The Shell Case visits Colours 2013

Or rather, I, the dopey, head-in-the-clouds member of the Shellcase did*. Due to an invite to help demo a game of a buddy of mine**, I ended up at the Colours Wargaming Convention in Newbury.  I managed to grab a few pics with my camera phone, due to me forgetting to charge my actual camera before the event so they will be spotted throughout this post.

Cards on the table, I’m not really a con person. Being an awkward social misfit the idea of paying lots of money to walk around a large area and be sold things, all the while being surrounded by strangers, never quite gelled. My past experiences at the UK Games Day and Destination Star Trek London never really changed that opinion.

My usual reaction to cons

Yet, coming out of Colours, I want to go to other cons and I feel really refreshed in my enthusiasm of the wargaming hobby in a way I’ve never quite experienced before. So what makes Colours different?

The location for a start I guess. Colours is based at Newbury Racecourse. An odd location for sure, but one that works well, as it splits the event over 3 floors. The bottom floor is Traders alone. The middle floor is a mixture of demos games and a few traders and the top floor is an explosion of demo games and a small historical tournament.

The layout of the place means that it’s a large event, but it feels very inmate. People stop to chat and just talk. Traders run back and forth between competitors tables and compliment them on their banners or displays. It’s a very different feel to Games Day, where there’s always a feeling of separation between you and the people running it.

Colours is quite different to a lot of the other events in the UK, in that its dominated by historical gaming. Not that it stopped a lot of Fantasy and Science Fiction based wargames from popping up. But the absence of any GW or PP games did feel odd. In a very good, healthy way though. All the people who visited (make no mistake, A LOT of people came to Colours) were looking to expand the borders of their wargaming experience and knowledge.

So day one, I arrived nice and early and helped Marcin set up his demo table, whist checking out everyone around us. Between munching on bacon butties, to watch a slowly evolving tapestry change and grow from its foundations each day was something very enjoyable to my eyes.***

Whilst on breaks I got a chance to pop upstairs and see what was happening there. It was quite phenomenal really. Dominating one corner was Crucible, which must have been spread out on at least a 16 foot table, not to mention other games like the large-scale Napoleonic game.

Thats not me zooming it with the camera, thats real size!

I managed to play a game of Dead Mans Hand by Great Escape Games too. They had a great board set out for it and I marveled at the terrain by 4Ground and models that was all made by them, including dead horses, dogs and even a chicken!

A gang of desperadoes face down a sheriffs posse.

Thats just to give you a small idea of the variety there. I saw card games being played, a large-scale Indian warfare scenario and this beautiful table.

If you think thats impressive…
…check out the details!

There was a bring and buy over the weekend which let me grab some cheap stuff (Some Sov City Judges, a Dark Eldar Razorwing and the Hoards Rulebook for under £30 total). There was a charity raffle as well, which raised over £1000!

All in all, it just such a freeing experience, to know there was a large section of the community out there that were quite happy doing their own thing, free from larger companies machinations. It was a good weekend, where I experienced the wealth of gaming that’s out there outside the GW sphere, chatted with like-minded people and met an online friend for the first time. Then I introduced him to cider…

Oh and I met a cat.

Yes. Really.

I dunno about you, but I’ll be at Colours next year.

*I’m listening to a mixture of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie and Atari Teenage riot whilst typing this. You may start throwing insults of ‘Fucking Poser’ now.

**That will be another article all together, but for now, check out PMC 2640, it’s a good 15mm game.

***As I said, fucking poser.

4Ground Warehouse – A Review

4GROUND_logo copy

 

[Following on from my review of the Damaged Building, those lovely chaps at 4Ground sent me the Warehouse set to review. Now, when the box arrived I was both excited and intimidated. It was a big kit and one that I could quite easily bugger up. Because I’m inpatient. Thus, knowing my limits and knowing that Lee – staunch friend and brand new contributor to the site – is a man of mad hobby skills I handed the kit over to him to build and review. And here’s what he had to say… Phil]

warehouse

So I’m the lucky chap Phil asked to build and review the slightly exhaustively titled ‘Whitechapel to Baker Street Warehouse’ kit from 4Ground. Retailing at £100, and thus falling in the realm of a premium scenery kit, I was looking forward to seeing if it would live up to its price tag. Worth remembering though that MDF/HDF laser cut terrain seems to fetch a higher price across the industry.

When first handed the rather large box I was impressed by how heavy it was and on opening it, even more impressed by the quantity of material inside. I couldn’t resist arranging it all out on the floor to see just how much surface area was included and got to an area approximately 5’x 3’ – how many other scenery kits could you say that about? I know MDF kits are always going to be heavier than their plastic counterparts but it really had to be seen to be believed. As you would expect from laser cutting, the components were all precisely cut with no real issues removing them from the frames, but it’s worth noting you’ve got to take your time and take care. They possessed a good level of detail with even the burn marks from the laser giving the interior walls a suitable grimy feel. [The smell! Don’t forget about the smell! Ed.]

Given the size of this kit, and the ‘Level 6’ difficulty sticker on the box, I decided to treat it with respect and proceeded to do a check of all the frames against the schematic provided to ensure everything was present and accounted for. With everything okay I got stuck in locating the required parts. I was somewhat surprised the floor of the building comes in two halves. Looking at the size of the box it was easily big enough to fit a single piece. Other frames included in the kit were also large enough to have accommodated a single floor piece. With the significant weight the building would no doubt finish up as, this struck me as a possible weakness and an unnecessary complication.

I ensured the two-floor pieces were glued perfectly flat, and then added the interior and exterior walls to box the basic structure. 4Ground kindly include clothes pegs and elastic bands in the kit for you to use which is fantastic – and an absolute necessity, they are intrinsic to the build and should be used wherever and whenever possible. Happily working my way through the kit I came to a stumbling block. There are a set of columns that run centrally along the length of the warehouse with arches between them, and if you follow the instructions you’ll run into the problem that you won’t actually be able to fit in the last arch pieces. At all. With the walls glued and the columns in place there is no way to fit the tabs of arches into the holes on the columns as there’s no give mainly because of the material you’re working with.

warehouse2

On the upside, when it is built, with the floor textures and everything else, it looks the end result looks superb. As you can see from the image above, it looks authentic and robust.

That said, instructions could also be a bit clearer with some description to go with the images. And, to be honest, assuming I read them correctly, some of the components were mislabeled. It’s a quite frustrating as, because of the complexity of the kit, you really rely on the instructions and where they deviate you’re on your own a little bit. In the end I had to pull out the columns and lean them diagonally outwards, place the arches pieces between them, and then try to slide all the parts in at the same time, while they were covered in glue which was quite messy. Actually a lot messy. In the end I somehow managed to get all the pieces glued in and unbroken but there is a real risk of breakage, or losing of rags, and then more breakages. But it’s worth remembering that 4Ground have only been around a short while these issues will iron out in time.

With that done the build proceeded. The first floor is almost the same as the ground floor, but with some really nice details that set it apart – the corner office adds a great bit of character as well as having a gaming use. I chose to mix it up a bit when it came to installing the walls and windows to make it little more gaming friendly as it would almost certainly see some grizzly action on the Mordheim board. The instructions have the entire ground floor bricked out aside from the openings at each which gives it an almost fortress like function, but by switching some of the lower brick walls with the first floor window grate’s it opened it up a little without spoiling the aesthetic. And the fact that it was possible to do that highlights the intelligence that lays behind the design.

With construction complete I checked to see if the roof lined up with the ground floor and with a little minor trimming it locked in nicely. This modular aspect is really useful as you may not always want to use its full size in your games as it will dominate any board it sits on. But that said, it makes a fantastic centrepiece and if you choose to buy the extra floors, the building becomes a gaming area in its own right. A scenario involving a fight to reach the top floor then becomes compulsory. The victory the spoils. To the loser mockery and shame.

A point worth mentioning though is that you do have to decide if you want to build the kit to accommodate the extra floor kits – you receive optional floor sections and an extra staircase for this purpose, but this is only relevant to the first floor construction. You could always build the ground floor and roof sections first to get an idea for its size and potential and decide from there if you would ever want to take it higher.

Once finished the building is magnificent and if you’ve made it properly it should be very tough, just watch the corners and edges so you don’t lose any paint work. And one of the best things I experienced during construction was that once I had finally finished building it, it was painted and ready to go. I had been so wrapped up in the build I had completely forgotten that selling point!

At £100 and a further £40 per extra floor, it’s not cheap but it does fill a sizeable portion of the board and looks fantastic while doing it. The instructions do need improving as, coupled with the price tag, they are a point of frustration. If I’m honest I do wish 4Ground had done something to reduce the base cost of the Warehouse just to make it a bit more accessible, but they are in line with current MDF scenery prices on the market. In fact they’re in line with unpainted MDF scenery sets, so 4Ground are actually good value in that respect. When compared with what you could get for your cash in plastics they do seem a bit much – but then plastic doesn’t come pre-painted either, or smell as nice. [Finally! Ed.]

4Ground Damaged Building – A Review

4GROUND_logo copy

Regular readers will know how feel about scenery. It’s one of the most important, but often most under invested in, parts of the hobby. Until a couple of years ago the scenery I had in my terrain boxes was 20 years old until I got fed up playing games of 40k across crap boards and spent a healthy lump of money on lots of plastic kits from the Games Workshop.

Ever since then I’ve always had my eye out for good scenery kits to make my ever diversifying games exciting to play. Regular readers will also know that me and The Chaps are bit mental for Mordheim and my search inevitably leads me towards finding buildings that can sex up our games. Especially as the cardboard buildings are 13 years old now and starting to show their age.

So it was with much excitement that I came across 4Ground.

4Ground, for the uninitiated, produce laser-cut MDF scenery kits for 28 & 15 mm sets for Ancients, Dark Ages, Renaissance, Old West, Colonial, Victorian/Steampunk and World War 2. But with the rather lovely twist that they’re all pre-painted.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Damaged Detached Building. And I’m gonna get this out in the open right up front. It smells amazing. I don’t know what it is about freshly lasered MDF but it’s a brilliant brilliant smell.

4Ground1Moving on…

You get quite a bit for your twenty-five notes as not only is the building pre-painted to a pretty good standard the level of detail is bonkers. Individual tiles, window frames, floorboards, ladders, doors, even bullet holes and rafters. Sodding rafters! The guys at 4Ground are completely and utterly mental. And I love them for it. That kind of attention to detail only comes from a group of people who really love what they do. Yes there’s lots of scenery out there with some incredible detail but to go to that much trouble with MDF kits is ace.

It’s also modular which means that if the level of openess isn’t enough for you then you can split the levels out. Which is way cool. However it’s been intelligently designed so the option of lifting off a level doesn’t compromise the structural integrity of the rest of the building. Which means it’s not going to collapse in on the other models you’ve got running around inside. So, bonus.

4Ground2Now all this paints a very rosy picture, and never let it be said that The Shell Case is all one-sided because you still have to build the thing. This isn’t a complaint, just an observation. And actually, compared to some MDF kits I’ve built, the instructions are pretty good. The etching is also precision enough that the pieces to pop out with relative ease. However, it’s still wood and it’ll still break if you don’t treat it nicely, which is always a bit of a point of contention with me when you consider the cost. Plus, because the detail is so good, you have to be extremely careful punching out some bits or run the risk of breaking it.

To be fair, it’s not a tremendous negative. If anything it’s highlighting the skill and the craftsmanship involved. But it also highlights that you want to give yourself plenty of time to build it as rushing and kits like this really don’t go hand in hand. Especially as PVA is involved and you may have to walk away for a couple of hours and leave parts to set. Which I’m shit at. I want everything in a plate, or on a stick and possibly made of gold, now god dammit now…

But moving on…

In all seriousness, 4Ground has produced a spanking good kit. Love the fact that it has stairs, and double dept walls and window frames and snapped floor boards, burnt rafters and broken tiles. It feels real and that means it’ll look absolutely pimp on the gaming board, which is all you can really ask for of a piece of terrain.

The added bonus to this particular kit is that it’s not overly World at War – bullet holes aside, which means it can easily fit in to a fantasy skirmish game. Or any skirmish game set in the 1940’s back which gives it tremendous versatility and increases the return on investment markedly.

If what you want is a quick and basic kit then this probably isn’t for. Nor will much of the other items 4Ground sells. But if you want buildings that look the part and present a pleasant challenge to build then you need look no further.