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Friday, December 26, 2014

Polish Black Brigade - Taking the Plunge

So I don't know if I'm actually going to get the army done for my upcoming tournament (hence the multiple back-ups I'm considering), but I really like the idea of running a Polish 10th Cavalry Brigade list. The unit has a great history, and I have decent reference data on the list. The unit also offers me some good opportunities for modeling as the current state of miniatures for the unit leaves much to be desired.

First, there's the state of Battlefront's Polish offerings. I love the guys at Battlefront, but when it comes to support for the few Polish lists out there, the level of miniature support is exceedingly poor. At this point Battlefront offers a grand total of 25 SKU's for Poland, including a dice set, a kit bag pouch, the urban and rural bases, an objective set, and Wojtek the Dancing, errr, Soldier Bear. This limited number of products makes even fielding a tank, infantry or cavalry force challenging. There is a conversion chart on page 47 of Blitzkrieg with suggested proxies for many of the unavailable miniatures, but many of these are rough equivalents at best - some far rougher than others!

The 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade, or 10 Brygada Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej, figures prominently on page 31 of Blitzkrieg, but Battlefront offers no miniatures suitable for the line infantry, heavy weapons, or gun crews of the unit. Battlefront does make a good 37mm wz. 36 anti-tank gun (PL510), but the crew is wrong for the Black Brigade. The same issue holds for the heavier artillery as well. As I'm running a Light Gun Battery (Fearless Trained) out of the support rather than taking a Black Brigade 75mm battery, I'll be able to use the 75mm wz. 1897 guns (PL570) and artillery HQ (PL709) out of the box.

The state of the armor and vehicles for the unit is not much better.  Battlefront does make a good TKS (PL010), which will work well for the Reconnaissance Tank Platoons, but they make no Polish Vickers tanks. I'm working on kit-bashing these from 7TP (PL050) and Soviet T-26 obr 1933 (SBX21) tanks. For the Polski-FIAT model 621 trucks, I'm using the True North miniature (PLE06). The miniature itself is fairly good, but it is a lot more "fiddly" than a Battlefront miniature. The frame and engine comprise a single part, but the cab is five parts, the truck bed is separate as are the axles and all of the tires. That being said the fit is reasonable, and I've managed to get one together so far (I have more on order). Since there is no detail inside the cab, I went ahead and closed it up with sheet styrene to make painting the windows easier.

I also picked up a Polski-FIAT Staff Car from True North as the list calls for use of the Polski-FIAT 508 field car for command teams and a host of other units including the 37mm anti-tank guns, heavy machine guns, etc. The Staff Car is exceedingly tedious to assemble, but it will look great on the table once I add a few details! Unfortunately as I dig further into the unit history, it appears I need several of the Polski - FIAT 508/111 "Furgon" and Polski-FIAT 508/518 variants for my anti-tank guns and other units (including the Taczankas). Unfortunately NO ONE makes anything but the Polski-FIAT 508 "Lazik" in 15mm scale. You can get some in 1/285th, or 1/35th - and maybe a couple in 1/72nd, but nothing in 15mm scale. so again, I'm back to doing some conversions. I'll make extensive use of the "Lazik" wheelbase for these where appropriate to keep the casting to a minimum.

For the infantry I've started with the True North 10th Mechanized Brigade offerings including the line infantry (PL31), the command figures (PL32), the heavy weapons (PL33), the anti-tank gun crews (PL34), and the motorcycles and side cars (PLE17). I also picked up a set of the Forged in Battle "Polish Black Legion" (EWP07) figures to use as a second platoon or mix and match. At this point I've gotten the True North figures in and they're quite frankly a mixed bag. Some of them match the quality of a Battlefront figure, and honestly some of the faces are quite nice. Others appear to be hopeless blobs of metal with few discernible features (especially for a few of the heavy weapon or prone figures). That being said, I hope to have enough compatible figures between the sets to make up a respectable looking force. I think I should be able to do it. As an alternative to the truck transport, Battlefront's list calls for the PZInz 222 halftrack, but this appears to have been rare even in the 10th Brigade with other vehicles being more common (like the PZInz wz. 34). I'm still trying to figure out what to use for those.

I'm just starting the process of clean up and construction. The photo above shows the "state of my table" as I lay out the various miniatures and assemble them. I've already assembled one Battlefront TKS unit, and I honestly found these went together quite well with a minimum of mold lines and flash. The same held true for the 37mm anti-tank guns.

So here's the summary of what I'm using or planning on using so far for my force:

HQ - True North (and/or Forged in Battle) infantry, True North Staff Car, True North Motorcycle

Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Companies:  True North and/or Forged in Battle infantry, True North anti-tank rifles, True North heavy Machine Guns, True North Polski-FIAT 621 trucks, True North staff cars, kit-bashed 508 and 508/518 field cars, halftracks are TBD

Reconnaissance Tank Platoon - Battlefront TKS

Vickers Tank Platoon - Kit-bashed from Battlefront components

Zmotoryzowanej Anti-tank Gun Platoon - Battlefront guns, True North crew, kit-bashed 508 and 508/518 field cars, halftracks TBD

Light Gun Platoon - Battlefront 75mm battery

This will be the first army I've built where a substantial portion of miniatures comprising it will not be of Battlefront manufacture, and I honestly believe that Battlefront really missed the boat by not putting more effort into their Polish line of miniatures. I understand that any Polish force is going to be more esoteric than the Germans, French, British, or Soviets, but because generally Battlefront's quality has been stronger and more even than their other competitors in 15mm scale, I really wish I'd had the option of buying Battlefront for this project!

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