Saturday, February 13, 2016

More from Shapeways - mortar barges in (Not) 1/600

The mortar boat is a bit of an odd duck for tabletop gaming. They can't move on their own. The odds of actually hitting a moving ship are ridiculously low and the mortar boat has almost no capacity to absorb damage. Clearly, not the kind of unit that you will have much fun commanding on the game table. The mortar boat is simplicity itself - a raft 60 feet by 25 feet on which an open topped wooden casemate was constructed to house a massive 13 inch coastal mortar.

The classic example of the mortar boat

Artists remdering of the mortar boats
Still, you often find those times when reducing a fortification is the order of the day. And for those times, mortar boats are handy pieces. My collection has a handful of mortar boat models from Thoroughbred Figures. But you can also get them from Bay Area Yards or the new kid on the block - Shapeways. More specifically The web shop for Brown Water Navy Miniatures. 

I was ordering a couple of items from Shapeways, so I went ahead and tossed in a set of mortar boats for the heck of it. I can always use more mortar boats and, as I'd ordered some models from this shop before it was a good chance to assess another  of their1/600 product from Shapeways. Hussar123 on The Miniatures Page had positive things to say about their Eastport and Lexinton models, let's see what happens.

The models arrived without an excessive delay, but bear in mind I was in no rush and chose the cheapest (i.e. slowest) of shipping methods. But they arrived, safe and sound.

A digital render of the Brown Water Navy models


The models were printed using the Frosted Ultra Detail material, better known to Shapeways users as FUD. Now FUD is a fine material that does deliver the details at a fine level. The downside of FUD is it's cost, these three mortar boats cost me $10.00. Not a big chunk of change, but still we're talking real money here.

The items were well packed and arrived intact. Kudos to Shapeways for a job well done on shipping and handling. They've got that part of the work down. 

Close up of the mortar boat model.
As you can see, it's a crisp casting print that captures the expected details of a mortar boat.

Here's the problem...the model is not 1/600 scale. 

The accepted dimensions for the mortar boat are 60 by 25 feet. In 1/600 scale this works out to 1.2" (just under 1 1/4") by 0.5" (a half inch). If I pull out a Thoroughbred Figures model, the raft measures to almost exactly those dimensions. However the Brown Water Navy Miniatures model is substantially smaller - it measures 13/16ths of an inch by 7/16ths of an inch wide.  This is a bit smaller than the scale would support. It works out to be 67% of expected scale length and 87% of expected scale width. While it may seem I'm being picky, the difference between 1:100 and 1:144 scale models is 69%. Many of us are not going to mix models of such disparate scale on the table. 

But could you mix them together on the table? Well, let's give it a try. Here are a few pictures with the Brown Water Navy models mixed in with the Thoroughbred Models mortar boat. 

All three of the Brown Water Navy models around the Thoroughbred model.

And one on one right next to each other.

So, too small for 1/600 - how do they look with a 1/1200 scale model?

Appearance wise, the models just don't cut it for me as 1/600. I know this is to some degree an aesthetic choice, but they really are too small to be proper 1/600 scale models. The actual mortar is something of a stump in it's unpainted state. It's a shame too as the FUD model is otherwise rendered nicely with openings at the ends and sides of the bulwarks. If you are a 1/1200 gamer, you might consider these for your collection as I think they fit much better with the smaller scale.

The Verdict
At this time, these cannot be recommended as a go to solution for 1/600 mortar boat models. The undersized nature of the models coupled with the high cost of Frosted Ultra Detail is a fatal double whammy. Spending more for less is never a winning solution. As a consumer, this purchase leaves me very disappointed. 

2/14/2016 Update:  I traded e-mail with Brown Water Navy Miniatures regarding the scaling issue. They agree the mortar rafts are too small. They will look into it when they get some time. 

The reigning champion for mortar boats remains Thoroughbred Miniatures with four models for $8.00 with Bay Area Yards placing second with 3 for $9.00 (and you'll still save a buck too from the cost of tiny FUD models!).

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