Enter then, Mike Biasi from the USA. After upscaling an Epic Titan to 28mm, Mike secured a licence from Games Workshop to produce a range of 40k vehicles based on the Epic designs under the trading name Mike Biasi Studios. Soon, other companies were in on the act, with Epicast, Armorcast and Forgeworld USA holding licences for various vehicles until Games Workshop set up its own in-house, large scale resin casting unit (Forgeworld).
The Eldar Tempest is unusual in that not only was it one of the largest non-titan kits produced, but that Mike Biasi's original sculpt was reworked and put into production no less than three times (Mike Biasi Studios, Forgeworld USA, Armorcast), over a period spanning at least 6 years!
Although all three kits are clearly based on the original Biasi sculpt, there are numerous little differences between the kits in terms of detailing and refinement. The original Biasi kit is easily the roughest in terms of finish, whereas the middle Armorcast kit is most polished. As I own all three kits, here's a little overview of those tiny little differences!
Mike Biasi Studios - Blue
Armorcast - Unpainted
Forgeworld USA - Red (black underside)
All three hulls have little tweaks and changes to minor detailing, although the overal structure is identical. The underside shows off the biggest difference; the production information, although detailing is minimal as you were never going to see this during a battle:
|Mike Biasi original (unsure of year of production, I guess 1989)
|Forgeworld USA, 1995
|Hull shuriken catapults, clearly with longer muzzles on the Forgeworld USA version
|Look at the hull details - two indentations on the Biasi original, only one on the later Armorcast & Forgeworld USA versions
|Engine pods, rather crude on the Mike Biasi version
|And more minor hull variation on the other side
|The engine grill also has a slight change; the cruder Biasi version is refined for both later incarnations
It's not just the hull that has these differences; the turret also has one or two:
|Only the Armorcast turret has copyright information on the underside
|Check out the differences in the muzzles; the Biasi versions (right) are noticably greater diamater than the later versions, while the Armorcast (centre) are longer and tapered
|On the tiny little turrets, the Biasi version last the locking nubs to keep the turret in place
|Finally, check out the detailing here - the Biasi muzzles are flat ended, while the later versions are slanted and have some bored details
Only last week I was talking to a friend of mine who recalled the rather inaccessible nature of these kits here in the UK back in the early 1990s. You could only get hold of them with suitable funds, international money orders or credit cards; wholly out of reach for gamers in their early teens. When you combined that exclusivity with the incredible nature of the kits - bigger and more exciting than anything you'd seen on a table before - they really did represent the pinnacle of a 40k gamer.
The internet and Forgeworld have moved things on - big kits are now widely available, frequently seen and perhaps not as exciting as they were in 1992. Or perhaps its just because I'm wearing my rose-tinted glasses again!