Monday, 24 October 2011

Review: Micro Art Studios Urban Building

A painted promo shot from Micro Art

I've been waiting very patiently to get my hands on the Micro Art Infinity terrain for quite some time. Although I've only got the District 4 Apartment 1 building, it does give you a good indication of the build quality of their pieces. I'm hoping to be able to get my hands on some of their walkways and maybe even the resin walls soon. But, for now you'll have to make do with just the apartment block building.

Product Description

There are 130 pieces! Yes, you did read that right. One-hundred-and-thirty pieces. That is a lot of stuff. True not all of it is required, and much of it is duplicate pieces depending on the configuration of building you go for, however as a rough estimate there has to be roughly 30 pieces used in the construction of each floor on average. So saying an entire 3 story building is made up of roughly 90 pieces, 102 if you include the two balconies, isn't stretching the truth. It's a bloody complex build and make no mistake. Although there are various ways to 'make' or 'configure' the building realistically it's all pretty much going to be the same sort of layout. However, the option to leave the building as open or closed as you like with the windows is a nice touch, the removable window shutters increase the 'theoretical' number of configurations significantly. This building has clearly been designed for Infinity. The building still comes attached to its HDF spru's, 6 sheets in total and you'll have to be very careful about removing the parts from them. Once or twice I came close to snapping thin pieces as I removed them, and scoring with a craft knife is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, so be very careful, you have been warned!

A picture of the six sheets the building comes on.

Usefulness 7.5 out of 10

One of the biggest hurdles to getting started playing Infinity is the huge amount of terrain that is required. It's certainly the biggest issue I had when starting the game, the plethora of blown to pieces, Swiss cheese 40k terrain I had just wasn't good enough to play Infinity on. Plus for obvious reasons it's what most of the terrain on the market is designed to be like. Much of this grim dark terrain also doesn't have the 'clean', anime inspired look I wanted on the gaming board while playing Infinity. This building sorts most of that out, and while I wish its actual footprint was a little bit bigger, perhaps using the long walls on all 4 sides to create more of a square building, it does do its job relatively well.

For blocking line of sight and for using the interiors these buildings are sodding brilliant. The floors lock into place above one and other perfectly and form a  damn sturdy fit. But, they  remain easy to take apart again to gain easy internal access. On this score alone they are the best HDF buildings I've seen, I have no fears about using these buildings during play at all, even with them being dry assembled without glue. Once I've settled on my own personal configurations I'll no doubt use some watered down PVA to hold them in place, but it really isn't required. It might be worth painting the buildings though before you do stick them together.

My main gripe about them in terms of being used in a game of Infinity is their dimensions. The floor plate is too small, getting suitable looking steps up between the floors isn't going to be easy and I personally don't like the idea of the 'lift'. The buildings do not look like well designed structures to me, if they truly are meant to be apartments they are too small. are the shape is all wrong. The reality is they are just a big tall box on a board and until they release the internal walls and other accessories they aren't perfect for playing games over. The other issue with them is one of height, they're fine at two story's, providing a ground floor, first floor and a roof. Three story's and we're talking major dominance of the board again by snipers.

The floors really are easy to take off and put back on again

They're OK, but you shouldn't kid yourself into thinking that you could hope to fill a board out with these buildings. Another minor annoyance is that there are 4 walls with doors, meaning that one floor will require two doors. Not really a huge problem per se, but it does mean that unless you put two doors on the ground floor you'll end up with a 'suicide' door on either the first or second floors as there are only two balconies. Not too sure Micro Art thought that one though too much to be honest with you, unless of course they planned for us all to buy their exceptional walkways, those cunning Poles! I guess what I'm saying is that although the buildings are good, I'm not entirely happy with the options I have in the packages, or entirely how they function on the board.

Character 9 out of 10

What I have absolutely no qualms about though, in any way shape or form is the character of the buildings. They do ooze clean anime styled future from every laser cut line. The Hexagons are also a huge Infinity staple now it seems, so yes in terms of character it is bang on the money. The only issue as I said above would be that I don't think it is shaped like a functional building, and before people start prattling on about buildings in the future being shaped different I'd like to point out that the perceived wisdom on the shape of apartment blocks has pretty much been the same for nigh on 200 years now, just the scale of the builds has changed! For that reason alone, because this buiding isn't T shaped or L shaped or has any stair well or central points it detracts slightly from the believable character of the piece, and that is what stops it being a perfect 10. Because everything else is spot on.

Every part of the building is used to embellish the overall look
Detail 9 out of 10

This is where Micro Arts attention to detail really comes into play. I'm not going to bang on about the shape of the building or its foot print on the board here. Because they do desrves a hell of a lot of credit for how these buildings fit together, and how they have used layers of detail to not only hide certain joints in the building, but also to then use these pieces to enhance the character of the building. It is these details that really show it as a quality product. You see, while many of the pieces appear to be simply decorative, the majority do go to make the buildings more structurally solid, and boy are they solid! The two buildings in this review were rushed together as a dry assembly, requiring no glue at all. That was a bit of a surprise to me given how complex and tall the building was. That the people who designed the building used every opportunity to not only enhance the look of the building, but also its structural strength is a credit to them, it really is.

Be careful removing delicate pieces
Quality 8 out of 10

I have four of these buildings, and I think that has given me a pretty damn good idea as to how consistent the quality of them is. I'm going to be honest and say that after the first 3 buildings this was going to be a 9.5 out of 10 score. I was that impressed. Yeah sure, some of the joins on the buildings are a little bit tight and could do with being a little bit easier to do, mainly the mid wall stanchions on the long walls that 'clip' the floors together,  but otherwise they're exceptional quality. However, I then started putting the fourth one together and I really don't mind admitting to you that it was totally horrible to put together. On some of the piece the laser hadn't cut all the way through the wood and getting the pieces out caused all sorts of problems that required significant clean up work. Mainly because 'popping' the pieces out meant that they 'tore' the back of the wood away from the spru. Luckily this always lead to more wood being present on the pieces so they could be shaved down, rather than tearing chunks out of them. I hope it was a one off abborration I really do, and I'm sure it was, but if you do get one of these buildings do please check the backs of them to make sure the laser has cut all the way through. If it hasn't, then send it back and demand a none faulty one.

Service 3 out of 10

This is what happens when the laser doesn't cut all the way through
Now I don't like doing this because it's somebodies livelihood I'm about to knock here, but I ordered these from Antenocitis Workshop and the service wasn't great. They were in stock, I checked that they had four in stock by phoning them, I ordered them on the exact same day, a Thursday, just after lunch time I believe. I also paid for next day delivery. When I do pay for next day delivery, and I fork out over £100 for something, then I absolutely expect it to be with me the next day. I'd have accepted Saturday I guess or Monday at the very latest. However, when I'm phoning up the following Thursday and asking where my next day delivery is and being told they haven't sent it to me yet I think I have every right to be a little bit pissed off! When they then say they'll send it out straight away and you don't get it on Friday, or Saturday but Monday, then I'm sorry that's pretty crap service. Did it all get to me eventually? Yes. Did it get to me in one piece? Yes. Was it worth paying for next day delivery on something that took 9 working days to get to me? Hell no, and the fact the post date stamped on the package was for the Saturday tells me it wasn't 'posted straight away' as they claimed it would be. It does make me think twice about using their service again, because Micro Art themselves can get stuff to me in that time frame. I've used Antenocitis Workshop twice before and had fine service off of them, but on this one they really dropped the ball big time. I'm going to cross my fingers and hope this was a one off drop in standards. due to the popularity of the product.

They're not as versatile in configurations as first thought
Price 8 out of 10

The RRP is roughly £26 I believe, give or take a few pence with the exchange rate with the Eurozone. Antenocitis Workshop sold them for £22.86 each, which is obviously better than the RRP. However, in light of the fact that I don't think the product itself is quite as perfect as I'd have liked, in terms of it being a good way of filling a board out, it's only going to get an 8 out of 10 for cost, because realistically it is an expensive way to try and 'fill' out a board. Even if I do think it is a relatively fair price to pay for the product itself. Besides, 8 out of 10 really isn't a bad score at all, in fact it's a pretty damn good score.

Overall 8.5 out of 10

On the whole I really like these buildings, and they're way better than the 40k scenery I was playing on at first. I just wished the foot print was slightly bigger and the buildings seemed to make more 'sense' as buildings than they do now. These are not a bad first effort really, and I'm keen to see the sorts of accessories they plan on releasing for the buildings themselves as that might solve some of the issues I have with them, like some internal walls and even the proposed billboards. My number one request though would proper external staircase and maybe lift shaft leading to the various apartments from doors might help with them as believable buildings as well as maybe allowing you to attach more than one apartment building to each other to create more interesting building shapes. Maybe some conversion kits to turn them into two story buildings, or have some different looking wall options. I'm also hoping to get hold of one or two of the Urban Walkways from Micro Art Studio's as I think they might interact with the buildings really well.

However, these as they stand do represent a good start to a board, it's just that if you fill a board out with these it'd get very boring to play on very quickly and visually it'd get 'samey'. I like them, but would I purchase more than the four I have? Not on your life, unless they bring out some serious conversion kits to produce different shapes or building layouts. I'd also like to see Micro Art attempt some more ambitious looking building designs, like houses, Restaurants, shops or commercial office space. If they were to do all this there would be a very good chance that I would end up filling my Infinity board with their scenery. As it is, it'll provide a good solid start to a table, and I better not hang up my plasticard or foamcard just yet. Peace out!

What do I mean by different configurations / shapes?

Right I'm aware that what I've just said might not make much sense, so I used the Micro Art buildings to try and create some new shapes for you all so you can see what I mean:

The buildings don't go together very well in different shapes. However the idea here is to have a large square as the ground floor and a smaller second floor giving a large balcony area, maybe for a cafe of some kind.

Much like the 'cafe' idea above this shape could be used for a family home, a big ground floor and space for two bedrooms upstairs, one with a balcony again.

Here I've put three of my apartment blocks together and put a large water bottle in the space where I think a central stairwell / lift access column might go. The ability to join buildings in this way would open up some really cool possibilities in terms of shape of building and battlefield.

I just hope Micro Art listen to some of the suggestions gamers have made with regards the buildings, and actually do make some conversion kits or decent accessories, to make what is a good product into truly exceptional one.


  1. It really does seem to need some add-ons, like walkways or lil' bridges and stairwells to integrate the buildings into one another.
    Kinda like....Legos, or an Erector set or sumpthin'....but with terrain.
    That would be sooooo cool.

    My wallet is already mad at me about knows it's gonna take a beating...

  2. Well the do have the walkways already, and they've got billboards and internal walls planned for them. So I'm looking forward to that.

  3. I had the great fortune to play on these recently, Frontline Gamer is massing a really cool Infinity board which at least to a noob is great fun to play on. I really like these , I think they are a little on the dear side for something that takes so much effort to assemble, (smell great though...)

    I really look forward to seeing how these shape up when painted. as said in the review I doubt you would want to fill an entire table with this, shops cafe's dept stores hotels casino's drive thru's etc etc . I'm actually pretty excited about doing scenery (in the long run) that is so very different to 40k, have been watching manga for donkeys and love the building design ethic.

    Great review

  4. Great stuff, will most likely buy 2 or 3 of these and then hope for some better stuff from Micro Arts (or others) when they are finished!

  5. @Sorrowshard, soon we'll all hopefully have enough scenery and for it to be interchangeable to be able to offer different types of game board and to mix things up to keep things interesting.

    @Pacific, I like them, I do... but I'm becoming quite demanding in my old age. I'd like things to be perfect and these aren't quite there yet. I think with a bit of refinement Micro Art could have an amazing sci-fi building range on their hands I really do. I'd like to see some buildings with a slightly different aesthetic look as well.

  6. wow i really like the cafe one, may have to make that properly.

  7. @Unique_Geek, Micro Art are apparently working on different designs and stuff as we speak. I got an email from Jan at Micro Art today telling me they have other things prepped and ready to go but are struggling to keep up with demand and have another laser cutting machine purchased and on the way to cope with demand. Great news!!!