Impressions: Spectre S.W.A.T.

One thing that’s great about wargaming is just how broad you can be. From 54mm games where players control single figures, all the way down to tiny scales where you are basically playing with painted pins to represent your armies of soldiers, there is something for everyone. And even within relatively niche periods, such as Ultramodern wargaming, there can many different settings that let you play out the whole breadth of modern-day gunfighting.

One setting that Spectre provides for is the modern day cops and robbers, thanks to their range of both criminals and armed police. These are ideal for anyone interested in this setting and today, we’re going to take a look at their SWAT team.

The Spectre SWAT range at the moment consists of 6 figures. All of them are geared up, based on very latest kit US police departments are issuing. Every officer has body armour, FAST helmets, eye protection and more kit on them, including their trusty sidearm. The uniforms are a mixture, but there are plenty of trousers with built in kneepads to show the operators among the bunch. All of the figures are posed aiming or at the low ready, perfect for stacking up on each other.

The differences come with their equipment. The bulk of the force is armed with AR15 pattern rifles, covered in rails and mounting a selection of accessories. Some figures have magnifiers behind their red dots, while others are just using the EoTechs. 

The other two officers are your specialists, ideal for winning in a close-quarters firefight. One is carrying an MPX SMG, great for when you need manoeuvrability in tight spaces. The other carries a KSG shotgun, perfect for breaching and clearing. Both of these guns also have red dots, ideal for actions where close quarters combat is expected.

So, let’s talk about how I intend to use them. I have to admit, my focus when wargaming is really military or SF operations in MENA and Africa – partially because I have the terrain and figures for it and partially because that style of action is more interesting than drug cartels and police actions to me. So, how best to use these guys in a more militarised setting?

Well, the figures are definitely well equipped but are not quite as well armed as the Task Force Operator figures – these guys have standard M4s rather the 416s of their better funded/trained brothers. This means that the SWAT range is ideal if you need some local SF figures with western style equipment – similar to your main operators but still visually distinctive.

I’ve gone the contractor route with my guys. Thinking these are the QRF sat waiting to rescue the principal or drag their buddies (possible from the Tier 1 Operator Range) out of the fire when things go wrong. Alternatively, they may end up being the bad guys when the inevitable third act twist takes place and suddenly the operators have to fight against almost near-tier adversaries.

Now I just have to get them on the board…

Range Impressions: Spectre Deniable Operators

Although wargaming for most is focused more overt actions (complete with all the firepower you might want), for most of history covert action has played an important role. TV, films and games are filled with deeds of low profile agents fighting wars in other people’s countries where they are not supposed to go. The frequent refrain of “we’ll deny you even exist” is probably becoming a trope at this point. If you’re wanting to bring some low profile guys to your own tabletop, the Spectre Deniable Operators are perfect.

At the moment, Spectre has four packs available – two for the rifleman and two for each of the specialists. All of the operators are dressed in civilian outdoors clothing and are wearing rucksacks. If it wasn’t for the AKs in their hands, they could easily be hikers out for a day’s stroll. The chance to paint some civilian clothing means that you can add the odd touch of colour that you might not normally see when painting more regular troops

Riflemen

There are a total of four riflemen available, giving you a nice variety of poses. All four are armed with a rail-equipped, crane stocked 7.62mm AKs, complete with all the usual bits of kit that operators love to have when fighting in urban terrain.

The rucksacks are ideal for representing any number of kit, from grenades to medical equipment to laser guidance systems for bringing the rain.

Support

Of course, every squad needs special weapons. For the Deniable Operators, you don’t get quite the same heavy firepower as some other ranges. Instead, it’s a bit more of a scalpel (in relative terms). One operator has an M203 under his AK, ideal for taking out groups of hostiles or enemies in cover. The other is designed for reaching out and touching the bad guys at long range, the larger optic ideal for representing a DMR.

As much as you might want a machine gun, I think keeping the specialists with AK platforms make a lot of sense for operators working in small groups behind enemy lines.

Usage

The best thing about ranges like Deniable Operators is just flexible they are. These guys can represent anything, from heavily armed criminals up to special forces seeking to hide their origin. Mix them in with some irregulars and you have some advisers mentoring their more ill-equipped buddies.

Conclusions

The Deniable Operators are one of my favourite compact ranges. Small and sweet, these six operators are ideal for something new compared to the usual door kickers. If you’re looking for a small team with a fun playstyle, I recommend picking these guys up. You can find them on the Spectre store under Undercover Operators.

Wishlist

Like all of the compact ranges, the wishlist is just more. AK armed operators have a certain attraction, something different from the usual AR15s and FAST helmets. A few more figures, perhaps in some different poses, would be nice. Some guys pointing out enemy targets would be ideal when using them as advisors.

Project Humvee – Weapon Options

Last time we looked at Project Humvee, we’d just finished adding another chassis to our convoy. In this post, we’re going to add some more weapon options. When running scenarios, it’s nice to be able to pick from a selection of gear, so the hot-swappable turret system is perfect.


But first, I needed to add an upgrade to Humvee Alpha. Up until this point, the only variant that had space for a spare wheel was the SF upgrade. For anyone using the regular variants, there was no mounting point available. From reading the Haynes guide to the Humvee, this is actually a pretty common occurrence. However, seeing as I haven’t covered my vehicles in bags handing off the side, I was looking for a way to make these vehicles look a bit less factory fresh and more utilitarian.

I’ll admit, there isn’t much too it

As part of the last wave of releases, Spectre has released HMV Upgrade Delta, inspired by the tire carrier seen on military Humvees. This is a simple two-part kit, comprising of a one-piece frame and a spare tyre. This is actually a different style to the tyres included in the basic vehicle, with a much deeper central recess. The frame glues into a locator lug on the back of the vehicle and then rests on the rear of the bumper. Its position means you can easily mount the spare tire frame even if you have installed oversized aerials on either side.

I really like this upgrade, so much that I think I’ll be picking up another one to add to my other normal Humvee. The frame sits away from the back of the vehicle which had me a little worried about how much support it would have once assembled, especially once exposed to the rigours of the gaming table. However, the resin actually has some flex to it – not enough that it’s weighed down by the tyre but enough that catching it on a building edge or dropping it shouldn’t be a problem.

I should also point out that mounting the fuel cans onto the frame is not technically accurate. Although a perfect space, this would cause issues using the mechanical lifting system (needed due to the sheer weight of a Humvee tyre). On the other hand, it does look cool.


Right, that’s the utility out of the way, lets move on to the cool stuff.

Three generations of M2 mounts

As the War on Terror has rumbled on, a key element of modern vehicles that have come on leaps and bounds is the weapon mounting system. In 2001 Humvees were rolling around with ring mounts and no protection but after combat usage in Iraq, they were soon mounting armoured shield and turrets to protect the gunner from being shot.

Of course, the safest place for the gunner to be is inside the vehicle. Remote weapon stations (or RWS) remove any need for the gunner to stick their head out of the vehicle while also adding some additional features such as improved optics or smoke grenade launchers to assist in the role and improve survivability.

Spectre’s range of RWS comprises of a mix of weapon systems and mounting platform. The heavy variant comes with thermal optics and smoke dischargers and can mount the M2 HMG, M240 MMG and the MK47 AGL. If you’re wanting to mount them on a smaller platform (such as a technical or a modified SUV) there is also the light version – it’s currently only available with the M240 and lacks the smoke dischargers of it’s bigger brother. However, it is more suitable for less military roles.

Having two of the heavy mounts you can see the similarities. The turret ring is a modified version of the one that comes with every HMV, and so assembles the same way. The actual gun mount (complete with ammo box and mounting system) is actually similar but slightly different for each gun so I wouldn’t recommend trying to hot-swap them. The smoke dischargers are small, but not small enough to cause an issue with attaching them.

I currently leave all my turrets loose, letting me easily swap between them. By default, the RWS attaches with a pin and socket system. Although stable, I could see an issue with so many loose parts – to this end, I decided to magnetise it. Of course, being a man of limited patience and skill, I ended royally bungling the job leading to several slightly drunken looking guns when rotated too far. Luckily this was easily fixed with a bit of filing.

The M2 is sort of the classic weapon for an RWS system, easily able to engage a mix of targets from infantry to lightly armoured vehicles. The thermal cam and zoomable optics make it even more of a threat.

I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for the MMG. The AGL is a useful weapon system but I’m much more of a fan of the MK19 – the MK47 is slightly too snazzy for most forces using the Humvee. The M240, on the other hand, is a much more refined tool, easier to balance as a scenario writer and slightly less terrifying to go up against.


Speaking of things terrifying to go up against, let’s talk about the GAU-19. If you’ve followed this blog, you know I’m a fan of all things rotary, even modding the Empress Humvees to mount a M134. Combining rotary with .50cal, and you’re about to see something pretty nasty to go up against. I know for a fact that Spectre is currently still working out the stat line for the GAU-19 and looking at for Skirmish Sangin, I think it’s first burst is going to be an incredibly emotional event for anyone downrange of it.

Assembly is actually something worth covering. The pack comes with the weapon, a box of ammo and the basic mount. Unlike previous miniguns, the scope is actually part of the main body of the gun. Additionally, the pack doesn’t include the turret ring, which means it can be used on all the various turret styles if you’re willing to slightly widen some of the slots in the armoured plates.

More interesting is the change in material. Unlike previous weapons, this gun is actually resin. But more importantly, the belt is resin. This makes it much easier to shape and mould after a bath in hot water, especially compared to the metal one that came with the M134 Minigun.


Of course, it was also time to assemble something a little more basic, perfect for the MENA forces or those less well equipped. For this, I grabbed a simple M2, an unused turret ring and a small piece of the pylon that comes with the M2 gun. Trimming down the turret mount slightly to make the pole fit flat, this turret is a bit of a classic. Change the door design, and this vehicle would be ready to roll around Mogadishu. On the other hand, this version is better suited for internal security, either rolling around military bases or city streets.


These new additions help to open up the options I have for using these Humvees. With a good selection of weapons, a limited number of vehicle bodies can fulfil many roles. As you can see above, the same weapons also work pretty well on the Empress vehicles, although the new RWS will need some tweaks to fit the roof flush due to the box at the front. Perfect for upgrading an M-ATV to sling .50cal rounds down range.

Next time on Project Humvee I’ll be adding some personality to my Humvees with the addition of some turret gunners. In addition, the local forces will be getting their first turret, perfect to upgrade the MENA regulars with something more than just a pickup truck.

Force Protection – Finishing the Foxhounds

Wargamers like building themselves piles of lead. This is a known phenomenon. Of course, having a blog does like to remind you of these lead piles, especially when you start cleaning up your blog of old posts.

One of the first impressions pieces I wrote, way back in May 2017, was on the Evil Bear Foxhound. Now, over a year later, and after watching some Humvees being ripped to shreds by an explosive device, I’m finally inspired to get my act together and get these wonderful little vehicles painted up.

Preparation

The first step was getting the vehicles ready. As you can see, I’d already hit them with a tan spray colour sometime in the last year. However, there were a few things that needed tweaking before I could finish them. The first was redoing one of the magnet positions for the GPMGs pintles. I decided to magnetise them so I easily swap the vehicle between up-gunned British Army pattern and a less overt version if they were being used by a non-government organisation. My first attempt had got most of them okay except one mount was at a 45-degree angle. and looked broken. I popped it off, re-dug the hole and remounted it.

I also decided to modify the position of the boxes at the front to make sure they match and also popped off the tow bar from one vehicle. Technically, I’m not sure this is 100% accurate – most of the vehicles on operations have them. However, I wanted to make the two vehicles look visually distinctive.

Stowage

The next step was stowage. The large flat open top is great for covering in kit but I had to make sure to explain how they were being lashed down. I broke out the green stuck, assembled a few sausage shapes from it and gently laid it across the items in order to lash them down.

The stowage itself is a mixture. Most of the kit is from the Spectre stowage packs, with the various missile tubes being especially useful. I continue to be a fan of the rucksacks and so have liberally covered this vehicle in bits from packs.

Other bits were picked up from Empress’s range of kits. The side mounted fuel cans and a few of the rucksacks were pulled from the US Vehicle Stowage pack. The more exciting addition is the disassembled Desert Hawk drone. This was pulled from the British Army drone controller kit. It’s a small detail but it could signify a vehicle’s access to the UAV’s camera, handy in some rule sets.

Painting

Finally, time for painting. On the one hand, I’m never 100% happy with how painting vehicles turn out. It’s a different style of painting to figures and despite having hammered out plenty of transports in my time, I’m still getting used to it. However, the benefit is that I can get them done relatively quickly thanks to liberal use of spray paint, picking out key details and then covering in wash before dabbing it off.

Comparison

The original impressions were packed full of comparisons to the rest of Spectre’s range of civilian vehicles and trucks but I didn’t actually look at any of the equivalent vehicles. So above is a lineup of the usual suspects.

As you can see, the Foxhound sits right in the middle in terms of size, more easily able to match the roads that the Humvee can handle while still capable of protection of IEDs. It’s actually a step down in raw firepower compared to the less protected Humvee and the chunky M-ATV, mounting the pair GPMGs rather the heavier .50cals.

Also that M-ATV continues to be a ridiculous vehicle.

Conclusion

Aden Defence Force troopers set off on patrol

I am really glad I got these vehicles finished. They are a really nice model of a distinctive looking vehicle. Having spent the time to get them ready for operations, including adding the stowage and correcting my initial construction mistakes, I think they are now ready to see some action.

Fingers crossed next time the ADF go on patrol, these beauties will take the strain.

Impressions: Spectre Stowage Version 2

Way back when the Razor was released by Spectre, they also added a stowage kit to the range so you could add all sorts of boxes, bags and launchers to your vehicles and troops. I took a look at original pack back in July last year and since then have bought it four times, explaining why lots of my troops seem to have gained AT4s and LAW. The downside to the pack was that is was often out of stock, leading to people missing out on it when new stock came in.

Spectre has decided to do a new version of the stowage range. As well as swapping to resin rather than metal, the pack has also been split out into five separate packs. This has also allowed them to expand the range, adding several new items.

This is going to be a quick post covering the new range before I start sticking them onto things. The change to resin has improved the detailing on several items (as you can see above) although I did notice a few tiny air bubbles that will require a little filling. We also seem to be missing an item – the sand boards didn’t survive the conversion, although it sounds like they will be returning soon.

First up the fun stuff! The Launchers pack is designed to let you cover your vehicles in a wide range of things that go boom. In addition to two LAWs and two AT4s from the original pack, this new kit includes a pair of Javelin tubes and an NLAW. The new items are ideal for giving to your more advanced forces (although we are missing a Task Force Operator with a Javelin…)

Probably the most useful of the stowage packs, the Containers and Ammo pack gives you all the various boxes you’ll need to store the vital kit. I’m really happy with the addition of the smaller ammo boxes (in both singles and a block of three), perfect for when you want to stack them up ready for quick action. It’s also the return of the Pelican rifle case, a perfect stand-in for whatever kit you want to claim is inside it.

A quick note – this pack seemed to have gained the small cooler from the next pack I’m going to look at. Might have been a mis-pack.

The cooler chest returns in the Coolers and Fuel pack. The main change here is with the two types of duel stowage – MRE boxes and fuel cans. The four separate cans have been swapped out for a single loose one and four cans stacked in a row. I can see this causing mixed feelings, with many preferring the options of individuals. However, more often than not the singles were being combined into racks when added to vehicles so it makes sense. The MRE boxes are also grouped up.

The Bergens and Daysack pack includes six packs. As well as the four from the original stowage pack, they are joined by two old friends. Backers of the original Kickstarter will remember the SAS Recon Patrol and their separate backpack. Well, the designs of those rucksacks live on and can now be bought separately. This pack is labelled as stowage but honestly, this is ideal for anyone wanting to upgrade any number of figures to look like they are ready for long range patrolling.

The final pack, Comms and Countermeasures, is a real mix of old and new. The smoke dischargers and satellite aerial from the original stowage return. They are joined by the aerial bases (from Humvee Upgrade – Charlie) and a brand new addition, the FLIR cam. This is a two-part upgrade, letting you position the camera facing in any direction. It’s a neat add-on that could be used on all sorts of vehicles to give it an edge in gathering intelligence. It would have been nice to also see the Large Aerial from Humvee Upgrade – Charlie but it’s not a deal breaker

This is one place where I think the switch to resin will improve the product – the metal version of the satellite antennas I have on my SF technicals have been repainted multiple times as they have been bent out of shape. In resin, I can see it returning back original position much more easily.


So what do I think of these changes? First of all, splitting them into different packs is ideal. It means that when I need to grab a few more launchers, I don’t end up with a massive pile of bags I haven’t used. The change to resin is also a positive one, as it means they can be cast by Spectre themselves without having to wait for their metal casting partners. Hopefully, this should reduce how often the stowage is unavailable. It also does a nice job on the detailing as well.

On the other hand, there has been a change in pricing structure. The original pack was £7.50 for quite a few items. The new packs are £3 each. If you wanted to re-create the contents of the original pack, you’d need to spend almost double. On the other hand, you’d also be getting much more on top of the original pack. All of this is, of course, idle speculation as the metal version (which was out of stock) has been removed.

Overall, I think this is a good change for Spectre to make. I’m also excited to see what else they may create to extend the stowage range.

Come back on Friday to see why the FLIR antenna isn’t in the group photo.

Range Impression: Spectre GRU Spetsnaz

When looking at most people’s collections, it’s safe to say that Western SOF units make up most of them. However, for players looking for something different to bring to the table, the Russian Spetsnaz provide an elite force with some changes that make them visually and doctrinaly distinct. Spectre currently have a large range of Russian Spetsnaz available, and with a new group coming soon, now seems a perfect opportunity to look over the current range.

Please note there is a pretty big jump in painting style between these figures so expect to see some paint schemes done back in 2015.

The current Spectre Spetsnaz can be split roughly in half, with the first wave of release designed for general field operations while the second is more focused on urban operations.

The general operators look a little similar to their Western counterparts, with fast helmets,  modern BDUs and plate carriers. However, there are plenty of changes to make them stand out. Some of the figures are wearing Russian designed helmets while all the load bearing equipment (plate carriers and vests) is slightly different from those on the Task Force Operators range.

The close quarters operators share much of the same basic kit but have a few additional items more suited to fighting room by room. The most obvious is various operators with different helmets, including several equipped with visors to protect the users face. Another addition is that several models are wearing fragmentation protection suits designed to protect against blast fragments – a useful bit of kit when clearing rooms. Finally, more of them are wearing armour protection that includes a pelvic plate. Basically, these are the guys kitted up for kicking your front door in and then working their way through every room.

Riflemen

As always, the bulk of your force will be your riflemen. These guys, armed with assault rifles and carbine are most of the figures you’ll need when assembling your force. For the Russians, the riflemen are armed with a selection of AK variants from the AK-74SU up to various AK-100 series weapons. These guns are kitted out with a selection of red dot types, lasers, torches and suppressors. They also have rail kits and stocks that look like Zenit products to make them look even more Operator. Overall there are 6 riflemen in the first release (4 with assault rifles and 2 with carbines) in a selection of moving and shooting poses.

For the second release there are only two riflemen, both with assault rifles, but both are also wearing the additional protective gear (including one of them in a frag suit).

There are also a selection of Russian figures armed with SMGs. In the first wave, there are two figures equipped with suppressed SR-2s. These are great for pointmen on covert operations, taking out targets at close range quietly.

The second wave also has two SMG figures, but these are not armed with tiny SMGs designed for room clearing. Instead, these two are armed with AS VAL, an integrally suppressed rifle firing the specialised 9x39mm round. The round is subsonic (so perfectly for use with a suppressor) while also remaining capable of piercing armour at a reasonable range. Both of these figures have pretty well modified VALs, with sights and torches. These actually present a pretty interesting weapon seeing as they can easily fit the role of assault rifle (especially in terms of lethality) at close ranges.

Support

When thinking about support, the first stop is suppression. Wave 2, more foucsed on urban operations, doesn’t include a machine gunner but Wave 1 does. This figure is armed with an RPK which is great for a putting some extra fire down as part of a rapidly moving force.

Of course the other way of suppressing is to start blowing things up. The Spetsnaz range includes three figures armed with explsovie weapons. The first is an AT Gunner, armed with a RPG-18 with a slung Vityas SMG as backup. The RPG-18 won’t kill an MBT but is perfect for taking out technicals or busting structures.

The other figures are equipped with one of my favourite bits of Russian kit, the GM-94 grenade launcher. With a minimum distance of 5m, this launcher is designed for use in urban fighting, letting the user throw rounds into rooms in the same building as them. The Wave 1 launcher figure is also carrying an AK for backup (for example when you don’t want to wake the neighbourhood) while the Wave 2 operator just has a pistol, relying on his team to engage the enemy once they are reeling from the blast.


As you’d expect, the CQB operators have a few more interesting options for specialists. As useful as the SMGs are at close range, a shotgun really can bring the pain. Wave 2 includes a breacher armed with a red-dot equipped Saiga 12, a semi-automatic magazine fed shotgun perfect for room clearing. This figure also has breaching tools ready to go. In other words, this is your go-to guy for FISH-ing.

As a bonus, thanks to the Saiga’s design, this figure could pass as someone armed with an assault rifle – just in case you find yourself needing another rifleman.

One piece of kit that is more practical for the close quarters fighting than most battlefield is ballestic shields. The Spetsnaz range includes three figures using them. The first two are using partial length shields (the BZT-75T). These only cover the users upper body but makes room entry slightly less risky. Both operators are armed with small compact PDWs (one with a SR3 and the other with a PP2000) perfect for use handed

The final figure is equipped with a full length shield, leaving only his boots exposed. This shield has a vision slit and torch modeled letting you easily lead the team into darkened corridors while still being able to see possible threats. For self protection, the operator also carries a SR-2 SMG.


Of course, the GRU are not just about kicking doors and going kinetic. The range also includes a few lower profile operators, perfect for your special operations. There are 5 figures in civilian clothing, complete with packs full of equipment or ready to hide your firearms from the locals.

The first three figures are more lightly armed, perfect for a crew moving covertly. These three are armed with SMGs including a suppressed AEK-919K perfect for being very quiet. Of course, on the other hand , you can just go loud. For this, the last pack has a pair armed with AKs

As well as being covert operatives, you could use these figures as part of a criminal group. They also fit together well with the Agents and Deniable Operators for more special forces shenanigans.


So what do I think of the range? Overall, pretty great. There is a large variety of kit for players to pick from, with everything from covert agents up to heavily armed door breachers. It also gives players the opportunity to collect a Special Operations range that isn’t just fast helmets and railed M4s – now you get a chance to do some fast helmets and AKs! By combining the different waves together you could build some really cool scenarios utilising the different focuses such as clearing a town with the more mobile operators before the heavily armoured force assaults the stronghold.

I think the only downside I can see is very minor and it’s regarding several of the wave two figures. There are several with quite obvious mould lines down the centre of the helmet which are plain to see even after I attempted cleanup and painting. These won’t matter from gaming height and I’m sure I just needed a bit more elbow grease to remove them but they are definitely there. Apart from that though, the rest of the figures are Spectre usual great casting style, with plenty of detail in the webbing and on the guns.

When it comes to painting, I decided to go for SURPAT, as something different from all the multi-cam. Honestly, I’m not sure I was successful. The massive time difference between painting the two waves doesn’t help (although good to see I’m improving). This is definitely a case where the camo is there to mostly give the impression of camo rather than trying to replicate it exactly at 28mm. On the other hand though, these figures are very visually distinctive when put next to my Task Force Operator models.

Of course, just as I finish this range the next one is coming up. As you can see from the preview above, we’re looking at some brand new weapon systems and updated gear. The new range seems to be based on AK-12 pattern guns in the various roles (assault rifle, LMG and DMR) as well as the PKP Medium Machine gun for extra firepower. It will be interesting to see how the range continues to evolve from here – the Russian arsneal is packed full of strange and unusual kit and the sheer variety of roles they Spetsnaz find themselves means we could see a lot of exciting stuff for years to come.

Range Impression: Empress US Army Infantry

When going back to do my Range Impression on the Empress SAS, I found myself delving into the release history of Empress. Which of course reminded me of their second release set, the US Army Infantry. Having just finished the Strykers, now seemed the perfect time to get the last couple of figures finished and take a look at this range.

The range of figures is designed to represent US Army Infantry around 2010. Weapons are M4s for most, with M249 SAWs and M203 UGLs to extend your firepower. As you’d expect, these are the usual Empress style, with four figures in a pack and mostly separate heads. The heads included in the packs are wearing ACH helmet (some with additional light units) with some also wearing eye protection. There are also a pack of heads with monocular NVGs if you want the alternative look for doing business after dark.

You may notice a few of these guys are not wearing their issue helmets and have instead have donned MICH and high cut helmets (sourced from the US Rangers collection). Now, I must admit the addition of these may be partially down to playing a lot of Modern Warfare 2; I really like the combination of kit and just had to add the variation to my force. It also makes it easier to pick out specific figures on the battlefield.

Painting wise, I went for the UCP look. The technique I ended up using was designed to be super quick  while still being effective at communicating the look, in particular of well used kit. The end result is not as crisp as it could be but (like most of my painting) I think does the job and gets them ready for the tabletop.


Team 1 shows off a fireteam on patrol. They have a good mix of guns, including a M4/M203, M249 SAW and even a M14-derived DMR. The pose are all great for troops at the start of an engagement or moving alongside a vehicle.

And then there is the flipping team leader who seems to have become entirely jaded with the concept of being in the middle of a tiny firefight and is instead enjoying a smoking break. I can see the point of including this figure in the pack (especially for those wanting to build dioramas) but he does look a little out of place in the battle. Even if I’m not a fan of him, he does fit in with the rest of his squad.

Team 2 is another fireteam. However these guys do not have the DMR backup but are instead posed as if they are moving under fire. There are also some nice details such as the pelvic plate on one of the figures.

The final fire team pack has the team engaging. The grenadier and rifleman are aiming down sights while the Automatic Rifleman and team leader are preparing to get into the fight. As with all the figures, there is a nice variation in terms of webbing gear based on the role.

Pack 4 gives you a few extra figures perfect for more command roles. These can be either used as attachments to to a squad (with one figure being the squad leader) or as a separate command element. The two riflemen could be either an officer or NCO while the two specialists (medic with kit bag and radio operator with aerial sticking up behind his head) are perfect for bring some force multipliers to the battlefield.

The first support pack is really designed for guys that are perfect for fitting into your squad. The AT rifleman (with M4 stashed on the ground) is just what’s needed for destroying light armour or wrecking enemy positions. The shooting DMR rifleman is a great replacement for the rifleman in a squad, especially if you need to reach out and touch the bad guys. Finally, the pack includes two figures (as well as belts of ammo) designed to form a M240 team when you need to create your base of fire for an assault.

As an aside, I decided to replace the AT4 with one from the Spectre vehicle stowage pack to make it look a little closer to other AT4 users in my collection. Having done the conversion, I’m not 100% sure it’s needed but it’s a relatively easy upgrade.

If the main support pack isn’t hard enough for you, then this pack really lets you go across the board and cause havoc before the enemy get into main combat range. The four figures are split into two teams – a marksman team with a M110 rifle (or something similar) for long range infantry work and a Javelin ATGM for blasting hard targets (or maybe a tank if one turns up)

A great addition with this pack is just how much kit is included to really add to the bases. Both sets include enough M4s for the crew to return fire with their small arms. I also really like discarded helmet for the Javelin gunner.

The last pack is a bit of special one. Perhaps inspired by a certain film, this three man pack gives you an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team. Two riflemen provide covering fire while the third figure is in his bomb suit ready for the long walk. I love this pack – it’s a great set of characters and is perfect for setting up a different style of game.

A great other use is if you only want to build a single squad. Two packs (chosen from team 1 – 3) and this EOD pack give you a full squad with one additional rifleman. Perfect for building on a budget.


If you are looking for US Army Infantry, this range is pretty good. Some equipment has changed (more people would probably be wearing kneepads and the helmets have been slightly tweaked) and you’ll need to be painting them in Multicam rather than UCP but they are still worth picking up. The US Army has been pretty prolific so would be perfect for anywhere from Eastern Europe to the sands of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan.

So what would I add? As with any regular forces, you can never have too many variations – another pack of infantry would be a neat addition and let you build up two squads using pack 1 – 3, the EOD pack and an additional one. The only other thing missing from this range (compared to the US Marines or the Brits) is a lack of heavy support weapons like the .50cal and MK19. That said, if you’re willing to work on it I’m sure you could do the conversion work with what is currently available.

If you’re wanting your own US Infantry force, you can pick them up from Empress here.

If you’d like some heavy metal to help out your US Army guys, you’re going to need some vehicle crew. I took a look at the dismounted US vehicle crew in a post last year.

Empress stocks several other ranges of US Infantry for different groups. If you’d prefer devil dogs and suppression through accuracy with the M27 (or maybe you just want massive 13 man squads), the USMC range is pretty comprehensive. If you prefer special operations, there are several small packs of US SOF teams (for both Army and Navy) as well as a comprehensive range of US Rangers. Expect to see articles on all of them soon as I work my way through the lead pile.

Impressions: Empress Stryker ICV and MGS

Playing as US force in Ultramodern tabletop wargaming is like being a kid with a box of toys. There are so many options that are available! On one side, you could be rolling around in technicals as SF advisers alongside local troops. Alternatively, you could break out the heavy metal and plonk the Bradleys and Abrams on the table. An interesting option is to roll out with a Stryker Brigade Combat Team and all the vehicles it includes.

 

If you are not aware of the Stryker, it’s an APC based off the Canadian LAV-III. Entering US service as part of a post-cold war rapid reaction force, it was designed to fill the gap between Humvees and Bradleys. Airportable yet armoured, the platform includes multiple variants to fulfil different combat roles. It’s first use in Iraq revealed some issues but also showed some advantages over other vehicles, leading to it continuing in service. As well as the Stryker BCTs, other American forces have used them; The US Army Rangers first used them for urban raids in Iraq but images and footage from Syria have shown them still in use, often alongside much lighter vehicles.

On The Tabletop

Of course, we’re here to look at the model version from Empress. Both vehicles are the usual metal and resin construction, with metal details fitting on top of large amount of resin. There isn’t a huge amount of construction to do but I have to mention the wheels. The back wheels fit into horizontal pegs rather solidly but the front four fit into struts that fit into holes on the underside of the vehicle. This can leave them a little delicate so there is a metal plate that fits across the vehicle and then has caps that sit on top of the struts for support.

As previously discussed, I am a cack handed fool and managed to snap the caps off on all of the metal plates while trying to bend them gently to fit. I ended up having to reconstruct the supports with plastic card. It’s not noticeable in gameplay but it’s definitely something to do very carefully when assembling.

There is a nice amount of detail on the vehicle, with cargo racks, jerry cans and tools all exposed on the side. The only thing that is missing, and is almost iconic on Stykers in action, is cage or SLAT armour for defeating RPGs. As much as this would be a nice addition to the kit, I can see the reason it wasn’t included.

Painting

When I first broke out the paint, I unsure about what colour to actually paint it. Most of my US vehicles are painted in tan. However, it’s very hard to find pictures of tan painted Strykers in action. Most are instead are a particular shade of green with dust on top, presumably to save having to repaint the rapid reaction vehicles as they move from theatre to theatre. I ended up picking up a can of Tamiya’s NATO Green (TS-61) for the base colour. I then decided to hide most of the green under some tan drybrushing to really give it the dusty look.

I’m not 100% on the final look (I might have overdone it a bit) but I prefer the look over the basic green. This was also a really quick way of painting them up, making it ridiculous that it took me over a year to finish them.

Now we’ve gone over the common features, lets look at the specifics of each vehicle:

Strkyer ICV

The ICV (or Infantry Carrier Vehicle) is the main vehicle in the family, performing the role of APC. Being able to carry a full 9 man infantry squad, the ICV can support the troops after they have disembarked thanks to it’s remote weapon system on top. Strykers have been seen using MK19s, M240s and M2 HMGs but Empress only sells a version with the classic Ma Deuce. As well as the .50cal, the weapon system also include smoke grenade launchers.

Aside from the weapon system, the main features of this vehicle (compared to the other variant) is the rear ramp and door, as well as the positioning of jerry can on the rear of the vehicle.

Stryker MGS

While the ICV is carrying troops, the MGS is your mobile fire support. Although mounting a tank cannon it is not designed to hunt down and take out enemy tanks – that’s what the ATGM carrier is for. Instead the 105mm gun (complete with autoloader) is designed to provide direct fire support to accompanying troops, while sharing the same maintenance requirements and portability as the rest of the BCT. The MGS also has a co-ax M240 and a commander M2, meaning it has basically the same weapon systems as an early M1 Abrams but on a much less protected chassis. To quote a US Army soldier, “Some commanders look at the MGS as a tank,” he says. “I cannot stress enough that it is not a tank; it is a support vehicle with some tank-related features.”

As a wargamer though, this thing is fantastic. Assuming your mission writer has allowed you to do it, the MGS gives you a handy tool when it comes to engaging enemy positions. A 105mm tank gun is plenty powerful when engaging enemy light vehicles and buildings. If you play Skirmish Sangin for example, a tank gun has a huge blast area and does the max damage that game supports. If your rules support it, the MGS can also fire canister rounds when you need to take out enemy infantry. It’s presence is also a nice hit to your opponent’s morale – like any vehicle mounting a tank gun, it does draw the opponent’s focus. Just be glad tiny 28mm soldiers don’t complain about the lack of air conditioning.


Comparison

Of course we can’t look at these vehicles without breaking out the comparison photos:

First up, we have the two vehicles plus reference Empress US Army figures. As you can see, the two variants are incredibly similar seeing as they share the same chassis. The MGS’s turret though is a major height addition.

Looking at the lighter vehicles, you can see the Styker is on the larger size (as you would expect from a vehicle carrying 9 fully equipped soldiers). The other vehicles (all from Spectre) do still have their advantages – the smaller sizes means they can get to places the armoured box can’t.

Going up to the heavy wheeled vehicles you can see the Stryker next to a similar Russian vehicle (although the BTR-80A is armed with an autocannon and carries less soldiers). You can see the BTR has a lower profile compared to the American vehicle. Also I’m banning the M-ATV from future comparisons – it’s just ridiculously big.

Finally we have the big boys. The MGS is a taller vehicle than the Challenger 2 but you can see it’s a smaller footprint (as well as being lighter). In real life, the difference between these platforms is bigger than on the tabletop – most wargamers don’t have to handle the concept of logistics, other than making sure the vehicle gets to the tabletop in one piece.


Conclusion

The Stryker is another one of the iconic GWOT vehicles – something that we hadn’t seen in the Cold War but soon became a star of the evening news. Like most things, it has had it’s problems but they have been improved and tweaked to make it a more effective combat vehicle. While doing my research for this, I kept finding comments about how the Strykers were pretty resistant to being destroyed, more often being able to be recovered and repaired while protecting it’s crew.

The Empress models give a nice balance between detail and simplicity. Assembly was incredibly quick and (once I actually got down to it) painting didn’t take very long. They also look fantastic, much meaner on the tabletop than a column of Humvees.

If you’re wanting your own Strykers, you can pick them up from Empress for a pretty reasonable price. If you’re wanting some of the more recent variants that are being experimented with (such as one mounting a 30mm cannon), you might want to keep your eyes on Wargaming Week over the next few months.


Of course, I really can’t finish the post without bringing up one of the incredible conversions I’ve seen using the Empress vehicle as a base.

Based on Strykers spotted in use in Syria, this one has had some serious plasticard magic done it (WIP photos are on the instagram). With extra weapons and stowage equipped, this vehicle looks spot on!