REVIEW: STAR WARS CLONE WARS SERGEANT BRIC with GALACTIC BATTLE GAME MAT
Remember the days of mail-order? I don't mean online ordering, where you go to a Web Site, look at a picture of the item you want, click the mouse a few times, and it's on the way. I mean original mail-order, especially toy premiums, where you had to save up Flag Points or some other Proof of Purchase, fill out a form of some sort, include a few bucks for postage and handling, and then send it off and quite probably forget about it in the 6-8 weeks that it would take to -- SURPRISE! -- show up in your mailbox.
Sometimes I miss that. But every once in a great, great while, it comes up. Such was the case with a figure offered through the Star Wars Clone Wars action figure line, a fellow by the name of SERGEANT BRIC, who also came with a Battle Mat for the Galactic Battle Game presently being promoted throughout the Star Wars action figure lines.
And clearly, I'm not the only person who misses that sort of thing and enjoys doing it, Hasbro had to commission a second run of the figure. I got an announcement in the mail that if I was prepared to be patient, he'd be on his way just as soon as possible. I wanted the figure, not my money back -- which was a minimal fee anyway -- so I was prepared to wait. Finally, Sergeant Bric and the Battle Mat arrived, barely fitting in my relatively small mailbox.
The package design is interesting. It's designed to accommodate the Battle Mat as much as anything. The package was long and fairly slender, with the Battle Mat folded up like a thick vinyl road map within it. Sergeant Bric and his accessories were packaged into a plastic bubble that was inserted on the interior side of a window on the front of the package, and the whole works was stuffed into a long corrugated box for shipping. Fortunately, everything arrived in good order.
First off, let's consider the character of SERGEANT BRIC, with a little help from the Web Site known as Wookieepedia.
Bric, a male Siniteen, was a battle-worn bounty hunter. During the Clone Wars, the Galactic Republic hired the Siniteen as a drill sergeant to train various clone cadet squads for the Republic's Grand Army on the planet Kamino. In Kamino's Tipoca City, Bric was joined by another bounty hunter, the Arcona El-Les, and both took the rank of Master Chief as they trained the clone cadets. Bric personally conditioned Domino Squad, a unit that struggled to work as a team. Toward the end of Domino Squad's training around the second year of the war, Bric and El-Les joined Jedi Master Shaak Ti, who oversaw the training of the clone cadets on Kamino, in the city's military complex testing chamber. On a secure observation deck that overlooked the chamber, the trio watched Domino Squad practice for their final test—the Citadel Challenge, in which the clone cadets had to secure a flag at the top of a large tower. During the squad's practice exam, Bric and the others noticed Domino Squad struggled to work as a team, which caused them to fail their test.
After their practice, the clones returned to their sleeping barracks. There, Bric broke up a fight between Domino Squad members CT-782 and CT-21-0408, nicknamed "Hevy" and "Echo," respectively. The next day, Bric and El-Les rallied Domino Squad and other clone cadet squads outside on a hangar deck. Near the two bounty hunters stood ARC troopers of the Rancor Battalion, led by Commander Colt, who were there to oversee the clone cadets' final test—if the cadets passed, they would be considered battle-ready clone troopers. Bric followed El-Les and Colt as they prepared to watch Bravo Squad, a clone cadet squad trained by El-Les that, according to Colt, passed their practice test in "ARC trooper time." On the observation deck, Bric, El-Les, and Colt watched the unit take and pass the Citadel Challenge before Domino Squad.
During Domino Squad's test, Bric told El-Les to give the squad their next set of instructions for the exam, and the Arcona bounty hunter relayed the instructions. However, Domino Squad failed to complete their task when one of their number was injured and left behind. After Domino Squad failed the Citadel Challenge, the two bounty hunters left the testing chamber and proceeded into the clone barracks, where Bric was informed by El-Les that Ti would allow Domino Squad to retake the challenge. The decision troubled Bric, as he had already made a request to reassign Domino Squad to Tipoca City's maintenance crew due to their continuing struggles.
Later that night, Bric called for CT-4040, a cadet from Domino Squad whom Bric believed was the reason the unit was failing. When the clone did not take him seriously, Bric shoved CT-4040 in an attempt to force the clone into aggression. However, CT-4040 did not retaliate, and when he continually refused to take the Siniteen seriously, Bric told the clone to get out of his sight.
When it came time for Domino Squad's second attempt at the Citadel Challenge, Bric joined El-Les and Shaak Ti on the observation deck that overlooked the testing chamber. Prior to Domino Squad's test, Bric took out the ascension cables from the cadets' belts, an item that was needed for the Citadel Challenge. Despite El-Les' efforts to stop the test as he saw Bric's actions as unfair, Domino Squad successfully used the Citadel tower's blaster turrets to scale it and pass the exam. Impressed with the squad's ability to improvise, Ti told Bric that his aggressive actions brought out the best of Domino Squad. After the test, the two bounty hunters congratulated Domino Squad on their success and parted ways with the unit.
As to his personality, as a stern, smart, and aggressive being, the battle-worn Bric took a no-nonsense approach when it came to military training. During his time training the struggling Domino Squad, the Siniteen drill sergeant told the cadets of the squad he originally had "high hopes" for them, yet their repetitive failures and lack of teamwork caused Bric to lose faith in the squad's abilities. Unlike fellow bounty hunter El-Les, who cared for Domino Squad, Bric did not tolerate failure. The Siniteen told El-Les that he cared little for the struggling squad and was concerned only with the payment that he would receive from the Republic after Domino Squad's training. Bric physically assaulted Domino Squad cadet CT-4040 in an attempt to force some aggression out of him. When the clone neglected to take Bric seriously, Bric called CT-4040 "a real cutup" due to his sense of humor and inability to take anything as more than a joke.
So, how's the figure? Very nicely done, I have to say. I generally tend to stick to Clone Troopers and droids in the Star Wars Clone Wars series, but Bric is an interesting enough alien, with certainly a connection to the Clones, that I decided to bring him in. Besides, I got a kick out of the idea of mail-ordering something for the first time in who knows how long, by actually putting the form and the needed materials in an envelope, sticking a stamp on it, and turning it over to the United States Postal Service...
Bric is a humanoid, and a heavily armored one at that. But it's the head one tends to notice first. His brain is either somewhat externalized or is housed within a form-fitting skull, and it's massive. Bric's skin is a pale pink in color, with undertones of pale gray.
His eyes and nose are relatively normal-looking,although his eyes have been painted a very bright and very metallic gold. Any more metallic and they'd've had to have been chrome plated. His mouth is fairly large, and cast in what looks like a permanent frown, and he has a chin that Jay Leno would envy. Bric has rather pronounced, angular cheekbones, and no visible ears, but they're probably under all that gray-matter somewhere.
Bric is wearing protective armor -- sensible for a Bounty Hunter -- but it's not of Clone Trooper or any other specific design, such as Mandalorian or whatever. It appears somewhat cobbled together from whatever Bric might have been able to buy or scavenge here and there over the course of his adventures.
The torso is mostly gray, with some worn yellow trim on it. The center of the chest appears more pronounced than might be normal for human anatomy, but who knows what Bric's anatomy is like specifically? There are a couple of lights or buttons on one side of the chest. Honestly, the basic design of the chestplate looks more than a little like some of the armor worn by another bounty hunter, Dengar, in Empire Strikes Back. Whether there's a story there, or if a resemblance was even intended, I have no idea.
Bric's arms and legs are armored in mostly brown armor. The shoulder pieces are a dull, flat gold in color, and each has a red emblem on it which looks something like a circle with a couple of angular cuts in it. Bric's lower left arm is also armored in gold, and his lower right arm in a slightly lighter brown.
There's a pouch on the outside of Bric's left leg, and a holster on the right, which descends from a black belt around Bric's waist, that has a silver buckle. This holster contains a small pistol, which to me looks a fair bit like the model used by Han Solo. It sits in the holster well enough, but not all that securely. I'd personally recommend saving the original package bubble, or placing the pistol in a Ziploc bag. The pistol is a nice piece, black with silver painted detailing.
Bric's boots are black. The right one has a red stripe down the front, and a small pouch on the side. The left boot has a strap around the top, with a string of small silver canisters attached to it. I've seen these on X-Wing pilots. Still not sure what precise purpose they're supposed to serve.
Bric is superbly articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows -- with a swivel -- wrists, waist, legs, and knees -- with a swivel. Two things surprise me a little about the articulation. There is no ankle articulation. This isn't that big of a deal, since Bric stands perfectly well. The second is the fact that the figure has waist articulation rather than mid-torso, which seems to be becoming increasingly common. And the design of the torso armor would have readily accommodated a mid-torso articulation without adversely affecting the look of the figure. However, it may be that since the gray color of the armor does continue to the waist, it was decided that it would work out better to give the figure waist articulation instead. And it works out just as well, and looks good.
Along with his pistol, Bric comes with a plastic die, as well as a display stand and card so that he can participate in the Galactic Battle Game, which really makes sense in this case, since he comes with the Battle Mat.
Now, I'm sure it's entirely possible to play the game without the mat. The mat just makes the overall environment a little more interesting. Here's how the game is played.
Each figure's card has six numerical power rankings -- Force Ability, Battle Skills, Intelligence, Mechanical Skill, Leadership, and Luck. Seregant Bric, for example, has a Force Ability of 6, Battle Skills of 13, Intelligence of 14, Mechanical Skills of 9, Leadership of 10, and Luck of 8. There's also a series of power boosts for most of these icons across the top of the power rankings.
Each of these power rankings is represented by a symbol that appears on the plastic die. And if you've been collecting Star Wars figures at all since this particular promotion started, then you've probably got enough of these dice by now to overwhelm a Las Vegas casino.
According to the instructions, printed on the back of every Galactic Battle Game card, each player chooses an equal number of figures to put into battle. Insert the Galactic Battle cards into the bases and attach the matching figures. Choose one of your figures to battle with and decide which player will go first (finally, a use for those collectible coins they used to include -- heads or tails here?).
Roll the die. Match the symbol on the die with the symbol on the left edge of the card and that category's point value. If there's a matching symbol in a power boost notch above the character's name, add those points. The player with the highest total points wins the round. If tied, roll again.
The defeated figure is removed from play. Then choose the next figures to battle and take turns rilling the die until there is only one figure left. The player with the last figure standing wins.
The Game Mat is nicely made. It's fairly thick vinyl, and the game surface includes room for ten figures per side, plus a central area where the current "in play" are matched up. These are shown by outlines that match the design of the display base plus card.
The mat itself measures about 24" x 14", not counting the handles at either end. More on that in a moment. The illustrated image on the mat, very nicely rendered, is divided equally between what looks like a Clone Trooper base and a Geonosian stronghold, on a rocky, desert-like world. The two bases are at the edge of a gorge and a bridge across it which is the meeting place for the current game "combatants". There's a bit of lettering that is not the usual Star Wars "Aurebesh" alphabet spelling out something over the entrance to the Clone Trooper base. I'm not sure what it says. If it was printed on the exit, I'd say it would probably read, "Watch that first step..."
The flip side of the mat is designed to be used as a carrying case. It has flexible vinyl slots for up to twenty figures. These fold out somewhat in order to accommodate the figure. Then the mat folds in half and meets at the top along the two handles that are at either end of the mat, which can be sealed with a bit of Velcro on the insides of the handles. While I would consider this a reasonable means of transporting the figures, I'd be a little more reluctant to do so if the figures had small accessories with them. There's no real way to seal the individual pouches, and I can well imagine a small child packing up some figures and running down the street to visit a friend, and leaving a trail of blasters, lightsabers, and rifles in his wake.
Nevertheless, the Game Mat is a very decently made item, colorful, and designed to work well with the principles of the game.
So, what's my final word? Overall, I'm impressed. Sergeant Bric has, as of this writing, not been released into the general Clone Wars line, and I see no indication that there are any plans to do so, so this mail order offer, which admittedly has run its course, was the only way to get him directly from Hasbro. Granted, there's always the secondary market. He's an interesting, well-made, and well-designed figure that certainly has a history with the Clone Army, so he certainly deserves to be part of the action figure line.
The Game Mat is nicely made, if perhaps not quite as practical a carrying case as it purports to be, and does lend itself to structuring the Galactic Battle Game a little better than just spreading a bunch of figures out randomly on a blank table surface.
Overall, both Bric and the Game Mat make for a very nice item, which I believe any Star Wars collector would enjoy.
The STAR WARS CLONE WARS GALACTIC BATTLE GAME MAT with SERGEANT BRIC definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!