orky version of the SDF-1 Macross or the JMC Red Dwarf.....that would be fun.

Friday, 23 December 2016

My Top Twenty Transformer Things of 2016

Since I started selling toys on eBay, I've not been able to do reviews. Its a matter of appearing biased and having conflicting interests. I still collect however, and its the time of year for awards. So, I thought I'd list my favourites, not detailed analysis, but brief discussions of why I like them. All the toys and/or comics would be good, or at least interesting, but the number 1 would not necessarily be the best Transformer this year. I don't dabble in Masterpiece or Japanese lines, and my interest in the comics usually stops with James Roberts, so my sample size is a bit small. So, something in the line of last year's top ten, toys I have in my personal collection which were released this year. More or less. Then I realised its actually been a pretty good year for Transformers, and 10 wasn't big enough a number. Especially since Titans Return Wave 3 started appearing in December, and Six Shot was looking to be a shoe-in for top 5 if I got it in time. Did I get it in time? Well, keep reading.

Let's do a top twenty instead.

Numbers 20-11 represent the honourable mentions category. Toys I'm glad I have, but got pushed out of the top ten by others. You'll notice a lot of retools in there, but that's not a bad reflection on them, as we have parts reuse in the Top Ten too. Buckle up.

20: Titans Return Rewind
While definitely the most successful attempt to reinvent tapeformers, the legends class "tablets" of Titans Return have ended up as an also-ran. Good enough as a group, but one hopes for more interesting toys in later waves. Rising above, more for what he is than what he does, is Rewind. As a toy, he's a nice robot, with an IDW head, a serviceable tank mode, whom adds to Blaster as a chest minion. As one half of a married couple of two guys, yet in Toys R Us, he means a lot more.

19: Titans Return Brawn (Titanmaster)
While not the best solo titanmaster release, Brawn gets on this list due to his general competency and theme. Whereas a lot of the toys at this pricepoint seem a bit misplaced, having Brawn as a tiny dude riding in an ATV isn't a stretch, even if the hoverbike mode is. It helps that the titanmaster evokes his toy design in robot mode, whereas the head is pure cartoon. That aside, functionally its the most consistent toy so far of its kind, not having a weak mode, and probably having the best weapon form. Just a shame that so much detail goes unpainted.

18: Robots in Disguise Quillfire (Warrior)
The modern Robots In Disguise cartoon and its toys have largely failed to register with me. I don't think I was the only one put off by the thought of a series about Bumblebee, and its non-standard size classes reminiscent of Age Of Extinction. The quality did however improve as things went along, eventually giving us this guy. Quillfire is very close to being a proper deluxe, if only his doors folded up, while having loads of character, and two weapons both which stow internally. I'm also amazed they articulated the neck, it could have been so easily been fixed as a cost saving measure.

17: Titans Return Blurr (Deluxe)
Yo listen up here's a story
About a little guy that lives in a blue world
And all day and all night and everything he sees
Is just blue
Like him inside and outside
Blue his house with a blue little window
And a blue Corvette
And everything is blue for him
And himself and everybody around
Cause he ain't got nobody to listen
I'm Blurr da ba dee da ba daa

Etc. etc.

Anyway, Blurr is a nice mould, but the blue is overpowering. Gonna repaint mine, I think.

16: Combiner Wars Trailbreaker (Deluxe)
An unexpected pleasure from the final gasps of Combiner Wars, Trailbreaker is another benchmark transformer. Not because he's a brilliant toy, although he has little to apologise for, but more for being better a toy on the second pass. The original Offroad mould is an also-ran of Combiner Wars, suffering from some tabbing issues that affected the already unstable Menasor, and a lack of anything to make it stand out amongst its peers. Trailbreaker fixes both problems, being rock solid in all modes, and adding Rook's party trick. More like this please.

15: Combiner Wars Victorion (Boxset)
My last Combiner Wars purchase, I hope, the fan-built-female-combiner set was an impulse buy at a good price, but proved to be better in hand then I expected. Its that beautiful sword and all that subtle retooling to make them feminine without going the sexy robot route. Unified colour schemes, and the fact the Combiner Wars toys are rarely bad helps too. That said, quality control issues and simple mould fatigue seem to be at play here, taking the shine off.

14: Titans Return Powermaster Prime (Leader)
An extensive and perhaps obvious retool of Ultra Magnus, this adds new play features, a third mode, addresses the hand issue, and brimgs an industrial amount of nostalgia. Given that Magnus was already a pretty good toy, this basically adds up to great, but is likely to be overshadowed by later releases. In a repeat of Devastator, the Japanese equivalent has additional tooling, which looks to be an improvement in almost all ways except feet. Whichever version you go for though, this toy nails the robot/truck/base play pattern better than any Optimus we've had for a while, if a bit gappy.

13: Titans Return Fortress Maximus
Perhaps the most interesting retool in this modern age of retools, Fortmax is a remix of 2013's Metroplex, another modern classic. Is he as good? Well it depends. The robot mode certainly looks better, the proportions greatly improved, and the reuse of parts borders on the ingenious. Cerebros is also a high point, overcoming his status as soundbox on legs to the point where some want him separately. And while I want to slap the person whom included the sticker sheet, the metallic foil effect adds a lot to the finished product. On the flipside, the city form is necessarily different from the G1 toy, and there's an almost "Uncanny Valley" feel to things as now undocumented engineering is retained from Metroplex. Odds are, you've already made up your mind on this one, but its got an appeal.

12: Combiner Wars Sky Lynx (Voyager)
I was down on this toy at first, my opinions coloured by questionable quality control and overhype. On balance however, Commander Modesty ends up as the best overall CW torso bot, if lacking for appropriate limbbots. No single mode is a total success, but there is no weak third mode either. The torso mode is heroically proportioned, and makes better use of the jet moulds than Superion does. And let's be real here, Sky Lynx is so utterly bonkers, its impossible not to like him.

11: Titans Return Crashbash (Titanmaster)
An extremely charming little toy, this is a spare head that combines with a wyvern to make an adorable T-Rex. Or what can only be described as a triple barrelled butt cannon. He's a great pocket money toy, all these individual titanmasters are, but this is the one to beat in later waves. Of course, given the number of times this toy has been will probably be in those later waves too.

10: Combiner Wars Shockwave (Legends)
Another toy making this article because I didn't get it until April, Shockers is an ideal representation of the character, and the best thing about the CW Combaticons. Seriously, articulation, appearance, transformation, and play value all tend towards great. When the only change you'd make is the characteristic use of translucent plastic, you know you've got something good. I liked this toy so much, I brought it even after I'd got it 3 times as the Botcon Reflector set.

9: Titans Return Hardhead (Deluxe)
Hardhead is an entirely satisfactory toy, but it has a mouth-plate, unlike basically all fictional depictions of the character. Putting that aside, HH is possibly the best deluxe overall in Titans Return wave 1, and out-performs toys in other size classes too. If you've got an Autobot with two guns and effective articulation, you are half way there with me, but this guy looks great, and he really sells the play pattern.

8: Titans Return Mindwipe (Deluxe)
While all of the wave 2 Titans deluxes are worth a look, Mindwipe is the most interesting and arguably the most functional. This is mainly due to his unique transformation where the legs unfold into bat wings, and the number of daft fan modes that result. He's also well-made in robot form, and I find his accessories to be a surprisingly attractive. A solid performer.

6/7: Titans Return Blaster/Soundwave (Leader)
Ever since Jetfire came along in 2014, the modern leader class has felt a bit of a compromise. Be it gappy plastic, sub-par engineering or a questionable design choice, a good all-rounder had yet to appear. With Blaster, it arrived. While not exceptional in any mode, this toy is consistent and hides its hollowness. Big. Simple. Fun. And Soundwave adds an accessory. Both represent the best versions of their characters outside of Masterpiece, if slightly let down so far by the quality of the chest minions so far.

5: Sins of the Wreckers (Comic series)
I feel really sorry for Nick Roche, because not only was Last Stand of the Wreckers a tough act to follow, not only was MTMTE was reaching a fever pitch at about the same time, the guy suffered a family tragedy while he was working on it, delaying the series. This has unduly marked the reception of Sins, trapping it a cycle of hype, anti-hype, and uncertainty. Its fortunate then that its a honestly excellent work. Personal where Last Stand was bombastic, but no less shocking or political, the plot Sins is something I dare not spoil by explaining it. I will however say that certain characters and scenes you will never forget. However much you may want too......

4: Titans Return Chromedome (Deluxe)
Chromedome was one of those toys that was gonna be a lot of peoples favourite, but also where some collectors were not immediately on board. Along with Rewind he forms the premier MTMTE couple, beloved by Tumblr and almost anyone whom actually reads the comic. But if you hadn't, all Chromedome just looks like is a retool of the excellent if over-used Combiner Wars Dead End. He's not, he's just copying engineering, although he share parts with #17 on this list. All that said, Chromedome ended up a very high quality toy, and was only pushed our of the top 3 by a late addition. This guy is basically Dead End plus Blurr, with an IDW face. He's the Marvel superhero film. He's very familiar, but he's so well put together, the end result is awesome. Chromedome is the new standard for car transformers, having all you could want at the price and no meaningful flaws.

3: Titans Return Triggerhappy (Deluxe)
The first last minute addition to this list, Triggerhappy came out of nowhere to be everyone's darling. While he personally ties into some happy childhood memories, this toy is notable for its very novel transformation, a distinctive jet mode, and satisfying robot mode. Its extremely well-presented too, with numerous effective paint applications, minimal gaps, landing gear, and a dedicated figure stand port for each mode. This all rests atop the Titans Return play pattern, which makes Triggerhappy extremely compelling as a toy. He's the best jetformer we've had in a while, and like Chromedome represents the new standard for such things, whom he ranks above for seemingly being completely new.

2: The Dying of the Light (More Than Meets The Eye Volume 10)
"Season 2" of MTMTE has been subject of a lot of controversy, but this five issue story proved to bean undeniable high note More Than Meets The Eye has always been willing to take risks amongst the character comedy, and its biggest was to make Megatron a regular character, on probation for his innumerable war crimes, and seeking to change his legacy. Against all odds, they pulled it off. Megatron's character gained nuance and complexity that just wasn't there before, and we slowly realised he was sincere. In this story arc, it all came crashing down, as his past caught up with him and people started to die. But it wasn't just about him, as plot threads bubbling away since 2012 came to the fore, and the core cast found itself re-enacting Rorke's Drift. As if we needed reminding, this story proved James Roberts and Alex Milne are names you want on a Transformers comic.

1: Titans Return Six Shot (Leader)
By far the most ambitious toy on this list, Six Shot had a lot riding on him. Transformers with more than 2 distinctive/convincing modes are rare enough on their own, but 6? We hadn't had that since the 2000 Robots in Disguise series with Megatron/Gigatron, the closest thing since being the 4 mode Animated Shockwave. When I saw the pictures, I knew that as long as it didn't break on day one we were looking at a modern classic. Getting it in person revealed some imperfections that confirmed it was made by mortal hands for the mass market, but yes.

Six Shot is possibly the biggest crowd pleaser we've had since Generations Springer.

Perfect? No. He's basically made of friction joints, and I took steps to tighten things immediately. He's entirely in the G1 aesthetic, so his altmodes require “imagination”. There's the whole submarine silliness too, and the guns look a bit weedy. These things do not matter. He does all the original did, modernised with articulation, tabs to interact with base modes, AND a titanmaster whose design is a spectacularly dark in-joke. Play value is off the charts, as is style, and this makes him my #1.