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Freitag, 17. Januar 2014

Review: Warlord Games Red Army infantry VS. Black Tree Design Red Army infantry

For the last article in the WW2 month-and-a-half series I would like to review not one but two miniatures packs. In the red corner we got Warlord Games' Red Army infantry, in the other red corner we got the Soviet rifle platoon by Black Tree Design.

First I will have a look at each of the sets seperately and then compare them next to each other.

Going alphabetically, let's start with the Black Tree Design ones.

Review: Black Tree Design's Soviet Infantry

Black Tree Design, UK company, offer an extensive range of WW2 figures, infantry as well as vehicles (next to many more historical and a bunch of Fantasy/Sci-Fi ranges as well).

All their models are full metal, infantry in most cases comes as a single piece cast. Bases are not included.

As you can see, the models have little base bumps cast onto their feet so you just glue them to the bases. If you use slotta bases in most cases the base bumps will not completely cover the slot so you will have to fill the bits to the sides up with something (putty, sticky tape, ... ).

The models come delivered in plastic baggies. I ordered a full platoon, a pack of characters and a Maxim machine gun.

In the case of the platoon I ordered the weight of the models meant that one or two guns were a little bent, no problem though. As I said, it's high quality metal, not the kind that makes horrible cracking noises when you bend things back into shape.

With single piece metals people often critisize the lack of poses. Not with this one though. During cleaning and basecoating the figures I hardly noticed that there are any doubles in there at all. This isn't quite the case but across a platoon of 30 figures having 25 individual sculpts is pretty darned good. In practice this means that you won't really notice any doubles at all unless you spend the time looking for them.

The casting quality is rather nice. However, the rifle platoon figures required some more cleaning. I'm pretty sure that the mould for those is pretty worn out at this point, as it happens with the "breat and butter" troops of a range. On the other sets I got there hardly were any mould lines at all.

The platoon comes with 21 riflemen, 3 SMG troopers and 3 LMG teams so commander aside, it's a full platoon (which is one of the reasons I got that character pack). The poses are varied enough, four of the models kneeling, five (including a LMG team) lying prone on the ground.

Riflemen all clutch their Mosin Nagant infantry rifles, no bayonets fixed, SMG troopers all got a mix of the PPD-40 and the iconic PPsh-41. LMG of course all are Degtyaryov machine guns. No fancy automatic rifles. Uniforms are mostly summer uniforms with the occasional padded winter Telogreika jacket. Backpacks and such are varied (fitting for the red army). Regular backpacks, bedsheets across the body, some spades (they were way less prevalent in the red army than they were with the Germans), some grenade pouches and even some looted German equipment like canteens on some of the models. Most of the models wear helmets, 9 with Pilotka side caps, 4 with Ushanka fur hats and one of the models is bare headed.

The character pack got me another SMG trooper with a big old cigar, a grumpy looking officer as well as a trooper playing the accordion while another one is cooking. The latter ones of course are really charming sculpts to have. The picture doesn't do the models favours, the bare metal versions are a bit more even looking.

I based the figures on flat plastic bases, the same kind Warlord Game use in their packs as well.

So you basically wash, clean of mould lines and glue the models to their bases. That's it assembly-wise. Quick and cheerful, no gap filling required of course, no miscasts. Painting was not a problem and rather enjoyable.

Review: Warlord Games Soviet Infantry

Now for Warlord Games' Soviets. These I actually painted and wrote the first review draft for in mid-December. Other than with the other infantry sets I reviewed from Warlord's range I didn't get the full box this time but two infantry sprues and a weapons sprue.

Still, let's have a quick peek at the box just so you know what you're in for. Other than with most other plastic infantry boxes Warlord Games offer this box doesn't come with 25 to 30 models but a whopping 40. Yup, this means that you get a full platoon in this one. This is a very nice change because I was a bit unhappy with the fact that the other boxes will get you just a few models short of a full platoon (at least for the late war).

In the box you get five sprues with eight figures on them each as well as three weapons sprues, some sprues with bases and the obligatory sheet giving you info about what is what on the sprues, which arm pairs go together and so on.

This is the main sprue. Eight bodies (one of them lying prone, two kneeling), 13 heads (one field cap, two Pilotka side caps, two felt hats, helmets on the rest), 29 arms (including one lobbing a burning Molotov Cocktail and a pointing one), two bases (flat, round, 25mm diameter), 6 spades (one of them "unwrapped" so you can use it for base design or indeed as a close combat weapon) and a bunch of bags, pouches and backpacks. Not too many but then many of the bodies already have bags, haversacks, bedrolls and so on sculpted onto them.

Overall it's packed with things. There is some space that could have been used to add some more stuff though, especially given how there are a whopping eight models on the sprue. The two additional bases also take up space but I guess it saves Warlord Games to add two more sprues of five bases each to the box. By the way, for the lying body there again is no base included.

Now let's look at the weapons sprue:

This certainly is a mixed bag here. Six sub-machine guns (several PPSh-41 with drum and curved box magazines and a PPD40), eight Mosin-Nagant rifles with bayonets fixed and without, one of them scoped (and one of them snapped right in the middle during transport, as I had to notice, grudgingly), a funky little carbine, 2 SVT-40 semi-automatic rifles, a captured panzerfaust, an anti-tank rifle, a DP machine gun, a bunch of grenades, pouches, machine gun ammo box (with a little miscast again), a map pouch, binoculars and some handguns.

So a real mix of things there. Given how you only get three of these weapon sprues for 40 models you might find yourself strapped for rifles if you want to set up an infantry platoon for say 1939 to 1941. For later years, especially 1944 and 1945 of course there are various TO&Es around. And of course platoons rarely were at full strength but I prefer to generall adhere to the historical sources.

The casting, as always, is really good, mould lines are to be taken care of of course. The miscasts are in the regular old places - officer caps, ammo boxes. Both can be patched up pretty effortless with modelling putty but especially on the officer's cap I strongly suggest doing so.

The faces again are a bit on the very characterful side of things. Almost kind of caricature-like if you compare them to the likes of Wargames Factory's faces for instance.

Assembly was a bit of a chore this time to be honest. Only having the sprues without the instructions meant I had to match up the arms and such myself which took a bit longer than it would have if I'd had the instructions. The fit of the parts was good enough, as usual. I put together a squad of ten with a mix of weapons but taking the squad organization from the Chain of Command's Soviet Rifle Platoon organization chart.

After slapping on some paint I ended up with this squad here:

I added some differentiating shades on the uniform because if you thought that German Feldgrau was a problem to pin down you have to look at Soviet WW2 uniforms. ;) The colours are very much dependant on the factory they were made in and then they often started bleaching out rather fast when exposed to wind and weather.

The Comparison (a.k.a. Are either of them more equal than the other?)

Size-wise they are both surprisingly close to one another. Black Tree Design's are spot on 28mm from foot to eye level, Warlord Games' tend to be a nudge taller but it's hard to notice due to their poses. Warlord's models also are a little chunkier, especially around the legs it seems.

Here are some pictures of Black Tree Design and Warlord Games figures with similar poses next to each other.

As you can see, the difference isn't all that great, however equipment on the Warlord Games figures is a little bigger in some cases. Helmets for example are about a mm wider. The most appearant difference in size will be the DP light machine guns. On Black Tree Design's models it's 24mm long, on Warlord Games' it's 28mm, has a distinctively longer barrel and the pan magazine is a fair bit larger as well. Warlord's version is closer to the actual measurements. In gamer's terms though of course it's also a lot less rugged and the barrel might snap easily.

The Mosin Nagant rifles on the other hand are the same length even though due to an optical illusion you'd think that the Warlord Games ones are longer due to being thinner and some of them having bayonets fixed. However, they're the same length, Black Tree Design's being a bit thicker of course.

The size is consistent with all the other Warlord Games releases I worked with so far which means: A fair bit chunkier than true 28mm scale, not chunky enough to fit with Warhammer 40,000 parts though.

So overall they are the same size, roughly 28mm from foot to eye level, Warlord's being a hint taller but it's not really noticable unless you measure every single one. That aside, Warlord's models are mostly kneeling, hunched over and so on while a lot of BTD's are standing up.

Assembly takes a while with Warlord's figures. The instruction sheet is very helpful there, still you have to do a whole lot of cleaning, dry-fitting and so on. But you do get a lot of opportunity for converting and posing. BTD's models are all single piece sculpts, so little in the way of conversion opportunity. Warlord's figures come with a surprisinly low number of regular rifles but on the other hand they got all these extras like semi-automatic rifles, sniper rifles, the panzerfaust, anti tank rifles and so on. It's nice to have those but really, in 90% of all times you will just want a regular rifle platoon and many rule sets won't differentiate between a few semi-automatic rifles strewn across a rifle platoon and regular rifles.

Let's look at the price tag now. Even by Warlord Games standards, £ 28.00 for 40 figures is pretty inexpensive. Black Tree Design's platoon of 30 figures costs about the same, £ 29.69 although without bases. However, Black Tree Design have sales up very often. I got the figures at a -45% off sale before christmas for about £ 17.00.

I think that the comparison of these two products highlights the strengths and weaknesses of plastics and metals very well. Warlord Games' plastic figures give you more freedom in terms of conversion, posability and weapon options but they require gap filling, assembly and much more cleaning and go a bit overboard on the fancy weapons where a few more regular rifles would have been nice.

Black Tree Design's metal figures on the other hand come as they are and as they will stay. Not much cleaning required and you can put them onto their bases. I suggest giving them a varnish after painting. I am really pleased with the variety in poses on these models so I would say that in terms of poses both sets are equal. I might even give the BTD set the upper hand in this because even with eight bodies per sprue you will start to recognize a bit of a samey look if there is a larger formation of those on the table.

Personally, I am slightly more fond of the metal models by BTD. The bigger weapons seem to fit the size of the models better I think. The faces look better, with some displaying distinctively asian facial traits. I would like to adress that I don't have anything against plastic models what so ever. Just in this case I prefer the metals.

Both sets have their pros and cons, both are high quality and well worth their price. In this case I think it completely comes down to personal preferences.

This leaves us with just one more question: I've got a section of Warlord Games' and BTD's soviets finished. How do they mix then?

Not all that badly I think. I wouldn't advise getting both specifically for mixing but I was surprised to see that they look pretty nice mixed. So off to the front lines with you and fight all those other nasty ideologies!

...and thus the last review of WW2 month-and-a-half comes to a close. I hope that you enjoyed it and found it interesting. If you did any indeed if you're interested in getting your WW2 (or any other) toy soldiers an extra nice paintjob, some customization or if you're interested in getting into wargaming but aren't sure where to start I would say drop me a line for any commission requests via e-mail, here in the comments or via facebook. Same goes for article feedback of course!

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