Sunday, September 18, 2016

Renedra Tower: Rough Review


I've seen a fair few sort of previews and sprue pics around. However, one good thread on Lead Adventure forum aside, little that describes what people have done with the the finished product. I'm approaching this from my typical Rough Wargamer perspective. I build and paint my stuff but aren't much of a wargaming artiste. I also don't tend to want to spend a huge amount of time or expense on things as now am on three kids, so don't have these to spare. I was prompted to get this by another Local's epic blog post, of a massive Fantasy siege battle. It made my mind go back to when I was a kid and some guys were demoing Wargames in the foyer of a supermarket. The Warhammer game had a cool castle tower. It was probably that little GW one but hey, I was about seven years old. Basically, I've got the idea that a cool castle is now mandatory for any Fantasy project. To do this, I clearly needed something easy to make table ready at a low skill level for a decent price. So how does the Renedra Tower measure up to these criteria?

The Towers can be bought separately, along with separate wall sections and also a separate sprue of the tower walls so you can build it one level higher. Renedra sell this direct, including as a couple of different castle bundles. The largest massive castle bundle is £290. It's seven towers, one more tower with extra level to be a gatehouse, and eight walls. From my preferred stockist, Caliver Books, Individual Towers are £32.50 and Walls £10.50. They don't do the bundles. Towers are about $100 NZD here in NZ from Mightyape so seem pricey even allowing for the benefit we also get from the Brexit bonus to our exchange rates. I purchased one tower from Caliver, free shipping. Full details and measurements can be found at Renedra: http://www.renedra.co.uk/productlist.php?category=12 but to paraphrase/c+p: the basic tower measures 160mm x 130mm with a height of 270mm. Wall sections measure 145mm high x 205mm long x 49mm wide (this gives an internal walkway measuring 39mm. The material is hard plastic, of the usual high Renedra quality, and is detailed and easy to work with. 


There are three different sprues (pic borrowed from Renedra) and two pieces of flat plastic with stonework detail to act as floors. You get four of the first sprue, which act as the first two floors. Two of those sprues can be bought separately as the height extender. There are two of the second sprue, which is the top floor. You also get two sprues (not pictured) to make parapets. This has gargoyles on it. The last sprue is extras to make doors, the trapdoors for the removable floors, and corner prices intended to go on the tops... To Fantasy the tower up still further. 


Here is a pic of the tower in full fantasy mode (from Renedras Facebook). Even without the corner pieces and gargoyles, it's not exactly 'historical'. I saw a top floor with arched windows exactly like this when watching Return of the King (the bit where the army of the dead turns up), this morning. There is also some fantasy style lettering on the top of the wall with the arch detailing. Personally, I am ok without 100% fidelity for my historical toy soldiers but others may like to fill the lettering in. I did without the gargoyles and corner  pieces though. To me, the tower looks pretty good as a standalone square tower or keep for a motte and Bailey style fort. I didn't realise it when I bought it, but I don't exactly mind that it is a perfect Gondorian tower either...


I think my rough version tower looks the part. To get it to this point, I built it, filled in a lot of gaps with PVA glue, and then applied spray coats of grey, sand, then a light wash. I may eventually do moss etc on some parts but this is my traditional 'good enough' point that lets me move on to all the other things in my queue. You can see the gaps between levels pretty clearly between the ground and first floor in the pic of Renedra's fantasy style build, above mine.


This is another Renedra pic, here they show how you can mod the kit to make a gatehouse. If you look at the wall pieces for the first sprue (the top wall of the leftmost sprue) you can take the 'flat' piece in the middle out and replace it with that piece in the last sprue with the portcullis on it. This brings up one issue with the the kit: there is the promise of flexibility but a scarcity of material to achieve it with. I don't think you could do the above with the kit without sacrificing something else, or using extras from another kit/scratch build. As you can see in the last sprue, the door needs to go onto another wall piece. The build in the pic above could just work, if you halved the size of those interior side pieces. Since they've put in floor detail, that's one of only two floor pieces (the other is needed for the roof parapets) used up so no lift out interior detail for the top floor... Unless you give it a wooden or other scratch built floor. Likewise, two floors pieces means only one room with a modelled interior. As you can see in the above pic, two of the floors have no interior stone details modelled on the walls. You can't use the top floor pieces to make a detailed ground floor, due to those windows. 

I'm a bit conflicted about the modular design. It seems to, largely, work if you are making a whole castle or one tower. But what about if you are making a tower and trying to expand to a castle? It needs a gate or door. But making it into a gatehouse as above would look very weird for a standalone tower. If you give it a single door at ground level, then this will be the same size as the main gate and might look odd as an internal facing door, and an internal facing door makes it not work as a corner tower. So it would work ok as part of a straight wall but not so much in a corner layout at one edge of the table. If it was exterior facing.... Seems like a flaw in the defences, being an other large door at ground level to defend? The wall kits come with two doors narrow enough to fit between the middle two column like pieces on the side walls. Personally, I'd hav liked it if they'd found a way to fit one of these on the sprues, as this would look better as either an ground level door facing the castle interior or as could be a postern gate. 


For my tower, I went with a top floor with interior detail but no more. You could make more floors but it seems to me that the only practical way to get inside would be to have each floor (walls and all) lift out as its own piece. I'm not clever enough to figure out how to have this look ok given the gaps that occur and need to be filled. If you don't mind the gaps,then the way this is designed would make it easy to have up to three detachable levels. Given there is only interior detail on one floor, I'd say the intention is that you only have one with a lift out roof. 


Others have commented that the Windows seem a bit open. The general idea is that when there are walls, the Windows would look sideways over those walls, and not face frontward. This obviously works less well for a corner tower or standalone tower. Still, I like them, they give detail without resorting to gargoyles. I've also seen the comment that the arrow slits are a bad idea for a ground floor. However, if you look at my pic below, those arrow slits are quite high off the ground. I really like the trapdoor, they've built it quite a surrounding lip. So it's easy to grasp and lift the floor to get at the one accessible floor below. Doing more than this 'default build' will take a lot of effort and extra materials. I did however do a little modding at ground level to get something that could make my tower somewhat (I think  a smaller door would look better) work as a standalone tower or a corner tower/part of a larger wall.


It's a bit out of focus, but I built a landing and raised up the level of the door. There is just enough material to do this if you cut out the door and stick it into a portcullis door fame. Then the wall you can cut out can provide the top and sides of the bit in front, and the other portcullis can be a kind of grill in front of the tower drains, or something. My daughter said I should paint red eyes staring out of the darkness there. Smart girl. The steps are easily made out of those stick on corner pieces. I got the idea off the guy who had the thread on the Lead adventure forum, though he got the material for it by basing the tower on a sloped base and so cut out part of the back. My 'theory' is that this will look ok as a postern gate in a larger wall (or as a corner tower) as would be difficult to tackle with a battering ram. If not, it at least it looks visually distinct from the gate in the gatehouse. 

So how does it do vs my stated criteria? 

It was easy to make table ready. The tower alone is big enough that it can be a centrepiece by itself and the design of the roof and top floor makes it very practical for Wargames purposes, as you can easily put models inside to mark occupants. 

I found it appropriate for my (admittedly low) skill level. I think what I did looks fine at table distance and all I did was put it together with a knife and some glue, with no extra parts or bits from other kits. Then I painted it with spray cans. So the detail is already there on the frames to make this user friendly...as long as you aren't a perfectionist or want to do something more than what they intended with it. 

I think the price is right, it's a big tower for £33 pounds. The detail is decent for the cost. I'm not 100% sure why all walls couldn't have had internal detail. That would have given the kit even more potential for either minor modifications or conversions into other buildings. Still it works as intended, even if the flexibility isn't quite as much as you might initially think. 

I am very satisfied with it, and would definitely recommend it for rough Wargamers. The real modellers out there may be disappointed with the limitations of the kit and will have the skills/tools/store of bitz to modify things like plastic toy castle kits. Still I'm sure a real modeller can of course make this look fantastic, so YMMV. If it's any indication of my impression, I plan to buy another and some wall sections as a medium term project. I want to have a castle or town wall to put along the width or one side/corner of my table. This seems like a cost and time effective way to do it. 

I hope this was useful to others looking at buying it. 

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this. Your stairs seem like a good way to accomplish making it a stand alone tower.

    Hopefully Renedra will sell more sprues later, which will make this more versatile.

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    Replies
    1. Cheers. I think I saw somewhere they do intend to do extras, so you may get your wish.

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