How many times have you seen pictures on the internet or been enticed by corporate advertising that you rush to your favorite retailer to make a purchase and upon receiving your coveted model you open it to discover it has a massive gap in a really visible spot, or when you nudge a piece that is supposed to move, it breaks off?
The hobby of 1:18 scale collecting can be a serious investment of time and money, but there is so little information available on the internet for prospective buyers looking to make their first purchase, or even those making their tenth. The whole thing can be a daunting, research intensive process. Your money is precious, so we want to make sure you have all the information necessary to make a wise purchase that you can display proudly.
When reviewing a model all of our reviewers follow a standard process to make sure you get the best, and most consistent reviews possible. We approach each review as this might be the first purchase a hobbyist is making. Although our reviews may not be released before the model appears on the market, we do get pieces in very quickly for review and we try to have the new release reviews done within thirty days of receiving them.
The reviewer, once having received the model, will immediately take detailed pictures of the packaging. After that they are free to open the model and handle it over the next several days in order to familiarize themselves with every detail. During this time the reviewer will begin building the review and organizing their thoughts. Over the course of a week the review will build itself into a cohesive article discussing various likes, dislikes, and issues in the five categories we’ll outline below. After the review has been written, it itself is reviewed by one of our editors and will be passed back and forth between the two until it meets our quality standards. Once the article is approved and locked in, the reviewer will take very detailed pictures of each facet of the model being scrutinized and discussed. This process allows us to get precise pictures of the impressive or troublesome areas being scrutinized.Each piece, whether that be a figure or an aircraft, is rated in five different categories to make sure that each area of interest is highlighted for the reader. The system allows the strengths and weaknesses of each specific category on the model to be judged independently from one another without having an overwhelming positive or devastatingly negative affect on the overall outcome of the review. Aircraft and armor are, obviously, rated in a different set of categories from the figures.
One thing that we must point out before we begin is that The Fighting 1:18th staff are NOT rivet counters. A Rivet Counter can be loosely defined as someone who wants a model or toy to be as historically and realistically accurate as possible first and foremost. Not that this is a bad thing, but we make our judgments based upon the models own merits, and against other models first. Historical “accuracy” comes last. Although historical accuracy is important and does play a role, we can’t let it consume us and become the deciding factor in any judgement or else the majority of the pieces we review wouldn’t fair very well. There is a certain amount of “leeway” we have to give and take in order to have companies continue to produce these toys.
Aircraft and Armor
Obviously we will be evaluating all the exterior features of the piece in this category with the exception of paint apps. We want to look intently at the mold details, built in and removable accessories, and any type of mechanics like turrets and the like. The paint and Construction of those elements are elaborated on later.
Like Exterior, this takes a look at the interior elements of a piece. Sometimes these things aren’t available, so we’ll just skip right over this section and it will be labeled as N/A in the grading. If the piece doesn’t have an interior and it could have had one, we may take the opportunity to discuss these possibilities, but these opinions won’t go into the judgment of the final piece. If the interior can be accessed by a hatch in any way shape or form though, it becomes fair game.
This is the first of the in-depth portions of our review. Paint applications, weathering, and paint durability are all judged here for both the interior and the exterior. We really feel that paint applications can make all the difference on a piece. We’ll also evaluate any tampo printing, decals, and markings in this area.
In this category we address any issues, like gaps, or poorly constructed parts that may be unsightly or unsafe while on display. How well does the model withstand interaction? Can it withstand play? Do the wings droop? Does the landing gear doors stay up? This is where these questions get answered.
This is not a full in-depth figure review because the focus of the review is over the aircraft or piece of armor itself. A general overview of the figure and it’s accessories are given in order to determine if the figure is a quality piece, but we don’t expect the figure to be a deciding factor in the purchase of any aircraft or armor piece.
The overall score is a final rendered judgment based on the impression we get from the vehicle in the categories outlined above. This final tally is not an average of the other category grades computed in some sort of convoluted math equation known only to us. This is an opportunity for our own experience with the model to shine through and we’ll leverage all of our experiences and make a final judgment. A model may still score high even if it received low marks in the rating categories. The reviewer will also summarize their feelings about theverdict after giving the final judgment.
The sculpt on a figure is the single most important element. The sculpt can make or break the entire figure. A lifeless sculpt makes a toy uninteresting and undesirable, but a sculpt with immense details and fine care taken to bring every detail to life, even if the articulation is limited, can make the toy a work of art.
Second only to the sculpt is how articulated a figure is, or how many points of movement a figure has, and how far those points of movement can be manipulated to get the figure into your favorite poses. More articulation can lend it self to a more realistic movement, but if not hidden correctly, or balanced to blend in with the sculpt can make the figure unbelievable and incredibly “toy like.”
Paint apps on a figure are a real subtle business. Weathering a figure is an art form. Too much and it looks busy and sloppy, too little and the tiny details may not stand out enough to make the proper impact. Military figures need that dirty, used, harsh look in order to look right.
This is the fun stuff, especially for military collectors. Getting the little bits packed inside to add more gear to a figure, or pieces that bring a tank to life with stowage, or even add a new dimension to a diorama is one of the best parts of getting some of these figures. Accessories are important to say the least.
Packaging is what makes a figure line pop. This is the first line of marketing for a figure, particularly if they are in stores. Most of the armor and aircraft are purchased online by collector’s so packaging is secondary, but a lot of figures are still purchased in stores. A nice package on the pegs can help the figure get noticed or get it passed over by collectors.
The figure final judgment is just like the vehicle process outlined above, but we’ll re-post it again for clarity. The overall score is a final rendered judgment based on the overall impression we get from the figure. This final tally is not an average of the other category grades computed in some sort of convoluted math equation known only to us. This is an opportunity for our own experience with the figure to shine through and we’ll leverage all of our experiences together and make a final judgment. A figure may still score a high overall even if the figure received a few low marks in other categories. The reviewer will also summarize the feelings for their verdict after giving the final judgment.
The ratings for each category are based on a letter grading scale such as those associated with the grades you would receive in school. A+ being the highest to F being the worst. We felt that this would be the most recognizable and the least esoteric means of rating. When you glance at a letter grade you immediately know what that grade means without a whole lot of interpretation (Thank you public school system). The +, – system indicates whether they are on the upper or lower half of the letter grade and allows for more fine tuning and variation in our reviews.
In layman’s terms this means perfect. I’m not sure (as of June 22nd, 2009) if we will ever see one of these. All the staff members have a lot of truly great pieces, but i don’t think there is anything that is truly perfect. The manufacturers will have to step up their quality in order to achieve this score. If a model makes this grade in any category you can bet that it will rank highly in the overall score. This is a grade not to be take lightly.
A (A, A-)
This is where most of the great pieces will fall. Even the best of the best have a few flaws. Despite one or two minor errors, these pieces are among the leaders. In individual categories this grade means that the piece ranks amongst some of the greatest in that particular category.
B (B+, B, B-)
This is an above average piece, but something about it just falls short of being truly incredible. Even with a few errors, the piece definitely has more going for it than against it. When graded as a B in the individual categories this can be counted among some of the better pieces out there.
C (C+, C, C-)
The one thing to remember is that C = average, not bad, but certainly not great. This is one thing that most people forget when interpreting grades. This is the status quo, and where the bulk of the reviews will likely fall. Getting in on a good sale is probably the best way to get pieces that meet this grade.
D (D+, D, D-)
D is below average. If the model gets this as an overall grade you might want to simply stay away, but it would have to be pretty bad to get this grade overall. A D in a particular category may mean that simply no effort was put into that part of the project or there are some major structural concerns.
F is the only grade that doesn’t get the +, – system. If a piece is this bad, do you really care if it is a + or a – next to it? Like the A+ on the opposite end of the grading, I doubt we’ll see something truly this terrible. Most of the companies that produce 1:18 know that in order to survive they have to produce something of quality, but we’ve seen certain aspects of some pieces that definitely fall into this grade.
Editor’s Choice “Award”
Although we are just getting started, we do have one award to give the pieces that really stand out. When a piece makes us say “Wow!” even though it might not be A+, sometimes it just deserves to stand in front of the crowd. The pieces that stand out will also be given a distinct honor at the end of each year providing all goes according to plan. Stay tuned for more details…