Monday, July 10, 2017

Plastic Chariots of the Nuclear Dawn – A Review of Plastic Model Kit Manufacturers for Twilight: 2000 Wargaming


 In the past, we’ve discussed 20mm figures and manufacturers in general, but there is a plethora of kits out there, some are pretty good for wargaming…some, not so much. So, we’re here to talk about those kits specifically, and while I won’t manage to get to them ALL today, I will do my best to cover the biggies and see if we cannot manage to help you folks out in trying to make your gaming dollars go further.

 One thing to keep in mind. Many of these kits are model kits. They aren’t specifically designed for wargaming, per se, but many of them are easily adaptable. That means you can leave hatches open to put lead crew figures in, or add stowage, or even have parts that aren’t going to fall off if you look at them funny. Some, however, as nice as they look (and some look really nice) are fragile as a Faberge egg, and you’d do well to go elsewhere buy that particular vehicle.

 Another point? Many of the Soviet bloc stuff is made, naturally, in Eastern Europe, and the quality of kits from those manufacturers is dodgy, to say the least, but with some work and patience, (and a whole lot of sheet styrene, putty, and paint), you can make a passable model that will look good on the table, such as this ACE BMP-2:
This ACE BMP-2 caused me a bit of heartburn, to say the least. I had to make tracks from putty, as well as to fit the hull halves together. I also had to do quite a bit of filing and shaping to make the turret ring work. God bless the fact that I managed to make the Liberation Miniatures half-crewmen fit.

 
Apologies for the lousy pic, but you get the ideas, I added some Libmins Soviet tanker figures I had after leaving the hatches open, and with a decent paint job and some weathering? It looks pretty good for a half-baked Eastern European kit, doesn’t it?


 But what is good about these kits? They are easily modified, or “kit bashed” and made into some really creative ideas as mentioned in my article on the subject of vehicles in Twilight: 2000. They’re also cheaper than specialty resin vehicles or specialty wargame kits one finds out there. Now, it is $10-11 for a 1/72 AFV these days, but that’s still not shabby as compared to a resin kit, and if the resin isn’t up to snuff for whatever reason, it is harder to fix that than a plastic kit that has too much flash, or bent parts, or that won’t mate properly. Even there, those kits are becoming rarer with better manufacturing technology and the kits of today are very much better and easier to assemble than even the ones found some 20 years ago.  In short, the kits for what you are looking for are out there, you just have to find them.

So, let’s now discuss some manufacturers of 1/72 scale kits and what you can expect from said manufacturers in terms of general quality and ease of assembly?

Revell

Image taken from Revell website

  Revell of Germany is pretty much the largest and most prodigious producer of 1/72-1/76 plastic kits out there. Simply put, if it’s a modern vehicle, chances are, they make it. Their kits run the good and the bad, with the T-80 kits being superb in my opinion. The bad, well that depends. As much as I like Revell, I do hate their separate plastic track links thing. Got to be honest, I can never make it look good, and it takes a lot of patience and manual dexterity, neither of which I possess in spades.

  That said, their website is so-so, they have a webstore, and it is searchable by scale and type (look under Revell of Germany for the military kits) but the fact is, the results are still difficult to pick through with all the 1/35 and 1/48 scale stuff. It can be a bit aggravating and to be honest, there is a lot of third party websellers out there who sell Revell kits who have much better organized websites.

  But that, said, they are prodigious, and they are good, solid kits that take well to wargaming!

Model Collect

Image taken from Model Collect website

 Model Collect is a small, but seemingly prodigious company in China that makes some neat stuff of interest for Twilight: 2000 miniature gamers. They practically make every known variant of the T64, T72, T80 and the T90s, as well as BMP-3! Yep, they have you covered on Soviet armor. They even make T-62s which is exciting, especially since nobody made them after Esci left the scene, unless you bought them in resin from Britannia. (I thought S& S made them, but Shaun corrected me on that, he said they never did, but they do have plenty of diecast and ready made T-62s for sale.)

  Now, the downside, having assembled these kits, I can tell you. They are designed for the master modeler. I think I did a pretty good job with them, and I like that the reactive armor aren’t individual blocks (looking at you, Revell!) and while the metal lower hull can be an intimidating prospect, a little super glue (I recommend Loctite or Gorilla Glue, my go-tos, but rehearse how you are going to assemble the pieces before you put them together!), and you got it assembled. Not to mention? That lower hull gives the model some neat heft. The hatches can be opened with a little work, so S & S and Libmins crew figures can be used here quite easily. And they do one piece tracks (warning, they don’t melt as readily as the old Taimya tracks, so be ready to staple.)

  In short, the kits while expensive, are a good buy if you are doing Twilight: 2000, because, you don’t need a ton of vehicles for them! The website is clear and easy to order from, and considering the kits are coming from China, the shipping is lightning fast. And they take Paypal, which settles my anxieties about unknown websellers (they are known to me now, but I would always prefer doing business with a website that has secure HTTP or does Paypal, then one that does not in this day and age).

 In short, a solid, but fiddly series of kits, and a bit on the expensive side, but worth what you get.

Plastic Soldier Company



Taken from Plastic Soldier Company website

  Plastic Soldier Company is one of the many fast build plastic model companies out there churning out kits for wargamers. Up till now, they have been sticking mostly to the World War II market, producing kits in 15mm and 20mm. But the recent release of the above T-55 in 15mm has kicked off a demand for the same in 20mm, and they’re throwing a “Willstarter” to see if they get 200 orders for the 20mm version, which will come three to a box. Perfect for a platoon, or Twilight: 2000, as many divisions by 2000 are lucky to HAVE three tanks. They are also doing a Leopard 1, which makes me excited, as I can always use a few more of those.

  I have built a lot of Plastic Soldier Company stuff. For the most part, it’s solid, easy to build, wargaming models that have a lot of extras and just are plain fun to build, even for this fumble fingered idiot (having only screwed up one Mk III), In short, I am just plain loving these kits, and my only real complaint? The track assembly often leaves gaps between the two halves. Its nothing a little putty does not solve however, I personally enjoy the fact I can churn out whole platoons in a sitting and they take paint and kitbashing exceptionally well. The extras they often include are just downright cool, and I just hope they do M113s, their ACAVs would be something to see.

  Their webstore is solid, easy to use and their communication with the customer is something a lot of other companies could stand to learn from, in my opinion.

S-Model

Taken from Plastic Soldier Company website

 S-Model is another Chinese-based company, and it’s a bit between the master modeler and the fast builds we see entering the market from companies like Plastic Soldier Company. They have a small range for moderns, mostly concentrating on BMPs, BMDs, and BRDMs, which are all hard to get in plastic, but at two to a box, you can build platoons pretty quick, but as I also mentioned, for Twilight: 2000, how many do you really need?

  The kits themselves are a bit fiddly, especially the metal parts, but overall, they are a fast-ish build. I cannot complain all that much, heck, I got BMDs to go with my Soviet airborne for cripes sake! And I didn’t have to go the resin route, which, all due respect to the fellas at S & S, but it’s not cheap, especially if you factor in shipping from England!

 Now, I have seen US distributors for S-Models, but they don’t carry a lot of the moderns. I assume you could probably get them to special order, but that might take a while. That said, these are also solid, well made kits of value to a wargamer!

  I don’t know if S-Model itself has a website, but I do Plastic Soldier Company carries their entire line, so I would recommend ordering from them.

 

Dragon Models

Taken from Dragon Models website

  Dragon Models is a Hong Kong-based company and is very prodigious, or at least, they were last I checked. Their kits are clearly more based for the modeler, but I have built a pair of their HMMWVs and a T-34/85 and while their kits have a lot of fiddly parts, they are very kitbashable. The T-34, for example, had an AB crew added and I had to pin most of the road wheels in place due to an assembly accident, it worked out very well though, but that said, go into it aware, these are not the easiest kits to assemble.

 You can find Dragon kits pretty much at any hobby shop, and I personally have, they are pretty easy on the wallet, especially the HMMWVs, as they come two to a box. You could do worse as a source of HMMWVs, to be honest.

Ace Models (there is a reason I am not giving out the link, read the blurb)



Taken from the On The Way website
  Ok folks, I know, ACE has a nice, prodigious line of kits doing a lot of Eastern bloc vehicles, and more than a few from everywhere else. Trouble is..a lot of these kits, when I built them, downright stank. They were often hard to put together, with misleading instructions, missing parts, or lousy ones, and often a need to fix the kits with generous helpings of styrene, putty, and patience. I often had to do a lot of work to salvage the kits I bothered to assemble. (exhibit No. 1, the BMP pictured at the beginning of the article.), and well, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Now, they are saying the Gen 2 kits are much better, and I am willing to give that the benefit of the doubt…but the reputation lasts to this day. (I know some fellas on the Guild, and these are some master model builders, who will not touch ACE kits with a ten foot pole and a gun to their head.)
 But then, I go to the ACE website to link it to the article (as I have done for everyone else), as well as get a nice screenshot for their portion of the article, and I get a virus alert, this is a major fail on the part of ACE. Why in the world would I buy their sub-par kits and also risk getting a virus where someone might steal my money? In this day and age, all companies who have a web presence of any kind should at least pay lip service to a thing called cyber security? If not, they are not getting my money. Yeah, not happening ACE..just not happening.

Esci


Taken from D & D Models

 Esci was for a long time “the 1/72 scale armor manufacturer” out there. If they didn’t make it, chances are, nobody did. They made so many kits, there are still many out there for people to purchase second-hand (even if the kits are showing their age at 30+ years old). I recently got my hands on quite a few of these kits at a con. The only complaint I have about these gems? It’s the same one I have about the Revell Germany kits…separate track links. I know, some people like ‘em. I don’t. They are a pain to put together, but I have found, with a little effort and patience, one can usually get the job done, even if I am left wondering why I spent so much time on this. Right now, Italieri is putting out the kits, and doing a fine job of it. 


Trumpeter 

Taken from eBay

  Trumpeter is, in my experience, midway between the Plastic Soldier Company kits, and the Model Collect in terms of complexity. They do a decent job and the kits are not what I would call rocket science, the hardest kit I ever built of theirs was their LAV-25, as the suspension was a bit complicated, but even that wasn’t THAT hard. I have two built and I rather enjoyed the experience, and would build more if given the chance.  I have also built a T-55 and an M4/76 of theirs, and all of them came together very easily. Moreover, they had solid tracks! One thing that bugged me? On the T-55, the instructions to assemble the hull pieces were a bit unclear..and screwy to say the least...(You actually needed to use a pair of screws to screw the two halves of the hull together). 
  I cannot say it is too difficult to get Trumpeter kits in your local hobby shop. They are a prodigious manufacturer, and they do a variety of subjects of interest to anybody doing Twilight: 2000. Their LAV-25 is especially of value, as it seems to be a favorite vehicle of player groups…and if you’re going to use miniatures as part of your RPGing? Then at least one LAV is a must. I would also get some after market RB Models turned metal barrels for the 25mm chaingun..trust me, it looks killer on the LAV.

PS: Happy birthday to me! And what a gift..we have crossed the 17K followers mark and I could not be prouder of this blog and my readers! Thanks, guys!

 

5 comments:

  1. Trumpeter and Dragon both sometimes do assembled and painted versions of their kits. I have a Trumpeter BTR-60 kit that is EXACTLY the same as the same model they sold assembled with a decent paint scheme for just a few quid more.

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    Replies
    1. I knew about Dragon, which are nice pieces, but we usually wind up with the die cast pieces here in the States. Not that I am complaining, as those vehicles are very, very nice indeed. Did not know Trumpeter did so.

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  2. I have a Revell T-72A myself made up in East German colours. Track pieces are a nightmare though...

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  3. Great reviews and info. Bookmarking for future reference. I found the ACE models more like mining off the sprues with a pick axe compared to the ease of revell. Glad Im not the only one!

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  4. All my armor was always Tamiya and in 1/35 scale. Ill have start grabbing some of these 1/72 up

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