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When is detail too much detail? A discussion re: trends in miniature design


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31 minutes ago, yukishiro1 said:

Yeah, I get that intellectually, but when I actually go to paint, I have an extremely hard time just ignoring details. I recognize looks fine on other peoples' models, but it stresses me out on mine, to the point where it kinda ruins the painting experience. I wish they just wouldn't put the extraneous junk on there in the first place. 

Many GW kits used to give you the extra bits that you could choose to put on or not as you chose, that was a great compromise. They seem to have stopped doing that though, modern kits have it all molded into the main pieces of the model. 

GW teach a painting technique designed to amplify all the details on their models too which I think conditions quite a lot of this mentality as well. It's exhausting painting every inch of every model multiple times in ever decreasing amounts. 

When I was learning to move away from the tedium of base shade highlight method I found a really useful exercise was to just paint one or two areas-face and shield, say- really well and literally just have everything else one colour, even leaving the bottom of the model black. It's a good way of seeing how context and contrast define a paintjob. People won't look at things you don't want them to if you make the other bits interesting. Of course, a good sculpt accentuates this for you by accentuating and framing the key elements. 

But Since learning to feel comfortable with this, I've never sweated over a random bracelet, gem, rope, trinket, wrap, etc. Just paint it in a colour complimentary to everything else and move on  don't think about it. I also leave them til last so that I can spend my peak energy doing stuff which is enjoyable and interesting. By the time I get to the stupid stuff um happy with the overall composition so I know it's just a case of colouring in a few stray pixels rather than agonising over what colour to paint whatever this weird piece of garbage is.

Edited by Nos
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23 hours ago, yukishiro1 said:

Yeah, LRL and Slaanesh seem like the prime examples of "too much detail on run of the mill troops" syndrome in AOS. 

Lumineth being a pain to work with and only allowing perfect painters to realize their greatness and Slaanesh models revelling in excessive detail would rank among poor decisions in capturing lore into model form...

Edited by zilberfrid
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I've gone mad for older models or alternatives and really only buy GW stuff now for the more unique items that you just can't get anywhere else.

I've fallen in love with painting stuff from northstar & Victrix. GW models are great fun to build but don't suit painting large armies for me any more.

I've been spending an obscene amount on older GW models and they are a breeze to paint up compare the their modern counterparts. (And often I pay less for the old metal sculpts than I have for the new plastics ones that are part of a current range!)

I really noticed it when I was painting my undead army for a WFB Albion project. I could knock a batch of Warlord games skeletons out in a weekend. Took me over a week to do the same amount amount of models for a nighthaunt chainrasp unit, and their colour scheme uses a lot less colours! All their chains go up inside their ghost sheet. They are hard to get too when assembled and you can't really paint them in sub-assemblies as then you end up with that ghastly gap going down their head/back. The details are often very fragile (like the little keys) and a lot of the models have a ton of details that they just don't need in the first place- like the vines and flowers they have all over their bases (or over the models themselves, like in case of the not current but last set of GW skeletons & knights)

The new Slaanesh models look lovely, but there is no way I'm painting them for a Slaanesh mortal army. I'm actually planning on using more victrix historical kits for most of my chaos mortal units, with some parts from things like frostgrave and oathmark kits to jazz them up a bit. Not only will be faster, it will look unique on the table top and has saved me a ton of money by only using one or two of the new models as the champions.

It doesn't help that I'm the main painter for my group- I do all the terrain and a good deal of all the models as well (I do tend to paint some loaner armies for things that I'd love to paint but can't really justify collecting fully for myself!). And as I'm currently building us a HUGE necromunda table, which is taking a lot of my time, and I'm suffering with an eye injury (due in part to almost two years in lockdown and not helped by having gotten older) I've had to admit to needing any shortcut I can take on mass army painting for AoS/WFB/Oathmark.

I dread to think how overly designed new old world minis will be. It worked for a time with AoS as originally they were not pushing it as a mass battle game (in my opinion anyway) in the same way that it is now or that WFB is know for. Its easier to afford more time for a skirmish mini when you only have 8 to paint, but less so when you need 20-40 models to run a unit.


(As a side note- I'm aware that its entirely possible to ignore details that you want to or just drybrush stuff to get it done fast. But some of us find that harder to do- if its there we feel it needs to be painted. If you want to know what its like for those that do feel things need to be painted to feel complete- paint yourself a super detailed model up, but ignore everything but the most basic areas and then post it online- the amount of people that will call out the 'unfinished' parts can be be a battle in and of itself. GW have condition a lot of its audience to feel like they need to paint like the box and it can be very difficult to push past that in this hobby.)

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1 hour ago, RexHavoc said:

If you want to know what its like for those that do feel things need to be painted to feel complete- paint yourself a super detailed model up, but ignore everything but the most basic areas and then post it online- the amount of people that will call out the 'unfinished' parts can be be a battle in and of itself. 

To be fair I literally just did that 😉 It's just a matter of tricking people into your perspective. Contrast paints are a god send for this. They cover things opaquely and quickly. Also inks. 

Also basing. You can hide any number of omissions through creative basing. I spent about 3 minutes on the feet of my troggoths per troggoth and the same again framing them with basing to hide the fact. Out of the hundreds of liked they've got across my social accounts not one person has commented on the multiple shortcuts I took:

image.png.b9a131b0feb953aba72d7f93d437e354.png

I say shortcuts but I really just see it as an extension of the design philosophy we're discussing- if a model is too loud in its sculpt, turning the volume down with a paint job is likely to produce a better balance overall, if you know where you want to accentuate and where you want to turn it down.

Although it always needs to be said- don't hobby for other people, you'll never be able to control how and what they think of your work and even why. If they don't like what you've done, but you do, that's really all that matters 🙂

 

Edited by Nos
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I overall don't think GW is moving in a direction where their models are becoming too detailed for me. By too detailed, I assume we are talking about having too many little bells and whistles that need to be picked out in their own, specific colour. Because I would definitely say that a model that is more detailed in the sense that it has lots of texture on it (like a chainmail texture or the fur on an animal) actually makes it easier and quicker to paint. So I don't think that's anything worth getting upset over.

For me, it really depends on the kind of model I am painting whether I mind the extra detail or not. I painted the ven Densts a few weeks ago, and they are fairly busy sculpts, but in the end not especially stressful to get through:

20210919_094023.jpg.8a60138d9360192c2a0018ae190d1de4.jpg

I think it's partially because they are hero sculpts, and you know you will never have to touch the same models again after painting them once. In that case, the small details just make it easier to make them look good once you have the necessary brush control down. Plus, for Witch Hunters, I think being loaded down with a bunch of swords and pouches just fits the aesthetic. I can also say that I definitely enjoyed painting these guys more than a battlemage I recently did in a similar colour scheme. That guy was pretty much just a swoopy, wavy robe. That just kinda made me frustrated because I am not great at layering, and the soft shapes made it hard to paint him sketchy but still make him look good.

On the other hand, I have been putting off painting my remaining Tomb Kings Tomb Guard for a while:

20210720_081058.jpg.ed5bae1b73f03f0f088a8f666123ffa6.jpg

The first time around, I didn't have a great time painting these guys because they are just loaded down with detail. Detail of different materials, too: Bone, cloth, metal... And I want to paint them clean and colourful as well. There is a good chance they will be easier to do when I get to them again, because my painting skills have definitely progressed since I painted them the first time, but still, I have not exactly been motivated to bang out another 10-20 of these guys. I guess it's worth noting that these guys are, like, 10 years old, so excessive detail can't be an entirely new problem.

For Tomb Guard, Slaanesh and Lumineth, I kinda have a love-hate relationship with them. I love how they look, and I am definitely more drawn to them aesthetically than to the stereotypical easy to paint armies like Skaven or Nurgle. But I also don't want to sit down and paint them/start their factions because painting them is just kind of a chore.

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Having detailed heroes is, I feel, a tad different.

Though jeez that vengorian lord! The designer is evil. I know it is a polarizing sculpt, but I like the horrific combination (it truly is nightmarish). IMHO this is what flesheaters should have looked like.

However, yesterday I opened a box and I can guarantee (money back 100% :P) that those spikes at the end of the wings and that breaking sword will break at some point.

Why would you design things like that? Is this a gaming piece at all?

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2 hours ago, Greybeard86 said:

Having detailed heroes is, I feel, a tad different.

Though jeez that vengorian lord! The designer is evil. I know it is a polarizing sculpt, but I like the horrific combination (it truly is nightmarish). IMHO this is what flesheaters should have looked like.

However, yesterday I opened a box and I can guarantee (money back 100% :P) that those spikes at the end of the wings and that breaking sword will break at some point.

Why would you design things like that? Is this a gaming piece at all?

I would argue that GW stopped designing things with gaming in mind at least a few years ago, in terms of purely functional considerations. Compare the centre pieces of modern GW armies with those of a decade ago. There's no actual gaming reason for the hyper inflation involved. Its pure spectacle.

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If a model is more detailed than these they are over designed, if they are less detailed then these they are under designed.
Chaos-Warriors-1.jpg

But in reality it is relative to the faction and character being portrayed. Be'lakor has as much detail as Archaon but I like his model much more, I think Stormcast Paladins are overly busy but dracoth riders are fine. I equally like the highly detailed Lotann, Warden of the Soul Ledgers and the somewhat less detailed Namartii Thralls. I guess that I think there is more to the design than the number of details but how clearly the details can be read. 

Edited by Neverchosen
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I too don't feel like the new GW miniatures are more detailed than the old ones. I personnally find the previous plastic Chaos Knights actually more detailed than the last ones.

However, and that is to me the real difference, the new miniatures are definitely more thought to be painted in sub-assemblies in comparison to the older ones. Dynamic poses don't mean they're more detailed, but they certainly can make areas more difficult to reach with the good old brush. Sometimes, I even feel the way they designed the miniatures on sprues to be painted specifically with an airbrush.

Me, I'm an old school painter...I like to paint the miniature fully built and glued on its base. I don't like to paint sub-assemblies while thinking I'll have to glue them after and - more often than not - ruin a small part of my paint by doing so or leaving a small space because I obviously can't file afterwards or fill it with green stuff properly.

When I work on newer models, I often try to build them in a way I can still paint the whole miniature in one piece, meaning I slightly move the shield so that the body is more accessible or remove a loincloth that makes other parts a pain in the ass to get with a brush. New sisters of battle are a nightmare to me because of that (damn loincloths always getting in the way of my brush !).

I understand miniatures are designed with more "new ways of painting" nowadays and that I'm kinda a dinosaur in that field, but that's what I really miss with new GW miniatures : they're not designed to be painted in one piece like they had to do before.

 

A good example to me is the topic of loincloths and robes. In older models, the area that was supposed to be the part between the cloth and the body was often filled. So you didn't have to mind having to paint this part underneath since it didn't exist. But new models now have a space, sometimes showing the detail and sometimes (having a big gap, like the infamous sacro-sanct Stormcast Eternals). Problem is that if you don't paint that area, it shows under a specific angle...and it's not completely avoidable in some cases. So you have to fill that space with paint (even if it's just dark). More often than not, if you do it with a brush, it can be difficult to reach these areas. The difficulty is not the same with an airbrush.

Sure, it's good to see techniques have evolved with the years, but that big loincloth sticked to the body like old metal sisters of battle ? Sometimes, I miss it. :P

Edited by Sarouan
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21 hours ago, yukishiro1 said:

Yeah, I get that intellectually, but when I actually go to paint, I have an extremely hard time just ignoring details. I recognize looks fine on other peoples' models, but it stresses me out on mine, to the point where it kinda ruins the painting experience. I wish they just wouldn't put the extraneous junk on there in the first place. 

Many GW kits used to give you the extra bits that you could choose to put on or not as you chose, that was a great compromise. They seem to have stopped doing that though, modern kits have it all molded into the main pieces of the model. 

Yeah I think my main issue with the new detailed kits is that GW no longer gives you the OPTION to include them. I've only got Stormcast which are supposed to be accessibly painted by complete newbies, and I'm still getting painting paralysis bc I'm not sure who needs sub assembly or what details I can slap one color over then move on.

edit: definitely going to try what Nos said, and not care until the end!!

20 hours ago, Nos said:

GW teach a painting technique designed to amplify all the details on their models too which I think conditions quite a lot of this mentality as well. It's exhausting painting every inch of every model multiple times in ever decreasing amounts. 

When I was learning to move away from the tedium of base shade highlight method I found a really useful exercise was to just paint one or two areas-face and shield, say- really well and literally just have everything else one colour, even leaving the bottom of the model black. It's a good way of seeing how context and contrast define a paintjob. People won't look at things you don't want them to if you make the other bits interesting. Of course, a good sculpt accentuates this for you by accentuating and framing the key elements. 

But Since learning to feel comfortable with this, I've never sweated over a random bracelet, gem, rope, trinket, wrap, etc. Just paint it in a colour complimentary to everything else and move on  don't think about it. I also leave them til last so that I can spend my peak energy doing stuff which is enjoyable and interesting. By the time I get to the stupid stuff um happy with the overall composition so I know it's just a case of colouring in a few stray pixels rather than agonising over what colour to paint whatever this weird piece of garbage is.

Edited by CommissarRotke
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2 hours ago, Nos said:

Although it always needs to be said- don't hobby for other people, you'll never be able to control how and what they think of your work and even why. If they don't like what you've done, but you do, that's really all that matters 🙂

Whilst this is totally true, sadly it does come with the addition of *always hobby for yourself but be prepared to (possibly) be ostracised within the the wider warhammer community for going against what they deem as normality within the hobby.

I think most people will just paint for themselves- but it must be nice to be able to enjoy the social aspect of the hobby without feeling put out for not painting to the imagined standard that exists. I do think that a sizeable chunk of the community harbours these imagery standards and overly detailed models are partially to blame.

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I can't speak for others, but for me, the problem I have with just not painting details as a solution too too much detail is totally internal. It wouldn't bother me if other people didn't like it, it bothers me that I don't like it. It gives me a feeling that the model is perpetually unfinished that I can't really shake. When I see someone else who didn't paint details and it works that's great for them, I just can't make myself do it and feel good about it. 

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Fascinating topic, and an interesting discussion.

For me, there needs to be a strong alignment between the amount of detail on the model and the amount of time and effort I feel justified putting into it. The Cursed City heroes are some of the most visually dense models I've worked on, but it felt exactly right because I'd already decided to put 10-15 hours into each one and really lavish attention on them. Out of the same box, the Ulfenwatch skeletons were models that I was going to batch paint and spend less than an hour on each, and their level of detail was similarly just right for that.

While the amount of fine detail on the model is important, I think the individual painter's attitude towards the task has a lot more to do with whether it's "too much". For me, the secret when sitting down to paint something has been to try to pick a model that suits the mood I'm in at that moment - something simple if I'm painting to relax, or something more intricate if I feel like really getting stuck into a painting challenge. When I don't get that right, it's really noticeable; I'll get frustrated if the model is too much, and bored if it's not enough. It's been a real journey to get to the point where I can recognise that and say "This isn't what I need right now," put that model aside for the time being, and pick up something more suited to my mood. It helps (in a sense) that I've still got quite a variety of unpainted models to work with...

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To put an actually serious comment in the thread: GW infantry models make excellent heroes for other companies' troops. They are a tad larger and more detailed and repetition of poses doesn't matter as much if the person is alone.

I do love painting gribbly bits on things like Kharadron, Skitarii rangers and Escher death maidens, or construct elaborate demons from Tsaangors, or the awesom Demigryph or General on Horse sculpts as well as on center pieces like the General on Griffin.

Now those are not models marked as problematic in this thread, but even though I am often critical of GW, when they get a model right, they really get it right.

I don't have many modern heroes (outside of Underworlds), basically just from the Blood Bowl set, but there I found Griff a treat and the Orc a bear to paint, so it's swings and roundabouts there.

Edited by zilberfrid
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7 hours ago, Kadeton said:

Fascinating topic, and an interesting discussion.

For me, there needs to be a strong alignment between the amount of detail on the model and the amount of time and effort I feel justified putting into it. The Cursed City heroes are some of the most visually dense models I've worked on, but it felt exactly right because I'd already decided to put 10-15 hours into each one and really lavish attention on them. Out of the same box, the Ulfenwatch skeletons were models that I was going to batch paint and spend less than an hour on each, and their level of detail was similarly just right for that.

While the amount of fine detail on the model is important, I think the individual painter's attitude towards the task has a lot more to do with whether it's "too much". For me, the secret when sitting down to paint something has been to try to pick a model that suits the mood I'm in at that moment - something simple if I'm painting to relax, or something more intricate if I feel like really getting stuck into a painting challenge. When I don't get that right, it's really noticeable; I'll get frustrated if the model is too much, and bored if it's not enough. It's been a real journey to get to the point where I can recognise that and say "This isn't what I need right now," put that model aside for the time being, and pick up something more suited to my mood. It helps (in a sense) that I've still got quite a variety of unpainted models to work with...

I think that's a really good point. There's no such thing as a perfect paint job and theoretically any painter can spend an infinite amount of time painting any model, but the results of doing so are going to plateau at some point. But there's an inverse effect too in which a model looks complete, and I think what's apparent from this thread is that the incline to the plateau for both is steep with GW rank and file. 

One of the really big things that influences a sense of character is a face/head and this has a lot to do with it. With more fantastical proportions the head is maybe 30% of the mini vs GW's like 8% or something. A lot of middlehammer or oldhammer-esque minis, do the face or a big shield well and the mini is basically going to look good and charismatic, do them well, you're pretty much done.  Do the face right on a GW model, you still got masses to do.

Another one of a reasons I was drawn to the KB's- the shields are basically their face. Got those established and you just need the shapes of everything else really. Contrast that with the grotz and weird stuff frpm the range I dislike so much- there's no centre to them, they're just a collection of weird angles and doo dahs.

I had an epiphany when i started to limit my painting to "Get them done in a few hours" because I realised at this scale the collective effect is more important than painting 10 Individuals, and that the workload and process is very different if that's your aim with GW stuff. You can get trapped in the design with their stuff otherwise. 

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Think my views are similar to a few others.  Within an army, for me the level of detail on a miniature reflects the "level" of that miniature within my army.  A green, rank and file scrub should have a fairly basic appearance - largely uniform with the people in their unit.  As I get to more elite units, I'd expect a bit more personalisation and detail to reflect that they're more experienced and more valued, right up to my general who should have loads of details, horns and bling on.  It's a bit like in a computer game you'll start off in a cloth shirt and threadbare trousers, but at endgame have a really ornate set of armour, covered in filigree.

That's not to say an undetailed miniature should be bland, but they shouldn't be covered in intricate bits and bobs.  My ideal balance would be a unit of ten basic troops should take as long to paint as a character.

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On 10/11/2021 at 8:07 PM, Nos said:

Although it always needs to be said- don't hobby for other people, you'll never be able to control how and what they think of your work and even why. If they don't like what you've done, but you do, that's really all that matters 

Wise words and totally agree.

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To be honest, there's always one further step to go when you're painting a model. The real time when a miniature is "finished" is when the painter is saying it is, in the end. It's always subjective.

For example, you can as well paint every single detail on a 6mm scale miniature, but others will just be content with overall colors being done. It really depends how you want to be satisfied yourself.

I have an acquaintance who can't understand why you don't try to "improve" your painting skills and be glad with just bases, shades and one lighting (he's also selling his skills to teach others, to say the truth :P ). It's a bit of the same situation, IMHO.

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I paint a lot of classic models from the era of 1987 and 1991.  Typical examples are Jes Goodwin slaanesh chaos champions, Wood Elves, Eldar range, Space Ork stuff.  

The biggest difference I feel is limitations on the medium forced the classics to be very characterful and unique.  But they were not as finicky, delicate or detailed (plastic is catching up to hand sculpted/formed).  Often I can knock out a classic model really fast and it is very rewarding.  It's also fun and rewarding to have an old model rebased and built up for proper size.  And it's reuse/reduce/recycle which while arguably infinitesimally negligible it's something I suppose.

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So my "old" Chaos Knights arrived. I'm glad I opted for them instead of the new ones. There are flaws for sure - the mold lines are downright egregious (I probably spent as much time removing them as actually assembling the models), the torsos don't always fit perfectly onto the legs, etc. But it is so nice to have a kit where everything is interchangeable, where magnetizing the arms is reasonably easy, and where the riders aren't molded onto the horses so the only "sub-assembly" you need to do is to not glue the riders on until after they're painted (I'm compulsive, so I'm also painting the pauldrons separately, but you really don't need to). And the best thing of all is that looking at these models...I can actually see myself painting 15 of them. Each one is going to be subtly unique because everything is interchangeable (napkin math says you can make at least ~8,000 different unique knights from this kit, even counting the shield arm as one piece), but they all look similar enough that you can use the same painting approach for each, and while there is detail here and there, none of it is excessive or difficult to reach. 

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10 minutes ago, yukishiro1 said:

So my "old" Chaos Knights arrived. I'm glad I opted for them instead of the new ones. There are flaws for sure - the mold lines are downright egregious (I probably spent as much time removing them as actually assembling the models), the torsos don't always fit perfectly onto the legs, etc. But it is so nice to have a kit where everything is interchangeable, where magnetizing the arms is reasonably easy, and where the riders aren't molded onto the horses so the only "sub-assembly" you need to do is to not glue the riders on until after they're painted (I'm compulsive, so I'm also painting the pauldrons separately, but you really don't need to). And the best thing of all is that looking at these models...I can actually see myself painting 15 of them. Each one is going to be subtly unique because everything is interchangeable (napkin math says you can make at least ~8,000 different unique knights from this kit, even counting the shield arm as one piece), but they all look similar enough that you can use the same painting approach for each, and while there is detail here and there, none of it is excessive or difficult to reach. 

So in the end, your main grievance is not with details on new models at all ?

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Well, no. You might want to read through to the end of the post - you know, where it says "and the best thing of all is..."

48 minutes ago, yukishiro1 said:

So my "old" Chaos Knights arrived. I'm glad I opted for them instead of the new ones. There are flaws for sure - the mold lines are downright egregious (I probably spent as much time removing them as actually assembling the models), the torsos don't always fit perfectly onto the legs, etc. But it is so nice to have a kit where everything is interchangeable, where magnetizing the arms is reasonably easy, and where the riders aren't molded onto the horses so the only "sub-assembly" you need to do is to not glue the riders on until after they're painted (I'm compulsive, so I'm also painting the pauldrons separately, but you really don't need to). And the best thing of all is that looking at these models...I can actually see myself painting 15 of them. Each one is going to be subtly unique because everything is interchangeable (napkin math says you can make at least ~8,000 different unique knights from this kit, even counting the shield arm as one piece), but they all look similar enough that you can use the same painting approach for each, and while there is detail here and there, none of it is excessive or difficult to reach. 

But fundamentally this isn't a "grievance" thread, it's a thread about peoples' views on what makes the ideal model from a detail point of view. Far from a grievance, my post was expressing my happiness with the kit I bought - I made it just as a follow-up to the original post, now that I have the models and can actually look at them in person. 

Edited by yukishiro1
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