Monday, August 17, 2015

Colonial ConApts - Angry Mojo MDF Hive review & assembly tips

To start off, this is my first MDF kit that wasn't a prefab (...ironic, given the kits represent prefabs...). I have quite a bit of hobby experience, but Angry Mojo's "The Hive" MDF kit was new to me.

Initial Impressions
So, the first thing I did, after fiddling around to feel the weight of the materials and dry-fit some stuff, was catalogue the contents:
  • 12 solid hexes
  • 24 ring hexes
  • 36 plain walls
  • 3x6 window/window/sign (6 unique: fire extinguisher, cafe, food, etc.)
  • 18 doors
  • a few more "c" widgets than you need for all of the roofs.
Of the walls, that comes to: 1/2 are plain; 1/4 are doors; 1/6 are windows; 1/12 are signs, distributed among 12 hex rooms.

The materials are pretty simple, but you also get a ton of parts and basically nothing is wasted. While the door count seemed high, it's actually very appropriate from a practical perspective (moving your guys around).

There aren't a ton of open windows, but if you plan around certain walls being more often than not flush with other hexes, it doesn't affect the look/outward facing sides much.

The above shot is a pretty much what you can do with the kits, right out of the box, and represents an average distribution of parts for their hex buildings.

One thing I noticed when I was building it is that the pegs along the edge of the roofs (left) could be inverted (right) and be painted to make little corner floodlights.

The houses also stack nicely, like the above. The roof design makes sure they're thoroughly locked together, but if you're using the buildings purely as obstructions (i.e. not using them for interior spaces), you don't need the roof bits between them.

Basic Building Tips
The buildings fit easily, with most being close enough that, if you're a little careful about not bumping them, you can dry-fit them and they'll hold well enough to survive a game. And you should be dry-fitting them, because there are a ton of options to play with, and it's easy to end up with a really bland last hex or two if you don't plan around it.

Use white or wood glue. It should be obvious, but some modelers aren't used to materials other than plastic/metal, so just a reminder. The material is porous enough that it doesn't require much drying time, though it's always good to give glue extra time to set.

The roofs were the only part I messed up: the roofs' c-widgets really benefit from being exactly vertical, since the fit is so snug when stacking. You should set the widgets in with hex rings from the buildings above and below them so they fit nice and vertically.

Personalizing Your Living Space
So, not one to leave kits unmodified, I started experimenting almost immediately after building a basic hex.

The below techniques all only use the parts provided in the kits, plus basic hobby supplies, since, despite being able to put all sorts of fancy bits on them, I wanted to take advantage of the kit as it stands. I was also interested in how much I could stretch the kit to get even more value out of it.

Similarly, while this would be a good project to work with an airbrush on, I deliberately forewent one, because Angry Mojo's terrain is based around being affordable, so it seemed odd to use tools that are on the expensive side- the idea here is showing what could be easily accomplished with basic hobby supplies.

One technique I started playing with was the little interlocking bits that are visible: rather than try to perfectly mask these, they make good guide marks for painting, hence the little trim at the bottom of the close hex and repeated on the far one around the window. They provide easy reference points for symmetry or just straight edges.

Another bit of painting fun, with some more freehand.

The closed door is made from a spare wall with the pegs cut off (more on this below), with a little edge pointing out the bottom of a control panel, and is removable.

The ladder is also just freehand with a little dark rectangle and a white bottom edge.

This arose from the only major complaint I have of the kit: There always felt like there were a few too many plain walls, and there weren't any ways up, to take advantage of multiple levels. I felt like if a few of the flat walls had some generic details on them like control panels, it would have made the kits more lively, and ladders in particular would have been my first pick for added functionality.

You can (as I did) paint some simple freehand, or incorporate some other kits that have ladders or stairs, but it's the one part of the kit that I feel makes it less than fully functional without modification.

With the cafe (sign included), I decided to push making it a larger building, since I felt that the shop wouldn't really fit in a single hex so I didn't need it to be internally modular. The interior doors are glued along the center of the two adjacent hexes. This went a long way towards alleviating my complaint of too many plain walls, since each was doing double-duty (instead of using 6 doors, I used 4).

This did require me to fill the gaps between the walls for consistency (since otherwise there'd be maybe 1/8" gaps from the middle walls effectively being half the thickness they were designed to be, but that took some spackle you can find for about $5 for a big ol' vat.

I did a simple wash for the interior, since I've never found interiors worth the time to detail (you won't see them much, and any 3-dimensional stuff will just get in the way of gaming).

One thing I didn't try is stretching the hex rings: The roofs and building rings have the same exterior dimensions, so, if you wanted to really extend the materials and didn't care about interior spaces, I'm pretty sure you could stack and glue things correctly to get another 3 or so hexes' worth of structure out of it.

You can make a staircase, by cutting said wall in half on both axes. I also cut another angle in the top step (using the left over to extend the second one down), but this was just a bit of aesthetics/an attempt to make the top steps tougher. Again, working with the kit, I left the corner tabs as a design element and repeated using the joins as painting guides.

Action Shots
I'm definitely one of those who likes to paint for play and likes to play painted, so, some actions shots of the terrain. These photos show a little under half of the total materials (5 hex buildings of the 12 it makes).

A more vertical layout with some Marines on some backwater ash waste, dealing with a cultist problem. (One-story buildings are a bit taller than a Rhino.)

A chance encounter between some Nomads and Pan Oceana's troops. I ran some pins through those three roof hexes to make them a single unit, that can extend over space as a bridge or balcony (though I'd probably avoid two leaning out without a stronger support), or just fit over the triple building.

The first Infinity shot at the top of this article shows another style of bridge, with a spare wall placed sideways: the roof tiles have notches the same spacing as the walls, so these fit really easily.

A Vanguard biker escapes to report another settlement fallen to the Strain. Also, a shot of a flatter layout for the three structures.

Final Thoughts
The Hive gets you a good bit of flexibility and a lot of area coverage for a nice price. I've played with the set in a few games, and would say that it can cover one or two square feet pretty densely or vertically, or cover three or four square feet lightly.

It's completely ready to go out of the box if you're either using the buildings as basic obstacles or are only using them as single-story structures, but if you want to fully utilize its height, you'll need to do a little modification (as little as marking ladders or some similar bits).

And that about sums it up: The Hive's a solid kit on it's own, but I'd most recommend it if you're ready to take a little initiative to make it shine.

A final note for full transparency: This was a review copy of the kit, but I did my best to not let this color my assessment.