Tuesday, 17 June 2014

WT's 20mm Unpainted 'Cafe Gondree' review

Looking for reasonably priced 20mm laser-cut buildings on the web I came across an unpainted MDF kit by Wargames Tournaments described as the 'Cafe Gondree'. It's a model of two-story, sort of split-level or conjoined pair of buildings which is meant to represent the historic cafe in Normandy that - for a long time - was thought to have been the first liberated house on D-Day...

'The Gondrée Café, located at 20 m from the Pegasus Bridge and the whereabouts of Teresa and George Gondrée, is often presented as the first house in mainland France have been released. However, the historian Norbert Hugedé published in his book dedicated to Deadstick operation that is the house opposite, belonging to Louis Picot was controlled first in combat. Home Gondrée has opened its doors to Allied soldiers in the early morning of D-Day.' [Source: Wikipedia]
Cafe-Gondree [Source: Public Domain]
What's in the bag?
The model comes on three 3mm MDF sheets with the components attached to these 'sprues' by tiny tabs. The basic material that the model is made from is simple bare MDF so it's a reddy-buff colour. As usual there are the slight scorching around the cutout parts which is the signature of laser-cutting. But I rather like this slight discolouration, otherwise the kit is very plain.



Construction
The photocopied instructions suggest you start with the roof, or rather the roofs as there is a seperate roof section for either side or level of the house. You just pop the component parts off the encompassing sheet and slot the parts together by means of the usual tab and slot system.

It was at this point I began to suspect that this MDF model was not really designed to be easily disassembled again for convenient storage (like the Star Fort MDF buildings I have made). The WT structure is, I think, intended to be a more permanent one.


Sure enough, when it came to the insertion of the first floor it was clear that this model would not be easy to take apart and also was not designed to allow easy access to the ground floor. The first floor sections snapped tightly  into place within the surrounding walls and there was then no way to take them out again without taking the whole building apart!

This was very disappointing and I started to think of ways that I could modify this kit to be more like the ones I bought from Star Fort Miniatures. At the same time I also began thinking about how I might paint the house so that it would fit in with those other buildings I already had.


(Painting is not absolutely necessary I suppose. As a piece of scenery it's adequate as is and I have seen pictures of war games where these vanilla MDF buildings have been used 'in the buff'.)

The issue of accessing the ground floor so that you could place infantry in the house and also easily disassemble it for transportation or storage was a more frustrating one. It looked like I would have to remove some of the integral tabs and then make some of my own in different places to solve this.

In the meantime, however, I resolved to complete the basic construction as directed so I could see what the 'finished' cafe looked like.


As I had resolved to definitely paint the model I did not attach the many window shutters that the kit comes supplied with. This gives the finished building a rather bare and characterless look - I'm sure it does look a bit better with the shutters in place.

Conclusion
Obviously my MT cafe is not really finished, I'll now start 'upgrading' it - first by modifying the way it assembles (and disassembles) and also I will apply some attractive exterior decoration.

But for £14.99 do I think I got value for money? Well, the obvious answer is not really - Star Fort's MDF models are far superior to this effort and are either the same price (for their cottages) or a couple of pounds more for their own cafe (which I reviewed yesterday). In fact, while it was a complete co-incidence that SF's cafe model arrived by post just a couple of days after buying WT's cafe the ability to compare the two like-for-like really highlight the Wargames Tournaments model's deficiencies.

In short, I will have to do a lot of work to bring the WT model 'up to scratch' which negates any sense of value for money that one might have derived from this eBay 'bargain'. I highly recommend you save your money and buy Star Fort Miniatures 20mm painted cafe instead, the extra couple of quid would be well spent!

One last thing about Wargames Turnaments models - other than eBay I found their catalogue of 20mm buildings hard to track down. Thier website - wargamestournaments.com - neither seems to list their 20mm offerings nor this kit.

Postcript
Finally, here's an interesting tidbit (talking of value for money). While looking for some photo reference material for the 'Cafe Gondree' I came across what I initially thought was the WT model all painted up and customised...

Photo source: 4Ground models

But...This isn't the WT model all fancied up, it is a different 20mm version of the historic cafe made by 4Ground Models - available pre-painted and with lots of additional decorative detail!

Photo source: 4Ground Models
Interestingly, the 4Ground version does allow you to access the ground floor by making each complete floor of the house a separate unit which stack on one another.

So why not buy this instead - you may ask yourselves?

Typically of 4Ground - who I think count themselves as the premium laser-cut model makers - they charge an eye-popping £32 for this model!

This is what started me looking for alternative suppliers of 20mm MDF kits in the first place, their prices are far more than I am happy to pay for a piece of scenery. (And I don't think I am the only one that think so either - Plastic Soldier Company has had to slash the prices of the 4Ground models they sell on their website. I presume they weren't selling!)

Anyway, the good thing about this little find is that it both gives me an idea about a colour scheme for my WT 'Cafe Gondree' and some hints about how to make it more accessible.

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