Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Star Fort 1/72 MDF painted European cottages

What to do if you want buildings for your battlefield?
Having begun some basic wargaming with Bolt Action I wanted to make my own little 'training ground' with which I could learn more about the rules and become familiar with the tactics of the game.

My brother had put together a lovely little 'French Village' for our introductory game with buildings made from card, the designs downloaded from the web - cheap and cheerful! And while that was great for our demo game we both soon began to crave the ability to place our little soldier inside the buildings (if we had been able to do that he would have probably have won the game).

Armourfast's plastic battlefield cottage is typical of the mid-priced kits
available, but the facility to open up the building so as to place soldiers
inside is restricted, without doing some modification to the basic kit.
So I have been doing some browsing for some pre-fabricated scale buildings that have accessible interiors. It turns out - not surprisingly - that there are plenty on the market, though while my first port of call was the Plastic Soldier Company store the MDF painted houses for sale there (by 4Ground) turned out to be very expensive!

4Ground's 1/72 (20mm) Pre-painted MDF European pair of semi-detached
cottages. Very nice but at £20 a pop a village could get very expensive!
Picture source: Plastic Soldier Company Store/4Ground
However, of all the options - card, plastic, MDF laser cut, etc - I took a shine to the pre-painted MDF 'flat pack' kits. If only I could buy some like 4Ground's MDF cottages, but a little cheaper!

Read on...

Well, as it turns out there are quite a few option for MDF buildings - painted and unpainted - that are a bit more reasonable than 4Ground's current offerings. Ironically, I cannot be the only person that thinks their buildings are a little pricey as PLC has dropped the prices quite dramatically on their online store - that European Cottage was originally an eye watering £39!

After filtering through the options I still decided I would like to see what  pre-painted model looked like (I figured if I still was worried about cost I could use the sample model as a template with which to maybe build my own cheaper buildings in card or Kappa board perhaps). At length I came upon some models which seemed to be what I was looking for on eBay...

Picture source: Star Fort
Made by a company called Star Fort Miniatures one of the cottages was £14.99 - now while I concede that this was only £5 cheaper than the 4Ground offering, five pounds is five pounds and there were also some other positives.

Star Fort sell their cottages in a choice of colour - for walls and roofs - and in either an 'intact' or 'ruined' state. So the basic cottage design can be had in a choice of 12 varying configurations. Naturally, the basic building can be opened up to allow soldiers to be placed inside, which is one of the principal advantages over the cheapest card models.

Another advantage - particularly for the travelling wargamer I imagine - is the flat packed makeup of the basic kit. The cottage can be put together (and taken down again) in a minute...

You receive your Star Fort cottage in several plastic bags containing the
principal components; walls and floors, roofs and doors and windows.
When I received my cottage I was immediately struck by the amount of parts in the kit, there were a lot more that I imagined there would be. However, the majority of parts are the large structural components - walls, floors and roofs - and the rest are the 'decoration', like window frames and lintels. These smaller parts can - you will be glad to know - permanently glued to the larger parts as only the 'shell' components need to be glue-free to allow dismantling of the model.

I didn't have any instructions - these buildings are a fairly new product and Colin from Star Fort is just putting together some - but to be honest it's all fairly self-explanatory and I had the main parts together in seconds...

Everything is held in place by slotted holes, if storage space isn't a
consideration you can always glue some of the parts together. Here you
can see the ground floor.
The main walls and floors are slotted together and do not require glue of fixings really. Simple cross beams support the first floor which is dropped in and can be easily taken up again so you can access the ground floor...

Then you just pop on the roofs to complete your little dwelling (at this point I haven't attached the exterior detailing). I opted for the 'ruined' cottage in 'mid grey' with a 'terracotta' roof...

It was a doddle and everything fitted together exactly as it was supposed to, so even if you had to assemble a whole village of these cottages it really wouldn't take that long.

I'm really impressed. While cost is an issue there is no doubt that these little cottages look terrific assembled and on a table top layout. Some may have a problem with the slightly 'cartoon' look of these models, I did worry about that myself, but honestly they look terrific at the distance you are meant to see them at.

Picture source: Star Fort Miniatures
I can't comment about authenticity, and as said when it comes to realism they are designed for gaming. But they do have their own jolly character about them - which reminds a person of my age of Trumpton or Camberwick Green (ignore this is you are below 40 years of age) - and they actually add a sense of fun to a not-so-serious game like Bolt Action.

So, yes, I am a convert. I will just have to put my village together a bit at a time (a house or two a month maybe) and in the meantime populate the rest of my training battlefield with card models. As usual, you pays your money and takes your choice  I just happen to like the aesthetic of these models.

On scale and quality: Well, naturally I couldn't resist taking a snap or two of the semi-completed cottage with a couple of my German infantry and I have to say that the scale looks spot on for 1/72 (though I guess they would be fine for 20mm too). And while I can't do a side-by-side comparison of my cottage with one of the ones made by 4Ground I cannot see how they differ that much in quality (judging by the photos I've seen).

Finally, I really have to put in a word of praise for Colin at Star Fort. After ordering on eBay I received regular progress reports about the model - as I believe these are made-to-order - and this was greatly appreciated.

Colin mentioned that he they hope to expand on the range and I do hope that they do (some commercial buildings and maybe a windmill would be nice). At the moment they have two basic designs, these cottages and a building which looks a little more urban - but, remember, these can be had in a variety of colour combinations so actually they have quite a few choices on offer.

Star Fort's European urban town house. Pic: Star Fort
I must get some sort of star system for this blog - but in the meantime just take it that I'd award this Star Fort Miniature's MDF painted cottage 7 out of 10 (with just a point or two lost because of the issue of cost which many may feel is still a tidy sum - but I feel they are good value for what they are and am very happy).

Link: Star Fort's eBay store

Link to Star Fort's new web site: