This is the second starter set I’m looking at for the Dropzone Commander game from Hawk Wargames, and very pretty it is too. I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, so it might be worth you looking back at the first unboxing as a lot of the same things hold true here too.
So here we are: 500 (and a bit) points of smooth and sleek post-humans.
Once inside we have the familiar blue KR foam tray laid out in exactly the same way as before: infantry top left with cards below, flight stands on the top right and the big pile of goodies in the front. Looking good so far.
The PHR foot are a bit smaller than the Shaltari, so you get 5 to each base instead of 3. Again, the resin bases are made to fit this type of squad with no spare holes. Have a close look at the troopers. There’s a nice level of detail and a selection of different poses to make the stand look more interesting. I’m thinking of maybe mixing up the squad poses from each strip so that one base might be all standing up whilst another has collectively “taken a knee”. That would give each stand its own character which might look cool.
I’ll skip past the flight stands and cards which are of the same quality as in the other box. Just to be clear though: the cards are a different deck as each faction gets its own.
More walkers. I haven’t got the rulebook to hand so I can’t remember which walkers are which. One lot are Ares battle walkers and the others are Phobos. There’s two of each and the difference is in the weapons fit. Note in the second shot that I’ve got two extra right legs. The box was mispacked, but in my favour (as it were). The funny bit on the top right of each picture is the walker’s “pelvis”. Took me a moment to see that. As always with Hawk, there’s loads of nicely rendered detail all over these models, including in places you’ll probably never see once they’re assembled. The detail contrasts nicely with the faction’s signature smooth planes.
Three sleek Neptune medium dropships. These puppies are actually quite large.
And the lovely Junos. Always have a soft spot for tanks, even when they’re really IFVs.
Following the same logic as before, I want to have a look at the casting and general quality of the models themselves. Talking to the Hawk chaps it seems like I got a bit of a duff box here, though having said that there is only one piece that I would simply not try to fix. Even that is from a non-obvious bit of the model.
There are a few issues here. The first is with a couple of bubbles in the lift fans for the Neptunes. because the detail is so fine it would be a bit of a pain to fill these cleanly. Possible, but fiddly. Note that I’m talking about bubbles less than a mm across, possibly less than half that. But like I said, I’m letting my picky side out to push this a bit. I expect many people would either not notice or not care about this very minor bubbling, or simply count it as battle damage. I’ve seen as much in photos of models painted by other people.
This is a close up of one of the walker’s legs from the front. The yellow circle shows a near rectangular slot into which the upper leg would fold as it bend forward (if it were real, of course).
About 70% of the legs in the set had this slot filled in to some degree or other. This is a sign of the moulds needing replacing, and Hawk have double checked and retired some. They said it should have been retired before this. Again though, I’m being super picky. When the model is assembled and on the table you’ll have to be right down at the same level to see this because the upper leg and chassis overhangs and shadows it. Anyway, just saying. The rest of the leg was fine in every case. I mentioned this to Hawk as I thought that it might be helpful for their QC by saying something about the moulds (which it seems to have done), and told them so, but I wasn’t expecting replacements. They sent me a set anyway. To get back to the legs, you can also see in this poor picture, the small details such as a line of holes below the rectangle. Again, Hawk sticking detail where it’s all but invisible, just cos they can.
These are the left sides of the Junos. There should be two locating holes on each – one at the front and one at the lower back. You can see one on right of the lower one. You can also see that the other three holes have been infilled. I’ll come to the problems this causes in a minute. For the moment, it’s another example of an old mould.
These are tail engine nacelles from a Neptune (they have one each). They live underneath at the back, so aren’t all that obvious. Anyway, the one on the left is fine. Despite my rubbish photography you can just make out all sorts of fine detail inside the nozzle. Very nice. The one on the right feels rough on the outside and is filled with what I can only describe as a scoop of resin that makes the whole thing look like a Mr Whippy ice cream. A clear miscast.
This was the only piece I thought was completely beyond fixing in terms of restoring it to what it should have looked like. I could actually have used it anyway, ignoring the roughness as being unnoticeable when painted in its mostly hidden position, and either painted the resin fill as smoke or flame or partially drilled it out and painted it black.
This doesn’t really bother me though. Hawk have exemplary customer services which makes any minor problems not problems at all. You might say that they shouldn’t have problems in the first place, but in the real world (especially with resin), bad things happen. How you deal with them is the real test.
Hawk responded to my emails courteously, promptly, and as soon as I told them of the miscasts they sent me back more replacements than I expected by return of post. What I also appreciated, and which people seldom bother to do, is that they told me a bit about why they had happened. I’m a curious fellow, and appreciate being treated like a grown up. Either way, top marks there.
Whilst I don’t have an issue with the odd miscast, and know that the finer detail you try to include the more work you make for yourself, the following problem is a design one and it is an issue for me. The Junos’ hulls are split along their length.
This photo shows the general problem (dry fit, not properly assembled). The PHR’s most obvious visual identifier is their large, smooth surfaces. In the case of the Juno this is the gently sloping glacis plate.
Why do this? I’ve been wracking my brain for another model vehicle example from any other company , scale or period that is split like this and I can’t think of one. It’s just bizarre. Anyone else would have made the running gear separately and cast the hull as a single piece with the mould line horizontally around the edge. It would have made the hull a 3 part piece instead of a 2 part, but apart from that I cannot see a benefit to them for doing it this way. Maybe there’s some technical reason I’m missing. I can see a huge amount more work for me, the modeller, if I want to try and get anywhere near that lovely smooth front. You know, the lovely smooth surface with a major joint running slap-bang down the middle.
It is all the more weird because it just seems so careless and unhelpful which are not at all the vibes I get from the rest of either set. In many cases you get the sense that Hawk have really thought carefully about every detail, and then gone the extra mile to make it work well for the customer. And then there’s this. It’s just odd.
Now it’s obviously going to be fixable, it’s just adding a load of work that there’s no reason for. At least, not that I can see. If I fit it perfectly flush then it shouldn’t be too bad. I’m sufficiently careful and exacting about this sort of thing that I should be fine, but looking around the net images at other models and other modeller’s work I can see painted examples of these and other vehicles from Hawk where there is an obvious line down the middle. It’s clearly not helping the average modeller make models that show off Hawk’s nice designs to their best effect.
I love the design of the Junos and hate the way the models are built in two halves. Apart from that the rest of the set is excellent. Any minor casting issues I had were quickly resolved by Hawk who left me completely confident in purchasing anything from them. Whatever problems happened, they would be happy to sort them out. These are the kind of people you want to deal with. They clearly stand behind the quality of their product and are willing to put in some effort to make sure that the customer gets the product they should.
It’s just those Junos…