Category Archives: Product Reviews

“We Are The Borg.”

“Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”

I bought these Modiphius Borg Collective miniatures at the end of last year, since the price was right at $24 for the set. You get 10 Borg drones, an even mix of male and female. A good amount of them are one-piece castings requiring no assembly (beyond basing), so that’s a plus. The ones that do require assembly are just as fiddly as ever to put together. Sigh.

Six of the models are duplicates (three male, three female), while the remaining four have different poses. Since one Borg drone is pretty much the same as any other (kinda the Borg raison d’etre), this lack of variety doesn’t really bother me much. Same goes for the “scenic” bases; they’re standard deck plates, which makes sense for the Borg as they’re constantly assimilating starships.

Painting them was ridiculously easy, although tedious. I used mostly Citadel paints: the skin (what little there is of it) was based in Rakarth Flesh, then washed with Agrax Earthshade. Then I applied a highlight of Flayed One Flesh and a final highlight of Pallid Wych Flesh. This is the same skin recipe I used for Solomon Grundy. He’s a pasty fellow, too.

The Borg “uniform” was based in Vallejo Heavy Charcoal, drybrushed with Citadel Celestra Grey. washed with Citadel Nuln Oil, then given a final highlight of Citadel Longbeard Grey. The metal bits were based in Vallejo Gunmetal Grey and highighted with Citadel Mithril Silver.

Between composing this post and actually publishing it, I acquired another box of Borg (part of a two-box deal with the Next Generation-era away team). I didn’t plan it, but I guess having more Borg isn’t a bad thing, as every time they assimilate someone, they make a new Borg.

Since the price was also right ($18.97), I bought the Star Trek Iconic Villains set, too (I wouldn’t have bought it, otherwise). I’ll eventually get around to painting that set, but it’s a pretty low priority. I mention it here because three of the iconic villains are Lore, Locutus of Borg and the Borg Queen, who actually does have a scenic base other than a deck plate, complete with snaking cables and power conduits. Since I can’t see using either Locutus or the Queen without some standard Borg drones (and since I painted them at the same time as this set) I included them here, along with Lore.

Locutus and the One Who is Many.

These make up the entirety of the miniatures I have painted thus far in 2020, which is a pitiful output, considering current circumstances are pretty much confining me to my home. I have been wholly preoccupied with The Witcher 3 and running my Star Trek Adventures campaign (game tonight! woohoo!), and thus my painting has suffered.

BUT: Around the corner is May, which has traditionally been “Monster Month” over here at Dead Dick’s Tavern. This year I think I’ll open it up as a painting challenge to any and all who want to participate. More on that soon.

For this year, I decided to “reset the clock” on the Insanity Pile, that way it will give me a more accurate account at the end of the year.

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Purchased in 2020: 20

Miniatures Painted in 2020: 23

Total +3

The New Golden Age of RPGs

A funny thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I got a notification from Amazon that my package had been delivered, which I found odd because I did not recall ordering anything. I ventured outside and lo and behold, a mysterious box was resting comfortably on my doorstep. I opened it up and found this:

I checked my order history and sure enough, I had ordered it the night before, but I had no memory of doing so. I opened up the liquor cabinet and regarded the level of gin in the bottle with a critical eye.

Well, that one look explained a lot.

My first impression of the game is that it looks like a lot of fun. With rules for running both cinematic games (where you’re likely to die) and campaigns (where you might live), it’s a comprehensive system that’s very true to the source material. The book itself is beautiful, but to be honest it could be about half the size; much of the pages are light on actual text, taken up instead with (beautiful) illustrations and lots of empty space. It’s a design choice, but it also contributes to the cost of the finished product. I don’t know if I’ll ever run it or play it, but it’s a great read nonetheless and it has inspired me to dig out my Dark Horse Aliens comics for some re-reading.

I have been on a RPG buying spree lately. It started before Christmas (when I was supposed to be shopping for others) and hasn’t really let up. In addition to my unexpected Alien purchase, I bought all of these:

Not to mention several supplements and sourcebooks for Star Trek Adventures and Red Markets not pictured here. (Addiction is a disease, people, and it’s real. Sadly, one addiction often feeds another, as in the case of my gin-fueled Amazon binge that made me the owner of a hardcopy of the Alien RPG.)

The keen-eyed among you may notice I haven’t even opened my 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons set or my Delta Green set yet. This is because I have been all-in on getting my Star Trek Adventures game up and running (more on that soon ) and delving deeply into Red Markets, which is a 400+ page hardcover I had printed at Indie Press Revolution. (I just can’t seem to navigate PDFs very well. I prefer books.)

What do these games have in common? Well, all of them have received stellar reviews, and all of them are extremely well-produced. I became aware of some of them from listening to various podcasts and watching YouTube videos. The small press is king nowadays, and Kickstarter has a lot to do with that. Otherwise it’s unlikely games like Red Markets would ever get made, and that is a shame indeed, because it’s pretty damn cool, with a system that is unique, innovative and often very harsh.

I have been a Call of Cthulhu player since I was in high school, and D&D since well before that. So why buy into new editions? Put simply, because that’s what people play nowadays. My last edition of CoC was the d20 OGL edition, which was great (at least I thought so, but I like the d20 system). Previous to that it was 5th edition. Now I can’t hear enough great things about 7th edition, and it’s what my friends play. If I want to run a game (and I do), then this is the way to do it. Ditto with Dungeons and Dragons. My last edition was 3.5. I skipped the horror of 4th edition entirely, and would have been happy to play 3.5, Pathfinder or even go back to 2nd edition for the rest of my life. But once again, I hear the buzz, and it’s pretty universally great. I picked up the core rulebooks to give it a shot.

I never played Delta Green in its earlier incarnation. Listening to actual play podcasts has given me the fever to run a few games of this, as it’s pretty much made for the one-shot scenario (and that’s about all I can seem to get going nowadays). This current edition has received almost universally positive press. Much like Alien, I don’t know if I’ll ever actually play it, but I know I will enjoy reading it.

Finally: Savage Worlds. I’ve been hearing about this system for years now. Much like Fate and GURPS, it’s a universal roleplaying system that gives players a lot of agency in how they create and play their characters. I haven’t had much time to look these rules over and it’s unlikely that I’ll run a game using them, but I collect rules sets, and always like to see what various systems offer.

I mentioned I wouldn’t have even heard of some of these games if it weren’t for my new love of actual play and gaming podcasts. (Since I don’t get to play very often, I can at least listen as others do.) I’ll list my favorites here, along with my pithy commentary. You can obviously find them anywhere you get podcasts, but I’ll link to their respective homes on the web.

The Roleplaying Exchange: These folks play a lot of games I like, like Star Trek Adventures, Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green and Slasher Flick. This is the first podcast I found, and through it I discovered many of the small-press games I’ve bought since. They share the Red Markets 10K Lakes campaign with Technical Difficulties, so you can find episodes crossing over on both podcasts. In addition to actual play, they do a lot of interviews with game creators and discuss topics related to the roleplaying hobby as well.

Speaking of Technical Difficulties, they play a lot of Red Markets (among other things). I have mixed feelings about this podcast, good and bad. The good: They play small press games. They have a handle on the rules and illustrate them well during the podcast. They have interesting ideas for game scenarios. The bad: they’re mostly annoying people to listen to. You will lose track of how many times someone utters the sentence “That’s fair”, often when there was never any question of the fairness of anything. (It’s like a shared nervous tic.) Not everyone is insufferable; some regular players are funny and interesting in spite of the podcast’s shortcomings. But sadly, it’s often true that there’s always at least one huge asshole in every gaming group. (If you don’t think there is one, then chances are it’s probably you.) This group has more than one. I won’t name names, but let’s just say there’s a guy who has to correct everyone all the time, another guy who only plays asshole characters because “that’s what I like to do”, and another guy who always wants to start some player vs. player bullshit. Luckily, not all of these people are on every podcast. Assholish behavior is generally not my cup of tea (YMMV, of course), but I can grit my teeth and enjoy what they do offer, which are some good examples of various games’ rules in play. I learned of several games I would have otherwise missed through this podcast. And I DID subscribe to it, so obviously I feel there is some value in listening.

Terrible Warriors: This is hands-down my favorite actual play group to listen to. The podcasts are all about an hour or less, the pacing is top-notch, they play REALLY interesting games, and the players are fantastic. I would love to play in this group. Unfortunately (for me), they’re based in Toronto. They play a lot of Star Trek Adventures (which is how I found them), but they play a lot of Kickstarter-funded games as well. It’s through them that I discovered so many indie games I would have otherwise never heard of. Recent highlights are Bluebeard’s Bride, a feminine horror game in which the players all play a part of the Bride’s persona (an awesome concept I wish I thought of) as they explore her new home and create their own version of the classic fairy tale; and Zombie World, a diceless card-based rpg that plays so smoothly, I’m dying to try it out. Both of these are from Magpie Games and use the new Powered by the Apocalypse Engine. Well worth a look, and I can’t recommend the podcast enough. Sometimes they get the rules wrong, but they always manage to have a lot of fun nonetheless.

The Lovecraft Tapes: This is an actual play 7th edition Call of Cthulhu podcast that uses Roll20. (It doesn’t look like they’ve done anything for 2020 yet, so maybe they’re on a break.) Although it’s a horror game, it’s often quite funny rather than scary, and the amount of time they put into editing it is apparent. Once again, each session is usually about an hour long. Great fun, with a talented GM.

One Less Die: I became aware of this actual play podcast through the creator’s appearance on the Roleplaying Exchange. It’s still in the early stages, with the beginning episodes focusing on the latest edition of Shadowrun. The Shadowrun campaign is still ongoing, but I started listening when they began a Call of Cthulhu campaign. I got annoyed because one of the players is playing a Russian investigator and he insists on talking like the most over-the-top Pavel Chekov you can imagine, so I bailed on it for a while. It sounded promising, so I’ll probably give it another shot at some point.

Coming next: the conclusion to my Fantastic Worlds Star Trek campaign: Hubbard’s World!

“A Good Day to Die!”

I recently got a good deal on some Modiphius Klingons for the Star Trek Adventures game (they just weren’t selling at my FLGS, hence the discount). Having little self-control, I bought them.

Klingons have never been known for a vibrant fashion color palette, so painting these guys was more challenging and less fun than I thought it would be. Mostly dark greys and metallics; not exactly eye-catching. I decided to add some red here and there to give some contrast to an otherwise boring look.

The good news is that I like the poses on these, and I like the overall look of the warband. This female Klingon lieutenant is by far my favorite miniature of them all. I love the bat’leth over the shoulder pose, casually daring you to try your luck.

Continuing with the good news: the rest of the set looks pretty good, and the inclusion of a few female Klingons is certainly nice. There is a nice assortment of weaponry; bat’leths are prominent, and this lieutenant swinging a mek’leth is pretty cool. Almost all miniatures sport at least two weapons (in true Klingon style). Where does it rank up among my Trek miniatures? Well, it’s better by far than the TNG bridge crew, better than the Romulan warband, and not as good as the TOS crew (despite Scotty’s bizarre pose). Just my opinion, of course.

And now the not-so-good news…

In my previous reviews of the Modiphius Trek miniatures I have thus far painted, I stated that they’re made of shitty, brittle plastic and that they absolutely suck to put together, because they’re fiddly and unnecessarily complicated. This remains true. If I didn’t love Trek so much I’d never put up with this level of annoyance, especially at the prices they charge. Put simply: these miniatures could and should be designed better and made out of stronger material. And, despite their obvious digital sculpting, noticeable gaps remain at all the glue points after assembly, making green stuff a necessity.

Also, the 30mm “scenic base” is really just a deck plate, much like the bases in the Romulan set. I actually don’t mind this that much, but calling it “scenic” is kind of a stretch.

Get your shit together, Modiphius, especially since you have the balls to charge over $50 per set. (Not that I paid anywhere near that, because that’s just bullshit.) Thankfully, these scale well with Heroclix (which are a lot cheaper), so you can use them alongside less-expensive options for Trek gaming, should you desire.

A recent visit to the Modiphius website revealed they are conducting a survey on which miniatures gamers would like to see next. I cast my vote for some Cardassians (my favorite alien Trek species), along with the DS9 station crew and a Dominion/Jem’Hadar warband. Some TOS-era Klingons and Romulans would be nice, too; but I can make do with Heroclix until then.

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Purchased: 69

Miniatures Painted: 136

Total: +67

Modiphius Star Trek Miniatures: A Review

For Christmas, I gifted myself two sets of Modiphius miniatures for their Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game: the Next Generation Bridge Crew and the Romulan Strike Team. Then, after Christmas, I got the Original Series bridge crew at a staggering discount (see below). Here’s my review of all three sets. Spoiler: it’s not a universally great review. Some sets are much better than others, and the same problems are common to all.

Price: There seems to be a great deal of variation in the price of these sets. Modiphius sells them for $50.99 each, which is fucking insane even for licensed properties like this. Luckily, you can easily find these much cheaper simply by shopping around. I paid $24.56 with free shipping for the TNG bridge crew, and $16.88 for the Romulans, both from Amazon vendors. Then, I managed to find the Original Series bridge crew for only $8.00 plus shipping, which is a truly incredible savings that I still can’t believe! YMMV, but I find full retail price for these to be ridiculous and not at all worth it.

Sculpting: They’re obviously digitally sculpted, and I’m not really a fan of computer sculpting. (That’s my personal preference, of course.) The likenesses are pretty good overall, although I question many of the poses of the TNG crew and the decision to make so many of them and the TOS crew multipart castings. More on this later.

Composition: The miniatures are plastic. Not good, strong plastic; rather shitty, fragile plastic. Be very careful removing them from the sprue. I was, and I still had an annoying mishap (see below). I don’t understand how miniatures today get made out of flimsy materials like this. GW, Victrix, Wargames Factory and Wyrd can make miniatures out of strong plastic, so it’s not like it’s impossible. Even Reaper Bones, with their tendency to bend, are way better than these. Not a fan.

Assembly: Each miniature comes on its own sprue, which  includes a circular base with holes to accommodate pegs on the model’s feet. Most of the bases are sculpted to look like metal decking, but some of the TNG and TOS bridge crew miniatures have “scenic” bases. I found using the peg holes to be somewhat aggravating, as they are positioned in such a way that the models are often off-center, which looks weird. To make matters worse, these miniatures are fiddly as fuck, making assembly a huge chore. This is further complicated because many are multipart castings (and they really don’t need to be…see below).

I use Gorilla Glue gel to assemble all my miniatures. Metal, plastic, resin…it doesn’t matter. I find it to give a strong, quick bond, and the gel gives a little substance for fiddly parts to grip onto. Gorilla Glue gel failed me here. For whatever reason, it did not want to bond this shitty plastic. I had to hold pieces together for much longer than usual to get these miniatures assembled.

Now, onto the miniatures themselves…

I’ll get the Romulans out of the way first, because I have the least to say about them. In short, it’s a pretty good set, and you get 10 miniatures instead of 8. These include a commander, 4 centurions, and 5 uhlans. The Romulan commander and three of the uhlans are female; the rest are male figures. Sadly, you get repeats of some of the same figures as opposed to 10 different sculpts, but they’re still much better looking overall than the TNG bridge crew, and far less fiddly to assemble. All of the miniatures are single-piece castings with the exception the two centurions armed with disruptor rifles; they need to have their arms attached.

Onto the TNG bridge crew. I’ll take these miniatures individually, because there’s a lot not to like about them. I’ve already stated my problems with assembly, so just assume unless otherwise stated that they were all a pain in the ass to put together.

First, what I consider to be the best miniatures in the lot. Dr. Crusher looks pretty good, carrying a medical kit in one hand and a medical tricorder in the other, just as she should be. In my opinion, she’s the best miniature among the crew, but YMMV. Next, Captain Picard is the only one-piece casting in the set. He’s not too bad, but I would have preferred he look more “Picard-ish” and not be brandishing a phaser. Lastly, there’s Commander Riker, who looks pretty good dramatically standing with his characteristic “leg-up” pose. His beard is not very well-defined, which could be because Modiphius wanted to give us the option of having a beardless, Season One Riker. (That’s no Riker of mine, but again, YMMV.)

Next, the rest, in no particular order of disappointment. Lieutenant Yar looks good except for her ridiculous karate pose. (They couldn’t give her a phaser? She was Chief of Security. If anyone should be brandishing a phaser, it should be her.) Lieutenant Commander LaForge would be a lot better if he was looking at his tricorder, not looking like someone poured ice water down the back of his uniform. Deanna Troi is ok, I guess…but why give her a tricorder? When did Troi ever use a fucking tricorder?

Lieutenant Commander Data looks just as out-of-place holding a Type III phaser rifle. Again, why? Maybe Modiphius wanted to give some variety, but I can’t recall a single instance of Data using a phaser rifle in the entire series. Even if he did, it’s not like it was a common enough occurrence that he deserves to be sculpted with one. Lieutenant Worf is wielding his iconic bat’leth, because of course he is. I would have preferred him with something like a Type III phaser rifle instead. I can’t recall him ever using one of those either, but it seems to fit his style better than Data’s. Sigh. I can’t decide whether Data or LaForge is my least favorite miniature in the set. They’re both pretty bad.

On to The Original Series miniatures, by far my favorite set of the three, and not because I paid the least for it. You get eight miniatures in the set. Again, I’ll start with the three best miniatures (IMHO, of course); the big three: Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

My favorite miniature hands-down, Kirk just looks AWESOME, talking into a communicator and brandishing a phaser. (He just needs a green Orion female to drape herself around him Frazetta-style and it’s a 100% match.) Spock is looking appropriately science-y, and McCoy looks great with his iconic old-school tape recorder/microphone style medical tricorder. A+ on this trio, Modiphius!

Next, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura. Sulu and Chekov both look great, although Sulu is a tad more dynamic (Bravo on not casting him shirtless with a fencing rapier, Modiphius!). Uhura is also a terrific sculpt (I like her almost as much as Spock and McCoy); although she was rarely on away missions, she looks perfect with her ubiquitous earpiece and a phaser, to boot.

Finally, Mr. Scott and Nurse Chapel. Although he’s still better than most of the TNG miniatures, Scotty is my least favorite miniature in this set. What is he running away from? A warp core breach? (If so, it’s doubtful he will get far enough away on foot…you know, in space…) Nurse Chapel looks fine holding Dr. McCoy’s space clipboard for him, but I question her inclusion in the set. I guess they needed an eighth miniature. I guess they didn’t want to include Yeoman Rand, considering she only lasted 8 episodes…

My biggest quibble with all these miniatures is the quality of the plastic. Worf broke when I was cutting him off the sprue, and my cutters didn’t even touch him. His foot snapped in half when I cut the sprue next to it! Annoying for sure…but it would be downright infuriating if I had paid full retail for this set. I tried my best to fix it, but the problems I experienced with the glue made it set wrong. I have read similar complaints about the fragility of other sets.

Currently, Modiphius offers three additional sets: TNG-era Klingons, Borg, and generic Starfleet officers, many of them alien races included as character options in the rpg. They all look pretty good, but I haven’t been able to find the sets for a reasonable price (less than $30). I would love to see some Cardassians (my favorite bad guys), the DS9 station crew, and some original series Klingons, but we’ll have to see what, if anything, Modiphius releases next.

I’ll be working on painting these Trek miniatures throughout January, so hopefully I’ll have them done soon. Until then, peace and long life!

Playtesting Super Mission Force

Those who read this blog know that I am a big fan of Scott Pyle’s Supersystem 3 for playing superhero battles on the tabletop. Well, Scott dropped a bombshell on The Miniatures Page to all us fans last week with the announcement of Super Mission Force, which is a new project of his. Originally billed as “Supersystem Lite”, Scott made sure to stress that that is no longer the case. The game has evolved beyond that.

So naturally, as a huge fanboy of SS3, I asked : why should I want this? Not trying to be a prick, just wondering what would appeal to me as a SS3 player. Here’s what Scott replied: The game plays a lot faster than any version of Supersystem, and there’s no number crunching in the build system. None. Zero. So it’s a different sort of game. you’ll use archetypes and menu selections to build characters, and once you know how powers work and what to expect, you’ll be able to build a character in a couple of minutes.

He is so right.

Scott was kind enough to provide TMP members with a version of the rules thus far, and I’ve done some solo gaming.  (Check out my first two After Action Reports, here and here. )

Here is my review (spoiler: it’s a glowing one).

REVIEW

Let’s start with character generation. It’s blindingly fast. You can build a team of heroes from scratch in about 15 minutes, whether you like creating your own, or whether (like me), you enjoy adapting classic comic book heroes and villains for your games. If you’re doing that, I found some of the power selections and limitations didn’t fit “classic” heroes very well, but of course, you’re free to change whatever you want. Most archetypes are built around one major power and two minor powers. I imagine this is done for overall game balance when creating your own heroes, and that’s fine. But if you want to adapt an established hero you may find this too limiting.

Example: here is my build for Spider-Man:  Brawler: (Major) Scrapper, (Minor) Leaping, Entangle, Super Agility, Enhanced Senses. It’s kind of tough to see Spider-Man without any of those minor powers, so following the limit of 2 wouldn’t make much sense in his case. As far as “game balance” goes, I don’t really care, considering I don’t play competitively. Also, let’s all admit that some heroes are just better than others. Some are more powerful, more experienced, and just better at what they do. Who are you putting your money on? Wolverine or Starfox? (If you asked “Who’s Starfox?” then you’ve more than proven my point.)

Moving onto powers, SMF differs from SS3 in a lot of ways, most for the better. Powers are much simpler and there are no more dice control pools, which worked well but take a bit of bookkeeping (and a familiarity with a power’s cost and abilities) to manage from round to round. Some powers require a recharge roll before they can be used again; most don’t. Either way, you are often rolling fewer dice than in SS3, which is a good thing if you like quick resolution.

Combat is smooth and quick, and most of all easy as pie. Every model performs a combination of actions on their turn; such as moving, attacking, or interacting with an object. There is no point cost to keep track of. Attacks and damage are grouped together, so any “unsaved” attacks translate into damage without calculating a separate damage roll. I didn’t realize just how much this speeds up combat resolution until I played a couple of games, but it’s a huge time saver. Every archetype has access to unique abilities they can use in combat (Bricks can throw Haymaker punches; Speedsters can Hurricane Charge, etc.), and these really add a lot of fun to battles!

I confess that aside from the Henchmen rules, I didn’t really look too deeply into the rest of the rules so far. The Henchmen rules will also be familiar to any SS3 players, although they’re also easier. Henchmen exist to be smacked around by the numbers, and SMF makes it easy to make groups of henchmen in about 2 seconds that fill this role nicely. Whether you want gun-toting goons or brawling thugs, it’s quick and easy to do.

Every character has the option for one or more background choices which may give bonuses to certain activities “off the battlefield”, such as following up on clues, solving scientific puzzles, etc. If you like a bit of roleplaying in your miniatures campaigns, these help. Also, there are rules for carrying injuries from story to story and for developing heroes throughout adventures.

But if you’re like me, you’re looking for quick and easy gaming action that’s faithful to the superhero genre. Super Mission Force has that to spare.

Another thing I love about this game is the learning curve. It takes almost no time to learn these rules, as everything is based off of a 4 dice pool, plus or minus a couple of dice depending on your powers or desired combat actions. This makes this game very easy to teach to newcomers, which is very important if, like me, you want to get right into the action with people who aren’t necessarily wargaming geeks, but who love superheroes.

But enough about that, you want to see how it plays? Again, you can check out my first two games, here and here!

If there’s anything negative to say about the game, it’s that it’s still in the playtest stage. I had a couple of clarification questions, but nothing game-breaking. Also, people who want more detail may want to look elsewhere. Scott also said ” All [the quicker, simpler mechanics] comes at a cost of some detail, which longtime Supersystem fans may not like. All I can say is download the play-test doc and give it a look.

At this time, you can download  the play-test doc here.

As a longtime Supersystem fan, all I can say is I think I may finally bid a very fond farewell to SS3 ( I will always love Supersystem 3), at least for the foreseeable future. I love and champion Supersystem, but Super Mission Force is exactly what I’m looking for to quickly adapt existing comic heroes to the tabletop, and to get in some quick, easy and fun games with my friends.

I can’t recommend this game highly enough, and I will certainly buy the finished product!

 

 

 

Armorcast and Laser Cut Card: 2 Company Reviews

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a not-so-small heap of unfinished terrain projects laying about your workspace. Last month I decided to incorporate building and painting terrain into my normal painting routine (when I have a routine) so the heap will, in theory, reduce over time. So, since I just finished up Imperial Assault, I thought I’d get cracking on some of the modern terrain I ordered for my Supers and Zombie games.

Much of my modern terrain comes from Armorcast. I also recently purchased a couple of things from Laser Cut Card. What follows is a review of both companies and the products I bought.

First up is Armorcast. I already own a fair amount of Armorcast products, and there’s a couple of  good reasons why. First, they look great when they’re painted up and on the table. I’ve had the mausoleums above for about 6 years and never played a game with them (because I haven’t made a graveyard yet). I posed them with a Wargames Factory zombie vixen to show how cool the terrain looks in context. You might recognize the dumpsters from the many After Action Reports on this blog. I pretty much use them in any city-based game.

DSCN3039

Second, Armorcast resin products are generally pretty durable, especially the chunkier pieces. My recent order consisted of these “roof-toppers” and a billboard 3-pack (which I’ll get to in a minute). These are designed to affix to Armorcast’s line of resin buildings to make the removal of rooftops easier. I don’t use Armorcast buildings, and I like a bit of freedom when it comes to my scenery so I won’t be attaching anything permanently.

All Armorcast stuff is easy to prime and paint. I’ve never had anything rub off once it’s been sealed.

DSCN3038DSCN3037

Unfortunately, Armorcast products require a lot of cleanup. This is less true of the big, blocky pieces like those above, but look at these billboards and soda machines.There’s an awful lot of resin flash and bubbles in the casting that will need to be sanded or filled. I was least happy with the billboards, as they required a lot of flash removal. Remember when I said that Armorcast resin is generally durable? It is, but in smaller pieces like this it’s actually brittle. I broke a few of the billboard supports removing flash with some nippy cutters. You can see the broken ones in the top picture (the two middle supports).

Even then, there was enough flash left that I needed to use a Dremel to get it smoothed down, which is not really something you want to do as resin dust is quite toxic. Also, I assumed that once the billboards were assembled they would stand on their own, but they don’t. Whether this is because I broke the supports or not I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s because the billboard is heavier than the supports, so it falls on its face if not anchored to something. If you plan on gluing it to a building, you’ll have no problem. But if you’re like me, you’ll have to take the extra step of basing it on something so you can use it wherever you want.

This water tower is from Laser Cut Card, a South African company that seems to have greatly expanded their product line recently. I ordered this about a year ago along with some Ork glyphs and finally got around to assembling and painting it. It’s made of uncoated cardboard, a bit stiffer than your average cereal box. LCC claims that coated cardboard (like Plastcraft stuff) would melt if cut with a laser, so they leave it uncoated. This is not as much of a problem as you’d think, as it’s surprisingly strong and sturdy once assembled.

When I first got this, I bitched and whined that there was no instruction sheet included with it. When I finally got around to assembling it, I had no problems figuring it out just by looking at the picture on the box. Anyone with modeling experience should have no problem, but just for the hell of it I went on LCCs website and found that they have instructions right there, so my grumbling was premature. They don’t include them to save on shipping costs (more on that below). Assembly took about an hour (without the benefit of instructions).

The cardboard takes paint ok, not great. As you can see, not having a coating on it just means the paint soaks into the card a little more than you may like. I spray-primed this tower black before painting it with craft paint and you can judge the results for yourself.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the graffiti decals, they’re made by a company called Microscale and carried by Armorcast. The sheet I have says it’s HO scale, but as you can see they seem to fit right in on 28mm scale scenery. I think they really make the water tower look cool and help cover up some of the paint issues.

So those are the products. What about the prices and shipping?

Armorcast isn’t cheap, especially their bigger pieces. However, they have extensive product lines across many genres. If you’re looking for something in particular, chances are they have it, whether you’re playing fantasy, sci-fi or modern games.  Most of it looks terrific and is generally durable enough to stand up to the rigors of gaming, although as stated above, you may need to do some work on it first.

Armorcast asks that customers allow one month for shipping, and that’s exactly how long I waited for my most recent order. Not lightning fast, but everything is cast to order, so I have no complaints. Over the years I’ve had a couple of interactions with Armorcast. One order shipped missing an item, and when I called them they took care of it right away. I also talked to their rep at Gen Con in 2012 and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy. So customer service is good, too.

Laser Cut Card has a greatly expanded product line that includes Sci-Fi and Modern terrain at insanely low prices. (That cardboard water tower retails for $6.50; Armorcast has a resin one for $12.00).  Of course, you will need to spend some time assembling it first. It’s surprisingly strong and I’m optimistic that my next attempt at painting it will enjoy better success.

LCC’s shipping times and costs are unbelievable. This water tower and a package of ork glyphs shipped in a standard mailing envelope for ONE DOLLAR, and it made the trip from South Africa to Southeastern Massachusetts in a week!!! I haven’t had any need to contact LCC for customer service, but they seem like nice enough guys and, like Armorcast, I’m sure I’ll be ordering from them again.

Product Review: Pegasus Hobbies Palm Trees Series A

I recently bought a couple of boxes of these Palm Trees for use in some tropical Pulp gaming. Here are my thoughts.

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First, I wish I thought to take pictures of the assembly and unboxing, but if you want that you can check out Tabletop Lenny’s video here. Second, these are Palm Trees Series A, which is a box of 5 trees. These differ from Series B which only has 3 trees per box. Series B trees are much larger and feature a different type of leaf.

PROS:

  • $8.50 a box retail. Pretty cheap!
  • Very easy to assemble once they’re prepared.
  • They look great right out of the box, no painting necessary.
  • They’re listed as 1/72 scale, which means they work well with 15mm-28mm miniatures.

CONS:

  • They’re kind of a pain in the ass to prepare. The leaves require a fair bit of trimming but once this is done, so is 90% of your work.

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Once I assembled them, I based them on cork tiles and added some rocks. I painted the bases but didn’t bother with the trees themselves. Painting the leaves would be a nightmare, and anyway, they look great as is! The picture above shows some 28mm Pulp Figures Melanesian Island Warriors for scale.

SHOULD YOU BUY THEM?

Absolutely. They’re cheap, easy to assemble, and they look fantastic. Thumbs up!

 

Product Review: Plastcraft Western Buildings

Production of my south-of-the-border town of Mescalero has slowed while I try to figure out some problems with the church roof. With all the amazing new Western buildings available from companies like 4Ground, Game On and Knuckleduster, to name a few, I thought I might as well start putting together a more traditional Western town. The trouble is those laser-cut MDF buildings can get pricey pretty quick.

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I first saw these PlastCraft Western Buildings on Miniature Market and I figured I’d give them a try. The kits are all basically the same, although the front of each building is different, and some have awnings while some do not. Each building kit comes with a resin door and window (varies by kit). You can’t beat the price: at less than $5 each I bought all six varieties.

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I posed some 28mm Blue Moon cowboys with these buildings to give you an idea of the scale. As you can see, the buildings are pretty small for 28mm and might be better suited to 15mm. The roofs are not designed to be removable, but I guess you don’t have to permanently attach them if you don’t want to. Regardless, the interiors are so small that there’s really no point in not attaching them.

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I have mixed feelings about these kits. I’ll give you my personal pros and cons, as well as discuss how I assembled them. I wish I had thought to take pictures of them before assembly, but I didn’t think I’d be writing a review of them. Sorry.

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  • The price. For less than $5 apiece, they make perfectly good small shops and won’t break your scenery budget.
  • Once assembled and painted, they look nice enough.
  • Once primed, the material takes paint well. Inexpensive craft paint was made for  projects like this!
  • You get a lot of extra card left over for each building, which is great for use in other projects, or to dress up these buildings (see below).

CONS:

  • The kits are somewhat fiddly to assemble, especially the awnings. Expect to get glue on your fingers.
  • The resin doors and windows do not often fit snugly into the holes. There’s usually a gap, so you need to fill it with Green Stuff or something else.
  • There is absolutely no texture to these buildings. Either you need to paint it to look like wood boards, or you need to score the material first. I opted for the latter. It’s easy enough to score, and it looks much better when assembled.
  • The signs, like the building walls, are just blank card.  Which means either stenciling, painting freehand, or doing what I did; which is printing out the name of the business in Playbill font and glueing it to the sign. The downside to this is it looks bright. I guess I could have used some other paper, but for the amount of use these buildings are going to get, it wasn’t worth it.
  • All of the above makes assembling these buildings a more time-consuming task than you might think.

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OVERALL:

The low price makes it easy to overlook the annoyances. These kits would compliment some nicer buildings by the abovementioned companies, or may provide adequate scenery for a small outdoor skirmish on their own. You may notice I used some extra card bits to make signs on a couple of buildings like the one above. It won’t win any awards, but it adds a little something extra. You get plenty of leftover card to use in any way you see fit. For example, I considered making a plank bridge from one building roof to another, but scrapped the idea.

After I painted them, I realized my Western buildings look pretty bright and clean! I’m thinking of adding some weathering pigments to them to dirty them up a bit. You could paint them with less color to give them a more hastily-constructed or ramshackle look, if you prefer.

SHOULD YOU BUY THEM?

Yeah, if you’re looking to add a little extra to a town or if you’re on a tight budget (or both). As long as you have the patience to assemble them, these kits are fine for what they are, and a steal at the price.