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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

28mm Old West Laser Cut Buildings Compared

There is a lot of traffic to this post and I would like to point out that it is a bit on the obsolete side now as it pre-dates the introduction of  the 4Ground line of western buildings. The most current version of this post can be found here: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Laser Cut Buildings

Before I get to far keep in mind that this comparison of five different manufacturers is all based on what I'm looking for in an Old West or Wild West building. You may like things that I don't or haven't thought of when it comes to what is important when creating a western town atmosphere. There are a number of characteristics though that certainly can be compared and graded between manufacturers things like, instructions, materials, quality of components. Where it is applicable I'll grade some items on a 0-5 scale (using asterisks) but a good chunk of this is just going to be factual information with a bias towards what I want either in the kit or as a gaming piece. To try and keep the bias down to a minimum I'll go through the companies in alphabetical order.

I have built kits from five different companies at this point, they are; Aetherworks (AUS), Battle-Flag (UK), Gamecraft Miniatures (USA), Knuckleduster Miniatures (USA) and Sarissa Precision (UK).


Aetherworks

This is an Australian based company that I heard about through the Reaper Miniatures Forum. This is the company that moved me towards working on my Wild West miniatures which probably haven't been touched since I last played Boot Hill back in the early 90s (although I have continued to add miniatures to that collection over the years). The reason I only have one of their buildings though are the shipping charges, I had to hold my breath and not look when I ordered the one building.

Instructions:  * * * *
Ease of Assembly: * * * * *
Material: 3mm MDF
Detailed Floor: Yes
Pitched Roof:  Based on the kit purchased

If it weren't for the amazingly high shipping charges between Australia and the US I would definitely order more of these buildings. The reality though is that I can fill my needs with other manufacturers' kits and use a good chunk of the shipping charges to actually buy buildings. I still Highly Recommend the Aetherworks kits and would encourage anyone that is buying terrain for a Wild West game to get at least one of their kits. Perhaps Aetherworks would consider working out a deal with a US company to produce their kits here in the US.


Battle Flag
This UK company may be better known for their unit flags, but their laser cut buildings hold up to the same high standards their customers already expect. They have a specific line of buildings for the Blackwater Gulch game. Blackwater Gulch


Instructions: * * * *
Ease of Assembly: * * * * *
Material: 3mm MDF
Detailed Floor: Yes
Pitched Roof: Based on the kit purchased

The only real issue I had with the Battle Flag kits was that they used the same instruction booklet to cover multiple kits. This worked, although I did have to pay attention to what was going on that page. Battle Flag contacted me after the first kit I reviewed and said they agreed with me on the instructions and would be going to instructions specific for the kit. This is another line of kits the I would Highly Recommend. I only wish the line was a bit bigger.

Gamecraft Miniatures
This US company is well known for their wide variety of buildings for different scales and eras. Everything is custom cut when its ordered so occasionally it takes additional time to get your order so pay attention to the website and what the current estimated times are. They also make a good range of "extras" that you won't find in other companies' lines. Gamecraft is also an official producer of buildings for Blackwater Gulch

Instructions: 0
Ease of Assembly: * * *
Material: 3mm MDF
Detailed Floor: No, floors are optional purchases (you need 2 floors for a 2 story building)
Pitched Roof: Based on the kit purchased

I like the Gamecraft kits quite a bit, they go together easy but if you want to use the interiors then you have some work ahead of you. The kits do not come with any instructions (hence the 0 rating) and the floors are optional. Not only are the floors optional but buildings with side and rear doors do not take floors into account so when you put in a floor it covers the bottom part of the door. Front doors are okay since those are sitting up on the porch. You are totally on your own if want a second floor. You will need to remember to mark out the location of the second floor and put in braces to hold it before you assembly the walls. You will also have cut out a portion of the floor for a set of stairs or at the very least to be able to pull the floor out. Oh and the floors do not having any engraved detail which I think is a shame. Gamecraft also has a nice line of additional details; furniture, fences, staircases and other misc objects that no town should be without.

Knuckleduster Miniatures
This US company produces its own miniatures and rules for both the Wild West and the War of 1812. The buildings they produce are made by Tri-City Laser Products. They just recently added a three sided room addition to the line which can be added to any kit in the line. The line is billed as having complete interiors, it is important to read the kit description though as not all of the buildings have interior furnishings. Of the three buildings I have the Saloon came with interior furnishings, while the Two Story Building has interior walls and the Barbershop has no interior components.

Instructions: *
Ease of Assembly: * * *
Material: 1/8" Plywood
Detailed Floor: No
Pitched Roof: No
     All buildings come with flat roofs, there is a pitched roof option for the larger buildings. The smaller buildings come with a slanted roof.
I gave these buildings one star, because they do have some "instructions" on the back of the header card, not much help but it does provide a little guidance. The only other piece of instruction I received was actually wrong so pay attention! I thought that I was really go like working with real wood on these buildings and that my model railroad techniques would work nicely. Unfortunately I had to be careful with the build because the plywood has a tendency to warp so make sure you have some weights handy to hold everything down. The warp seems to disappear once the building is finished. Also the plywood grain shows to much so instead of using my aging liquids I ended up have to prime them and now I'll paint the same way as my other buildings. The buildings only come with flat roofs so you have to buy the pitched roof kit for the larger buildings. The small buildings only come with a flat roof but it is slanted so it at least looks right. I disturbs me that the floors have no detail engraved in them, especially since they push the whole detailed interiors aspect. I had an issue with some of the interior walls in the 2 story kit being two long which meant another interior wall did not go where it was suppose to (it overlaps a window). Rather unforgivable for a laser cut kit. These are not my favorite buildings, they have a squat look to them but I think they look good when mixed in with everything else. These are good solid game buildings.

Sarissa Precission
This last company is also out of the UK. They make a wide variety of buildings for 15mm and 28mm miniatures for a large number of eras.

Instructions: * * *
Ease of Assembly: * * * * *
Material: 2mm MDF
Detailed Floor: Yes
Pitched Roof: As an option
     All buildings come with flat roofs. There is a pitched roof option for the small and medium buildings. The large buildings only come with a flat roof.

Sarissa has opted to use a 2mm MDF for their production. For main components this is fine but the smaller details tend to be a bit fragile till you have them glued in place. I do really like the sleeker look these buildings have though because of the smaller width of the MDF. Their line is extensive and includes adobe style buildings as well as the traditional wooden western buildings. Oddly I found that the fit between some pieces is not as tight as I expected it. This was particularly apparent with the Livery Barn, which required a lot of extra work to make sure that the stalls were straight. I would Highly Recommend these kits as well. They mix really well with the kits from Battle Flag and Gamecraft Miniatures.


For a bit of a wrap up. I will and have made additional orders with all of these companies except for Aetherworks. Maybe I'll get braver with the shipping charges for Aetherworks later this year because they do make excellent kits. Mixing up the various manufacturing styles looks good so far and by the time I'm done my town of Calamity will have over 20 buildings.
My personal favorites are Battle Flag and Sarissa Precision  Battle Flag are well thought out and easy to construct and I love the interior floating floor. Add some interiors and these are going to be tough kits to beat. I like Sarissa for many of the same reasons plus they have some buildings that you can't find anywhere else, but they are a bit fragile because of the 2mm MDF. However, you really can't go wrong with any of these manufacturers just be patient and everything will come together. Check twice, Glue once!


Aetherworks Brick Building


Battle Flag Saloon


Gamecraft Miniatures


Knuckleduster Barbershop
Sarissa - Precision Old West Heroic Small Option

10 comments:

  1. Should really add cost in a comparison. Would be nice to see which companies get you the best value for your buck.

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    1. I can do that. There are a lot of variables though.

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  2. I would like to point out that real wood is nice because the grain looks good if you stain it. I prefer stain because I can't paint and I like my buildings to look new(not aged). Old west towns were new when they were built over 100 years ago and probably didn't look aged in there time. It's like people want there buildings to look the way they do now and not the way they did back in the day. I will post a pic of a Knuckleduster building that has been stained with just two colors so everyone can see how great the wood grain looks. For me the real wood is the way to go.

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    1. I agree that real wood certainly takes stain much better than MDF, which seems to just absorb it. Buildings in the west did tend to weather very quickly so they really didn't stay brand spanking new for very long. Weather conditions out here are harsh, sudden temperature and weather changes are very much the norm in the western US. Typically only the fronts of buildings were painted leaving the sides and backs completely exposed to the elements. I have fence posts that I put up last summer that haven't even been exposed to the elements for a year yet that are already that silvery-grey color of weather wood. Painting certainly helps preserve the wood underneath but paints of the day were not exactly high quality either and tended to fade rather quickly. Calamity will definitely have a mix of nearly new looking buildings along with weathered buildings, from new paint to faded paint. The variety of wear will help the appearance of its boom town nature. Definitely post your stained building I would love to see it.

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  3. a very well made review of these interesting buildings! thank you very much for this informations!!!

    alex
    http://wuerfelsindgefallen.blogspot.co.at/

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    1. Its always good to here that someone can make use of some of my posts!

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  4. For some laser cut MDF pre painted buildings, you can't go past 4 Ground

    http://4ground.co.uk/

    Yep I am lazy and like the detail on these.


    Steve Kerr

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    Replies
    1. You are right about that Steve! This particular post was written before 4Ground entered the scene with their line of western buildings. They are included in an updated version of this post that you can find here: http://wargamesandrailroads.blogspot.com/search/label/4Ground
      and there are some side by side comparisons in this post:
      http://wargamesandrailroads.blogspot.com/2013/08/28mm-laser-cut-western-buildings-side.html

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