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Play Along Toys' LOTR:Armies of Middle Earth
with Mr. Stinkhead

Play Along Toys completely blew me away with their AOME line. I had gotten a chance to check out their Ring Wraith, and pics of the playsets, but this was my first chance really getting to delve into the line. Play Along was kind enough to send us some figures from Wave 1. And they assure me, these are in stores (or at least stock rooms) now. You can avoid the ankle-biters and pick em up online.

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click for largerI am part of the school that enjoyed Skeletor over He-Man, Darth Maul over Obi-Wan, and the Turtles over April. Action figures should look cool, other-worldly, and a little gross. Whether or not He-Man fits in that category can be discussed in our message board. So the first figures I ripped into were the Uruk-hai soldiers with battering ram. You get four Uruk-hai soldiers, one 7 inch long battering ram, and an assortment of hand-to-hand combat weapons. The detailing on these guys blew me away. Then after I got back into my chair, the paint apps blew me away. The first figure I really got to examine before was the Ring Wraith, whose detailing is incredible, however he has little paint applied. These guys have dirty fingernails, matted hair, and crusty eyes. You know, me after an Alien franchise marathon.

These guys are all dynamically posed, so when you stick them onto the handles of the battering ram, it really conveys weight, motion, and the energy to destroy. Or if you so choose, you can take them off of the battering ram and give them weapons to join in the fight. Here is one small complaint... they look great on the battering ram, but not all of the beasties (dammit I sound like my grandmother) look good with weapons. I'm not upset because having the extra weapons is a bonus, and they look really, really sweet holding the battling ram. I love how the thing has errant arrows sticking out of it.

You have to check out the last one of this group.

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click for largerThe next figure I opened was Gandalf the White with his horse, Shadowfax. Like I said earlier, I'm much more into the cool, gross, detailed figures, but I was impressed with the dynamic sculpting of this one. Gandalf looks like he is connected to that horse, not a piece of plastic sitting on a piece of plastic. Wait how did I get this far in the article without mentioning the new toy smell? It's awesome. When you open the package, slice the little bit of tape on the right side, undo the tabs and pull back the flap. Now gently separate the blister from the back, and euphoria. Pure euphoria. This is one of the better smelling toys I've opened in a long time. If you're not a LOTR fan, you still need to pick up at least one figure to get a whiff.

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Then I opened the three-pack Rohan Soldiers. This set gives you Eomer, a Rohan Foot Soldier, and ofcourse Eowyn. I've already mentioned the detail, and the paint jobs that Play Along produces, but damn, they keep on impressing. In this set, each figure comes with a sword. (Ed note: they are still called swords in middle-earth speak, right?) These things are so tiny, but they have the delicate carvings of their movie counterparts. Let me also take this opportunity to discuss the bases each figure stands on. They come separate, so you have your characters lying on the ground dead, and not looking stupid. (I hate looking stupid when I'm dead)(Ed note: so does it kill you that you look stupid alive? fa fa fa) The figures fit snugly on their bases, there's a peg on the foot, and a foot print with the slot on each base. We've discussed before that there isn't a lot of articulation intended for this series, however the arm range on these particular figures is nice, and allows both attacking and ack I'm dying, but I don't look stupid poses. I also discovered that the foot soldier's head comes off real easy.

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I was saving the Sharku with Warg for last. This one is a masterpiece. The detailing is great, the sculpt and paint are dead-on and intriguing to look at, and the whole thing looks great from a distance. You know how Remington horse busts (the bronze cowboy things from art class) have a true dynamicism to them. This guy looks great by himself on a shelf, or in the throws of battle. The warg is crouched, ready to pounce, and that Sharku is clearly along for the ride. He comes with two weapons, a sword and a Klingon-looking hand dagger. Man, this thing looks great from all angles. If there was a Darth Maul of the AOME line, this one would be it. (Not the whole one-per-case-pack for the first set, and then nothing-but in the second assortment, PA Toys is smarter than that).

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Whew, I got all excited just typing about these things, imagine the thrill I had in setting them up for these pictures. Hey! It was no-where near as perverted as you were just thinking. Bastard. Anyway, my overall impression is that this is a great series for either building a massive diorama, or buying one and placing it on your desk at work. Smaller and tighter than those other LOTR figures, these do much better in an office environment.

Now is the time, check out our AOME Custom Contest, you can win a load of exclusive figures.

Check out the rest of our exclusive Armies of Middle Earth coverage

You can buy these figures now from

Article and photos copyright 2003

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