When I was about 5 or 6 I remember being at a family friend’s house. Being a petulant child I wanted something to entertain me, when a bright yellow metal briefcase was laid in front of me I finally felt like I was growing up. I was seen as too old to play with Duplo or Lego, I was now moving onto the toy for adults and engineers. Of course the Meccano which was held within the yellow case was too much for me. I was too young and without instructions, I wasn’t able to produce anything more than bolting various metal pieces together in a straight line; to be honest my skill with Meccano was much like that of a relatively bad clown making balloon animals “look kid a snake!”
In looking around for some unusual and interesting gaming merchandise and toys I came across the Meccano Gears of War Centaur Tank and the fear of feeling stupid and inadequate came flooding back like a tsunami. But I stayed strong, I realised this was the time, I’m 26 and hold a degree; I should now be the right age to complete a Meccano model.
I chose the Centaur Tank as my first endeavour in to true model engineering. I picked the tank from the range they have including the Raven Helicopter, Armadillo Armoured Personnel Carrier or the White Rhino Mobility Scooter (one of these is not real but if Meccano want to get in touch I’m up for helping design it.)
What struck me first when my new toy arrived was the box, which whilst well designed and interesting, also stated “+125 pieces”, to me this wasn’t a selling point, this was more of a fear that this is a gateway pastime that leads to me owning 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles. When I opened the box I was greeted to a number of bags containing various plastic pieces that without context made me wonder how it all comes together. The fact that these were plastic instead of metal may show my age but at the same time I always assumed Meccano sets were metal, the Centaur Tank does not suffer through its material though, plastic means colour and shapes that with metal would have upped the reasonable cost and quality.
I opened the instructions with trepidation and then realised something, these are instructions, instructions that tell me what to do; this whole thing has become a lot easier. And this is the first of many plus points for the Meccano camp, the instructions are great. Now I obviously can’t comment on when they brought this in but on each page where you require a screw they give the code description for the required length but also a 1:1 scale image of it. This sounds like a simple and obvious thing to add but trust me when I say it’s essential, a few of the screws are actually only a couple of millimeters different in length thus producing confusing results if not checked.
Once I followed the instructions and got the piece built I have to say I felt pride. I’m a relatively avid collector of video game merchandise, the more obscure or hard to get hold of the better and I have to say this is taking pride of place in my display. There’s something about actually seeing the tank being produced from beginning to end and knowing that you put that together. Sure there were moments of head scratching as I tried to work out which angle an instructional image was taken from and there were moments of hatred when I had to put stickers on the tank to finish it off and the little plastic blighters kept going awry.
But even with the few struggles this is a great addition to anyone’s toy or video game memorabilia collection. Satisfaction and accomplishment don’t often come with this hobby outside of the actual games, normally as nerds and geeks we buy a piece and put it on our shelves, generally without even cracking open the packaging. The kit isn’t without its flaws, the figures that come with the set, in this case Cole, Fenix and two Locust Drones have limbs that fall off far too easily and the painting on my Marcus Fenix figure is questionable, however the rest of it is done with obviously a lot knowledge and care for the source material.
Kudos has to be given to Meccano for gaining this license, between Gears of War, Sonic the Hedgehog and their new Rayman Raving Rabbids range they have pulled in quite a stable of materials to work on and not all from the same publisher or platform.
This kit says it’s for children aged 8 years and older but with Gears of War being rated 18 in the UK I feel like this is a slightly odd choice. All in all this will set you back around the £30 mark but with the act of having to put it together this toy becomes a lot more interesting than if it had just been sold finished in a box. I will be boring visitors to my house by showing what I made for weeks to come and regaling them with my epic tales of screwing bits of plastic together and laying down of mighty stickers.