Ambush at Weathertop Review
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Fellow Tolkien-philes, if you have any addictions please read no further. Even if they are as innocent as coffee, books, or … the … or as vile as cigarettes, Rings of Power, or barenjager… I have found something far worse, far more troubling indeed. Something few amongst us has the power to resist, and I claim no responsibility for luring you down the slippery slopes into the realm of collecting…

Armies of Middle Earth is an apt title for the new Lord of the Rings figure line from PlayAlong Toys. There are enough figures in the first wave alone to build an army. There are so many cool figures planned for this line, it will cost you more than it takes to feed an army in order to buy them all. In the end, it will take an army to stand between you and buying yet another Uruk-Hai set to flesh out your Helm’s Deep playset.

It is my pleasure and privilege to bring you a series of reviews of these dynamic little fellows.

There are several different formats for the AOME figures. The basic figures are sold in sets of three, the figures on horseback are packaged individually, and there are boxed sets including a catapult or battering ram with Uruk-Hai. There are medium size playsets featuring The Bridge of Khazad-Dum (with the first plastic Balrog figure anywhere), and Saruman’s lair in Orthanc. There is a super deluxe playset of Helm’s Deep at the top of the line, and I’m told there are many more figures, accessories, playsets, and add-ons for your playsets to come.

Super action-figure collector extraordinaire that I am, I still had to admit that I’ve never quite seen an action figure like this before. These guys are small. Really small. Most stand less than 3″ tall, smaller than a Star Wars figure. It’s unfair to judge them the way you would any larger action figure, because the scale does not allow for the same level of articulation — especially when you pack in as much detail as PlayAlong has. Each figure is fully outfitted exactly as you saw them in the films — with sculpted belts, quivers, and all. Each includes a weapon accessory and a small base to keep them upright. The paint detail is fantastic for such small figures — take a look at the hairs on the hobbit feet, or Eowyn’s face, and tell me you’re not impressed.

The AOME line is totally innovative for its scale — traditionally dominated by static PVC slugs. Most figures are articulated at the shoulders, and some, like Frodo have, neck and waist articulation. The Ringwraiths for instance have no movement at all due to the heavy robes — but they make up for the lack with excellent poses and detail. The accessories are tiny — and Play Along must have spent a fair amount of time figuring the best way to get each to attach to the figure. Some are simply held in the hands, but some items like the bows and arrows have male plugs that fit into matching female holes hidden inside the grasping hands. Some figures will stand alone, others will not. The hobbits and Eowyn have male plugs on the bottom of their feet, so they must be attached to their base in order to stand. Some bases work better than others — my Rohirrim Soldier doesn’t want to stand at all, while Gandalf (from the Balrog set) won’t fall down (You… Shall Not Fall!).

I think we all owe Play Along a huge shout of appreciation for taking on this scale, allowing us to recreate our favorite scenes without buying tons of $8 per figure 6″ Toy Biz figs, and then finding the space to store it all. But I’ll be honest, there are some disappointments mixed in with the joys — some figures are decidedly better than other. No matter, the AOME figures offer exactly what they promise, for the right price at the right size. As a kid, this toy line would have easily beat out my Star Wars, Battle Beast, and M.U.S.C.L.E. men collections. As a full-grown adult, AOME is still a dream come true.

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