Update: for the base that comes with this set, see post 30 below.

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This new release by TBLeague (formerly Phicen) arrived Stateside over the last couple of weeks. At first I thought I would pick up just the head sculpt, but later decided that I like the whole set. This is fairly unusual for me: I like fantasy and historical figures well enough, but not necessarily the combination of the two. I did not pick up, for example, TBLeague's Athena or Majestic Crusader and others, although I did buy some of the parted out pieces for kitbashing and customs. The only boxed TBLeague sets I own besides this one, are the first Arhian and the first Hercules.

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The present set appears to be part of TBLeague's "Spartan" series, which included the Sparta Warrior and Captain Sparta, and possibly other products. I do not know whether any or all of these are based on any particular comic book series or artwork or just the result of TBLeague's imagination (let me know in the comments). Although I liked the Sparta Warrior (or at least the head sculpt), I missed out on that one, but this one I noticed in a timely fashion. So here it is. Before the actual review, just in case someone is laboring under misapprehension, there is no such thing as a Spartan Goddess of War in real history and mythology: there was the goddess Athena, whom all Greeks worshiped as goddess of wisdom and military skill and strategy, and there was the goddess Artemis, a chaste huntress and patroness of wildlife (and also divine representation of the moon), who served as patron goddess of Sparta together with her twin brother Apollon. But this is not really either of the above. As so often in these TBLeague releases, there is some evident confusion between Greek and Roman art and style; the shield, for example, is of an unmistakenly Roman type, as is the helmet's crest. Some features, of course, are pure fantasy, neither Greek nor Roman.

Packaging -- 4/4 stars

The Spartan Goddess of War comes in a large sturdy box typical for TBLeague's boxed sets. In this instance, it is black, with stylized weathered silverish labeling and an image of the figure's helmet. You open the box by removing the front and sides, which are held in place with magnets. Inside you find three nestled black foam trays. The top one holds the figure, the head (which does not come attached), arm and leg armor and armored belt, and the extra hands; the middle tray holds the shield and helmet; the bottom tray holds the elaborate base, the mantle, spear, and sword. Apart from the cool "lid" and the very collector-friendly use of foam trays (which I greatly appreciate and much prefer over the plastic trays we encounter so frequently), there is nothing particularly special about the packaging. But it is sturdy and dependable, which is its purpose.

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Sculpting -- 4/4 stars

The quality and appearance of the sculpted items is excellent. This includes the face sculpt, which is attractive and fairly neutral while still slightly tense -- a better alternative than something overly emotive or entirely bland. Many of TBLeague's earlier releases featured rather odd-looking sculpts, and it is nice to see a more attractive and realistic one here. The hands and sandaled feet are very finely sculpted. She stands about 29 cm (11.4 in) tall, without the helmet.

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The sculpted detail on the plastic armor is both sharp and worn-looking (some of this is attempted on the shield, too), even if in the somewhat sanitized and simplistic manner we have seen Greek art conveyed in 60s swords-and-sandals movies. The detail on the weapons is very crisp (and un-worn). The disparity between them and the armor is a bit disconcerting. In TBLeague tradition (but unlike most other companies out there), the base is an elaborately sculpted and fairly large piece, complete with damaged weaponry, armor, and skulls and bones.

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Paint -- 3.5/4 stars

The body has a very basic TBLeague "new" suntan paint application, which matches the head sculpt, hands, and feet very well (perhaps more so in hand than in the photos).

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Elsewhere the paint is also very well done throughout, but there are exceptions: note, for example, one end of the sword's hand-grip and the thin sides of the sculpted sandal thongs. As with the sculpting, there seems to be a disparity between different pieces: the paint work on the armor is intended to convey a weathered look, while other elements, like the weapons, are clean and crisp; the shield, which features some sculpted damage, is given a very pristine paint job. One of the most intricate paint jobs is on the ornate base, where dirt and weathering have been applied to the surface and the littered broken pieces of armor, weaponry, and skeletal remains.

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Articulation -- 4/4 stars

Given the revealing outfit and localized armor, the figure's articulation is largely unimpeded, allowing pretty much the full range of motion of the TBLeague stainless steel super-flexible silicone bodies. This includes the ankles, knees, elbows, abdomen, and neck; only the wrists are a little bit restricted, but much of that can be overcome by forcing the vambraces a little bit farther up the arms. Overall, the body is able to replicate pretty all average human poses, and I have not attempted any photos to illustrate the full limits of flexibility.

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Accessories -- 3.5/4 stars

This category is difficult to rate for several reasons -- being unfamiliar with the source material (if any), I cannot tell how much is present or missing from the provided selection; also, how does one differentiate between outfit and accessory. I will consider the molded pieces (representing metal armor and weaponry) as accessories. These include the finely sculpted helmet, neck/chest armor, vambraces (for the lower arms), an armored belt with leather pteruges (strips), greaves for the lower legs, a Roman-style shield, a Greek-style sword, and a rather fantastical spear with ornate spearhead and spear-butt. The fantasy or other source of inspiration perhaps excuses the mismatching of styles and details. While the weapons are overly pristine for my taste, I found he mirror surface of the cast-metal sword pretty cool (see sculpt photo above). One disappointment is the crest on the helmet. This is intended to represent the ostrich (or similar) crests familiar from Roman parade helmets, but it is made of a rather cheap-looking (and -feeling) material.

Except for the neck/chest armor which comes in place in the box, all armor accessories have to be placed on the figure by the owner. In the case of the belt you would have to thread the provided thread through holes in the end parts of the belt, which is almost surprisingly easy, as the ends of the thread have been stiffened. The vambraces slide up the lower arms after you remove the hands. The greaves have little leatherlike straps with tiny hooks, which are easy to hook in place on the back of the lower legs.

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The figure comes with three sets of hands: pointing hands, sword-grip hands, and hands in an odd gesture (with the thumb and first two fingers extended, the rest folded in), which come on the figure in the box. The hands swap easily enough, but you can help matters by heating them up with a hair-dryer. The absence of closed fist and relaxed hands is somewhat surprising.

Finally, there is the elaborate base (it is not a stand, as there is nothing specifically holding the figure up). It is a cool, if not overly practical piece, and I have already commented on the fine sculpt and paint execution on it and the various details strewn all over it.

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Outfit -- 3/4 stars

In this category I include the soft goods items that come with the figure. This includes three items. The chest wrap (not to call it a brassiere) and short skirt are made of a rough red material that is badly thorn and frayed on the edges. That is clearly intentional, though it does not necessarily look very natural (a water treatment might help) and might be considered unlikely for a goddess -- even one of war. The third piece is the cape. If the first two pieces looked overly rag-like, the cape appears to be overly pristine -- it is too perfect (except perhaps for coming out of the box somewhat neatly creased) by comparison, and features a nice brooch, some leather thongs, and a fine threaded detail running along its edges. Once again, the disparity between different pieces in the same category seems a little disturbing to me. I do appreciate the fact that the outfit does not restrict the figure's articulation.

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Fun Factor -- 4/4 stars

If you have been collecting TBLeague's earlier "Sparta" releases and their Athena, this would be a natural and welcome addition to your collection. You can also display the Spartan Goddess of War well enough with other rather fantastically-recreated Ancient Greeks, like the figures from the 300 films produced by Hot Toys and Star Ace. With excellent articulation and a great (if historically and artistically unconvincing) look, the figure is bound to give the collector plenty of options when it comes to play and display.

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Value -- 3/4 stars

As usual for this category, it depends on how much you pay for your figure. The basic price in the United States tends to be $155-156, although at least one retailer has listed it for $235 (discounted to $210). If you get a brand new boxed set for $155, you are getting a pretty decent deal -- while it is certainly pricey, it is actually very decent compared to the increasingly exorbitant prices demanded by other companies' products. You get a fine head, an excellent body, a non-restrictive outfit, and a cool (if fantastical) armor, shield and weapons, not to mention the elaborate (if not very practical) base. And that's not bad these days. Something worth mentioning, since it comes up frequently in discussions: the finished product looks just like the prototype featured in the promotional materials -- no surprise or disappointment here.

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Things to Watch Out for

Nothing much. As I always say, heating the hands (and sometimes feet) before removing or installing might be helpful, especially if you encounter difficulties. Nothing is particularly flimsy or overly delicate in this set, but it's a good idea to be careful with the little leather straps on the cape; the ones on the greaves are simpler to use. The figure stands fine on its own, but if you live in an earthquake-prone area or are posing it in a more challenging position, you might want to employ a stand; but even if she tumbles, she seems resilient enough (which is only appropriate for a War Goddess).

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Overall -- 3.5 stars

Unlike most of the action figures I have reviewed, this one is not based on a specific film, game, or work of art (that I am aware of, at any rate). That means that I am not holding it to any specific source material, and consequently it is easier to give it higher marks in several categories. That said, this is a pretty good product, featuring a good look, excellent articulation, a number of accessories, and a generally high quality of execution. Moreover, if you do not end up using the figure as designed, you might still find it useful for kitbashing and customization.

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Score recap (out of 4 stars)

Packaging -- 4 stars
Sculpting -- 4 stars
Paint -- 3.5 stars
Articulation -- 4 stars
Accessories -- 3.5 stars
Fun Factor -- 4 stars
Value -- 3 stars
Overall -- 3.5 stars

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Where to buy:

Big Bad Toy Store $155

Black Ops Toys $210 (reduced from $235; more discounts might apply)

Cotswold Collectibles $156

Monkey Depot $155

Timewalker Toys $156

Or look on eBay

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#phicen #tbleague #sparta #goddess #female #fantasy
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