Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gone Fronting

A review of Stronghold Terrain's medieval/fantasy townhouse fronts, enriched with some mild eye candy and finished off with a plea for using fronts and facades in your tabletop games.

At the 2012 Tactica convention I bought a set of townhouse fronts from Stronghold Terrain for my Gierburg gaming board. Soon after I completed the collection with the other two remaining pieces from the range: the Tavern front and the Warehouse front. Unfortunately though, all three products are currently OOP and no longer available from the Stronghold webshop. For kicks and nostalgia, you can see the products below as they were originally shown on the Stronghold Terrain website.





The Townhouse fronts, Tavern front and Warehouse front set as they were depicted at Stronghold Terrain's webshop


As you can see on the photos these models are not just facades like e.g. those from Geboom's wonderful Amsterdam project. The fronts are ca. 3,5 cm deep (or "thick") and are equally nicely detailed on the sides as they are on the fronts. This means that they are more like "half" houses, or Third of a House. But let's look at them in detail...

The Townhouse Fronts

The Townhouse Fronts set is a set of three resin model fronts. Each front consists of three parts: a first floor, a second floor and an attic/roof piece. Plus there's a stonework piece with stairs intended for the front in the middle (see photo above). Roof windows and chimneys are separate. In addition there's a very nice cobblestone pavement base consisting of three bases (one for each house) and two end sections. Here's a photo of the lot:

Contents of the Townhouse fronts boxed set by Stronghold Terrain
The Townhouse fronts set up in one of many possible combinations

What is really cool about this set is its flexibility. With each front comprising of three pieces, all sharing the same width and depth, you can freely arrange them to create your personal favorite setup. In the picture above e.g. you can see a completely different setup than is shown in the studio photos by Stronghold (which is the one I went with myself in the end - for no particular reason though, other than a subliminal wish for conformity on my side, I'm afraid). This means that you can buy two or even three of these sets and mix components to create a long street wih house fronts and each one looks different, yet at the same time they all share a common style so that each combination looks "complete", like it was meant to be. This is pretty damn cool in my eyes.

Townhouse front with half-hipped roof
and bardgeboard
I would like to specifically mention the roof section of the "third" front as this is my favourite one. You don't often see half-hipped roofs on tabletop fantasy buildings, let alone with bargeboards. The result is a complex looking structure with looks detailed and simply beautiful. I find this to be the highlight of this set.

The careful reader might notice some similarity with the Tavern House I finished recently. Indeed, the lower part - the window counter section - is the same. In fact, various parts of these fronts can be found in their complete houses as well. The door of the middle front e.g. is the same as in their Guild House as are the bay windows (of course! I'd do the same). I don't find this to be a problem - to the contrary: it gives the buildings a consistent look. There's still enough going on to give each an individual look. And the paint jobs can also do a lot to set the pieces apart.

Speacking of paint jobs, below you can see all three fronts painted. I tried to give the middle front the effect of color that is peeling off. I don't know about that... it somehow just looks wrong, so I might repaint that part at some point.



As you can see I did not put the cobblestone bases there. I have prepared them, glued them together (without the end pieces though) and now I am waiting for the gaming board itself to take shape because the bases will be part of that.

The Warehouse Front

The Warehouse front is very similar to those from the Townhouse set. It is a three part piece that comes with a nice cobblestone base.

Contents of the Warehouse front boxed set by Stronghold Terrain

If you wanted to mix parts of the Townhouse fronts set then you could easily insert one or two of these for additional variety. Since my Gierburg table will have a huge port section (pirate games!) this model fits in nicely. I could indeed imagine two of these fronts standing right next to each other at the port. Painted slightly different this would look just right.

The painted warehouse front

The Tavern Front

Last but certainly not least we have the Tavern front. This is a more solid piece consisting of a single piece for the main part and a small stonework section with two steps for additional height and detail. A separate chimney and a tavern sign are also included. Again there is a cobblestone base which connects with the others from the range.

Contents of the tavern front boxed set by Stronghold Terrain

The Tavern building
from Stronghold Terrain
This front is very reminiscent of their Tavern building, yet not quite identical. The door, window and basic stonework is the same. But while this one is full of stonework in the ground level, the tavern model has plastering covering the full stonework. The tavern signs are the same though.

I didn't want to use the original tavern sign because it reads "Zum durstigen Mönch" (roughly meaning "The thirsty monk" in German), which I was not so fond of since Gierburg features neither monks nor German language. So I went with the keg symbol sign from the Thomarillion set of Tavern signs. I had used the 'anvil sign' for my Blacksmith's Forge from ForgeWorld (which is now OOP and I sold mine) so now I have the 'knight sign' left, which due to a severe absence of knights in Gierburg will be about as useful as the monk sign.






Verdict

All products from Stronghold Terrain's fronts range are highly detailed models with a lot of character. Each piece has its unique features while still integrating perfectly into the overall style. Due to the modular nature of the items you can even buy multiple sets and rearrange them differently to get even more fronts. The cobblestone bases are made so that they can be connected freely so you can line up the fronts in whichever way you like.

The casting quality is good. There were minor defects (on a few windows) that could be easily repaired with modelling putty. If you're used to working with resin models (buildings, ships or whatever) then this is common work.

I have to say that before I bought these models I did wonder whether they are worth it. Stronghold themself described them with a display purpose for cabinets. But I am working towards a gaming board! I then realised something. You can either have your gaming board just end, leading into the void. Or you can mark the end of your board with fronts and facades. The latter creates an enormously stronger atmosphere. Not only because the gaming table now it not a mere presentation of buildings on a silver platter, but a live cut-out of a larger world. If you have fronts like these on one side of your streets and full houses on the other (which you'd have anyways), then the streets of your city are fully surrounded by buildings. This is a completely different feeling of delving into your board. It also has some gaming value because now you can set up proper "ends" of your board: A street leading off the table between the fronts. Or, with that amount of doors available, you can assign entrances and exits to the board to certain doors and/or windows. Therefore I believe that finishing off your gaming board with building fronts and facades both adds a lot of depth to your visual experience as well as opening up new possibilities for the gaming side of things.


All five fronts lined up: the Tavern, the Warehouse and the Townhouse set of Three


3 comments:

  1. Very cool, though sad that they removed from them from their storefront. Had wished I had picked up some now for both gaming board reasons, but also for display purposes! Nice work on them!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, indeed. I too hope that they will return them to their shop at some point. It would be a real shame otherwise.

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  3. Great looking buildings, and nice presentation!
    Phil.

    ReplyDelete

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