Sunday, April 10, 2011

Product Review: Plastic Soldier Co. Russian T-34 tanks

Ever since I've been interested in Flames of War, I've been looking for a cheaper way to field armour. Coming from 40K, $8-10 per tank isn't too bad but, when you want to field them in large numbers or they become an ancillary part of your army list, it just doesn't make sense to drop $40-50.

To fill that inexpensive niche, Plastic Soldier Co. (along with Russian model maker, Zvezda) has started to release several new hard plastic 1/100 scale kits. PSC released this T-34 boxed set along with a Russian infantry set (not reviewed here because I play Finns, not Russians). There's also word on TMP that PSC is set to release a Panzer IV kit, which may also be of interest to Finnish players (contrary to Battlefront's army lists, Finland did field a few PzIVs in the Late War period.).

This set includes parts to assemble both T-34s, armed with either 76mm guns or 85mm guns. Because the sprues include separate turrets, guns, and hatches for each version you could easily assemble everything included and just switch out the turrets to suit your army list! I purchased my set from Sgt. Major Miniatures, who seem to be the only US distributor.

For 5 tanks, I only paid $31 including Priority Mail postage. That's less than $6 a tank!

Packaging is fairly neat and spartan; all five sprues fit into a 6" square box. There are no paper instructions but a diagram on the back of the box shows how to assemble and paint the tanks. While the sprues are well-organized, I would suggest going over the assembly diagram and dry-fitting parts when you begin assembling your first tank.

Assembly (once you get the hang of it) is simple and quick. One of the few bad things about this kit is the fact that the chassis doesn't fully connect with the tank body, leaving a small void right behind the upper track assembly. While this is fairly well-covered by the tracks and the wheels, if you plan to remove/bend/damage the fenders and/or wreck one or two of them (like I did in my objective below), the void may be noticeable and will have to be filled with putty.

The body is (mostly) a one-piece casting. For some reason, the engine deck is a separate piece that is glued unto the body rear. Additionally, the hull machine gun ball is also a separate piece - be very careful not to lose it!

Both turrets are in 2 pieces. On the 76mm turret, the upper piece slots internally unto the lower turret piece. On the 85mm turret, both pieces are joined just near the bottom, this unfortunately leaves a small joint in the side of the turret. It can be solved by cutting off the extra plastic from the inside of the top turret piece to either side of the main gun. Additionally, the 85mm gun must be placed or glued unto the bottom turret piece before joining both halves (remember what I said about dry-fitting!?). On the 76mm gun, the mantlet and gun are a separate piece. The hatches are separate, so can be modeled open or shut.

The road wheels are all one piece and the diagram doesn't make it very clear which way they face. I had to look up reference photos to figure it out! FYI, the smaller wheel (pictured below, on the right) goes towards the front.

Below is a Battlefront Finnish rifleman for reference to scale. The height and width seem just right for 15mm, even though I'm not too bothered about exact scale size. All in all, assembly (including the objective) took me only about 4 hours.

Making the wreck for this objective was relatively easy. I scrapped off the molded-on tow cable from the left fender, using my #428 Dremel wire brush and also thinned it out, which made the damage look more realistic. I also cut out the rear engine access hatch using a scribing tool and an Xacto, so that it looks like it popped open from the blast.

I then punched a ragged hole in the left rear of the tank body from the AT shell. I then took an extra Russian crewman, cut off his legs, glued him into the hatch, and then glued both hatches down (but slightly open).

Next, I took the left wheel assembly, cut off the rear wheel, and bent the last bogey at an odd angle. Then, I cut off about 2mm of the tracks and (using the extra track links) glued them unto the bottom track assembly, so it appears the tank moved a few feet before meeting it's end. Some Finnish riflemen and tree stumps and it was complete!

-Great quality
-Relatively easy to assemble (if you take your time)
-Extra bits (stowage bins, fuel drums, extra track, & commander) included

-Small gap between chassis and body
-Joint in 85mm turret
-No decals
-Tow cable molded into left fender about halfway back

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