Amera City Block Ruins – A Review

amera_130

It’s been a good few weeks since Salute and now the excitement of building all of the things has worn off slightly, it’s about time I put fingers to keyboard and typed up some reviews. First up is the City Block Ruins from Amera Plastic Mouldings.

City Block Ruin (with Buttresses cut to fit)
City Block Ruin (with Buttresses cut to fit)

I’ve never had the pleasure of assembling one of Amera’s kits before, although I have played over a number of them, so building one was going to be a new experience for me. For those of you who don’t know: Amera’s kits are made from vacuum formed plastic sheets which are very durable and almost act like a frame-work, or blank canvas if you will, for you to put in as much or as little effort as you wish into getting the piece ready for the table top.  Some effort does have to go into cutting out the pieces from these sheets, but it’s nothing more than the trimming you have to do with any kit, and you can be quite rough and ready depending on the look you’re going for.

This was one thing I found myself having to get accustomed to as I’m so used to carefully trimming and assembling each piece so as not to do anything wrong.  The Amera kits are quite a departure from that and allow you to go cutting pieces all over the place and so alien was this concept to me I actually had to consult the website to check how I was supposed to use the buttresses, only to find out you just cut them to the desired length and put them wherever you want – which left me feeling slightly silly at not having surmised this myself [He even checked with me. – Ed].

The kit itself is surprisingly big, topping out at just about 4 levels if you include the ground floor and is significantly wide enough that it almost accounts for an entire building itself and thus needs less supporting scenery to represent a complete building footprint.  Equivalent kits from other companies often don’t cover enough ground and need at least another full kit to complete what could be considered a realistic structure – whereas you could get away with just adding some piles of rubble with this just to show where part of the building had collapsed. Or seeing as they’re half the price of comparable kits you could just get two and make one even bigger ruin, whatever you want really – and therein lays one of the pieces biggest strengths, its cost.  At less than £10 a pop you don’t have to compromise with your scenery coverage on a board as you’ll generally be getting double the amount, and this enables you to do some pretty epic looking boards without breaking the bank. I’m sure many of us have gazed across a fully modelled board in awe and then resigned ourselves to the thought we will likely never come to owning such a pretty set of matching terrain – but with Amera you can.

The blank canvas approach makes owning a an entire board’s worth of matching scenery a reality by keeping it simple and giving you the option of adding as much or as little detail as you want.  Only got time for a basecoat and a drybrush – no problem, it looks fine.  Or sand it up and add some flock? Now it looks even better.  Or you can go to town and start adding in details like interior walls and extra structures like scaffolds to make it look really good.  The point is it’s up to you and it does the job no matter how much effort you put into it. I personally love building terrain – it was one of things that really drew me into the hobby when I was a kid.  Back then it was all on you to find interesting bits and pieces that could represent structures and then detail them to look realistic, and this is an evolution of that. It brings back some of the creativity that has been somewhat lost with the growth of more complex scenery ranges which has taken away the need to be inventive.

Amera - City Block Ruin (painted)

£9.95 for what is almost a complete building is great value, and it’s almost a victim of Amera’s cheap prices across the range – the same price can also get you even more impressive pieces.  But like I said, as they are so reasonably priced you don’t have to compromise, you don’t have to go straight for the biggest pieces you can afford because you need to stretch your budget as far you can. Instead you can pick the right piece for the right job without worrying if you’ll have enough, which means you should assemble a better and looking and better playing scenery set as a result.  And if you need a ruined building that is versatile enough to suit almost any 28mm game that uses a gun then look no further, this one does the job perfectly well.

The City Block Ruin is available from Amera Plastic Mouldings for £9.95.  Additional City Block Buttresses Sets are also available priced £1.50.

-Lee

Salute in Review: What Happened To All The Spending?

Salute 2014Must…buy…toys…must…buy…toys….  No it’s not Mat, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so. Instead it was me wandering around aimlessly trying to find shizzle to buy at the end of Salute on Saturday. I went in with a good idea of what I wanted but after picking up my hefty (and heavy) Forge World order, purchases were unfortunately few and far between.

The day went largely as expected in accordance with the pre-Salute post – far more business over pleasure and the vast majority of my time was spent engaged in conversations with gaming companies old and new. It was a very productive day on that front with some downright fantastic agreements made with several major companies and numerous encouraging discussions with others, who were also showing signs of following suit.  Despite the dedicated focus we still ran out of time at the end and missed out on several stands we wanted to visit, there just weren’t enough hours in the day in truth.

The walks between the companies we wanted to talk to was where I attempted to find the things I wanted to buy.  Some bits for my Warhammer Empire army were high on the list but there was an absolute dearth of their products available, being limited to just boxes of State Troops and the occasional Greatswords.  I know Games Workshop removed many of the items I needed from the list available to independent stockists but I thought given the scale of the event some would still be available from the three I wanted: Demigryphs, Helblaster, Pistoliers/Outriders. But no.  I did grab an absolute bargain in the form of a brand new metal Marius Leitdorf for just £4 – yes you read that right. Just £4.  A pricing error? Who knows, but I didn’t wait around to ask.  I also bagged a pack of Purple and Gold dice to go with my Emperors Children, very fitting I thought, and a ruined building from Amera Plastic Mouldings (review to follow soon). But that was it. I had still spent a hefty sum on my Forge World order, but I went home with £160 still burning through my pocket and now charring the flesh of my thigh.  So here’s what I got (because most of my stuff came as bags of parts, which aren’t very exciting, I’ve used images from web):

LEGION SICARAN BATTLE TANKEMPEROR'S CHILDREN PHOENIX TERMINATORS

Marius Leitdorf36 PEARL DICE - 6 SIDED & 12mm SIDES - PURPLE !!Z214 - City Block Ruins

 

I think you’ll agree that if any Imperial Tank could ever be considered sexy, the Sicaran would be it – with it’s sleek profile and…er…armour plates. Backing it up with a pimp set of Phoenix Guard means I should have one good looking army once they hit the table top alongside one of last years Salute purchases, the Emperors Children Contemptor Dreadnought (with twin Kheres and a back up Power Claw, of course).

At the time of writing I have just ordered a variety of the magnets I wanted and now have to further resort to trawling the web to satisfy my hobby cravings and try to find things that can convince me to part with my cash – but it’s not the same.  When your there and it’s in your hands something almost takes over you, and you just start throwing money in peoples faces and running off before someone’s mind changes. Still, at least I’ll get a free Space Marine Captain if I order from Games Workshop direct.

Until next year, the sound of Neil singing the Salute theme tune will remain a memory.

 

*The Salute theme tune goes as thus: Saying the word Salute repeatedly to the tune of Black Adder (writing credit: Rob Mossop).*

What Kind of Year Has it Been?

The Shell Case has had its third Christmas and 2014 will see the site turn 3 years old. It’s been an eventful 2 and a half years and that certainly goes double for the last 12 months.

So, to repeat the question: what kind of year has it been?

A very mixed one.

In March I became a father. Whilst being a dad is awesome it inevitably had an impact on The Shell Case in so much as I couldn’t write as much as I wanted or as often. I did my best but inevitably I lost readers, some of which never returned. Between my time being hammered more than Charlie Sheen and some truly twatish comments on the posts I did put up I seriously considered closing the site. Until Erin (@sixeleven) suggested that to take the pressure off writing a post a day – which I was doing and then some – I bring in contributors.

It was a painfully obvious solution to the problem and have the added benefit of discussing topics and parts of our wide and varied hobby that I have no experience in. Bringing in contributors has seen mixed success with the initial team signing on and then almost immediately leaving again after they realised that when I said 1 article a week I actually meant it. We’re not quite there yet as all our contributions are a little up and down (mine included) and I’m still on the hunt for a couple more talented people to round off the team, but progress is being made and we’re slowly clawing our way back to where we were. And hopefully beyond.

Three months ago Lee and I, rather ambitiously, began A Tale of Two Armies. It’s been a lot of fun, if slightly stressy at times, to get back into Warhammer and actually do hobby and play games with any regularity. The narrative is developing nicely and as you’ve hopefully seen, Lee and I have been working hard to flesh out the entire thing. Check out our ‘Genesis of a’ posts.

I do have to extend huge thanks to Reece, Mat, Lee & Adam since coming on board. They’re all integral parts to the grand plan for The Shell Case and I’m not joking when I say this site wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. And to Jason, Ashley, Adam (again), Nate & John for agreeing to take part in my hair brained scheme to create a multi-national podcast. 10 shows in we’re starting to find our feet and the new year should bring some more exciting changes and possibly some TSC exclusive content.

I also owe a huge and un-payable debt to my sponsor, Firestorm Games, for supporting me these last 18 months. Again, without them I wouldn’t have been in a position to keep pace with our ever-changing hobby or have been able to run A Tale of Two Armies.

Thank yous also go out to Amera, Chris Wraight, Gav Thorpe, Nick Kyme, Sarah Cawkwell, Megalith, Studio McVey, Ainsty Castings, Avatars of War to name but a few. Getting to know you all has been a pleasure and your support of my humble site rather mind-blowing.

I’d planned on spouting on about the state of the hobby and all that had happened over the last 12 months but actually, what’s done is done. The next 12 months is what interests me with some big releases from the Games Workshop, Spartan Games, Megalith and many others. I can’t wait to get to Salute 2014 and go batshit crazy for the up and coming games. And I can’t wait for my daughter to sleep through the night so I have a bit more energy.

All that’s left to be said is to thank readers of the site, old and new, as you’re the reason I’ve pretty much given up sleeping. I wish you all a happy, healthy & prosperous 2014 with many toys, games and, occasionally, some painting.

Amera River Sections – A Review

TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs A Tale of Two Armies series ramps ever upwards towards the 3,000 point total and an almighty game of fisticuffs I started thinking about the different types of scenery that could give the games a bit of zing. And those lovely people at Amera obliged me with a solution in the form of their river sections.

I’m a bit of a fan of Amera (this being my fourth review of their stuff) because they do a wide range of cool looking gaming standard scenery that doesn’t break the bank. But the really great thing about Amera is they provide you with the template and you have the freedom to turn it into something stunning. Whereas kits from the likes from the Games Workshop are crammed with detail – and you pay a premium for it – that will take an age to paint, Amera focuses on practicality and usability. That’s not to say that their scenery lacks detail – not at all – but the details is the important stuff rather than indulgent stuff. As I say, it’s proper gaming terrain.

But on to the river sections themselves. For a start they’re incredible value. The set I received was enough to occupy a two foot by one foot space and comes in at around a tenner, which is very good. And because it’s modular you can just add to it. Or, because the outlay is far from bank busting you can have sets of rivers painted up like different environments to suit your boards and existing scenery sets.

The simple fact is the river sections simple and designed with real thought, not only from a gaming point of view but a real life one too. The latter being that they’re incredibly light, being moulded plastic, and easy to store. The pieces all stack nicely together and will tuck into a spare gap in a storage box nicely. The former is the best bit. The sections have a very gentle gradient leading up to the water’s edge make adds to the realism as so many sets I’ve seen have very high/steep banks so the river feels very out-of-place on the board. This feels far more natural and does a much better job of suggesting water running below board level rather than on top of it. The other good thing about the shallow gradient is that you can stand toys on it.

An obvious thing to take into account when designing wargaming scenery, one might say, but you’d be surprised how many times the aesthetic of a model is put before functionality and the banks are rounded abominations that you can’t balance anything on. This is not the case with the Amera river sections and in fact, they’re awesome because the river bank has a slight lip at the water’s edge which is a lovely touch as it gives the sections as sense of movement,with sediment building up on the banks.

The only downside to the sections, if it can be called that, is that they do lack texture so if you wanted something you can spray and drybrush these aren’t necessarily the sections for you. And that’s fine because as I mentioned before, one of the best things about Amera’s scenery is that you get the chance to work with a bit of a blank canvas whilst all the key elements are there right in front of you. Just be prepared to get through a lot of sand, PVA and pots of gloss varnish.

The river sections from Amera are superb value and very good quality. And because of that value you’ll be able to buy the number of sections you need without worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to afford food and electricity as well. Yes they’ll arguable require a fair bit of sand and paint to get them to where you’d want them to be but it’s more than off set by the cheapness of the products.

The river sections are available direct from Amera.co.uk from £1.50.

 

Dreadball Arena – A Review

Whilst at Salute this year I stopped off at good friend of The Shell Case, Amera Plastic Mouldings. I’ve always been a fan of the company as they produce great looking terrain at prices that won’t make you begrudge paying it. And as scenery is often the last thing on a gamer’s mind, that’s a very important quality.

As I chatted with Andrew and Jane my attention was drawn to a massive piece of plastic with a sign on it that said ‘Dreadball Arena available to pre-order’. I immediately turned to Neil of The Chaps who was patiently waiting for me to finish prattling. He too had spotted it and was wearing the same silly grin on his face that I had. I uttered one word:

‘Halves?’

Neil, having been gripped by Dreadball fever by playing games with me, had just spunked his last £50 on a set at the Mantic stand and so was just as excited at the prospect of (a) having our own Dreadball arena and (b) not having to pay for it until after pay-day.

So we placed our order and all we had to do was wait…

Last Thursday I got a text from my wife saying ‘You’ve had a MASSIVE box arrive in the post. What have you ordered NOW?!’ Needless to say I unperturbed by my wife’s scorn, being rather use to it by now, and hugely excited that the Arena had arrived in time for the game of Dreadball I had arranged with Neil the following night.

So, what do you get for your £25? Well…a lot of plastic… (Dreadball board and giant chocolate buttons not included)

BKfTR62CAAA199R

The look of the thing is the perfect amount of sci-fi. The temptation would have been to do something overly complicated and a bit mental, but instead Amera has focussed on keeping it functional whilst still looking completely awesome. And the nice thing is that the detailing it does have means you can go as mental or not as you like with the paint job.

And speaking of paint jobs. As Neil and I got increasingly into the game we concluded that the only thing for it was to buy another arena and paint one up in my team colours – the Lark Industries Iron Men – and the other in his – the Halsey Tech Spartans. Needless to say there was much giddiness and searching on the interwebs for places that sold metallic spray paint.

I love how much excitement having the arena brings to the game. It just makes the game grander. Somehow more immersive and fun. I suspect the plastic is laced with magic.

It’s a solid bit of kit too. It’s vacuum formed plastic like all of Amera‘s stuff but the design and size means that you don’t feel like you have to be precious with it which is good, especially as were you to play a league it’d see a fair bit of use. The only thing to be careful of is choosing the correct spray. You’ll need something hard-wearing as lifting boards out and throwing dice against it will need to chipping otherwise. And, thinking about it, because of the material it’s made of, you can quite easily decorate it with LEDS or ambient lighting. Which would be way cool.

The tiers mean that you can put spare/dead models out-of-the-way as well as have you coach models looking eagerly on. As the range expands, or if you have particularly deep pockets, you can have you bleachers packed with crowds. Although if you look around you can probably find some models that suit.

My only grumble, and it’s not even a fault just more of an idea that we had during play, is that the arena could also do with being an aid to play in that middle of each side could have a recess to keep the deck of Dreadball cards and/or a tray to put your action tokens in as you use them. To be fair it would detract from the authenticity of the arena but it’d be very convenient.

I absolutely bloody love the arena. It’s a total non-essential but makes the game just better. You can’t help but get captivated by that stadium atmosphere. And amusingly enough my iPhone fit in the recess that’s meant to look like the Jumbovision which means that you can bust out some appropriate tunes whilst you play. It’s also light weight and easy to store whilst being tough enough to take the punishment of regular use. And considering all of that £25 is an absolute bargain.

 

Amera Plasting Mouldings – The Second Review

Way way way back in August 2011 I did a review for an island set designed for Uncharted Seas and Dystopian Wars produced by a company called Amera Plastic Mouldings.

In April of this year the very same lovely people at Amera let me have one of their Corner Ruined Buildings. I have to apologise to Amera for taking a shameful 8 months to get around to writing this review. The daft thing is that it’s a fooking massive bit of terrain so you’d think it would have been hard to miss…

z236_0

For those that haven’t heard of Amrea and couldn’t be bothered to click on the link above: Amera Plastic Mouldings make wargaming terrain using vacuum formed plastic. Their aim is to strike the balance between detail, functionality and price.

The Corner Ruined Building is one such piece. For a start it’s massive. The model in the picture above should give you an idea of scale. This is both good and a little bad. Size is a funny thing when it comes to wargaming. Bigger is not always better as large terrain can dominate a board, hugely impact on the space gamers have to deploy in and often times it can’t be interacted with.

Although not perfect on the interaction front, the Corner Ruined Building has plenty of ‘base-friendly’ surfaces meaning it is something you can have a scrap over. It’s ideal for Mordheim or any other skirmish game, and because of the deliberately vague detailing (so you can add your own) you can even use it in sci-fi or historical wargaming which certainly helps on the value for money front. Not that it needs much help: it’s only a tenner. And it’s as tall as a Warhound Titan.

In terms of detail Amera aren’t going to be winning ‘shiniest scenery award’ but then again, they’re not trying to. The emphasis is on gaming standard terrain that’ll paint up nice, but also paint up quickly and you won’t wince when you hit the Submit button when you order. And considering every thing is single pieces of vacuum formed plastic, each piece is cleverly designed, well crafted and the level of detail is actually pretty good. Certainly good enough that you don’t need to stand the rock faces before painting them if you don’t want to. And certainly good enough to spend an evening scrapping over it and kicking your mate’s warband off the top-level to their dismay and your roars of maniacal laughter.

The plastic that Amera uses takes textured sprays and undercoat faultlessly – I’ve tried both – which means that if you fancy distressing the tower walls you can do so easily enough by spending a couple of quid at your local Hobby Craft.

But what it all adds up to is an awesome looking piece of scenery that’s robust – because nothing on it can break, takes paint and PVA well, can actually be used in a game both as something big and imposing and an objective and it won’t cost the Earth. Which is actually a little bit awesome.

Amera Scenery Review

Regular readers and members of The Shell Case forum will know that I’ve been promising this review for a couple of weeks now and, finally, it has arrived. More to the point, the parcel arrived. On Saturday. For those not in the know, Amera produce plastic moulded scenery ranging from river beds, to trench networks, to ruined buildings to roads. And all for a staggeringly reasonable price.

When I saw that Amera had produced islands for Uncharted Seas & Dystopian Wars I simply had to get in touch to see for myself if £13 for four islands was too good to be true. And do you know what? It isn’t. They’re excellent.

The first thing that struck me after I’d ripped and gnawed my way through the layers of parcel tape and bubble wrap is how touch these pieces of scenery are. I remember vacuum forming from school and it was shit. I mean really shit. Flimsy brightly coloured plastic with no detail retention and prone to splitting. Not Amera’s stuff. Oh no. It’s tough like plasti-card and has a level of detail that’s more than adequate for scenery but not so detailed you’re going to spend hours and hours painting it. Plus as much of the scenery is single cast pieces and as tough as I mentioned, it’s not going to break. I dropped one of hills twice on my slate kitchen floor. It bounced and that was it. Sure I lost a bit of sand but that’s physics for you. Had that hill been resin it would have (cost twice as much and) shattered into a hundred million billion pieces. And then I would have cried.

It’s durability means that you feel confident not only painting it but using it. If I were to buy a building or a bridge I wouldn’t balk at the thought of putting my lovely metal Vanguard Veterans on them for fear the plastic would give way. In fact, based on what I’ve seen, I think the only time you’d have to worry about breaking the scenery is if you decided to deploy a 40k scale Reaver Titan on it.

With regard to preparation it doesn’t need any cleaning although word to the wise, because this stuff is thick, whatever you do, don’t take a pair of scissors to it when you’re trying to trim the edges. It won’t work and you’ll make a mess. A sharp craft knife, time and patience is what’s called for. But, to be honest, that was more me being a fussy bastard than actually needing to trim the plastic.

I must say, at this point, that I’ve not painted anything in a while. For months most likely. These islands excited me. They were nice looking, not too intimidating and didn’t require an exhausting amount of building like all the other scenery I’ve bought over the last year or so. Now, I actually gave the islands a deliberately slap-dash undercoating for two reasons.
1. I wanted to see how the plastic took acrylic paint without undercoat to help.
2. I was running out of undercoat and I still had the rest of my Sorylians to spray…
The truth is the moulds take paint exceptionally well and, because it’s plastic, it’s very fast drying. These bad-boys were touch dry and ready to go in half an hour.

Once the terrain has a bit of slap you start to realise how much detail there is. Not in a ‘holy shit is that a swarm of fiddler crabs nestled at the base of the cliff face’ kind of way but more the contours of each of the islands. They’re not just mounds that you’ll cover in static grass and forget. They have great shape and topography. This said, and in the interests of being objective, the islands need sand and flock/grass if you want to paint them as something other than a bleak, grey desolate, rock. That’s not to say you shouldn’t but I wanted these islands to feel like they’d have flocks of birds living on them and nothing else so they needed to look a tad on the wind-swept side.

Seeing as I have to wrap this up with some kind of conclusion I’ll say this – Amera scenery is excellent. It offers an affordable but attractive & durable solution to terrain other than buying expensive resin or multipart plastic kits, both of which require a degree of prepping and building. There are arguments for the high level of detail from those kits and they have their place, but having painted all three I know what I prefer as, at the end of the day, scenery is there to help make the game a challenge and lend something to the narrative, not to steal the show. It’s your toys you want your friends ogling over after all and I got this set cut, undercoated, sanded and painted in a about 4 hours, which isn’t bad at all. I don’t think I can recommend Amera highly enough based on what I’ve experienced with the islands but also what they’ve already produced on their website. They done the impossible; they’ve made an element of the wargaming hobby cheap. And that makes them mighty.

The Scenic Route

Amera are a fantastic modelling company based in Northumberland who seem to have quite a knack for producing some pretty special plastic mould scenery for just about any game you care to play. They offer trenches, bunkers, river beds, fortresses…the list goes on for a while. And they’ve just added another string to their bow by releasing the hills below which are awesome for two reasons. The first being they are perfect for Uncharted Seas and Dystopian Wars. The second reason is because they’re very reasonably priced – just £13 for all four and, as you can see from the images below, they work seamlessly with the harbour scenery from Spartan Games.

The hills themselves are pretty damn nice from what I can see and being pre-grassed is definitely a bonus and will encourage the more work-shy hobbyist to paint the cliff faces. Although even then it’s not exactly a stretch. Now, obviously they’re made of plastic similar to Games Workshop’s Moonscape (crater) pack and so there may be an element of sanding and texturing etc but for the price and the variety – considering you can get volcanic islands as well as harbours and the like – there’s not much to grumble about.

Again, without seeing it in detail; I would argue that you’d be hard pressed to find more suitable scatter terrain for your fleets to hide behind at that kind of price. So go buy some.