Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Spoils of War

'Hey Terry, how long did it take you to finish cleaning your windows?'
Every now and then when I pass a building site of one kind or another, or offer to help with / am forced into manual labour or decorating I think to myself “I could have done this for a job, rather than sitting inside and orchestrating an office. Being in the great outdoors, and constructing the very things that make a house or home.”

Well if 4ground buildings are anything to go by I would have lost patience for the art of labour a long time ago, and could be working in a McDonalds by now.

At Invasion I was lucky enough to be awarded two small 4ground buildings and as a team we won one large building. I also won a small Blotz (or Bo-lotz to the podcast listener) but I'll get onto that in a separate post I have frustrations to vent first; this is half a review, and half a rant. For those of you who become uncomfortable or incontinent around ill-tempered English folk click off now.

I had been a clever sausage and booked the week and a half following the tournament weekend off, as anyone who has attended a two day event will tell you they are exhausting! As such I had a bit of time on my hands, and decided to have at the small building kits. I started with the 4ground kits, as I didn't (and still don't) have all the paints I want for my Blotz building.

District XXII Hab-Block 2 and 3
Firstly I will say that I was honestly impressed by the level of detail in the kits. Each sheet (and there
are a lot of them) is pre-painted and numbered, so when using the instructions everything fits together nicely, and you get this lovely little incredibly detailed building, which has little twee doors and windows in which you imagine tiny resistance people peeking out of in fear, and vents with little ventish fans in and different levels which come apart and outside peripheral details to make your building not only 4D (I count the smell of burnt MDF as the fourth dimension) but 5D!! This was everything the kit promised it to be, and it looks even better when made than it does on the packaging picture (which is a rare thing in the days of photoshop)!

What the picture on the front doesn't tell you though is that you have to fit each damn window pane in the building, and that before you can add one of the fifty window panes you have to first add the brick inset into which it fits. So that's about one hundred pieces. And the vents aren't just one piece, they are about four or five pieces which are about as big as a cluster of four black ants having a hug (strenuous metaphor I know, I like the idea of ants hugging though). And on top of all of this, these tiny fiddly pieces will every now and then decided to just break when you're using your (incredibly sharp) craft knife to slice each individual god damn piece from the sprue. Oh, and to put these buildings together you will need the manual which is only one and half pages of A4 paper...

These buildings took me more than six hours to make! SIX FLIPPING HOURS! AND THEY'RE NOT EVEN FOUR FREAKING INCHES TALL!!!

I'm a fairly meticulous model maker, and I get distracted easily, but it's not just me. Mega Mike also won a small building and it took him two and a half hours to make. It's too much! I was so bored of making them by the end I was hoping I would slip with my craft knife, lop the end of my little finger off and have to go to the hospital to just stop faffing with tiny windows.

I may not be being completely fair, but the buildings deserve the criticism. There is no need for them to be this way. The selling point of the 4ground models is that they are pre-painted, and that appeals to a lot of people which is great. When they do finally get finished they look great! But, 3+ hours? Really? If anyone from 4ground ever reads this post, this is what you should do:

Make it simpler.

It is that easy. I know why you've made them this way- for depth. But that can be established by printing three sheets of MDF and stacking them. So for instance, a black 'foundation' sheet, then a sheet with all the windows (all the god damn windows) and bits printed on, where you can just pop out the wood in the window panes, and lastly the brick outer to this building shaped gob-stopper. Three sheets per side (or six if you want to keep the multi layered thing, which by the way is a waste of time on a three inch wide building. No one in their right mind is going to buy extra stacks to make this slither of a building any taller) and hours back in my life.

I almost forgot to mention that the buildings are tiny. The dimensions are (approx) H4”xW3”xD3”. Six hours on two ten point buildings. Every time I say it I can hear my grown up in my head shout “You're wasting your life!”... Shut up grown up Zombie. Anyway that's weird. Time to move onto bigger things. Like the thirty point building we won.

Now this next sentence, after my rant, is going to make you think I am completely insane. After making these preposterous tiny buildings I agreed to take the large one home and make it for the club.

Yeh I know. I probably shouldn't be complaining if I'm doing it to myself. However, I'm still going
Uh oh. This is going to be a big job
to. But you'll probably (maybe? Unless you enjoy my rants) be pleased to hear this was much less annoying! This took almost the entirety of LOTR Fellowship and Two Towers extended editions to make- so about thirty hours? Hah, no, I just felt doing a LOTR joke, about six hours really.

Firstly there were no window panes. The joy! The unadulterated joy! It made me want to skip about the room in my briefs! Well, as I was on holiday, I did. But that's not something I need to share with the internet.

The instructions for this were much larger, but as it was just the same thing for different sized levels much less faffy. The building looks pretty good, although I feel like it could have done with a little more detail and texture in areas. Whereas the small buildings are abundant with details (the mother flipping windows) this has large, barren areas which is a little disappointing, and especially so when I looked up the price (£45!). This also has multiple levels which is useful for storage, but eight of them is a little unnecessary and time consuming to make. I will note that at points the instructions were incorrect, and directed me to use the incorrect pieces which was a big annoyance.

Four levels down, four to go...
All in all the buildings look great, and they really really do and I can't stress this enough- just look at the pictures! But are they worth the downtime? In my opinion, no. I get that these are 'kits for modellers with set skill levels', but fifty freaking windows? I mean, really? And no, I won't let it go. The age grouping is 14+, but I know 30 year olds who couldn't make these buildings without snapping every other piece.

They need to be simpler, much simpler, and without so many fiddly-piffy-wanky pieces. I've read a few reviews on these kits and they all tend to end up the same as mine (although admittedly a little less scathing), so 4ground I plead that you act on it! An hour downtime for a small, and two hours for a large is a good level to be looking at, to compete with cheaper buildings that need texturizing (I don't think that's a word, but oh well) and painting. I can make and paint one of those buildings either quicker or on the same time scale.

One thing I haven't really talked about is price, and I'm not going to heavy into it as I have trashed on for too long now. A quick overview:
Ample enough to hide my
Annihilator behind. It'll do.

£14/£15 for a small ten point building – too expensive
£45 for a large thirty point building – too expensive

I guess the price point is the pre-painted aspect, but it still puts me off.

In a nutshell, if you are in the following very small niche of gamers definitely pick up 4ground gear:

You really don't like painting and have a job which pays you lots of money for very little hours per week worked.

You're not? Okay, well I would hunt out an alternative in which case. There is in fact a whole thread on the Hawk forum which you can get to by clicking just here, headed up by a chap called Pilgrim (probably not his real name, although you never know. Kids get called all kinds of weird stuff now; his parents may have named him after a job they wanted him to aspire too. Imagine being called Postman? Or Senior Sales Assistant? Although your parents would have to have no belief in you when you were born- Right, tangent, back to buildings) which has reviews on a whole host of other buildings to populate your city.

This is of course all my own opinion. Undoubtedly there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of gamers delighted with their 4ground kits. And I will leave you with that image. The image of thousands of tiny windows.


  1. Thx 4 the review. I've resreached various 10mm/N scale buildings and come to the conclusion = they are all TOO expensive. I'm just sticking w/ Hawk paper board ones. Now Blotz over pass bundle "C", I could not resist ording one this week. The other kicker is most of this stuff is made in the UK or Japan and shipping is hideous. 25lbs to get those over passes across the pond.

    I can concer on the too many fiddley parts. Buddy got some robotech tactics and those are a pain to assemble.

  2. On the assumption that you're in the US, I agree that delivery and transfer rates seriously work against you guys. I guess it pays to be in England when playing Dropzone. at least for the moment! I would say that Blotz is the best value for money, but I have heard of dread inducing delivery costs for the States...

    As you say though, the card-stock terrain is great, and if you really get that fed up there is nothing stopping you using a bit of foam board to make your own buildings!

    1. True on the foam board.

  3. Wow, thanks, Zombie, you saved me! I was seriously considering taking 4ground up on their "Tournament Support" offer, so that we could have a few "nicer" buildings for tournaments. The program requires you to purchase at least £200 worth of kits (at a very good discount, and with free shipping to the U.S., and no VAT tax), which would translate into quite a few "centerpiece" buildings, but also a significant cash outlay for me. I just don't have the spare time to put that much into building terrain, when the HWG card stock buildings work just fine...

    However, there is (reportedly) a new LGS going to be opening up in a few months, and the owner of that new (soon to be new FLGS) has committed to supporting DzC, so he might be interested in the Tournament Support program from 4ground once he gets his store close to being up and running...

    1. It sounds like a good deal, and a whole table of it will look great! If you are short on time though I would definitely avoid it.

    2. JD, were did you "find" the program for 200lbs? I like to see what is included in that. 200lbs ~ 320USD.


    3. FM:

      It's on their Facebook page, and also there's a link to it on any product page on their website, But it doesn't tell you much. You need to have an announcement online for your event that they can verify, and it has to meet certain criteria, like open to the public, bla bla, nothing hard. I sent them an email asking for more details, and they replied very quickly with some boilerplate info, which I'm going to try to paste here. If I can't do that, I'll put up a post on the Hawk forum (might do that, anyways...)

      Here goes:

      If your tournament qualifies for support, we provide a one off list of
      subsidised product for you to order (once prior to each tournament). The
      subsidy is at 35% off our RRP (inc VAT for UK and EU orders and no VA Tax
      for USA and ROTW orders). The minimum order is £200 (ex VAT) therefore
      before taxes - if relevant - you will be acquiring a minimum of £300 (at
      4Ground’s RRP) worth of products for £200 ex VAT. The only other cost is
      shipping and that is explained below.

      The simple answer is once for each and every tournament your group
      successfully submits for support. There is no limit to how many tournaments

      WHAT CAN BE ORDERED WITH TOURNAMENT SUPPORT We send you a tournament support
      product list, on that list all possible tournament support is listed, along
      with the subsidised price for that product. This is updated on a regular
      bases and so if the product is not listed it is not available at the
      tournament support subsidy. Please note we cannot combine support items
      with non-support items in the same order.

      4Ground produced products are available on our tournament support list. All
      products on the list are subsidised at 35% off our RRP (inc VAT for UK and
      EU orders and no VA Tax for USA and ROTW orders). When we know where in the
      world your event is we will send the relevant list as an Excel file all VA
      Tax (if any) will be clearly listed at the end of the list before giving the
      total subsidised value of your tournament support order.

      SHIPPING COSTS, TIMETABLES & WHERE IN THE WORLD It does not matter where in
      the world your tournament is with regard whether we will support your event.
      If it is in the UK we will charge you a flat rate of £12 (inc VAT) to ship
      your order, EU will be charged at cost (inc VAT), USA and ROTW will be
      charged at cost (no VA Tax).


      Yay, it worked!

      Hope that helps...

    4. Ah, I just noticed:

      Shipping to the USA will be at cost.

      I thought it said "no cost". Wishful thinking, I guess. LOL.

      Still, sounds like a good deal. But they do warn you later in the boilerplate (I didn't copy it all, just the important stuff) to leave plenty of time before your event to get whatever kits you order built in time! Given what Zombie has said here, that could be a LOT of time!...

  4. I've picked up some nscale model train for terrain, it's built and painted and requires no work. Overall, really like the blotz stuff + paper terrain. Think the 4ground buildings are cool but only for I look at some of their stuff as a nice center piece not a whole tables worth.

    1. Using them in that way is a good shout! Also the large buildings tend not to have window panes...

  5. I was just testing several different building types and actually I didn’t want to comment before I hadn’t tried to build a 4Ground building myself.

    I have now and I have to say that I found it challenging but enjoyable – if you do it while listening to a podcast for example ;)

    Of all the finished buildings the 4Ground have the highest level of detail – if that is what you are looking for you have to consider the time, money and skill you have to invest to bring the other buildings to the same level.

    And suddenly the 4Ground stuff is neither overly expensive or time consuming – instead it causes far less frustration than several hours of trial and error with a possibly far less satisfying result.

    - not working for 4Ground -



    1. I'm genuinely happy that there is at least 1 4ground fan out there! I agree that they look great when finished, but I have to disagree that it becomes any less expensive or time consuming even if you happen to enjoy thr process.

      But there you go, we've all got our opinions. Perhaps it's just for patient hobbyists!

    2. Actually I’m not a fan - What I wanted to say is that you get Blotz buildings for half the price and the assembly takes half as long. But that is misleading!

      If I want at least the same level of detail as with the 4Ground stuff I have to invest extra time, skill and money and unless you are experienced at what you do – you can’t be sure that the result looks anywhere as good.

      In the end I have spent a similar amount of time on the Blotz buildings and since I had to buy several pots of paint and stuff-nearly the same amount of money.

      For a good review on the 4ground material you should visit the Beasts of War website-and learn about the pros and cons.


    3. A review is a review, and is one persons opinion. We have all said that the details are amazing, but the cost plus effort to build aren't worth it. Personally speaking I would rather spend the time painting the blotz or war mage buildings.
      Also I think the 4ground range is a tad small. I guess I'm used to the size of a hawk building and they come up a bit small, so you don't get the same kind of table coverage.
      At the end of the day you decide what you spend your money on, dan and I have tested several of the products on the market and give our honest opinion with no agenda or monetary reward, unlike other sites. Everyone is free to disagree, it happens quite a lot!