Tuesday 8 October 2013

Adventures in Architecture - 4Ground Grand Stone Hotel 28mm review

Warning: I don't know how to capitalise 4Ground properly. Their website lists it as 4GROUND, but that seems like I'm shouting. So during the course of this post, I'll be capitalising it somewhat randomly. Enjoy.

A couple of days ago I posted a little teaser of a table set up for Sunday night's game. The battle report from that will be coming soon, but in the meantime, here's a look at my experience with the table's centrepiece - the 28mm Grand Stone Hotel from 4ground.

If my wife can bring home expensive shoeboxes, then so can I!
I picked this up from the Derby World Wargames show (which is in fact no longer in Derby, and didn't seem to be showing much in the way of wargames). I'd been pretty sure I was going to get one before I went, but the opportunity to play with one on the day made the sale for me in the end.

I've shown some of my Sarissa Precision buildings before, and I'm still a fan of those. However, I keep saying these days that I don't have a huge amount of time to spend on hobby stuff, so the fact that the 4groUnd buildings are pre-painted was attractive - just knock 'em together and they're table ready, with the option to add more detail later if I want.

Opening the box did dispel that illusion pretty quickly. The kit comes as thirty-odd wooden sprues, with 4 A3 pages worth of instructions, a bag of elastic bands, and a dozen clothes pegs. These turned out to be crucial later. Clearly, assembling this beast was going to take some time.

This heap of sprues is about three deep. It's a big old kit.
So much for the "it'll save time" theory. Fortunately, Mrs Matt suggested that I took a day off work to put it together, as our 1 year old was going to be with my mother in law that Thursday and I could have a quiet day at it. Not a bad plan, and it meant I got two "hobby days" in a week, which is not to be sniffed at.

Rubber bands become useful during ground floor construction

So, at 10:30 on Thursday morning, I made a cup of tea and got to work. The first job was to check that all the sprues listed in the instructions were actually there. After that I started popping things out and gluing them together. The instructions suggested that I might need so sand off some edges, but I actually found that everything fit almost perfectly as it came off the sprue - on a couple of occasions I had to make some slight adjustments with a knife but that was definitely the exception rather than the rule.

Even at this early stage, we have working doors and nice big rooms!
All the sprues are painted pretty evenly with a base coat. This does mean that any where there is a different colour on the final model, it has to come from a different sprue, which I think increases the build time a fair bit but does lead to a more interesting final product.

The combination of very well fitting parts and painting did mean that some pieces fit together extremely tightly. This actually caused me a bit of trouble as I was dry fitting everything first before I glued it and struggled to get some bits back out to apply the glue!

My mistake with the instructions creates a need for loads of pegs
One area where I have to say 4grouNd have fallen down though is the instructions. They are presented as a series of photos, with labels showing the part number of the bits you need to add at each step. So far so good, but I'm ham-fisted enough at the best of times, so when presented with:

  • Photos with incorrect labels
  • Photos with no labels at all
  • Photos where a specific part is never mentioned so you're not sure when it should have been added
  • The worst offender - complete mirror images of the real kit
...I tend to make the occasional mistake! It was the mirror images that really got me - I put two pieces in the wrong way round, and only realised that had happened when I couldn't fit an internal wall in later. I had to pull a couple of sections off and swap them over, getting glue in places it shouldn't be in the process.

The loft needs a bit of holding to keep it together
It's slow to start building this kit - after about 4 hours, I'd only just finished the ground floor. As things go on it gets a bit quicker, but there are lots of fiddly bits (stairs for example) so it does take a long time - in fact by 9:30pm I had only just finished.

The first two floors sit together, lots of rooms there
Except! I hadn't actually finished, because at this point Problem Two decided to strike.

Remember I said that I checked off all the sprues against the list in the instructions earlier? Well, each one also has a picture of the sprue. I didn't pay too much attention to these as I was mainly using the part numbers, but...

Spot the difference!

... my windows sprue has one less skylight than the one in the picture!

This actually prevented me from finishing the model, so I decided to take a break for the day before my aching back (from stooping over a table all day) gave out completely.

As far as I got at the end of the day
Since this was going to stop me from finishing the model I emailed 4grounD the next day, told them about the missing part, and also about my issues with the instructions (since I was emailing them anyway).

I'm pretty impressed with the response! Cad from 4gRoUnD emailed me back within half an hour, apologised for the missing part, and promised to put that and some paint (to cover up the glue that got everywhere when I had to reposition things) in the post to me. He also gave me a 10% off code to use on their website, so I'm happy with that!

Cad also mentioned that 4GrouNd are aware of the problems with their instructions and are looking into improving them. I think that would really help, as the models do look great so the instructions are a bit of a weak link for them at the moment.

The front of the hotel
I've since run a game over this model (as I mentioned earlier, battle report to follow!), and found that there are some nice gaming touches as well - not only do the doors all open and close, but the steps are designed so that models on thin bases (think pennies) can stand on individual steps without them appearing out of scale, and there are lots of entrances to the building as well.

And the back, including the missing skylights
Overall then, what do I think of it?

Having run a game over it, and spent some time stroking it possessively, I can say that the quality is pretty high, and the two sided walls (internal and external sides are separate pieces) mean that the finished model is nice and sturdy - useful when you keep taking levels off to get inside. It looks really nice, and it's a big piece when done, so makes a nice centrepiece for a table by itself.

On the other hand, at £85 it ain't cheap, and it took a long time to build. The instructions weren't great either (although 4GROUND say they are working on that). I was missing a piece, but I got a good response when I contacted them.

I have to say that I'm very happy with it altogether. It's probably the most expensive single hobby item I've ever bought, so not having any buyer's remorse afterwards is a very good sign for me!

Watch this space for a battle report featuring this very building...


  1. It does look rather good. £85 is a steal If I had to build something like this from scratch it would cost me far more in time and effort in comparison to the price.LOL and look nowehere near as good either. Nice review enjoy gaming on it!

    1. Took me a whole to convince myself that the £85 was justified, but I'm glad I did. Even my non-gaming family that have seen it have said it's impressive!

  2. Having seen it in the flesh, it is an impressive piece of kit. I do think that you'll need to rethink basing as the 30mm beveled bases are to big to allow models free movement.

    I'm sorely tempted by 4grOunD's Police Station, but mentioning the cost of it brought threats of imminent pain...looks like I'll have to continue to convert that cereal box... :(

    1. I like the police station as well but not sure it fits in with ww2

    2. The mahoosive warehouse could work for WW2! You should get one!

    3. Not really interested in that one. Think I'll buy a few more houses and see what new stuff they do...

  3. I want it for GCPD headquarters.

  4. I've got to say that is an incredible piece of kit - oh if only I had space for one.

    1. It is big! I've stored it in one of those under bed plastic boxes. It fits in when I break it into its component levels.

  5. I've been eyeing up the hotel, or the larger hotel complex box, so it's great to see an actual review of the product. It certainly looks worth the price