Amera City Block Ruins – A Review

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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

Battlefield in a Box Asteroids – A Review

There’s been a distinct inter-planetary flavour to our gaming activities at Shell Case Towers. X-Wing miniatures and warships of the 41st Millennium have been taking to gaming boards and, as is often the case, my mind turned to scenery. I’d already taken a look at the Gale Force 9 Space Game Mat and used it for our third X-Wing Battle Report. So it only seemed right, considering Mat & I have Slave 1 & the Millennium Falcon to give a shakedown, that I take a look at the Battlefield in a Box Asteroids, also from Gale Force 9.

If you’d said to me a year ago that I’d be playing a pre-painted wargame, on a pre-painted game mat, with pre-painted scenery I’d have called you mental. And possibly a heretic or some such. There may have been some objects thrown. And mother’s insulted…

The point is that I was a bit of a puritan. But if this site, the wargaming world that I’ve been exploring, and being a father has taught me anything, it’s don’t be a snob and have fun. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

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However, I admit to a degree of scepticism before the asteroids arrived. I’ve seen some pretty iffy pre-painted terrain in my time and all of it was expensive into the bargain. So I opened the box expecting something akin to the castles you get for gold fish.

However the followings things surprised me: the asteroids were heavy. I just assumed they’d be plastic, and shit. But they weren’t. At all. The sculpt of the asteroids was so nicely done that I actually thought they were pumice. Which I know kinda makes me a bit thick but hey. The pre-paint was also incredibly good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to win prizes but for a gaming board? Hells yeah. And I love the mix of floating and flat asteroids. It gives that badly needed element of three dimensions that often gets lost in a tabletop. Just be careful when you cut the flying stands from the sprue. The plastic is oh so brittle. One stand (fortunately each base set comes with two) shattered when I clipped it free. Not broke. Shattered.

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Scale wise they’re a little on the large size for games like Gothic. At least not without making the game a real dance of death. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing but for any manly sized game I wouldn’t use the whole box. Because things would crash. A lot. However two or three on a board would look superb and make a dice change from the usual planets that I usually end up using.

For X-Wing, however, they’re pretty much spot on. Throw in a few fighters and a game mat and you’ve got something that looks a bit special…not that I did that. The picture below is a coincidence.

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As a single area of terrain they work brilliantly and the fact that the size compliments the X-Wing miniatures so nicely is a real bonus. However the rub is this – you get 8 in a box which is good but really give the impression of density you’ll need two boxes. Mat and I will be getting at least two more so we can set up an asteroid field board for Battle Report IV. And at the best part of the £30 that’s a bit of a rough deal.

That’s not to say it isn’t good value. The asteroids are all a good size and the design is wonderfully natural. I suspect pumice was involved at some point, along with a shit load of modelling clay. But I don’t care because it works. They feel like asteroids and thanks to the table standard paint job they look like it too. Granted they’re not perfect, and there’s a few bits that bugged my but there’d be a few bits that would have bugged if I’d painted them so I have to be forgiving. But the point is I didn’t have to paint them. And really that’s the big selling point for the price tag. You’re paying for the convenience. You’re paying your money not just for some pretty awesome looking asteroids but some pretty awesome asteroids that are painted and ready to go, straight out of the box.

And for that, I’m willing to pay.

The Gale Force 9 Battelfield in a Box Asteroids are available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.

Leaked 40k Terrain Shots

No sooner is there a leaked cover of White Dwarf showing a Void Shield Generator and my idle speculation that more scenery could be on the way, than these photos have hit the interwebs revealing Quake Cannon craters – which look way cool – and a couple more snaps of the Void Shield Generator.

Whilst I’m excited about the Void Shield Generator, the crater pip it for me simple because they’ll look ace in amongst the dozen or so ruined building kits I already have and will help tell the story of the ruined city I’m playing my games over. You can expect reviews from us on these just as soon as we can get our hands on them.

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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.

 

How to make a Mycetic Spore

Those clever buggers over at Warp Forged Miniatures have done a brilliant tutorial on how to make your own Mycetic Spore, so thought I’d share. And a taster for something awesome that they’re working on in the background. But mum’s the word on that for the time being…

Maki Games on Kickstarter

I have very mixed feelings about Kicksarter, Indiegogo and crowd funding in general. Mantic and other established companies have been using it as a pre-order system and a cash camel for a while now which is choking off funding for other smaller companies and start-ups that deserve the money but get overshadowed by a ‘sure thing’.

However, there are a few kickstarters that do get noticed and do get the funding they deserve. One such endeavour is Maki Games and their modular scenery kickstarter.

Quite frankly, this stuff looks the absolute, gold-plated, diamond encrusted, tits. Aside from being staggeringly flexible using pinned panels, it looks utterly fantastic.

And I suspect, because it’s build using pinned/pegged plates, you don’t need to glue it which means you can sling it all in a shoe box at the end of the game. Of course it remains to be seen how durable those pins are and how easy they really are to store once they’re painted, but that’s what reviews are for. Impressions are that this stuff could be utterly awesome.

It’s also the first terrain system I’ve seen that allows for ‘indoor’ structures to be built and thus opens up a whole new way of playing games. It’s also going to give the Necromunda die hards a raging hard-on. If I’m honest, I think it’s going to give most gamers that play any kind of 28mm sci-fi wargame a raging hard-on.

The really cool thing is that three distinct styles are available whilst still being cross compatible. So, if you’re feeling cheeky, you could even build a structure with changing design aesthetic to represent the building’s expansion over time. This is, of course, way cool.

It’s a remarkably well-timed move on Maki’s part as Spartan have just released their staggeringly expensive HDF range (with no match 28mm models) and Mantic’s Deadzone game has a modular terrain system that appears to be entirely more fiddly and flimsy. To be honest the Maki range seems a far more impressive and diverse option.

If you haven’t taken a look at their kickstarter page I strongly urge you to do so. It has already been successfully funded but I genuinely feel that Maki brings something original to the wargaming world and so deserves as much support as the community can give it.

They have just 14 days left to raise some extra dosh so, bip over to their page, take a look at the awesome scenery, wipe the dribble from your chin and then pledge your support.

4Ground Damaged Building – A Review

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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.

Terrain Geek – A Review

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If I’m honest I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when Stuart from Terrain Geek said he’d send me some bits to review. There’s a lot of companies out there and I’ve been to enough gaming conventions to know there is some real toss out there.

When the parcel arrived and I started rummaging through the baggies of base toppers, objectives and scenery I was struck by two things. The first was the variety. The second was the quality of the casting. Okay, so in terms of detail it’s not in the same league as Forge World, but does it need to be? What Terrain Geek produces is gaming scenery and every piece I received was faultless – which isn’t a boast Forge World can make – and is a fraction of the price. That said, the detail is good, more to the point once it’s painted and on the table it’ll look ace.

There was also some clear thought that went into the designs. Take the objective markers:

ObjectivesThey look good, they’re detailed but not to the point where you’ll avoid painting them but they’re designed to be as easy and cost-effective to cast as possible. The cannon especially is ace and would fit in on any fantasy or even steampunk board.

Equally the wall sets are simple but effective and can be painted in an hour. This doesn’t mean they lack detail, they just have the right detail. The magic stones are crumbling but still have the etchings on them telling of past glories. The generic walls look solid and hewn with the most basic tools.

WallsThe nice thing is that despite being cast from resin they feel solid and robust as any plastic kit and, again, suits just about any fantasy or steampunk board. For a fiver per section it’s pretty good value.

Now, scenery is all well and good. Especially scenery that does the job as efficiently and as cost effectively as these sets, but where it gets really good is the base toppers. I’ve never really been one for base toppers or pre-casts as I much prefer to do my basing the old-fashioned way. That said the bases from Terrain Geek, once again, strike the perfect balance between cool and practical.

basesIf I’m completely honest I can see the 3omm woodland bases being a bit of a faff to work with and as positioning could be limited the uniqueness of the bases could be impacted some what. That said they, and the stone and overgrown industrial ranges all look ace. Having just got my grubby little mits on a Warmachine starter set I can suddenly see the potential of the Industrial ranges as they all fit perfectly with Warmachine bases. A Warjack standing on a base of scrap would look awesome.

The other way cool thing is the 50mm base topper is perfect to mount Epic Titans on so the two Warhound Titans I just got from Forge World will get to be on proper manly bases rather than the tiny ones they’re supplied with.

I really like the base toppers. I really like the brilliant simplicity of them that can so easily be tarted up with the simple application of static grass or snow effect. I love the focussed ranges that keep the costs down but still offer a solution to most gamer’s needs. And I love the fact that each pack is only £2 a pop. So you can put scenic bases on 10 marines for £3.98. That’s not silly money. Granted a pot of sand from the Games Workshop will cost you £5.10 and it’ll base a lot more than 10 marines but it’s all the additions like scrap or bits of stone that’ll start the cost mounting.

I think what Terrain Geek has done with its range is present affordable, gaming standard, terrain and base toppers that look the part when you paint them and look the absolute balls when you put the effort in and a few tufts of grass or a sprinkling of snow. The resin is a good quality and has none of the waxy residue found on so many resin kits. It proves that resin is not the bank bustingly expensive material some companies will have us believe and that for not big money you can have a profound impact on your models and your board.

Warmill Scenery – A Review

For those who’ve never heard of Warmill, they’re a company based not far from me in sunny Bournemouth. The founders met at University on a design course and found they shared a passion for wargaming as well as design.

The idea behind Warmill is quite simple. Affordable, 28mm, gaming standard wargaming scenery. The scenery in question is laser cut multipart MDF kits. Warmill already offer a wide range of kits with more on the way including barricades, webway gates and Utility Pods and it’s all pretty cool looking stuff.

I got my hands on the FoodBooth 9000 and the Portable Utility Pod. The packs themselves are nicely presented and even came with some fluff about the scenery itself which was cool and gives a suggestion of where Ed & Harry plan on taking Warmill in the long-term.

Once you crack the seal you’re presented with some very neatly cut sprues of MDF with all the bits and bobs to make your little slice of science fiction landscape. You also get some instructions and you’ll need em because there are a lot of components, especially in the Utility Pod. The only problem is that although the parts are lettered by group in the instructions, they’re not on the sprues. Or anywhere else. It’s not really an issue with the FoodBooth as the sprues aren’t very cluttered and has relatively few small parts, it’s a bloody nightmare with the Utility Pod on the other hand and I did struggle to discern off cuts with bits I actually needed.

You’ve got to be careful getting the bits you need from the sprues as it won’t take much to break them, but in recognition of that the chaps at Warmill will replace any component that breaks whilst your punching it out, which is pretty decent of them. It does all come away quite cleanly providing you’re respectful of the material you’re working with. And it will need a little filing. The other thing is that the kits need gluing. This may seem pretty bloody obvious but my first impression was that it would all just press together. The precisions of the engineering is excellent  This means PVA glue so it’s not a quick build which isn’t the end of the world unless you want it for a game that day, then you’re stuffed.

The look of the kits is ace. I love the Utility Pod and how effortlessly it fits with other parts of the range and the character of the FoodBoth is what attracted me to Warmill in the first place. I do think that the technology lends itself to certain styles over others. I definitely think that more industrial looking designs work better over more organic looking structures.

The Warmill range is great and off to a strong start. I’m totally sold on the barricade systems and the Utility Pods. Certain details will look, inevitably, as flat as the MDF it’s made from and there’s no escaping that but you’re buying simple, gaming standard terrain. At the end of the day it’s laser cut wood. This isn’t a criticism as for laser cut wood it looks the tits, especially once it’s got some paint on it. It is a little on the expensive side – £23.99 for the booth – but it’s solidly built and light weight.

And I suppose that’s their unique selling point. Gaming standard terrain that’s easy to build, easy to paint and won’t take much to store. The instructions could be a little clearer and I think it would have a wider appeal if it was a little cheaper as being in the GW price range for simpler kits is a tough sell. But generally it looks ace, it goes together well and if you have a box of the stuff you won’t get a hernia.