Hirst Arts at Gen Con 2012

Hirst Arts tan Fieldstone Dungeon and Tower with Conical Roof for 25-28mm miniatures at Gen Con booth

Hirst Arts Fieldstone Dungeon and Fieldstone Tower at Gen Con

Hirst Arts is the gold standard for consistently high quality gaming products matched by informative tutorials and product support. To put it simply, Bruce Hirst really cares about both his products and his customers and it shows on his website and in the quality of the silicone molds customers receive from Hirst Arts. I am a huge fan. Dana McDonald of Custom Kingdoms attributes his start into mold making to Bruce Hirst and Hirst Arts. Whether it’s spotting Hirst Arts bricks in the pages of White Dwarf or seeing how Mike from Terranscapes has used the Hirst Arts molds, the figure of Bruce Hirst looms large in the last decade of miniature terrain-making.

Bruce Hirst Himself

I was positively thrilled then to speak with Bruce Hirst at Gen Con 2012, having watched all of his tutorial videos and read through his website completely multiple times. While he had an additional helper at Gen Con, Hirst normally runs his company with only his wife in Missouri and strives to match his own exacting standards. His current projects are three Tavern Accessory molds, which modelers can expect within the next month. As he reveals in the video below, even Hirst struggles at times to get a project right the first time, casting twice as many bricks as he will need to be able to go back and fix mistakes with his leftover bricks. Hirst also reveals a number of other insights:

Hirst was selling his molds at Gen Con, using the exact same pricing offered at hirstarts.com, which is usually $34 for a standard silicone mold with a 10% discount on orders of 5 molds or more. While this consistent pricing did not induce me to pick up any more Hirst Arts molds at Gen Con and some of the business aspects of the decision are beyond me, by not discounting himself Bruce Hirst has maintained a premium value on his molds and consequently I rarely see any pop up on eBay, much less at any sort of discount.

Science fiction corridor set for 25-28mm miniatures at the Hirst Arts booth at Gen Con

Hirst Arts Science Fiction Corridors: Who Wouldn’t Want to Game on This?

Robo Rally: “The King of Games”

I also ran into a Hirst Arts customer at Gen Con. Patrick Gilliland was running games of RoboRally on his custom-made Hirst Arts floor tiled board. Designed by Richard Garfield, Robo Rally is currently sold by Wizards of the Coast under its Avalon Hill division. In all, the board took Gilliland three months to cast, construct, and paint after a few weeks spent on its design and after testing its possible playability. To make the custom board, Gilliland primarily used the Sci-Fi molds, but also dipped into the Fieldstone and Gothic Floor molds, as well as making his own custom castings. Gilliland has also made replicas of four of the Robo Rally maps out of Hirst Arts floor tiles with his Exchange, Reactor, and Laser Maze maps being mostly flat, while his Coliseum has vertical elements.

Three dimensional 3D Robo Rally board made using Hirst Arts dental plaster blocks and tiles at Gen Con

A View of Patrick Gilliland’s Entire 3D RoboRally Hirst Arts Board

For Gilliland, who is an accountant by day, the Hirst Arts board is a fusion of two of his favorite gaming products. His gaming group has been playing Robo Rally, which he refers to as the “king of games”, for years and he cites the game’s competitive ruthlessness and logic programming as its main attractions. He is equally passionate about Hirst Arts molds, always having had a fascination with miniatures and building things, so he describes his Robo Rally board as “a match made in heaven”.

Medium distance view of Robo Rally 3D Hirst Arts block board at Gen Con 2012

Despite being an attendee of Gen Con for over 30 years, this year was the first time that Gilliland ran an event and he “had a wonderful time doing it”. Currently he is working on a long-term dungeon project that will feature three levels and come to a total of 96 square feet of playing surface. When he finishes it, Gilliland plans on bringing it to Gen Con. Usually though, the beneficiaries of Gilliland’s creativity are much closer to home; he has made a number of Hirst Arts dice towers, including one that resembles a Rube Goldberg machine for his daughter, as well as name plaques for his great nieces and nephews. Gilliland has also made four Hirst Arts Robo Rally boards, replicating the original game board’s layout.

Close Up Detail of Hirst Arts Robo Rally Painted Game Board at Gen Con

An Even Closer Look at the Custom Hirst Arts Robo Rally Board at Gen Con

Hirst Arts Vendor: Legendary Realms Terrain

Players get ready to play on Hirst Arts and custom terrain from Legendary Realms at Gen Con gaming table

Gamers Prepare to Play on Legendary Realms Terrain

A number of licensees use Hirst Arts molds for commercial purposes, selling pre-made terrain to customers who do not wish to cast their own bricks or floor tiles. Naloomi’s Workshop offers single casts of many Hirst Arts accessories and Itar’s Workshop features many entire buildings cast out of resin based on Hirst Arts designs. Legendary Realms Terrain was also at Gen Con, where its president and main purveyor Richard Parla was selling painted terrain pieces.

Parla and Legendary Realms Terrain also ran nine events over the course of Gen Con to display and promote their terrain and I caught a portion of one session one night while passing through Gen Con’s largest gaming hall. While the dungeon elements seen above and below are pure Hirst Arts, Legendary Realms Terrain sculptors custom-made the docks and the boats. For the nine events they used the Labyrinth Lord game system from Goblinoid Games, filling each of their paid sessions.

Hirst Arts dungeon for 25-28mm miniatures with miniature boats on water tiles at Gen Con

Custom Legendary Realms Terrain Boats Docked Against Custom Docks Leading Into a HA Dungeon

Legendary Realms Terrain was also successful inside the Vendors’ Area, selling 95% of the dungeon accessories brought and approximately 75% of their entire convention inventory according to Parla. LRT also received a number of new orders for terrain during Gen Con, which the company is now in the process of filling. One service that Legendary Realms Terrain offers is reproducing adventure maps as 3D terrain as well as creating custom accessories based on customer needs, with 20% of Legendary Realms Terrain’s custom products having been created to fulfill customer requests.

Parla is already making bigger plans for Gen Con 2013 including bringing more inventory and purchasing a larger booth space. While Legendary Realms Terrain had dungeon corridor sections for sale, their booth also had at least three bins with painted dungeon accessories like crates, barrels, and chests for sale individually, perfect for a GM who needs only a few obstacles for the PCs to fight over and through.

And More Hirst Arts Fans and Creators

I also encountered Bill Foreman aka Terrainaholic from Youtube at the Hirst Arts booth at Gen Con. Under the Terrainaholic name, Bill Foreman has some 895 videos to his credit on Youtube, including at least a dozen on Gen Con 2012 himself and has 11,000+ subscribers to his channel, which occasionally features videos using Hirst Arts bricks, but almost always features terrain of Foreman’s own making. We spoke briefly on camera and then talked for ten or fifteen minutes longer off camera with Mrs. Foreman joining us, discussing Youtube, Foreman’s day job, and terrain.

Hirst Arts casts were also the main component of this fortress/castle gaming board, which was left unattended one evening at Gen Con in the main gaming hall. It features heavy use of the Fieldstone molds and quite intriguingly seems to use the square Flagstone Floor Mold tiles to construct the walls of the fortress. The three pipes at the base on each side appear to be giant cannons to discourage anyone from besieging the gate and ramparts. If you have any knowledge of this board’s creator, please email brant at cravengames.com so it can be properly attributed to its designer (and so that we might get some details on its construction).

Hirst Arts plaster floor tiles and bricks arranged to create a castle or fortress at Gen Con 2012

Unattended Gaming Board from Gen Con 2012: Who Made It?

Miniature Building Authority Tudor Inn and New Double Townhouse

The two newest Miniature Building Authority buildings that I have added to my collection are the Tudor Inn and the New Double Townhouse. Like all Miniature Building Authority European series buildings they are pre-painted on the outside, feature removable roofs, have open window areas for true Line of Sight, and feature wooden inserts for wargaming action on multiple stories.

The Miniature Building Authority Tudor Inn

Red tiled roofs on miniature houses in a city market scene from Miniature Building AuthorityThe Tudor Inn has a hefty list price of $119.95. For that you get a three story inn with a double-wide front entrance and a rear scullery exit. The Tudor Inn’s paint scheme is quite stark and austere, only black and white on the sides, with the characteristic MBA red-tiled roofs. The inn would benefit from some drybrushing and/or a wash to help give it some variety. Structurally it is a fairly nice specimen, as it should be for $119.95. The inn has a slight tilt in its second and third floors, but the slant only affects the portion overhanging the street so it will not pose any problem for butting the inn up against other buildings.

The Tudor Inn has a rough footprint of 6.5 inches by 7.5 inches, reaching 8 inches to its third story roof with the chimney pot adding about 2 more inches, for a total height of just under 10 inches. I have complained about the red chimney pots on all of the other MBA buildings, but the Tudor Inn thankfully has grey ones.

The Miniature Building Authority New Double Townhouse

Two miniature buildings as one from Miniature Building Authority with its double townhouseCarrying the idea of adjoining buildings to the next level, Miniature Building Authority has released the New Double Townhouse, which combines two buildings into one resin piece. The two story half has black tiles on its roof and a green door, while its attached companion has red tiles and is only one story, with steps leading up to its door. The New Double Townhouse also offers some nice surprises. The first is that the smaller building has a cut-away floor leading to a recessed cellar or area beneath the floorboards, which is a little under three quarters of an inch deep. I was able to put a Games Workshop Rat Swarm in there, one of the low Pegasus Hobbies crates, and a Hirst Arts crate, as seen in the Youtube video below. There was room for more surprises though. You could have a skeleton down below, a dungeon entrance, sacks of grain or gold, or even dwarves and halflings lying in wait The second, related surprise is the small archway leading out of this recessed area, connecting to the street outside. There is also a wooden barrel with a black pipe to drain off rain water.

The New Double Townhouse is approximately 4 inches deep and 8 inches long, standing about 6.5 inches tall. Overall the sculpted details on its stonework, as well as its paint job point to a promising trend in the newer MBA buildings. It has a list price of $74.95 from Miniature Building Authority.

Pegasus Hobbies Large Village House 5071

Approaching Chaos Warriors threaten the prepainted Pegasus Hobbies Tudor-style houseLike its taller cousin, the Mcrae’s Large Two Story House, the Large Village House (#5071) from Pegasus Hobbies comes fully pre-painted on both its exterior and interior, but also is sadly out of production. The Large Village House originally retailed for $30, but I found mine on eBay for $25. Even had it cost $40 now, it would be worth every penny and easily has the most value for its price of any prepainted miniature building.

The house measures 8″ by 6″ at its base and stands just under 6.5 inches tall to the top of its chimney. Like the Mcrae’s House, the chimney is the least attractive element consisting of sharp craggy “rocks”. The front and back walls measure 2.5 inches up to the roof’s eves. Aside from the chimeny, everything is painted to a uniformly high standard. All that the Large Village House lacks is some furniture and occupants for an adventuring party to rescue or terrorize. Its other obvious use would be in wargaming where you can comfortably move the battle indoors as it easily allows Large Warjacks to fit within, though how they would be allowed inside based on the size of the two doors or their Large bases is something to discuss with your opponent. It may be a slight stretch, but it could also serve as a European house in a 25mm WWII wargame too.

The 8 inch by 6 inch large prepainted miniature house from Pegasus Hobbies has a Tudor feel to it

The Large Village House Has 2 Entrances Allowing for Quick Escapes… or a Flanking Manouver

I would love to have at least one more of these and even if it means competing against me on eBay, I would suggest that any fantasy or historicals wargamer snatch the Large Village House up if he or she should see one. Have a look inside at the house’s interior on my Youtube video for it below.

Crystal Caste Fantasy Medieval Inn

The front of the prepainted fantasy inn for 25mm scale miniaturesMuch like the Crystal Caste Farmhouse Series, the Crystal Caste Medieval/Fantasy Inn #40001 comes prepainted on the outside, has hinged opening and closing doors, removable roofs, and is felt lined on the bottom so as to not scratch your gaming surface. Unlike the Farmhouse series though, not all of the inn’s doors are openable. The green doors on the second story are facades and do not open.

The inn is richly detailed on its exterior with its own small well supplying it with water. The inn has seen its share of use and abuse over the years with a battered roof repaired with spare shingles, boards, and thatching. Around the exterior are more rocks and bits of debris. The inn is well painted except for the side of one of the gates, which was bare of paint on my model. The interior is also not detailed and is a flat matte black.

A view from above of the weathered and worn miniature fantasy inn.The fantasy inn is perfect for gamers who play RPGs or war games using 20-25 mm bases, particularly for skirmish games where figures can make full use of the exterior walkway. The walkways though don’t allow figures on 30mm bases to be placed on on them except at the corners, so using the Crystal Caste Inn for Hordes, Warmachine, or Malifaux would be quite restricted, much less the plastic line of Confrontation.

The Fantasy/Medieval Inn retails for $98 with is footprint measuring roughly 9.5 inches x 7 inches. The wooden walkway’s supports do extend the size it takes up on the table to an area of 9.5 inches x 10.5 inches. The walkways are about 2.5 inches from the table. Vertically it reaches a little under 6.5 inches to the chimneys and the vertex of the roof. Even from the same manufacturer, I think most gamers would be better off getting a Farmhouse Cottage and Farmhouse Stable for $85, but that is ignoring the design of the inn.

The only real flaws I have found in the Inn are the non-opening doors on the second floor, the lack of paint on the side of one gate, and its price, but its price and quality is comparable to other prepainted terrain manufacturers, if not superior. Another “flaw” that may irk some GMs is how tempted players will be to play with it during an adventuring session if used for an RPG. The inn is also towards the end of its production run, but you can still get yours from Crystal Caste.

Miniature Building Authority Small Stucco Townhouse with Dormer and Stone Farm House

The second additions to my Miniature Building Authority collection were the Stone Farm House and the Small Stucco Townhouse with Dormer. Both have the red chimney pots and the green bases that I am not so fond of, as do all of the MBA buildings in the Eurovillage series. Of course, this is more than compensated by the fact that they also come prepainted, have open windows for true line of sight, removable roofs, and and have floor inserts for multiple floors.

The Small Stucco Townhouse with Dormer

The light grey Small Stucco Townhouse with Dormer in the great outdoors.
With the word small in its name, I wasn’t expecting too much, but was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box. It seems to have a newer fresher design than a few of the older buildings. The blue door doesn’t look out of place and there’s room in the top for a 3×3 unit on 20mm bases. You could squish more miniatures in certainly.

As I note upon getting my first good look at it in the Youtube video, the paint colors on my Small Stucco Townhouse didn’t match the packaging. Mine is light grey, but the packaging shows a yellow building. The image on miniaturebuildingauthority.com of the building is a mix of the two, appearing a warm light light brown to me, close to Buff or Naples Yellow. When contacted about the building’s true color and the label’s image, Kirk from Miniature Building Authority had this to say: “We are working to get the artwork closer, but at this time it is what it is. So, we apologize if the box art is not the color you want, but we are working to improve this process.”

Stone Farm House

I don’t care for the Stone Farm House’s pale blue shutters and doors, but that’s not the reason I got it. It’s positively huge, especially compared to other MBA buildings. It measures in at 7 inches by 6.25 inches, and is just under 8.5 inches tall, not including its double chimneys. The second floor easily has room for a 8×6 unit of figures on 20mm bases to lie in ambush for an unsuspecting unit passing nearby.

The Stone Farm House though also has a few deficiencies:
Closeup of MBA Stone Farm House showing odd stone pattern and doors .5 inch above ground.

  1. Raised Entrances: The green bases that I don’t care for are usually about 5 millimeters tall. In the case of the Stone Farm House though, there’s about an additional 5 millimeters of a stone ledge that both of its doors rest upon. This creates over half an inch of difference in height to the ground from the door. I will probably add a narrow Hirst Arts floor tile to restore a bit of realism.
  2. Odd Stone Pattern: The pattern on the sides of the building is very odd. To me, they look like crescent fingernail shapes. What sort of stone this represents is beyond me. It’s definitely textured though, but the Stone Farm House doesn’t withstand much close scrutiny.
  3. It’s not Straight:I actually hadn’t noticed its odd pattern or the raised entrances until preparing to review the building, but the fact that mine is a bit crooked, bowing out to the side? That quickly disappointed me. I can still push other MBA buildings up against it, but one side is straighter than the other. This is shown in the Youtube video above.

Final Thoughts

The Miniature Building Authority Stone Farm House and Stucco Town House with Dormer together outdoors.Despite the color issue, the Small Stucco Townhouse with Dormer is a solid offering from Miniature Building Authority and one of their most affordable. While many of their buildings are perfect for fantasy or medieval city settings, despite its name the Townhouse could easily be an outlying building in a village or farm.

The Stone Farm House has been superseded by MBA’s more recent offerings. It does boast an unusually large size, especially for an Miniature Building Authority building, but its flaws in either design or execution set the product back.

Itar’s Workshop Egyptian Pylon

Having purchased the Egyptian Tomb from Itar’s Workshop, I knew what to expect from the Egyptian Pylon. Like its smaller cousin it’s cast in resin from a mold that utilized the Hirst Arts Egyptian blocks. It is much more impressive and you pay for the added height! I was fortunate to pick mine up on sale from frpgames.com.

As I note in the Youtube video, there was an odd amount of resin on one side of its internal divider/support, which had no effect on its appearance. I took a little time in scraping at its mold lines with an Xacto and then painted it with Applebarrel craft paint (Sandstone). Placing it on wax paper, I liberally brushed on Minwax Polyshades Antique Walnut floor wax. The first coat was not as liberal as intended as I missed a few spots, so I went back over it MUCH too liberally, The result, I have to admit, is rather sloppy.

However, if you play Crocodile Games Wargods of Aegyptus it should have strong appeal. Besides using this in Warhammer FB as a bit of Khemri terrain, it could be part of the construction of a Necron tomb world. It’d definitely fit in for any pulp skirmish games featuring archeologists probing its ancient secrets. For dedicated Wargods or Tomb Kings players though, the question becomes: Do I buy a resin piece or two from Itar’s or buy the Hirst Arts molds myself and cast the bricks to build my own Egyptian structures?

The sale price and my wife’s impending art unit on Egypt answered that for me, besides general laziness and not wanting the hassle of casting and assembly. Personally I would rather get two more Egyptian Tombs or an Egyptian Tomb and the new Egyptian Gateway that Itar has released. They would cover more real estate and though less impressive, would create an overall better board. The Egyptian Pylon has two doorways on it, leading me to question what a pylon is exactly and what it’s used for. Are the doors purely decorative? Wikipedia holds the answers! From the briefest of research, Egyptian temples had two of them. I don’t think I’ll be picking up another myself, but instead checking back to see what new structures Itar unearths.