Impressions: Under Fire Miniature’s West German Polizei

As much as I love many of the established companies, I’m always keeping my eye on what else there is. One company that has caught my eye is Under Fire Miniatures. They have a wonderful range of 20mm figures but more exciting for me is their small but rapidly growing set of 28mm stuff. At the time of writing they have two sides of a Cold War Gone Hot Scenario, with 1980’s era West German Bundeswehr and East German NVA to fight against, with each range including command and support weapons. They also Russians for the same era on the way to the casters, getting you ready for some Red Thunder from over the Iron Curtain.

However, when I got to their stand at Fiasco I was looking at their other 28mm option, the West German Polizei. These figures really interested me from when they were first announced thanks to the mixture of military firearms and police uniform. Both packs are £8 each and include four figures. Looking for some local cops to patrol the mean streets of Bazi City (or with the long arms more likely the rural areas of Bazistan), I grabbed both packs and got to work.

The figures are excellent sculpts – in fact, the sculpting style reminds me strongly of Empress’s stuff, which is always of pretty high quality. Assembly is simple – most are one piece figures and those with separate limbs have a pin system making it easy to fit the limbs. That said, I recommend dry fitting the parts to make sure they are not any unwanted gaps.

Pack one is the basic pack, giving you 4 police officers armed with G3s. Two are shooting while the other two are more specialised. The chap in the beret is running with G3 and a HK69 grenade launcher slung on his back (ready for dropping smoke or firing rubber balls into the crowd when on police duty) while the final officer is obviously a superior (based off the pose and beard sculpted on the figure). I really like the posing on the two shooting police officers – its simple but works really effectively.

Pack two is the support weapons – two with Medium Machine Guns (MG3s) and two with Panzerfaust 44 anti-tank weapons. These may look a little heavy for a police force but makes sense in a Cold War Gone Hot/Mass Civil War situation. As with pack 1, there are some really nice details from ammo boxes for the MG3s to the sports bag the police have pushed into service for carrying AT rounds. These guys should be a nasty surprise for your opponent when you tell them you are using some police in today’s game.


Wanting to theme them more to Bazistan, I decided to sculpt some facial hair onto three of them (the running G3, the idle Pzf 44 gunner and the moving MG3 trooper). This was really simple and I fear I didn’t leave it long enough to cure as the undercoat covered up most of the detail. However, I did the job of making them look a little hairier.

Here they are painted up! I went for a Police uniform (so no camo) and took a look at police forces in the region. Originally the colour was Khaki top and bottom but it looked a bit dull so I add the Iraqi sand trousers. The caps were painted in beige brown while the band around was painted the same colour as the berets. US Tan drab was finely painted on the webbing. As always the final touch was lashings of Agrax Earthshade.

Here are the rifle pack, showing off the slung blooper. I really like the wooden colour that came out on the G3s giving them the look of an older pattern/locally produced gun as opposed to the later polymer guns. It also nicely offsets against the black painted gun.

The support pack painted up. Not technically right but I’m happy with the wooden stock on the MG3. The anti-tank weapons went with the usual scheme of metal and green warhead.

As with any new manufacturer, it’s time for a scale comparison. This image also shows off the various security forces in Bazistan (with more details on them coming soon). From left to right

  • Crooked Dice Lawman figure – Argo Corporation Security
  • Spectre Miniatures Insurgent Kill Team – Bazistan Army SF
  • Empress Universal in PASGAT – Bazistan Army
  • Under Fire Polizei – Bazistan Internal Security
  • Eureka ANP – Bazistan Local Police

If you’re looking for something different, and don’t mind the older style of kit, the Cold War figures from Under Fire are some awesome figures to add to your collection. The sculpting is great, they fit in well with other major ranges and are great fun to paint thanks to the mixture of kit. From talking to them at the stand at Fiasco it sounds like they have figures planned (MP5s were mentioned) but I wouldn’t say no to some police with handguns/revolvers. Either way, I’ll be watching that page with glee.

For the ultramodern gamers, Cold War figures still show some appeal. These guys would look great as police or palace guard in their fancy hats. Depending on the setting, the NVA and Bundeswehr could stand in for second or third line army troops, meaning you can have trained guys with a different look to ragged insurgent look. With a few clever paint schemes, it easy to get these guys into your force and onto the table. I’m probably going to pick some more up next year and I look forward to painting them!

Initial Impressions: Knights of Dice Tabula Rasa

 

In my overview earlier this year looking at Adobe buildings, I briefly talked about Knights of Dice and their MDF buildings. Since then, I’ve picked up the rest of range and I’m now ready to talk about all the various buildings you can purchase from the Tabula Rasa desert range. In this post, I’m going to look over the basics shells, point out some features and then quickly talk about what I intend to next with them.

First up, let’s talk about the common features. All the buildings are designed as shells, only contained key structural features and with none of the detailing many other buildings would have (such as exposed brick textures or doors). The shells are made of MDF and arrive on a sprue ready to be pushed out. They are held in tightly enough so they are not accidentally pushed out during transit. This does require some pushing to get them out but I’ve yet to break a piece while extracting them. In addition, most sprues include a crowbar piece that can be used to help get the pieces ready for use. All the MDF is well cut (needing only a tiny bit of trimming on the connectors) and fit together perfectly during assembly. As always, do a dry fit before gluing together.

In all cases, the buildings have removable roofs and easy access to both floors. All the buildings also have logical access to each room via both internal or external doors, windows or via staircases. I’m not a huge fan of the staircases; assembled by default and they are way too small to fit figures on bases onto the stairs, instead acting more like a ramp. There are alternative ways to assemble them so that they are more usable but by default you won’t be placing figures on them.

Crooked Dice, Spectre, Empress, Eureka

In terms of scaling, the doorways are a tiny bit small for 25mm bases to fit through but perfect for 20mm. Heightwise, figures from Spectre and Empress fit them perfectly, although again I recommend 2mm deep bases rather than the 3mm slotta style bases.


The first two buildings are referred to as Compounds and are the biggest buildings in the range. Both have two floors as well as multiple internal rooms making them a battleground in their own right.

Compound 1 is a huge arrangement, spreading six rooms across two floors. Features of note include a covered exterior area on the ground floor, staircase up to an open roof and two upstairs rooms.

This building is obviously on the more stylish end of the range, perfect for a target building. The ground floor in particular is perfect for some CQB; the wall between the covered area and the rear room is asking for a breaching charge.


Compound 2 is a slightly smaller footprint but equally detailed. Again spread over two floors, this building has three rooms on the ground floor (the long one is split in half) and an upstairs room that leads onto the roof of the long room. The upstairs room is actually a frame that fits inside the outer shell, making it easy to lift out and be used in-game. 

As a note, the metal details are not part of the kit. They are from Empress as part of their builder’s yard. Expect some details on them as the project goes along.

Being a larger building, Compound Two presents some interesting tactical decisions. Multiple rooms will need clearing and the upstairs could be an interesting target location.


The bulk of the range is the small Desert Residences. These buildings have a smaller footprint than the compounds but should still be interesting to play though.

Residence One is a simple two room building but also include a flat outside area with a low wall around it.

Again, the metal details are from Empress.


Residence 2 use the same idea but in a slightly different arrangement to give some variation to your town.


Residence 3 is really cool. It uses the same footprint as Compound 2 but only on one floor. It’s a clever reuse of the same pieces but it works – the slightly larger layout makers the rooms great for scuffle.


The final building is something different. Labelled as a Storage Building, this would be great filled with ammo boxes and fuel cans. The arches are sadly too small for vehicles so it can’t be used as a garage/workshop without modification but there is still plenty of space to fill with things that might go boom.

If the compounds were not tempting enough, then this is perfect for scenario use. Fuel, ammo or a weapon cache, the multiple entrances will making this building an interesting position to take.


So what do I think of these buildings? The first thing I stress is that these things are shells – If you’re a game developer, these things are grey boxes, geometry designed to give you the mechanically feel for a place but not the actual look. They are the perfect starting point to make them feel how you want them while having much of the heavy lifting (such as rooms or multi-storey buildings) already done. You could but them on the table after a spray of paint but they would look a little plain. This lack of detail also means they are slightly cheaper than many other MDF buildings.The quality level is great and they don’t feel too small, even with based figures, that can be an issue with some other MDF set ups.

Once you put some extra bits on them and painted them up, you can get some really cool looking stuff. Spectre have used them on their demo board at Crisis and in the UK (I got to run a game on them at the Spectre Ops day back in July). In fact, Knights of Dice have released a new range using these Tabula Rasa buildings as a base but with some sci-fi elements ready to make your own den of scum and villany.

As a useful starting point, there are plenty of accessory packs as part of the Tabula Rasa range. These add useful elements like antennas and vents, as well as some walkways and ladders to improve access to the buildings.

If you’re interested in them, where is it best to pick them up? For most people, and if you want the latest stuff, you’ll want to grab them directly from Knights of Dice via their online store. In fact, the website says if you are in the area (Victoria in Australia), feel free to drop in for a visit. Being Australian based, this can lead to some long delivery times and expensive postage. Luckily, Shiny Games in the UK also stocks them (with only a slight delay between release on the KoD site and being in the UK). I have bought a fair amount of stuff from them and they are a fantastic shop. Great pricing, prompt delivery and even have a loyalty scheme ready to knock some money off your orders.


I now have these boxes, it’s time to make them look pretty. This article officially kicks Project Compound, which will take these buildings and make them look ready for battle. The idea is to make them look like an urban area somewhere in Bazistan in the early days of a conflict. Some limited damage but not completely wiped out. As well as the texturing and painting needed, I also want to add some more walls and street furniture. I’m going to update the blog with a new post once I work out which parts are going where. I still have a few Empress bits to use up (both air conditioning units and TV dishes) so I now need to work out which buildings are getting them.

I’m looking forward to getting these buildings done. This should be a great chance to make some buildings ready to sit on my boards as well as theming them to my theatre of operation – I’ll be going all out with posters and advertising.

If you’re wanting to keep an eye on this project, I recommend following the facebook page where I’ll be putting some WIP photos up.

Impressions: Spectre’s September Releases

September saw a pretty big set of releases for Spectre. With 5 separate sets covering a selection of collections, there really was something in it for everyone. More importantly, it added some more female figures and filled some capability gaps. 

Tier 1 Operator – Delta

 

We start with a new Tier 1 Operator. She looks just like her male counterparts, with SIG MCX, silenced pistol and fast mag equipped battle belt. She fits perfectly into the rest of the range and provides some variety to the squad. I’ve painted her up to match the rest of my Argo contractors (solid colour clothing, tan webbing), but she would also work well in an Agent or other undercover force.

Task Force Operators – Golf

Two more operators to the giant Task Force collection. These two are equipped the same as their colleagues, wearing body armour and fast helmet while carrying carbines with the trifecta of upgrades (red dot, laser and silencer). One is wearing a full size vest while the other just has a chest rig and carrying a kit bag, both packed full of gear. These figures fit

One thing to point out – with the figure with the carbine pointing down, I noticed it was quite easy to bend the weapon back and forth. I don’t think it will snap but it’s something to keep an eye on.

GRU RPG – Alfa

A key capability for any force is the ability to knock out armoured vehicle and fortified positions. Since release, the main way the Russian GRU had to do this was the pump action grenade launcher. Now, a Russian player can pick up this figure and have a light anti-armour weapon perfect for knocking out insurgent technicals or the SUV the VIP is riding in.

I really like this figure – from the crouching pose to slung PP19 SMG, he is spot on for the role. Also there is nothing better than dropping an explosive rocket right on the target

Insurgent Stinger – Alfa

If the GRU RPG was a pretty useful piece of kit, the stinger is going to level the playing field for the OPFOR. In Spectre Operations, MANPADs can prevent airborne off map assets which are often used by the more elite teams (as I know well from the Spectre weekend where a little bird managed to wreck an entire flank). This figure, in balacava, vest and utility trousers, may not have much else but totting the stinger around is a pretty useful task.

As well as being useful against airborne targets, this guy would also be useful as VIP/objective for missions where your SF team is hunting down potentially dangerous gear.

Insurgent Kill Team

The first release in the new Squad packaging is a new team perfect for augmenting your insurgent force. Sculpted moving more tactically than their insurgent buddies, they are armed with tactical AKs, wearing BDUs, plate carriers and comms gear. These guys can form a core of a force, able to mentor your less trained troops or focus on snatching enemy VIPs. In addition, they could also work as special forces from a middle eastern country, ready to work alongside your Western buddies or as Republican Guard infiltrators.

So why the new Squad packaging? In this case, it makes sense to get all the team members togethers giving you a powerful single unit in one go. I can see the format doing well in other situations such as for specific scenarios (VIP + bodyguards) or interesting packs that wouldn’t sell by themselves. Its strange to see Spectre go from packs of four down to two (or one) to suddenly bounce back with these big releases.

Painting Notes

Painting notes, the place where I explain all the painting decisions when it came to getting this article ready. Again, the usual rush to get stuff finished in time for a post. I’m getting better though; this time around the figures were painted Wednesday night mean they were less rushed than usual.

The latest Tier 1 Operator is painted the same way as the other Argo Contractors – block single colour for clothing, tan webbing and a dot of blue for the glasses. She ended up a little darker than her comrades, closer to the other female agents I’ve painted

The two task force operators are also painted similarly to existing figures in my collection.  As they were only wearing tshirts, the trousers had to multicam (using Spectre’s great painting guide) to match the rest of the force. Block colour Tshirts, US field drab for webbing and tan gun parts. The mad rush to

GRU was back to using my Surpat camo. I’m actually happier with this batch than I was with the original GRU figures as I used more green, which in turn made the other colours pop more. I’m tempted to redo the original group, especially as I’m about to paint up the CQB guys in the improved Surpat. Webbing was in Russian uniform.

The stinger wielding insurgent was super easy to do. Nice blocks of solid colour across the different clothing items and then the Agrax wash to dull the colours and make it fit my collections aesthetic (which has been described as having a “Post Gears of War 3rd Person shooter”filter applied)

As I’m using the Killteam to represent Bazi SF, I went for US 3 colour desert camo with painted guns and khaki boots. The 3 colour recipe came from Bolt Action CP on youtube and is super easy to do. They also match up pretty well with the Empress Universal figures I have so mixing in the odd operator to mentor the trained Bazi Army should work well.

Initial Impressions: Tiny Terrain’s Figures

So far most of this blog has been filled with models from Empress, Eureka and Spectre. Today however, I’m going to take a look at Tiny Terrain’s current offerings – in particular his law enforcement pack (that was released a few weeks ago)and the two man JTAC team released earlier this year. This is just a small selection from the range, that seeks to cover some figures not normally seen. Based on reading around, these figures are sculpted by Phil Lewis, formerly of Games Workshop fame.

In regards to customer service, its excellent for such a small operation. I ended up with a figure missing, sent an email to him that evening and had a new figure sent out the following day.

Full disclosure – I’ve talked to Craig (Mr Tiny Terrain) a fair amount and he is a great chap. Three of the games from the Spectre weekend saw me going up against him. When his blog was running it was at the very top of Must Read list.

Law Enforcement Pack

The Law Enforcement pack, purchased for £30 during the pre-order phase, is designed to complement the already released Narcos and will set you up for engagements around the border. Each pack contains 14 figures, each with a unique pose. Apart from the dog, they all have separate heads, and available options include baseball caps, bush hats, helmets (as seen here) or a mix of all three. The helmeted heads are in tactical hoods and have some nice variety to them, mixing some with goggles on and others with them stowed on the helmet.

A plus point about the heads is that they actually fit in the neck joint properly, with no issues of giraffe neck or major trimming required (unlike a certain manufacturer whose head slot fills me with dread every time).

There are seven figures armed with AR15 style carbines in a selection of poses. I did manage to snap off one of the flash hiders while fixing a bend in it but the rest went back into shape really easily. The poses all feel different and unique which is great but the overall feel of them is very static. This is definitely a group not in the midst of direct combat.

The other seven figures are specialists, giving you a few more tools for the job. Two guys with ballistic shields will help room clearing, two guys with breaching tools and another with a shotgun will get you into a room and the dog team is always handy.

I do have a pet peeve with these specialists – I think that all of them (apart from the dog and the shield users) should have a carbine slung across their back or chest. I can think of a few reasons why they haven’t but it does make WYSIWYG a pain.

I also really dislike the dog handler. The pose is off, he isn’t armed – he just looks like he standing there waiting patiently for the dog to finish off its business rather than him leading it through a search operation.

Looking closer at the shield guys, I really like them. Shields definitely help you to tell a SWAT team apart from a SF team, and these two look the business. The shields come separate and I did have some issues when I tried the goggle wearing head on the crouching body when it came to attaching the shield so be warned about a possible incompatibility.

That said, I think the breaching tools are the stars of the show. These are two figures I haven’t seen the likes of anywhere else which is something Tiny Terrain has been good at with the range so far. The circular saw + arms is a separate piece that slots into place.

Looking at the back, you can see an impressive amount of detail. From the molle strips on the vest to the belts full of gear, each of these troopers look like they are ready for the mean streets of El Paso or Juarez.

As this is a new company, I’ve grabbed a size comparison. Going from left to right we have

  • New Empress US SF
  • Old Empress US SF
  • Tiny Terrain
  • Eureka Force Recon
  • Spectre Miniatures Task Force Operator

The pack of figures is currently unavailable but should be up on the Tiny Terrain store soon. on the Tiny Terrain store at https://tinyterrainmodels.wordpress.com/law01-law-enforcers/

JTAC Team

Slightly older, the JTAC team is two man pack designed to let you add a pair of troops calling in fire support to your force. Both figures are kitted up on SF style kit, with beards and heavily laden packs on both of them. Both figures also have M4s lying on the ground next to them. One figure is posted calling in on the radio while the other is crouched over the included SOFLAM

The SOFLAM is mounted on a tripod which is seated on triangular base. To help with alignment, the front of the spotter’s base has a triangular groove, making it easy to get the different parts into position.

Overall a very simple but characterful set of figures with plenty of ingame uses for them.

Edit: Find them on the store at https://tinyterrainmodels.wordpress.com/jtac01-jtac-team-with-laser-target-designator/

Conclusion

So what do I think of this range? Are they worth your time? Yes. I think the figures are well sculpted (apart from a few poses) and cast, with lots of detail at a reasonable price for a small company. The rest of the range provides some more figures you are not likely to find anywhere and so fills a cool place.


That said, there is a reason I haven’t painted them up. While I think they are well sculpted in a technical sense of the word, from an artistic stand point they don’t really grab me. The style of sculpt just looks old to me and I don’t have great fondness for them. And if I don’t like them they are not going to get painted or used. For that reason, I’m going to sell mine off. Don’t take this as me saying “Don’t buy them” – I think a lot of people will love them but for me they just fell a little flat.

That said, Tiny Terrain has plenty of upcoming things to be excited about. As well as these figures, his store also has some cool MDF terrain and free scenery models for 3D printing. At the time of writing, his Kickstarter for a Chechen War range is going on. This is a different sculpter and so I’ll probably be taking a look when they final product comes out.

Impressions: REDvectors’s MDF Buildings

You may have noticed some MDF buildings lurking in the background of many of my impressions pieces. I’ve had some comments on them and so this reminded me I really should get my impressions up before they get ruined by my slap-dash painting style.

I picked up these buildings after bouncing a long chain of emails between myself and Mick at REDvectors. I’d seen some images of some 20mm buildings (including a version of the target building in Blackhawk Down and the Abbottabad target building) and was blown away by the style and quality of them. I fired him an email, had come great chats about getting some buildings and then Salute happened. A few months later, Mick sent me some details on a really cool set that he was working on. After a payday I sent off the cash and then a box of MDF appeared on my desk at work.

First things first, REDvectors has some great customer support. Quick responses via email, the package was really well secured and when I realised I had a miscut piece the replacement was in the post the following day. All really impressive from a one man operation.

Right, that’s enough intro, let’s take a look at the actual buildings. The pack included 6 buildings in a range of styles. Scalewise, the doors and windows are perfectly to scale with Empress and Spectre figures. The image below shows the Empress US SF figure next to two of the buildings.

The MDF is beautifully cut with no fitting issues. Even better, the buildings came precut so there was no need to cut the pieces out of any sort of frame. As always, do a dry run first as a quick test.


The first set of buildings are the simple, 1 room classic adobe style. Both buildings have two door ways and plenty of firing positions.

As common to all the buildings in this set, the roofs are removable and with solid floors. 

The next style of building is this two storey building. Two doorways on the ground floor and another on the first floor.

Both the roofs and the interior floor (with the circle cutout) can be removed to allow access to the interior. I did find the interior floor was a little loose but I once painted it should hold together better. This is so the interior floor can be pulled out without having to be tilted to miss the roof supports. The resting points on the upper floor are a little smaller than usual to also help with that.

The last of the adobe style buildings is this small compound. It includes a small covered area, three small rooms, a well and two door pieces (currently unassembled). The well is made up of multiple rings of MDF that easily go together (don’t do what I did and use superglue unless you like to live dangerously). 

So I simultaneously love this building and can see a few issues with it. Two of the interior rooms don’t seem to have any access point for them. In 90% of cases, this won’t cause any issues. However, if a close quarter battle takes places, some abstraction might occur. That said, I didn’t notice this issue despite having the buildings for a month or so and it won’t take much to knock a hole or two in the walls. Alternatively, roof hatches and ladders allow access. On the other hand, there are plenty of cool things – the two storey tower with window should provide some interesting tactical issues.

So we now come to my favourite two buildings in the pack. These are of a style we haven’t seen much elsewhere, more suited for an urban environment without becoming something that dominates the entire board with one building. I’m really excited about the idea of seeing more of these buildings, letting you having something that looks like the Mog with ease.

The first building has a balcony (that fits figures on 26mm bases) and a rooftop shack/staircase cover. There are no visible access points between the floors so some abstraction may be needed.

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted the cutouts on the rim around the top of the building. This was not a design issue but some user error. The tabs used to rest the roof on do fit together in a specific way. So dry fit and then dry fit again!

Pulling the building to pieces reveals plenty of interior space. No interior walls gives you lots of room to set it up how you want.

The second building is a similar size but with some different feature. The rooftop is entirely flat, making it a perfect spot for some helicopter insertion (I bet a little bird will fit on it solidly). The ground floor has several entry points and there are windows everywhere for shooting out of or diving through.

In this case I managed to set up the rim of the roof correctly due to careful planning and dry runs.

In addition, the building has some interior walls on both the top and floors, giving you one large room and a small corridor around it. Again, no interior staircases might be a turnoff for some people but having more playable space makes a lot of sense.


Overall, I’m really happy with this set. It was very reasonably priced (I paid £45 including first class postage) for some very nice quality (and playable) buildings and it’s really likely I’ll be trying to get some buildings from him. I might even try to commission a few things. 

If you are interested in a set of these, the best way to get your hands on them is to get in contact with Mick at REDvectors via the Contact page (http://www.redvectors.co.uk/contact.php). Some of his stuff is also being sold via Minibits, both on their website and at several shows in the UK. You can also check out their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/redvectorsuk/.

Impressions: Empress August Releases

Empress did a rather cool thing back in July and put out a list of things they planned to release. When I first saw it, I assumed we would see them dribbled out over a period of months. Empress instead dropped them all at once, leading to a rather exciting day watching the Empress Facebook page as lots of shiny new things were shown off.

For a change, I didn’t pick up all of the kits that were released; Empress also brought out a pack of pilots all ready to sit in 1:48 helicopters. As I’m currently focused on crashed aircraft right now, I didn’t see much need for this set. However, I’m tempted to pick up a Little Bird at some point and these guys would be perfect for it.

But for now, let’s focus on the guys sat on my desk.


TV Crew

TV Crews are an element that is always an interesting addition to the battlefield, often as a way of forcing some restraint on a more powerful force. Empress’s is perhaps my favourite rendition of this role with a fair amount of inspiration from the real world that a British tv watcher would recognise.

The pack contains two figures. The first is the bald-headed, sunglasses wearing presenter. He is wearing body armour and has a bare helmet under his arm. His cameraman is also wearing body armour and a helmet, with a shoulder rest camera and rucksack with all his gear

Both models are packed full of character. I only have one tiny issue and that’s the presenters nose. When it arrived it looked like it had been knocked off. I simply added a tiny blob of greenstuff to correct this. Apart from that, I really like this set. It should be handy to include in photos of the game and be a concern to the BLUFOR player. Although I get the feeling the presenter is well ‘ard and might have done some time with the SAS. Hopefully this is the first pack in a range that might include other figures in civilian roles such as photographers or journalists. They really help to bring the battlefield to life

Paint wise, the aim of the game was something deserty but not camo. Tans for everyone and blue vests to mark as civilians. Inspired by a photo online, I also free-handed “TV” in grey paint on the cameraman’s helmet to represent someone frantically taping identifying marks onto their helmet. It’s a fun detail no-one will notice except me but it’s still cool.

US SF Character

Empress already has a pretty fantastic range of figures suitable for the US Special Forces Community, from the Rangers to the US Frogman team and everything in between. Their latest release includes a character figure for the US teams but with an intriguing addition. In tribute to an iconic photo of an injured special forces soldier who has returned to the fight, this character has a prosthetic lower leg.

There are lots of little details easily visible, from the attachments on the gun to the NVG shroud on his fast helmet. Like the Rangers, the new character seems a little taller than some of the older US Special Forces figure. Much like the US Navy SEAL sniper from last year, he would be an ideal squad leader or to represent a more veteran soldier.

My figure is painted in multicam and three colour desert with tan gear, the same scheme I plan for the rest of my Empress Rangers. As for the leg, I went with a base metallic colour and then painted over the top in tan to represent a cover over it.

Universal Range

Okay, so here is the big one. Empress announced they were looking into making some third world armies which led to a flurry of questions based on what they would be like. Having now arrived, they are a neat combination of US gear and Russian weapons, very similar to the ANP models released by Eureka. I chose the MICH helmets as they are one of the most modern and western option but the M1 and Soviet helmet will be very useful.

The two packs currently available are split, with pack 1 being four riflemen and pack 2 being a pair of riflemen, a machine gunner and an RPG gunner. Details are super crisp, even down to buckles on the mag pouches. There is also some variation in terms of guns, with one of the rifleman having a folding stock AK rather than the standard one, an ideal chance to show off a squad leader or more veteran guy.

As with many Empress releases, most of the models look awesome and then there is one who just looks slightly off. The winner in this pack is the chap moving with gun down while reloading – with a minor tweak it would look really cool but at the moment he just looks really odd. The RPG and machine gun gunners are both moving – it would be nice to have them in a firing pose but that is what future releases are for.

I’m not 100% on the way they are selling them. Rather than offering heads and bodies separate, they are assembled into product codes combining bodies and heads. On the one hand, I can see the appeal for this. On the other, as someone with lots of spare heads from other upgrade packs (so many British helmets), this would be a cool way to be able to reuse them. It would be awesome to be able to pick up the heads separate, especially for people planning to build their own imagination. But no matter how they are sold, the combination of gear and guns make them a really cool idea while the separate heads gives you a huge amount of customisation.

As for me, these universals are going to represent the Bazi Army. This meant oldish AKs (hence the wood) combined with black MICH and 3 colour desert camo. These are the first figures I’ve actually done fully in this camo and I’m happy with the end effect. Requiring only three steps, it’s also a pretty easy camo to do. When more universal figures arrive, they will be swiftly joining the Bazi ranks. As for the heads, the plan for the Aden Defence Force (the British backed guys south of the border) will be British gear but MICH helmets. Hopefully I can pick up a few sets once they become available by themselves.


Overall, a really solid release from Empress. Rather than a simple expansion, most of the sets show possible future routes for Empress to go in. Universal have me really excited about the combinations we are going to start seeing people make, it now just needs more bodies. As for the TV crew, getting Empress’s excellent sculptor to start working on some civilian figures is a genius idea – more journalists would be a great way to bring the board to life. As for the SF figure? It’s something unique – I’m not sure many other companies would bring out a figure in this style. Of course, I’m now interested in see what comes next…

Impressions: Spectre SF Technicals – Initial Thoughts

Earlier this year, I wrote a load of stuff covering Spectre’s first vehicle release for the technical. In it, I commented about miniguns which was a stretch goal from the Kickstarter that was sadly missed, as well as the illusive “Tactical Technical”. Well, it looks like it was merely being sneaky and it is now out as part of this latest release. And oh boy, is there a lot of cool stuff on this release.

Sadly, due to my desire to get the vehicles in a state where I can hot swap the various weapon systems and cargo, I don’t yet have them painted. However I can cover the initial impressions on every part of this release, detailing any issues I may have found during the initial build process and looking at what I like and don’t like. You’ll just have to wait to see the final product.

The Trucks

The vehicles that form the base for the SF Technicals range are the exact same ones released earlier in the year. Alpha provides a larger truck bed while Bravo is a more modern style but has a smaller cargo capacity. When building the kits for the SF vehicles, I assembled the two part chassis and then added the rack behind each cab. The remaining parts were left off to make assembling the upgrades much easier.

A few things have changed with the vehicles since the original release, presumably to ease production and save on material. Technical Bravo is comprised of much less material, with the cab now mostly empty space. The other thing I noticed was that some of the resin was slightly misaligned. This was quickly solved by a quick bath in hot water and some gentle bending.

The Upgrade Packs

The first part to look at when building your new technicals are the upgrade packs. These additions build off the pieces in the main kits and help to make them look more suited for off-road activities or military action.

Alpha

Alpha is perhaps the simplest of the upgrade packs. It’s a pack of wheels, sporting improved tyres. These are a good way of showing off upgrades (such as run flats) or extending the stowage in a vehicle by covering it in spares. These wheels replace the ones from the vehicle packs and come with enough to fully outfit one vehicle and have two left over to mount as stowage or for a gunner to stand on. They are a little bigger than the default wheels so the finished vehicle will be slightly taller than normal.

Bravo

Bravo is designed to make your vehicles really standout from the civilian pickups while also letting you really load it up with stowage. The pack is actually two sets of upgrades in one. The first is a long-range fuel tank. This is assembled around the rear door to the cargo bed. After placing the tank, a cage comprising of three parts is placed around it. The main thing when building it is to make sure the curved edges of the two side pieces clip onto the round sections of the back of the cage (it will make more sense when you are building them). Then simply glue the construction on the back of the cargo bed. If you don’t want the giant tank of flammable liquid behind your operators, the cage could be assembled to hold other stowage such as jerry cans or hard containers.

The other part of the upgrade are the racks that mount on the side of the cargo bed. These create the mounting points for all sorts of gear, from spare tires to sand guards. As well as hosting these bits of gear, the rails could also be used to support plasticard armoured panels if you feel the need to up the protection on your vehicle. I’d recommend putting the vertical part of the mounting area on the inside of the cargo bed (as you can see below) as it looks a little better

The rails mount on both types of chassis but are really designed for the Alpha technical. However, it does also work on the Bravo vehicle as you can see below. In this case, the side rails ended up connecting to the top of the cage around the fuel tank. This style does look similar to some troop carrying pickups you might see in places such as Mexico.

Charlie & Delta

These two packs perform the same role – adding bullbars and a snorkel to both types of the base chassis. These upgrades really add to the off-road style on the vehicles, turning them from a street truck to something you would expect to see bounding through the desert.

Charlie is for the Alpha technical. The pack includes a new bumper that features the bullbars, a snorkel and a roof top storage rack. The bumper fits on really well and I think looks awesome. The snorkel has a notch in the side to help with alignment when placing it, something that is appreciated during construction. However, my favourite feature is the roof rack. It has a slight ramp on the mounting block so it sits flat on the sloped roof and it looks rad. Combined with the stowage pack, you can fill it with all sorts of hard cases, anti-tank weapons and gear (all the goodies a team of operators might need) while leaving most of the cargo bed free for weapon mountings.

Delta is for the Bravo vehicle and contains a replacement lower front and the snorkel. It would have been cool if it came with a roof mounted storage rack to match the other pack of this type but it’s not a deal breaker. Again, the snorkel has a nice notch to help with placement and the resin front end only needed very minor cleanup.

Weapons

Of course, a major part of the latest release is giving you some SF suitable weapons for your new rides to roll around with. You could choose to mount the standard weapons (perhaps if your team is less well equipped) but honestly, there is a minigun option literally right there.

Crew

I hate taking photos of unpainted figures. An ink wash helps!

In every release from any wargames manufacturer there is a slight disappointment and I think this time, the crew selection is the slight let down. When the first technicals came out there was a nice selection of generic crew standing next to the various weapons. For the HMG alone there were two options seemingly designed for it (one shooting and one leaning on the weapon spotting). For the SF release there is only one option – Crew Hotel, an operator in combat gear in the aiming pose. It’s a good basic option but having a second choice (perhaps a character pointing out a potential target or gesturing at some civilian trying to overtake) would be a useful. Even a simple head swap would have been nice. At the same time though, this is probably the most commonly used pose so in the end for many people it won’t matter.

One thing to note is that you will need to carefully bend the arms to line them up to the trigger locations. It requires just a little more force than you would think it would need but the metal Spectre uses is very good at being slightly manhandled.

Common Elements

The new guns listed below share a common feature – the mount. Unlike the pole on the original M2, the new guns use a much more sturdy looking mount. It comes in two heights; the tall one clears the top of cab and allows for a forward fire arc while the other is better for rear or side firing guns. The top of each pole is split in half and matches up to the bottom of each of the weapon assemblies. This requires some patient holding while waiting the glue to dry but seems to work quite well.

No matter what height you choose, both mounts will require that a rear gunner stands on something in order to reach the spade grips. Having seen one of the Spectre models at Cardiff, it seems that a spare tyre is a good option.

M2 .50cal SF

Yep, you can’t release a technical without a 50cal. This one however is rather special. Wrapping the barrel is rail system onto which two attachments have been mounted. On top of the gun is an Eotech style holographic sight (or red dot in Spectre Operations) while underneath is the giant Hellfire torch capable of illuminating targets much further than other light systems. Combined together, these provide a useful setup to pair with the HMG’s lethality and range on the tabletop, letting you engage targets accurately no matter what time of day it is.

Without a doubt this was the simplest weapon to assemble out of the group. The gun is one piece so all it required was gluing it to the mount and it was good to go.

Mk47 AGL

The only thing better than a 40mm grenade launcher is an automatic one complete with rangefinder. An upgrade over the old MK19, the MK47 AGL is the hottest new thing in automatic grenade launchers. With basic stats its great for suppressing large groups of unarmored enemies but the addition of an aiming system (run as either a scope, red dot, thermal sight or some combination of them) really helps to make it a precision area weapon. If you are feeling especially high-tech, the MK47 is capable of programming MK285 rounds to airburst over a target. So if you want to make an opponent cry, mention you want to use those rounds and start dropping grenades every turn that ignore cover saves thanks to the airburst rules.

The gun is made up of three parts – the barrel and main sight piece, the side mounted sight (including rails for other sights) and the stand/ammo box assembly. Glueing these three together required a few tweaks to get them lined up. By default, the launcher is slightly tilted upwards ready to lob rounds at the enemy downrange.

Dual M240

Why have only one medium machine gun when you can bolt two together, stick a sight on one and then add a chute for spent shell casings? Like the SAS jeeps from WW2, the simplest way to increase firepower on a mount is just to double what you have. The MMG is a good gun to begin with thanks to Sustained Fire and a 3+ lethality but turning it into a dual weapon means double the shots. Add to that a scope/red dot and you’ve got a great weapon for engaging infantry.

Building the gun was the most fiddly of them all, consisting of five parts. The two ammo boxes clip on the outer edges while the guns themselves fit into the slots in the lower mount. This mount then attaches to the tower using the usual method. As always, do a dry fitting run before getting the super glue out.

Now if only there was another way to get a ton of shots on targets…

M134 Minigun

Okay I’ll admit, this is something I’ve wanted since the kickstarter. Miniguns in all their forms are super cool and having one on the wargames table is just too tempting. Assembly is relatively simple despite the multiple parts. The gun sits in an arm that attaches to the column. As well as this, there is an optional red dot to mount on the rail on the top of the gun itself and two parts to form the ammo supply. The belt is the usual strip of metal that can be freely trimmed and twisted to line up with the large ammo box.

As an aside, one of my favourite things about the separate weapons that Spectre produces is the fact I can use them elsewhere. I have two Empress Humvee where I have replaced the gun mount with a magnet. Combined with Spectre’s stock of guns, this means I can swap out the standard M2 HMG for a DsHK (for when the Bazistan Army gets to use them) or, as you can see, for a Minigun. This versatility means you don’t have to buy 101 different vehicles for all the combination of weapons you might want, instead only needing as you might want to be on the tabletop. One thing with the Minigun, I had to trim some areas so it would fit properly on the magnet and trying to fit the ammo box in the turret is going to be hard.

In game, the minigun is a nightmare to go up against, no matter what the ruleset. Spectre Operations gives it 6 shots a turn that let you roll through a squad and easily put on the suppression. 3+ lethality and a decent range interval finish off a good package, espeically if you add a red dot.

Stowage

This release didn’t include any new stowage options (other than the new tires). However, last month we got Stowage Alfa which is packed full of stuff to cover your vehicle in. You could use the Razor stowage packs but they are not really designed for this style of vehicle.

If you want more details on Stowage Alfa, you can find my impressions here.

Final Thoughts

I ended my post on the initial Spectre Technical release by saying “The Spectre technicals are a great start to a new range. Apart from the minor issues, all the models are beautiful to behold and will be fantastic additions to anyone’s collection.”. It’s safe to say, the same idea carries on here.

With the second major release there are now a collection of parts that let you take that initial release and direct it to be more suitable for a different use. Although designed for Special Forces teams, the upgrades mean the vehicles can now be used for other groups (such as well-trained OPFOR, contractors or cartel members wanting a cool off-road vehicle) by simply varying many upgrades and how much stowage you add. There are a few tweaks I would make (more crew options, stowage racks for Technical Bravo) but these can be easily be added in future releases. For now though, all the new bits open up a world of exciting possibilities. I can’t wait to see the sheer variety of vehicles people come up with.


So now I’ve done the initial thoughts, it’s time for me to do the fun stuff and start finishing them. There will be a whole post on the process of getting the group of vehicles finished in the next few weeks. The main delay is setting up the series of plasticard bases that will let me swap guns and cargo sections between vehicle while hopefully looking better than the first version used for the militia. In addition, the militia equipment is being rebased and repainted after they got banged up during the trip to Cardiff. So keep your eye on the blog for more stuff on Spectre Miniatures releases and all things dedicated to ultramodern wargaming.

Impressions: Spectre July 2017 Release

The end of July saw a new release to expand Spectre’s MENA Militia range. These new figures are designed to give your militia a bit of an edge, either by adding some tougher guys or bringing some new gear to the party. If you’re building a militia force, these fighters are a must buy.

Militia with Assault Rifles

Ready to add to the bulk of your force, these guys look hard as nails. The new packs (MENA Militia Echo and MENA Militia Foxtrot) both contain figures armed just with a standard assault rifle. However, they have a very different look to them making them perfect for use as squad leaders or better trained fighters, characters that need to stand out slightly in the middle of a battle. In particular, I think the guy with the baseball cap would work really well as a local contact or fixer for your CIA agent in the field thanks to the combination of traditional and western clothing. I also really like how they are wielding folding stock AKs rather than the standard version, ideal for urban guerrillas engaged in CQB.

Militia with RPG

One of the great things with the RPG-7 is the variety of warheads available. Up until this release, the only options with models were either the standard HEAT round or the tiny AP warhead. The two new miltia RPG packs (MENA RPG Bravo and MENA RPG Charlie) help to expand the munitions available to wargamers. Three of the four warheads are variations on HEAT rounds, however all of them are much more modern or unusual (some of them look like the Iranian NAFEZ and Slovakian PG-7M). The fourth figure carries a thermobaric round, superb at destroying bunkers and buildings.

Out of the four figures, one of them looks very similar to the rest of the MENA militia range, clad in his t-shirt, but he holds his RPG and ammo in a very different pose. . The others look much more unique, providing some improved weapons for when you need to knock out the enemy vehicles or clear a fortified position. Spectre doesn’t currently have any new rules for improved or more modern HEAT rounds but expect cool things in an upcoming supplement.

Militia Sniper with Anti-Material Rifle

I have a pet peeve with the model industry when it comes to prone figures. With most games I play focusing on real line of sight, having a figure being much lower than any other can be real paint. Additionally, a prone figure can a pain to base. They can’t do much about the figure being hard to spot, but Spectre have done something clever with the posing on this prone sniper (MENA Militia Sniper Alfa). By having him lying on his side, the sniper fits more easily on a round base, a look that is closer to the various other weapon teams. To help fill in the base, I ended up adding some MDF offcuts to form some rubble.

In terms of armament, the Militia Sniper is using a Russian Anti-Material rifle. This is another weapon which should help even the odds when going up against lightly armoured vehicles or troops in cover. In Spectre Operations, the Anti Material Rifle has several useful special rules such as Armour Piercing, Frag and Incendiary that make it a real terror. Alternatively, you could choose to downgrade it to a Heavy Sniper rifle which is still a massive threat to anyone who crosses the shooter’s line of sight.

Painting Notes

As with the rest of my Militia guys, the painting plan is to use a mixture of earthy colours with an occasional bit of camo or colour. I ended up just using the earthy colour. There is a lot of black on these figures so my tactic of Black then a drybrush of Basalt Grey was in full effect. The big change was a new colour for the wooden sections on the AKs and RPGs. Rather than using GW’s Rhinox Hide, I tried Valejo’s Cavalry Brown. After my initial panic, the final effect works very well.

 

One thing I did notice was one of the models had a bit of flash that needed cleaning up. It’s unusual to see on Spectre models but with the pattern on the jacket it’s easy to see how it happened. A quick file and the pattern is gone.