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

Mantic Battlezones Announced

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Mantic are back with another release but this time it isn’t a new team for Dreadball!

They are instead launching their new futuristic scenery range: Battlezones which they are saying will allow you to easily build a truly 3D gaming space at a genuinely affordable price. If this is the case then I am very interested as the first pictures suggest that these kits could be great for a lot of games.

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The Urban Quadrant

From what Mantic have said so far Battlezones will be marketed as high quality plastic kits that will be modular so can be built and put together in a virtually infinite number of ways. Looking at these initial pictures, it looks like the range will be suitable not only to add cover to a large board but also to create some interesting looking claustrophobic close quarter battlefields ideal for skirmish games.

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We will keep an eye open for any more news on this, and their timing couldn’t be better with Salute 2014 just around the corner. I am looking forward to seeing the finished product, and needless to say I will paying Mantic a visit on the day to see what they are showcasing.

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.

Battlefleet Gothic Scratch Build – Space Dock

All the fun Phil and Matt have been having with their X-Wing adventures has inspired me to do something of my own relating to star ships and space battles, although rather than Star Wars being my theatre of war I returned to one of my favourite games – Battle Fleet Gothic.

I’m lucky enough to own a sizeable Imperial fleet with every ship in the Rulebook represented at least once, along with a decent supporting fleet of Space Marines, but something I never invested in was the array of orbital defences and installations that were available at the time. The problem with correcting this regret is with Battlefleet Gothic models no longer available from Games Workshop, the second-hand market is the only way to now obtain these models – and with some of the rarer kits selling for eye watering prices this isn’t always a viable option. An example is the Ramilles class Star Fortress from Forgeworld – always a model I’ve wanted to own but it never found its way into my possession – the only one I’ve seen on eBay is over £200. As much I want this model I’m not going to part with that sort of money to own it, so instead I will go down the not often walked path of scratch building my own sizeable space installation. However, building your very own version of Ramilles Star Fort is a daunting proposition and given the number of components it would consume you may even be better off just splashing the cash for a real one. Plus, it’s not always a good idea to attempt to create an exact replica of an existing model as your efforts will mostly be judged on how well it matches the original rather than its own merits.

So a Space Station of some description was on the cards and after flicking through the Battlefleet Gothic rulebook I came across the Space Dock built by Dave Andrews and thought for a first foray I’d build my own version of this superb model. It was a good size and didn’t need the uniformity of components a perfectly symmetrical piece would require, letting you just do your own thing as long as it looked cool. I sifted through my bits box and came up with a ton of components with the required level of detail, and after throwing in an Imperial Cruiser frame I was getting genuinely excited over how the project was shaping up. The key components turned out to be the old Imperial Guard Dozer Blade support arms which were perfect for the docking bays, and really set the size for the whole piece. I experimented with a couple of different lay outs like having two bays on either side with the complex at one end, but the demands of that symmetry meant the single row with the main complex off to one side was the better option – that Dave Andrews knew what he was doing.

I spent a long while playing around with all the parts before I started gluing things together, and as structures started to emerge from the pile of pieces I was started to push them into specific roles. Aside from the ubiquitous Main Complex, there’s the adjoining Communications Array, four Docking Bays with three Repair Pylons, Control Tower Complex with adjoining Flak Tower and finally the Eagle shaped Precinct House. I have my favourites and my not so favourites but all in all I was very happy with the amount of detail and purpose I was able to fit into each one – with a paint job hopefully only going to add to the intricacy of the buildings. It’ll be torture painting the thousands of little lights but it’ll be worth it. I hope.

The actual structure of the piece was just a piece of foam board I had lying around with a dissected layer of smooth card over the top and edged with odd lengths of sprue. An extra layer underneath gave it enough strength and then some plastic panels glued on gave a solid socket for the two flying bases to plug into.

It’s about 98% done construction wise as I’m going to add a few teeny tiny details to the deck like storage areas, crate stacks and the like just to give it a bit more life and usage because it’s looking slightly too sterile right now – for a Space Station. And maybe some more antennas, you know, because you can never have enough of those. Have a look for yourself and see what you think.

The image shows most of the pieces I used but there’s more that are either obscured or too obscure to mention. I found Tau parts really useful, particularly their Crisis suit weapons – well, all weapons in general really as they have a really handy combination of intricate machinery and smooth surfaces which are perfect. I almost found as much enjoyment at discovering an interesting part that could be used as I did in building the thing – and I like building things, a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed the building phase and I hope that by showing the model pre paint job it can demonstrate how all manner of odds and ends can be combined into something more special. Your bits boxes are treasure troves, use them, they are your friends. They don’t get good overnight, they need feeding to reach their potential, but if you’ve been doing the hobby for as long as I have you forget where half the stuff came from and it becomes an adventure in itself – just be prepared to lose an hour or two and make a bit of a mess.

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I now need to do the model justice with its paint scheme, but I’m not too sure which way to go. I was thinking a military grey and black/dark grey combination to give it a functional look but I’m open to suggestions – maybe a poll can decide?

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.

 

Tiny Worlds Previews Tank Traps

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Those excellent chaps at Tiny Worlds have sent me a preview of their soon to be released Tank Traps. I’d almost hazard to say this is a world exclusive. Go team!

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I’m a big fan of Tiny Worlds because they produce an excellent product at an incredibly good value price. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing their barricade sets and like the barricades, the tank traps will be available in shiny new, slightly knackered and completely buggered and are, like the barriers, cleverly designed to fit in with just about any modern or sci-fi wargame you care to shake a stick at. Available to buy in a week or two they’ll come in sets of 5 and I cannot wait.

 

Tabletop World Cottage – A Review

I’m rarely surprised. I’m also rarely lost for words. But I was both of those things when my wife picked up the cottage I’d received from Tabletop World and said: ‘wow that’s amazing! Look how much detail there is!’ Now, just to be clear; my wife doesn’t like my hobby. She just about tolerates it because:

A) It was there first

B) I get a huge amount of enjoyment out of it

C) Because of this site

So the fact that she even acknowledged the building beyond something that was cluttering the end table is a red letter day. But the fact that she picked it up, took a look and then praised it could mean the world is about to end.

I tell this story so you will appreciate that when I say this cottage is a stunning piece of scenery, it’s not hyperbole, it’s not me blowing smoke up Tabletop World’s arse – that’s not how we roll at The Shell Case anyway – it’s because it is genuinely, hand on heart, fantastic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it arrived I was struck at how pristine the casting was, plus the lack of residue, flash or that funky smell that often follows resin around from the release agent. It was, for want of a better word; perfect.

And the sculpting equally isn’t far off. The attention to detail is staggering, the organic feel of the stone is superb and the fact that you can see the roofing tacks holding the tiles in place is just mad.

But more than that, it feels like a run down home. It has the detritus of habitation but it’s not exaggerated, it doesn’t shout. It isn’t covered in skulls… It does have a bucket though. And the best thing about those signs of wear and tear is that they can all be mended.

The attention to detail continues into the inside of the house – yes you can lift the rood off – as the floorboards are rough and uneven and the plaster cracked or coming away from the wall in some places. It really is really quite gorgeous. Combine it with a few other bits of a detritus and an out house and you’ve got yourself a handsome piece for any fantasy game.

The rub is that it’ll set you back around £30. When you consider that the Dreadstone Blight from the Games Workshop is only £20 you’d be forgiven for asking why you’d part with your hard-earned cash. And the reason is simple. It is as close to a perfect example of a 28mm fantasy/medieval house that I’ve ever seen. It is a marvel of design and creation.

It isn’t the biggest house or the most versatile, but that’s okay. Buy cheaper more robust scenery to be clambered all over. The Tabletop World cottage is something to be admired. Place it on a board and it will tell a tale whether it’s on the edge of a ruined district of Mordheim or next to a river.

I love this piece because of its beautiful simplicity and because I know how hard it must have been to achieve for the person charged with its creation. I love its design and look. I love the obvious care that was taken to cast it. It really is stunning. And that’s without paint.

If I’m honest, for the money you’re probably not going to buy more than one but the important thing is that you buy one at all. Just because you should. And then you’ll have no choice but to look at what else Tabletop World has to offer…

Check out more of Tabletop World’s range here.