April 13, 2017 – Last fall, Twelfth Parsec, a small California-based venture, began taking pre-sale orders for its Death Star-inspired set of modules. We had high hopes that Twelfth Parsec could fill a void left by Hasbro, which hasn’t released a decent playset in years.
At the outset, we are inclined to give new ventures, like Twelfth Parsec, much more leeway than an old company like Hasbro. Start-ups tend to be nimbler, more eager to please and willing to try new technologies (3D printing!) than the calcified toy companies. On the other hand, the new kid on the block may lack deep funding, adequate physical plant, and experience – all necessary to ensure a smooth customer experience.
And thus this mixed review: It was with great anticipation that we had finally received Twelfth Parsec’s “Space Base Set”. But our high hopes were somewhat deflated upon discovering one damaged module (out of six modules ordered), a missing component, and a rather long customer resolution timeline.
You will need a great deal of patience – our order took five months – from the time you place your order until shipment is received. Twelfth Parsec knows it has very limited production capacity and warns on its website: “Items will ship in the order received, so be sure to get your order in sooner than later. We can’t stress this enough. The sooner you order the sooner you receive your set.” So, OK, fair warning.
We placed our order Sept. 24, 2016 and paid $165 for the full Space Base Set. Five months later, or on February 27, 2017, shipment finally arrived – one unit slightly damaged and incomplete, out of six units ordered. But not a deal-breaker if you’re willing to break out your own glue.
To its credit, Twelfth Parsec shines in replying to all emails – all of them professionally responded to within 24 hours. That’s pretty impressive. On the other hand, the number of emails we sent (five) suggests that “problem resolution” needs some tweaking, whether that involves better internal coordination or better shipping procedures.
What Could Have Been
On this, the 40th anniversary of Star Wars and the Death Star, Twelfth Parsec has stepped in to fill a market need. Why Hasbro and the other toy companies (with the exception of Lego) couldn’t be bothered, we may never know.
The full Space Base Set consists of six different modules, which you can also buy separately: an elevator hallway ($30), beam room ($35), command room ($35), detention facility ($35), meeting room ($35), and throne area ($45). You can save $40 when you order the entire “Space Base Full Set” for $165. Save even more when, on occasion, they offer a 10% or 15% discount.
The six modules are produced using 3D printing. The additive manufacturing process can be time-consuming and will take many hours, or even overnight, to produce one unit. Resin casting may also be used for smaller components.
While the small team at Twelfth Parsec is to be commended for attempting to fill a big void left by Hasbro and other toy companies, the execution of the Space Base Set is somewhat rough in places. If you are willing to fix minor details yourself (i.e., minor sanding and gluing stuff), you might be satisfied. If you are a customer expecting perfection, then it’s a gamble.
The marketing pictures of the Space Base Set look great and fire up your imagination. But it’s the missed attention to details – and the uneven follow-up customer service – that will leave you shrugging your shoulders or reaching for another Tylenol.
What We Don’t Like About The Space Base Set
First impressions matter, so we weren’t thrilled to receive an amateurishly packaged box with inadequate packing material. The six plastic modules were randomly stacked inside a medium-sized box with plastic “peanuts” inserted as a cushion. A Ziploc bag contained the accessories (chair backs, chair stands, table top and table base, etc.).
Regrettably, the poor packing resulted in one of the plastic beams or door frame to the Elevator Hallway being snapped in two, apparently during shipping.
In addition, three glued-on pieces [the steps in the Throne Area; a door frame for the Beam Room; and the base plate for the “beam machine” (i.e., Death Star tractor-beam column)] had all become unglued and broken off apparently during shipping. Tell-tale signs of either rubber cement or modeler’s glue could be seen on the undersides of the broken-away pieces.
Fixing these items with your own glue is simple enough. However, they do point to a need for more careful packaging. We emailed Twelfth Parsec about this problem, and they replied they would take the suggestion under consideration.
2. INATTENTION TO DETAILS:
For a start-up venture, we know there are always lessons to be learned and we hope that Twelfth Parsec will improve over time. Specifically, our Space Base Set had these problems:
(A) Colors Do Not Match The Website Photos:
The so-called “Beam Machine” is topped with four plastic nubs, which are supposed to be tinted a light blue according to the website photo. The blue coloring mimics the soft aqua-blue glow of the tractor-beam column seen in A New Hope.
By contrast, the top of our Beam Room column had no color at all – unless you want to call it just plain white. Did someone use the wrong-colored plastic filament?
Similarly, the five chairs in the Meeting Room are supposed to be uniformly black, according to Twelfth Parsec’s photos. But our version consists of black chair tops with gray bases.
The base of the round table we received has shrunk, as compared to the website photo. And our version of the Meeting Room is missing a row of white-painted lights, as compared to Twelfth Parsec’s photo.
Can you spot all the changes we received below?
Individually, these may seem like minor quibbles. But cumulatively, the inconsistent tints, changed designs, and missing elements suggest either quality-control issues or a company still finding its way.
(B) Elevator Hallway Does Not Match the Website Photos
Twelfth Parsec needs to correct its website photo of the Elevator Hallway. Their version shows a solid right wall. The product we received, however, replaced the solid right wall with a pass-through wall.
You may or may not care about the switch. We care because it makes the entire unit a bit flimsier. Moreover, the Elevator Hallway module sits at the very bottom and center of all six modules, so it’s important that this module be able to support the two layers above it.
The design of pass-through walls on both sides only makes sense when the module is isolated and stands alone. But once you combine all six modules, the pass-through function is no longer viable. The reason is that the Elevator Hall sits in the middle of the Death Star and is boxed in by two other closed-wall modules.
(C) Rough Edges and Stray Filament
Anyone who has assembled plastic model kits knows that the pieces are not always clean. There will be rough edges, such as where the model piece is detached from the plastic sprue, or stray wispy bits of plastic or hardened glue that need to be sanded off.
The problem is noticeable in the spider-web-like window of the Emperor’s Throne Room as well as certain accessories (chair supports, “beam machine” top, etc.). Some light sanding should take care of these problem areas. Again, probably not a big deal for most customers, but something you should be aware of.
(D) Gravity Falls
More than the name of an animated kids’ show, “gravity falls” describes what happens if you are not careful and you jostle the six modules, stacked atop each other like a precarious pyramid. The only thing holding the six modules together is gravity. The Space Base Set could benefit from snap-together tabs, clasps or other interlocking support. We would even settle for discreet magnets.
3. THE THRONE ROOM:
Sitting at the apex or top layer of the six modules is what the California-based venture calls a “Throne Area”. Clearly, this is patterned after the Emperor’s Throne Room as seen in Return of the Jedi.
The Throne Room ($45) suffers from some design problems that should be relatively easy to fix: First, the stairs are prone to separation and collapse in the absence of strong glue. A simple fix might be designing either two divots or small indentations in the floor, upon which the two feet of the stair base can rest. Alternatively, design two discrete floor pegs or nubs to stop the stair base from sliding forward and collapsing.
Second, the rectangular platform upon which you place the Emperor’s throne has no support columns toward the front. Over time, the suspended floor may risk sagging from the weight of the chair, the stairs leaning against the floor base, and any action figures you might add. (Our solution was to temporarily cut off the top of a soda liter bottle, invert it, and use the cone as a prop to the floor. Our fix becomes nearly invisible once you place the stairs in front of it.)
Third, the two circular computer command stations are provided only two small circular pads upon which to rest. The pads are glued to, and extend outward from, the main floor. The problem is that the circular pads are far too small. With repeated vibrations or an inadvertent touch, the command stations fall off the pads. We lost count over how many times we lost the command stations and our sanity.
One solution would be to glue them to the floor. However, this is a semi-permanent solution we want to avoid. A better approach might be a redesign, which replaces the small circular pads with a right triangle on each side of the floor. The triangular extensions would allow more room for the command stations while allowing you to position other figures, such as the Emperor’s Royal Guards, behind each command station.
What We Like About The Space Base Set
We love how each module is designed to reproduce iconic scenes aboard the Death Star. The modules are suitable for your 3.75″ Star Wars action figures, which look great posed in these diorama-like scenes.
We especially like the battleship-gray color, which is the dominant color used in the walls and floors. The industrial color certainly gives off a Death Star-like vibe.
While the delicate modules are meant for collectors and are not toys suitable for children, we give the modules “two thumbs up” for their design aesthetics.
2. THE PRE-CUT STICKERS
A sheet of pre-cut colored stickers is included with the Space Base Set. The glossy blue stickers have a nice pretend-it’s-glowing effect when you apply them to the computer command stations of the Throne Room. Other stickers, such as those for the Command Room or the “beam machine” (i.e., tractor-beam control), bring the modules to life.
It would have been helpful if a visual aide, such as a photographic sheet, had been included to suggest where to apply the stickers. In its absence, you will have to refer to photos on the website or use your own imagination.
3. SEMI-CIRCULAR PROFILE
When all six modules are stacked correctly, the left and right outer walls create a curved profile while offering a cut-away view of the interior of your Death Star. The gracefully curved edges probably took their cue from the Palitoy Death Star playset.
Thankfully, Twelfth Parsec used a semi-circular approach rather than the awkward pie-slice approach of Hasbro’s vintage Death Star playset.
4. THE ACCESSORIES
Lastly, we appreciate the accessories (chairs, conference table, supply barrel, computer command stations), which add value to the modules. The accessories are, for the most part, unique and some are well done. Moreover, you can always use them in other custom- or diorama settings.
If you decide to order the Space Base Set or an individual module, you should be aware of all the possible changes and imperfections. And you should have a large amount of patience. After all, it took us five months to receive the Space Base Set.
Your experience, of course, may be altogether different from ours. We don’t mind doing a little sanding and gluing and customizing to make our Death Star ready for battle. However, if the extra work is not your cup of tea, then you should know what you are getting into.
True, a much larger company like Hasbro is no stranger to quality-control problems either. But that is why small start-ups, like Twelfth Parsec, need to work on the details, including tighter quality-control and better shipping procedures.