Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Building your Apocalypse (3) Blotz

Blotz have taken a different route than the other manufacturers. Cut from 2mm mdf, they consist of a main structure with raised detailing provided by add on parts like balconies. The level of etching is less than both S4 and ETD, but where it is, it is crisp and clear. Blotz kits are provided as small sheets, and instructions are available to download from their site - a good idea. The components took a bit more separating than the S4 ones, and more care was needed to ensure you didn’t snap anything.

I’m not sure if this was a problem with the settings or the mdf was slightly thicker, but it did mean you had to be a bit more careful when separating the components. There was also a lot of waste bits between window frames etc. that needed punching or cutting out, and this added a good 10 minutes to the build time. 

Blotz also take a different approach to the actual construction, with buildings being constructed on a storey by storey basis with a ground floor module on to which can be stacked more storeys, followed by the top storey and roof section.  This did involve a fair amount of faffing and care is needed to ensure each storey is square so it sits correctly with the next.

Once the basic structure is complete you can add details such as facades and balconies which really help make the building look more interesting.

On the down side this makes for much more assembly time and effort. On the plus side however this allows for a great deal of versatility and customisation options. As on the S4 model you can see all the way through. The actual assemble was straight forward, if a bit long winded. The overall result is rather nice.

and the obligatory comparison with the Hawk card building.

The Blots range is already quite wide, with some very nice Art D├ęcor DZC style buildings in many different shapes and sizes (17 at the moment). In addition they offer a “bits” range that includes extra storeys and ruined sections that can be added to your normal buildings to add variation. Further they offer a selection of Cityscape buildings in a more modernist style including a multi storey car park and monorail stations designed to be compatible with the DZC monorail set. I weakened and bought the monorail station, and I'll probably show that off in another post.

Blotz buildings range in price from £5 to £25, with the 3x2 shop block I received being £8.00, so you could expect to populate a table with 16 buildings for about £160.00. That's very reasonable considering the end results.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Building your Apocalypse (2) Eleven Tree Designs

ETD kindly provided 2 models for the review. These were a 5 storey 3x3 and a 3 storey 3x5. From the start it is clear they had a totally different approach than S4. ETD models are dual layered (again 2mm mdf) with some etched details on the lower layer and cut and etching on the top layer. The etching is not as fine as on the S4 model, but there is still a reasonable amount. When put together this gives a very nice impression of depth. 

Unlike the S4 (and Blotz) models the ETD ones were already cut from the sheet so there was zero prep time. The downside was that the more fragile components are vulnerable to damage in the post, and one of the components has a short piece snapped due to mishandling by the mail.

Maybe the sticker needs to be bigger? 

Luckily it was very easy and quick to fix and the damage can’t be seen on the finished model.

The buildings came with an instruction sheet, a nice touch, even if there is not a lot to go wrong (famous last words). I concentrated on the 3x3 to start with.

Assembly was fast and easy. Basically these consist of an inner box structure and an external layer of detail.

I also realised when building the first model that if I sprayed the lower layer black before assembly this would would make picking the windows out unnecessary. What I failed to realise with the first model was that if I did this to both layers it would make painting and finishing really quick and easy (Doh!).

One point about this layered box method which is worth noting is that all the tell tale "jigsaw" joints are hidden under the facade - a nice touch.

I did this prepainting with the second model and was rather pleased with the result and the speed. It will need a bit more work but already with just the basic 2 colours looks ok - pics at the end

The ETD buildings went together fast and easily. As an added bonus they are designed with a lift off roof which could be used to put troops inside or store markers.  

I did notice one of the models has a slight error in the cutting on one window, but this would be almost invisible on the table. I spoke to them about this and they have corrected the file so it shouldn't happen again. Here is the finished article.

And here is the other building in the set, which I had the foresight to spray the outside layer grey before assembly :-)

Lastly, a comparison with the Hawk 3x3 in card

ETDs range is quite narrow, with 2 sets each of 2 buildings, with footprints equivalent to 3x3, 3x4 & 3x5 plus two further sets of the same buildings in a ruined state – a nice addition. The sets retail at £15.99 each, ie a very reasonable £8 per building.

I liked the ETD buildings too. They're solid, easy to build, and look good. If you pre paint the two layers they will paint up quickly and nicely, which is a bonus, and finally, they're reasonably priced. All on all not bad.  If you are happy with the limited selection you could get a standard 16 building set up for £130 or there about. I’ve spoken to Lee at ETD and they are planning a couple more building sets “soon” so may be worth watching out for.

Next - Blotz

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

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Terry's Terrence

I always got a bit of a chuckle about the Army knick-naming the Taliban as Terry or Terrence, sort of a sideways nod to the Vietnam era VC being Victor Charles.

So I had to smile when I was contacted by a nice Gent named Terry who asked me to paint up some Taliban to go with some modern(ish) 15mm British infantry I had put on ebay.

Terry wanted about 20 infantry, a couple of heavy weapons and a Toyota pickup painting, and after we agreed a price he sent me the models.

Mostly they were MJ Figures Mujahadeen range. This was something of a surprise to me as I had thought the range was one of those lost to the mists of time, but happily not. I used to have some for my AK47 armies back in the second sheet metal age when God's dog was a pup, and I always had a soft spot for them, particularly as they did (or rather do) a superb ground mounted 14.5mm AAMG that looks great on its own bit also sits nicely in the back of any Toyota or similar. To be honest the infantry are a mixed bunch. Posing tends to be ok, detail not so great and proportions are err "varied" but even so they include some great figures in addition to the 14.5 including a lovely radio man and commander. They were originally designed to represent Afghans fighting against the Soviet invasion during the 80s, so there are a couple armed with bolt action rifles, but most carry AK type rifles, plus the obligatory RPG.

There is also a couple of Old Glory command and weapon crew figures. I was less enthusiastic about these as the details were a bit soft and they seemed overly bulky, but as with the MJs there is some interesting poses, particularly the guy resting his laptop on a rock - obviously posting his latest vid to YouTube! I replaced the OG RCL with a spare PeterPig one as frankly I couldn't be arsed to stick the damned thing together, even though it was probably a more "correct" model. All in all the OG contingent look Ok

Terry also sent me a Toyota pickup - again from MJ, which has some sort of missile system on the back. The pickup was cast in resin with metal wheels, and went together easily. It was clear when looking closely that MJ have taken the rather sensible step of getting the master made on a 3d printer, which gives it a very pleasant sharpness to the whole thing and nice details. It may well challenge the PeterPig one as first choice in future, indeed the only thing that would stop that is that it is missing some details like windscreen wipers, which makes it look a bit off. Anyway I was feeling whimsical so decided to try and give Terry some options. The missiles fit nicely, so I drilled a small hole in the floor and popped in a magnet, ditto the base of the missile launcher. The 14.5 would not fit in as it was, so I made a false raised deck out of plasticard and put a magnet underneath, so the 14.5 now sits in there nicely, and as a bonus an old PeterPig RCL was dug out from the spares box and also magnetised so Terry can fit whatever loadout he likes. I quite like the results :-)

Actually the last element is also from Old Glory and these are superb. OG do a set of Taliban on motorcycles, and Terry asked me to paint three up. Initially my heart sank as I already had a couple of these myself but I had always been put off from painting them. I was presently surprised when they turned out to be rather nice, the only fiddly bits being the gaps between the rider and pillion.

So there is Terrys Taliban. I hope he likes them. They were interesting to paint, even if they don't have quite the same level of details we have come to expect from our 15mm today. I may even have a search through the spares box and see if I can put a couple of units together. Sadly I suspect this sort of lit will see a lot of real world action in the next few years.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Absence makes the heart grow stronger

No pics or anything this time, just a quick update.

I've been busy on a couple of non gaming \ real world issues, and some gaming stuff that have prevented me from spending time updating the Blog - apologies.

On the gaming front firstly we did fight the penultimate mission in the CoC Normandy Campaign, and a write up will follow "shortly". I'm so chuffed at the way this has worked we are already planning moving East to play another - probably based on the defence of Klessin near Kustrin in 1945.

One of the other reasons for lack of posts was the rediscovery of Fallout 3. I saw this in the Steam Summer Sale, and thought for a measly three quid or so it was worth it rather than always having to keep the discs and stuff. I forgot just how addictive it is, and to make matters worse I keep running into new situations I had missed the first time around.

Lastly I have been painting up some 15mm Mujahideen for Terry - the nice bloke who bought some British infantry off me through ebay, and he wanted some opposition. I'll get some pics and thoughts posted up on them soon.

and then there is X Wing...........