My Adventures with Ali Express

So I’ve made some posts on Chinese Forgeworld before, but I am by no means an expert (nor am I particularly condoning you or anyone you know should even try to buy the stuff); however, if you’re going out there, I figure I can at least arm you with what little experience I have.

First of all, I should say that I’ve bought more than my fair share of Forgeworld direct stuff over the years.  I’d say I’ve probably dolled out in excess of $1000 in my lifetime for FW stuff (and honestly it’s probably alot more than that–if only I’d kept track of such spending before 2012…)

Forge world’s sculpts have always been fantastic, and their quality and customer service is impeccable (well, I assume the customer service is great based upon what other people have claimed–I don’t think I’ve ever had an issue with models coming from them).  Seriously, it’s better than GW.  The downside is that they’re expensive.  Enough so that they used to cost more than a comparable GW model, although GW is quickly pricing themselves even higher than their English counterparts.

And that leads to people counterfeiting.  My first experience with such was a friend of mine developed a pretty robust collection of original forge world pieces and starting a casting operation out of his garage.  Granted, he didn’t cast them for resale, but he did go more than a little nutty for personal use (which I’m pretty sure is still a product of Intellectual Property theft).  His stuff was passable, but he had no ways to get rid of the bubbles, so it was by no means pretty.  For anything other than Nurgle/Chaos/Tyranids, I wouldn’t really bother with it.  It was just far too much work to put it together.

Since then, various unscrupulous online retailers have started selling recasts of GW products.  Of course, the biggest perpetrator of them is China, but I’ve also seen Russian companies get involved.  Naturally, being the curious sort (and a penny pincher) I wound up buying from a couple of vendors to see what the products were like.  The first one I used was a website called miniatureshobby.com, one called miniature-sales.com and another called coolcastornot.com (actually, those all might be somehow related).  I can’t recall how I found the name of the site–probably from BoLS or the like.  I think I bought something from the first one, and I’m not sure if I ever repurchased from any of the others.

Engrish-if-you-are-stolenThe thing is, when you’re selling bootleg copies, GW tends to get the word out and shut you down, so these sites would close and then spring up as another version someplace else.  Once I had bought models from the first guy, he sent me an email each time he opened up another site (though I haven’t received such an email since late 2012, so maybe he’s finally been shut down for good.

More likely, he joined the group over at http://www.aliexpress.com and sold his warez there.  From what I can tell, Ali is a site that is like the internet flea market for China.  Tons of vendors meet up and sell all sorts of goods, many of which are clearly bootlegs of various internationally owned products (Disney, Marvel, and even GW).  As a result, tons of vendors were selling all sorts of products.

Again, I dipped my toe in, and I had honestly mixed results.  I think I placed an order from 3-4 vendors at once (they all offered free shipping, so I didn’t see a reason to put all of my eggs in one basket).  In hindsight, it was good because I definitely got a wide variety of responses.  One of those vendors provided high-quality reproductions at a reasonable cost and shipped quickly.  That was the positive response.

Another vendor shipped some of the models I wanted, while others were substituted for random parts (I still have a n unassembled Tau Riptide sitting in a bag that I’ll never use).  He was goodly enough to return my money when asked and let me keep the improper models.

The last two were complete failures.  One threw up his arms eventually and refunded my money saying he couldn’t ship me the models for some reason.  The other, stopped responding to me at all and never shipped a product.  I wound up trying to work with him, and then eventually had to work through the arbitration section of Ali’s website and wound up getting a refund months later.  So, I had some success with the site, and some problems; however, I have heard a considerable amount of horror stories of people buying from that site and losing their money, etc.

Since then, GW seemed to crack down on the site and shut down all of the vendors.  I know they did it once, and the response was that they all just opened different online storefronts.  Something then changed, and the response seemed to be that they just buried their merchandise in a massive front of falsely labeled search results (if you search for “Tyranid” on Aliexpress.com you’ll see what I mean: almost all of the results have zero to do with anything remotely GW)–still though, you could find some GW related materials.

Engrish-dying-prohibitedNow, the place seems like a wasteland.  Up until last month, there seemed to be stores operating as complete fronts.  They would have products for sale under a category of “Tyranids” but those products would have no picure/description and the titles would be like “M313” or “L882.”  It turns out that they had secret underground catalogs that they would email you to tell you that M313 really meant “Tyranid Biovore” or whatever.  Pretty sneaky, I guess, but it also means that we’re wholy trusting a Chinese manufacturer on a website full of bootlegs to ship us the product we think we want, with no supporting facts/documentation.

I think I’ll pass.

Still, GW seems to have closed even that loophole.  The vendor that I last ordered from still exists (though the name has changed again), but they only have t-shirts for sale now.  Maybe that’s just another twisted front?

I’m sure there are other vendors out there, but as for ones that are currently active and reputable, I have no insight–except to point people directly to Forgeworld.  While it might sound ridiculous to some, keep in mind that their quality and customer service is unmatched, and their pricing is often even cheaper than GW anymore…

Image Credit: Both images are from www.engrish.com.  A very humorous site about international translations.

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7 comments on “My Adventures with Ali Express

  1. I just couldn’t bring myself to order from one of those overseas reproduction companies. I wouldn’t have the faith that I would get what I wanted at the quality expected, or that I would get it at all after paying. I would just rather spend the extra with FW knowing I’m getting what I paid for at an exceptional quality. Even if FW messes up they will let you keep what they did send and then mail you out the right stuff. Some things are just worth the expense.

    • You’re right in that their customer service is exceptional (though I’ve never had a problem with them, I have heard that their replacement policy is as you describe), and the products are top-notch. It’s also the right thing to do, from a legal and moral standpoint. I’m just a cheap bastard and have reasonably low standards (at least when it comes to my bugs, which are all dipped).

      I don’t recommend people use these sort of Chinese sites (which is why I always conclude posts on the topic by recommending people buy from FW direct), but being a penny-pincher, I can understand why they would be interested in testing the waters.

      On Thu, Jun 18, 2015 at 10:16 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:

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  2. I’m of two minds on this, but I play the “safe’ route, even if it is sometimes prohibitively expensive. There’s something to be said regarding GW’s “goblin index” in regards to pricing practices and it’s influence on the meta but the fact remains, good rules sell models and if you want the model bad enough but can’t stomach FW or GW prices for what is really just a glorified chess piece, bootleg is the way to go.

    I also really enjoy the sculpting/conversion aspect of this hobby, one of my favorite models was a landspeeder made from an old deodorant tube circa Rogue Trader so getting tons of cheapo bits sounds like a better option to me for this sort of thing. If you are just going to be slapping together your own version of a model, like re-purposing a Centurion kit for some Obliterators, access to tons of bits helps.

    I’ve never done the legwork necessary to find bootleg pieces however and since there are so many legitimate sources selling conversion bits not to mention collecting bits for something like 27 years (interjected pause to introspectively deliberate the passage of time) and the fact that I don’t really like shopping online anyway, I just go to my FLGS and pick up what I want or have them order it.

    My FW experience has been good, in fact I got an accidental extra Deimos Vindicator simply because of a mix-up in their mailroom. The actual quality of the pieces I got varied considerably, some majorly warped and others with pools of extra resin in join recesses that made me have to do way more drilling and filing in difficult places than I was comfortable with. If the pieces I got from FW were so sloppy, how much worse can a bootleg be?

    • 1) Aren’t you supposed to be honeymooning or something? 2) What’s a “goblin index” 3) Yup. Those are about my findings as well–except I’m a cheap bastard and a curious one at that–so I make deals with the devil.

      On Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 11:12 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:

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  3. The “goblin index” was a way for GW to price their models on the basis of the model’s effectiveness on the battlefield rather than physical weight of materials or details of the sculpt. With the goblin being the cheapest and least effective model in the game it also became the cheapest model to buy (as you’d need a ton of em, the market was eventually glutted with the model thus driving down price…in theory). It doesn’t seem to be the way GW prices things anymore, but making stellar rules for something still moves models. Everyone seems pleased with the knight model rules-wise and some people (as seen on the internet) are even making complete armies out of Knight formations these days not to mention all the slight variants. Ka-ching. If you can find a knight for cheaper…just sayin’.

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