There’s been a lot of reviews on this site recently, primarily because real life has been keeping me fairly busy (and indeed, out of the country) enough that longer form pieces are taking…well…longer. There are several in the works, and they’ll return shortly, but in the meantime I’ve been stretching my hobby muscles a bit this spring, and it means there’s some stuff in the review queue.
First up? The monthly boxes from Asset Drop.
I’ve been interested in the notion of a monthly box for miniatures wargaming since these types of services started cropping up, but the tricky part has been finding one that ships to the U.S. and isn’t specific to one particular line (ala the Privateer Press Mini Crate). Spikey Bits had essentially an informal version of this via their Patreon, but what was in the box varied wildly, as if I understand things correctly, it was mostly them clearing out bits and inventory from a shop, so one month I ended up with three boxes from a game system I don’t – and likely won’t – ever play.
Asset Drop caught my eye because they check both of those boxes, and because I figured for a month or two, what’s the harm in trying?
At the time, they had two boxes “Discovery” and “Heroines”. Discovery is about hobby supplies, which is exciting as I’ve gotten interested in new, niche paints, weathering supplies, etc. Watching YouTube videos of people doing cool things with brands of paint you’ve never heard of is bad for your hobby budget. Heroines is…well…it’s about female miniatures, and sacrifices some of the hobby supplies to include a couple models, and some paints, accessories, etc. that work well with those models. Given I’ve started to become interested in some one-off “painting for it’s own sake” models, and also random NPCs for narrative play, I figured I’d do both.
They’ve recently added “Monsters”, which as I understand it is Heroines…but for monsters.
Note that, at the moment, subscriptions for Discovery and Monsters seem to be sold out, though individual boxes can be purchased, and who knows if they’ll add more bandwidth, lose people, etc.
Cost is the most sensitive thing for subscription services like this – you don’t have to be off by very much, or have a dud month or two to push things into “Why don’t I just buy these myself?”. After all, if the whole point is to discover new products, but you can just order someone’s entire paint range for the same price…things don’t look good.
Combined, the Discovery and Heroines boxes are £41.80, and £53.00 when shipped to the US (\$75.14 at time of writing). That’s a little over \$37.50 for each box. Technically, the Heroines box is slightly more expensive, but lets keep the math easy.
Looking at the November Discovery box, you got:
- Secret Weapon’s Tire Black, Rubber, and Rubber Highlight paints.
- Two brass colors from Ammo of Mig
- Weathering pigments from Coat d’Arms and Broken Toad
The Secret Weapon paints alone would run \$20 with shipping. Ammo of Mig’s site is hilariously down right now, but from Last Cavalry they’d run \$11.50. The Coat d’Arms Brushscape stuff is ~\$8.50 even without shipping, and to be frank I’m having trouble even finding Broken Toad pigments for sale. Let’s call it \$5. That’s around \$45 – probably closer to \$50 when you factor in shipping for the Brushscape stuff, and you have to order a bunch of this stuff from different random suppliers. That means there’s room for one or two things to be duds and you still have room to break even. And a lot of these paints will go a long way.
So is it pricey? Yeah. Is it worth it? I think it’s genuinely in the “It depends” category. It’s not a good enough deal, especially with shipping, that the answer is “Of course”. It depends on how much you’ll think you’ll use these things, and if you find value in “Tried these paints, really didn’t care for them…” or “…and now I need to buy a whole new range of metallics” and having that be prompted for you.
But it’s definitely a hobby luxury.
I’ll also touch briefly on the concept of “credits”. Asset Drop gives you ~1 point per pound spent on their subscriptions (so for example, in one month I earn 41 points). 100 credits is worth £1, so it’s effectively a 1% cash back reward that can only be used in the Asset Drop store. At the moment that store is very sparse – some old boxes if you want to fill out your collection, and Asset Drop dropper bottles, which could be handy if you want to move your Citadel paints to a more useful container. But honestly, the value proposition of credits is pretty dubious – it’ll be neat when you get to spend them, but in a year I’m going to have a little less than £5 worth of credits.
These boxes ship from the UK, and they ship with reasonable enough speed given that. Asset Drop sent me an email letting me know the latest box shipped on the 30th of March, and it got to me the 9th of April. All in all, that’s not too bad.
The boxes come wrapped in a distinctively green plastic shipping envelope, which is much appreciated in the wet months of the year, and the boxes themselves are well packed and padded.
I’ve now gotten two shipments of two boxes each, and thus far everything has arrived intact.
The contents of the two Discovery boxes I’ve gotten have been items I’m genuinely excited about. They’ve had linked “themes” to them – for example, two Darkstar bronze metallics, plus a nice Secret Weapon washes and weathering pigments themed around aged bronze/brass machinery, a common theme for anyone who plays 40K. Accompanying that was a standalone set of paints for painting modern camo schemes. Also random candy.
What genuinely surprised me was the quality of the guide that came with it. I was expecting, maybe, a color pamphlet telling you what you got and where to buy more. Instead, what came was a full-color, glossy booklet that I could actually see storing, walking you through how to use each of the paints, some thoughts on why they picked them, etc.
That’s genuinely useful, and for a box whose theme is Discovery, this is a way better approach than just “Here’s your stuff, best of luck with it.”
The next month’s box was a little more eclectic, focusing on cool effects – a colorshift paint (which I’ve been dying to try) and the necessary gloss black to go along with it, some heavily pigmented Iwata Medea Com-Art paints to use as a glaze for making crystals from sprues, and some lovely teals to make ghosts.
Again, the guide was excellent, going through each themed little section, and including thoughts like what happens if you apply one coat of the colorshift paint vs. two, and some musings on what happens if you drybrush it, rather than airbrush it on.
The fundamental premise of the Heroines box is essentially trading a few of the hobby supplies for cool female miniatures. And for me, one of the requirements there was that they not all be concentrated cheesecake. So far, I’m pretty happy.
The first month was two miniatures from Acolyte Miniatures, a badass dragon slayer type, and a contemplative spy who, with a weapon swap, could also work as a shifty Inquisitorial agent, and some accompanying paints along with appropriate scenic bases again from Secret Weapon.
The next month was an stand-in for a Vindicare assassin. The smaller model count was made up for by a tighter theme – lots of material for weathering the large structure the assassin is sheltering behind.
So far, they’re three for three on neat, potentially usable miniatures, showing women in a wide variety of potential roles in potential settings, and thus far not a chainmail bikini in sight.
Thus far, I’m pretty satisfied. The Discovery sets have thus far been complete “concepts”, which is nice – it means you have the paint to do a particular thing, so even if you don’t decide to pursue that particular brand any more you still have a coherent set of paints to achieve something. That’s way more useful, in my mind, than a more random selection. If all else fails, you’ve got what you need to manage whatever that month’s effect is.
Ironically, despite being really happy with the Heroines box, I’m less sold on its overall value for me. I don’t play a lot of RPGs, and at this point there are myriad Kickstarters for one-off female characters who might act as NPCs, objectives, etc. in games of 40K. And I paint less than one random miniature a month, so eventually they’re going to start forming a backlog. But if you’re interested in building a diverse collection of well done female miniatures? Thus far, the Heroines box seems like a pretty good way forward. Plus, you get a small, thematic boost to your hobby supplies.
TL;DR? Thus far I’m happy with the monthly deliveries, and they’ve been a nice way to indulge my hobby ADD without letting it escape into the wild. We’ll see if that remains true long term, but to start off Asset Drop has started out strong.
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