4Ground make the MDF counters for Great Escape Games’ runaway hit game Dead Man’s Hand (seriously, play it). They also make a whole medium density fibreboard town for you to play in and around. You only need a handful of buildings to play the game, but 4Ground and their designers went above and beyond the call of duty to produce thirty kits so you can fill your table without ever doubling up. Whether your Old West Town needs a saloon, a store, sidewalks, stables, fences or construction sites – they have you covered.
Of course, people complain about how flat and wooden MDF buildings look, but when it comes to the Old West, that is exactly right! The simple period style fits perfectly with the kit approach that MDF demands. Others complain about the cost of MDF being equal to that of sturdier resin buildings, but yet again, this is not a problem here – the Dead Man’s Hand range of buildings is designed to complement skirmish games to the Nth degree, with fully decorated and usable interiors – including doors that open and shut.
This review however is specifically about “The Undertaker’s”, a massive kit costing £52 new from the 4Ground website. Of course, there are plenty of resellers to check out for it too. As a “feature building”, it also includes a sub-base and boardwalk decking to fit it seamlessly into an existing layout. It comes fully pre-painted with over a dozen posters and signs to cut out and stick on – but cut them out last, because there are instructions behind them! Although it looks good straight out of the box, a little weathering or drybrushing can turn good to amazing in a short evening. Making your own shop sign using one of the many excellent guides online means you can transform it into any business you choose.
A two storey building turned to Swiss Cheese by the number of doors and windows it boasts (excellent for a shoot-out!), the Undertaker’s also has a characteristically Western roof architecture that could hide several canny gunfighters for a replay of the opening to The Wild Bunch. On a scale reminiscent of Airfix kits, the box has a Skill Rating of 5 for “difficult”, but full colour step by step instructions are included in the box, so time and patience will easily make up for any lack of skill you might be worried about. The roof, first floor and ground floor all slot neatly on top of each other for easy access to the interior during play – but you could just as easily remove the first floor, scratchbuild a second roof and get two buildings for your money!
The constituent parts come on nearly a dozen sheets of MDF in a ziplock bag. The number of pieces might be overwhelming if everything was not so clearly marked. Having everything pre-painted also adds to the ease of assembly. Thanks to the sparse interior décor, it is one of the easier DMH buildings to put together. Said interior is still utterly believable however, and having the downstairs divided into several rooms adds a great deal to tactical play during gunfights – I know, I was cornered in this very kit at the club last week!
Some might baulk at the price of this set, but it is huge, pre-painted and adds a great deal to an Old West skirmish tabletop. There are many other buildings in the series available for half the price or less, but if you want an imposing yet slightly morbid centrepiece to your town – try the Undertaker’s. Its solid post-and-beam architecture makes it suitable for any time from the 1830s past the Civil War.