To get the ball rolling, they've started releasing the miniatures to support this new game system. Right now all we have is Soviet and American, but there are some nice army deals to help the new player get his or her feet wet. The American set is called Bannon's Boys (TUSAB1), named after the character Captain Sean Bannon in the original Team Yankee novel, which consists of five M1 Abrams tanks, two AH-1 Cobra helicopters, and an objective marker (in addition to commanders, decals, a template, and unit cards). The Soviet set is called Potecknov's Bears (TSUAB1) - (don't fat finger those SKU's!) - which consists of nine T-72 tanks and two Mil-24 Hind helicopters (in addition to commanders, decals, a template, and unit cards). Because of a production delay, people who'd ordered early got an extra M1 in the American set or an extra T-72 in the Soviet set. In this first blog I'm going to look at the tanks, and so far overall I really like what I see.
The M1 Abrams was the first completely new tank fielded by the U.S. Army since the introduction of the Pershing in 1945. Overall the Battlefront Miniature looks pretty good, and they've made some smart, and a few confusing, design decisions. First the good news, the sprues as produced will allow you to construct either an M1 or M1A1 Abrams tank. The Team Yankee universe assumes that World War III starts in 1985, given the M1A1 didn't start production until 1986, the fact that you can currently build both variants bodes well for future plans with the rule set!
The Abrams comes on two sprues - one with the major hull and turret components, the other with the running gear and most of the detail parts. One very clever thing Battlefront did was to leave a large slot for the blast panels over the ammunition stowage on the turret roof. The detail parts sprue includes a reversible piece which will allow you to replicate the M1 style (three spaced panels) or the M1A1 style (two panels) turret roof.
The detail on the wheels and tracks is very good (and yes, the drive sprocket has the right number of teeth!), As you can build the M1 or M1A1 variants, one version of the rear side skirt armor includes the large 25 inch retainer plate seen on the M1 version, but which was dropped on the M1A1. The purpose of the plate was to reduce the frequency of thrown tracks, but in practice the system didn't work. In fact, the original side skirt armor (reproduced in the kit) actually allowed mud to build up clogging the drive train. Therefore the troops quickly field modified the side skirt (or removed it all together!), into the later version of skirt - but generally kept the retainer plate installed. By 1985, the time frame in which Team Yankee is set, tanks in the field would have had a the modified rear armor skirt and retainer plate - a version you can't build with the parts available in the kit since the retaining plate is molded to the initial version side skirt. I haven't decided whether I'm just going to go with the early style "as is" (as I have photographic evidence of unmodified side skirts as late as 1983) or do something crazy yet... watch this space...
In many ways the T-72 is a lot simpler as there only one variant, and all you have to decide is whether or not you want the hatch open for a commander and whether or not you want a mine clearing device. There are a few tricky bits in construction, however. The massive 125mm smoothbore gun has three sprue attachment points which are somewhat difficult to remove without damaging the fins which run the length of the barrel in several segments. The auxiliary fuel tanks are also a bit troublesome as they have a large seam where the two halves join. The 1/35th scale modeler in me still twitches a bit, so I'm trying to remove them at least on the most visible edge. I also had to redo the ends as the seam was too pronounced to clear easily - I just sanded them flat and re-added the disc in the center.
The kits include the new "pins" to attach the turrets, but I'm still generally using rare earth magnets on all of my tanks - makes painting and detailing easier. From the photo below you can see the size (and sleekness) of the T-72 compared to an in-progress Panzer IV Ausf H and a T-35 tank.
Overall the T-72 has gone together well, but once you start getting a few of them together, you quickly realize that modern MBTs are gernally larger than their historical cousins and will look different on the tabletop. It will be interesting to see where Battlefront takes the game (and the T-72) from this point, as starting in 1985 reactive armor was standard for the T-72.
Thus far I'm very impressed with the plastic tank miniatures Battlefront has produced for Team Yankee. Overall they are well-engineered and fit well. Battlefront has also made some very clever decisions early on to ensure that the kits are modular for more than one era. Next I'll start going through the helicopters - I've been working on one of the Hinds so far. By way of a preview - it's big, but it's also a fairly demanding kit.