Bruticus Week: Toy Review Combiner Wars Swindle

Bruticus Week!

Bruticus Week: day 2

Swindle, The Arms Dealer

Swindle is one of those characters who doesn’t change all that much throughout his many appearances in the Transformers mythos: G1 Swindle, TFA Swindle and Aligned Continuity (that’s TF: Prime and the War For/Fall Of Cybertron video games) Swindle are all much of a muchness, which is a tribute to the instantly recognisable aesthetic and distinctive characterisation that this Decepticon has enjoyed all along. Swindle is an enthusiastic profiteer: an arms dealer who sees the Autobot/Decepticon war as an opportunity to sell a whole lot of guns, ammo and the other grim necessities of war. It’s a depiction that reaches its zenith in Transformers Animated, where Swindle is shown to have his own personal transwarp storage dimension, the doorway to which is inside his chest, so that he always has access to his vast stockpile of dubiously acquired guns and gadgets in eager readiness for a quick, no questions asked, sale.

"Trust me..."

“Trust me…”

Swindle is not only my favourite Combaticon but (after Starscream) one of my favourite Decepticons full stop, so ever since I heard Bruticus was set to be a part of Combiner Wars I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on this figure. Was he worth the wait? Let’s find out…

Nothing’s Free

Swindle comes carded in the standard Combiner Wars Deluxe packet. I like how Hasbro have gone for more a militaristic green colour-scheme for the Combaticons’ packaging. He’s packed with one of those pointless trading cards and a comic (Combiner Wars #4 which is actually IDW’s Robots in Disguise #12 with a new Swindle-specific cover). Accessory-wise he comes with a gun of his own and Bruticus’ foot/fist, which can pass as a double-barrelled gun if you squint a lot (Swindle, undoubtedly could persuade you it’s a double-barrelled gun and bargain too at only 2,000 Shanix).

Swindle, MISB.

Swindle, MISB.

A lot of mould reuse / retooling has gone on in the Combiner Wars line with some reappropriations being more successful and convincing than others. I should probably hold up my hands now and confess that, for me, this line has always been all about my main man Bruticus and I’ve held off getting a number of other figures in previous waves with the intention of saving money and shelf-space for the Combaticons. So some of these moulds are likely to seem more fresh to me than to folk who’ve bought extensively in previous waves.

Swindle is actually an extensive revision of Protectobot Rook, who turned into a SWAT van. We don’t own Rook to do a direct comparison but from everything I’ve seen and read elsewhere this is a very complete and satisfying remould, and, as big Swindle fan, I can confirm that the figure in front of me certainly does feel like it’s the wheeler-dealer himself rather than another robot trying to cosplay him.

As Swindle comes packed in robot mode, let’s look at that first…

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Let’s not beat around the bush, as a standalone character this version of Swindle nails it. Like most of the Combiner Wars figures his design is heavily nostalgic for G1 without being a slavish copy of his ultra-boxy original form. Indeed, the aesthetic of Combiner Wars Deluxe Swindle also seems to pay particular respect to his memorable incarnation in Transformers Animated, particularly with regards to the colours and patterning on his chest which is all fake jeep detailing. Not only is this patterning not visible in vehicle mode, it doesn’t even resemble the front of the jeep he turns in to! I love wry, knowing little references like this.

Compare the Swindles: (left) G1 Swindle (screenshot from episode 62 "Starsceam's Brigade") and (right) TFA Swindle (screenshot from Episode 24 "S.U.V: Society of Ultimate Villainy"

Compare the Swindles! Left: G1 Swindle (screenshot from episode 62 “Starscream’s Brigade”). Right: TFA Swindle (screenshot from Episode 24 “S.U.V: Society of Ultimate Villainy”

Deluxe Class Combiner Wars Swindle

Deluxe Class Combiner Wars Swindle

I really like the colours they’ve used here: that mustard could so easily have fallen the wrong side of being either garish or insipid, but instead it offers a good match with his original G1 colour-scheme, while also fitting the muted military aesthetic of most (Vortex, I’m looking at you) of the rest of his team.

Unlike, say, Combiner Wars Mirage, Swindle doesn’t have any glaring screw holes and the combiner joint in his chest, while visible, is well camouflaged amidst some really nice sculpted detailing. Among my favourite sculpting on this figure are the black bars on his legs and arms which are kibble from the rollcage of his jeep mode. Again this design represents a significant departure from the much smoother, cleaner lines of the legs on SWAT van Rook. It’s only really the articulation points and therefore the transformation sequence that seem to be largely the same from the earlier mould.

As a salesman, Swindle knows that eye-contact and facial expressions are really important. You’ll notice he’s the only member of the Combaticons who has neither a full visor nor a faceplate. Putting the “deceit” into “Decepticon,” this guy needs you to look him in the eye and let you fall for his winning smile. Fortunately Hasbro recognised the importance of this too and have given Combiner Wars Swindle the superb head sculpt he really deserved. The head is the finest part of this figure: great detailing, correct colours, and fittingly characterful. Ball-jointed, his head can also be tilted as well as turned, which pleases me greatly.

Swindle's superb facial detailing

Swindle’s superb facial detailing

When I first saw it I’ll admit I was a tiny bit disappointed that he didn’t have more of a smirk but that set grimace has really grown on me. While a smirk would have represented a great “post-handshake” Swindle, this is the entrepreneur in determined, pre-sales mode: a potential customer has been sighted, lets go make an offer they can’t refuse.

With such chunky leg pieces it’s no surprise to find Swindle is a sturdy and stable figure. Although the ball-joints at the top of his legs could be a little tighter he passes the one leg test without difficulty.

Kicking or dancing, you tell me?

Kicking or dancing, you tell me?

Definitely kicking here

Definitely kicking here

His weapons can be slotted firmly into his tubular fists or mounted in the ports on his shoulders. Ball-joint articulation at his shoulders together with ratcheted elbows allows him to hold a good number of poses although the stumpiness of his forearms does limit slightly precisely where his guns can be aimed.

Wielding both his gun and his Bruticus foot/gun

Wielding both his gun and his Bruticus foot/gun

The rear view of Swindle’s bot-mode is dominated by his backpack piece, made up of the bonnet of his jeep mode. It sticks out a long way, which isn’t ideal: indeed, at first I thought I’d mis-transformed him and kept looking for a way to slot that piece in more tightly. But it doesn’t look too bad overall and – as TF “backpacks” go it’s slimness and partial hollowness actually ranks it among the less obtrusive ones. There are a couple of visible screws here too but the jeep bonnet does a decent enough job of overshadowing them. So not the smartest behind I’ve ever seen but let’s be honest, with a face like that, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to display Swindle with his back to you.

Rear view of Combiner Wars Swindle

Rear view of Combiner Wars Swindle

Money Is Power

Swindle’s alt-mode is a military style jeep. I don’t believe it’s based on a specific real-life vehicle (correct me if I’m wrong) but with its sandy colouring and chunky tyres it certainly resembles something I could imagine being used to support desert operations. Getting from robot to vehicle mode is a fairly simple and intuitive procedure, the only problem I had was moving his head, which is on an extremely stiffly-hinged neckplate. It’s also a little tricky to line up his arms correctly. Overall, though, it’s a pleasing enough 12-step transformation sequence, which really emphasises what a smart and innovative redesign of the Rook mould Swindle is, since their overall shape is the same yet they turn into very different looking vehicles.

Swindle in jeep mode. Check out those bag details

Swindle in jeep mode. It’s slightly annoying that his rear Decepticon logo turns out horizontal. But check out those fabulous bag details.

All the sculpted detailing in the mustard plastic really comes into its own in Swindle’s vehicle mode. I’m especially fond of the row of little bags you can see on each of the side panels. These are in-keeping with his ”in disguise” flavour as a desert support vehicle (you could imagine them being filled with gear for the troops) but also, equally, with the characterisation of Swindle himself (they could be filled with items he wants to flog or cash from past deals!) It’s a really nice little extra touch.

In jeep mode, Swindle has a roof mount for his weapons. Indeed, it’s a very prominent post which looks a bit silly with nothing on it, so weapon mounting isn’t a option extra here, it’s very much part of the figure, but hey he’s a COMBATicon, weapons are to be expected!

Armed and ready!

Armed and ready!

Sealing the Deal

I said above that Swindle really works “as a standalone figure” and you could certainly enjoy this great quality toy without needing to buy the rest of the team. And that’s an interesting thing about Swindle: he’s one of my all time favourite characters but B and I both agree that his involvement with the Combaticons never quite convinces. Combiners are a team and Swindle just never strikes me as that much of a team player. I guess he’s out to get the best result for himself and surely there’s a lot to be gained from the power and threat-level that comes with being part of Bruticus, so you can  justify his presence in that way. But to us Swindle has always felt like the least likely team member. So it’s fitting really that the only real issues we have with this otherwise great toy are in the way he interacts with the other Combaticons.

"Buy Brawl's gun and I'll throw in Blast Off's at half price"

“Buy Brawl’s gun off me and I’ll throw in Blast Off’s half price”

I’m talking particularly about scale. In robot mode Swindle is a little stockier than I’d expect from the character, particularly around the shoulders but there’s so much to love about his Bot mode design that this slight extra chunkiness soon ceases to register. Until, that is, you stand him next to Brawl and discover than in both robot and vehicle modes Swindle is the larger. B will be examining Brawl in more detail tomorrow and you’ll see then that the characters look good together in terms of shared aesthetics, but when it comes to scale there’s something way that the jeep-bot here is chunkier than the tank.

There are reasons for this, of course. Firstly it’s that scale has never been a strong point in the TF milieu – more on that when we get to Blast Off later in the week. The second reason can be summed up simply as #CombinerProblems. Swindle needs to hold his own in his third mode as a limb for Bruticus, and if one leg is based on a tank and the other on a jeep, you’re going to need a very large jeep or a very small tank otherwise you’ll be looking at one lopsided combiner.

Since all the Combiner Wars Deluxes can do arm or leg mode, Swindle could easily transform into an arm… but here on Addaltmode we’ve chosen to keep the traditional G1 Bruticus arrangement, whereby Brawl and Swindle make up the legs, whilst Vortex and Blast-Off form the arms. So, let’s show you some leg then…

Oo-err, showing some leg! Swindle in leg mode.

Oo-err, showing some leg! Swindle in leg mode.

With his leg mode clearly an evolution of his vehicular form, it’s a short and fairly simple 4 step procedure to transform Swindle from a jeep into one of Bruticus’ legs. The double barrelled gun/hand/foot slots firmly into Swindle’s base, with the two barrels pointing forwards as toes and – when used as a foot – the digit that would otherwise form Bruticus’ thumb points backwards like a dew-claw.

But let’s face it, a solitary leg without a combiner to slot into isn’t the most inspiring of prospects – just ask Ambulon. So stay tuned to see how Swindle compares to the rest of the team and how they all shape up in big guy mode…

Do you want to build a giant robot?

Combiner progress so far: just the one jeepy leg!

"come here & I'll kick ya"

“come here & I’ll kick ya”

Bruticus Week!    Tomorrow:  we look at Mr. Angry-treads himself, Brawl.


2 thoughts on “Bruticus Week: Toy Review Combiner Wars Swindle

    • Swindle also has an additional weapon port on the sides of his wrists. It’s really small and the weapon legs in sideways with a special groove that matches up to it. Kind of a hidden feature. Which means he hold two guns in hands, one on each wrist and then the two shoulder mounts makes six weapons easily. I love this toy!


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