Friday, July 31, 2009

The Burgomeister's Mansion Pt. 1: Review

Originally built at the end of the docks nearly 500 years ago, all that is left of the original mansion are a large pile of charred and useless ruins, pulled down and razed after a riot a century ago by the impoverished citizens in protest over a then incumbent’s decision. Where space is at a premium on the south side, it is odd that this large ruin still stands abandoned after so long. Folktale is that it is haunted by the Burgomeister of the time, murdered by the mob or that in the now buried cellars lurks a treasure of unimaginable wealth. The ruins are picked over from time to time by mystery and treasure seekers, who tend to succeed in doing little more than bringing a wall down upon themselves.
A new mansion was raised directly opposite this site and directly facing it on the instructions of the next Burgomeister. So the mansion is now on both the western and eastern sides of the City Square, except the new one has a wall and gates to protect it. Quite why the new mansion was built on the south side of the Desico rather than being moved to the northern side to be amongst the other municipal and noble houses is another mystery in Gierburg, but only to those who notice such things. It does irk the entitled to be forced to attend the Burgomeister in his house across the river where they might have to see the filthy gutter-scum or even smell them.


The Burgomeister's Mansion is actually called Governor's Mansion and produced by Resina Planet. I made lots of experience and alterations with this massive 30mm resin model, way too much to squeeze in a single post. Therefore I chose to divide the entire report into three instalments. This first one is a review of the house, describing my impressions, thoughts and criticism. The next part will be about the modifications I made to the model (based on the criticism herein) and the last instalment is about applying paint and photos of the finished piece. Note that this review was written after having finished the house so that all my experience could be taken into account.

First Impression
I ordered the building directly from Resina Planet (€81,41 + €15,00 shipping1) and it arrived one week later. My first impression was mixed, because on one hand I was a bit disappointed as I expected - or let's say I had hoped - that it was a bit larger. This is, however, mostly due to my own naivety, as I hadn't considered that the sizes given on the Resina Planet website would, of course, factor in the platform before the front door, the top of the chimney, etc. On the other hand, I was happy to see that there is nearly no assembling required as this is a 7 piece resin kit: ground floor, first floor, roof and 4 pillars. Seemed like a painless job...

You can see more pictures of the building in the Resina Planet gallery.

Resin Quality - Special Case: The Windows
Unlike the Blue Wolf Inn I had painted previously, this building has a lot more bubbles in the resin. Not so much on the walls but where it is most devastating: in the lattice windows.

First off, I have to give props for even providing lattice windows. I can't think of a more complicate and more beautiful window design. However, while the ground floor and roof are both mostly intact, the windows of the first floor piece had suffered heavily. When removing the flash some of the lattice broke off (see above photo). I understand that this is probably due to pure chance and bad luck, because most other windows are intact, but I do wonder, if this could be prevented by using a different (better?) resin. On the other hand, I guess it is nigh impossible to cast a full floor of a building including a modelled inside and detailed windows without getting a few imperfections here and there.

Left: Original window. Right: Fixed window with Green Stuff (the different shades of yellow are due to light conditions)

I spent a great deal of time fixing the windows with green stuff. Then I made something really stupid: I soaked the building in acetone to get rid of the mold release. I had painted the ground floor and roof before the 1st floor and washing with water was not enough. I had, still have, many problems with the paint peeling off of the model. This is incredibly frustrating and so I was looking for a better cleaner. Acetone was not a great solution. After soaking the piece for half an hour in acetone I realized that the resin was starting to dissolve! Disaster! The material was getting soft, could be bended and the windows were a complete ruin again (the lattices were too fragile to survive this experiment). After that I had to file off even the small remains of the resin lattices. There was no way I could repair them. After my initial shock and a bit of contemplation I found the best solution was to insert matchsticks. I am quite happy with the result - simple but effective:

First Floor
While I hate to sound too negative there are two more things that I don't like about the building from a design point of view. Firstly, how is one expected to get from the ground floor to the first floor? There is no place where a stairway could be fitted into the house. The same is true for the second floor/roof level which, if you look at it from the outside, is clearly intended to be a kind of attic. I can live with that, though, but the missing stairs from the ground to the first floor are really bugging me.

"How the hell did I get here?"

I spent a lot of time thinking about how and where to drill/file/saw a hole and insert stairs. Nothing really seemed to fit because of the layout of the ground where, where stairs would be directly in front of a window. I eventually figured out how to do it; you can read about it in the next instalment. I can already tell you that it was a lot of work, took a lot of time and there were moments where I was really wishing I hadn't bought the building. But all of this only makes a satisfacting end result all the more rewarding.

The second thing that I find really annoying are the completely unnecessary and horrible looking plants on the walls. They don't look like anything that I would want to see on my gaming table. I didn't take photos of the original walls but you can get an idea from this photo (from the Resina Planet Gallery section).

Photo with the vegetation on the side, from the Resina Planet gallery

I had already accepted that I would have to make sure that I cover them up completely with proper vegetation later as part of the finishing touches, when I decided to try and remove them. So I took a nipper, file and modelling knife and after lots of filing and cutting (more than you would want to do for a building of this price category) I ended up with this:

The walls after removing the plants

I think the walls turned out pretty okay - definately much better than I had expected at first. I was mostly able to restore the brickwork and timber. After painting you really can't tell that this was fixed so heavily (you can see that in part 3).

Overall detail and style
Despite the logical flaws in the arrangement (stairs, chimney) the detail and look of the model are stunning. The grain of the woodwork is perfect (see above photos) and makes careful drybrushing very effective and rewarding. The windows - as long as they are intact - have a beautiful lattice design and windows that allow looking in the building from the outside, that's pretty special. I also give huge kudos for the design of the roof. Often shingles are unrealistically large, which saves time when building the roof, but looks silly. These are perfectly sized. Painting them up properly (and individually) results in a stunning look.

All in all I am quite content with the house despite all the above mentioned flaws. The price is steep, yes, but considering that it has a modelled inside and that it is a huge and heavy resin piece, I guess it is pretty okay. There is not much competition on the market for properly sized 28-32mm buildings. However, the recently openend company Tabletop World is probably the new standard in that niche (read an interview I made with them here). I am not sure whether I would buy the mansion again, now that Tabletop World offers equally nice buildings. For a little more you can get the monstrous Ruined Coaching Inn and for a lot less the beautiful Blacksmith's Forge. From Tabletop World's current range the Coaching Inn is the only one with an accessible inside so that advantage of the Governor's Mansion still stands. However, I expect much more goodness from Tabletop World, probably clearly beating Resina Planet's mansion. Another competitor is, of course, good old Forge World with their impressive Coaching Inn. Looking at the photos of it, however, I see the same problem as with the mansion: No space for stairs and there aren't even holes in the walls for doors. So that, too, would require a lot of additional work.

I am somewhat tempted to buy Resina Planet's Abandoned Mansion and combine that with Tabletop World's Ruined Coaching Inn. That would make for a pretty sweet gaming table. But I will definately buy the ruined inn first and then see what else I really need.

Up Next: Read how I pimped the mansion.

1The price has since been lowered but shipping (even within Europe) is pretty steep so you at best order a few other items while you are at it (March 30th, 2010).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

'Show Us Your Border Town Burning' Competition

Some Mordheim news for a change... :)

Over at the Border Town Burning website we have announced a great competition about this alternate Mordheim setting. You can win lots of prizes such as new Chaos Dwarf models and useful Mordheim bitz and submit practically anything. Sound good? Head over to the BTB site or to Tom's Boring Mordheim Forum to learn more about the competition.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Small Dwelling House

A few weeks ago I received this scratch-built house by Thomas Hahn (aka "Chicken") of Thomas is currently working on an Imperial table for next year's Tactica convention in Hamburg, which consists of similar buildings.

WIP of the house (click to enlarge)

I was honoured to be given this beautiful little gem and I really enjoyed painting it.

Finished house (click on the image to enlarge)
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