Sunday, 27 July 2014

Building your Apocalypse (1) mdf buildings for Dropzone Commander

MDF Buildings for DZC - or anything 10-12mm really.

Dropzone Commander isnt restricted to an urban setting - the rules work perfectly well in other terrain, but the way the game is packaged and has developed has meant it's natural environment is the city. This is not a problem as the starter set has a number of very nice card buildings, and there is also the two City Scape & Ruin Scape sets available, again card buildings with a nice set of card street layout tiles to match.

What do you do when your card buildings are, like mine, starting to look a little dog eared and scuffed from overuse? You have a couple of options:

1. Replace them with the Hawk resin ones.  However to do that you need a second mortgage, and a degree in engineering (really - the smallest 3x2 Hawk resin building is £27 and contains 91 parts) and then you have to paint them. They look damned good, but they are well above my pain threshold for paying for terrain, particularly as you need about 16 to play. 

2. Get another another Cityscape or Ruinscape pack. These are good value at £30 a set of 20 card buildings, and they are already printed so no need to paint, but sooner or later they will go the same way as your last set. Still, even at £30 even once a year its not too bad. 

3. Look at other options?

Laser cut MDF is edging into all corners of wargaming. In fact the smell of singed MDF seems to pervade most conventions. I’ve never been a great fan as in the larger scales they do seem to be rather boxy and “samey”, with the exception of a few designers such as cnc workshop and sarissa , but for DZC this does seem to be one area where that is not such an issue, and indeed I changed my mind a bit over the course of the review.

There are a number of companies offering Laser cut MDF buildings in the UK in 10mm, all with an eye on the Dropzone market I assume,  so I thought I would try and do a comparison of the options available. I contacted the three that I am aware of in the UK, Sally 4th, Blotz, and Eleven Tree Designs, and asked them to donate a 3x2 (hawk size) building to review.  All three very kindly agreed, so, with thanks to them, please read on.

Before I go into the individual models, I need to explain something I have learned about the process and which I found quite surprising. In a nutshell lasers can cut or engrave, however they are not particularly fast – when I made enquiries I was quoted times between 20-40 minutes per building, depending on the amount of engraving. That made me pause for thought, as clearly being able to cut only 3 “kits” an hour helps explain the price to the customer.

The other surprise was how the three different manufacturers approached the problem of producing a model building in 10mm.

Where dimensions are given they are in “Hawk” tile equivalents.

The only tools used were a sharp craft knife and an emery board for sanding, plus some elastic bands and a few clothes pegs that were used to clamp bits together. I used standard pva glue to stick everything together. 

So without further ado 

First up,  Sally 4th

Sally 4th s building was fairly simple and consists of two identical wall sheets and a roof, all in 2mm mdf. There were no instructions but that was not a problem even for a cack handed numpty like me.

It is 3x2 and 3 storeys tall, the equivalent of the smallest DZC card building. S4 sells the building as painted, which in this case are a single colour block grey roof and a brown \ honey coloured walls. There are 5 different colours available, slate, granite, limestone, sandstone, and white, so I assume this one is sandstone.

From the outset the approach taken by S4 was obvious - they have spent a great deal of time etching fine details on the walls, and to a lesser extent the roof.  Details are excellent and cover the whole building. 

Windows and doors are cut straight through so you can see all the way through the building, which may or may not be an issue – but if it was it could be easily fixed with a piece of blanking card.  

The component parts separated from the sheets very easily and with no issues, and assembly was also very simple. The construction is in effect a simple open box consisting of 4 walls and a roof. In addition to the etched details there is also a couple of ledges that run around the building and helps give the impression of some depth. Interestingly, S4 are the only company that provide details for the inside of the roof cornice, which is a nice touch. 

The whole thing went together in a short time and the overall effect is rather nice. In fact it went together so easily I didn’t bother with a pic of it in construction. 

I winced at the price – the 3x2 is priced at £17.00, with the larger buildings £25, which is rather steep. I understand S4 are thinking of making them available unpainted which will bring the price down by about 10%.
The S4 range is fairly broad, with 7 models of various types and sizes available. They also have a deal which will provide 16 buildings for £267 rather than the list price of £315.

Last pic is a comparison between the S4 on the left and the Hawk card building on the right.

I liked the Sally 4th building. It was very nicely detailed and very easy to assemble, but the cost may be an issue. I'm unsure of the value of "prepainted" as I think it would need some more work to bring up to a reasonable standard, but that's just me. I understand S4 are looking to add some more designs with less etching to try and bring the price down, which may help.

Next - Eleven Tree Designs

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