Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Transformers Combiner Wars Prowl Review

combiner wars prowl review

Before Devastator landed at Castle Soapbox, I was starting to suffer a bit of Combiner Wars fatigue. It is not that the figures are coming out at such a rapid pace, or boredom with the line - but it has become so repaint/remold heavy.

Prowl, for example, is the 4th use of this mold and is a straight repaint of Streetwise but with a lovely new noggin planted on his shoulders.

This line is like an addictive drug, that is the only way I can explain why I continue to buy so many repaints with a grin that the Cheshire Cat would wince at.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

So You Want to Sell Toys Part 3A and 3B: The Customer Strikes Back!

In part one we looked at the numbers of selling toys, in part two we looked at selling and now in this third and final part it's time to look at customer service. This part will work as both a guide to people who want to open a business and a way for buyers to increase their chances of getting what they want when it comes to buying from sellers.

Open All Hours?
When it comes to your 'office hours', whether you work from a shop, an office, a warehouse, home or are a "bedroom seller" set your hours and stick to them. If you're using apps for Facebook, Twitter or other social media then switch them off when you're not working because you will get messages at all hours. Once you start replying at 3am then your customers will presume your customer service is 24/7 which is fine if that's what you're offering but if you don't offer it then never do it unless it's an emergency. It's not fair to set expectations in the mind of your customers that you can't live up to.

My car exploded but sure I'll check all 78 Arcees to send you the best one.

Never Tell Me the Odds
Of our customers about 30% are amazing people that I speak to regularly, some of which I consider to be good friends. 65% I very little contact with as they place their orders, their order is sent and that's it. On occasion there may be enquiries or brief coversations and they also tend to be lovely. Then there's the remaining 5%...

As Abraham Lincoln said, "You can please some of the people some of the time but never all of the people all of the time." Never have truer words been spoken and it's a very decent life lesson: Try to do good but be aware that no matter how hard you try someone will hate your guts. In a fandom where people become livid that Amazon didn't fulfill their order of 20 Masterpiece Optimus Primes (RRP £149.99) at £34.99 each it's unlikely that even Ghandi could participate and not honk someone off. Try your best, be honest and treat others how you'd like to be treated.

Masterpiece Optimus Prime Convoy
Not £34.99

That Old Chestnut
It costs 5 times as much to gain a new customer as it does to keep an existing one but as above, 95% of customers are brilliant and any problems can be resolved pretty reasonably. The other 5% though you actually do want to lose because they will be constant hard work who are far more effort than they are worth and frankly you'll  if you're finding a customer relationship difficult then it'll start to taint your dealings with other customers.The customer isn't always right. Usually, but not always.

That may sound harsh but we all know scammers are out there and some people's standards are too unrealistic like buying goods for Christmas on the 20th of December when they live in a different country. In any cross section of society you will also find difficult people who you can't get along with. Maybe it's them, maybe it's you or maybe you're just not a good match but if it's not working then walk away on good terms if possible.

Dealing With Difficult Demands
With any problem it's usually helpful, both as a seller or as a buyer, is to a) Put yourself in the other person's position and b) Give yourself a cooling off time if needed.

Sometimes a complaint can seem minor but if you reverse the roles you can often find that you'd be equally or even more annoyed if you were on the receiving end. We're all collectors and we all have our standards, it's sometimes easy to lose sight of that. Equally text doesn't convey tone so while an email may seem light hearted to the sender, it may not to the reader so sometimes it's best to wait an hour and re-read what you've typed before sending especially if the email is a bridge burner.

They won't always be back.

So a quick run down for sellers.

  • Communicate
  • Work with the customer, they pay your wage.
  • Put yourself in their place
  • If you made a mistake put it right!
  • Be patient
  • Your best. Whether you're a business or selling as a hobby you owe it to your customer to treat them the same way you'd like to be treated.
  • Set realistic targets. 
  • Remember that the names on the screen are people. Give people the benefit of the doubt and try to be kind,  you don't know what sort of day they are having or what's happening in their life. Henry Rollins perfectly sums it up in this (explicit language) amazing video.


  • Lie. You'll be found out. If there's a problem with an order own up to it.
  • Promise what you can't deliver. Goods, despatch times, everything needs to be realistic. 
  • Speak ill of customers especially to other customers.

3B - For Buyers: How to get What You Want

I've covered most things for retailers so it's only fair that I do a short guide but buyers. Some of you may take offense at what you're about to read but that's not my intention, my intention here is some gentle pointers of how you can perhaps avoid some pitfalls when buying in person or online. A lot of advice has been put out there about getting discounts etc but without proper explanation.

I spoke with some fellow traders and here's the main hates of sellers -

1. Hagglers/Price Matchers
2. Tyre Kickers
3. "I saw this at"/Unrealistic Trade Ins
4. Perfectionists
5. Eastenders

1. Hagglers
Haggling is fine but knowing when to haggle is a start. Online stores generally aren't worth trying to haggle with - they are cheaper than shops because of lower overheads and most offer subsidised or free postage on top.

At a convention you'll notice that the prices are higher than online, this is because the seller has extra expenses like travel, accommodation, food etc. However most will mark the prices up a bit because they know buyers will haggle. Also for a seller at a show, the less they have to pack and bring home the better so the last day of the show towards the end is the best time to ask as there'll be more leeway.

Being realistic in how much discount you ask for is key here.

£24.99, yes. £10, no chance.
We recently put up a load of Hot Spots for auction at £29.99 with an offer option. Every single person who offered £24.99 or above had their offer accepted because it's a respectable offer and again, we'd upped the prices for Ebay to allow for haggling and fees (they were £22.99 if you bought directly from the Masterforce site).

£165 of goods for £55?

This gentleman is the perfect example of how people do things completely wrong. 1. He had never bought from me before, either as Masterforce or personally 2. He name dropped someone I didn't know in the hope it would give him special treatment 3. These items are already on sale. This means that there's no profit on them anymore. 4. He's asked for them at a ridiculously low price. £165 of goods for £55 isn't a request, it's an insult.

That may sound dramatic but imagine going into work on a Monday morning and being told by your boss that as you do such a good job, how about he pays you less than a third of your salary for the next month? Would you think it was a cheeky offer and chuckle about it or would your reply be two words long with the second one being "off"?

Logically, why would any retailer give a massive discount to someone they don't know? If anyone is going to get discount it's going to be the people who have supported the business the most.

On the other hand...

The cause of many bleeding wallets

Recently a semi regular customer emailed asking about a full set of Warbotron's Bruticus, acknowledging that the mark up was low on it but was there any wiggle room if he bought all of the parts in one go. That is the perfect example - noting that they don't expect a huge discount (low markups) and enquiring if it was a possibility.

This is akin to your boss saying that you're doing really well but is there any chance you could do an extra hour for free just to finish off some bits as there's a deadline looming. You're much more likely to comply with this request because it's reasonable and he's given you the option to say no.

In short, if you're going to ask for discount then be reasonable, ask for a small discount and if you get a 'no' don't take it to heart. The best way to get discount is to be a regular buyer because no one is going to give discount to someone who supports the competition.

Similarly price matching is absolutely fine when comparing like with like. Price matching another UK retailer is a fair request and most sellers will agree if they are able to. Asking a UK seller to price match a Chinese seller, not so much. Toys are cheaper in the US and China because they are part of continents, the UK is a tiny island so there's shipping costs, import duty and VAT to consider so products will always be more expensive here. Sure if you lived in China you could buy a figure for two thirds of the price but then you'd be getting paid an awful lot less than your current wage...

Sure there are cheap toys but you only earn the equivalent of 40p an hour for working here.

2. Tyre Kickers
The name 'tyre kicker' is taken from car selling - it's when a potential buyer comes for a look at the car, has no real intention of buying and will kick the tyres as a way of showing some sort of interest. They are bored, killing time and aren't serious. A lot of people will happily do the online equivalent by asking questions that are easily answered elsewhere, but there's not one question, there's a string of them each in a separate email to draw the conversation out (known as email ping pong). The last one will usually be "OK well I haven't got any money at the moment but in two weeks if you still have it I may buy it."

Having questions even if they can be answered elsewhere is cool, but ask if you're seriously interested and can afford the item then and there. Increasingly tyre kickers simply get their emails ignored by companies - you can see this on social media where people are angrily posting about how they emailed Amazon/Toys R Us/their mobile phone provider/the cable company a bunch of times and got no response. They got no response because it's the online equivalent of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Fun Fact: in 2012 a survey found that 70% of all complaints made on social media to various companies were ignored.

3. "I saw this at..."/Unrealistic Trade Ins

"I saw this on Ebay for x price" and so on. Market value is subjective and because it was on discount somewhere or someone overpaid on Ebay it doesn't mean that's now the price. A few weeks ago we dropped the Masterpiece G2 Bumblebee to £34.99 for a day and sold out. That doesn't mean every seller now is going to match that price. It simply means we dumped our stock, full stop.

An extension of this is "But on Ebay they sell for x price" when it comes to trade ins. For a seller, they are looking to pay 40% of an item's Ebay value and so if you're selling to a retailer/seller you won't get the full price because the retailer has to tie their money up, take pictures, list the items for sale, possibly reduce them at a later date and then pay taxes on their sale. Also you will get lower value if your items are less desireable. Which would you prefer - a brand new mint sealed Masterpiece or an 8 year old figure with paint wear and missing parts? Funnily enough, the retailer is in the same boat too as he'd prefer the new product which will sell against the beat up one that nearly no one wants.

If you're looking to sell there are plenty of Facebook groups you can sell on and of course Ebay. If you do choose to sell to a retailer it'll be less hassle for you but for that convenience you'll get less money. Again, this is where realistic haggling can come in. If you want trade you'll do better than asking for cash and if what you want isn't brand new and a hot seller you're more likely to get what you want. So if you are offered £50 in cash, ask for the credit price. You may then get £75. From there you can counter with, "It's a bit cheeky but I've got my eye on x product at £84.99, is there any chance of a straight trade?" You may get a no, but you may also get a counter of your items plus £5 = the item you want. It's all about compromise so you both walk away happy.

4. Perfectionists
This was briefly covered before with Pop! Vinyl collectors - products are packed to make it to retail and that's it. Hasbro, Funko, Mattel, Takara, Bandai etc don't care about boxes and creases. If you collect 100% mint boxes with absolutely no flaws whatsoever it's understandable that you'd want them in the best condition possible, but the solution is to buy in bricks and mortar stores where you can take a look and see which ones are acceptable.The odds of a product being mint after it's been handled in a factory, packed into a box with no packing material then shipped from China to the UK and then from the seller to yourself is negligible. Hell, most airlines can't even get your luggage on the same plane as you so mint boxes? No hope.

As before, packaging is increasingly being cheaply made. It's frustrating to be a mint collector especially in current climates but it's not possible for retailers to send out multiple consignments of the same item and pay return shipping. Equally certain defects in paint or quality control are to be expected - a mass produced product will have inconsistencies and possibly design flaws. If an arm drops off that's unacceptable but slight uneveness in paint application is probably going to be found on every single one.

Personally some items I will always buy in a real world store and I recommend it for anyone else who has certain standards that can't be fairly met by online shopping. It's far less stressful if you have your own choice than relying on someone else to send you something you may or may not be happy with. If you can live with some minor defects then ask your retailer if you can pay extra for a 'collector's grade' product than any old one out of the box.

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth! No truth-handler, you. BAH! I deride your truth-handling abilities.

5. Eastenders
Here in the UK, Eastenders is a soap opera which features more drama then is humanly imaginable, oh and terrible terrible acting (yes that clip is genuine).

When something goes wrong, fairly often the customer will include words like 'disappointed', 'angry', 'upset', frustrated' and on occasion 'I have lost all faith in....', 'best customer', I was going to order...' and so on. There's a time and a place for these terms but using them in the first email is often overly dramatic and hurts your chances of the problem being fixed...it's kinda like a footballer taking a dive when someone's barely touched him (Boy Who Cried Wolf Again).

How should complaints be dealt with? In business, especially within human resources there is a phrase that is known as 'The S#!t Sandwich' - The bread is praise with a filling of...well, bad stuff. In the case of an email it would be along the lines of:


I received my parcel the other day, thank you as always for the quick delivery. (Praise) Unfortunately there was a problem with [nature of problem], what can we do to resolve this? (The bad stuff) Thanks again for everything, look forward to hearing from you. (praise)"

This way you're opening nicely, you're then factually addressing the issue while leaving it in the retailer's hands to suggest a resolution and closing with more praise. That may all seem too flowery but being nice usually gets better results than aggression and dramatics and leaving it to the seller to decide may get you more than you would have asked for.

"I opened [product] yesterday and there was [problem]!!! I'm so disappointed with [company] and their products, this was supposed to be a treat for myself after a bad week and this just made it so much worse. I don't know why I even bother anymore! I want my money back by [date] or I'll go to Paypal"

Sadly, from speaking to other sellers, a significant number of complaints are written along those lines.

I'm not suggesting that retailers need buttering up or are sensitive souls but which of those would you go further for in resolving the problem? The first one, right? Again this comes back to role reversal and treating others how we want to be treated ourselves. It's incredibly frustrating to have a problem with a purchase but aggression, threats and drama isn't likely to bring out the best in another human being.

Obviously if the reply is unsatisfactory then it's time to escalate things but using the same sandwich and facts method:


Thank you for getting back to me about [the problem] and suggesting [solution] but I'd much rather [solution of refund/replacement/whatever is appropriate]. I look forward to your reply."

Again it's sticking to facts and now being assertive in stating what you want. If that is unsuccessful:

"I'm very sorry but that isn't an acceptable solution for me. As I've said, I'm more than happy to [your suggestion] and I'd prefer us to resolve this amicably as your service has always been great . I'm afraid I'm going to have to take this to Paypal if we can't reach a resolution by [date]."

No dramatics, just facts and still the odd bit of praise. The reply you want to send is probably laced with profanities but keeping calm is always better and if it does go to a Paypal decision, it'll undermine your position if they see you being abusive in previous emails. The bits of praise are there because it can (believe it or not) sway someone and make them think at the last minute, "actually they have been a good customer..."

These examples above may seem like they don't convey the disappointment, frustration and anger associated with the problem but are they relevant? Not really. You're really not going to get a better result by using these terms. The phrases "good customer"/"best customer" and "I was about to spend x but now I'm going elsewhere" should never be used simply because they are arrogant and usually wrong. Let's face it, you never were going to spend that amount you're saying it as a last kick in the crotch and both sides know it. Stick to the facts and keep your composure and dignity as it'll get you a much more generous solution.

Just to be clear here, I know these from using both tactics myself and thinking afterwards that I sounded like a complete idiot.

Breaking stuff and shouting is great until you have to tidy up.

To get the best results:
  • Be a regular customer
  • When asking for discounts go small
  • Check the site first. If you can't find the answer then ask in one email.
  • If it absolutely must be mint, trying paying a little bit extra or make life easier and go with in store purchases
  • When trading in remember you won't get market value, you'll be lucky to get half
  • When there's a problem keep a cool head and play the smart game to get what you want.

That's the end of the So You Want to Sell Toys series, I hope you've enjoyed it and it's given you an insight into the business. Either as a collector, seller or both, never forget that the idea is to enjoy the hobby :)

Friday, 7 August 2015

Hasbro Combiner Wars Titan Class Devastator Review (Part 2)

How did I close the first part of this review? Something about ‘big fun toys’? Well holy hell, son. Come meet one of the biggest.

Devastator has a lot to answer for. Me being late for bed the past couple of nights. Daft drunken video messages. My massive unrelenting stupid smile. And a pictorial review that basically devolved into playtime.

So forgive me if I gush and rest assured I promise not to dance around the flaws.

We’ll get something out of the way straight off the bat though. Getting Devastator together was one of those moments that will keep me a fan of Transformers forever, as building up this gargantuan green giant was an utter joy. There’s a penny that drops when creating the legs and you’re rewarded with some inspired transformation that increases both height and stability via multiple locking mechanisms. This continues with the firmest torso this side of The Rock. Stuff just pegs and tabs and slots in everywhere on this thing. There’s some good design here and it results in an enormous combined form that isn’t coming apart without a fight. It’s easily the most solid gestalt I own. Official or otherwise.

And that solidity is actually a bit of an issue. The chest shield in particular tabs into no less than four slots on Devastator and likes to stay there. It also likes to stay together itself as you slot its wings into the central piece. So far, so good and no stress marks. But both invite the use of force. The same applies to Hook and Long Haul’s chest and torso combination. Myriad points of contact, all of which are so, so happy to be one and so, so reluctant to easily come apart.

Again, no issue thus far in separating them but your eyes might widen the first couple of times round.

Let’s have a proper look at Devastator. The face sculpt, as with the individuals, is a highlight.

Considering this is my third time round the block with a version of the definitive G1 gestalt (and only my first official punt at that), man are Hasbro doing it right. He’s got that cartoon look down. A towering colossus, his bulky torso attaches to legs that look like some twisted amalgamation of scaffolding, cement mixers and scoops. Arms that might need to be bigger. Maybe. PE and Shadow Fisher think so. Not convinced yet.

I’m no huge fan of the hands though and find myself bracing the wrist when rotating to stop them popping out. That swivel is seriously tight. Irritating.  I would have liked to see articulated fingers too. He also doesn’t hold the gun well. I mean, he does, but it doesn’t seem to slot in anywhere. He just grips it. Like I would. And I drop stuff all the time when people pose me at the bar.

He does the articulation thing pretty well though, as we’ll see later on. One thing of note is that the green plastics used are of two types, with a subtle difference in colour and feel. There’s a flexibility to one of these that I can’t decide is worrying or deliberate, and it may well be based on the size of the moving parts and the pressure that these might be subjected to.

Scrappers ‘foot’ for example. I’m not saying leave him in this walking pose but he can hold it and that’s down to the flex in the scoop. I'm siding with deliberate based on keeping the big bugger intact.

 In case you haven't twigged, Devastator is huge. 18 whole inches of huge. Here he is with his Combiner Wars friends and enemies. 

Like a photo at the disco with the school bully

If the definitively scaled collection is your aim, you may find Devastator to be no friend of yours. Although I do quite fancy his chances at edging into an MP display *drops bomb and walks away*

Articulation. Let's do this. Here he is demonstrating that Long Haul sounding like cocking a gun actually has a purpose rather than just being for show.



 Setting him against a similar sized adversary yields plenty of rewards, eh?

Don’t leave him like this either. He’ll get a big head.

Don't though. I don't wanna wreck your awesome toys through drunken tomfoolery

 Continuing this you can also have a ton of fun with him by taking those insane cartoon mass shifting moments to new heights. Playtime. It kind of became inevitable.

That is indeed one of the most regarded and sought after Prime's a man can buy...

..serving his own damn purpose

Devastator is hands down impressive. There is far more going on under the hood than its initial simplicity and detractors give it credit for. A surprisingly robust six figure combiner, his full robot mode is a serious amount of fun to both toy about with and display. It just looks and feels immense. I have voiced concerns about how tightly he tabs together in areas, but this hasn’t caused me issues. And I really can’t emphasise enough just how much presence, character and ooomph the fella has.

3P’s abound (PE, Nonnef, Shadow Fisher, Dr Wu) are queuing up to pimp this set depending on your preference of improving the individual figures or the big guy himself. Takara are going more anime accurate in terms of colour, paint apps and adding further articulation to some of the core figures.  And it’s going to be a customiser’s wet dream. All of this is cool.

But taken on its own merits, Hasbro's Devastator set is an utter success. These are 30 year old legacy characters long overdue the official treatment and they have been given some serious love here. That '8+' on the box is fooling no 30+ year old walking down a toy aisle.

Big fun toys. I've said it before and I’ll say it again:

 It’s all I need. 

The first batch of Devastator sold out quickly but you can preorder our second batch arriving in about 4 weeks here.

The Japanese version is out in January 2016 but can be preordered here at a lovely price far below RRP

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Hasbro Combiner Wars Titan Class Devastator Review (Part 1)


A fan favourite if ever there was one. The myriad unofficial versions of the Constructicons are a testament to the less than jolly green giants enduring popularity. And not since the live action movie series’ namesake almost slapped his bollocks in John Turturro’s face has a combiner courted so much controversy as this Hasbro effort.

Clocking in at a massive 18 inches tall, this herculean robot first made headlines back in January 2015 after photobombing a bald German attending Nuremberg Toy Fair. Cries of ‘RUINED FOREVER’ as well as delighted purrings of anticipation quickly followed. The official reveal at New York Toy Fair crystallised feelings towards this giftset and it’s safe to say that the Constructicons’ debut split a lot of folk straight down the middle. Simplicity and size have taken precedent over complexity and articulation, the end result aiming to deliver the definitive Devastator at an affordable (comparative to his 3rd Party rivals at least) price point. But in doing so, have Hasbro delivered a true Titan class killer to the Combiner Wars or have these design choices simply poured liquid haterade upon a raging flame war?

Easy there. Let’s take a look at the Constructicons themselves first.

Scrapper and Scavenger

Packaged in vehicle mode, I was immediately taken aback by the size of the damn things. The second thing that hit me is how cartoony they are. Strong notes of 1985 melt into a lingering Sunbow finish. I’m drinking a vintage drop of Heavy Metal War aged in bleached VHS right here. This is a good feeling.

Hook and Long Haul

They’re not light either. In fact they feel pretty decent (it’s certainly a different type of plastic than normally used though) but those awful clip on wheels never look good anywhere, seem cheap as hell at this size and some silver rims on toys this big would’ve definitely helped offset that. It also appears that somebody forgot to colour Bonecrusher in. Although that is accurate.

Bonecrusher and Mixmaster

All of them, bar one, do a fantastic job at looking like they rolled out of the cartoon. I get that Hook takes some liberties (that suspicious purple block in the middle of the vehicle is fooling no one, son), hell they all do to some degree but Mixmaster is the anomaly here. Turning him into a frontloading cement mixer definitely flies in the face of the cartoon love fest the rest of them are having. I understand that this was to help create a stronger leg for Devastator, but ain’t nobody inviting Mixmaster to their alt mode party this weekend. Perfect Effect might have their own plans for that though. Them and about 8 million other guys. We’ll touch on the vultures circling as the review progresses.

No cake or vodka for you Mixmaster. Not now. Not ever.

In the meantime, these are all big badass construction vehicles. Long Haul in particular is a giant. I do lament the lack of functionality in these forms. What you do have is limited (Hook’s crane - it just goes up) or plain non-existent (Long Haul’s truck bed - fixed) but Kid Me wouldn’t mind. Kid Me would be too busy flipping Autobots with Scrapper’s scoop, swinging Scavenger’s shovel at volcano ceilings and generally just smashing them into stuff. Yeah, Kid Me..

Listen, they look good, they feel good and they evoke the cartoon all over your play space. Round 1 done and I am satisfied.

None of the transformations are a bother. Some, like Mixmaster’s sadly, are pretty uninspired and see the guy basically lying down for a kip. Others, like Scavenger and Bonecrusher are nicely involved. But crucially they’re easy to flip back and forth and that keeps a big part of Combiner Wars’ play pattern going. These are toys first and foremost and there’s no need to set aside a chunk of time to transform these Constructicons. A chunk of space, however..?

‘Scrapper, report!’

'All present or accounted for noble leader..'

This looks ace. There are flaws (oh, are there flaws) but getting this lot together for this shot was a blast. Hasbro have gone for the animated look writ large with plenty of nods to the original toys decals and colour layouts. It works. As a group on a shelf, man are they gonna look the part for you.


Easily one of the most posable Constructicons, Scavenger also succeeds in being one of the least compromised. Ball jointed all over the show he can rack in plenty of characterful poses and even with that ridiculous non face of his, that stuff you need to make it in life? 

He’s got it.


Honestly? Utter garbage. His massive backside makes him slope back on weak hips, and he lacks the character the others have (this is important) to counter things like weak arm design.  

Dat ass..

Maybe he’s a slow burner – his face is evoking the Decepticon symbol in a big way but like his vehicle mode, this one is doing nothing for me. Dr Wu is actually cashing in (I'm as shocked as you are, my friend) on this weak link and making his own Mixmaster from scratch. It’ll likely cost at least half as much as this entire set too.

Long Haul

Remember when Cartman went full BEEFCAAAAAAAAAAAKE? Someone else did as well.
The size of this one is staggering. The size and shape and the noises it makes. It's like cocking a gun when you move his hips. There are some glaring issues. His arms are ridiculous affairs that articulate sideways at the elbow. It doesn’t matter. This is one you need in hand to make sense of. Pictures, maestro!

Hugs for all!
Hugs and death


The best transformation brings (technically) the best overall figure in the set to the table. One that is wearing a big green onesie. Hey, it’s accurate! Reports abound of poorly locking hip tabs are not an issue on mine and I can see it being more of a mistransformation issue than a design flaw. Or I got really, really lucky. Another brilliant headsculpt and as with Scavenger ball joints aplenty, this is Bonecrusher ripped right out of the cartoon for your pleasure.


Even with the horrendous (and they are) compromises around the elbow section Hook almost gets away with it. Why? Presence. His snooty superiority complex sneers through this sculpt, particularly in that nailed down smug visage of his. There’s a trend here. You spotted it yet? He is hollow in the legs and arms though and it’s inescapable however you look at it. 

'I'll allow this. We all hate Mixmaster too'

But his articulation is surprisingly decent, allowing for some impressive leg and foot motion. A strong showing, and probably my overall favourite.


Probably a bit gorgeous

A wonderful looking robot, the cartoon influence shines through in a lovingly on point headsculpt, his colours and detailing are simple and crisp and then you get to his arms and you’re like, ‘Dude. Where’s My Elbows?!’ Like his brethren, Scrapper suffers from design elements cut by out Hasbro for financial reasons. And it blows. It does. Perfect Effect have got a set coming out that give him, Long Haul and Hook the full forearm makeover.

Though if you can get past this flaw, he is a great toy to look at, remains fun to play with and the one that actually sold the set to me in the Toy Fair reveal. Food for thought there. It’s not necessarily always about moving like Jagger when you’re born with swagger.

You two are carrying around the big guys bra. Stop it right now.

As we bring to a close Part 1, this is an ideal time to mention the upcoming Unite Warriors Takara release of Devastator in light of all these 3Ps smelling the blood in the water. As you can see, the Constructicons have to make do with Devastator’s combiner kibble as weaponry as opposed to their original guns. The Japanese release rectifies this and actually gives Scrapper and Long Haul fully functioning arms as well as breaking up Bonecrusher’s inner treads with some purple. It’s also expensive.

But.. and this is a big but, I did not expect to be this impressed with the domestic, no frills release. These are toys. Big fun toys. And sometimes you just want big fun toys. And today I am drowning in big fun toys. Hollow legs, dodgy arms, none of that has actually impeded the fun I am having today with this set. And if you like your Constructicons cartoon, I hope the pictures speak volumes.

'It's uncharismatic you pathetic little runts'

Next? Something about preparing for devastation.

The first batch of Devastator sold out quickly but you can preorder our second batch arriving in about 4 weeks here.

The Japanese version is out in January 2016 but can be preordered here at a lovely price far below RRP

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Third Party Round Up

For a long time there's been speculation that the third party bubble is about to pop with many thinking we're seeing that starting to happen now. There's been a huge number of announcements recently, in fact nearly too many to keep up with, so let's have a look at who is bringing out what.


At TF Con Badcube's Evil Bug Corps value pack went on early sale exclusively through Ages 3 and Up. While existing releases were on display there was no sign of the Sunstreaker inspired Sunsurge which Badcube really need to get right after the overcomplicated and easily broken Wardog. It's been a rocky road for Badcube from day 1 but slowly they are winning people over and Sunsurge is their big chance to put their past behind them. 


Returning from obscurity with a bang, Beelzeboss appeared at the China Joy event showing off their new upgrade set for Generations Nightbeat, a set of weapons for Generations Chromia and Windblade along with an upgrade set for Generations Trailcutter. Their big reveal was a huge add on set for Combiner Wars Optimus Prime which looks a little similar to another company's work. Beelzeboss and their other brand, Guilty, do good work although they aren't afraid to copy existing designs.

So. Much. Want.

Cloud 9

Already causing a huge fuss are newcomers Cloud 9 with their first release - an MP sized Shockwave called Quake Blast. Fans Toys have claimed that the figure is heavily based on their own Quakewave and is essentially stealing their design, which is interesting coming from a company who essentially steals Hasbro designs. Also alleged is that Cloud 9 is Gigapower under a different name.

Corbot V

Also returning after a long break are Corbot V with their first full figure - an Allicon named Project Reyes.

Dr Wu

Following on from the upgrades for Wheeljack, it made sense that the Doctor would be back with more Masterpiece upgrades - this time a jetpack compatible with both versions of MP-21 Bumblebee.

At TF-Con Dr Wu also unveiled 'Companion', a static Carly figure which scales with Masterpiece figures.

Also revealed is Dr Wu's first full figure Vigourous Mixer which is intended to replace Mixmaster in the Titan Devastator team of Constructicons. It's more detailed and gives a better proportion to the cab.

DX9/Unique Toys

 DX9 continue to impress and seemingly outdo their parent company Unique Toys. UT showed Provider (Masterpiece Octane) and Buzzing (Blurr) at TF Con and teased a Blitzwing release but many seem indifferent to these releases and the knee issue with Seigfried has done them no favours.

On the other hand, DX9 have built on the successes of Invisible, Chigurh, Cocomone. their Megatron upgrade kit and War in Pocket line with the upcoming Carry, the impressive Hulkie which is a small scale Devastator and their new legends scale Megatron, Mightron.

Bolstering the line further is a Legends sized Arcee known as Leah!

Fans Toys

Bizarrely at TF-Con Fans Toys didn't have much to show other than prototypes of their Insecticons which are bigger than expected. With FT-04T and FT-04X Scoria repaints shipping, Fans Toys have announce further Scoria repaints in G2 and Diaclone colours. Sever will also be getting Diaclone and G2 editions while an extra dinosaur head piece is being sold separately for Scoria to give the toy the "smoked" G1 look.

There has been no further news on their Jetfire project but with a Quakewave reissue, a G1 toy coloured reissue and a clear version, plus a distinct possibility of Diaclone coloured Insecticons and Willy, a Masterpiece style Hound,  it wouldn't be advisible to hold your breath while waiting for it.


One of the big things with third party is the constant "I know someone in the know and he told me..." statements. The recent one was that Fansproject were giving up on Transformers style designs and moving on to other projects which did seem possible given that Fansproject had been eerily quiet since the titanic flop that was MADLAW. As usual the rumour mongers were proved totally wrong.

At TF Con the remaining Exo Lost Realm figures (aka Dinobots) were unveiled: Snarl, Grimlock and surprisingly, a female Raptor with ridiculous breasts.

Picture courtesy Ages 3 and Up

In addition to the convention exclusives Knight and Combes Robin, the rest of the Function X line was unveiled. The major news from Fansproject was that they'd be tackling the Japanese G1 combiner Dinoking, and teased Monstructor by showing a Wildfly figure.

Picture via TFW2005 who stuck their logo over Fansproject's.

Generation Toy

Warbotron's designer is on board for Generation Toy's first release - a huge Warbotron sized Devastator called Gravity Builder! All 6 parts are scheduled to be out by the end of the year but more likely are the same delays and 18 month wait that we saw with Warbotron.


Some people just can't get a lucky break and Gigapower seem to be in that category. A nice group of guys who have had a number of issues to contend with are seemingly preparing to release the chrome version of their spectacular Guttur. However, their competitor, Fans Toys have alleged that they have hired away Gigapower's designer. Considering Fans Toys lost their own designer of their Iron Dibot line it's expected that Giga's designer will now be in charge of getting FT's last Dibot together. The seemingly never ending soap opera of Gigapower and Fans Toys looks to carry on...


Strangely, Guilty appeared at China Joy showing off Data Disc designs compatible with War For Cybertron Blaster and Soundwave. Data Discs had been solicited by Guilty two years ago and then were dropped by retailers when the designs turned out to be stolen from Shapeways. Are these new designs, will they see the light of day this time around, does anyone care? The answer to all three is 'probably not'.

Iron Factory

Yup. Miniature Overlord. 'Nuff Said.


Following the release of Transistor KFC went very quiet and the release of Fader seemed to quietly vanish as KFC concentrated on their X-Transbots brand instead. KFC have now reappeared touting their Transistor repainted as Broadcast and the cancelled Junkion designs. Will the Junkion designs see release this time?  Prototype pictures of their version of Reflector have appeared but with stiff competition from Fans Toys and Maketoys, will KFC's vision get a look in?


Floundering since their ill thought out double whammy of Quantron and Utopia last December, Maketoys only released repaints exclusive to their own store since then. However at TF-Con, Maketoys brought a rocket launcher to the proverbial knife fight as they simultaneously launched Cupola, a massive MP scaled version of Chromedome.

On show were the first 3 parts of their Guaria (Defensor) combiner and their Visualizer (Reflector) set. There were teases of MP scaled Targetmasters and the Powermasters Darkwing and Dreadwind along with Megatron and Starscream!

However, it's safe to say that of the imminent releases, one of the most anticipated is their version of Tailgate with add on parts for Universe Cyclonus.

MT have been on a serious roll as they also unveiled prototypes of Hardhead and Wrestle (Grapple), Hellfire (Inferno) and Gundog (Hound). Not to be outdone by Fans Toys, Gundog will be released in two colours - cartoon accurate and G1 toy accurate.


Hot on the heels of their Super Deformed Metroplex, comes the Super Deformed Trypticon, Diabolus Rex! The SD style isn't a major hit outside Asia but it's hard to deny how cool this Zoid-like figure is.

Mastermind Creations

Since Feral Rex, MMC have seemingly struggled after making a ton of announcements but then being very slow to follow up on them. Some questionable releases and the hugely over budget which in turn made it very expensive, Cynicus, plus parting ways with Ceno Kibble and using Cassie Sark less, both of whom were with the company from day 1, has jeopardised their arguable position as king of the third party mountain.

Finally we got to see pictures of their massive Carnifex (Overlord) figure though which was announced close to two years ago!

Continuing the IDW theme, we've seen more pictures of Commotus (Turmoil), Anachus (Kaon) and Kultur (Tarn). Considering the limited readership figures of IDW's Transformers comics, it's hard to see these figures translate into big money for MMC. Commotus hasn't been in the IDW universe for the last 18 months, Anachus will have reasonable success but it's hard to see Kultur getting to market as Hasbro is likely to hammer all retailers with cease and desists over the Decepticon logo which is the character's mask.

Also announced were Alpha and Beta (Decepticon Drift and Drift respectively), Sphynx (Mirage) and hopping on the bandwagon, more Insecticons.

Mayhem Mekanics

While not Transformers related as such, these transforming robots are worth mentioning. Cassie Sark and Ceno Kibble are two of the most prolific workers in the third party industry, famed mainly for their work for MMC from the company's start through to their most significant release, Feral Rex and the upcoming Carnifex. Now the two are teaming up to create their own vision. Mayhem Mekanics announced their Unrustable Bastards line at last year's Auto Assembly but then in the year since, there's been silence. At TF-Con pictures were shown of the UB toys and the idea is certainly a unique one.

The transforming robot bikers all share the same base body and colour scheme as the idea is that a motorcycle club would have a uniform look, but instead of multiple figures there is only one figure with multiple accessories so you can choose which of the seven characters you want to display. If you decide you want all seven then you'll need to buy seven figures. As the Bastards travel to different planets in their accompanying stories, their colour schemes will be changed for each release.

While this seems to be a continuation of the repaint syndrome we see so often, there is potential here. If MM include sticker sheets to customise the robots more or perhaps release accessory packs, the Unrustable Bastards line has the possibility to continue the idea that Stikfas used successfully for a number of years.


The bizarrely named Generations scaled Megatron, Granville, has been retitled a much more suiting, 'Tronus'. This impressive and heavy figure is apparently good quality and seems set to surprise when it hits the market in August.

Perfect Effect

With Leonidis about to be released, it seems Perfect Effect are content to carry on releasing add on kits for Combiner Wars including an Optimus kit that Guilty seem to have been 'inspired by' and an impressive add on set for Devastator.

Shadow Fisher Studios

As it's impossible for only one company to release a product, Shadow Fisher are joining in with the Devastator upgrades.

TFC Toys

For a company that was virtually dead in the water, TFC's versions of Ratchet and Ironhide were expected to be the death knell of the company. However they've announced their own version of Hound (what is it with Dinobots, Devastator add ons and Hound?) and in a move that took everyone by surprise, revealed Minos and Thanatos, the first two parts of the G1 Japanese combiner Liokaiser!


Unfortunately for Warbotron, the reveal of the final combined mode of their Computron homage was met with a cool reaction as fans complained that the arms were way too big. So far nothing past the current combiner has been announced but with a rift in the camp, will Warbotron be carrying on?

X2 Toys

Another company returns from oblivion! X2 are offering an upgrade kit for Masterpiece Ultra Magnus to give wider shoulder movement and a new weapon.


The test shots of Andras (Scourge) have begun appearing as have pictures of the resin prototype of Eligos (Cyclonus). Digital versions of Boost and Hatch (Windcharger and Tailgate) have reappeared but the only mini seemingly close to production is their version of Beachcomber.

There are plenty of other releases out there but very little to report on them. Voodoo Robots seem to be forging on with their Ironhide and Ratchet inspired releases, Omnigonix's version of Sunstreaker is increasingly unlikely it seems to see light of day with Transform and Rollout's Hova (Jazz) is looking more impressive as time goes on. Play With This Too continue to show impressive prototypes after their very nearly successful crowd funding effort. That's it for now and remember most of these can be bought at www.masterforce.co.uk