Plastic Panzers – A Quick Review
Airfix kits were the bane of my childhood, largely I think because I lacked (and to a degree lack) patience. Sticking the tank together was easy enough, but the real nightmare was the tracks. Those soft plastic rubbery one that you pinned the two plug bits into the holes, waited half an hour and then tried to fit them on the tank. Either the track held but the running gear broke, or the running gear held and the track came apart. Of course I should have waited overnight for the track to really set firm, but of course such a wait is an impossibility for a ten year old who wants to play with his new toy.
This experience must have left some indelible scar on my mind as I have never enjoyed making up plastic kits as an adult, indeed one of the joys of shifting to 15mm for my WWII games was that I could go with metal or resin and never have to stick another bloody kit together ever again. Until this week.
Plastic toys are, it seems, the new lead for wargamers; everywhere you go you can see plastic soldiers popping up. I have to admit that until now I had been less than enthusiastic. Yes, I had got a pile of Perry’s ACW for Terrible Sharp Sword, but only for the “also rans”, the officers and NCOs, the Big Men, were all lead. It seemed only right. However the acquisition of some packs of infantry and armour from the Plastic Soldier Company has gone a long way to changing that.
Firstly it is worth mentioning the cost. A pack of late war German infantry contains 130 infantry, that’s ten junior officers and NCOs, 90 grenadiers and 15 LMG teams. That is just about ideal for a company sided force for IABSM for £18.50. A five tank pack of Panzer IVs is £16.50. In both cases these are much cheaper than metal. At present the range of 15mm stuff is limited but it is clear from the release schedule that this is going to fill up very quickly. Personally I’d like to see some support weapons for the Germans, maybe 4 tripod mounted MG42s or MG34s, four 80mm mortars, couple of Panzerschreck teams, some panzerfausts and a sniper team. That would allow me to get almost everything I needed on the infantry front in a couple of packs.
But what about the tanks. Well, in order to simplicity I found the T34s the easiest to stick together, only about a dozen parts to them and you can finish a pack of five off in half an hour at the very most, probably less. The Shermans are also very easy with less than twenty parts. The Panzer IV has slightly more parts, but then it has the schurtzen, however I would say that you could stick five of these together is 45 minutes. What struk me most about the tanks was that they are NOT model kits in the style of Airfix, where the challenge and fun (supposedly!) is in making the model. These are very simple to put together so that even a kit-hater like me can crash them out and get them on the table in no time at all. And the tracks? Well, these are VERY easy and I can just slap them on straight away without the Airfix overnight wait. Each track is moulded in two sections, top and bottom. You make up the running gear part, which on the sherman and Panzer IV is three pieces on each side on the T34 is just one single part, and then glue the top bit on the top and the bottom bit on (wait for it…) the boottom. Simples, as that bloody merecat says.
I spent a bit longer on my Panzer IVs as I cut the schurtzen into seperate parts and put a few dents and bashes in them in order to get that “lived-in” look. I also added a few bits from my spares box and sculpted on some additional detail with green stuff, such as the camo net in the photo above. What I really liked was the fact that with a sharp knife (I am allowed to use a scalpel when nurse is with me) I could open up the hatches and really customise the models to make them individual. I did one model as a brewed up tank (see the tank at Amen Corner) which was really fun to do, opening up the engine compartment and all of the hatches to show it had been abandoned in a rush. I also scratched zimmerit on one tank as an experiement and got a good result with that.
Slap a bit of paint on and what you have is a tank that looks exactly like a metal or resin 15mm tank but is lighter to transport and is less than half the price. It is vastly more flexible to do conversions on that resin or metal equivalents. I fielded mine along side some Skytrex Panzer IVs where the shurtzen was moulded on, so impossible to chop and change. I have also stuck together a 15mm Panzer IV in resin this week where the schurtzen have to be mounted in a rack that you need to construct, with five brackets along each side that you need to get level. In itself that took me longer for each tank than building the whole kit did with the plastic ones and had me swearing like a trooper throughout the process.
In terms of size the plastic Panzer IVs match perfectly with Skytrex/Old Glory, to the point where with the same paint job I don”t believe that you could tell them apart.
So, if you fancy a look at Plastic Soldier Company and maybe adding to your armies before the new edition of IABSM arives then take a dekko at http://www.theplasticsol+diercompany.co.uk/