Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gripping Beast Plastic Arabs - Review and First Look

Having good experiences with Gripping Beast's previous plastic releases, I preordered their Arab Spearmen and Archers boxed set.  A quick plug for my favorite online retailer - Architects of War - my order arrived on Friday, .

The box contains eight identical small sprues and there is no separate command sprue.  Each sprue contains five unarmored bodies and eight heads.  Three of the bodies have premodeled left arms for shield carrying warriors.  The other two bodies have attachable arms that can be used as archers or light spearmen.  The weapons on each spear are five right arms with spears, two right arms with bows, two quivers, three round shields, two teardrop shields, one right arm with a sword, one right arm with a horn and four attachable left arms in several positions.  Also included, is a green Renedra sprue with assorted base sizes for individually mounting a few figures and group basing the rest.

The quality of the figures is up to the standard set by previous Gripping Beast plastic releases.  Mold lines are minimal and the parts detach cleanly from the sprues.  The poses and stances are very natural; excellent for ranking up into large units.

I know some hobbyists do not like the preset left arm and prefer the adaptability of being able to attach more parts separately. For me, that's one less unnecessary gap to fill. Speaking of, all of the arms on my first batch attached very well. The gap line was so minimal that a little extra paint was sufficient to fill it in.

With any plastic release, a common complaint centers on the offerings - what's included and what's not.  I expect the lack of a command sprue with an armored officer and retinue will bother some as it has been a feature of previous previous plastic releases from this manufacturer and others.  In all honesty, I already have plenty of those figures in metal.  I appreciate forty low level troops for a reasonable price, saving the show pieces for metals.  And while the package and sprue size is very efficient, it means fewer add ons. For me, a few extra bits would have been a nice inclusion: small pennant banners, swords in scabbards and another shield variation.  
The five figures from a single sprue

As for uses, Gripping Beast obviously brought this set out in time for the SAGA Crescent and Cross release. Even without that tie-in, affordable Arab/Saracen troops is something the market has been demanding for some time.  The box touts the fact that the figures can be used from pre-Islamic conquest up to the Renaissance Ottoman battles.  I suspect with a little bit of conversion, some Colonial gamers could put these into a Mahdist uprising battle. But if a gamer wants to be most accurate, these are centered on the Crusade era.  The fully veiled heads will make good Berbers from the Almoravid invasion of Spain, while the beardless turbaned heads could be good for Ghazi era Persia - enemies of Seljuks. Speaking of Seljuks, I don't think these would fit Seljuk infantry for the Crusade period.  Eleventh century Seljuks might have been more likely to be bare headed or helmeted, and most would favor trousers over robes.

Outside of historical armies, lots of eastern themed fantasy options exist.  A Middle Earth gamer could use these for Easterlings. I have been itching to return to my Dark Sun AD&D game, and with some appropriate weapon changes, a few of these might do as NPCs.

The two archers.  The fully veiled figure will represent a Berber in Spain. 

For a size comparison with metals, the two on the left are Gripping Beast, on the right is an Artizan Moor and a Black Tree Design Arab.  The plastic figures are of the same size and proportion as my metals. 

For the archers: The Gripping Beast in the center is a bit a less bulky than the Artizan Moor on the left, but they should mix in well together.   The Essex Arab archer on the right is noticeably diminutive beside them.  It is an older figure, and obviously a victim of the "scale creep" in 25/28mm.


  1. Excellent review, thanks. I was considering picking these up but was waiting for an independent review first.

  2. Great review, and great blog too. I play and blog about SAGA and Ronin too, so it's nice to find a new place to check out while I put off painting! I think Gripping Beast plastics are excellent value for money, despite any shortcomings. Looking forward to seeing the Crescent and Cross book. Cheers, Paul.