As you may have guessed, what non-gamers refer to as "real life" has interrupted my gaming recently. I’ve been observing this "real life" for some years now, and it appears to involve a lot of (a) going into a big room with a blue and/or grey ceiling, and (b) getting up early, to do things you don’t want to do, for people you don’t like. But I digress.
I can still snatch the odd moment to surf the web, and what should I discover but an end-of-line sale on Mongoose Battlefield Evolution figures. I’ve been curious about these for a while, and on learning they were on sale at £5 a box, I took the plunge. Why not before? Well, I’d heard that the poses and the paint jobs were not that good; and I was suspicious that they might be too big, or too small, to go with my normal toy soldiers. (My players don’t care about this, but I do.)
Given my gaming proclivities, I ignored the tanks and PLA jeep-borne command unit, and went for the infantry squads. For some reason, only SAS patrols and British Army sections were available; that’s fine, as those would have been my preference anyway, although perhaps a few US Marines for Stargate games would be handy. I can pit them against each other, as they can be differentiated by their hats (some sort of bush hat thing for the SAS, more normal helmets for the regulars).
WHAT’S IN THE BOXES?
Each box contains 8 or 10 hard plastic infantry figures, prepainted, on a base intended to represent sandy soil; the default setting for Battlefield Evolution is a fictional Middle Eastern or Central Asian state being contested by the USA, UK, PRC, and locals, so this makes sense. There is also a unit card listing the game statistics for the unit and its weapons, and a rules summary sheet which unfolds to four sides of A4.
The British infantry section has eight figures in four poses; two corporals with L85, 6 riflemen with L85 (one kneeling, one standing) and two gunners with Minimi Para LMG. The SAS patrol has ten figures; one sergeant, one corporal (kneeling), and four riflemen with M416/M203, two gunners with Minimi Para LMG, and two spare figures with M109 sniper rifles – the unit card tells me I can swap a gunner for a sniper at no extra points cost. Many of the figures have eyepieces of some sort over their left eyes, although these are almost invisible unless you hold them close and squint.
Unwittingly, I have bought enough troops for a basic two-person force; the infantry sections are worth 160 points each and the SAS patrol 225, with the minimum force per side in Battlefield Evolution being 250 points. The rules sheet in each box, together with the unit cards, seem to be sufficient to play a basic game, with the hardback rules spoken of as "advanced rules". i can’t see myself playing Battlefield Evolution for a while, so these go into a drawer.
The poses are reasonable, although as usual for plastic prepainted figures, some of them are leaning over at angles unlikely for a human being (3 out of 26 in my selection), and more realistically proportioned than the fat so-and-so’s with banana fingers and giant weapons which Games Workshop models feature. They are also a bit fragile, with two of them breaking off their bases and two others losing the little stickers on the base bottoms as I was extracting them from the packaging. Hopefully, nothing a little superglue won’t fix, but I’m not sure they will take being rattled around loose in a box like the softer Reaper or Pathfinder plastics.
Size comparison on 5mm grid: L-R Mongoose SAS, Mongoose British Infantry, Copplestone Future Wars trooper, eM4 trooper.
As you can see above, the Mongoose Battlefield Evolutions figures are almost exactly 25mm to eye level, so theoretically should match the other ranges; but as usual, the metal figures are chunkier and more "heroic" – i.e., fat so-and-so’s with banana fingers. The BE figures look fine next to each other, but a bit thin and weedy next to the Copplestone and eM4 ones.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
I wonder if casting the figures as one piece including base would stop them breaking off so much?
This is probably not a common wargaming requirement, but the games I play require female figures, and these are difficult to find prepainted, so a few of those in the next line would be welcome. However, having observed actual troops, it’s hard to tell the ladies from their male colleagues at 70 metres or so, which is roughly equivalent to a 28mm figure at arm’s length on the tabletop, as the fatigues and body armour conceal their figures; the only visible differences are that they’re a little bit shorter on average and tend to wear their hair in a bun at the back. So maybe I’m just being fussy.
I could see uses for a box of mixed-gender civilians though – hostages, gangs/insurgents, "terrain hazards" for patrol missions, and so on. Oh, and some zombies please, while I’m wishing for the improbable.
I like the fact that they are prepainted; I keep meaning to paint my remaining bare metal figures, but there’s that "real life" thing again. I also like their equipment, which is near-future enough to make them credible SF units. I don’t like the fragility. The paint job isn’t brilliant, but it’s at least as good as I could manage myself, so I’m not complaining there.
At roughly 50p per figure (probably about 70c US), these were a reasonable buy for the masses of opposition needed in THW games; if you roll really badly, the total opposition could be as many as 9 times the size of your force; my Stars’ tactical groups tend to be about 3-4 people, so worst case I would need 35-40 opponents.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5. They won’t get to be the stars of the tabletop, just the faceless extras, but a movie needs extras too. I shall watch for the replacement ranges promised by Mongoose with interest.