Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of miniatures wargaming with an emphasis on 15mm World War II and Flames of War.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Battlefront's Plastic M113 Platoon - First Look

Battlefront has recently released a new boxed set featuring the Viet Nam era M113, VUSBX07.  This is the first of the new promised plastic tanks and armor from Battlefront for Flames of War.  Experiences with the early tanks in the Open Fire set have generally been fairly negative.  Both the Sherman and the Stug have assembly problems, and there are numerous inaccuracies in the models.  I was therefore anxious to see how Battlefront responded with a more mainstream plastic release as they are facing stiff competition from the likes of Plastic Soldier Company and Zvezda in the 1/100th scale armor market.

Out of the box the pieces look infinitely crisper than what we've seen from Battlefront in the past.  You'll likely want to print out the assembly guide on the Battlefront website as the directions are sparse (essentially a color coded picture on the back).  I'll start with the downside, because quite frankly there isn't much downside to these miniatures.  There are some annoying ejector pin marks on the hull top and front, but fortunately they're in places that are fairly easy to fix.  I use Mr. Surfacer 1200 followed by a simple sanding to even them out.  I accidently left one unfilled and it showed up prominently once primed.  I fill them because they'll stand out once I run a wash over them in places that should be smooth on the actual vehicle. 

The suspension looks fairly good, they've even managed to drop the mold line nicely into the track pattern so it needs little clean up.  They've also cleverly used the wheel hubs for the ejector pins, though this makes the center hub of each roadwheel over-large and slightly wrong in shape, but that's a detail so minor that even this rivet counter is going to prime and paint right over it.  You'll also need to drill out the barrels in the guns, mortars, and recoilless rifle.  However, since the parts are plastic and not white metal, drilling them out is child's play.  Oh yeah, and the photo on the front of the box is of the old resin and metal version, not the current plastic one...

Thus endeth the VERY minor nits I can pick about this kit.  The rest is absolutely spectacular.  The detailing on the plastic parts is incredible.  The molding is crisp and there's little to no slip on the parts.  All hatches can be opened up or closed at the builder's discretion.  Did I mention the detailing is superb?  Construction so far has been a breeze - the fit of the parts is absolutely excellent.  You'll need to be careful as some are fragile.  There are also a lot of parts, but there were a lot of parts to the old resin and white-metal versions as well.  The fact that this is a plastic kit means that super-detailing and conversion will also be easier (if you want to get exotic with your miniatures).  Another nice feature is that most of the variants you can make under the current rules are included (there are a few that you need to hit up special order for the appropriate turrets). 

Finally there's the price.  The box will run you $35 (US) for a box of four, so that works out to roughly $8.75/vehicle.  Still to the high end by plastic standards, but far less than what you paid previously for the sets.  For example an ACAV box ran about $50, or $12.50/vehicle.  Given that the quality of the plastic is, quite frankly, better than the old resin and metal and the ease of assembly is greater the kit is a strong value for the money.  I haven't been this impressed with a release in quite some time. 

Bottom line - the M113 is an absolutely beautiful release.  The pricing is extremely competitive given the quality of the kit.  I've played with some of the PSC and Zvezda kits in the past and by and large, the new M113 surpasses what they have to offer at this point in terms of quality.  I'm honestly now looking for places do dump my old un-built resin versions because I simply have no further use for them.  If this is a sign of things to come from Battlefront - bring it on!