Ainsty Castings Tech Tunnels – A Review

Regular readers will remember that on the run up to Salute I came over a little bit mental and decided that I simply had to own this…

Img_4155-1It’s the Tech Tunnels range from Ainsty Castings. This particular layout is four-foot by four-foot and will, with all the groovy extras, plus a few others not shown, costs roughly £440.

Now, before you recoil in horror and close your browser window in disgust let’s thinking logically for a moment. That money gets you an entire, self-contained four by four board. Made from resin. Boxed up it weighs a tonne! Let’s look at it another way, the four by four Zone Mortalis board is £350 without anything. Granted it’s not directly comparable because they look and will play dramatically different but you get the idea. It’s not that expensive considering the sheer volume of stuff you get. And because it’s modular you can jiggle around with the layout giving you no shortage of iterations which only increase if you choose to make the board smaller but with more twists and turns. Plus there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from buying the board in stages because we can’t all be utterly bonkers like me.

But on to the kit itself.

Let’s make one thing perfectly, crystal clear: the tech tunnels looks fantastic all laid out on a board. Even unpainted it’s the coolest piece of terrain I will ever own. I love the classic sci-fi styling with a few industrial touches which make it, with the right paint job incredibly flexible. I bought it for a game I’m developing with a couple of The Chaps and it suits perfectly. But the thing that really tickles me is that Andy, from Ainsty, doesn’t like it very much. How high do you standards need to be to not like that?!

But anyway, as I said, the combination of crisp lines and semi-exposed piping means that this set will pretty much fit with any board short of something super industrial or grimy, like, for example, the deep underhive of Necromunda. But then again, you paint it up right and you could probably get away with it.

The casting quality is very good. The set contains something like 28 large corridor sections of one type or another and they were all pretty much flawless. The only thing worth noting is that they don’t all marry up exactly. It’s not a complaint by any means, it’s just something worth noting but it’s much to do with the subtle expansions and contractions that the pieces experience during the casting process. It’s noticeable but it doesn’t really detract from the overall look.

The various wall sections have doors which helps give the board a sense of scale but the nice thing is that because they’re cast into the wall quite thin you can punch them out with no effort at all to have doorways that are either open or at various stages of destruction. If you opt for the latter then just be careful storing them as resin, as we all know, likes to blast itself into oblivion.

The aforementioned overall look is one of tight, close range fighting that is only going to end with bodies littering the floor. The board creates a brilliantly claustrophobic feel. Think the scene in A New Hope when the Storm Troopers storm the Blockade Runner and you’ve got the right idea. Games will become a morass of sneaky feints, cutting through rooms, close range fire fights over barricades, crates and data terminals, all rounded off with daring charges down corridors into the teeth of enemy guns. And it’s going to be fantastic!

Which brings me on to the accessories as without the details the rooms are just big empty spaces. Albeit ones with cool walls. Much like the corridors, are a testament to Ainsty Castings’ quality. Taken, predominantly from the Base Camp range, every item has been given just as much attention to detail as the corridors they’re going to spruce up. The breadth of range means that you can style the rooms of your board towards a specific purpose. It means that on my board I have a billet room, medical bay, security office and systems room. And lots and lots of lovely narrow corridors to fight down. At it all looks so damn good.

As I say, it’s a big lump of up front money, they’re also not going to suit every game. They’re also going to force you to play a specific style of game play but that doesn’t really matter because it’s an indulgence. A piece of something special that every gamer should own in on iteration or other. Not every game will or should be played down narrow corridors but sometimes you just have to play a game that’s going to be knee-deep in guts. And that’s exactly why sets like this exist.

My Day at Salute

Salute2013

So yesterday was Salute 2013, a day that I spend the previous 365 days looking forward too hugely. And why? Aside from it being a massive room full of toy soldiers, games, scenery and even more toy soldiers, it’s a gathering of wargamers from across the country enjoying their hobby. It’s always great fun to see all the different people who are drawn to wargaming and what kind of games tickles their fancy.

I had a rip-roaring day. I always make a point of visiting as many companies as I can that have supported The Shell Case in one way or another. So I stopped by Amera and may or may not have impulsively preordered their new Dreadball Arena. Also spent a huge lump of wonga with Ainsty Castings on a tremendous 4×4 sci-fi installation board so you can expect a review of that soon.

I also managed to catch up with Andy from Heresy Miniatures and Jed from Antenociti’s Workshop – who I must apologise to for not popping back to see him but time ran out. Mantic got some of my pounds as I picked up Dreadball Season 2 and the Judwan team. I also picked up those Troopers from Heresy like I planned.

Two big highlights for me: A couple of highlights for me was catching up with friend of The Shell Case, and all round nice guy, Chris Wraight at the Black Library stand and we talked Horus Heresy and what was coming next. Excited doesn’t cover it.

I also got the opportunity to talk to Mike McVey about what’s next for Sedition Wars which, again, is hugely exciting and I can already see my bank balance shrinking but it’s so cool I don’t care. The shitter was that I was so engrossed that I missed out on the last limited edition Vanguard model that was on sale. But you can’t have em all.

I also got to chat with the guys from Pulp City about their impending second edition. I may have also picked up a couple of their models just because they’re way cool…

PS_Characters

 

Steel Crown Productions, the dudes behind Exodus Wars, are up to some way cool stuff and are really gaining momentum with the new ranges. By the time I caught up with one of the creators – Tom – there were a lot of empty pegs on their stand. I also came across a company called Ammon Miniatures who do some awesome stuff so make sure you look em up and check out their Indiegogo campaign.

 

An unexpected gem was what KR Multicase are up to. They’re producing wargaming tables and furniture. All I need to do now is get my man cave built in the back garden and I’ll be all set. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to speak to Dayl so I don’t have prices or anything for you but as and when I do I shall put them up.

I did spontaneously buy myself this bad boy from Forge World so it does rather look like I’ll be doing a small ally contingent of Tau to go with my Ultramarines.

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Just to be clear, as it’s allies I don’t break my ‘no new army’ rule. So there.

Obviously one of the highlights of the day was catching up with various #warmongers and sitting down with a dozen or so of them for lunch. There was much showing off of toys and the usual banter one would expect from all lads together.

It was a chuffing brilliant day with lots of good people, piles of money spent and piles of plastic, metal and resin to show for it. All I can say is roll on next yet.

Ainsty New Releases and Christmas Offers

That lovely lot over at Ainsty Castings have not only released a raft of new lines just in time for your loved ones to buy and put under the Christmas tree, but they’re helping to make the pennies go that little bit further. Really ace to see a company in the community helping gamers out.

So, spend £50 on a single order and get 20% off. Spend £70 and get 20% off and free worldwide shipping. Considering some of the completely awesome sets Ainsty do – like the Flameblade Compound reviewed back in November last year – you’d be mad not to take advantage.

Below is a grab of all the goodies Ainsty has released in December. As usual I go straight to the industrial looking scenery and have a little yearn. Especially now as it’s perfect for the game I’ve developing…

 

Ainsty December Releases

Coming Over All Ainsty – A Review

It’s that time again folks! And this time Ainsty Castings gets the once over. Ainsty is probably a company that quite a few of you have heard of because they’ve been around for ages. But they’ve been around for ages for two very important reasons. They know what they’re doing and they’ll give anything a try. You just need to take 5 minutes to look around their website and see the diversity of the range and there’s plenty there to give your hobby spot a jolly good fondle.

When I contacted Ainsty about doing a review, aside from being staggeringly friendly people, they were also incredibly generous as they sent me not a couple of little bits but the entire Flameblade compound (pictured below) and all because I mentioned I wanted to start a Necromunda campaign. Now, The Chaps will tell you I’m quite a lucky bloke. Actually they’ll tell you I’m a jammy bastard. As well as a few other colourful suggestions. But when this arrived it did feel ever so slightly like Christmas. I can only conclude that God is rewarding me for being kind to my mother. God likes people being kind to their mothers. Fact.

The Flameblade compound retails at £45 which may seem a little steep but there’s two things I have to point out. The first is that it’s bloody huge. You get a lot of resin for your money and will occupy some serious space on the board. I used it during my play test for the MERCS review and it took up almost a quarter of the 2×4 foot board. So much so, in fact, that it served its original purpose – as a fire base. So considering it’ll take up the best part of a foot square on the board, it’ll see plenty of use and you can’t get much better as a take and hold objective or a starting point for a break out scenario. Hell, even a bushwhack game would be a riot if you have a gang holed up in there. And with booster packs and various other accessories available you can actually make yourself an enormous complex ideal for just about any sci-fi game.

The second point is that it’s freaking cool. Really look at the photo above. The rough cut metal plates and the bodged support pillars, right down to the Mad Max style pick up truck (yes that’s included!) make it feel as ramshackle and as ‘scummy’ as it should. It all just makes for a really striking and utterly awesome piece of scenery. And that’s the best thing about companies like Ainsty. They love what they do and their motivations are pure. Of course making a bit of dosh is nice, but ‘is it awesome’ is the question at the heart of everything they do, rather than worrying about mass appeal like the wargaming juggernauts out there.

The casting is excellent quality and needed next to no cleaning at all. The detail is there in the right places and in the right amounts. To be honest, you almost feel a little smug with yourself when you spot something new. Like you and the sculptor are sharing a secret or a private joke. The image below shows the shack that’s a part of the compound and if you look along the apex of the roof you can see that the metal is twisted. It’s such a simple touch but added by someone who really thought about what they’re doing.

In terms of durability the density of the resin is such that you don’t mess your kecks every time it gets a nudge which makes life a lot easier when it comes to storage and use. Also the scale is in keeping, more or less, with 30mm models and scenery kits. And as 90% of the scenery I own is from the Games Workshop it’s just as well. My one and only grumble, and I literally mean, the only one is; I had to go to the Ainsty website so I could copy the photo to get it laid out exactly right. Now, I know I don’t have to and the fact that the walls are in small sections actually gives you a huge amount of versatility. Again, more so if you buy the booster packs. But I really wanted to get it matching with the photo, so the one thing I would say is either a diagram or a black and white photo of how it’s supposed to look would be massively handy.

Ainsty Castings have produced a cracking piece of scenery in the Flameblade compound. It looks good, you don’t need to be a pro-painter to get the best of out it, it’s modular and covers a good amount of space. And for £45 I think that’s a bit of a bargain. I’ll not get drawn on the debate regarding GWs plastic kits as there’s no denying they are outstanding value but they’re game specific, you have to build them, which is a pain in the arse, and you’ll spend the rest of your life painting the fecking things. And I would know. Similarly, the only item of comparable price from Forgeworld is a length of earth works for Warhammer. Personally I’d rather have grungy cyberpunk fire base that I can chop and change to the needs of my game.

Topographic Art

I’m on a bit of a scenery kick at the moment provoked by the discovery of Amera and they’re excellent plastic terrain – the review of which can be read here –  and I’ve since bought the Dreadstone Blight terrain piece from the Games Workshop for use in Mordheim. I’ve even painted, yes painted, a resin cottage I was bought almost a year and a half ago for my birthday.

Since making the decision to get a Necromunda campaign going amongst the chaps I’ve been looking at things that would work well as Necromunda scenery, my original stuff having long since gone in the bin because, well it was crap. I’ve got an abundance of the new plastic multipart scenery from the Games Workshop and it is thoroughly excellent but Necromunda needs to be more than buildings. It’s gantries, towers, heavy industry, sewers, generators, pumps etc etc etc.

There’s no shortage of scenery out there. And there’s some real treats too like Micro Art Studio; a Polish company that are producing some quite tasty stuff. Aside from some pretty sexy scenic bases and some green stuff moulds, they do quite a bit of resin and hardfoam scenery that really is quite nice. I’m not totally sold on the value for money side of things but there’s no denying what they produce looks good and they’re probably the only ones doing it to such a high standard.

But the real treat was the re-discovery of Ainsty Castings. These guys have been knocking around for ages and it’s a company a mate of mine has thrown hundreds of pounds at over the years. I can say categorically that the quality has come on in leaps and bounds.

For one thing there’s no shortage of industrial looking sets  and, considering it’s resin, for a pretty reasonable price:

This ‘Flameblade’ compound is £45 but for an awful lot of barricades, a shack and a couple of other bits. From what I can see the detail is there but in a nice little touches rather than overly fussy sculpting. At the end of the day it’s the models cowering behind the barricades you want to be paying attention to.

Overhead piping is something I never thought I’d see in a wargame beyound sprayed McDonalds straws (other straws are available) on the side of coke cans and Pringles tubes. It looks like a cracking set and it lends itself to the narrative and feel of Necromunda wonderfully. £40 might make you wince but it’s quite a decent amount of resin in the box and by the looks of things you don’t have to stick the pipes down which gives it some flexibility.

The final set that really caught my eye is the Silos. Not a lot to say here other than they look brilliant and add something extra to the upper levels of the game – i.e. sweet sniping points but narrow gantries making camping a risky business should you come under fire. They look nice and robust too which makes me feel happier at the thought of trying to store them. At £30 for the set it’s actually pretty good value as they’ll occupy as much as space as a couple of sets as a Games Workshop Manufactorum kits bit offer something a bit original, albeit without the choice. But, to be honest, sometimes you don’t need your scenery to be multipart and dripping with detail. And as you can see there’s enough detail to have some real fun with this stuff.