Bracingly Honest Kit Reviews – A Proposal

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Kit reviews are broken.

Most of the time, they just scratch the surface. Sprues are pawed through, a few ejector pins are noted, and the kit is pronounced “highly recommended”.

Sometimes they go further. Test fits of major airframe components can reveal some insights into how a kit builds. But only some. Details and nuances can be lost.

And then there’s bias. Even if a reviewer intends to approach a kit objectively, if it’s provided by the good graces of a manufacturer, distributor or publication there’s still a leaning to “see the good” in things. Hell – even if a reviewer is purchasing a kit with their own money, there’s the innate desire that that money not be wasted. See, for example, my Italeri Mirage IIIE review (LINK). There’s a lot of good stuff in that kit, but the engineering is a dog’s breakfast, and I feel like I glossed over it.

So I’m proposing to shake things up. Not to escape bias, because that’s impossible. Instead, I propose to redirect that bias not to manufacturers or publications, or even to myself, but to you, those who follow my page and read my blog and even watch my condescending videos.

How? By crowdfunding reviews. Similar to the public radio model. Listener-supported, bracingly honest kit reviews.

How This Mad Scheme Would Work

Through GoFundMe or a similar crowdfunding site, you and a (hopefully large) number of other followers would contribute small amounts toward a Review Fund, that would in turn be used to purchase kits for review.

The kits to be reviewed would be chosen through online polls. In essence, you would be telling me what you want to see reviewed. How often and how many would be determined by the size of the Review Fund.

The kit would then be subjected to the following hell:

  1. An in-box review examining the sprues for detail, quality, and accuracy within reason
  2. A full review build, completely naked (the kit, not me). No paint. No primer. Just plastic and glue. This full build approach would focus on engineering and fit, and offer close looks through photos and video at how the thing actually goes together, warts and all.
  3. A decal test, on painted surfaces. Kit decals will be subjected to various decal solutions (Mircosol, Solvaset, Mr. Mark Softer, AK Decal Adapter) to determine how well or poorly they perform and give you advance warning on any chemistry insights.

Everything would be published to my blog and Facebook page for easy access, perusal, comments and mockery.

But first, I need to know if there’s even enough interest to make something like this viable. So register your opinion in the handy poll. If the interest is there, I’ll get this effort spinning up!

41 thoughts on “Bracingly Honest Kit Reviews – A Proposal

  1. The big problem I see long term is that many will pitch in their $10 and then never see a review of something in which they’re interested due to constantly being outvoted. Given the size and breadth of our hobby It would seem an unavoidable problem and would tend to dampen enthusiasm for additional contributions.

    Would you be willing to undertake the additional complexity of setting up separate funds for “airplanes, armor and pet interest”?

    These things aside however, Have at it! If it fails, fuck it. It was a solid idea. I post up $10 if you decide to get something going. I’ll choose something both elitist and dickish for my first kit request.
    John

  2. Salvomodels already does that (without the crowdfunding); check the Salvomodels FB page.

    Basically it is an upfront review. If you still want to buy the kit, then it is on offer to do so.

    • That’s very cool and I laud it. As a retailer, I am assuming that a kit is extracted from the inventory and its build is written off as a marketing expense?

  3. So we all buy your kits from now on? Why not just do these reviews with your existing stash and new kits YOU purchase? Seems a bit cheeky mate to be honest.

    • Because these would be full naked builds. Can’t really come back from that so it’s not at all a “woo free kit!” thing.

      I don’t know about you, but I’m not dropping $90 on a Kitty Hawk Kingfisher just to naked build it. But I’d love to see it done and would even toss some money at the cause.

      So, I started thinking. What if enough people felt the same way? The rest of the thought came from there.

      As for cheeky? I don’t know. Seems like a British version of “aloha” that can mean many things.

    • Jamie, when was the last time you paid for a kit? I’m sure all your MAI review kits came out of YOUR pocket. Before you start calling some “cheeky”, matey, it’s always best to check to see if your own house is in order first….. To be honest.

    • We are not buying Doog’s kits. He buys his own and then regales us with superb builds and reviews. Read what Doog is saying. Basically reviews out there are crap and there are plenty of kits that I would love to see reviewed in this way. To use Doog’s example I was about to buy the Kingfisher until I saw his opinion on the shitty engineering.And you know what? He’s the only reviewer who even looks at this stuff. Personally I think it’s a brilliant idea. All for it.

      • So only Doog is qualified to light the way of truth for those who’ll invest in his brand of modelling evangelism?

      • Where are you getting that from? This is my blog. My editorial voice. I make no claims to truth because all to often truth is subjective.

        I also make no claims to qualification. My work is out there for people to judge as they will. The only “qualification”, as it were, is that over the last five or so years this blog and it’s accompanying FB page have attracted enough readership that something like this might be feasible?

        Don’t like it? There’s a whole lot of other internet out there.

      • Modelling evangelism? I think you need to check some dictionary definitions. Doog is certainly not an evangelist. Outspoken? Yep. Calls the frying pan black arsed? Absolutely. Contentious? Certainly. But quite frankly that’s what the review industry needs, and it has become an industry. You’ve only got to look at some of the super star reviewers who made their name doing good solid reviews and builds who are now churning out bland inbox reviews of models sent to them by Squadron or the Mnf to see that one. There is more good content on this blog, that’s actually written in an entertaining way then there is in any issue of FSM and most of the other modelling mags out there. With the exception of the Britmodeller forum it is surprisingly difficult to find a really good Work In Progress build and review. No, I hope this gets off the ground because it will bring a fresh perspective to a jaded medium.

  4. Good idea but not a new one. Back in the 90s(?) there was a magazine that did just this. It built the kits OOB with no filler, paint, or any other modifications. They gave totally honest build opinions. They accepted no advertising from kit manufacturers. Needless to say the magazine only lasted 3 years. I’ve got every issue.

    So yes I’d like to see this happen. But what is it with this younger generation? Doesn’t anyone every pay for anything themselves anymore? Must we feel the Bern on a modeling review site? 😉

    • I’m not about to go drop $90 to do a full naked build. It’s essentially sacrificing a kit (at least aircraft). But I’d contribute to a group pool to see it done. It’s simply that.

  5. Here’s a thought. Why not just purchase the kit and then build it? Like it or loathe it a kit is part of the hobby and modelling is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. By going so deep into this we run the risk of shunning kits because of reviews.
    Personally I prefer build logs rather than reviews. Logs are often without bias and shoot from the hip at the time of the build. Reviews are worthless.
    Any and all reviews are full of unintentional or intentional bias and they are subjective of course. What you might think is a trench like panel line may be my God send as I prefer numerous layered effects which tend to overpower these.

    No. Not interested in funding model kits for you to review. I’ll review them for myself then.

    • I don’t mind at all putting together a bad model if it only cost me $30. But as things have become more expensive, we must also expect that a manufacturer will meet us halfway. All the best detail in the world is wasted if the basic fit is poor.

      If Doogs is willing to spend a dozen hours of his life gluing together bare plastic so that I know if it’s something I also want to try, then I would see that as a worthwhile service and I would be OK pitching in a few bucks. If Doogs proves to be a craven pirate solely here to steal our donations, then each of us is out the cost of a couple bottles of paint. If on the other hand his review prevents me dropping $100 for a kit which will never be finished, well then, that’s really worth something to me.

  6. This is something I would definitely read, but probably wouldn’t contribute to for the reason expressed by John Everett. By my nature, I tend to build smaller-scale and less-popular subjects (even if we’re excluding my usual ship builds), and I could see this resulting in regular wins for the next 1:32 Revell 109, for example, instead of the newest 1:200 offering from Merit. I think it’s a great a idea, and democratizing it through crowd funding would let you focus on kits that you’re not financially invested in making perfect, but the madding crowd would steer the project toward that one that interested me academically more than personally.

  7. Because you are a friend of Will Pattison I’ll ask……………….Are you Ted Cruz or Donald Trump? I’ll lean towards Trump but have to ask, how much hate mail do you receive as you aren’t shy about stating your opinions. If you do this blog, how do you think the manufactures are going to react? Does anyone care?

    Enjoy your comments.

    Ted Briscoe

    • Oh fuck. Well – out of all the politicians in the world, I don’t think there’s one that I loathe more than Trump. Except Cruz. That guy is a Smurfs villain.

      Honestly, manufacturers will react how they’ll react. I’m never “out to get” kits and am pretty quick to accept that nothing’s perfect if there’s evidence of trying.

  8. I know at least some of the kit makers look at reviews and listen to complaints. In the grand scheme of things I would hope that scathing reviews of kits would cause manufacturers to re-tool, re-think some of their bullshit, and approach things differently than they currently do. I seem to be more of a model kit collector than model kit complete-er and I have no shortage of love for purchasing kits that look bad ass. Matt’s reviews tend to be both entertaining and trustworthy IMO, and I like that. I can get behind this idea.

      • I have no intention of “changing” anyone’s tune, and doubt one review, wherever it shows up, is going to make a manufacturer about face.

        I also don’t think for a second that all kits are aimed at me, and me alone.

  9. Matt,

    I like your approach to this idea. Quick idea to share that may assist with this effort. Perhaps when things get more momentum you could setup different funding options for specific kits? Example: a new kit comes out and you set it up as a specific option people can fund. It would work like the voting option, but instead people vote with their money. When enough people have funded enough to purchase the kit, then you can buy and begin the review. Gives additional transparency into which kit reviews people are putting their money towards.

    Just a thought. Hope this really takes off, it would be an excellent source of very valuable info that is currently lacking in the review market.

    I want to thank you for everything you have contributed to the hobby over the years. I know you get a lot of crap for your opinion and ideas, and while I don’t agree with 100% of what you say (I do agree with most of it and make an effort to understand your point of view) I DO respect you and your opinion as well as your willingness to post it online.

    All the best,
    Dave

    • Thanks, Dave! That may be something to consider if this really takes off, but setting it up would be a logistical nightmare, so I’ll be keeping it simple at least for now. The kits under consideration should be going up soon. This weekend has been awful for time in front of a computer…

      • Totally understand where you are coming from. One idea I saw looking around on Facebook was getting a number of votes based on your contribution amount. I would support that until a contribute towards a review of a specific kit system is setup.

        And, my first contribution is in. I am willing to at least see what a first review would work out to be, based on what you have outlined.

  10. Hi Doog, firstly, big balls dude, commended!

    My question and concern regarding this endeavour is as follows: firstly, would the contribution be a once-of payment, or recurring as in a subscribtion service?
    Secondly the concern a lot of folks might have, including yours truly, is the amount of bang for my buck. Personally, I very seldom read reviews of kits and subjects I’m not interested in. So the chances are that a lot of the reviews would follow the same trend, and folks would be wondering how many of the reviews they paid for would be of interest to them. Yes, they may vote for a subject to be reviewed, but even then they might only read 1 out of every 10 reviews, and wonder if its woth their contribution.

    Do a trial run, see how it goes, and take it from there. Keen to see the results!

  11. I laud this endeavour, but I did vote ‘no’. Not because I think it’s idiotic – far from it – but simply because fit and engineering of a kit don’t play a significant role in my purchasing decisions so I’m not sufficiently interested. Good luck with it though!

  12. “Kit reviews are broken.”

    There’s Doog’s new modelling evangelism in a nutshell. Somehow other review are not doing their job or misleading the flock, so Doog and his new disciples will lead the way to a new truth. And like many evangelists, he wants people to part with their money to help him realise that new truth.

    It’s not that other reviews arrive at a conclusion different to Doog’s, it’s that they’re *wrong*, they’re *broken* and that pretty much sums it all up. Other people can’t be trusted with these kits, but Doog’s disciples can be, if you’re willing to part with some $$$ to create this new church of bracingly honest kit reviews.

    • LOL. You must be a gymnast, because that’s some reach.

      Other reviews *aren’t* doing their job. Read literally any online discussion and you’ll see complaints about reviews not going far enough (you can only tell so much with an inbox review of even a test-fit), or focusing on the things other than the kit (build reviews that spend 75% of the time going on about subject history, painting, decals, and weathering and spend maybe a few quick paragraphs on the actual build). Then there’s the question of bias, which has to at the very least be considered.

      Kit reviews are broken not because they’re wrong, but because they leave a giant gaping hole that’s only seen tiny, sporadic attempts to fill. Tied to ad dollars, those attempts have failed in the past.

      But why am I bothering. Your mind was obviously made up before you even navigated your browser in this direction.

      • yes, why are you. Obviously most of the negative comments here are absolute horseshit. Everything has already been said. There will be reviews and you can take them or leave them. Don’t want to read the reviews or be part of the funding team, then don’t. Why do you even come to this blog if you don’t like what you’r reading? Go back to Britmodeller. Everythings absolutely awesome there and when Simon Simple posts his next brush painted piece of shit everybody will go nuts about it. And if you like looking at horribly lightened sprue shots, then, again, there’s a whole lot of internet out there. Enough said I guess.

    • Other reviewers are indeed not doing their job! I’m so sick of some fat lazy fuck fingering through a few sprues he got for and calling it a review after spending 20 minutes on it yapping unintelligible on youtube. Building a kit bare is the ONLY way to properly address the build quality and it takes a lot of time missed out on modelling and spent on a subject he might not like himself. There is a reason hardly anyone else does so, most modellers prefer building real models of subjects they choose themselves. How ironic you blame Doog of being the egoïst here. That sacrifice alone makes him closer to Jesus than those other “reviewers” who evangelise their own ego, but you don’t sound like the type of person who understands humour so that remark was probably wasted on you.

  13. I thoroughly enjoy Matt’s reviews and videos. That being said, I ain’t paying anyone to build a model and tell me how bad it is or isn’t. As someone mentioned earlier, individual build threads tend to show issues as they appear. Further, if a kit appeals to me I will probably get it and build it – in the last ten years I can honestly say I’ve thrown out maybe three models so I will take my chances. Thanks for the great work on the blog and your videos Matt but I’m taking a pass on this one.

  14. “Yes, this sounds awesome
    No, this sounds idiotic
    You’re a condescending, elitist dick”

    Can i choose D, all of the above? 🙂

    As I return to this hobby, I find– as opposed to my youth– I now have more money than I have time. Kids, work, lawn care, exercise, poodle grooming… I find fleeting few hours to build. And, thankfully, I no longer have to scrounge between the cushions for quarters to get a new tube of testors glue. Not to say I can burn greenbacks for kindling in my fireplace, but I’ve already decided that I’ll only buy kits that are either (1) a subject I HAVE to make or (2) really, really, really awesome kits.

    While in-box reviews are better than nothing, and some authors do provide a wealth of historic information to go along with things like decal and build options, I find that only full build reviews give me in info I need to pick kits. Honestly, even most full build reviews seem to be “This kit had a fit issue with the tracks, but was wicked awesome, 95%!”. This isn’t to say other reviewers are crap, they ARE providing valuable services, but I do want MORE. Personally, I end up looking at a bunch of these reviews, making a list of potential kits in my head, then surfing a bunch of forums to find the REAL details out.

    This has led me, thus far, to Tasca’s Sherman and Luchs, Tamiya’s 1:32 Corsair, Eduard’s Rhino edition F-4, and Meng’s Whippet. All look like very fun projects. But would I pay a bit of cash to get a go-to-source I trust for this information? Yep. Not a billion dollars. But I’d subscribe to a magazine and I’d certainly throw a couple bucks at a website.

    My other hobby is cycling, and interestingly the best cycling news and commentary site on the ‘net is an amateur site. Inring.com. His writing and material rides circles around the actual news outlets. And he’s largely self-funded with some minor donations on occasion. I’d support similar activity in this hobby.

    Lastly I think it was Doogs’ writeup of building the Corsair that I read at work one night at 0300, along with all the technique tutorials he posted, that made me pull the trigger and get back in the hobby. So on a personal front I feel obligated to make a one time donation and see how it goes.

  15. Hi Doog,
    You mentioned Kitty Hawk’s 1/32 Kingfisher as the kit that got you thinking about this unbiast kit building poole idea. Please remember that there is no alternative to this kit in this scale.
    I recently competed building Italeri’s 1/32 scale Mirage 3C, to which is no alternative. This is a subject I’ve waited to be kitted for newly 40 years. The kit is of poor fit and requires plenty of prior modeling experience to be built. In my build review for Scale Aircraft Modelling, I sent in progress photos of all the problem areas in the kit and what I did to get over these problem areas. That is how I write my reviews, yes I am a biast reviewer, I’ll do all I can to have a completed model on my shelf. I fall in love with the subjects I build otherwise I just won’t build them.
    Please consider another viewpoint, kit manufacturers are not millioners. If we don’t buy their kits, they will no longer exist. A kit review should help the modeler get through the build, not kill the hobby.

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  17. This thread is nearly as funny as Donnie Darko’s self aware rug…*
    To get over this overweening, yet needy puppy dog reliance on the (usually self-appointed) ‘expertise’ of another, I’d suggest you all do a little research into David A Kolb and his experiential learning model.
    He’s an American (we won’t hold that against him) educational theorist.

    If you can’t bothered to Google him or your browser will only point to styrene porn, then it goes like this:

    1.You experience something.
    (a first glimpse of a newish kit on the inter-web or in one of those glossy ad heavy periodicals that are full of unfeasibly perfect models that have never ever been anywhere near one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud products).
    2.You think about it.
    (Thinks…’that in-box pre-production reviewer guy is a real knob jockey/demigod, but…maybe…’).
    3. You form an objective reasoned opinion.
    (I want one even if ‘they’ say it’s crap(e.g. everything that isn’t Tam*ya)/it’s awesome(e.g.everything that is Tam*ya)).
    4.Test out the opinion by a practical ‘experiment’.
    (gets kit, builds it and evaluates the experience despite the raft of braying donkeys who will tell you its a real dog coz their bezzie mate Les said so, or because they were a crew chief in JG26 and know the oil filler access door is 0.3mm out and not a true circle).

    This process then repeats over by building on your initial experience.
    The positive here is that you have the kit in your collection way earlier than waiting for more disturbingly similar reviews before taking the plunge (and anyway you’ll more than likely get the kit despite poor reviews, so you save angst time here too…bonus!)

    So, if you’ve already built a few kits from a particular maker, then you’ve constructed several Kolb experiences already and should know what to expect within a framework of good and bad (don’t forget ugly, we’ll come back to him later) from the next kit.
    We all do this, we just don’t realise it most of the time.

    Now that you are the self determining modeller you will realise that by using Kolbs model of learning, you can rely on your own experience, reasoning and ability. You’ll also realise you don’t need someone else to pre-define your modelling nirvana with that butt hole surfing review of a near perfect, yet strangely soul-less Mosquito, or cruelly dash you hopes of ever making that 32nd scale De Havilland Sea Hornet NF21 by saying the canopy is wrong (if it does then fix the fucker).

    The truth is out there.

    * Donald S Trump – yes I know his media abteilung will have us believe it’s all his own hair, but c’mon those tangerine locks do seem to be flying in loose formation with the rest of him.

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