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Product Lab - January 2010

This month, we review Moebius Models Conan the Barbarian, ParkZone's ultra-micro P-51 RTF/BNF, Model Power's Postage Stamp Planes, a die-cast Celica from Autoart, and Air Age DVD and a new Ticket to Ride expansion from Days of Wonder.
Published: December 14, 2009

Europa 1912 expands the Ticket to Ride universe

Product: One of the great things about the Ticket to Ride series of railroad-themed board games from designer Alan Moon is that Alan, and the game's distributor, Days of Wonder, keep coming up with new products to enhance the series. The latest offering is an expansion called Europa 1912. The expansion includes 55 new cards and 46 reprinted cards intended for use with the Ticket to Ride Europe game, as well as a set of 25 wood pieces and 5 tiles for a brand new game feature called "warehouses and train depots," that can be used with any of the Ticket to Ride board games.

Performance: There are really two new aspects to this game, the Europa 1912 cards and the warehouses and train depots mechanic.

To use the Europa 1912 cards, you need to already have the Ticket to Ride Europe game. The expansion includes reprints of the original 46 destination tickets that came with Ticket to Ride Europe, that may or may not be used with the game, depending upon which of the three variants you choose to play. The new tickets included in the game serve to mix up the difficulty level of play. My favorite version is called "Big Cities of Europe." This uses the new 30-card Big Cities deck. Each card has at least one of nine destinations, considered the biggest cities in Europe in 1912. The point of interest in this variant is that all the players are vying to complete routes to the same limited number of destinations, making route planning more creative and ticket completion much more challenging.

The new warehouses and train depots feature adds a windfall element to the game. Each player gets 5 depot tokens and one warehouse tile. At the beginning of the game, players place one train depot in the city of their choosing. Then, during regular play, each time a player draws train cards (needed to build routes in the regular game), they also draw one card blindly into their warehouse, building a stockpile. When a player builds a route to a city that contains a depot token, they get all of the train cards from that player's warehouse to use in their own hand. This new mechanic brings another level of strategy to the game, and it can be used with any of the Ticket to Ride board game.

Marketing: When you have a popular game to begin with, expansions are great news for retailers, giving you something to sell to existing customers. If you still have copies of Ticket to Ride Europe in stock, I'd display the expansion right along side it, making it easier for existing customers to make the connection, and for new customers to buy both at the same time.

The Europa 1912 box is a good weight and shape and will easily stand on its own, as well as stack on a shelf. It's compact size is also perfect for display at your checkout counter.

Perhaps Days of Wonder's biggest marketing challenge with all of its Ticket to Ride expansions is that once everything is spelled out in three different languages (English, French, and German) on the small box, it doesn't leave much room on the back to explain what's in it or why your customer wants to have it. To effectively sell this product, you as the retailer will need to explain to the customer what they get. Also, be aware that the Europa 1912 box has no markings on the front explaining that you need to have the Ticket to Ride Europe game to use the cards. That information does appear in small red letters on the back of the box, but it is easy to miss.

One final note, don't forget the key selling point of the 1912 expansion is that the warehouses and train depots portion may be used for any of the Ticket to Ride games, including the U.S.A., Märklin, and Nordic Countries editions, as well as with the Switzerland expansion. Many of the players I know have more than one of these games and will be pleased to know they can use this new feature on all of them. Once again, good work to Days of Wonder and Alan Moon for making a fun game even better!

Review by David Popp, Model Railroader managing editor

Product: Europa 1912: Expansion for Ticket to Ride Europe
Maker: Days of Wonder
Product No.: 720111
Price: $20.00
Availability: Alliance Games

  • Easy to learn additional rules

  • Solid, high-quality playing pieces

  • Requires any of the Ticket to Ride: Europe board game to play complete expansion

  • Features a new game mechanic that can be added to any Ticket to Ride board game

  • Air Age's "Aerobatics Made Easy" DVD

    Product: "Aerobatics Made Easy," hosted and narrated by National Champion John Glezellis, is a DVD marketed towards beginners wanting to learn radio controlled aerobatic flying. This 75-minute DVD is broken down into 14 core maneuvers that every pilot flying a 3D plane should be able to execute.

    Performance: The DVD is very easy to follow along with. Each maneuver is preceded by an in-depth explanation by John Glezellis, then demonstrated in real time with a Hangar 9 35% Extra 260. Next, up-close transmitter stick movements are shown as the maneuver is repeated, followed by a super slow-motion replay. This is the format throughout the entire DVD. The only time it gets tedious to watch is during slow-motion replays of straight and level flights, or any maneuver with a long entrance or exit. I found myself fast forwarding through most slow motion segments.

    The overall appearance and mood of the DVD is one of professionalism without unneeded graphics and flash. There's a nice intro with music that quickly gets you in the zone and ready to fly 3D before you even see the 1st maneuver! Once you complete all chapters, you will find a bonus section with out-takes, extra flying footage, and some impressive indoor aerobatics.

    Marketing: "Aerobatics Made Easy" is a great companion product to any 3D airplane. Beginners will find it especially helpful in learning some popular aerobatic moves as well as tips and pointers from professional pilot John Glezellis. More experienced pilots will also benefit from purchasing "Aerobatics Made Easy" due to the slow-motion replays and stick movements. Even the seasoned 3Der could use a few lessons from a national champion. With the tag line "We show you how to fly like a pro!" written in bold letters across the front of this DVD, it only makes sense to present it to the eager pilot purchasing a new 3D plane.

    Reviewed by Matt Gunn

    Product: "Aerobatics Made Easy" Instructional DVD
    Maker: Air Age Publishing
    Stock Number: DVD20
    MSRP: $24.95
    Availability: R/C distributors

  • Great complement to a 3D airplane purchase

  • Plays at a comfortable pace

  • Shows stick movements during the maneuver

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    Autoart rolls out a stunning '70s Celica

    Product: In the early 1970s, Toyota and the other Japanese carmakers were just starting to find their mojo in the U.S. market; the 1973 oil crisis would suddenly thrust them into the media spotlight.

    Toyota's Celica, along with models like the Corolla and Corona, would immediately capture Baby Boomers' attention for thrift and reliability, if not style. The Celica had more going for it though. As a two-door pillarless hardtop coupe, it looked a little sportier, a little more youthful than the Corolla and Corona. Then there was the decidedly sportier-looking Celica fastback, which some thought resembled a scaled down mid-1960s Mustang fastback; good company indeed.

    The Celica (taken from the Latin word coelica, meaning "heavenly" or "celestial") started in the U.S. market in 1971 as a rear-drive subcompact and only as the coupe. The fastback would follow a few years later, the first GT in 1974.

    Performance: Autoart delivers a striking metallic blue (closer to aqua or turquoise) Celica GT with its usual quality and detail. Note too that white and red versions are available.

    This one's body panels aren't sealed like so many of the racers, so you can actually see the 1600cc I-4 engine under the hood and the spare tire in the trunk. When you open the doors, you can see the detailed black interior. Sadly this is a right-hand-drive model the TA-22 made for Japan, but otherwise it'll connect with anyone who drove or owned a Toyota of the day.

    Inside there are realistic-looking gauges, shift lever, seats with headrests and chrome-look seat controls, clock and console trim.

    Outside, I love those mirrors placed way out on the fender and over the front wheel wells. In addition, the mirrors actually have reflective faces. There are chrome hood flutes and window frames, along with bumpers and door handles. Autoart uses realistic headlight lenses with chrome surrounds too, and the red taillight lenses also are spot-on.

    There's appropriate front and rear GT labeling and a copper accent stripe on the side, again using the GT logo. Autoart also remembers to place fender reflectors up front. There's even a script Celica label on each rear quarter panel.

    This Autoart Celica looks like it's ready to be off-loaded from the freighter and delivered to a dealership, or readied for a photo shoot for that year's glossy dealer car sales catalog.

    Marketing: Muscle cars are great, but we see so many of those. For "middler" Baby Boomers, this model is similar to a lot of our first cars, or first new car. Many of us drove them to college; many of us drove similar models as newlyweds and with our first baby on board. This is a great way to tap into that market and lure some new 50-somethings into your store.

    Display one Celica of each color along with plastic models of the era, both domestic and foreign. You may just find yourself selling to a new crowd, or getting some old gearheads to remember the first Japanese vehicles that captured a larger market in the U.S.

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: Toyota Celica 1600GT (TA22)
    Maker: Autoart
    Scale: 1:18
    Stock Nos.: 78782 (blue), 78781 (white), 78783 (red)
    MSRP: $114.95 each

  • Beautiful execution

  • Hits middle of Baby Boomer market

  • Easy to display box

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    Moebius Models Conan the Barbarian is mighty

    Performance: Fans of Robert E. Howard rejoice! Moebius Models has released an assembly resin kit of the author's most famous character!

    Moebius takes its inspiration from the cover of the first issue of Conan the Barbarian, released in 1970 by Marvel Comics. It depicts Conan, standing protectively over a damsel in distress, ready to fend off a horde of attackers. Included are 15 resin pieces (counting the display base), as well as a wooden dowel for the spear shaft, toothpicks for the spear spikes and a thin wire to accompany the spear. A full-color instruction sheet is also provided.

    Assembly: Building this model wasn't hard - painting it was the real challenge. Still, there are a couple of things to point out to your customers.

    One is that resin models can have very crisp, rich detail, but they are much more brittle than plastic models and can shatter if dropped. I snapped off Conan's left arm when I knocked him over on the workbench. I used 7-minute epoxy for all the major joins, and wouldn't recommend using superglue, since it's simply too brittle to keep a model of this size and weight together.

    Modelers should take the time to inspect the pieces, cleaning up imperfections around the faces, hands and feet. This will make a world of difference during painting and finishing. On our sample, this meant filling some minor holes caused by bubbles in the resin in both faces, and scraping, filing and filling rough areas.

    Marketing: Conan is a striking model when finished, but it isn't for the beginner - nor is it for a modeler afraid of painting a lot of flesh. The pose is very dynamic, and the box art is certainly hard to ignore, especially because the box is absolutely huge! The subject hits at a good time, since interest in Conan has intensified with a new movie in the works.

    Conan the Barbarian is perfect for add-on sales; start with a spray can of white primer. For the most part, I used Master Series Paints from Reaper Miniatures. Reaper has a huge variety of acrylic paints geared specifically for fantasy models, each in a 1/2-oz. squeezable bottle, which makes dispensing precise amounts easier. What's more, Reaper paints lay down very nicely, leaving few or no brush strokes.

    I used Tanned Skin, Tanned Shadow and Tanned Highlight (in various mixes) to finish Conan's skin; and Fair Skin, Fair Shadow and Fair Highlight on his female counterpart. Using Reaper's "triads" can be helpful to less experienced figure painters, and is also a useful tool in a figure modeler's arsenal. I used a combination of Ceramcoat Rain Grey, Quaker Grey and Black on the base. Ceramcoat is great for covering large areas, since the bottles are large and the paint is pretty thick.

    Suggest that modelers pick up some acrylic paint retarder - Reaper has a retarder, but other brands will work - to slow drying times and allow for better shading. Also recommend an acrylic thinner or Windsor & Newton Artgel to keep brushes clean.

    For modelers who may be looking for some guidance with painting, there are a number of books available dedicated to finishing large-scale figures. Osprey Publishing's Modelling Scale Figures (ISBN: 978-1-84603-238-7, $19.95) has fine advice regarding use of acrylics, oils and enamels, as well as techniques to get more realistic finishes.

    Lastly, there are a number of products you can add to this model that will really enhance its overall appeal and make it pop. For instance, I used summer grass (No. 1303) and late summer grass (No. 1304) from model-scenery manufacturer Busch for weeds in crevices in the display base. This added color, texture and realism. Small translucent beads, such as those used in O-scale model-railroad marker lights, could be added as jewels to the hilt of Conan's dagger.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell, Model Retailer associate editor

    Product: Conan the Barbarian Cover #1 resin model kit
    Maker: Moebius Models
    Scale: 1:8
    Stock No.: 1004
    MSRP: $139.99
    Availability: Visit Moebius Models or call 386-734-3599

  • For skilled modelers, not novices

  • Lots of chnces for add-on sales

  • Awesome display piece

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    ParkZone's Ultra-Micro P-51 will have you flying in no time

    Product: The Ultra-Micro P-51 is another new product in ParkZone's outstanding line of electric Bind-N-Fly aircraft that combines performance, control and innovation. It comes with everything you need to fly, including the batteries for the supplied transmitter (RTF version) and charger.

    Nothing requires assembly. You simply install the batteries into the charger and transmitter and then charge the single-cell LiPo battery for about 15 minutes, bind the receiver to the supplied transmitter (RTF version) or your own DSM2-compatible radio (BNF version) and you're ready to fly!

    The eye-catching box design is as impressive as the plane itself. It provides an easy way to store the charger, batteries, transmitter and plane for safekeeping or transport. The components can be quickly removed and stored. The RTF version includes a DSM2 compatible transmitter and four extra AA batteries for it.

    Performance: The 2.4GHz radio system supplied with the Ultra-Micro P-51 provides true 4-channel proportional flight and maneuverability incorporating the Spektrum DSM2 AR6400 6-channel receiver. This includes ailerons, rudder, elevator and throttle controls. The 2.4GHz technology eliminates interference and allows for multiple planes to be flown at the same time. This is a great feature when casually flying with friends.

    Since no assembly was required, I was off to my local school yard after charging the flight battery for 15 minutes. After testing all the controls, I gave the Ultra-Micro P-51 a light toss and flew for it for about 10 minutes. The little-scale 1.2-oz. warbird flew very well in light wind conditions. I was impressed with the amount of control I had right out of the box and could easily fly it in a small area. The plane is so light that it would be difficult to damage when flying over grass.

    The P-51 performs scale aerobatics and is designed for intermediate pilots who have had some experience with aileron-equipped airplanes. Because the plane design does look very scale, it may have a wide range of potential customers.

    Marketing: Since the ParkZone Ultra-Micro P-51 comes with everything you need to fly, it makes a perfect gift for experienced hobbyists that "got to have" the latest technology. The attractive box will help sell the product, and the "Front Yard Fighter" campaign is certain to attract the sport-scale warbird flyers. The plane is light enough to fly indoors, and the power system strong enough to fly outdoors in calm conditions.

    When I first started using the Bind-N-Fly products, I preferred to use my own Spektrum and JR transmitters. I later realized that I was always passing my good transmitter around for others to try. Once I tried the Ready-To-Fly (RTF) versions that include a lower-cost DSM2 transmitter, I discovered that it worked just as well as my more expensive transmitter and I was no longer apprehensive to let others have a try. Having both RTF and BNF versions on hand will allow your customer to choose the right fit for their own preference.

    Some key spares to keep on hand would be the 3.7V 120mAh LiPo (PKZ1035) and the prop with spinner (PKZ3601). Note that just about every part of this model can be purchased as a spare part.

    Reviewed by Greg Covey

    Product: Ultra-Micro P-51 RTF/BNF
    Maker: ParkZone
    Stock Nos., MSRP/Street: RTF, PKZ3600, $179.99/$129.99; BNF, PKZ3680, $129.99/$99.99
    Availability: Horizon Hobby

  • Completely RTF

  • Includes charger, batteries

  • Charge pack, bind and fly!

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    1:87 Cessna 172 Skyhawk
    1:87 Douglas Dauntless SBD-3
    1:100 Messerschmitt 262
    1:100 F-9 Panther VMFT-20 Marines
    1:110 A-1H Skyraider USAF

    Model Power's Postage Stamp planes for play and display

    Product: Over the last several years, Model Power has been adding a considerable number of models to its Postage Stamp Planes line of collectible die-cast metal aircraft.

    Some of the newest offerings by Model Power include a Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter, an F9F Panther fighter, Douglas A-1H Skyraider and SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers, and a Cessna 172 Skyhawk civilian aircraft. The models come in attractive, easy-to-view packages, and include a paragraph of detailed information about the model printed on the side of the box. Each plane also includes a plastic display stand lettered for its particular aircraft.

    Performance: The models in this series come fully assembled; most are decorated for a particular aircraft. The planes are made from die-cast metal and plastic and feature rugged construction, smooth paint finishes and crisply printed details. Some of the models include additional factory-installed details, such as bombs, antenna and machine guns.

    Though Model Power calls this its 1:100 Series, the aircraft actually come in a variety of proportions that range from 1:63 to 1:350. Of our sample planes, the Me 262 and the F9F were 1:100. However, the A-1H Skyraider was 1:110, and the Dauntless and Cessna were 1:87 (HO scale). The actual proportions for the planes are not printed on the box, though they are printed on the base of the display stand, which is visible in the package.

    Marketing: Let's face it, it's human nature to collect things. And with products like die-cast model aircraft, that's a great thing for hobby shops. While Model Power's Postage Stamp Planes series doesn't offer the fine details found in Dragon and Gemini products, it also doesn't carry the big price tag. Most of the planes in the Postage Stamp collection retail for $13 to $19, and the planes' rugged construction make them perfect for younger collectors who are also interested in some play value from their models. In fact, the younger collector seems to be exactly the target market Model Power is aiming for with this line of die-cast miniatures.

    While we've looked at just five of the planes offered by Model Power, the line lists nearly 100 SKUs, and the firm continues to add to it all the time. The models cover the first Wright Flyer to present-day military and civilian aircraft, providing something for everyone.

    And, the fact that the line is so broad and well supported is good for retailers, as it allows for stocking a steady supply of new products, keeping consumer interest in the collection, which can translate to sales momentum. You can start with a small variety of models, and once you've sold some of those, you can order different models from the line to provide fresh stock.

    The package for the planes is fairly uniform in size and shape, meaning that they can be stacked on a shelf or countertop quite easily. The boxes don't include an option for peg hangers. However, the planes are not too heavy that peel-and-stick peg hangers couldn't be added to the box.
    My only real complaint about the packaging is that the plastic insert inside the box is heat-sealed at the base. While you can carefully cut away the seal, it doesn't make it easy to open the models if you wish to place them on display in a glass case.

    An additional bonus is that some of the aircraft, such as the Cessna 172, are in HO scale (1:87). If you're aware of which models in the series are 1:87 proportion, you can cross-market those planes to model-railroad customers. The Cessna, for example, is a very common aircraft, and it could be at home in a variety of model- railroad settings.

    My bottom line is that if you're looking for a product line that has the potential to generate initial impulse sales and the staying power to create repeat business, particularly with younger customers, you may want to give Model Power's Postage Stamp Planes a try.

    Review by David Popp, Model Railroader managing editor

    Products: Postage Stamp Planes: 1:87 Cessna 172 Skyhawk, No. 5603, $16.98; 1:87 Douglas Dauntless SBD-3, No. 5563, $15.98; 1:100 F-9 Panther VMFT-20 Marines, No. 5393-1, $13.98; 1:100 262 Messerschmitt, No. 5357-2, $13.98; 1:110 A-1 H Skyraider USAF, No. 5364-2, $13.98
    Maker: Model Power

  • Excellent impulse buy

  • Rugged construction for play

  • Promotes hobby of collecting

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