Armybuilders are a funny thing. We’re so willing to buy multiples of nameless guys despite wanting only one of our favorite characters. And it certainly baffles toy companies, doesn’t it? Mattel recently took a chance on armybuilding with their Eternian Palace Guards 2pk. Of course, I just had to buy two.
I’m all for army builders, so I was happy to hear that Mattel was going to start incorporating them into the MOTU line (even though space on my toy shelf is at a premium), but what really sold me on this set was the ability to differentiate the figures with four heads and four chest plates to split between the two figures. MOTU Classics has already incorporated swappable heads an removable armor across the board and the idea for interchangeable armor plates is borrowed from the Battle Armor figures, but getting all of this in one two-pack made for an impressive set.
But before you think I’m lavishing too much praise on the set, it’s more for the planning than it is the execution. In a couple instances, I found myself wishing things were done a little differently or that Mattel had been willing to take things a step further.
In each pack, there are two normal/human heads (one modeled after Toy Guru), a snakeman head, and a Qadian (cat) head.
The Toy Guru, or Lt. Spector, head features some nice sculpt work from the Four Horsemen – it looks so much like TG that I wish I had a pair of glasses to give him! The other “human” head features a black character (some speculate a young Clamp Champ) and is probably my favorite of the four. I don’t know what it is, but the simple face sculpt has a very MOTU feel and he’s the most likely to snag the lieutenant armor in my display.
The snakeman head is well done, if a little odd. As snakeman doesn’t necessarily belong in the royal guard, but I’m going to accept him into my ranks on good faith (thought it could be said it’s a “snakemanified” version of Man-At-Arms). The snakeman does look a little sad and you’ll see that he ends up getting picked on a bit in the photos. Finally, there’s the Qadian head. I like it well enough, but I’m going to use that one to segue into talking more about how I wanted this set to have some more customization opportunites built-in.
On the left in the photo below, you have a quick custom by Vault, simply achieved by heating up and switching the hands and feet from a Chief Carnivus figure. I understand the needs of having an army be uniform in appearance, but I’d love to see MOTU Classics build on their swappable heads and try out a few more swappable pieces like feet, boots, hands, etc. Clearly, Vault’s already swapping the compatible parts, but it requires a bit more work at the moment. Being able to more easily “build” some new characters, like my Caligar Guard on the right will only help MOTU continue to be the little line that can. While I really enjoy this set, I hope that the future armybuilding two-packs will feature even more built-in customizable pieces.
The other main interchangeable feature is the 4 chest plates: an eagle/lieutenant armor, lined armor, and then lined armor that’s been damaged with one hit and two hits – a call back to Battle Armor He-Man. I love that they were included, but I wish the set included one more undamaged chest plate. Ideally, I’d like to have my four figures be one lieutenant and three guys with unblemished armor, but that’s not possible. I love that we can armybuild, but if we don’t want to use the battle damaged plates, then half our squad will always be lieutenants.
The base figure itself is entirely reused – a standard buck with Tri-Klops forearms and Keldor boots, but it serves the figure just fine. A side note here is that the figures were displayed at SDCC with the fur/leather He-Man boots (like MAA) and the armor over those while the packaging featured just the unarmored Keldor boots. The final figure ended up with the Keldor boots and the leg armor. This is cool, but it’s somewhat of an odd fit with the left leg armor always riding up a bit over the bulk of the boot.
Other than the aforementioned heads, the new sculpts are really all about the gear. Man-At-Arm’s leg and arm armor is reused while new mirrored armor completes the look on the right side. It mostly works, but there are some minor issues in addition to the odd fit on the legs. The bulk of the arm armor and the bulk of the chest armor leave all the guards with their arms sticking out more than I’d like (“which way to the gym?”) and the forearm piece tends to want to slide off and/or interfere with the accessories. Finally, and this is a minor nitpick to be sure, but the latches on the new armor are in different places from the MAA pieces. It just looks odd. I know that was a bunch of “quick hit” criticism, but I do like the armor, I just wish it had been a little differently. Continue to Page 2…