Systema’s Base-0 Line
Courtesy of the Systema Gaming, I’ve received a number of sets of their Base-0 terrain line. I haven’t had experience with laser-cut MDF before, so I have to say – that’s a great start!
Included were a Base-0 HQ Unit, Habitat Units 1 & 2, Walkway sets 1 & 2 and the Storage Silo – or, if you prefer, an entire Base-0 Big Bundle from Systema’s webstore! Yay! That’s 24 sheets (roughly A4-sized) of laser-cut MDF terrain! Note however these sets do not contain acrylic components, so I won’t be able to say a word about it.
Base-0 was apparently intended to represent a frontier outpost / settlement / colony, though the utilitarian style will do pretty nice for an industrial (or research) facility, and wouldn’t be out of place at a military base either. It brings a welcome change of style from the typical, slick urban board many Infinity players are used to. Rugged buildings, they should look good as a complex, or make equally great standalone pieces.
An interesting observation – no assembly instructions are included in the kit, but they are available at the Systema Gaming website as downloadable PDF (and even video assembly instructions for some of the kits, though I wasn’t able to access these for some reason). Neat idea indeed – keeps unnecessary costs down, and saves the client a bit of waste paper once all is done.
Another observation – the buildings (HQ unit and both Habitats) are two levels, but no stairs were provided with any of these sets: apparently they are meant to be used with the Walkway sets. That’s an understandable design decision, though I’d really prefer to to have stairs included. Actually, Habitat Unit 2 includes a pretty clever ladder (I think there are none in the HQ and Habitat 1 sets, I have yet to check it), and a ladder set can be purchased from Systema separately.
Anyway – keep that in mind when purchasing Base-0 buildings: if you want stairs, you need to buy some Walkways. Luckily – and that’s a plus for the Systema Gaming Base-0 system – they’ve been designed to function as separate buildings too. Say, every of the buildings can be used as a two storey construction, or two one-storey buildings. Also, the sets can be mixed and matched on as-needed basis (Systema says they had an architect design that stuff for them – and that shows!).
The railings you can see on the buildings are actually not meant to be glued in, but added and removed on as-needed basis, making for a truly modular design.
That’s overall neat, really, really neat.
One of the things everyone is interested when purchasing terrain online is – will it be properly packed? Will it make it through undamaged?
If you order at Systema, rest assured. Every terrain set consists of a number of MDF sheets, packed together and tightly wrapped in a shrink foil. Nothing running loose here, no way. My package arrived nicely packed in a cardboard box that perhaps did not immobilised the sets 100% tight, but definitely provided adequate protection.
Unless your postal service tends to chop packages with an axe on a routine basis, you have no reasons to worry. I’d say the package would even withstand stepping on it without taking damage.
Let’s give it a try – Habitat Unit 2
I decided to start with a small set (3 sheets) – Habitat Unit 2. As you can see, the space is well used, and I expect there will be very little material left once I’m done with it. Everything seems to be very neatly designed and manufactured – there are just a few points where a piece is attached to the sheet (actual number depends on a piece’s size, and varies typically from 1 to 4 in this set).
I’ve read that MDF needs to be pre-primed and sanded: the surface becomes rough after first contact with water or paint (just like normal wood). I decided to give it some Belton Molotov Premium spraypaint and possibly sand it if required while still in the sheet: it should be way easier than sanding an assembled building.
However, I found that sanding was not necessary with Systema’s stuff (though either my spray is nearly gone, or the MDF really requires a lot of it for a basecoat… well, or both).
The stuff was nice and quick to assembly, and the fit was tight.In fact, I guess it would have held together just fine even without glue (though I guess MDF would’t hold to abrasion of assembe / disassemble – repear every game – too well). The only pieces that fit rather loosely are the railings. The only places where the fit is too tight, are the roofs (you need to snap them into the buildings) and the doors – they aren’t really going to fit into their doorframes.
Since I heard some complaints regarding headroom in the Futura City line from Systema, I checked these. Well, Djanbazan aren’t the tallest models around and none of them points his gun to the sky, but both windows and roofs are definitely the right height.
A nice touch – you can use the Habitat as two-level building (with no roof access on the top floor), or as two ground-level buildings, one having an accessible roof. The ladder included in the set fits in as a plug-in attachment, so you can move it from the upper floor / separate building to the spare platform / roof on as-needed basis.
What’s not so nice – there could be more railings. The 5 pieces included are just what you need for the stand-alone habitat with it’s two levels, there are no spares left for the second platform. If you decide to use the Habitat as two separate buildings, there will be not enough railings to secure the larger, accessible roof. I guess it is not much of a problem, though, if you have more sets. Also, extra railings are available from Systema (as are ladders), should you need them.
Detail level. First of all, the sheets are detailed on one side only. Which means the buildings will have details on the outside walls, and roofs / floors only on the top surface. Then again – I consider this to be adequate. With some painting, the buildings are going to look fine on a tabletop.
Another try – Storage Silo
Habitat Unit 2 was nice and simple, so I decided to break out something that looked more complicated – the Storage Silo.
This is another small set, with 3 sheets in it, and judging by the photos on Systema’s website, I expected it to come out way smaller. Somewhere about 50% to 75% of what it really turned out to be! I think it is meant to fit with the Level 2 Walkways (or roof of the upper floor on the Habitat 2!).
Again – the cut is crisp, and assembly is easier than I though (even if not as self-explanatory as with the Habitat). As you can see, I have forgone the priming on this one (partially because of time issues, but also to check the fit with no paint on). The fit is a bit loose, I must say. I should have primed it before cutting it out of the sheets.
Another thing I wanted to check is whether it would do as a collapsible scenery. The tower you see in my pictures has been assembled without glue. A dry-fit, essentially.
Well, it does work. I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way, however. The tower could do, but the tanks tend to lose their bottoms if these are not glued in. The tower itself is a bit wobbly. I’ll definitely put it together using glue. Actually, I glued the tanks together just after I’ve taken the pics.
A nice observation – this time there are enough railings to put them around the platform – and a ladder to replace one of them, providing access to the top.
Walkway Level 1
Well, time for a fly in the ointment, – the set I got was not fully cut through in some places. Not something big – I gave these places a pass with a knife and it went on just fine – but it was there.
The Walkway Level 1 set – as you can see – provides you with 2 sets of stairs, 2 short and 1 long walkway. It does fit perfectly in level with the roof of the lower floor of Base-0 buildings – I assume you’d need Walkway Level 2 to get to the Storage Silo’s platform.
The stairs and walkways give enough space for 2 models on 25mm bases to advance together, but not enough to let a model on a 55mm base move there (though personally I’d allow that, just remove the railings for a moment).
The railings – there are more than enough. Which is fine.
The set is constructed in a way that provides a lot of partial cover for human-sized models – and enough space for them to move freely under the walkways – but a TAG is not likely to fit under it, and a bike (or other model on a 55mm base) will be able to move under the long section only. Not a bad thing, though.
Note – the colour is a result of the gesso I applied (kind of foundation paint) while still in the frames. The result is not perfect, but I think I’ll be using this method..
Would I recommend it?
Yes, provided you like the rugged, frontier/industrial style. Keep in mind that the producer’s name is a clue: these sets work way better as a system. So don’t go for a single one, take two or more – for synergy.
The detail level. If you’re in for extra-detailed terrain, you might find yourself disappointed with these. For my taste, it is fine – simple, and definitely will look just fine once painted. A paint job can be pretty elaborate… and I know for a fact that construction equipment doesn’t tend to have too many colours or ornaments. You could still add as many details as you wish yourself 🙂
I’m yet to build the remaining 3 (the Habitat Unit 1, the Base HQ unit and Level 2 Walkway set – doing it all here would take too long, and make the review grow way too big!), but I guess this Big Bundle will be enough to cover a 4×4” table. Just add some scatter terrain, like boxes, containers and fences (Systema does offer these, and I must say, they look good). Get some construction equipment / farm machinery / off-road vehicles, maybe a few animals – all from a local toy store – and you should have a really cool frontier outpost.
Keep in mind, however, that this stuff is likely to to take pretty much space when assembled. Another thing for me to check, but I’m rather sure the buildings – while perfectly stackable – aren’t going to fit into one another.
Pros and cons:
- simple and effective,
- good fit,
- really working together as a system,
- several modular add-ons available,
- not much details (but that depends on how much details you like),
- a single set is not much fun (but two are definitely fun!),
- not really compact when stored.
- not enough top floor access included with the buildings. I’d suggest taking the ladder set (or the Walkways. Or both.) to compliment your purchase of Base-0 buildings.