Review

MAS District Five Apartment Building Mk. 2

Company: Micro Art Studio

Retail Price: 
29.52€

Micro Art Studio's District 5 Apartment kit was one of the first mass-market laser cut SF buildings when it came out last year. This review covers the recent version 2 release which is cosmetically identical but has a slightly differently shaped floor piece to allow for future modularity. As far as I'm aware the two different versions of the kit will stack on top of each other but the floors and the long walls from the older version can't be interchanged with the new version or upcoming related models.

Looks and Styling

The District 5 building has a distinctive style, designed as a residential area building. It's quite chunky due to the 3mm HDF material and 'shoebox' construction but this has been used to good effect to add architectural features like the 'plinth' around the bottom edge of the walls.

Reminiscent of Blade Runner which is never a bad thing, the building uses non-rectangular windows which, although really impractical in reality, make for a strong SF look. Much of the model is covered with etched lines which repeat the line/45˚ angle/line shape of the outer panels plus of course the ubiquitous MAS Infinity hexagons on the floors and balconies. The line/angle/line pattern is then repeated again in the roller blinds.

You can see the detailing more clearly on an unpainted model:

As you can see, the different tones from the laser cutting process mean that the model looks OK even without paint which is an added bonus if you're in a hurry.

Aesthetically I find the balconies the weakest part of the model - although the whole thing is cuboid the blankness of the balconies makes this show up more, on the main building the different buttresses and layers break up the shape. I wonder if a few cut out sections in the balcony walls would help with this. The use of trapdoors between the storeys also feels a bit odd in a residential building but I believe it was designed to take an optional perspex lift shaft. In any case, adding a stairwell would add a lot of complexity and cost to the kit as well as reducing it's flexibility/modularity.

As you can see by comparing the first two photos the building can be put together in several ways by combining the different long and short walls and even by placing the storeys on differently or by leaving out a storey:

 

Parts, Fit and Construction

The kit comes on six sheets, each 30x23cm and 3mm thick.

     

Each part is held in place by one or more short section where the laser has not cut all the way through the sheet. Removing the parts is generally very easy, you turn the sheet face-down and use a sharp craft knife to cut through the little connecting section, as seen on the back view of the windows:

One end of one of the sheets was slightly messy in the review copy with some of the pieces not fully cut out, this required going along all the affected edges with a sharp blade:

 

The basic construction formed by the walls being held together by a number of 90˚ angled pieces which slot into the ends of the walls.

The tabs along the edges of the floor then fit into slots along the edges of the walls.

Once you've got three walls attached you can add the fourth wall but you need to make sure that you've got the last four clips attached to the loose wall!

Once you've got the basic structure of a storey put together you can add the outer panels along the top and bottom edges of each wall.

You need to watch out for doors with walls in as the lower panel has a corresponding cutout.

The doors themselves get little bases which make them free-standing.

 

Now some near-symmetrical pieces slot into the corners, making sure they're in the right way up!

 

The 'final' step in completing the outside of a storey is to add the butresses that fit halfway along the long walls and hold the outer panels in place. These consist of mirror-image pieces that fit back to back and then slot very snugly into the holes in the wall and panels.

 

With some of these I had trouble getting the butresses all the way into the holes and had to trim the insides of the holes slightly:

So here's the complete ground floor:

 

The middle floor follows exactly the same construction process except for the side butresses are a slightly different shape to neatly slot over the butresses on the lower floor:

 

 

The top floor is a bit different as the panels along the top edges of each wall are replaced with the walls that surround the roof. The butresses are identical to the middle storey.

There are also a couple of small tabs to go on the inner edges of the long walls:

This gives some extra support to the fourth 'floor' piece which forms the roof.

For the top there are some tab pieces that slot into holes in the roof piece, this gives you a handle to lift the roof off, giving access to the penthouse suite:

 

The balconies sit on a couple of L-brackets which slot into place in a number of different positions on the model:

 

Moving between levels is represented by a trapdoor in each floor piece, this comes secured by an uncut section on all four edges but can be removed and with the help of four little tabs will sit in the hole without dropping your models through to the next level. The tabs are quite small and fiddly, I found it best to get them in roughly the right position and then use the edge of a desk to push them in.

In the long run I will cut off the protruding parts of the tabs and glue a couple of thin strips of plasticard or similar on the bottom of each floor, overlapping the trapdoor hole, the hatches will then sit neatly on those instead and give a smooth upper surface.

Gluing - MAS recommend gluing the model together with PVA but most of the time this isn't really necessary as the parts fit together snugly enough that it won't come apart in normal gaming use. I would recommend gluing some of the parts together before painting, though.

 

The windows need a special mention. Although each pane has uncut sections these are quite weak and even if you're planning to leave the windows closed it's quite easy to knock the panes out by accident during construction. They would be easy enough to glue back in place though. The windows are a snug enough fit that you could probably add and remove the loose panes during games to represent the shutters being rolled up and down but the number of different shape panes will make this a pain. I'm planning to collect together all the panes for a specific window set and glue them all onto a single sheet of backing material of some kind so that the whole lot can be added and taken away in one go. Magnets might be involved. :-)

Here's just under half a buildings-worth of window pieces:

 

Spare parts - when you assemble the kit as above you get the following 'spare' bits:

That's a full set of upper panels for the top storey to replace the rooftop walls, allowing you to stack up as many kits as you want to. There's also a spare pair of corner clips, enough 'roof tabs' for all four floor pieces, two tabs for going under the edges of roofs and four spare trapdoor tabs. Although technically the trapdoor tabs aren't spare, they're left over because I didn't see any point in separating out the ground-level trapdoor.

 

Scale and Dimensions

The building is scaled for use with 28mm models. Given the bulk of most 28mm figures plus the height of the base etc. this does mean that it's over-scale for things like doorways but the fine detail of the laser engraving etc. stops it from looking too big next to models.

 

 

The internal dimensions of each room are 100x200mm by 48mm from floor to ceiling.

External dimensions of each storey are 120x220mm to the outer edges of the corner butresses by 63mm high to the top of the tabs, as these slot into the bottom of the next storey the total heigh of each storey is 60mm.

The top storey is 76mm high due to the rooftop walls.

Full external dimensions without balconies is 120x220mm by 196mm high.

Assembled unpainted weight is 650g due to the large amount of 3mm HDF.

 

Game Use and Robustness

In-game, the thought put into the model shines through in a number of ways:

  • The doorways are an oversize 30mm wide (minus some indents) and 40mm high making it easy to move a 25mm-based model through but slightly harder with 30mm bases from non-Infinity games.
  • 48mm height from floor to ceiling in each storey will easily fit most models that comes on a 25mm base.
  • The windows have been positioned height-wise so that a gun held at the hip will fit over the lower sill, with the window high enough that a tall model can still see through the upper part of the window.
  • The vertical strips on the corners make it easier to take cover, as do the butresses along the sides.
  • Having each entire storey lift off easily means that you can get at models in the lower storeys while leaving models in place higher up, in a similar way the tabs on the roof give easy access to the top storey.

As a minor downside, the balcony supports extend below the bottom of the storey they are attached to and stop you laying the storey perfectly flat when getting into the lower levels. If the balcony is on the end wall this isn't too noticeable but with a balcony on the side there's a noticeable tilt.

 

As far as robustness is concerned, the kit is made from 3mm high density fibreboard which is hefty stuff. Added to the strong construction technique and this is a tough bit of terrain, remove the push-fit balconies and you could very happily stick a bunch of these in a bix box and not worry about anything breaking off - although the paint job might suffer...

The weakest point if you're likely to be changing the kit around is the shot panels along the upper edges of the short walls - where these meet the main corner joints there is a narrow section (see below) which can break off when removing the panel. however this is only likely to affect the indecisive among us.

The framework between window cutouts is also relatively thin but as this is in the middle of a wall and is recessed compared to the outer panels they are unlikely to catch on anything.

Version Changes

As mentioned earlier, this is the second version of the building and has a redesigned floor piece and corresponding slot positions in the walls:

(from the MAS blog)

The new design means that the floor is in effect two butted-up squares with tabs in the same place in all directions and makes it easier to add future kits like an L-shaped building (review coming up).

 

Summary

As someone who enjoys building his own scenery I always flinch when looking at the prices for commercial kits but I'm starting to change my mind - the 24€ official price for this three-storey kit is good for the amount of kit you're getting, especially if you cut out a couple of spare ceilings and spread it out as three ground floor dwellings. On the other hand a full 4x4' table (let alone 6x4') filled to a good density for Infinity would still cost a fortune - using a few of these kits as centrepieces and then bulking the table out with card terrain etc. sounds like a good compromise.

Pros

  • Good SF look.
  • Very robust.
  • Designed with playbility in mind.
  • Flexibility of layout and use.

Cons

  • Balcony design isn't as nice as the rest of the model.
  • Some parts not cut cleanly.

As you can see from the length of this 2000-word review I've really been drawn into the detail and thought put into the kit!

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That is very cool :D   So

That is very cool :D   So very tempted

We'll hopefully be stocking

We'll hopefully be stocking them by the end of the month. :-)

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