Initial Impressions: Sarissa Precision North Africa / Colonial

When most people look for terrain to fill their MENA board, the first thought goes to the classic adobes. Although these mud brick buildings (and their variations) are found throughout the region, there are all sorts of other buildings suitable for the tabletop. For a while, Sarissa Precision have had a range of colonial buildings designed for North Africa in WW2 available in 20mm scale. A year or so later, and with much rejoicing, the entire collection has been released for 28mm. As someone looking for some grander buildings to represent the more urban areas of Bazistan, I just had to pick some up. I ended up going with some of the larger buildings, perfect for building some traditional streets. This is going to be an initial impressions (unpainted and missing some of the detailing greyboard) as I haven’t chosen the modifications I want to do to “Modernise” them.

As with all Sarissa Products, the building is a combination of thick MDF for the structure and greyboard for additional details. A common element of these buildings is use of large greyboard panels for the doors and window; these sit on the inside of the building to help increase the sense of depth. Additionally, greyboard window shutters are included and can be glued in either the open or shut position. The MDF is well cut and comes out the sprue with no tearing or damage. Although I always recommend a dry run when building MDF, all of these kits went together with ease.

To improve gameplay, all the buildings have removable roofs secured by MDF tags at either side. The roofs also provide some cover, although it’s only half height in the corners and the front feature. Multi-storey setups have the same combination of locating lugs allowing for quick removal and access to different levels. One comment for these buildings is that there are no interior staircases modelled in order to maximise space on the inside to place figures so moving between floors may require some abstraction.

Additionally, the range includes damaged versions of all the buildings. I haven’t picked any of them up yet but from looking at them they have done a nice job keeping them as terrain obstacles while still making them look like they had been part of an engagement.

With the basics covered, lets take a look at the specific examples.

Large Single Storey Building

The first building is a large single storey build. It’s comprised of three units, each with a different layout of windows and doors.

The rear view shows off the different arrangement of windows and doors. The end pieces also have extra detail, such as cracks in the coating of the wall or an additional window.

With the roof removed, you can see there is plenty of interior space for figures or obstacles for when you’re fighting from room to room.

Large Two Storey Building

Building two uses the same basic layout as the first building but adds an additional floor. It also changes some of the design, squaring off the windows above the doors on this compared to the first building.

The back still has plenty of windows meaning it’s got plenty of place for figures to shoot out of. Both end pieces also have windows in them for all round viewing angles.

Another addition is the two balconeys on the first floor. If you’re wanting to have figures on 25mm bases standing on them, you will need to open the doors behind them as otherwise they won’t fit.

Souk Building – Single Storey

The next two buildings are labelled up as part of the Souk, ready to form the local marketplace or bazaar for spy related shenanigans. The common feature is arched and covered area, a perfect place to add some small market stalls or to get out of the sun. For the single storey building, it’s very similar to the Large Single Storey building but with a much larger footprint.

Anyone looking at the this picture and comparing to the images on the store may have noticed something strange here. For the first time I received a miscut piece from Sarissa – the two long walls of the building were cut with the same end connectors rather than the different one needed to fit into the middle of the side walls. What this does mean is that I’ve managed to get a different layout than most with only some smaller gaps needed to fill. Sarissa provided some great customer support, another positive for them.

The addition of the covered front area adds some more room for gameplay around the buildings as well as a much larger roof element. Aside from that, the interior is similar to the one storey building shown above.

Souk Building – Two Storey

To go with the one storey building, there is also a two storey option for players needing some more vertical space. As you can see, the expanded foot print of the arched area helps to give the upper floors proper balconies with plenty of space for heavier weapon teams. One of the balconies seems to be lacking door access so expect troops diving through windows.

The back of the building is similar to the two storey building above, once again with all round line of sight through the windows.

With access to the balconies, this building could be quite a difficult one to assault and I can see lots of fighting from room to room. The balconies add some options for out flanking enemies in other parts of the upstairs.

Administration Building / Hotel

The last building is designed to be a centrepiece, the local hotel or a government building. It has a certain amount of finery not seen on the other buildings with arches and decorative elements. It also has a balcony perfect for local leaders or agitators to speak from. The roof also passes the Little Bird test so your D-Boys can deploy straight into cover.

The rear shows off another access door, as well as more as the decorative aspect of the building.

As you can see in the picture, the interior is entirely open with no interior walls. It would have been nice for some interior details on this building but I can see the point of leaving it open if you’re playing certain squad based games. With the sheer number of windows, putting full squads into the building will make it a pretty hard nut to crack.

One interesting point about the construction of this building is that it’s actually made up with more greyboard than the other buildings. This is the MDF frame which provides the top layer and most of the structure. There are then two layers of greyboard to give a greater level of depth than is seen elsewhere which will look rather special.


So what are my opinions on this range? Well it’s the usual high level of Sarissa quality combined with a style of building that I haven’t seen a huge amount of. With only a few buildings, the entire tone changes from a board mainly covered in adobes. For anyone wanting a more urban battlefield, I really recommend these.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-29,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Additionally, this style is quite common across previously colonial regions and as such could be used for anything from the Middle East to the Caribbean. These buildings could also be a great starting point for more modern buildings if you don’t mind trimming details down or cutting holes. I’m really looking forward to getting my sleeves rolled up and making them look more modern.

Impressions: 4Ground Pylon

Sometimes, you buy some practical MDF buildings that are used every game. Things like adobes or french farmhouses or other staples whose presence is almost mandated on every game board. However, once in a while you spot something while surfing the web that cries out as something a little special. True, it may not get used quite as much as the old stand bys. But when it does come out, it’s going to draw eyes to the table. 4Ground’s Pylon is one such item – by literally towering over the table.

Photos taken after building due to failure to plan ahead

This is my first 4Ground kit so I wasn’t 100% on what to expect. It’s a mixture of MDF and greyboard. Both come pre-painted on the sprue, with only minimal cleanup needed (including a bead of paint on the back of the greyboard where it had pooled). Unlike some kits, this one comes with an indepth doubled sided instruction sheet, making it very easy to assembly. In total, it took me about an hour and a half (with breaks for glue to dry) which was pretty impressive. I only had two slight annoyances. The first is having to bend the greyboard around the edges, which lead to multiple cuts going slightly awry. The other are the wire coils – they are only held on by three little bits of glue. Luckily the pack comes with a few spare ones just in case accidents happen.

The fact it’s pre-painted is especially cool, meaning that for once I might actually get an MDF monstrosity on the table relatively quickly (unlike the various warehouses I have lying around). The paint job is good enough to get it on the board, but I’m sure many wargamers will want to spruce it up a little bit – I’m thinking of hitting it with a light drybrush to make it a little more sandy.

One quick note before photos – this is the first item which actually shows off how slanted the floor in my flat so any thing not looking flat is probably more due to the board board not being entirely horizontal.

Now it’s finished I can’t get over just how tall it is. It’s very different from someone saying “oh it’s 540mm tall” and actually seeing it assembled. It’s pictured here next to a few small items and it entirely dwarfs the Supreme Littleness buildings.

To help make the pylon more than just something to fill up space, it has an inspection platform part of the way up the tower. This can be access by a ladder, which can be removed from it’s holding slot to extend to the floor. It’s safe to assume these guys will be getting the max possible elevation bonus.

Finally, one last shot to show how even the base is pretty massive. Seriously, it dominates this 2′ x 2′ board. This is one item you definitely will not be buying multiples of, unless you happen to have a truly titanic board.

At the moment, I haven’t glued the two main sections of the pylon together so I can actually easily store the thing. HOWEVER, I recommend drilling some pin holes to add some extra structure to the join. Otherwise, the top part WILL fall off when knocked and it WILL break some of the black elements off. Trust me on this.

I can’t say that everyone should buy one of these things. If you play on a tiny board, it might be a little much. But, if you want to make a desert board look a bit more populated or increase the verticality of you board, I can recommend the pylon. It’s a reasonable price for a lot of MDF and the fact it’s pre-painted shouldn’t worry people too much. That said, it’s really up for you to decide if you want to spend this much on something that won’t get used that often. You can find it on the 4Ground store here.

Initial Impressions: Knights of Dice Tabula Rasa

 

In my overview earlier this year looking at Adobe buildings, I briefly talked about Knights of Dice and their MDF buildings. Since then, I’ve picked up the rest of range and I’m now ready to talk about all the various buildings you can purchase from the Tabula Rasa desert range. In this post, I’m going to look over the basics shells, point out some features and then quickly talk about what I intend to next with them.

First up, let’s talk about the common features. All the buildings are designed as shells, only contained key structural features and with none of the detailing many other buildings would have (such as exposed brick textures or doors). The shells are made of MDF and arrive on a sprue ready to be pushed out. They are held in tightly enough so they are not accidentally pushed out during transit. This does require some pushing to get them out but I’ve yet to break a piece while extracting them. In addition, most sprues include a crowbar piece that can be used to help get the pieces ready for use. All the MDF is well cut (needing only a tiny bit of trimming on the connectors) and fit together perfectly during assembly. As always, do a dry fit before gluing together.

In all cases, the buildings have removable roofs and easy access to both floors. All the buildings also have logical access to each room via both internal or external doors, windows or via staircases. I’m not a huge fan of the staircases; assembled by default and they are way too small to fit figures on bases onto the stairs, instead acting more like a ramp. There are alternative ways to assemble them so that they are more usable but by default you won’t be placing figures on them.

Crooked Dice, Spectre, Empress, Eureka

In terms of scaling, the doorways are a tiny bit small for 25mm bases to fit through but perfect for 20mm. Heightwise, figures from Spectre and Empress fit them perfectly, although again I recommend 2mm deep bases rather than the 3mm slotta style bases.


The first two buildings are referred to as Compounds and are the biggest buildings in the range. Both have two floors as well as multiple internal rooms making them a battleground in their own right.

Compound 1 is a huge arrangement, spreading six rooms across two floors. Features of note include a covered exterior area on the ground floor, staircase up to an open roof and two upstairs rooms.

This building is obviously on the more stylish end of the range, perfect for a target building. The ground floor in particular is perfect for some CQB; the wall between the covered area and the rear room is asking for a breaching charge.


Compound 2 is a slightly smaller footprint but equally detailed. Again spread over two floors, this building has three rooms on the ground floor (the long one is split in half) and an upstairs room that leads onto the roof of the long room. The upstairs room is actually a frame that fits inside the outer shell, making it easy to lift out and be used in-game. 

As a note, the metal details are not part of the kit. They are from Empress as part of their builder’s yard. Expect some details on them as the project goes along.

Being a larger building, Compound Two presents some interesting tactical decisions. Multiple rooms will need clearing and the upstairs could be an interesting target location.


The bulk of the range is the small Desert Residences. These buildings have a smaller footprint than the compounds but should still be interesting to play though.

Residence One is a simple two room building but also include a flat outside area with a low wall around it.

Again, the metal details are from Empress.


Residence 2 use the same idea but in a slightly different arrangement to give some variation to your town.


Residence 3 is really cool. It uses the same footprint as Compound 2 but only on one floor. It’s a clever reuse of the same pieces but it works – the slightly larger layout makers the rooms great for scuffle.


The final building is something different. Labelled as a Storage Building, this would be great filled with ammo boxes and fuel cans. The arches are sadly too small for vehicles so it can’t be used as a garage/workshop without modification but there is still plenty of space to fill with things that might go boom.

If the compounds were not tempting enough, then this is perfect for scenario use. Fuel, ammo or a weapon cache, the multiple entrances will making this building an interesting position to take.


So what do I think of these buildings? The first thing I stress is that these things are shells – If you’re a game developer, these things are grey boxes, geometry designed to give you the mechanically feel for a place but not the actual look. They are the perfect starting point to make them feel how you want them while having much of the heavy lifting (such as rooms or multi-storey buildings) already done. You could but them on the table after a spray of paint but they would look a little plain. This lack of detail also means they are slightly cheaper than many other MDF buildings.The quality level is great and they don’t feel too small, even with based figures, that can be an issue with some other MDF set ups.

Once you put some extra bits on them and painted them up, you can get some really cool looking stuff. Spectre have used them on their demo board at Crisis and in the UK (I got to run a game on them at the Spectre Ops day back in July). In fact, Knights of Dice have released a new range using these Tabula Rasa buildings as a base but with some sci-fi elements ready to make your own den of scum and villany.

As a useful starting point, there are plenty of accessory packs as part of the Tabula Rasa range. These add useful elements like antennas and vents, as well as some walkways and ladders to improve access to the buildings.

If you’re interested in them, where is it best to pick them up? For most people, and if you want the latest stuff, you’ll want to grab them directly from Knights of Dice via their online store. In fact, the website says if you are in the area (Victoria in Australia), feel free to drop in for a visit. Being Australian based, this can lead to some long delivery times and expensive postage. Luckily, Shiny Games in the UK also stocks them (with only a slight delay between release on the KoD site and being in the UK). I have bought a fair amount of stuff from them and they are a fantastic shop. Great pricing, prompt delivery and even have a loyalty scheme ready to knock some money off your orders.


I now have these boxes, it’s time to make them look pretty. This article officially kicks Project Compound, which will take these buildings and make them look ready for battle. The idea is to make them look like an urban area somewhere in Bazistan in the early days of a conflict. Some limited damage but not completely wiped out. As well as the texturing and painting needed, I also want to add some more walls and street furniture. I’m going to update the blog with a new post once I work out which parts are going where. I still have a few Empress bits to use up (both air conditioning units and TV dishes) so I now need to work out which buildings are getting them.

I’m looking forward to getting these buildings done. This should be a great chance to make some buildings ready to sit on my boards as well as theming them to my theatre of operation – I’ll be going all out with posters and advertising.

If you’re wanting to keep an eye on this project, I recommend following the facebook page where I’ll be putting some WIP photos up.

Impressions: Sarissa Precision Industrial

Sarissa Precision are pretty high on my list of favourite terrain companies thanks to their wonderfully detailed buildings. Among my favourites in the range are two buildings from their Industrial range, the factory and the office. I first saw these thanks to Spectre’s playtest report and was immediately interested in them.

Like all Sarissa buildings, both arrive on A4 sheets of laser cut mdf. In addition, they also have some cardboard detailing panels that sit inside the MDF. Unusually for an MDF building, the kit actually includes instructions which is massively appreciated to make sure no mistakes happen during assembly. For both kits, the MDF parts were cleanly cut and came away from the sprue really easily. The cardboard is a useful addition and easy to place but I’m less happy with the doors, especially the larger warehouse ones. The hinge is quite thin and just asking to eventually fall away if constantly moved. I will probably end up glueing or taping them.

Both kits include gantry items which can be combined together. As you can see above, this lets you bridge between the two buildings or just make a bridge. The gantries are simple to construct and look very effective on the tabletop.

In terms of scale, the Sarissa kits fit perfectly with the 28mm figures I have. The gantries are perfectly sized for 26mm bases (and would probably fit the 30mm bases used by Batman and other games) and the warehouse door easily fit most of the vehicles I have.

Factory – Office/Warehouse

(Please note, the metal air conditioning is not part of the kit but was added to make removing the roof easier)

This building is two stories and designed to be the perfect side building alongside larger factory units. The ground floor is slightly taller than usual and  has two large warehouse doors and a side entrance. Above it, the top floor has a side door for use with a gantry . The top floor also has a slot through the floor but I’m not sure it’s suitable for a staircase – it’s also too short for the height of the building and would block entryways in either alignment. However, a ladder or pulley system could be fitted depending on the building’s purpose.

The roof and top floor are removable with the roof resting on the top of the cardboard detail layers. Inside the building, the top floor rests in two slots in the cardboard and is surprisingly sturdy if a little fiddly to place correctly.

On both floors, the detail cardboard has lots of windows meaning the building has plenty of fire points. The outside also has a chimney or water pipe. unfortunately I managed to mess up construction of this and so on mine it’s slightly misshapen.

 

Overall, I really like this building. It works both with other industrial buildings or settled amongst more civilian dwellings for a little variation. The two floors also make it interesting to play through. As the description on the website, it could be warehouse with a storage area upstairs or an office depending on how you want to decorate the interior. This is a building I’d be interested in picking up a second.

Factory – Large

If you’re looking for a centrepiece to your wargaming board, the Sarissa factory is perfect. About 1ft square and two stories high, the factory just toes the line between “terrain feature” and “play area”. The interior is dominated by the open warehouse floor but there is also a smaller room under chimney (perfect for sneaking in through) and a second floor balcony so you can take the high ground and get a good view over anything inside. The balcony can be accessed by both a gantry on the outside and also from a ladder from within. The balcony is not removable.

The two end pieces are mirrored and both include two warehouse doors and a standard door.

A cool feature of the factory is the interior crane. This is composed of three parts – a frame, central gantry and the crane unit itself. I do not recommend gluing the frame in place if you intend to actually play through the interior as it sticks out and can prevent gamer hands from being able to place figures. Similarly, the gantry and unit can also be left unglued thanks to how well they grip the tracks which means the crane can be repositioned depending on the scenario. I’m a big fan of it. Especially if you get someone up on top of the crane, just asking to fall to the ground once he is taken out.

Finally, here are all the bits that make up the warehouse. The roof is easy to take on and off (resting on the struts you can see in the interior photo) and also feels very solid once constructed. The gaps in the roof could be filled with plastic for glazing if you want to add that extra detail.

 

Conclusion

So, overall how do I like the buildings? They are fantastic kits to build, easy to knock up over an evening. Once constructed they just look great, giving even the barest of boards a cool edge. I have my reservations about the cardboard doors but having played a few games using them, they are very gameable items of terrain letting you sweep and clear without having to carefully balance figures on strange angles.

There is however one thing to think about and that is the price. The factory is £50 and the office is £20. You get a lot of stuff for that cost but it is definitely on the higher end of MDF pricing for this size.

Overall though, a big thumbs up from me! Now I just need to go paint them…