Almost two years ago, I started subscribing to the Asset Drop monthly miniature painting boxes. At the time, I was fairly positive about what I was getting, but how are they holding up as time goes on?
To start with, I’m reviewing and discussing two of their four offerings, Discovery and Heroines, which are a general “cool miniatures painting stuff” and one focusing on female hero miniatures, refreshingly fairly cheesecake free. There are two other boxes one can subscribe to, Monsters and Villains which…well…do what they say on the tin.
This post is also an experiment in linking long-form written and visual content via YouTube, so if you want a blow-by-blow unboxing video, it’s below. What this post is going to focus on is my general impressions and the question of whether or not these boxes are worth it.
The discovery box is really about broadening your painting horizons and introducing yourself to new materials, paint brands, etc. This box has introduced me to stuff by AK Interactive, Hataka Hobby (which I pronounce Hakata in the video >.<), and other brands I’d never dealt with before, as well as some I had, like Secret Weapon and Reaper. The guide book that comes with every month’s box continues to be high quality, and a good mix between pushing your skills and not getting so far out ahead of the average painter that they give up.
There’s also a good variety of new tools – in this month, it happened to be Scale 75’s artist acrylics. There’s usually not enough for you to be totally done with the line if you like it (and indeed, the point from the perspective of the brands being included if for you to buy more), but there’s plenty to get you interested, and let you play around.
The biggest new innovation though are the tutorial tiles. These are a big deal – I was actively thinking about canceling my subscription when they started using these, because previously, while everything was themed, it depended on you having something to paint with that theme in your collection. And a lot of the time, I just…didn’t. The tutorial tiles are small resin tiles, custom designed for the monthly box, that let you do something cool every month with the included supplies.
In this case, a ruined pillar covered in vines, and a secure metal door. These are great – they let you stretch your legs, try out new techniques, but are quick enough that you’ve not gone all in on painting a complex miniature.
I’ll admit that at this point, my subscription to the Heroines box is something of an affectation, and wanting to support the creation of more and better female miniatures. If I had a regular RPG group, things might be different, but as it stands, you can only have so many “Imperial Dignitaries”, etc. for narrative games that need to be painted. Though this month’s figure would make a decent Inquisitor.
The boxes used to be more tightly linked together, but they’ve diverged a bit, which means generally the paints that come with the Heroines set are good for one sort of effect on the model, and after that, you’re on your own.
On Value and Hoarding
Are these boxes “worth it”?
I go into this at length in the video above, but the answer is, it depends. In terms of bulk value, I don’t think so – you could take your ~ £20/month for each box, spend it on directed hobby supplies you know you want, and probably get a better bang for your buck. But the Discovery set especially has been exposing me to things I didn’t know I liked – Hataka Hobbies as a brand for example. Or a ceramic wash from Ultimate Modeling Products that’s now a cornerstone of a painting project, and I would never have tried in a million years.
It’s hard to value that sort of spontaneous discovery – it’s inefficient, but when it works, it really works.
The Heroines box I think is less clear cut. I enjoy it, and there have been some bits and bobs I’ve used in different projects that came from the kit, but right now it’s really oriented toward painting a single 28mm scene, or retasking the figures for use in games. And I don’t have time for the former really, and the latter is only really viable if you’ve got an active RPG group. I think the value proposition there, long term, is a little more questionable.
In both cases, you’re going to end up with some stuff you’re not going to use, and I think there’s a very important aspect to these kits – if you’re not going to use them, get rid of them. If you don’t think you’ll use that red paint in a project, or something just doesn’t grab you, don’t stock it away for later. That way lies madness.
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