Sunday, February 10, 2013

4Ground 28mm Ruins

As part of the work towards the club's next display game, I was handed a pile of the 4Ground 28mm World War Two European scenery to assemble and 'make look nice'.

Which in my opinion was more than necessary, as whilst there is much to say for these models, I do take umbrage with the suggestion that they are the best thing since sliced bread.

They rather are the Apple I-Phone of gaming scenery.  Everybody has taken to them and raves about them, but I'm not convinced they are as good as people tell you they are.

Firstly, compared to a resin model, you've got the build the damned thing, most of the models comprise a DOZEN sprues of flat sheets that need pressing out individually before assembly.  Once you've carried out one build they models make more sense, but it is fair to say that the provided instructions - even with numerous photographs - are not clear enough to make assembly a straight forward procedure.

I've assembled multipart resin ruins with a hot glue gun in a matter of minutes.  Budget two to three hours of your life for one of these kits.  Also you need to allow drying time and elastic bands or clamps are essential to get an effective assembly.

Then the end result is painted, after a fashion and sort of complete:

And if you choose to it does come with the advantage of separate floors.  But it isn't really finished.  It looks like what it is, an MDF box cut out with lasers.  There is a lack of texture, and whilst in some areas the scorch marks of the laser adds to the effect - especially on the ruins, in others it draws real attention to the falseness of the model.  It may be adequate for many gamers, but for my own tastes it looks ugly and unfinished, like a prepainted gaming miniature, it can be improved vastly by taking a brush to it oneself.

And so if you want the models to look really good, expect to spend another two to three hours selectively repainting significant parts of the model:

You finally will have a finished working product you can be proud of.  But the issues may not end there.  Resin models are very tough, and can stand being tossed in a scenery box at a club, sure they'll get chipped, but for the most part they will be durable.  Plastic kits are if well assembled similarly tough, though smaller kits can be delicate.  Scratchbuilds have the advantage of allowing numerous build options and reinforcement.  I reinforced parts of these models, but honestly I cannot see them surviving normal club use.  

Thankfully ours will be kept pristine for the display game, but after that?  These are really for home use in considerate hands.

Then there is the issue of cost.

The ruined semi (of which I assembled two) costs £24, the Terraces £22 each.  The set of four buildings therefore would retail for over £90.

I know I could get a lot more resin buildings for that price, that would look more like real buildings though they would need painting.  However I could probably shop around and get prepainted models for about the same price, either as intact buildins or as ruins.  For £90, or indeed a little less, I could assemble an entire village or town from scratch, in more or less the same 20 hours required to produce these kits.

Ultimately what I expect from a kit, that makes a kit worth assembling in preference to buying a resin model, or other premade sculpt, is a level of detail and reality that the latter doesn't provide.  This is why I prefer plastic kits, even fairly simple ones, of military vehicles.  The time and labour involved in assembly is rewarded with a level of authenticity the resin equivalent generally won't offer.

Here I have a kit that offers none of the Aesthetic benefits, until you've applied so much additional effort it makes you wonder why you invested in the model in the first place.

Whilst these may very well be all some gamers would ever want from their models, to me they are a false trail.  Other alternatives are faster, more realistic, sturdier, simpler, cheaper; or a combination of several of these attributes.

The MDF models are not for me.


  1. Hello, I agree with you, and I wonder which niche of the hobby MDF kits could be applied to? Where can they play to their strengths?

  2. I'm up in the air about this. First I certainly like the MDF buildings that I have built for my Old West town of Calamity. I don't like any of the resin buildings for this period that I have seen out there. So I'm saving significant time by not having to scratchbuild all my buildings and can move right on to the detailing and painting that I really enjoy. I think the western MDF kits will hold up just fine, I have already dropped a couple of them with no damage, although they can be fragile. On the other hand a resin building dropped on the same concrete floor would have shattered. I think there are certainly pros and cons to both and its really going to be decided by what you are trying to accomplish. Kris

  3. I think this material would suit clapboard buildings with shingle roofs more than adequately Kris, indeed it is probably their best subject.

    But as they expand into other ranges and genres they start to go beyond what the medium suits. And for me the WW2 ruins are an example of a stretch too far...

  4. This chimes with my thoughts too.
    I'm more of a dark age player, but the 4Ground pre-painted DA buildings have always looked like they'll need too much extra work to make serviceable (at least to my eye). And they're not cheap.
    I'm currently working on a couple of Warbases models, which are really just blanks, so I know there's work to do to get them on the table, but they do have the advantage of being pretty cheap.

  5. I know what you mean. Wild West buildings look pretty good with these things but NW European theatre for WWII? Not so much.

    If you want something to work with - why not the Bolt Action 28mm plastic hamlet? Three very ruined buildings for £30. A bit of additional rubble and basing and they look very good judging by some examples on TMP.

  6. I bought the Corner ruin type 3 for a Post Apoc setting, so it was at the lower price range. I did enjoy the build results and I went on to add more to the model with foam board and lolly sticks.

    You can see the results.

    I do think some of their range is overpriced, considering that it may only be used a few times and then put away. If you need quite a few to fill a table it could be a rather large outlay.