North Star in the UK recently had a sale on the 4Ground range of pre-coloured MDF kits and since I didn’t already own any and I’m sucker for 10mm sci-fi (Dropzone Commander, Planetfall, etc.) I picked up a few before they sold out.
4Ground deservedly have a reputation for some of the most innovative and detailed MDF kits on the market and while they’re also the most expensive, being pre-coloured generally makes them pretty quick to get on the table. This particular range, named Jesseri, was designed as a direct replacement for the cardboard city sets available for Dropzone Commander.
The first items I built were a pair of two identical kits of District XXII Hab-Block 4 which is a mid-sized apartment block building that would be equally suited to modern games as for sci-fi. These kits are normally GBP 18.00 each but I picked them up for less than half of that in the sale. The basic structure went together pretty quickly and is of 4Ground’s usual double-skin construction which gives a lot of detail and depth variations for a more realistic finish. The overall dimensions of the assembled model are 8cm x 8cm around the base and 9.5 cm high. Where the build slowed dramatically was the nearly 100 individual windows to cut out and fit and once they were done, the nearly 100 individual lintels to go with them which are tiny (about 2mm x 8mm). Overall the build took about three hours, at least two-thirds of which was spent on the windows and lintels and was pretty tedious work. Obviously you don’t have to do that part of the kit and it would function perfectly without them but it seems a bit wrong to buy a premium kit then leave the fine details off. A few spares of the most fiddly components are provided in case some get damaged removing them from the sprue.
The thing that caught me out about this kit is that it’s in three sections (ground and 1st floor, 2nd and 3rd floors, 4th floor and roof) and I was expecting the base of the middle section to be on the bottom so that you can sit figures in there but that isn’t actually the case with the ‘base’ being on the top and as a result I ended up putting the window frames and air conditioning unit for this section on upside down on the first kit which isn’t a total disaster as you can only really tell on fairly close inspection. It is a bit of a shame that you can’t use the lift-off sections to place miniatures at different levels of the building but does follow the Dropzone Commander convention of placing occupying models on the roof. I found the three sections didn’t fit together perfectly so were a little stiff when trying to take them apart but repeated use or a very slight trim of the locating pins should fix that easily enough. Additional middle sections allow you to increase the height of the building.
The next kit was a Vertipad (helipad) which again would also fit nicely into modern games and is normally priced at GBP 11.00 The model can be used standalone or placed on the roof of one of the hab blocks. This kit was the quickest and easiest to assemble with a build time of approximately 30 minutes and is 3cm high and 11cm across. The model feels study so it should be fine to place even fairly large models on top.
Next up were a set of 2x Pylons normally priced at GBP 13.00 the pair. These kits were a thick cardboard material sprayed silver and given their height (20.5 cm) and the thinness of the material, they feel like will be difficult to store due to their fragility. They were reasonably straightforward to build, taking about an hour for the pair. I was concerned that they wouldn’t turn out straight as the joint between the top and bottom sections has a very small contact surface but they seem to have come out OK.
Finally I had two sets of 2x Pedestrian Flyovers normally priced at GBP 8.00 the pair. These are designed to fit over the roads on the Dropzone Commander city tiles to add a bit of clutter and restrict the movement of very large vehicles. The are made of the same thin cardboard material as the pylon and went together in about 40 minutes for each pair. The main concern with these kits is that the flyovers can be slightly skewed and lean to one side or the other but I think they came out reasonably well. Like the pylons, the resultant model is fairly fragile so will need to be handled carefully. Overall model size is 3cm wide, 14 cm long and 4.5 cm tall.
Standard techniques apply for making these kits (and anything else by 4Ground) – use a very sharp knife to cut the components from the sprue, read twice / stick once and apply your PVA with a brush rather than straight from the bottle.
A table full of kits from this range would look stunning but be prepared for a large cash investment and a long, repetitive build time (particularly for the apartment blocks). The range includes a large number of accommodation, commercial and industrial buildings.