I’ve built a lot of different models from a lot of different materials since I started playing Warhammer many years ago. However, the models I enjoy assembling most are plastics. Putting together my most recent Kingdom Death model reminded me that a good plastic model is fun to build, regardless of how complex it is. I realize that a poorly done plastic model can be just as frustrating as any other medium, but I feel like the industry has figure this one out, because it has been quite some time since I’ve run into a plastic model that didn’t go together well.
I wanted to go through the various creators of plastic models and briefly touch on how they make their models fun to put together (in reverse chronological order).
When I first got my Kingdom Death: Monster models, I assumed it would be a struggle to get them together. Adam Poots was an unknown entity to me, so when I looked at the models and how complex and detailed they were, I assumed the worst. In truth, these are some of the best models I have put together, surpassing even Games Workshop plastics. Kingdom Death distributes their plastics on the sprue, so some care has to be used in removal of the pieces, and I found that they did come off a little more difficult than Games Workshop models.
Most of the pieces attached via a flat-plane surface, with the occasional tongue-and-slot for hollow models and ball-and-socket for detail bits. The flat-plan surfaces made the pieces go together very well, and worked best when the glue surfaces were perfectly flat – this was pretty easy to get good results, but a bit more difficult to hit perfect results.
I’ve talked a little bit already about the models for MERCS: Recon. The Megacon Games guys decided to use a flexible plastic for these minis which makes them a bit different than the hard plastic of my other hobby models. First, they don’t come on the sprue, but instead there is flashing to trim, and, even if there really isn’t flashing, there is typically a seam where the mold went together.
Almost all of the pieces fit together via an aligned-pin-and-socket. This generally made the models easy to put together (once you figured out the alignment), and even the three-point connections fit snuggly, so I don’t really have any concerns about them falling apart. My biggest gripe with this method (especially in soft plastics) is that the “pin” part is almost always not a quite perfect fit for the socket, such that you can’t look at it and know the orientation. I also find that oftentimes the depth and shape of the “socket” part can have a big effect on whether the model looks nice afterward. These issues are usually magnified by the smallest bit of flashing or seam, which meant that I had to pay a bit more attention to make sure they went together properly.
For better or worse, Games Workshop set the bar for me in terms of what to expect in plastic models. The only Games Workshop models I’ve used are for Warhammer 40K – primarily Space Marines, and I just put together a few Tau models. All of these models have come on a sprue and almost always have a ton of extra bits.
Because Warhammer 40k is at least as much about modeling and customization as it is about the game, Games Workshop models often fit together by ball-and-socket or unaligned-pin-and-socket style connections when customization is expected (waists, shoulders, etc) and tongue-and-slot connections for non-customized areas. This can make three-point connections (where two arms meet on a weapon, for instance) exceptionally frustrating, but provides a level of customization I haven’t found elsewhere. Extra bits are almost always “free hand”, and a bit difficult to work with (because they are so small) which is why I don’t usually include the little embellishments.
Most of Privateer Press’s plastics are specific models rather than kits (though their plastic warjack kits are some of my favorite kits by any manufacturer) in that they come in larger pieces, and typically with precisely the pieces needed to assemble the model or unit. They usually don’t come on a sprue (except the new Grolar kit), and while I’ve never had flashing on a Privateer Press model, I have filed down a very light seam from time to time.
Privateer Press models strike a balance between pose-ability and easy assembly; most of their connections are aligned-pin-and-socket (usually for legs) or free ball-and-socket (usually for shoulders and heads). Because they use a harder plastic, I find that their aligned-pin-and-socket is usually pretty easy to assemble, though since they usually allow customization of the arms, they don’t get the benefit when dealing with three-point connections.