Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

NVA Build Log - Painting Progress on T-72 and BMP Formations

I know it's been a while since I posted an update on my East Germans for Team Yankee. Rest Assured I've been working on them steadily, and I'm finally to the point where I can show some progress on the miniatures. They still have a ways to go before they're fully painted, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn't a train!

Because full modulation colors don't exist for the NVA late 1980's camouflage scheme, I decided early on to go with the Black and White technique using Ammo of Mig paints. This is in effect a pre-shading technique using their proprietary thinner which makes the colored paints semi-transparent better preserving the pre-shading. I started with the T-72's and the BMP's because they were fairly numerous (15 of each), but even at that I think they only represent about half of the force or a little less.

BMP and T-72 tanks with the black and white applied

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Armor of the Arab-Israeli Wars - or - Mike's Visit to Yad La-Shiryon Part 4

With the new update of Fate of a Nation on the horizon for Team Yankee, I wanted to pick up where I left off with my photos from the Latrun armor museum.  In this installment we move on to the self-propelled guns. As with any modern force, Israel has required self-propelled artillery capable of keeping up with their armored advances. The IDF has used a variety of models over the years, and this entry will detail several of them including models purchased outright and those converted by the IDF itself into unique vehicles.

Known in Israeli usage as the Romach (spear or lance), the M107 175mm SPG is a fairly devastating platform. Used by the U.S. army through the 1960's and 1970's, the M107 lacks the enclosed fighting compartment seen on many self-propelled guns and howitzers. The reason for this is because of the gun's extreme range (21mi / 34km in its standard configuration), it is generally not expected to come under direct ground assault. The IDF used the type to great effect during the 1973 Yom Kippur War using the gun to target Egyptian SAM batteries in the south and to shell Damascus in the north once Israeli forces had broken through in the Golan. These were later upgraded with new ammunition increasing their range to 50km.

The M107 175mm SPG and a few of its friends

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Why We Game - Redux

In May 2016, the guys over at WWPD (What Would Patton Do?) wrote an article entitled "Why We Game" where they discussed the state of things at WWPD, a loss of interest in Flames of War, which had served as one of the foundations of the blog and podcast, and other challenges. They also brought in a few new guest authors (including me) to provide content for the site - especially for gaming systems they had less interest in at that point. Over the last year and a half I've written several articles for WWPD, though not as many as I would have liked, and over the past several weeks many of these have been making their way to the pages of this blog.

The reason for that can be found in today's post on the WWPD blog.  There's a final podcast as well. This represents the end of the line for WWPD - no new content or podcasts, and one of the staples of what many consider to be the golden age of Flames of War will be gone. Other blogs, such as Breakthrough Assault have already been filling the role as previewer and release partner for Battlefront so in some ways this represents the passing of the torch, but more than that I think it represents the end of an era marking a fundamental shift in what could be collectively referred to as the "Battlefront Community." I for one will greatly miss the guys over at WWPD as their contributions over the years have nothing short of awesome, and I wish them the absolute best in any future pursuits!

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

In retrospect and purely from my own personal perspective, 2017 has been simultaneously a good year and a terrible year when it comes to miniatures gaming. We finally moved into our new home and I was able to not only have my own studio for model building and miniature painting but set up a proper gaming room as well. This means I can run miniatures wargames with terrain in the comfort of my own home, which I actually managed to do during the recent Firestorm campaign - and my son was able to get in on the fun!

As with any new space, I'm still working out the bugs and planning next steps. I really need to set up a proper spray booth area, but right now our "mud room" is doing fine. I'm hoping to pick up an airbrush spray booth after the first of the year, and I'll post the details once I have them! I also want to build a game table along the lines of what you used to be able to get from the now defunct Geek Chic. I have a carpenter friend who is willing to help out on the project too. Again, more photos when available!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Flames of War - Vehicles of the 761st Tank Battalion

The Battle of the Bulge compilations for V3 of Flames of War were the last to come out, and one of the new added to the Allied compilation were light and medium tank companies from the 761st Tank Battalion - the first African-American armored unit to see combat in the U.S. Army. The unit has a very fascinating history fighting essentially their own version of a "two-front war" against prejudice and bigotry at home and against the Germans in Europe. I won't go through the unit's full history here, but there are several good books covering the unit including Joe Wilson's The 761st Black Panther Tank Battalion in World War II and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's (yes THAT Kareem) Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes.

Organized as a independent battalion with four combat companies and an HQ, the unit used a variety of medium and light tanks, though the exact mix was different than seen in some of the standard armored divisions. Companies A, B, and C were medium tank companies and used a variety of Sherman tanks. Company D was a light tank company equipped with Stuart tanks until the end of the war.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Flames of War - Japanese Type 88 75mm Anti-Aircraft Gun Review

The Japanese Type 88 75mm Anti-Aircraft Gun was first accepted into service in 1928, and was designed to combat commonly encountered aircraft of the late 1920's and early 1930's. By the beginning of the Pacific War, the gun was largely obsolete, but it continued to serve until the end of the war with over 2000 being constructed. Allied intelligence regarding the gun was weak, and it was initially assumed that it was a copy of the German FlaK 36/37 gun, but only the names were arguably similar.

The Type 88 can be fielded in virtually any Japanese list taken from Banzai as a support choice (Heavy Anti-Aircraft Platoon). In addition to serving as a heavy anti-aircraft gun, it provides useful anti-take capability with AT 10 and firepower of 3+. However, the gun is immobile (though it has a turntable) and lacks a gun shield, so it can be vulnerable to ranged attack.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Flames of War - Type 97 Te-Ke Platoon Review

The Japanese Type 97 Te-Ke tankette was designed as an improvement to the machine-gun armed Type 94 based on the Imperial Japanese Army's experience in China. While the Type 94 had been useful, especially when deployed en masse against the Chinese, its armor was thin and the vehicle was vulnerable to Chinese anti-tank weapons. While externally the Type 94 and Type 97 tankettes are similar, the Type 97 was truly a completely new vehicle and could be equipped with a 37mm gun or a machine gun as primary armament. In Flames of War, the Type 97 Te-Ke can be fielded as Divisional Support in either a Tank Platoon (three to five vehicles) or a Recon Tankette Platoon (two to three vehicles) in Japanese Lists from Banzai. Battlefront has recently released this tankette as the Type 97 Te-Ke Platoon (JBX05) which contains five vehicles.

The first thing you'll notice when picking up this particular platoon box is that it is very light compared to other Battlefront offerings in the same-sized box. There is good reason for this.  Opening the box you'll see that the Te-Ke hull is molded tracks and all as one piece using Battlefront's new two-part mold process as detailed in their recent factory tour.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Flames of War - Painting Japanese Army Infantry for the Pacific Theater

The Japanese used a variety of uniforms during World War II which varied in function and coloration (sometimes quite dramatically). In Rising Sun, Battlefront provided a painting guide for Japanese infantry and gunners based on the uniforms fielded in 1939. Unfortunately with the release of Banzai, the painting guide has not been updated to reflect the uniform colors common in the Pacific War. Of course, the figures themselves are the same as the ones released in support of Rising Sun, so there will be some variations between the miniatures and some of the fine details of the actual later war uniforms. However, updating the color palette will give your force a more Pacific War feel to it.

The Uniform

Any time I try to color-match paints to photographs or historical artifacts, I create a color swatch over the primer color I'm using for that batch of miniatures to ensure I match them as closely as possible. Below is the swatch I'm using for my Pacific Japanese - please bear in mind that for all images in this blog entry, the colors will vary somewhat from a true visual color because of the limitations of the scanning process.

At this point I'm still using all Vallejo colors as I have a large library of paints, and see no need to move over to the new Battlefront colors at this time. Battlefront recommended Khaki Grey (880) for Japanese Uniforms when Rising Sun was released. They now recommend the equivalent Comrade Khaki followed by Zhukov Shade with a highlight of Military Khaki. To my eye, these colors are too brown for the Pacific Theater. Japanese Pacific Uniforms tended to be greener than those paints would indicate.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Armor Of The Arab-Israeli Wars - or - Mike's Visit To Yad La-Shiryon Part 3

In this third installment of my article covering the plethora of armor at the IDF museum and memorial Yad La-Shiryon we will be looking at the armor of the Arab states, generally Egypt and Syria, used in the 1967 and 1973 wars. One thing to remember from all of these photos, most, if not all, of these tanks have been repainted by museum personnel at some point so the paint colors are not necessarily original.

As Soviet client states, Egypt and Syria began to receive large numbers of T-54 and T-55 tanks, and these would form the backbone of both the Egyptian and Syrian armored forces in both the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The T-54/55 was one of the first true modern main battle tanks, and despite some early teething problems in the late 1940's, it would go on to become the most numerous tank in history (by production numbers) with estimates as high as 100,000 units being produced in total from all sources.

T-54 Tank - this is an earlier version

The T54/55 would go through several modifications over the years, and while the Soviet Union would eventually phase it out in favor of more modern designs, the type remains in use today by over 50 nations - often in highly modernized forms. Unfortunately much of the Soviet armor is parked very close together, so it is hard to get full views of each tank without a wide angle lens, which I didn't have with me for this trip.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Armor of the Arab-Israeli Wars - or - Mike's Visit to Yad La-Shiryon Part 2

In this second part of my article showing vehicles from Yad La-Shiryon, I'm focusing on more recent Israeli armor, starting with variants of the M48 and M60 on through the current indigenous Merkava Main Battle Tank.

In the mid to late 1960's, the Israelis were desperate to upgrade their aging tank fleet, and sought to purchase U.S. M48 tanks.  Initially the IDF received several gasoline powered vehicles from West Germany, though shipments from the United States followed.  M48 tanks in Israeli service use the designations Magach 1-3 and 5 (there is no 4).

Early Magach with the 90mm gun
During the 1967 war, roughly 150 Magach 1 and 2 tanks were deployed and fought well within the limitations of the relatively weak powerplant. After the 1967 War, the IDF began to upgrade all Magach to the M48A3 standard creating the Magach 3 - this included a new diesel engine and the British 105mm gun. Several M48's had been captured from Jordan, and these were upgraded as well. M60 tanks began to be procured as well creating the Magach 6.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Armor of the Arab-Israeli Wars - or - Mike's Visit to Yad La-Shiryon Part 1

While the Flames of War rules for the Six Day War are a couple of years old at this point (and honestly I still have a bunch of Israelis to paint), I recently traveled to Israel on business and thanks to a generous co-worker, got a chance to visit Yad La-Shiryon (you'll likely need to get Google to translate the link), or The Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum at Latrun (as it is more officially known). The museum houses a fairly amazing collection of armored vehicles - including many you wouldn't expect to see in Israel. As someone deeply interested in the history of the multiple conflicts since the founding of the modern Israeli state, the museum was a treasure trove of unusual vehicles and really gave me a sense of perspective around the conflicts and the vehicles used. In this first part of the article, we'll look at some of the early vehicles used by the IDF from the 1940's through the 1970's.

The museum is built around a Mandate-era fortress
The first thing one realizes when visiting Israel is that it is not a large country in terms of land mass. Driving from Tel Aviv (on the Mediterranean coast) to Jerusalem (on Israel's eastern border) takes you about an hour (it's ~70km/44mi from the shore to the Old City). From North to South Israel is about the same size as Oregon (see image courtesy of MapFight below), though at least the southern third of Israel is comprised of a sparsely populated desert, the Negev.

Comparative map of the U.S. State of Oregon and Israel

Another point to note is that at least in January, Israel is fairly lush (though some of this is agriculture). Palm trees are fairly abundant, but other trees are in evidence as well.

Looking out over the parking lot to the hills to the south of Latrun
Once you enter the museum itself, the armor around the central courtyard area is mostly dedicated to Israeli armor - or at least armor the Israelis have used in various conflicts since 1948. Given the relatively arid climate, the vehicles are generally in very good condition given they're all exposed to the elements. As with most museums, the vehicles generally show evidence of re-painting, and the markings must be taken with a grain of salt (or in some cases a full salt lick).

Money shot of some of the armor used in the 1967 and 1973 wars - photobomed by a Merkava and a few others
Most vehicles have a plaque in front of them with details. These include technical details about the tank including crew size, horsepower, weight, and armament. There is also generally a history section with details about how the vehicle was used (either by the Israelis or others).

Example of one of the data cards with Hebrew and English text

The pre-World War II H-39 was used during the 1948 War by Israeli forces 

Israel's armored forces, even through the 1970's, relied greatly on foreign produced vehicles - many of which dated back to World War II or in some cases earlier. The Hotchkiss and Cromwell tanks, in addition to Shermans were used in the 1948 war alongside many different types of armored cars (improvised and purpose built).

Early Shermans at Latrun

One of many armored cars on display
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) would go on to modernize many designs - especially the Sherman tank - to ensure that their armored forces were competitive with those of their generally Soviet equipped neighbors (with Jordan being the notable exception). The Sherman tank was up-gunned with the French high-velocity 75mm gun from the AMX-13 tank (which was also purchased and used by the Israelis).

M50 Sherman with French 75mm high-velocity gun

French produced AMX-13 light tank
Israeli Shermans generally also received new diesel engines, and many were further upgraded to the M51 standard by adding a French made 105mm gun. This powerful gun allowed the M51 to successfully engage far more modern Soviet designs like the T54, T55, and T62 using HEAT ammunition during both the Six Day War in 1967 and later during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

M51 Sherman showing the size of the 105mm gun and muzzle brake
I really owe a great deal of thanks to my work colleague for taking me to the museum. It was an amazing experience! In the next part of this series, I'll include photos of some of the more advanced designs in the IDF inventory followed by Soviet bloc equipment, historic armor, and finally "the real oddballs!"

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Pimp My Ride - Warsaw Pact Edition

Given I'm an absolute sucker for detailing my miniatures (as seen in my various T-72 updates part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4), I didn't want to neglect the transports for my NVA Motorisierte Schützen company either. Overall the Battlefront BMP kit (TSBX02) is pretty decent, but the one chink in the armor is at the very front (as on the T-72). The front plate (I hesitate to call it a lower glacis because of the design) has a couple of fairly unsightly and inaccurate seams and gaps where the various pieces making up the rest of the kit join. Overall the plate should be smooth with only a few details - so I decided to add the details!

Step 1 is to putty and fill the seams on the front of the miniature (shown above). Once that's done, you can start to add the details. I kept things purposely simple. There are two tow hooks near the top of the font plate, what look to be two tow rings lower down - usually with circular bases, and then two flaps covering the opening above the tracks.

For the top tie downs, I used 0.015" x 0.02" strip styrene. I eyeballed the length, but it is about 0.08". The flaps are made from 0.01" x 0.1" strip, and the length is about 0.135" - again eyeballed based on photos and the kit itself. The circles are cut from 0.01" thick sheet and are punched with a 0.048" punch from my sub-micron set. Placement is by eye based on photos. For the linear parts, I used my Northwest Short Line "Chopper", and usually had four strips running at a time - greatly shortening the time to cut enough parts!

At this point I "only" had 15 to do, and part of the rogues gallery is above. It adds enough detail to the front of the BMP to make it look semi-accurate without going absolutely crazy. I could have added more detail to the flaps (they usually have an "X" pattern on them), but decided not to this time around.

For those of you wanting an update on the T-72 turrets - they're all done (see above)! These were a blast to do, even if the wiring is a bit fiddly - thanks again to the chaps over at Breakthrough Assault for providing the inspiration!

So here's the lot ready to prime for tomorrow. A total of 15 BMP - 14 BMP-1 and my KSh, the 15 turrets for the T-72s (primed earlier), some Gaskins, and how the heck did that RV get in there????

Once this lot is primed I can actually start getting paint on them... as my son is now getting back into miniatures in a big way and will want his Americans painted - and will be painting his Ultramarines. I also have a secret project running at this point that will let me try out some extreme weathering and rust effects - so continue to watch this space!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Economics of Wargaming

On one level, game designers seem to have an ideal job; they get to spend every work day effectively doing what for the rest of us is a hobby. Of course, the operative word there is "seem." To be and remain successful in what has become a highly competitive business game companies need to have a steady revenue stream. This revenue stream pays the workers and designers, and if the latest product or version of an established game flops companies can quickly find themselves in very dire straights.

Buy a new car or buy a new army???

The key challenge that any company must overcome is that hobbies are expensive. There, I said it. It's the "uncomfortable truth." It's the elephant in the room. Hobbies require both disposable income and the time to actually pursue them, and therefore as long as there have been miniatures and games, people have been looking for more economical ways to procure and enjoy them. In wargaming various money-saving techniques include patronizing deep discount retailers, using alternate miniature sources, casting one's own miniatures, and even turning to new technologies like 3D printing. 

So how expensive are wargaming and miniatures hobbies in general? The answer is "it depends greatly." On a one for one basis, miniatures in the smaller scales (15mm, 12mm, 10mm and 6mm) are going to be progressively cheaper than larger ones (28mm, 54mm, etc). The number of models and miniatures required to play a typical game is also going to factor heavily into its overall cost with skirmish-style games generally requiring fewer miniatures than platoon or company level games. The media used to actually produce the miniatures is another variable. Miniature wargaming started out with "lead figures" - which has evolved into white metal (a pewter which may or may not be lead free), resin, and even injection molded plastic. Then there is the cost of the rule books themselves, though the miniature cost often outweighs the rules cost, sometimes by a fairly hefty multiplier.

So let's look at a few real world examples. For all of these I will use quoted retail prices in U.S. dollars. In cases where currency conversions must be made, they will be accurate as of the writing of this article (October 2016).

Monday, October 30, 2017

Thanks for a Great Month - and a Look Ahead!

In October so far, Miniature Ordnance Review has gotten more actual hits than in any other month... well ever, if I filter out the few months I was getting a bunch of referrer spam. I've been focused on Team Yankee and some builds there, and the support from that community has been nothing short of spectacular. There seems to be a lot positive momentum for the game, and I'm really looking forward to several upcoming releases - some of which are public knowledge - some I can't talk about... yet...

My current plans are to finish up my NVA forces for Team Yankee as much as possible and then I'll likely start working on Americans with the release of Stripes. A lot of the kit looks like a lot of fun, and yes I will have Sergeant Yorks... but I'll also likely have a bunch of M60s running around to support my Abrams tanks. Hopefully the M60 plastics from Battlefront will follow the mold of the reasonably accurate T-64 rather than the "needs a lot of coaxing to fix" T-72. PSC has a model coming out as well, but it has already been fairly heavily panned for accuracy based on the renders. I'm mostly painting the American forces for my son who has gotten in to playing, but I'll take the time to do them up right.

I also have a few other Team Yankee armies I'm going to work on - I have several of the new Leopard 1 plastics from PSC on order for a proposed West German light force, along with some more T-55s for a variety of projects. I've got the PSC Soviet infantry on order as well (though when expertly painted the new Battlefront plastic Soviets look pretty good)which will support my T-64 army. With the updated version of Fate of a Nation on tap for next year, my Israelis will definitely be on the table as well.

I also have a couple of non-Battlefront projects in the planning stages. I need to paint on my Bolt Action forces and get them ready for the tabletop and I ordered the new Fallout Wasteland Warfare miniatures from Modiphius. They're sort of spendy, but my son and I both love the game, so this should be another fun father/son game!

So my tentative painting plans for the next several months:

  1. Finish Team Yankee NVA
  2. Work on Team Yankee American
  3. Team Yankee Soviet or West German
  4. Fate of a Nation Israeli
  5. Likely some Bolt Action and/or the new Fallout range of miniatures

So let's talk about the elephant in the room. There's no new Flames of War on that list, and yes, that isn't a misprint. My concerns about the lists for MW Version 4 and the ongoing balance issues for EW/LW are such that I really want to see them solved before I commit to painting new armies. I already have several painted forces, and if I feel the urge I can run those until BF gets FoW fully sorted. Again, which is a shame because I had planned several new forces. I remain hopeful, though, and I'm having more fun with Team Yankee these days since the campaign.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

T-72 Progress - In the Home Stretch!

I've being trying to finish up all of the rest of my East German T-72 tanks over the past few days in between other projects (non-Team Yankee) that I'm working on. The turrets have been going a little slowly - partially because I decided to wait for some actual 1.0mm styrene rod to finish up the modifications to the smoke launchers detailed in my previous blog entry. The styrene arrived early last week and I've managed to get all of the smoke launchers updated - now the wiring begins!

I start by drilling a couple of small pilot holes for the brass wiring. This ensures I have a steady base to work from when I'm bending the wire around the smoke launchers. I glue the wire in with a thin super-glue, and once dry bend it around the launchers. The net effect is the turret looks sort of like a bug until I get the wires bent around (see below).

When I took this picture, I only had about five or so of the 15 turrets completed, but I'm now up to nine with only six to go. In the photo below you can also see the hatch modifications with new spotlights added.

In the meantime I've primed the tracks and hulls of all of the T-72s, along with a few friends that were also effectively naked at this point.

Once the T-72s are done, the few upgrades needed to my rank and file BMP transports begins in earnest. It should (hopefully) go quickly as there are no fundamental modifications to the standard AFVs - only the addition of a few details on the front. I still have a few command and observer vehicles to work on, but those can come along as I have time.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

T-72 and Advanced Modeling Syndrome Part 3 - The Final Chapter

Well, the "Final Chapter" maybe until I get to the painting and detailing, but certainly "the final chapter" on the actual builds! No sooner had I gotten the last of the turret stowage box details on the last of the 15 T-72 turrets (from Part 1 of this T-72 descent into insanity) when I turned the turret around, looked at the simplified smoke launchers and mused, "what am I going to do about you?" Fortunately the next day a solution presented itself - the great chaps over at Breakthrough Assault posted an article on how they'd updated their Warsaw Pact tanks with a host of relatively easy to do improvements!

At this point instead of 1.0mm styrene rod, I've been using 3/64" (1.2mm) and sanding it down for the smoke dischargers. The photo below shows the result before final sanding. At this point I have some 1.0mm on order which will better match the size of the kit smoke dischargers with less effort.

I'm using 24 gauge brass wire for my smoke launcher wiring, which I think gives me a better scale effect, and is easier to work with than trying to bend thin styrene rod. I've also moved the machine gun mount facing the rear as that appears to be correct based on what I'm seeing in the references as well.

As I indicated, I've pretty much finished up the stowage boxes - though they'll need a little final sanding and filling around the edges. I'm planning on priming them first to make sure I get the all of the gaps filled properly.

As you can see from the photo above, all of the fronts are ready to go with photo-etched plates and final details added with strip styrene.

So there you pretty much have it. All of the final details are going on my NVA T-72 tanks at this point, and the next step will be to prime and paint them. Unfortunately I have a few other projects I need to work on outside of miniature building over the next couple of weeks. so progress is likely to slow just a bit until those are done. My goal is to have everything ready to go for the next online Campaign!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

T-72 Photo Etch Update

Given I only managed to get nine reasonably acceptable front plates of the 15 I need out of yesterday's batch, I knew I needed another batch of photo-etched plates for my NVA T-72s. I managed to get the batch running today and made a few adjustments along the way to hopefully get a better result, and thankfully I did actually manage to get that better result. I believe all twelve of these will work, so I'll be able to pitch a few of the more over-etched examples from the previous batch!

This batch worked so well it managed to almost keep the whole set of sprues. There appears to be one spot where the etching solution bled through on the top left example, but with a little filler that one should work just fine too!

This time I used a longer exposure time (12 minutes instead of 10) to better expose the resist. I also adjusted my exposure lamp to hopefully provide more even light coverage. I also backed off on the concentration of the developer, and left it in the developer a shorter amount of time. The etching took a bit longer as I was reusing the same etch solution, which they say is good for multiple runs, and I spent more time double checking it.

I had thought to use some thicker metal for future projects, but looking at the edge creep on these, I wonder if it wouldn't be counterproductive as I can get undercut (wet etches are by there very nature isotropic) - so I may even to thinner on future projects.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Battlefront's T-72 and Advanced Moldeling Syndrome - Part 2

In my quest to improve Battlefront's T-72 and get my NVA army ready for painting, I've gone to great lengths to get the lower front glacis plate correct. Unlike the newer T-64 kit that has the lower front glacis plate detail molded in, the early T-72 kit is flat with no detail. Soviet T-72 tanks would have had the distinctive toothed plate with eight engineering attachment points above it, whereas the Czech and Polish produced varieties (like those received by the East Germans) would have only had four.

Step one in getting the miniatures ready for upgrading was to fill the seam on the front glacis. I've seen some photos where there is a clear weld line in roughly that area, but the gap seems overly large in scale and its placement wasn't perfect, so I decided discretion was the better part of valor and I filled it.

I used Mr. Surfacer 1200 to fill the gap because it is a nice liquid that can be easily brushed on and controlled. Once the Mr Surfacer had dried (nominally 2 hours, but longer is better), I sanded down the front to make it ready for detailing.

So... the elephant in the room... how to make the detailed toothed front plate? Well, I could use styrene, and that would take a long time, and be nearly impossible to replicate easily and consistently. Or I could throw the Hail Mary and dig out a technique I last used in graduate school - photoetching.

The first step to photo etching is coming up with good artwork. Between the Zvezda 15mm T-72 and the Battlefront T-64, I was able to scale myself a decent front plate for the T-72 in Photoshop. The artwork is printed out on clear film which has to be registered as you have a front and back pattern and will be etching from both sides!

I used the Micromark photo-etch system, and for a hobbyist system it ended up working pretty well. I had a little over-etch which spoiled about 3 of the 12 possible parts, but I think I can fix that next time with a longer exposure. The system requires you to clean the brass, ad a film-based resist to it, expose, and then develop the resist. Once the resist is developed (which uses a sodium hydroxide solution), the brass itself is etched in ferric chloride (and yes, the whole thing does the chemist in me proud!).

One side finished etching before the other, so I had to pull half of the parts out of the bath while the rest were still etching. Once I was done etching, the remaining resist has to be removed in a concentrated sodium hydroxide bath.

All told I was able to get what I think will be nine functional parts (see above). As I currently have fifteen T-72 to finish up, I'm going to have to do another batch of twelve parts, so I may not end up using some of the more over-etched examples above.

Once the T-72 had been sanded, I added the photo-etched part to the lower front glacis and then added the engineering points and other details with strip styrene. I have a great tool called The Chopper that allows you to make multiple replicates of a piece that is a constant length. I'm using Evergreen styrene for the details.

So soon I should have my bevvy of T-72 tanks for my NVA force ready to prime and paint, and they'll not have a naked lower glacis!!! I'm hoping to get one more run through the photo-etcher done this weekend so I'll have enough to finish the lot.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Not Your Typical Volksarmee - A Painting Guide for East German Infantry Part 1

The main Team Yankee book includes some fairly decent painting instructions for NVA infantry, but if you look at the zoomed figures on page 31 of the Volksarmee book and compare them to the distance shots on page 32, the colors don't match up well to my eye. Also, the actual camouflage scheme used by the NVA (also on page 31) is very intricate making the attempt on the figure itself look fairly crude. The lines and pattern are far too large and ultimately don't begin to give a proper scale effect for NVA BDU camouflage, officially called Strichtarn, but colloquially known as "Ein Strich - Kein Strich" by DDR troops. I therefore went in search of more information and worked to develop my own paint scheme for these troops.

The first thing that I discovered is because Strichtarn was in use for so many years and produced in several places, there is a great deal of inconsistency in the exact coloration. The other thing I realized is that on a 15mm miniature replicating the actual camouflage scheme is impossible and it won't look right even if you do. Unlike World War II Waffen SS schemes that can still be rendered effectively on a 15mm miniature, as you shrink Strichtarn to correct for scale, it simply comes out looking brown with maybe a beige highlight to it. The other thing I discovered was that there was a variety of gear that came (or could come) in colors and patterns other than Strichtarn.


The photo above comes from one of the few references I've been able to find in English on the NVA, Uniforms of the East German Military: 1949-1990 by Klaus-Ulrich Keubke and Manfred Kunz. I also have a few pouches and other pieces of East German militaria I was able handle and look a personally in developing the palette for painting my own Motorisierte Schützen.

The basic color suggestions for the uniform itself (as long as you're painting it as a solid uniform) in the Volksarmee book aren't bad. Using both the Battlefront and other online conversion tables for the new Flames of War colors back to the old Vallejo equivalents, I was able to settle on a base coat of 921 English Uniform followed by a wash (discussed later) and highlights of 873 U.S. Field Drab and 821 German Camouflage Beige (with the latter being a very light highlight). I went ahead and painted the helmets as if they were covered as well, but they could also be colored green (which I may do to help tell squads apart if I paint more infantry).

Uniform Paint Palette

The large bag carried with a shoulder strap as well as most of the East German harness and many rifle slings are a blue-grey color. For these items I chose 992 Neutral Grey. The roll on the back appears to be a beige color, so I went with 987 Medium Grey. Flesh and Black were just the old Quartermasters Flat Flesh (Vallejo 955) and Black (Vallejo 950) colors as you don't need anything fancy there.

In Progress View From the Front

For the weapons and the wood handle on the entrenching tool, I moved over to Ammo of Mig paints. The entrenching tool was painted with 037 New Wood, while the weapons utilized a variety of paints from the Weapons Colors set. Most of these colors can be picked up separately - I generally used the Red Brown Base and Red Brown Shine.

Ammo of Mig Weapon Color Set covers multiple eras

East German AK-74 (MPi KM) rifles were usually fairly dark and utilized Bakelite or polymer furniture (stocks). The buttstocks typically had a stippling pattern on them, though at 15mm scale this would be invisible.


NVA magazines could be the dark blued finish above, or they could be a very light tan Bakelite. Generally Bakelite magazines would be smooth sided whereas the metal magazines are ribbed, so any magazine that looked like it had ribs on the side, I painted as a metal blued magazine.

NVA Bakelite MPi-KM Magazines

NVA canteens appear to have come in a variety of finishes, and some had Strichtarn covers, so I went with a mix of light green canteens (I used 830 German Field Grey) and some left in German Camouflage Beige.

NVA Canteen

The magazine pouch is also generally Strichtarn, but to make it stand out I hit it with a stronger highlight of the German Camouflage Beige.

NVA Magazine Pouch

Taken all together, this give a lot more visual interest to the Motorisierte Schützen than the scheme advocated in the Volksarmee book which essentially has one uniform color, a web gear color, black boots, flesh and weapon colors.

In Progress View from the Rear

For any green painted surfaces I went back to some old Flames of War books and used the conversion charts again, ultimately settling on 890 Reflective Green for any of the heavy weapons or the light machine gun ammunition boxes.

In an effort to move a bit more quickly in my infantry painting, I wanted to find a shading system that would allow the minimum amount of repainting and highlighting after the wash - especially on faces and other areas of exposed flesh. I picked up some of the army painter Quickshade washes, and these have really done the trick. I use a mixture of Flesh Wash and Strong Tone on flesh - which works well with the very light flesh color. Strong Tone works well on the uniform, and Dark Tone works well on weapons and any gray web gear.

Pre-mixed washes can save time and improve consistency

For the ground work, I went back to Ammo of Mig products which I've used successfully in past projects. For the NVA infantry I started with a base coat of Loose Ground from the Splashes line. I then used a stipple brush to add Kursk Soil and finally Dry Light Soil from the Heavy Mud range.

Ammo of Mig Ground and Nature effects

Taken as a group the three products provide a reasonably convincing looking ground effect without having to use a pumice or fill (as the splashes can be used as a paintable fill - though it may take a couple of coats). These are all oil based, unlike the acrylics used for all other steps, so you'll need thinner to clean your brushes!

Anti-tank missile team ready for final flocking

The photo above shows one of the anti-tank missile teams ready for adding final grass tufts and static grass. Unfortunately my phone camera washed out a lot of the subtlety in the ground work and highlights on the figures, but I'll try and get better pictures once they're complete.

One Company nearly complete!

At this point at least one full company of Motorisierte Schützen are ready for dullcote. I have a few other bases just about ready to go, and I've picked up another platoon to bulk out numbers in case I want to run multiple companies going forward. I'll post more (and hopefully better) photos once I get the rest of the basing completed!