Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Tale of Two Castles

Miniature Building Authority
Well, two modular castle-building miniature Kickstarters, anyway. Coincidentally, both of these launched on September 30, and both look remarkably similar on the surface. Which shouldn't be too much of a surprise, given what they are, but it is probably unfortunate for both that they just happened to launch on the same day. Ouch.

The first (completely arbitrarily) is by Miniature Building Authority. MBA has been around a while, and has a decent enough reputation in the field to make a credible effort. The smallest reward level that actually gets you something to put on the table is $110, which gets you a market building (I'm not counting "early bird specials"), which is sort of an open-walled storefront like you'd see at a Renaissance Festival.

Miniature Building Authority
Some of the higher reward levels, like the tower house, are really cool, with detailed interiors that you can open up and use for play (sort of like a dollhouse, with floors and ceilings that can be removed for access). The barbican ($375) is the first really castle-looking set, and it's a very impressive piece of work, with walls, round crenelated towers, and a gatehouse.

The point of something like this, however, is modularity, and that doesn't really kick in until you get to the three castle sets; small ($500), medium ($1,600), and large ($2,600). Ay caramba! These things are really pricey, but damn they are beautiful. And come painted, to boot. Of course, there will be freebies, stretch goals, and you can buy the pieces a la carte as well. All in all, a pretty impressive offering.

UpWorks - manor house
The second is called UpWorks, and is done by True Adventures, Ltd. This is a new company, but the head is an old hand at this stuff, having formerly been the president of Dwarven Forge for the last decade or so. These pieces don't come painted (there's a tutorial video on how to dry-brush them), but they are cast in stone grey, so if chipped there won't be a white layer underneath poking through.

This one is a little different than the other, in that the walls and floors seem to be made to fit into pre-fab floor frames that have a sort of tongue-in-groove thing to keep the walls lined up. Looks like your buildings have to follow the arrangement of those floor frames, so I'm not sure how this would work if you wanted to do an irregularly-shaped building.

UpWorks - castle + stretch goals
There are significantly fewer reward levels on this one, and the smallest reward level is $90, which gets you a manor house (but no stretch goals). $140 gets you a tower (and the stretch goals), $295 gets you a fortress, and $590 gets you a castle.

There will be add-on packs for UpWorks, so you can buy additional bits and pieces, and stretch goals will really add a lot - the first stretch goal will get everyone at the $140 level or more an entire 111 piece fortress set. That's pretty damn impressive, but it's hard to make direct comparisons based just on the number of pieces.

Aesthetically, I think I like the MBA stuff better. The UpWorks buildings, by virtue of the fact that they use those square and rectangular floor frames, look very chunky to me. One advantage is that it allows you to have floors that hang over lower floors, as shown in their gallery. That's pretty cool. Either way you go, though, it's a good time if you like castles in your games.

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