Wednesday, 15 July 2015

AVP: The Hunt Begins boxed game review.

It's hard to believe that nearly 2 years have passed since I backed the Prodos Games Kickstarter AVP: The Hunt Begins, an ambitious project that was to be both boardgame and tabletop wargame featuring the vast majority of the characters from  the Aliens and the Predator Films and even a few of the computer games. It was something the fans of both franchises have been waiting for for some time. I myself pledged for a full army of each faction and multiple copies of the boxed game along with a load of Battle Systems excellent Sci Fi terrain (which delivered a full half a year ago). It was a massive license and should have been one of the biggest gaming Kickstarter campaigns on record given the scope. The bug hunt to end all bug hunts.


The models we were tempted with


Unfortunately it wasn't, due partly to Prodos' bizarre reticence to interact and answer backer queries and a lack of hard and fast facts or allaying of peoples concerns, the Kickstarter underperformed.With just over 2000 backers Prodos did not even gain the numbers to satisfy the minimum production run for the Resin 'backers only' special Kickstarter edition of the boxed game. Thus the exclusive version was made available to all whereas originally the retail version was to be plastic with only backers receiving resin.

The actual game ended up being fair superior to this mock up in all honesty


This would be but the first in a series of concessions, delays and set backs in the delivery of the campaign, which included at one stage the deleting of the Kickstarter page and near total silence for many months from Prodos. Delays were blamed on Fox and the licensing process and the project floated in a frustrating limbo for an age, Nonetheless the finished product has finally been produced by Prodos which is much more than i can say for another project i backed which is looking like a Total (Extinction) loss.

Now i could easily pen an entire article (or perhaps even a series) on Prodos's failings as a company over the course of this campaign. Their customer service, attitude, transparency, integrity and dare I say competency has been called into question more than once over the last year or so. Damage control measures were implemented but it is safe to say that the vast majority of backers are FAR from happy, this one included.

One of the add ons yet to come, there are also cloaked Predators in clear resin and of course an Alien Queen

This was only compounded when the final approval from Fox was finally given and the games release was set and production began. Of course Prodos found a way to run afoul of backers here too by fulfilling retail wholesale orders before shipping all the backer copies (apparently a contractual obligation). Suddenly backers were in the position of being the LAST to play the very game that they were responsible for funding in the first place! A ridiculous and disgraceful position to be in.

This is also the only reason I am reviewing the game now, as I have bought a copy from Chaos Cards (who's excellent service i can only commend) having STILL  not received a shipping notification from Prodos a full two weeks after the games release date (i'm not expecting to receive the game before August at this point). This is not even to mention the second wave of products and the rulebook for the wargame which apparently are still awaiting final approval from Fox. Nonetheless I got fed up of waiting and at least now have the boxed game in my hands to review.

It is a mightily impressive box


And what a box it is! It weighs an impressive 6.5 kilos and is pretty big too. The cover artwork is quite nice, even if the rear presentation leaves something to be desired being surprisingly low resolution and a bit sparse on detail. It does feel like a quality product however and even the cellophane around the box is thicker than that that normally encompasses boxed games. Once the lid is removed you can see the contents and the foam in the upper lid keeping everything safe (just a sheet of foam, not any good for storing the figures)

Your first view of the inside of the box...

I could only manage a cursory look through the rulebook, so much too see!
The models are in a box as are the cards, so the first thing you see is actually the rule book. This is quite the beast too. It is very thick and jam packed full of rules. oddly there is a marked lack of shots of the actual models and those that are featured are inexplicably poorly lit, making it nearly impossible to see the paint jobs or the details. This is a real shame as in my opinion the miniatures are definitely one of the major selling points of the game.

The layout is quite nice but there is a hell of a lot to assimilate

That's not my camera, The photos of the models are THAT dark. 

The rules are fairly well laid out with lots of diagrams and the book is well presented overall although the fluff that was promised at the start of the Kickstarter is absent, having been apparently nixed by Fox. There is a great deal in the book as it talks of basic and advanced rules and it makes even the most complex Fantasy Flight manual look simple in comparison. There are one or two spelling errors that may betray its Polish authors origins but i have seen much much worse.

There are plenty of missions and lots of ways to play the game. Content is not an issue here. 

One gets the feeling that perhaps a quick start booklet separate from the main rulebook might have been a good idea as the main book seems a little overwhelming. It is impressive how much is crammed in though with the aforementioned advanced and basic rules, survival mode, full stats for all the unreleased wave 2 products and a set of 10 missions. Certainly it will take a while to read it all and assimilate the rules for the game and i suspect that the best way to learn would be to just play the game referring to the book as needed. Overall i do suspect that the ruleset is too complicated for a board game, coming across as an insanely complex and convoluted Space Hulk.

AVP tiles on the left, Space hulk on the right

The AVP Tiles are ever so slightly thinner... 

and lack the finish and embossing of the Space hulk Tiles. On the whole though they are rather good.

And like Space Hulk, AVP comes with quite a lot of card floor sections. .In fact it comes with a hell of a lot. The card stock is slightly thinner than that of GW's game and lacks the veneer and embossing but it is still of a high quality. It is also all double sided although once again the suggested additional rules for these alternate designs have not transpired. Still it can be used for a nice aesthetic change and the design work is pretty good overall with only the weapon templates looking a little second rate. All the floor sections and tokens come away from the card quite nicely as well and overall the quality is very high. The sheer volume of tiles is quite staggering and although there are many duplicates there are some nice infested or 'hived' tiles to add a little variation. There is also a bit cut out of the boards so that you can get them out easier. A nice touch by prodos

...and double sided!

Though the difference at this stage is purely aesthetic

There are tokens galore, at least some of these are being reproduced in resin a little further down the line. 

The weapons templates are the only place where the design is a touch lacking. Alien acid spit is on the other side of the flamethrower template. 

The actual cards themselves are also quite nice and thick. Though the design work on them is satisfactory it falls someway short of amazing, merely serving the purpose. Event cards, stat cards and mission cards are all presented in three small separate white boxes, in total there are a lot of cards split across many decks (some are only utilised in the advanced game) and they are pretty nice if unremarkable, though the backing design is a little odd,One of the few areas where the AVP/FOX branding hasn't been used with generic Giger-esc (RIP) bio mechanical designs being used instead.

The cards within are of decent quality. Everything is readable and you cant ask for much more than that

The environmental cards are used in the basic game. Advanced rules incorporate additional decks. 

Which leaves us with the models. Though eventually these are destined to be moulded plastic sprues, at present they are fine resin models, and i mean fine. These are without a shadow of a doubt the most finely detailed models that I have seen in a boxed game, bar none. The detail that Prodos have manged to get in to the figures is insane. what is even more impressive is that for the most part the models are comprised of few pieces. Truly Prodos are revealing themselves to be masters of their craft here.

Getting to the good stuff at last. 
The Ten Alien infants (the standard creature from the AVP films and 'Alien Resurrection) are just two pieces, a one piece body and a separate tail. In addition the models are not quite all the same, there are slight variants in poses. the only issue that i can really see with the alien infants is that the details are so fine that i can see some breakages if the models are not looked after. The tails in particular are not brittle but will likely snap under a little duress. I will be heating and rebending them to add more variation to my horde so ill let you know how that goes. The fingers are also another weak point.

Exquisite..

It's structural perfection is matched only by it's hostility....

It is quite the feat of casting, props to Prodos

Cannot wait to get some paint on these. The quality bodes well for the extra models in wave 2


The Alien Stalkers (Alien 3 'Dog' Alien) are a little more compact and not quite as detailed so i see these being a bit more robust, they come in three pieces with an arm and leg being separate. The tail is moulded with the body and is actually a lot stronger than the infants, being stockier and less sinuous. Being on all fours also aids with stability, they still look nice but not quite as eyepopping as the infants. There are five in the box

The colonial marines are also excellent, given that they are a true 28mm scale the detail captured is exquisite and they are going to be a real pleasure to paint. With just the arms being separate they again are a triumph in design if perhaps a little fiddly due to them not being heroic scale (a welcome change). There are five marines in the box, Two grunts with Pulse Rifles, a Sergeant with Pulse Rifle and tracker, a Medic with flamer (saddled with a slightly silly running pose) and a SMART Gunner.

Absolutely BAD-ASS!! If armless (Arf Arf!)

In scale. Yautja SHOULD be much larger than humans. Well done Prodos

Finally, the Three Predators, these are almost certainly the cream of the crop each being pretty much a character model in their own right. One is armed with a Throwing Disc, one with a Spear and the other rather delightfully is keying into its wrist mounted control pad in another triumph of miniature design. They are a fair bit bigger than the marines (about 32ml ) and look fantastic, packed with detail, cleverly designed with again just the arms being separate and a surprising amount of dynamism packed into the figures. Again, these will be a joy to paint and i cant wait to get started. The blades and spear are however bits i'd be worried about snapping and the throwing disc is wafer thin and bendy, not sure how it will take paint.


So detailed, but lets see if that spear stays in one peice

Each Predator is a character in its own right

Overall its a quality package, all the components are of a very high standard and the care that Prodos have put into the product is clear for all to see. I do think the rules are too complicated to be really considered a boardgame and i don't think The Hunt Begins is really something for a casual gamer to pick up, even the resin models will require superglue to assemble and are somewhat fiddly and fragile. I'm not sure that they will stand up to the rigours of gaming and although the plastic versions will naturally lack a little detail im sure they will serve the role of board game figures much better. That said the miniatures ARE the talking point of the box and they really are of the very highest quality, rivaling and beating into the dirt many other manufacturers. Though i have yet to get a game in (i only opened it 3 hours before writing this review) it is certainly a case of so far so good. It's just a shame i had to buy the game from a shop in order to find that out.

In short, although i would not back another Prodos Kickstarter I can find little fault with the product. It is of a high standard and has been produced with obvious enthusiasm and care. It looks to have a lot of replay value and the amount of gameplay and ways to play coupled with the outstanding minatures make it worth its premium asking price.  Look for a game report on the Conclave website in due course.

7 comments:

  1. I'll be around for a game at some point :D

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  2. That is a quality looking package. I avoided the KS be jade I already have some of the very good Horrorclix that were done for Aliens and Predators. I'm very tempted by this, but for the price of the box the game play will have to be there. Once some reviews and videos come out I'll give it another look. Great looking models just aren't enough to lay out this kind of cash.

    Thanks for the great contents review!

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  3. Prodos get worse, random excuses aside they are just now lying to their kickstarters saying we would get each shipment as they were produced, yet again shops are getting stock in before we get ours, the ethics of this company is in the gutter, they have got to a point where their issues I imagine are putting them in a hole financially so they are screwing us to make up for it. Didn't even have the balls to tell us though which is a shame.

    I recommend no-one buys this unless you want to support a company that has no loyalty to its customers.

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  4. Purchased it anyway, I have no intention on expanding from the box set. I just could not resist getting the opportunity to paint up some of those models, especially the Predators

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  5. Great review, I mentioned you on my blog :P

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    Replies
    1. Nice one, Thanks John!

      Still waiting on those AVP Wargame rules.. soon apparently. But with Prodos that could mean anything

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  6. Are y'all still having kick starter problems even now?

    I bought warriors, newborns, and stalker expansions and awaiting them.

    I hope I get my army before this company folds if customers are this dissatisfied.

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