Review

Sarissa Habitation Pod - Explorer

Retail Price: 
£12

Coming to market toward the end of 2011 was Sarissa Precision's 'System ∞' set of modular laser-cut MDF scenery. From the name of the range Sarissa are clearly targetting the terrain-hungry needs of Corvus Belli's Infinity game and I'll be reviewing the kit accordingly.

The Explorer Pod is the smallest of the buildings in the range and is priced accordingly.

 

Looks & Styling

The Sarissa Pods are unashamedly industrial in style with big flat panels, rivets, huge over-size doors and very little in the way of architectural 'frills'. This is a prefab structure and doesn't pretend to be anything else.

The basic structure is an elongated octagon in cross-section which helps remove some of the blockiness inherent in laser-cut sheet construction, with each piece being divided into panels via surface etching. There are a number of smaller panels marked onto the model with the two on the side panels being removeable while the one on the roof is just there for decoration. Likewise the inner panel in the top half of each door is removable.

The roof also holds a large circular hatch, again following the industrial-scale styling. Personally I don't like the look and size of the wheel-handle on the hatch.

 

Parts, Fit and Construction

The pod comes in a plastic bag with folded instructions, with all parts cleanly cut out and packaged loose. There is no need to remove pieces from sheets of material.

  

With a few exceptions the pieces are a snug fit and hold together well without glue, although you'd want to glue the major joins for longer term strength.

Construction starts by slotting the two end walls into the floor and then adding the long strips to the sides:

At this point turn the building upside down and add the struts that lift it off the ground:

You can now sit the bottom ends of the struts into the holes in the base plate. The base plate holes are slightly enlarged meaning that the model would need to be glued in if you want the base plate to lift up with the building.

The slots in the roof are also over-size so that the roof can be removed easily for interior access during games. Four hand-rails then fit onto the roof:

Finally, the circular hatch is made by fitting the blank disc, etched disc and handle onto an 'axle':

The end result:

 

Note that the holes in the roof and the floor line up exactly which means that you can use the supporting struts to stack up as many units as you wish:

 

Construction from opening the packet to the finished item is a few minutes, more if you want to glue the joints. You could easily assemble enough scenery to cover a 4x4' high-density Infinity table in a couple of hours.

 

Scale and Dimensions

The kit is scaled for use with 28mm models. However a number of things make the kit look over-scale. It's not so noticeable next to 40k and other heroic scale models but against Infinity models the unit looks like it's not quite the right scale - although most of these are easy to fix.

The floor of the unit is roughly waist-high against a model on a base which is a big climb for the main entrance to a storage or living space. As a result I'll be making some small steps from foamed PVC or similar. The large door is good for access but it's huge as far as scale is concerned. For my taste it's too big for a living unit but too small for a storage unit where the whole front would be a roller shutter. As you can see below it towers over the Space Marine and Nomad Moderator and is only a problem for the Chaos Terminator because of the trophy racks.

 

The removable upper 'window' in the doors has a very high sill, even including the height of a model's base it's not much below shoulder-height.

 

Door size is always a contentious subject for wargames, unfortunately there's no 'right' size - make a normal doorway to scale and it's something like 15mm wide by 30mm high which is just too small to look right next to most models, even if they're not on bases.

Finally, for over-size parts, the wheel-handle on the top hatch is about a metre across to scale and bulky with it. This isn't a huge problem in itself but added to the other size issues adds to the model looking slightly 'wrong' in size. This is another easy fix though, replacing it with a popper should result in something that is a more convincing size.

As I've said, most of the scale issues are easily fixed, other than the door size.

 

The external dimensions of the Pod are 106x127mm (the base sheet is identical in size) by 74mm high. The handrails add another 21mm taking it up 95mm in total.

The Pod sits 12mm above the base plate.

The doorways are a fraction over 40mm wide by 45mm high meaning that you can fit a 40k Terminator or Infinity Remote through them.

Assembled unpainted weight is 122g due to the use of 2mm MDF and it being a small kit.

 

Game Use and Robustness

In-game the Pod does a good job of blocking line of sight and giving models some corners to cower behind/take cover behind while shooting. The large doors can look a bit odd but do make it easy to fit a model into the doorway without lifting the roof off.

On the subject of the roof, having it lift off without any force is extremely useful, while the handrails will stop any models on the roof sliding off to their doom. 

The hatch on the roof has a hole large enough to fit a 25mm base through so if you're feeling vindictive towards your models you could drop them through instead of lifting the roof off...

There are a couple of Infinity-specific issues for cover and Line of Fire. As Infinity requires models to be in base-to-base contact with terrain to claim cover from it, the angled lower corners make things awkward unless you house-rule it that models have to touch the base plate instead. The gap between the base plate and the underneath of the unit has potential for Line of Fire arguments, I'll be house-ruling it that you can see underneath it if prone as I love the idea of someone lying there waiting to see the whites of the opponent's kneecaps. :-)

 

Robustness is a mixed bag. The unit itself is very solid but the extras like the handrails and to a lesser extent the supporting struts 'feel' week due to the 2mm material and their small cross-sections. Although I haven't tested the handrails to destruction to be sure, they'd be unlikely to survive the way club scenery tends to get piled up in boxes.

You can flip the roof as below to help protect the handrails:

However this means removing the long handrails each time and they start getting loose after being removed and replaced a few times. If you have dedicated shelf space for terrain or have careful players putting the scenery away then this shouldn't be a problem.

The supporting struts are another potential weak point. Because they run parallel along the length of the unit there isn't much resistance to sideways forces, a solid knock from one side side is likely to snap off the mounting pins. I will be adding an extra piece of material running at 90˚ to the existing struts as this will make it rock-solid.

 

Summary

What I've not mentioned so far is integration with the rest of the System ∞ range. The full range contains a huge number of different walkways, Pods, warehouses and other kits which all fit together, for example with walkways the height of one pod or two stacked pods, steps up to the different heights etc. This adds extra value to the kit which isn't apparent in a review of a single item.

Although I mentioned scale issues several times it's not going to be a problem for most gaming groups and this is a decent bit of terrain.

 

Pros

  • Cheap unit price.
  • Strong industrial look.
  • Can be made to stack.
  • Part of a large integrated range.

Cons

  • MDF rather than HDF.
  • Fragile hand rails.
  • Looks over-scale.