This was a review piece which, if I am honest, never got written. I make it my policy to be honest in my reviews, but if I cannot find anything good to say I take my mother’s advice when, as a child at her knee, she told me in her direct northern manner, “if you can’t find something nice to say Richard, say nothing at all”. After an hour and a half assembling the first ten men from the Perry Miniatures 8th Army plastic set I was far from having anything nice to say about anything. But hold a moment before dismissing this review, or indeed these figures, out of hand.
So fed up was I that the first ten figures sat on my “things to do shelf” for the best part of a month before I returned to them. I had bought my first box of these some months ago, and then at Colours I bought three boxes of Afrika Korps and got another box of Brits thrown in buck-shee. This is far more than I need for Chain of Command, but I had in my mind the opportunity to cut, shunt, and generally convert my way to having a completely unique platoon of chaps on both sides. And let’s face it, we all like unique.
Thus over supplied I dived in with, as mentioned, the Brits on the Sunday after I’d been to Colours with considerable enthusiasm which, as also mentioned, wilted as the temperature rose alarmingly due to the steam coming from my ears. Indeed it was only yesterday when I returned to my task, having cooled down sufficiently to have another go. To tell the truth it was a dismal rainy day and I was pretty down in the dumps anyway, I figured that it was unlikely this could depress me any further. And so, after a further three hours, I had completed all but four men to make the full platoon and I decided to end it there. My reasoning was that even I could face doing the final four blokes in the morning and then the filthy job would be done.
It was at that point the missus decided that she was going to watch some abomination on TV and, with little else I fancied doing, I returned to my desk to complete the final few figures. Now, I am not sure what happened, but as part of the process I had suffered thus far I had picked up a few techniques which, all of a sudden, seemed to be working where before they had not. The key one being that I had sussed out how to use the glue (more on that later) and this allowed the figures to now go together rather more easily than before. Indeed, I finished the last four figures very rapidly and looked around for more to do. “Aha”, I thought, “that anti-tank rifle team lying down firing, I can make a version of that moving”, so I did, followed by the 2″ mortar team doing the same. The latter involved me cutting off one forearm just north of the wrist and attaching it to another upper arm similarly trimmed. All of the sudden I was feeling the love for what previously had been plastic abominations!
With the second box of British infantry barely started I now consulted the support lists for British infantry in the early desert. A medic, an FOO team, a sniper team, an Engineer team. Well, none of these were included in the box, but now what was before me was a box of endless opportunities. I removed the head of the radio operator and put that on the body of a kneeling figure. I found a couple of arms in my spares box from Tamiya 1:48th figures which had come (unwanted – I am NOT a Military Modeller) with a set of infantry which I had bought in order to harvest bits of kit with which to adorn my 1:50th scale Corgi vehicles, these fitted remarkably, even without much squinting at all, and from the same set I found a couple of pairs of binoculars, one of which went to the FOO officer, the other to the sniper’s spotter.
The medic found arms from the same source, as well as a medical bag. Later with green stuff I would convert his shirt to a “wooly pully”. The Perry box set contains plenty of spades and picks with which to arm any Engineers, and one figure I had one his knees with a bayonet, about to probe for mines whilst his shovel armed comrade looks on.
The sniper was simply the prone figure which is the base for the Bren gunner, the 2″ mortar and the Boys gunner/ I used a set of standard arms and then hunted for a scope, without luck. I then came to the conclusion that no bugger would be looking that closely, and cut the end off a Bren gun, turned it round so that the flared muzzle flash suppressor was at the sniper’s end, and stuck that in place. If I don’t tell anyone nobody will notice!
By the end of the evening I was sorting out the Afrika Korps boxes and planning my next foray into the world of plastic kits. At some point, unknowingly and unintentionally, I had experience an epiphany in the form of plastic soldiers. So let us see some of them. Here’s the platoon as a whole:
In detail we can see the Boys team with both prone and moving figures:
The 2″ mortar team similarly employed:
The FOO and the Engineer team. The grey plastic is 1:48th Tamiya. You can make your own mind up about fit. If when painted it looks odd I shall shove the radio operator in a clump of desert grass!
The Sniper team and medic:
And finally a snap of the platoon commander and his sergeant:
Here is a snap of the tools I used for the job.
I uses the hefty blade to remove the figures from the sprues. This was not an easy job and I broke one very sharp blade in doing so, only a minor cut resulting. So please note, this is not a job I would give to a youngster. I used the smaller blade to trim any bits and the pointy thing (technical term alert) to sculpt the green stuff. There was not much filling on any of the figures, but there was a bit on most. Clearly certain sets of arms have been sculpted to go with certain bodies, and if you go off-piste you can hit issues with fitting. However, this is only to be expected. If you are prepared to get the green stuff out and do some minor alterations then the world is your oyster. This is a HUGE plus for these figures, and plastic generally.
The glue you can see in the bottle is paint on stuff. I had never used this before but the bloke in the local model shop told me it was “the Rolls Royce of glues” and assured me it has caused more miracles than Christ and all of his apostles combined. And he lied! Yeah, it is a good glue, but it is not a cure-all. In the plastic modelling I had done in the past I had always used the bog standard Airfix type “cement” in a tube. It was always a messy result, so trying something new appealed. The trick with this stuff is, I learnt as I had nearly completed the platoon, is to paint both surfaces of the bits to be joined, leave it for 30 seconds, the paint one side again and then slap them together. This seemed to melt both surfaces sufficiently for them to knit together tightly. If you just painted it on one side and then put the tow bits together the joint was incredibly weak.
To get to this stage has taken me 14 hours of work. I had two reasons for going with plastic: variety of poses and cost. On variety of poses they hit the mark perfectly. Cost is a moot point. As a full time wargamer I don’t have an endless supply of cash, but what is less available for me is time. It just happens that I am taking a few days off, so this has been pretty unique for me to have such time to burn on getting figures to the stage where they can now be undercoated. Normally I’d expect to have a metal platoon prepared to that point with an hour’s work with a file. So I saved probably fifteen quid, but lost thirteen hours. Not a good exchange rate. When you add to the mix that I bought TWO boxes then they probably end up costing the same as metals, and I also bought a box of the Perry metal packs which are designed to go with this box set and without which I think the platoon would have looked under-dressed. So not cheap at all. BUT I DO HAVE A TOTALLY UNIQUE PLATOON! And that’s worth shouting about.
Any concerns? Yes, if I am honest I am worried about transporting these around. I tend to run games across the length and breadth of the country doing demos with clubs and participation games round the shows. I am concerned that plastic won’t stand up to the rigours of my life on the road. But that is an issue which is possibly peculiar to me. If you game at home with the odd trip to the club then you’ll probably have nothing to worry about. I would have preferred to see more options with open hands, particularly the right arm where there is a very limited choice.
My advice is that if you fancy doing a bit of modelling and making something yourself which nobody else has, and you can find the time to do this then this box set is a great buy. If you are looking for a pure cost saving then my experience is that you won’t get it, and if you are an “I don’t care what they look like, just get them on the table” sort of bloke then you’ll possibly be better off with metal.
So, am I pleased with my British force at this point? Too bloody right I am. I am just waiting for a break in the weather to get them undercoated, then I’ll be posting some updates as I take my platoon through to completion.
Colours this weekend sees the unveiling of the very first set of rules soon to be published by our sister company, Reisswitz Press, Pickett’s Charge. From the pen of veteran game designer Dave Brown, Pickett’s Charge are designed to cover battle-sized action from a Division a size upwards to multi-player games with multiple Corps per