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Product Lab - August 2007

Published: July 13, 2007
Entertain the masses with "Colosseum"
Product: I've been really looking forward to the release fo this game. Meant for three to five players, "Colosseum" puts players in the roles of impresarios vying to put on the best shows, attract the biggest crowds - hopefully senators, consuls and even the emperor himself. Inside the glossy box is a plastic tray, a huge variety of cardboard game pieces and four molded-plastic pawns to represent visiting politicians.

Performance: "Colosseum" is incredibly fun, multifaceted, and has excellent potential for repeat play. Players should expect games with more than three people to last about two hours. Setup is fairly extensive, and, at least for the first couple of games, it will take players some time to get used to the turn cycle and the resources that they will need to acquire in order to put on their shows.

Each player starts out with a colosseum, asset tokens and 30 coins. Players are also given two event programs, with inspiring names like Drama Ultima, and Circus Maximus, which tell them what assets they need to put on that particular show. Each game turn, of which there are only five, is broken down into five phases: investing, acquiring event asset tokens, trading event asset tokens, producing an event, and closing ceremonies.

During the investing phase, a player can expand his arena, buy a new event program or season tickets, or build an emperor's loge. This phase is important since it requires some forethought on the part of the players. They have to look ahead, and decide how to best spend their money.

In phase two, five markets are filled with three random tokens each. The tokens are acquired through an auction system. Each player makes a bid for the tokens in a particular market. The bidding proceeds around the table, with players bidding or passing, until someone wins the assets in that market.

Every player gets a chance to start bidding, with previous winners unable to participate in subsequent auctions. In this way, players try to get the assets they need to produce the show on their event programs.

In phase three, the trading begins. Everyone gets a chance to initiate asset trades. The trading can be cutthroat as players attempt to put together their shows while vying against others for the limited assets in play.

Producing events is the climax of each turn. With a roll of the dice, players attempt to move the senators, consuls, and emperor into their colosseums, or at least keep them out of those of the opposing players. Then, choosing from their event programs, each player announces the event and presents the required asset tokens. Points are awarded for the event - less for the simpler ones, and more for the complex shows, as well as the attending politicians. Score is kept by moving one of five colored pawns along the board's edge, which is numbered from 1 to 100. Interestingly, a player doesn't have to put on the "full show" when producing an event, but can get a partial show together, missing some of the requisite assets, for less points.

Marketing: If you have customers who have purchased other Days of Wonder games or bookshelf games in general, make a point of suggesting "Colosseum" to them. Hang color pictures of "Colosseum" downloaded from Days of Wonder's Web site (www.daysofwonder.com), as well as a review or a brief description of the game's contents on the shelf near the game or keep them on the counter near your register. For those looking for interesting game play, point out that "Colosseum" requires forward thinking, lots of social interaction, and that there are many ways to achieve victory.

Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

VITAL STATS
Product: Colosseum
Maker: Days of Wonder
Stock No.: DOW7701
MSRP: $50
Availability: Days of Wonder; e-mail: sales@daysofwonder.com; 877-966-3378

BOTTOM LINE
  • Three to five players

  • Lots of player interaction

  • Entertaining game after game


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    Reaper Miniatures' Belladonna is a killer figure
    Product: As a longtime adventure/wargame-miniatures producer, it's no real surprise that Reaper Miniatures has broken into 54mm display miniatures, and has done so with its usual attention to character and quality.

    My review piece, "Belladonna, Privateer," came in a typical blister pack, with all six pieces that make up the figure and base, as well as a color card showing Belladonna fully assembled and painted.

    Performance: My concept was to use the same color scheme as Reaper had on the picture card, and use as few paints as possible in a standard base, wash/drybrush technique. Unlike the first figure in the Master Series, "Queen of the Jungle," a paint guide wasn't included on the back of the picture card. Although it's not needed, it was a nice touch and would have helped in choosing Belladonna's colors.

    A single piece of flash had to be removed from between the figure's legs. As with any miniature, there are mold marks, but I chose not to correct these, since no beginner would have, nor were they extreme enough to make me regret the decision.

    The entire figure went together easily. The parts fit well, and a tiny tweak of the leg got Belladonna to stand correctly in the doorway.

    Of course, painting is where a miniature will either make or break itself; faults that can't be seen easily in metal will quickly reveal themselves using a wash/drybrush technique. No real problems surfaced with Belladonna though, and I found the figure well suited to the proposed technique.

    Marketing: "Belladonna, Privateer" is an excellent metal figure for beginning- or intermediate-level modelers, with excellent expert-level potential if your customer has a penchant for detailing. Generate interest by putting a couple figs together, painting them and displaying them near your cash register. Stock "Belladonna, Privateer" and other 54mm figures with both your gaming miniatures and scale models.

    Reviewed by Craig Johnson

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Master Series Miniatures - "Belladonna, Privateer"
    Maker: Reaper Miniatures
    Stock No.: 30002
    MSRP: $24.99
    Paint used: Reaper, Reaper Pro, Citadel
    Availability: jay@reapermini.com

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Appropriately priced

  • Good quality

  • Great intro to display miniatures


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    More flying fun with Great Planes' EP3 flight sim expansion
    Product: Great Planes' RealFlight Expansion Pack 3 (EP3) for RealFlight G3.5 adds 11 new airplanes, four helicopters, five flying fields and one VTOL (Vertical Take-Off & Landing) aircraft.

    Performance: After a very quick install, I fired up RealFlight G3.5 on my 3.2GHz XP system and went straight to the VTOL. After fiddling with the controls a bit I was flying - taking off and landing vertically! Great Planes describes the Griffin as a VTOL that "combines the hovering of a heli with the flight characteristics of a fixed- wing aircraft." Truly, this thing is a blast! Sadly, I don't think we'll be seeing the Griffin VTOL as an R/C vehicle any time soon.

    Besides the Griffin, EP3 includes a number of fun and challenging R/C models like the KE Flat Foamy and the ElectriFly Riot 3D for some electric park flying, and the Heli-Max Kinetic 50 for brushing up your rotary skills. All 16 new aircraft are beautifully detailed and rendered.

    EP3's five new flying fields also include a number of surprises. First, and my favorite, are the two new photo-fields: Nimabry Airport and Stone Creek. Although these two fields are light with respect to local structures, the PhotoField technology RealFlight uses makes for a very real experience.

    Also included are three newly rendered flying fields: City Park, City Park at night, and an additional obstacle course. While flying the ElectriFly Fokker D.VII in the City Park field, I was surprised to see an elevated train similar to the Chicago `L' passing by. It's interactive and a really nice touch.

    Marketing: There's a lot of value in this expansion, and owners of G3.5 will not be disappointed. If you're doing demos of the software, E3 has some nice additions that could sell new customers on the whole RealFlight package. I spent four hours on the Griffin alone, and that aircraft sold me on E3 all by itself.

    Reviewed by Jim Schweder

    VITAL STATS
    Product: RealFlight Expansion Pack 3
    Maker: Great Planes
    Stock No.: GPMZ4113
    MSRP: $39.99
    Availability: Great Planes Model Distributors

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Five great new flying fields

  • 16 new aircraft

  • One super-fun VTOL


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    Contain your paint with Badger Air Brush's new spray booth
    Product: No matter if it's organic-solvent-based paints or acrylics, paint fumes and particulates are harmful. All painting should be done in a well-ventilated area, preferably a spray booth.

    Badger Air Brush Co. has just released this easy-to-assemble hobby spray booth (No. 135B) that is ready for use in about 30 minutes. The only tools needed for assembly are a Phillips screwdriver and a 5/16" socket wrench.

    Performance: Badger's new hobby spray booth features a metal body, an exhaust fan with 165 cubic-feet per minute (cfm) motor, and an air filter (replacement filters can be purchased for around $15).

    A 4-inch diameter plastic adaptor is also included for attaching dryer-vent duct tubing. The duct isn't included with the kit, but is necessary for venting the booth outdoors.

    The booth's six-page instruction booklet was fairly straightforward, though a bit vague on where to place the filter. After visiting Badger's Web site (www.badgerairbrush.com) and looking at the spray booth, I saw the filter seats behind the filter sheet supports. I had to trim the filter slightly for a proper fit.

    Before painting, I wanted to determine and test the booth's airflow. I used the formula Model Railroader's executive editor Andy Sperandeo presented in the January 1988 issue of the magazine: "'Fan capacity in cfm = width of opening in feet x height of opening in feet x airflow in feet per minute (fpm).' To find the unknown airflow, I transposed the known opening area to the left of the equation and used it to divide the known fan rating."

    In this case 165/1.8 = 92 fpm. When I tested the airflow with a velometer, it registered 100 fpm. Super!

    Then I painted a few models in the booth. First, I sprayed an HO scale freight car with an airbrush and acrylic paints. Then I painted a second HO car with enamel paint from a spray can. In both cases, the paint evacuated the booth quickly with little noticeable odor remaining.

    Marketing: The spray booth is packed in a fairly large, nondescript, cardboard box, so you'll want to have an assembled one near your paint section that customers can look at. Yes, it will take up some space (the booth measures 17-1/2" x 14-1/2" x 9"), but it could be used as the focal point of a display with other Badger Air Brush Co. products, such as the firm's air compressors, Modelflex railroad paints and airbrushes, among other items.

    Even with a spray booth, it's still a good idea to wear a respirator and gloves appropriate for the type of paint being applied. Take a moment to remind customers that while painting is an enjoyable part of many hobbies, proper safety precautions should still be taken. Stock respirators, dust masks, extra filters, and latex (for acrylics) and nitrile rubber (for organic-solvent-based paints) gloves near the spray booth for effective cross-marketing.

    Reviewed by Cody Grivno

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Hobby Spray Booth
    Maker: Badger Air Brush
    Stock No.: 135B
    MSRP: $306.80
    Availability: Purchase from most major hobby distributors

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Compact design

  • Easy to assemble

  • Effective airflow


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    Give Hobbytron.com's Hornet 3 helicopter a whirl
    Product: Micro-electric R/C helis are hot right now. You can take advantage of the trend with the new Hornet 3 distributed by Hobbytron.com.

    Billed as the first "Hobby-grade" R/C helicopter of its size, it features a 15-step digitally proportional controller; high-capacity LiPo battery producing 8- to 9-minute flights; a precision trim dial on the controller that doesn't reset at power-down; three different sets of decals; and three different flying modes. Extra nose weights and other parts are included.

    All customers need are six AA batteries for the controller, which does double duty as a charger.

    Performance: Setting up the Hornet 3 is easy: just get it out of the box, install batteries in the controller, and charge the heli with the controller.

    Flyers can choose hover, pilot and attack modes, depending on where they stick the supplied weight under the nose.

    One thing to note is the two-stick control "talks" to the heli via infrared light and not radio signals, so the pilot has to be in the line of sight with the heli. Additionally, sunlight appears to interfere with the signal, so keep this 'copter indoors, or wait until after dark to fly outside.

    To really test it, my 6-year-old son and I took it outside on a dead-calm evening. I flew the Hornet several times, and he did too. More than once the heli took some tough tumbles into the grass and onto the sidewalk. It even got stuck in a tree, but we recovered it. In every case, the Hornet came back to fly again.

    Marketing: The Hornet 3 comes attractively packaged in a box with a clear front so your customers can see what's inside. Hobbytron.com is offering the Hornet 3 boxes with their logos on them or without, at no extra charge. Also, the distributor guarantees a 98% quality level for all Hornet 3s. It's a great place for youngsters to start their rotary-wing flight experience. Stock Hornet 3s next to the register, to cash in on those impulse buys.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Hornet 3 Mini R/C Helicopter
    Maker: Hobby Engine
    Stock Nos./MSRP: HT007S, $39.96; WHO-12-HT007S case of 12, $240
    Availability: Hobbytron.com

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Durable EPP foam construction

  • Micro helicopters are hot

  • Affordable price point


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    Premium ClassiXXs/BUB hatches a rolling egg
    Product: My fascination with small cars dates back to childhood, when I played with die-cast VW Beetles. In the late '80s, a little bubble-shaped car that appeared in videos by the band Depeche Mode caught my eye. Although I didn't know it at the time, that odd vehicle was the BMW Isetta.

    Italy's Iso SpA first produced the Isetta in 1953. BMW eventually bought the Isetta name, started making them in Germany in 1955 (where they were known as "the rolling egg"), and in 1956, made an American version, selling 12,787 of them stateside. In 1962, the company ceased making the Isetta after making a total of 161,728.

    Premium ClassiXXs, a die-cast line from German-based BUB, offers a 1:12 model of the BMW Isetta 250 in export and standard versions.

    Performance: Premium ClassiXXs sent me the export version. Its distinctive egg shape and two-tone turquoise-ivory color scheme, coupled with its solid construction, make it an attention getter.

    Assembled and painted by hand, the model includes more than 100 parts, many of them movable. Just like the real thing, the single front door on the model lifts and extends outward, allowing a complete view of the detailed interior, including the functioning steering wheel, two-seater bench, visor and rear-view mirror, gearshift, parking brake and floor pedals.

    The exterior has a plastic rendering of the removable fabric roof. Lights - front, side and rear - are accurately replicated. The intricate engine compartment, which is located by the passenger-side rear axle, can be accessed with a tool included with the model. The rear luggage rack comes with a suitcase and fine leather straps.

    Marketing: This type of high-end die-cast model will most likely appeal to your more affluent customers and/or Baby Boomers, and anyone else interested in cars from the '50s and '60s, particularly BMWs. Try displaying the Isetta with an assortment of other German vehicles, or go with a microcar theme. After all, you don't see these every day!

    Reviewed by Sue Brettingen

    VITAL STATS
    Product: BMW Isetta 250 Export
    Maker: Premium ClassiXXs/BUB
    Scale: 1:12
    Stock No.: 10002
    Street price: $165
    Availability: DHS Diecast Collectables; Replicarz

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Unique addition to collection

  • Microcars a popular subject

  • Interesting period piece


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    Regional Railroads of the Midwest a resource for railfans
    Product: In recent decades, regional carriers have become an important part of the railroad scene. As larger railroads sold off secondary routes in favor of more profitable main lines, it opened the door for regional carriers to provide regular, more personalized service to online customers.

    Author Steve Glischinski, a special correspondent for Trains magazine and noted railroad photographer and author, tells the stories of these railroads in a clear, concise manner in his book "Regional Railroads of the Midwest."

    Performance: Documenting a dozen regional railroads in 12- to 14-page chapters isn't easy, but Glischinski has done a superb job of it without glossing over topics. Glischinski covers each railroad's history, operations, and equipment, as well as system maps. The book is up to date, with information on Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern's proposed Powder River Basin expansion and Indiana Rail Road's recent purchase of ex-Soo Line SD60s.

    Glischinski has railfanned the Midwest since 1970, which adds authority to his text. One of the highlights of the book is the now-and-then photos. It's fun to compare the images to see what has changed and what has remained the same.

    Marketing: Don't let the "Midwest" label fool you, as this book's scope is quite large. The 12 railroads featured in this book serve 11 states, from Colorado to the West, Minnesota to the North, Indiana to the East, and Kansas to the South.

    Glischinski's book is a valuable resource for railfans (enthusiasts of real railroads) and model railroaders alike. Railfans will find the maps especially useful, as most of the key towns and cities served by each railroad are noted. Model railroaders will appreciate the prototype photos, which show the type of equipment used by each railroad and the environment it operates in.

    Reviewed by Cody Grivno

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Regional Railroads of the Midwest
    Maker: Voyageur Press
    ISBN: 978-0-7603-2351-9
    MSRP: $36.95
    Availability: MBI Publishing

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Well researched, large scope

  • Great photos

  • Valuable resource


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    Bachmann's On30 Forney mimics Maine 2-footers
    Product: Bachmann continues its run of On30 model railroading products with a version of the 2-4-4 Forney locomotive. The steam-engine model resembles Baldwin-built prototypes used by Maine 2-foot gauge railroad Sandy River & Rangely Lake early in the 20th century, with inside- and outside-frame versions. Some models are equipped with air compressors; others aren't to represent prototypes that employed vacuum braking. Also, some versions have wood cabs and others steel.

    Equipped with Soundtraxx's Tsunami digital sound decoder, versions are also available with DCC and no sound. Detail parts are included to let modelers replicate several versions.

    Performance: These lilliputian locomotives are real jewels, with whistles and other small pieces already applied. All of the On30 offerings by Bachmann thus far have represented 3-foot-gauge prototypes, but the proportions are acceptable for the 24-inch-gauge locomotives, too.

    The sound produced by the Tsunami system is fantastic; its definitely one of the best systems I've ever heard.

    I used MRC's Prodigy Advance to test our Forney, and the chuff synchronization appeared spot on, no matter what the speed. Also, with an abrupt stop, the brakes squeal and the engine's steam sounds come to a realistic, gradual halt.

    Customers can program the sounds to mimic a load on the locomotive, working harder with cars attached.

    The Forney runs smoothly throughout its speed range and is geared for a modest top speed. It's appropriate at the head end of freight and passenger trains.

    Marketing: Narrow-gauge railroads of Maine (and Colorado) have a certain cult following that has historically been limited to a hardcore following of modelers. The Forney goes a long way toward opening this arena of railroading to a wider audience.

    With painted and undecorated versions, your customers are able to replicate the mini Maine railroad or start their own narrow-gauge empires in O scale in nearly as small a footprint as an HO scale layout would occupy (On30 rolling stock runs on HO scale track).

    To go with these locomotives, Bachmann offers a variety of ready-to-run On30 rolling stock. Rolling-stock kits are also available from other manufacturers. On30 track with scale-spaced ties is available from Micro Engineering and Peco.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Baldwin 2-4-4 Forney steam locomotive with DCC and sound
    Maker: Bachmann
    Scale: On30
    MSRP: DCC and sound, $400; DCC only, $275. Lettered for Sandy River & Rangely Lake and undecorated; inside- and outside-frame versions

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Excellent sound quality

  • Smooth-running mechanism

  • Good level of detail


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    Fast and flashy, Revell's Simca 1000 is a rally champ
    Product: The tiny Simca 1000 was a mainstay in the French auto market from 1961 until it went out of production in 1978. The Rallye 2 version debuted in 1972 with an 82-horsepower engine, the most powerful Simca to date.

    Revell's Rallye 2 is decked out with all the race trimmings from its run at the famous Spa-Francorchamps track in Belgium in July 1975, where it was driven by Eddie Vartan, Gérard Pires, and Jean Claude Justice to 16th overall, but first in its class.

    Performance: Revell, a key maker of fine plastic models for generations, is cranking out some of the best-looking and fastest 1:32 slot cars on the market. This flashy Simca is a prime example, with a glossy yellow-over-blue paint job and a white band at the beltline.

    The printing of its logos, everything from Tissot Chronografen on the roof and hood, to Shell, Jet Air Filters, Kleber and the catty S.E.V. Marchal, is excellent. Driver names are listed on the doors, and there's a nicely detailed driver at the wheel.

    Such flash will sell, but the car's performance will bring customers back for more Revell racers. The smooth front-mounted motor runs quietly and gives the car good pop off the turns. Plus, it's well balanced, due to Revell's new adjustable magnet that helps glue the tail end down, even on the most twisty of tracks.

    I set times in the 5.2-5.4 second range repeatedly on my home layout. That's up there with the best of my Scalextric and SCX racers. Oh, and I won a race with it first time out of the box!

    Marketing: Get customers looking with Revell's stellar looks and detailing, but set the hook with the car's speed and handling. Your customers will be glad you've put them onto Revell slots. They're a solid value and they flat out rock on the track!

    Review by Mark Savage

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Simca 1000 Rallye 2 No. 81 Spa Francorchamps, July 1975
    Maker: Revell-Monogram
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock No.: 08380
    MSRP: $49

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Great grip

  • Super speedy

  • Solid value


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    Sword's Valmet forest machine will grab customers
    Product: Sword Precision Scale Models makes finescale die-cast construction, mining, truck and trailer models that appeal to collectors, yet still meet the marketing needs of original equipment manufacturers.

    Sword's approach to model building is certainly reflected in its 1:50 scale, impressively detailed reproduction of the Valmet (Komatsu Forestry) 890.3 Forwarder.

    The Valmet 890.3 is a heavy-duty forest machine that's designed to retrieve nearly 20 tons of harvested logs from the roughest terrain. The full-sized 890.3 features eight-wheel drive, a unique articulated design, and is equipped with a CRF 14 crane and grapple used to reach and lift loads.

    Performance: Sword's die-cast replica of the Valmet 890.3 nicely captures details found on the real thing. How can you tell? Each model
    includes a technical data sheet and product video (DVD) that highlights key features.

    Among my favorite features are the hinged engine compartment that opens to expose a 6-cylinder turbodiesel; a moving front shovel; removable crawler tracks; and a sideways-tilting comfort cab with an opening door. But that's only looking at the front end of the machine.

    The back end sports a pivoting crane and grapple used to lift logs into the adjustable bunk. While the telescoping boom with a 5-inch reach is pretty darn amazing, the detailed network of hydraulic lines connected to it is even more intriguing.

    These fine details, along with a radio antenna, front and rear windshield wipers, safety placards, and a snappy red paint scheme, give collectors and equipment manufacturers plenty reason to get excited about the Valmet 890.3 and other forest machines offered from Sword.

    Marketing: Don't miss the opportunity to promote this precision replica to model railroaders. Contemporary O scale (1:48) layouts and dioramas with forested areas are perfectly suited for this impressive apparatus.

    Reviewed by Kent Johnson

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Valmet 890.3 Forwarder with Crane
    Maker: Sword Precision Scale Models
    Scale: 1:50
    Stock No.: SW3007
    MSRP: $79.95
    Availability: DHS Diecast Collectables

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Museum-quality detail

  • Numerous working parts

  • Unique model


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