Monday, April 23, 2018

Sarissa's Lower Class Shop block kit

          Otherwise known as Everything wrong with Sarissa kits in general, plus new problems unseen before this kit.  Allow me to start this review by stating that I am not the high quality modeler/constructor that Anton is.  As you peruse this review any and all "quality" that the reader finds in this kit have probably come from my pathetic efforts.  This kit is GARBAGE, or as the Brits would say "a Tip". Read on at your own peril! 

     You were warned! 

     The kit itself is very simple. 

the kit contents

     There are three sheets of MDF.  Once again it is the usual 2mm stuff that is claimed as 3mm.  Really only about 2 and a half sheets are used for the kit the remaining sheet is largely wasted due to odd laser cut angles.  There is also a fourth sheet.  I will call it 'paper'.  Sarissa does not refer to it as anything.  The sheet is visible at the top of the above picture.  basically it is about as think as card stock paper or a bit thicker, but not a millimeter.  It is floppy like paper and a GRAVE disappointment.

shell assembled and dividers in place
      Here we have step one of construction completed.  Literally there are four pieces of mdf that make up the basis of the shops.  The three pieces of mdf separating the shops are then glued in.  All pieces are glued to the blank base as they are attached.  I later decided to remove the canopies from the store fronts for painting purposes.  The paper is included to function as a shade over the entry to each store.  One side of the paper is 'etched' in a grid pattern in an effort to resemble tile.  The other is plain.  I decided that most of the canopies would look better as cloth instead of tile.  Most Roman shops either had no shade or simply a fabric shade like those in the forum stalls review previously on this site.  Fancier shops did make the effort for tile canopies to fend off weather so I decided to have a couple of those as well.

Step two of the directions is to assemble the second floor.  It follows the lower pattern level with everything glued into place. 

carefully score the fold line along the peak before trying to fold the roof

      This is the largest piece of the 'paper' sheet.  This is what passes for a roof in this kit.  Let me repeat that, the roof for this building is a piece of paper.  One side has a grid pattern etched on it, the other is blank.  First I painted the etched side of the paper and set it aside to dry.  I used the same Uber Matte Salmon paint that I used in the previous Temple project.  When it comes to assembly it is important to gently scribe the center line of the etched side to allow the sheet to fold properly.  You then need to turn the paper over and slightly less gently scribe the center of the paper.  Any exacto blade will work for the scribing.  This scribing is critical to get the sheet to fold properly (I learned this the hard way and messed up one of the roofs a bit). 

the rather frail frame supporting the roof

       Next the five crossbeams are glued to the central beam for the roof.  It is strongly recommended by the reviewer that you have the paper for the actual roof scored and ready when you assemble the beam and crossbeams as while the glue is workable is the  best time to get the paper attached.  There are four 'pegs' in each crossbeam and corresponding holes in the paper roof for each 'peg'.  Trying to get 20 'pegs' lined up and into the paper is irritating enough when the crossbeams are movable.  Attaching the roof paper after allowing the crossbeams to dry would probably mean the ruin of the roof sheet. 

Here we have the finish assembled roof. 
The dark spots visible are the wooden pegs from the crossbeams. 

masked and spray-painted
         If for some desperate reason you decided to buy and build these kits (they are the only ones currently on the market)  then I would suggest painting the kit while it is still on the sheet.  However, I did not think of that myself so I had to paint this abomination after assembly.  My first step was to use painters tape and mask off the building so that as little over spray as possible would go into the interior of the building.  The upper floor requires two pieces of tape per section (front and back windows and vents above the windows).  The lower floor required more tape.  I decided to make the back easier and did not punch out the doors in the back of the building so I only needed one piece of tape for the vent windows above the back door so four more pieces of tape.  The front business entry required four more pieces of tape.  Two for the floor entry in case any paint got in under the other doorway tape, a third piece of tape for most of the actual business doorway and a fourth piece of tape for the very top of the doorway and the window vents above the doorway.  Finally I taped off the entire front of the building base as the kits provides a walk way at the front of the shop so I wanted to paint that a different color than the building itself. 

         In the picture above I have done the taping and spray painted the building with Krylon's 'Stone Fine texture' range "Limestone" paint.  Roman stucco consisted of water, limestone powder and some sort of filler, generally sand for the poorer construction, finer sand for the medium level of construction and marble powder for the elite's buildings.  After some experimentation this paint worked the best, but unfortunately it also cost the most ($11 per can at my local craft shop).  Some people I know have tried to simulate the appropriate texture by adding sand to paint, but I have never been able to make this concoction work.  So instead I just waited for good sales to come along and bring the paint down to manageable levels.  I was generally able to finagle the price down to about $5 per can, but I am currently in my third can of the stuff as it does not last long. 

          In this picture I have removed all of the tape and set the two buildings I bought next to each other to show the front and back.  The stone paint easily adds another millimeter to the thickness of the model which can make for some difficulty in assembly so painting on the sheets will also likely lead to unknown problems if this paint is used.  When painting it is best to spray a light coat on first.  Basically all you are trying to do is give the real coat something to hold on to and set up the mdf for the paint.  Allow the paint to dry for 15 to 30 minutes depending on conditions and then hit it with a bit heavier coat.  This stuff sets up and expands as it dries so do not worry about heavy coats of paint. 

Again, just for effect I include a picture of the buildings with the roofs 
on to show what the raw work looks like. 

nearing completion
       Attaching the door frames (more paper like the roof and canopies) and attaching the canopies themselves completes the assembly.  Adding a bit of paint and here are the completed buildings.  I painted the back doors brick red with craft paint to match the earlier E.A.W. buildings.  I also painted the door frames front and back with the same red again to match the established pattern from the earlier buildings.  The cement walk way is painted a light gray.  The interior of the shops is painted a dark gray.  Most canopies are painted a muslin color (again craft paint) and one shop on each block has the 'tiles' for the canopy.  The building showing the reverse had a happy over spray accident.  I sanded down the overspray and then washed the entire building with the gray wash used on the temple and it made the over spray 'pop' nicely as an old crack that has been poorly repaired. 
The reverse of the building showing the front also has an overspray accident that did not turn out as well, but such is life, they are the backs of the building after all.  One positive note, the upper floor of the building is exactly the same on  both sides so if a problem develops it can be hidden by using the wayward side as the 'back'. 

         One down side of this paint.  The kit included several cracks etched into the walls.  Many of these appeared completely filled in by the paint I used.  However, when I went over the entire surface with the wash some of these etched cracks reappeared.  Where that happened I went over a second time and black washed the cracks to bring them out further.  I tried to 'etch' in my own cracks on the paint but these vanished completely when the wash was applied. 

      Overall, the good points of these kits are few.  Currently this is the only option available if you wish to have Roman store fronts among your scenery.  Also the kit does assemble rather easily. 

        The problems with this kit are LEGION.  The kit does not offer a front door for the stores.  The forum "stalls" would actually make a decent doorway had such been provided, but it is not.  I guess the idea is that Roman stores either never closed, or trusted night time 'shoppers' to leave their payment behind unattended.  Once again, no buildings are taller than two stories.  In reality in Rome buildings such as these were up to five stories tall.  There is no way to build these kits taller as the lower level has the stall and door and the upper level has a gabled end.  Once again there is only the peaked roof.  Speaking of the roof the attempt at "tiles" is HORRIBLE, easily the worst of anything thus encountered.  I thought the plastic roofs in the Empires kits left room for improvement, but these are pathetic.  Literally just a thick sheet of 'paper'.  The kit looks alright, but the roof lacks all structural support and in a game where having characters take to the roofs and walls like Gangs of Rome, setting a 30 ish millimeter metal figure on this roof is asking for tears in the structure.  Additionally, there is no support for the roof.  In the temple kit the roof has a plate that stabilizes the entire structure, but no such attempt was made in this case.  The Empires roofs are a sheet of plastic glued down on a sheet of mdf and they seem down right luxurious compared to this roof.  Beyond being just a sheet of paper the roof tile pattern is not a tile pattern at all.  Just a grid etching in paper.  It may even be the same etching from the temple mdf roof, just on paper instead of mdf. 

      Unless you have to have them I would NOT recommend these models.  With a LOT of work on your part they can just get to serviceable for gaming purposes, but not for historical reality sake.  I can see no way that they will survive even restricted usage for gaming every time the roof is taken off and set down to adjust figures it will be in some danger.  Transport will place these roofs in serious jeopardy.  Empires claims they are working on a Roman line, so maybe there's will be better, although their roofs look bad too.  Empires also makes a building in their Spanish range that might work so I will look into that. 

       This is the last of the Sarissa general buildings.  I do have the Gladiator Amphitheatre that I will be building during my off time in May.  It does look more like the temple kit than this shop kit, so I am hopeful that it turns out well.  My next project developed from a happy fact I learned while working on this project combined with a major online retailers desperation to get me to add their phone app to my phone for some reason.  So watch for some more buildings before the Amphitheatre. 

                                                          The Housemartin


  1. So, Housemartin, tell us how you REALLY feel.....

  2. But an excellent effort at the build, they look rather mice once completed

  3. Wow death to Sarissa for selling crappy models. Wait a minute feed them to the lions..

  4. "30 pieces of silver" ... whoops I mean 2mm mdf, and thirteen pieces of paper. That is what they are selling for 20 pounds, plus postage. That is what I really think! Plus a bunch of verbs that are not fit for print.

    Too bad they won't last, I am afraid to game them even with my kids, the roofs are so pathetic. I have coated them over and over with the wash as it seems to soak in and makes them feel firmer, but I do not hold out hope on these. As far as the look goes, it was the right paint, your washes and a lot of nuisance that got them there.

    Thanks Gary, it some comfort that experts think they at least look alright.

  5. Hope the kit wasn’t too expensive. Came out looking alright though but definitely sounds like it won’t stand up to repeated handling. Maybe it’ll be good for background, way in the background.