Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Rocket launchers have had a long history, but it wasn't until WWII that they really began to proliferate. The WWII era rocket launchers are adequately represented in 1/72 with injection kits and some diecast vehicles, but modern rocket launchers remain fairly scarce.

I have three types of modern launcher in my collection. All of them are diecast models, and seem to be made by De Agostini (or whoever the manufacturer actually is).

The first vehicle is the БМ-30 Смерч (BM-30 Smerch) from the Russian Tank Collection consisting of the 9A52 launch vehicle (MAZ-543M chassis) carrying a dozen 300mm rockets.

The cab is diecast metal, but the rest of the parts are plastic, so it feels light for the size of the vehicle. The tires appear to be made of vinyl. The details are a bit soft, but the model seems very sturdy, so I'd have no qualms about using it for gaming.

I thought it looked a bit underscale because the doors seemed so small, but in fact, that is how they are in real life.

Overall, I was rather disappointed with the model. It is one of the more expensive Russian Tank Collection vehicles, but the launch tubes are fixed in place. This vehicle would have been so much more impressive if it could be displayed with the tubes in firing position.

The next two diecast models are from the AmerCom Collection, which seems to be the Polish equivalent of the De Agostini Combat Tank Collection subscription service. The first vehicle is the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System consisting of a M269 loader launcher module mounted on a M993 carrier vehicle, while the other is the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which is essentially a truck mounted version of the M270 with half the firepower.

The M270 has a diecast upper hull which give it a bit of weight, but the launcher module is all plastic. They matched the plastic color very well with the paint for the hull, but the difference in sheen gives the launcher module an obvious plasticky look that detracts from the overall appearance of the vehicle.

The M142 is mostly plastic, with a diecast cab. The tires are rubber and slightly loose on the hubs. It came covered in greasy fingerprints as if someone was assembling the model over a lunch of fried chicken. The grease came off without any problems using a dry cotton swab. Like the M270, it has a rather plasticky appearance.

Unlike the Smerch, the launcher modules for the M270 and M142 can be posed in raised and rotated positions.

Overall, I wouldn't say either of these models are bad. They are definitely more suited as display models (their intended use) as opposed to gaming models, though a repaint, or some weathering would definitely improve their looks. The molding is not as soft as the older Altaya models, and some of the small plastic details like the side view mirrors need to be watched out for.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cold Weather Wear

The Thing, and Ice Station Zebra are two films that have left a lasting impression on me. The former is on my personal top 5 list of horror movies, while the later is a vague, but resonant memory from my childhood.

In The Thing, you have alien horrors, flamethrowers, and Kurt Russell. In Ice Station Zebra you have nuclear subs, Russian paratroopers, and Jim Brown. In both films, you have suspicion and paranoia running rampant in a frozen environment, as members of an all male cast are threatened by an enemy hidden in in their midst. Sounds like all the ingredients for a winning recipe in gaming to me.

With regards to 1/72 figures specifically wearing clothing appropriate for Arctic or Antarctic conditions, the only choice is Elhiem. I'm pretty sure no other manufacturer makes figures wearing fur hooded parkas (unless you count Nikolai eskimos).

The first picture is of Cold War US in Arctic Gear (ART01), and the figures look like they come straight out of Ice Station Zebra.

The second picure is of First Special Service Force figures in ski parkas. The first figure on the left is a limited teaser figure (FSSF-T) that is a bit shorter than the others. The figure is armed with a Johnson LMG. The next three figures are from the FSSF NCOs and LMG set (FSSF01), while the last four are from the FSSF Riflemen set (FSSF02).

All of the figures are nicely proportioned, though I feel that they should ideally be 1-2mm taller. Unfortunately there are no figures armed with flamethrowers.

The first thing I did was to increase the height of the figures using my patented compression method, and then built up the compressed area with J-B Weld. There was one casualty with the FSSF teaser figure which seemed to be cast from a very brittle metal that snapped under pressure.

"We've gotta burn the rest of him."

I painted the FSSF figures mostly with white or ivory parkas, with a couple in faded olive drab. Trousers, equipment, and webbing were painted in various shades of green.

"I dunno what the hell's in there, but it's weird and pissed off, whatever it is."

For the Cold War US figures, olive, blue, and orange uniforms were considered as options, but I felt it was better to go with the more generic white. The equipment covers and webbing was painted a light gray color, though I've only really seen the Arctic canvas cover used for canteens.


Now all we need are some ushanka-wearing Russian paras in winter gear.

Sorry... couldn't resist...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Light Alliance Dwarves

Last month I was informed by a reader that the Light Alliance Dwarves had been released. Despite hating the Light Alliance Elves, I went ahead and purchased a set of the dwarves.

The set comes with four identical sprues of figures in dark tan plastic. My first impression when I saw the figures was that they looked really tall. They wear chain hauberks and helmets, but unlike the box art, only two of the dwarves are armed with axes (small hand axes at that). The figures are all really well done, and there was little flash. One of the figures had a fissure where the arm joins the shoulder, but all of the duplicate figures had the same problem, so it may be some issue with the mold.

The first group of figures are the larger dwarves. These dwarves scale out to over 5' tall. The first figure holding the spear would probably be almost as tall as a human if standing upright. Strangely enough, the figure only has a mustache, rather than the full beard all his compatriots wear. Perhaps he represents the elusive half-dwarf...

The second group of figures are shorter, but still fairly tall for dwarves. They are similar in size to the larger Caesar dwarves, but at least they are under 5' tall.

Actually when placed next to the Caesar dwarves, they don't particularly look big at all.