Monday, March 16, 2009

The Wrecking Ball Terrain Review

"The Wrecking Ball" is a terrain and scenery review I will be doing on the blog. With my current terrain project Gierburg I am purchasing so many buildings that I thought it might be useful to write proper reviews for them. Usually the review will be part of a post that describes my work on the building from unpacking to the last paint brushes. The review will be the last thing I complete in that post so all the experience I made can be incorporated into the final judgement. I won't confine myself to houses, though. There will also be reviews on other things such as e.g. ships, which I collect for Legends of the High Seas.

The grades range from 0 to 5 and have the following semantics:

5 - Perfect
4 - High quality (very good)
3 - Moderate, average quality (okay/good)
2 - Low quality (bad, weak)
1 - Very bad
0 - Unacceptable

Assessment Criteria
The following critera will help judge the quality of the piece, so that I don't forget any important factors. I am maintaining a file (call it a "database" if you like) with all the terrain pieces for easy reference and comparison. I developed the following criteria by doing comparisons of scenery pieces I already have and which I am working on so in a way the system has proven to work in practice.

There are two main categories - design and material - with four subcategories each.

This category deals with factors concerning the style and design of the building.
  • Size: I like properly sized buildings. Of course you can make any 28mm house look big by using 20mm figures, but I'm looking for proper 28-30mm scenery with believable proportions.
  • Style & Detail: This is very important to me because I am very demanding and choosey about this criterion. However, since the level of detail can often be told from sample images before the purchase, it is unlikely that I will be giving a grade lower than 4 here. I will only purchase scenery that I'd grade 4.5 or 5 and this will usually remain and at worst be modified by -0.5 if the piece looks slightly worse in the flesh than expected.
  • Assembly: Can the building be assembled easily? Do the individual parts fit together nicely or do I need to fill gaps with Green Stuff?
  • Interior: If the building has an interior (usually accessible via a removable roof) then that's a plus. Since a modelled interior will usually mean a higher price, I do, however, expect to get a high quality interior if there is an interior - anything else would be frustrating. A lack of interior does not not normally influence the rating in a bad way.

In this category I grade the quality of the material with which the model is cast.
  • Sturdiness: I don't care whether the building is made of resin or some kind of plaster. What I do care about is whether it is sturdy, and if pieces fall off during game play then that is unacceptable.
  • Quality: Bubbles can occur in any material and I hate bubbles. They are not only annoying on themselves but they can cause serious damage to the detail of the surface.
  • Flash: Is there much additional effort required to remove unwanted flash or mold lines? Let's hope not!
  • Paint stickiness: It may depend on whether you have properly washed the model prior to base coating, but some resins really don't like paints and the colour "falls off" like it was antipolar magnetic. So will the colour stick or will you strike the colours?
Note that the model's price is not included in any of the categories. Ideas of what should be an apropriate price for a building varies from gamer to gamer. From my experience most people are not willing to pay a fair price for high quality scenery. So with the opinions (and pain barriers) concerning acceptable prices varying so much I chose to not factor in the costs of the model. It may however slightly influence the overal grade (see below).

Calculating the overall Grade
In order to calculate the total I do the following:
  1. Calculate the mean for each the Design and Material category.
  2. Calcualte the weighted mean of Desin and Material (Design 60%, Material 40%).
  3. Adjust the result by no more than +/-1, based on personal opinion/feeling
The last step allows me to adjust the grade a little to factor in my overall satisfaction based on things that I could not take account of in the categories (e.g. price and shipping costs, packaging, bonus bits that came with the model). Mostly I will be rounding up or down to the nearest full (*.0) or half (*.5) number.

Example: The Coaching Inn (the2legends)
In a recent post I described how I painted the Blue Wolf Inn, a great resin building I got from ebay and wich was previously produced by the2legends. The building was already assembled but still I could assign points and grade the model. Among a few other pieces (some of which I am currently working on) the inn is used as a reference model.

So this is what the scores are (for more comments check out the post about the Blue Wolf Inn):

Yes, that's a lot of top marks but there's no need to deny points when they are well deserved. Praise where praise is due. I am that happy with the model. But I can promise some of the upcoming models will not come off as well. ;)

If you have any thoughts and comments about the review system, feel free to let me know!

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