N-Scale Buildings and other AliExpress finds.
Recently I've been shopping AliExpress for all manner of small items; mostly wargaming-useful items and guitar parts. Today I've got a few very affordable items to share that I've purchased for 10mm (N-scale) sci-fi Mecha gaming but might have other use as well. The miniatures for comparison are all Mechwarrior "Dark Age" Clix figures. The figures measure almost exactly 10mm from sole to eyeline.
These first two are a pair of n-scale buildings from KiWarm (aka outland models).
These are widely available on Ebay and AliExpress, though Ali Express seems to be a bit less expensive at 9 and 5 dollars respectively for the two below. They both have a clean nice modern look that would be fine almost as-is for a Gundam or anime game but would benefit from just a bit of greebling and some weathering to fit into my gritty sci-fi city. Some are reportedly clones of Tomy kits and some are original designs but I don't know which is which.
This Parking Garage is an interesting structure. The lack of windows does give it an austere look that would fit well in a sci-fi setting. The edge is a bit uneven.
The construction is simple and the cores parts click together with no glue.
Only the entrance facade and "P" are separate and must be glued on. I've left them off for now as I'm not sure how I'll use the building yet.
The Office building is particularly impressive. It comes pre-painted with window glass already installed and the effect is quite good. Mine did come with one broken window crossbar you can see below, but it doesn't bother me.
The fronts and edges of the painted parts are colored so you don't get the oddly colored edges that some pre-painted kits have.
However, the peg edges of the grey roof piece will show against the brown walls unless you color them. I used an Oak colored furniture scratch marker and it quickly matched the color perfectly. I'm going to try these markers on figures soon and I'm sure I'll find other uses in terrain. A pack of 3 furniture markers in different shades is only a buck at Dollar General!
The only part that has to be glued in is the middle step on the front stoop.
Three other little items I found on Ali:
This little bridge has paint that is a bit sloppy but it is pre-painted and is less than a dollar shipped!
There are quite a lot of small painted resin decorative items on Ali that would work for small scale gaming. I may buy more later, but for now I'm concentating on items big enough to conceal a mech or at least a tank.
Here is a bus or train stop kit (push-fit) that is nominally HO scale and even includes a plant and some sitting figs that might look close to 15mm. The seating pops right off and it's immediately usefull for 10mm however, I'll also shorten the roof supports. I've bought 4 and at least two will be 28mm bus stops for 28mm after removing the seats and cutting off the small stairway on the right...Not bad for 3 bucks!
Finally, here's another train station. No pics from me but this one is spot on for N-Scale. Mine arrived damaged, but I received a full refund. This seems to be the norm for Ali. I've only ordered cheap stuff so far but I estimate that one in every 6-8 packages I've ordered have been completely wrong or broken. In every case I've been told to keep the item I received and given a full refund. I plan to repair it and have already ordered another to make a small raised downtown park.
So far I'm quite pleased with what I've picked up from Ali Express. If you're willing to wait 2-4 weeks (or more) for items to arrive and are willing to chance some delivery issues there are some very interesting and incredibly affordable items for the creative wargamer. I've got several other items on order including dice, brushes, knife blades, etc that I might review later. I'm especially looking forward to ordering more of these N-Scale buildings. There's quite a few available from $6-15 and I plan to order more periodically and slowly replace my paper city with plastic models, kitbashes and scratchbuilds.
To conclude, here's a few search terms to help you navigate the sometimes-oddly-translated english of AliExpress.
"Sand Table" is a catch-all term for diorama, and miniature things. Pair it with a scale or another word to narrow things down.
"Simulation" is another term that is used instead of model. Unfortunately searching "building" or "plastic building" usually fills your search with knock-off LEGO sets.
"Alloy" is often used instead of "Die Cast". Likewise pair it with a scale or another term.
"1/50" A lot of things that are actually O scale, 1/48, or 1/43 get shuffled into this scale though don't neglect those scale designations either.
"1/75" A lot of things that are likely closer to HO (1/87) or 1/72nd seem to end up under this one.
"1/100" is used fairly commonly.
1/144, 1/150 and 1/160 seem to be used interchangeably.
Good luck having your own Ali adventures and if you find something useful for gaming please share it below!