While I typically sing the praises of Robots in Disguise for inventing a lot of new characters especially among the Decepticons, and going for a unique design style with them, the Combiner Force product year left a lot of that behind, beginning to draw from the well of legacy character names and design styles to varying degrees. Needless to say I wasn’t quite as interested in these as what had come before, but there was still good to come out of this range. Like Bludgeon!
Bludgeon was among the very last Warrior Class releases in Robots in Disguise, at the end of the Combiner Force rebranding, and is itself the third pass at a broad-strokes engineering design. Much of the toy started as Megatronus, released somewhere around the end of the first year of product as a Toys R Us exclusive, before returning with an alternate head sculpt as a regular retail product early in the line’s second year. When Combiner Force started, Megatronus had been heavily redesigned and released as the Autobot Blastwave. It was this retool that went on to become Bludgeon, with no further physical changes. While Blastwave came out first, it’s generally understood and agreed that Blastwave was the redeco, with Bludgeon being the obviously intended character for this remolding effort.
RID Bludgeon is probably to this day the best option that exists for an updating of G1 Bludgeon within official toys. Revenge of The Fallen’s toyline introduced a movie stylized Bludgeon in late 2009, but in a variety of ways, that has not aged very well. Options besides that are actually pretty limited, though I do have a particular fondness for the Robots in Disguise (2001) Bludgeon, which was a straight redeco of Generation 2 Combat Megatron. Lacking the will or finances to create a new head part to represent either the skull face or inner robot face of the G1 toy for that Bludgeon, whoever was in charge of exclusives at Hasbro settled for painting a red line across the face to pretend it has a visor on the unmodified Megatron head. It was very precious, and represents a truly by-gone era of how we once got legacy characters revisited.
RID 2015 Bludgeon exists in a really good place of balancing elements of G1 Bludgeon’s inner robot and Pretender Shell appearance, and shows what I think is the right way to reconcile the character in a modern toyline environment. The samurai motif is adequately present, as is of course the all-important skull face, and the pale orange armor evokes the yellow of the outer shell. The red on the helmet and forearms is, well redder than it should be if going strictly by G1 standards, but the bright, saturated red mixes well with the rest of the colors. Meanwhile the tank anatomy and green as a secondary color integrate the inner robot. The lower body being almost all black, grey and silver helps keep any one color from overwhelming the entire toy. It’s pleasantly vibrant and visually complex while not feeling distractingly busy, and it unifies all of Bludgeon’s classic colors. I couldn’t have imagined or asked for a better result than this.
The tank mode is… considerably less elegant in execution. But the Megatronus origins can probably be blamed for that as much as anything. It’s strong with the classic H-Tank layout, which either bothers you or not. I don’t particularly care, though it’s at least a fun novelty on the odd occasion where it doesn’t need to happen. The base of the tank is mostly the reused parts from Megatronus, though some of the new elements are thrown in. But it’s the turret that mostly makes you stop and squint a little. The robot arms, and their not-at-all-hidden fists are just hanging out there. The compressed-in shoulder blocks actually try to have some generic tank features, to support the illusion a bit. But the forearms are a lost cause. The robot head also just fits down in a cavity with nothing covering it. You can attach the sword there which covers it a little bit, so I guess that’s something. The best part is easily the guns, which are able to smoothly pitch up and down, along with the turret rotating at the robot’s waist joint.
Bludgeon’s accessories are the sword, and the tank’s dual-barrel cannon unit. The cannons can additionally be used as a handheld weapon in robot mode, or fixed a couple of ways as shoulder cannons. The sword is a little on the small side, but looks fine in proportion to the robot. It’s only Deluxe-size, after all. Anyway, thanks to 5mm posts, there’s surely other swords that can be swapped in if Bludgeon just has to have something bigger and swordier. Or, there’s more unusual options…
In 2018, Bludgeon was released again! As a Prime Master! Prime Masters in Power of The Primes took an opportunity to reintroduce Pretender Shells, albeit at tiny scale, and Bludgeon was among the final retail assortment. The “inner robot” in this case was a representation of the power of Quintus Prime (or something like that? I don’t know if anyone ever knew or agreed on exactly what the deal was with Prime Masters, genuinely) and didn’t especially resemble Bludgeon’s original inner robot, nor was it colored as such. Actually, Quintus was more the colors of Octopunch’s inner robot, while Prime Master Solus Prime who came with Octopunch had Bludgeon’s inner robot colors. Anybody up for a swap?
I have the complete range of retail Prime Masters – easily done when they cost $5 each – and they’re okay for what they are. If anybody could figure out what they were trying to be, anyway. A followup to the $5 entry level price point Titan Master vehicles from the year before, but lacking almost all of the charm. They tried to keep up an illusion of being transforming toys by carrying forward the weapon mode idea from the previous product line. But instead of being vehicle-to-vehicle with some middle state as a weapon or tool, the weapon mode for Prime Masters was executed by attaching weaponry to the shells and giving them 5mm post handles to claim one might be a gun, or a claw weapon, or something like that. And where Titan Master vehicles were a means to get extra Titan Master heads in circulation and expand the play pattern meaningfully, Prime Masters came across as extremely shoehorned in, requiring combiner hands or feet to interact with larger toys outside the “Decoy Armor” Pretender Shells. It was honestly quite lackluster and I don’t think they performed very well on store shelves. But Bludgeon stood out just a bit from the others. While presented still to at least an extent as some kind of “gun”, the styling of the weapon part was very distinctive, and not at all a gun.
Prime Master Decoy Armor Bludgeon is, or at least has, a tetsubo. Some resources call the weapon a kanabo, but both are roughly the same thing: a club studded with spikes. The difference is that a kanabo is a wood club with metal spikes, while a tetsubo is just a big old solid metal spiked rod. Tetsu for iron, and bo for staff/rod/stick, essentially. I feel tetsubo is the more likely intent, but it doesn’t really matter that much which it is. What’s important is that Bludgeon becomes a spiked club. A bludgeon. It’s so dumbly perfect.
And I have long opted to pair the two Bludgeons together. RID 2015 carries POTP Bludgeon in weapon mode (with the Bludgeon-looking parts faced out of view, of course) along with the sword. Which being smaller I’ve decided is the off-hand weapon. I don’t know that a samurai ever paired a tetsubo or kanabo with a wakizashi, but Bludgeon can do as he likes. After all, are you going to argue with a large robot holding a club fashioned to look like himself?
No. I didn’t think so.