Wednesday, 28 August 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2007 (Timelines) Boxed Set: Games of Deception

For one reason or another all the BotCon sets produced by Fun Publications end up being contentious, but 2007's is easily the most controversial. Hasbro, at the time, had released only three of the Decepticon jets - Starscream, Ramjet and Skywarp, with the latter only being available in a 2-pack with Ultra Magnus. All the indications were that none more would be produced (apart from the occasional rerelease/repaint of Starscream, for no obvious reason), and so FunPub took the opportunity to satisfy their members Seeker and Conehead OCD by creating their own versions of Thundercracker, Dirge and Thrust.

The outcry was stunning, possibly the stuff of fandom legend... But that was nothing to the outcry of some of those who bought the set, only for Takara Tomy, then Hasbro, to release their own version of the missing three Decepticon jets, with entirely new wings for the remaining two Coneheads... but was the Botcon set worth all the fuss?

Based on the original Hasbro Classics packaging style, the front of the box features artwork by Don Figueroa and coloured by Chris Appel, framed with the distinctive metallic textured framework. To this day, it's probably the most dynamic and interesting bit of box art BotCon has had, and it's rather a shame they keep changing the look of the packaging, rather than sticking with artwork like this, and just changing the furniture each year.

Inside the box are all the models (naturally), their bio cards and instruction sheets, the BotCon 2007 enamel badge, the Games of Deception comic and a certificate of authenticity - all the usual BotCon guff. Nothing especially noteworthy.

As a crossover character, both in the Japanese toyline and the Collectors' Club fiction, Bugbite was and odd character to include in a BotCon set, and a bit of a risk. The impression I got was that he's a collector of technologies, though his bio card just says he's yet another character 'shrouded in mystery'.

Vehicle Mode:
Strangely, this was one of my main reasons for wanting this set, rather than - for example - the remolded head for Dreadwind. Not that I have any special attachment to Go-Bots (I bought maybe half a dozen... but they weren't a patch on TransFormers) and, in any case, the official Go-Bots Bugbite was... a yellow VW Beetle, not unlike a certain Autobot espionage specialist.

No, what attracted me to this model - aside from it being a more than competent upgrade for a G1 Mini Autobot - was the completely new, off the wall colourscheme. It's actually a reference to the e-Hobby Go-Bot pack, featuring six Mini Autobot molds repainted (loosely speaking) as toys from Bandai's Go-Bots/Robo Machines toyline. He's a very slightly off-white, pearlish colour for the most part, with vivid purple 'tribal tattoo' patterns on the bonnet, roof and sides. I call him Goth Bumblebee and, in many ways, he looks like a kind of proto-Shattered Glass Bumblebee. You can almost see this guy getting rebuilt into the Galaxy Force Exillion mold as Shattered Glass Goldbug.

He comes with the same jetski accessory as the original Classics release, but with the paint pattern reversed - darker colour at the front - and in white and metallic purple rather than white and orange.

Robot Mode:
Yep, it's Goth Bumblebee alright. And whereas the slight smile on the original looked confident an optimistic, the same smile somehow looks rather sinister in this colourscheme, and with all those tattoos. There are no changes to the mold and, other than the tattoos, the placement of the paintwork is pretty much the same as Bumblebee... Where Classics 'Bee has blue patches on his shoulders, Bugbite has red.

I'm not quite sure why this amuses me so much, but it's easily my favourite of the set...

And here's where the set got completely and utterly contentious. Hasbro had released Starscream and Skywarp... but no Thundercracker. Those with Seeker OCD went utterly ballistic. I'm not sure why, since Hasbro seems intent on releasing either Skywarp or Thundercracker, never both,  in any one toyline. It is infuriating and, when you have a mold as good as the Classics Seeker - or, for that matter, the Masterpiece Seeker, it seems like a huge waste to neglect one of the iconic trio in favour of fringe characters (Acid Storm, I'm looking at you!).

Vehicle Mode:
The paintwork does an excellent job of following the stickers from the G1 model, even down to the unusual colour patches above his intakes. That said, considering both Starscream and Skywarp had their paintwork updated in a fairly imaginative way, it's actually fairly disappointing to see nothing new about his stripes. Also, the stripes on his wings seem to finish rather abruptly, rather than following the shape of the wing. Still, it's a competent job, even if it is unoriginal.

Thundercracker comes with the standard Seeker 'Null Ray' type missiles.

Robot Mode:
If jet mode was unimaginative in its paintwork, robot mode fairs a little better, with additional patches of silver on his shoulders, the vents below his knees, and the inner parts of his feet. The protrusions on his shins are painted black nice and accurately, rather than having the paint spill over onto the rest of his shins as it does on Skywarp.

This is, again, a competent job and, while the photos don't accurately reproduce his blue, I don't think the colour FunPub used was quite right in the first place...

The first of FunPub's Coneheads has completely new wings and tailfins, which appears to have taken up most of the budget for remolded parts in this set.

Vehicle Mode:
Thrust looks like good, sharp update on the G1 model. The main wings seem a little short, but I guess those additional rotors are enough to keep him aloft...

Due to some strange manufacturing mixup, the two screws that hold each wing together were placed on the top of the wings, rather than underneath. The solution, it seems, was to add stickers over the tops of the screw holes. Not sure what they're supposed to represent - some strange, wing-mounted energy weapon perhaps - but at least they don't completely ruin the look of the jet.

His paintwork is, again, pretty slavishly G1, but it looks quite cool overall. Since the wings are so short, the striping is pretty minimal, but the 'swish' on his tailfins looks great. Going by the molding of the wings, it would appear that the wing tips were meant to be decorated with white and red stripes.

Thrust is armed with Ramjet's long, fat missiles.

Robot Mode:
The obvious drawback to the small size of Thrust's wings is that you can barely see them from the front in robot mode. The large arms and massive weapons basically cover them completely, you just see a sliver of the rotor mountings.

The tail fins don't do such a good job of acting as a heel as the standard Seeker kind and, while the wings are smaller, they're overall bulkier, so Thrust has a tendency to be a little back-heavy.

For the most part, the paintwork in robot mode is pretty cool, with touches of silver breaking up what would have been black on the original G1 model... but, for no obvious reason, they decided to add a rather lurid yellow to his chest turbines, the side panels of his hip area and the tiny notches at the top of his knees... The only other place that colour occurs is his eyes, so it doesn't really fit the model that well.

Another controversial addition to the set, because he's a straight repaint of Ramjet rather than having the distinctive wings of the G1 model. Had Thrust not been so extensively reworked, they might have been able to give Dirge his traditional wing configuration.

Vehicle Mode:
This is probably the biggest disappointment of the set, despite having a pretty darned good paint job. Making matters worse, it wasn't long after BotCon 2007 that Takara Tomy announced their Henkei Dirge, with remolded wings, which Hasbro inevitably picked up and released in the Generations line with a more G1-styled paint job. This jet looks good... but it just ain't Dirge. He's even armed with Ramjet's chunky missiles, when the standard 'Null Ray' missiles would have been slightly more appropriate.

Robot Mode:
Strangely, it seems that a bit more thought (not much, just a bit) went into decorating Dirge. Where all the Seekers and Coneheads have had some degree of paintwork in their shoulder protrusions, it's generally been limited to flatly colouring the entire back panel, or the ridged section at the bottom, or both. Dirge, for some strange reason, has warranted the addition of red triangles, referencing the pattern on the stickers on his G1 model. In spite of this, Dirge almost feels like the filler of the set.

As the largest model in the set, Dreadwind basically had to be something special. He's an update of the G1 Powermaster Dreadwind using the Classics Jetfire mold. Considering Powermasters haven't turned up in TransFormers fiction - or the Timelines range - since the latter days of Generation 1 this seemed like a completely bizarre choice for Games of Deception. On the upside, the remolded head looked just right and, aside from stability issues in robot mode, the Classics Jetfire mold is a good, solid model.

Vehicle Mode:
It is an interesting choice, because Jetfire was a heavy-duty jet, and featured an additional rocket booster pack that is utterly dissimilar to either the Super Pack or the Strike Pack from Macross (though only because it's purple!). G1 Dreadwind was a far sleeker jet, based on an F-16, and it was his partner, Darkwing, who was based on a swing-wing jet. Confused yet?

The colourscheme follows the G1 model quite accurately, and really suits the model. I'm most impressed by the paintwork on the wings, because it appears that they tried to design the paint template to leave all the panel lines clear. They don't match up especially well on mine, so he has some additional lines of unpainted grey plastic between the two minty shades of green.

Robot Mode:
The big selling point of this model was the new head, sculpted by TF comic artist Dan Khanna. It's an excellent design - both a homage to and a brilliant update of the G1 head... but, like Jetfire's head, it just seems so small on this body. Making matters worse, Classics Jetfire's helmet remains an important part of vehicle mode, so the same helmet - completely unmodified apart from minor additions to the paint job - remains for Dreadwind. I would have thought a better plan would have been to remold the helmet to look like G1 Dreadwind, and keep the Jetfire head the same underneath...

Due to the strange combination of minty greens and purple, Dreadwind looks even more like a mechanical butterfly-man than Jetfire in robot mode. A heavily tooled-up butterfly-man, but still a butterfly-man. As well as the spring-loaded launchers, Dreadwind retains Jetfire's connectable handguns and, of course, the flip-out guns in his booster backpack.

For all the controversy it caused, I can't help but feel, in retrospect, rather disappointed by this set and the opportunities FunPub missed rather than those they 'stole' from the main toyline. I like that all the Deluxe jets and Bugbite are molded largely in metallic flake plastic, giving the jets a nice sheen and Bugbite a pearlescent finish, and Dreadwind actually works pretty well in the Classics Jetfire mold... I particularly like the efforts made in the paintwork, harking back to the stickers of the G1 jet models... but, in their rush to complete the Seekers and Coneheads for the OCD collectors, FunPub created a set with too much repetition... Though perhaps it's not as bad as the insect repaints in the 2005 set. At least the Seeker/Conehead mold is solid, reliable and impressive... if a little overused by now.

Compared to other BotCon sets, one remolded head and one set of remolded wings seems pretty minimal, but the average TransFormers head tends to be two or three parts at most, and many BotCon head sculpts are single parts only. Dreadwind's head is a two-parter, and each of Thrust's new wings is made up of at least two parts, with the new tail fins adding another two parts. Effort was made with this set... but I can't help but think it was misdirected.

For BotCon attendees, there were extra figures like a translucent blue Mirage (meant to represent his electro-disruptor in action), Springer repainted from Galaxy Force Exigeyser/Cyberton Defence Hot Shot, Weirdwolf repainted from GF Fang Wolf/C Snarl, Alpha Trion repainted from GF/C Vector Prime and with a new head, and Huffer repainted from C Armorhide. All but Alpha Trion appeared in the Games of Deception comic, while Elita-1 - who did appear in the comic - had to wait another two years before the Club turned her into a toy. Overall, 2007's collection was a bit of a jumble...

The comic is the fairly typical BotCon story - it feels unfinished and, other than Bugbite, the characters in the boxed set aren't exactly prominent in the story, taking second place to characters from the mainline Classics toy range, such as Grimlock, Ultra Magnus and Megatron. The titular deception is remarkably poor, doesn't lead anywhere, and connects only tenuously to any other Club fiction - Bugbite having turned up in the Club prose story 'Withered Hope'. His vendetta is left unfulfilled and, as the reader, I was left wondering what the ultimate point of the story was. It's been hinted that Bugbite isn't dead (having your head blown off isn't fatal for a Go-Bot, it seems) so perhaps he'll return with a new plan... The choice of characters in the story was probably its undoing, since none of them really lend themselves to a coherent, complete story.


  1. Howdy Gord, Great review of the figures from this set and you bring up some good points about the repetition. This one was my first Botcon set I think and at the time I was pretty excited. Having said that though, I haven't glanced at it since. I am still in two minds as to which is the better Thust out of Hasbro, Funpub and Taktom. Still not decided yet and I really wish the guns were smaller for the seekers too.

    Bugbit is pretty cool and apparently in the Gobots cartoon his brain was in his chest, iirc. Which I may not.

    1. Thanks Tets, much appreciated!

      My only real gripe with the Hasbro/Takara Tomy version of Thrust is with the wing rotors being removable - they either sit on the wings or underneath them, when they were part of the wings on the G1 version. I guess the option of repositioning them is interesting and adds to play value... but what purpose does it actually serve? (OK, perhaps TransFormers is the wrong toyline to be a fan of if I like things to make sense :P).

      I think you're right about the positioning of Go-Bot brains, as I'm sure I've read that elsewhere.