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!

Impressions: Empress Bundeswehr

Empress releasing a new range in their modern collection is a pretty major event, especially when it introduces something entirely brand new. Going for the all in approach, a new range gives you plenty of toys to get ready for the tabletop. Earlier this year, just before Salute, they finally released one of their most anticipated ranges. First teased at the end of the Empress Kickstarter back in July 2013, the German Bundeswehr is now available from their website.

These Germans are also not your standard 2000’s era Afghan ground pounder (if you’re wanting them, Eureka have a suitable range). Instead, Empress has gone with these incredibly modern looking guys equipped with the IdZ system, a product of the German Future Soldier program. You can see this throughout their gear, from the Ops core helmets with vision systems to various details on the G36s (such as new stocks, optics and laser units). As you’d expect, all the figures in the range are the usual Empress quality and sculpting style. The figures do come with detachable heads of varying styles (no vision system, NVGs and heads up displays) and separate heads are available if you want to equip all your soldiers with the same type.

Empress notes on its website that the packs give you 6 man fire-teams by combining Pack 1 and either Pack 2/Pack 3. This number roughly matches up to dismounts for the Puma IFV but there is nothing to stop them represent foot troops or those using other German Army vehicles.

Pack 1

The first pack is your command and support pack. This has two Team Leaders (armed with the G36) and two Light Machine Gunners (equipped with the new MG4). Much like the other two packs, the figures are split into advancing and engaging poses. The pack does include one of my wargaming pet peeves (a prone figure not part of a support weapons team) but thanks to the MG4’s short length you can just about fit him on a standard size base. On the other hand, it’s rather cool to see one of the team leaders holding an optical viewer up to his eye, showing him taking advantage of the IdZ system.

Pack 2

The first fire team is posed advancing on patrol, with weapons held relatively low. The team has a selection of weapons, including a Panzerfaust 3 AT weapon (complete with optic) and UGL. Every soldier also has a G36, with an optical sights and lasers.

Pack 3

Fire Team 2 is posed engaging (or preparing to engage) the enemy. Weapon loadout is the same as Pack 2, except that the AT gunner in this squad is equipped with an MP7 SMG rather than a full-sized assault rifle.

Pack 4

Every new range needs support packs and the first of them gives the some anti-armour/anti-bunker support in the form of the MILAN ATGM. It’s a nice change from the Javelin featured in many of Empress’s other forces. It’s also nice that the pack includes a MP7 for the assistant to use (great for systems where weapon teams can still engage with personal weapons). The Milan also

I had a bit of difficulty trying to get the crew figures to line up properly on the launcher. Eventually, I unfortunately managed to break the legs off the tripod so it’s now operating in an incredibly low profile mode (with one of the gunners covering up the most damaged leg). I’d recommend taking your time assembling it, rather than trying to rush it, and to dry fit all the parts.

Pack 5

In a fantastic case of “Something Old, Something New”, the last pack in the range gives you a three-man MG3 team, with the venerable weapon design on a tripod many WW2 players will quickly recognise. This Feldlafette tripod actually lets the team fire the gun from the prone position thanks to the optical periscope system. The pack comes with three figures – the team leader is directing the team (and could be used as part of a foot patrol), the assistant is feeding the belt of ammo (while carrying a MP7) while the gunner is adjusting the elevation of the tripod. I had a bit of fun trying to fit the team on my standard weapon team base, leading to the unusual positions you see above.

As with the MILAN I found this a little fiddly to assemble. I’d really recommend taking your time assembling it, especially if you want to prevent it being slightly tilted.

Painting

This is my first time painting Germans so I had to work out how on earth to paint their camo up. Seeing as I play mostly in desert settings, I went look for how best to paint Tropentarn. Luckily, Eureka has a guide (including Vallejo colours) for both temperate and desert flecktarn. In order to reduce complexity, and seeing as I end all my paint jobs with a copious amount of Agrax Earthshade, I decided to tweak it slightly:

Base Colour: Vallejo Game Colour 34 Bone white
Green: Vallejo Model Colour 894 Cam Olive Green
Brown: Vallejo Model Colour 818 Red Leather

The process was base colour, large dots of Green and Brown and then cover up slightly with smaller dots of the base colour. This give the impression of the camo without it being dominated by the pattern. I’m also not sure the colours are 100% correct but it provides the right look (as well as being different from any of the other nations I’ve painted so far.

Conclusion

Overall this is a pretty different release. It’s a strange blend of old and new, combining old kit like the MILAN and MG3 with the ultramodern elements of future soldier program. It’s great to get some ultramodern Germans, providing an alternative to the older Eureka figures. It also gives the Empress Leopard 2 some dismounts to escort it. It’s also great to have some G36 equipped bodies. These could be a great jumping off point for some conversion work as a whole host of nations use the G36.

Aside from my usual comments about my cack handed lack of fine motor functions in regards to the finely detailed Empress support weapons, my only other comment is that a pack of additional patrol suitable support weapons would have been a nice addition to the range. A pair of guys with the G28 DMR or G22 rifle would be handy for giving some long-range punch while a version of the MG3 or the new MG5 MMG on the move would give some additional fire support for a patrol. We’ll have to keep an eye on the future to see what Empress get up to.

If you want to pick up your own German Infantry for fighting the Russians or training the ANP in Afghanistan, you can find them on the Empress website.

Range Impressions: Eureka ANP

It’s hard to wargame Afghanistan without involving any of the locals. There are many situations where missions should include elements of the local government, either being instructed by the coalition or providing assistance to make an operation seem less outsider focused. Among the variety of Afghan Security Forces, the Afghan National Police have been a consistent sight in reporting from that part of the world, wearing their (predominately) blue uniforms and kepi hats while manning checkpoints or guarding strategic locations.

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Eureka has released two pack of figures designed for the ANP. Each set comprises of six figures, containing 4 riflemen, a PKM gunner and a RPG grenadier. The two packs includes some slightly different poses but the main difference comes down to their equipment. Pack 1 features the ANP in caps while Pack 2 has them wearing PASGAT helmets and kneepads. All of the figures are wearing BDUs and a tactical vest, although the style of this vest varies from character to character.

Riflemen

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As you’d expect, the bulk of any ANP force is it’s riflemen. This range has 8 figures in a variety of poses (from low ready to steadily advancing). A neat feature, and vital for an ANP force, is the fact that several of the guys are not armed with standard AKs; instead, they are using the AMD-65 complete with the distinctive fore-grip.

Support

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The ANP is policing in a warzone and as such, the squads include some special weapons. The machine gunners in the pack are armed with the PKM and posed holding it at the hip. Each gunner has a slightly different pose a cool addition to the range and not just being the same figure with a headswap.

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It’s hard to overstate the usefulness of the RPG and so it’s handy to see the ANP also get an RPG gunner in each pack. Both gunners are only equipped with the RPG-7 launcher (so no backup weapons when you need to reload) but they do at least carry backpacks with plenty of rounds. I like the nice touch that the capped gunner has turned his hat around so it doesn’t cause an issue while aiming down the sights.

Usage

I mean, do I really need to spell it out for these guys? If you’re looking for Afghan National Police figures, these are the guys to go with. However, if you’re not fighting in Afghanistan, these guys would also work for many police forces throughout the MENA area. If you paint them in a camo scheme, they could also work for regular army forces. Thanks to the weapons in the range, you can actually put together a pretty well equipped squad while the PASGAT is common enough in that region of the world.

On the tabletop, these figures give you plenty of situations to use them in. ANP forces have acted in multiple different operations, from both a security role (guarding locations) to more offensive postures when fighting various criminal groups. In many cases, they would also be working along with ISAF personal. Germany in particular has played a large part in training the ANP so there will be situations where a ANP checkpoint may have a OMLT (Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team) alongside them. The Dispatches books for Skirmish Sangin includes some more details on the ANP, with book 1 including the ORBAT and book 2 a scenario featuring a checkpoint attack.

One comment I’d make is that, if I was to go back and repaint them I’d probably mix up the tone of the uniform. As well as the blue, uniforms can also be more grey or green. Adding a bit of variation would certainly give the force a different look.

Conclusions

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The Afghan National Police has played a sizeable role in the fighting in Afghanistan and, if you were wanting to put them on your table, these figures are certainly a great option. Some people have expressed thought’s about the sizing and sculpting style of Eureka figures but I think these guys look really good. From tabletop height I think they fit just with other manufacturers (helped in part by the real life size difference between the Afghans and Western forces) and the team at Eureka have done a great job with these guys.

Wishlist

I think this range is complete and honestly I’m not asking for more. Twelve figures with a mix of poses and weapons is very good. The only possible addition might be some figures designed to be added to the back of pickup trucks for patrolling, either passengers or gunners.

More generally, this has reminded how we are currently lacking some good figures for Afghan National Army soldiers. Although we have plenty of MENA figures armed with AKs, no one has released any figures armed with American equipment and the slightly slap-dash look many images of the ANA include.

Range Impressions: Empress SAS in Afghanistan

Despite being a blog that plays around with new releases, it’s always important to look back at some of the older figures. Today’s range covers some models which are probably among the oldest sculpts in my collection but I still rank them among my favourites. We’re talking, of course, about Empress’s SAS in Afghanistan range.

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Released back in 2010, and the first modern figures produced by Empress, these figures were modelled on some of the SAS operators spotted in Afghanistan. The guys are wearing a mixture of civilian clothing and military equipment (with most operators wearing nothing heavier than a tactical or safari vest, while wielding a mixture of weapons with optics. The poses are a mix of firing and at rest.

Packs

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Pack 1 includes four operators. Two are armed with L119A1s, one is armed with a L119A1 and UGL while the final is equipped with a Minimi LMG. These guys are all at rest, with guns low. I do really like the inclusion of a radio operator, perfect for an operator working alongside less well trained troops.

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Pack 2 is for when the action starts kicking off. All four figures are engaging, with two L119A1s w/UGL, a L119A1 and a Minimi. This is probably my favourite pack in the range thanks to all the poses, with the guy in the blue baseball cap above being my sculpt of choice for the range.

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Pack 3 is your SF O-Group, ready to run the battle. Pictured above are the team lead (with binoculars and L119A1), the number 2 (with L119A1 w/UGL and binocular) and communication specialist on his laptop and surrounded by kit (the pack includes a satellite antenna to provide data for the laptop). Although not the best for figures in combat, it can make spotting your HQ element much easier when in a firefight.

This pack also includes a local interpreter, complete with folding stock AK and cigarette between pointing hand, but I haven’t got round to painting just yet. He’s sat in the box next to the rest of the Afghan forces from Empress.

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The final pack I own is the sniper pack. The comprises of two figures, with the marksman sat next to his rifle bag and the spotter with a L119A1 and UGL, pack and spotting scope. In order to fit him on a standard base, I decided to glue the spotting scope to his hand. This pack would also work really well together as weapon team on a single base.

The range also includes two quad bikes piled high with kit. The crew figures, and their guns stored while riding, match up to two of the figures on foot so you can model them both in contract and or driving to the fight. I really need to pick these two vehicles up, and even though they may not end up being used in combat, they will make great jumping off points or scene setting pieces.

Usage

Once you have these guys, whats the best way to use them? Well time has been rolling on so this combination of kit maybe isn’t the most suitable for the ultramodern setup. However, if you’re wanting to set your games back at the heights of the war in Afghanistan, these guys are spot on. They could be in a whole host of situations, from rolling through the desert in landrovers and pickups to close recon on suspect compounds in Sangin.

One of my favourite things about these guys is how cool they look when combined with regular troops. One of the first videos of troops in contact I remember watching on youtube was the footage of US Marines and a few guys in t-shirts and DPM with British accents being engaged. That contrast is quite striking in terms of look and would present some interesting tactical situations – if you only have a few operators, what’s the best way to use in order to max out their utility when the rest of your force is less well trained. Also having a SF JTAC can be pretty handy.

Alternatively, the slightly older kit and lack of heavy gear means they would work quite well as contractors running private security gigs. I’ve used them several times, as contractors guarding locations and escorting VIPs (until the vehicle breaks down in the bad part of town. In fact, they are the creator recommended figures for the scenario “Our Man on the Ground” from the Skirmish Afrika book.

Conclusion

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Despite being on the older end of the models I own, I continue to really like using and playing them. The poses and details are crisp, foreshadowing the rest of the Empress range and I just love this style of character. I heartily recommend these to anyone wanting figures in this style.

Wishlist

Time has moved on – Empress has gone on to make several lovely ranges cover the rest of the Ultramodern world. In the real world, the kit on these models have become out of date, with other manufacturers making more modern version of these figures. But still, it would be nice to see a few more guys in a similar style to this with the older kit for when you want to turn the dial back to 2010.

Range Impressions: Spectre Task Force Nomad

In the past my impressions on this blog have been focused on the brand new, the recent arrivals, the purchases just made. However, there are plenty of figures that I have sat in various boxes that haven’t been written up on the blog (especially in this new format). So I think it’s time to break open the old model boxes and take a look at what’s inside. To begin with, Task Force Nomad.

I’ll admit, this was not a range I rushed out to purchased. When they were first shown (back in 2016) I though they were neat but not quite was I was looking for at the time. In fact, it would take me a year (and seeing the figures in person at the Spectre event) before I’d drop my money and jump on the low profile train, picking up all the figures in the collection.

Task Force Nomad is based off multiple images of SOF troops in the Middle East wearing a mixture of local clothing and modern kit. This allows them to pass as locals at distance, without affecting their combat capabilities in the same wear as wearing entire local clothing and equipment would. Much like another range I’ll be taking a look at soon, these guys are all rolling rather fancy setups – from the Crye Precision style clothes to the SIG MCX rifles and other, more exotic support kit. As a rule, they all also have silenced pistols stowed in their robes, perfect for when you need to switch to the more offensive stealth. Spectre has done a feature video showing off the inspiration for the range that is well worth a watch.

But now, lets take a look at the models

Riflemen

First up, we have core of any range of figures – the riflemen. Despite maybe not having all the cool gadgets, troops armed with assault rifles form a multi-purpose block in any fight that can be vital for winning the day

Task Force Nomad is no exception. The range currently has four operators just armed with rifles, split into two packs. There is a nice mix of poses from up and engaged to directing fire (a shoe in for the squad leader figure). The guys are using SIG MCX rifles and these are tooled up, with red dots, magnifiers, lasers and suppressors all equipped. The MCX in this case is, according to the description on the Spectre site, using .300 blackout. This chambering is designed to easily switch between subsonic rounds (for ultimate stealth action) and supersonic rounds with only a minimal drop in performance giving the user great flexibility when operating covertly. On the tabletop, this just means they are going to be really good for stealth missions.

Support

Once you’ve built your base of shooters, you can then add your toppings of specialists. The Task Force Nomad range has no shortage of team members with special kit to help out.

The first pack builds upon the covert nature of the group giving you a pair of troopers armed with suppressed MP7s, complete with the usual package of red dot and laser. The SMGs will have less hitting power but are better at the quiet work, so these guys are ideal to lead your forces in, able to pick sentries off at close range without waking up the neighbourhood. Just a warning though – the barrels on these are liable to bend slightly so I recommend careful handling, especially after they first arrive.

The rest of the support options seem to have forgotten the whole “stealth” thing; they are really there for when the shit hits the fan and the silenced pistol won’t cut it. Case in point: the shotgunner. Armed with the Origin 12 semi automatic shotgun, the version modelled is the short barrel (without even a suppressor) but with a PEQ box (laser) and red dot. Now, I’ll admit, the Origin 12 offends me on an asethic level (and the fact it seems to have replaced the AA12 in the role of “cool combat shotgun” doesn’t help) but it does get results on the tabletop. Normally when you need to cut your way back out of a situation.

The other way of getting out a bad situation has got to be the airburst grenade launcher. This is one of those guns that screams “ultramodern”. The XM-25s abilty to detonate at a preset distance helps to remove the effectiveness of cover, something that comes in handy when having to fight through a defended position. The only downside to this model is that he doesn’t seem to have any form of secondary weapon other than his pistol, making him much more of a long range and loud pick for the team. He is also the one that is most obviously wearing Crye Precision kit, as you can tell from his kneepads. Fitting that the gucci looking operator would have the future tech!

The final option, and one that has appeared on the blog before, is the Task Force Nomad Sniper. Armed with a Barrett XM500, a bulpup and modernised version of the classic “Light Fifty” M107, giving your covert team a long range reach with a bit more precision than the XM25. Either as a heavy sniper rifle or an anti-material rifle, this gun is a monster when used in the game, especially when combined with an elite character’s high shooting skill. I really like the figure, especially when you start picking out the details like the rifle bag he is currently sat on.


Usage

These guys are cool, but how best to add them into your games? Well the big thing about them is that these guys is that they are special forces operators through and though. You might be able to get away with using them as high end contractors (the type usually seen ambushing the SF heroes when the conspiracy is revealed) but these guys are going to be near the top of the skill chart. They do however work for pretty much any western nation (the MCX, while not a service rifle, has been purchased by USSOCOM amongst other).

You could use them as low profile operators on a mission, sneaking around an enemy settlement and trying to avoid guards. Alternatively they could be rolling around the desert in local vehicles and meeting in the middle of nowhere for a prisoner exchange or to gather intel on a target. Finally, you could scatter a few amongst a militia force as mentors, teaching the local force the best way to carry out their objectives. I’ve used these guys as the stealthy team trying to reach the hostages while the main group of operators kicked in doors and made lots of noise – you can read more in my battle report covering the “rescue” of the Geordiestan Ambassador.

Something else to think about is how you’re going to paint them. They are designed for the middle east but a few tweaks and a different paint scheme can totally change their feel. Going for a darker, more urban look and they might even fit into a “The Division”/post-apocalyptic game as a team waiting to ambush unaware groups.

Conclusions

Overall, this range provides the option for an elite force that uses many of the same painting skills you may have gained while getting your OPFOR together. The cloth detail from the cloak adds some interesting textures and the combination of old clothing and modern kit is great once the paint job is finished. On the table, a Task Force Nomad team is probably going to the point you break out the covert rules and add some patrolling guards to make life interesting. You can really use them to push the scenario side of play, rather than just being more operators in multicam to hit the table with. As I’ve said above, I wasn’t too fussed when they first released. But after getting them home and painted up in my style, I really like them! Although I do need to go back and repaint the sections where the wash has pooled a lot.

Wishlist

No range is perfect however and when I take a look at the options available right now, a few ideas stick out:

  • A LMG figure would be a handy addition when it comes to tactical options – letting you set up a proper base of fireteam that can still be suppressed, rather than immediately revealing yourself if the XM25 is used.
  • I’d really like to see another set of guys with carbines to give a few more of the basic team members. This would be even better if one is in a crouched position, ready to act as spotter for the sniper that is already released.
  • This might be more suited to being another range but it would be cool to see the operators slightly further down the scale towards looking like the locals and instead armed with Russian kit. Now this isn’t to say it should be totally militia-esque (the AK looks rather cool with a suppressor on) but a truly covert team (with just enough identifies to make them more than “well armed militia”) could be a neat addition to the collection.

Impressions: AM General HUMVEE Enthusiasts’ Manual

In a complete reversal to my previous vehicle based project, I decided to pick up my reference material at the start of the project rather than just as it was coming to an end. Osprey does produce a New Vanguard on the Humvee series written by Steven J Zaloga (Amazon link: HMMWV Humvee 1980–2005: US Army tactical vehicle (New Vanguard)). However, it’s a little outdated now thanks to it’s cut-off of 2005 but provides a good jumping off point. With the Spectre HMVs being more designed for the later armoured versions I started looking for an alternative. And then I discovered that Haynes had a manual available for the vehicle.

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If you are unaware, Haynes have been producing reference books designed to assist drivers in repairing their own car. Through the years I’ve seen a fair number of the practical guides. They also do some more unusual books in the series, such as for the Star Trek Enterprise, and several historical vehicles. For Christmas, I received their Churchill Tank book and found it a great read (although sadly I’m not sure I’ll be in a position to use it’s maintenance tips). I quite like their books, both for the technical information and photos, so I had to pick it up.

The Book

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The book was .published in 2014 and is in the usual Haynes style, in hardback, full colour and a whopping 154 pages. It starts off with the history of the Humvee program (including a look at it’s predecessors) before moving on to cover the production and the various variants that have been created off the basic vehicle. It also looks at the stranger selections including some words dedicated to the Hummer. A short chapter looks at more details of the manufacturing process. The bulk of the book then looks at the internals of the Humvee (including plenty of close up shots of internal systems).

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This section covers literally EVERYTHING you’d want to know about the mechanics of the vehicle, from details of the transmission to the number of bolts used to hold the wheels together. Perhaps more useful for wargamers, it then moves on to look at the variety of body types and accessories available for the Humvee chassis. Most importantly, this includes the various weapon systems available for the Humvee. The following chapter expands on this detailing the Humvee in action, not just with the Americans but also with a few other nations. This chapter is packed with images of vehicles in action

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Haynes book without some practical information and so the final chapters are designed for those who may be actually interested in purchasing one. As well as detailing how rare if it to buy one (in part due to some of it’s civilian unfriendly features) and how to import them into the UK, it moves on to look at more practical matters such as how much it’s going to cost (back in 2014). A short chapter looks at the mechanics point of view, including the ever important serving schedule, before finishing off with a few pages of appendices.

Thoughts

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Overall, I think the book is certainly worth a buy. It provides a nice deep dive into one of the iconic vehicles of the 20th Century, covering every aspect of it from development through to it’s many uses. It’s also a nice easy read, giving lots of information without having to chew your way through it. The only downside is it’s price – if you’re used to Osprey’s reference books, it will seem expensive. However, there is lots of information to make it worth your while.

Coming at it from a wargaming/modelling point of view, I think the book has plenty of use. There will be big chunks that you’ll breeze past (I’m not sure you need to know the exact details of certain internal systems if assembling a resin kit) but there are so many images of the vehicles that it’s a perfect jumping off point for detailing your own vehicles. As well as overall shots, there is a great deal of information and examples of where to place your stowage in order to both look cool and realistic.

If this book interests you, why not pick it up off Amazon using one of the associate links below?

Project Humvee – Initial Impressions

You know, after the 9 posts that was Project Technical, I think it’s safe to say that pickup trucks with guns mounted on them are pretty great. On the other hand, there is something to be said for a vehicle that is actually designed to carry a group of infantry over rough terrain while carrying a heavy weapon and not assembled in some backstreet workshop. The Humvee is an icon of the post Cold War conflict, be it on the streets of Somalia, the dusty highways of Iraq or attempting to climb the mountains of Afghanistan.

I’ve talked to Spectre for a while and when they mentioned they were looking into making a range for the HMV, I was immediately interested. This interest grew with every update, especially when they showed off the various elements to the range. More importantly, I started planning out all the various combination of turrets and weapons I would need, gather reference material (see below) and soon enough the realisation hit home that this would be a brand new project.

The first wave arrives – along with some reference material

As with all projects, we’re starting with the initial impressions. We’re going to take a look at the basics of the range in their rawest state and act as a basic primer before moving on to tweaks and painting in future posts.


Construction Details

First up, the basic details. The HMV range is mainly produced in resin with the only required metal parts being the various guns you attach. From talking to the Spectre team, I discovered that this is the first product that Spectre have produced in resin in-house, primarily as a way of fixing the supply issues previous resin releases have had and allow them to do more in that area. In fact, if you check the vehicles collection page, you may notice a lot more things in stock.

Most of the finished product is great, with nice deep detailing in most cases. I did noticed a few air bubbles and slips (including a chunk out of a bumper) but no more than you might see from other similarly sized producers. In most cases I was able to hide the issues during construction or fix later with green stuff or thin plasticard. As with all resin models, I recommend cleaning them in warm soapy water (especially the wing mirrors). There was a fair amount of cleaning up to do with most pieces and some of them (such as the doors) were very easy to crack or damage while removing from the sprue. Overall, the experience was pretty much what I would expect when buying a wargaming ready kit – it rewards a little bit of careful planning ahead.

Base Variant

Of course, all vehicles have to start somewhere and even in a modular system there is a core set to buy. In this case, the HMV package includes what is in the picture above. Most of these parts are used in all variants although some, like the rear bumper are replaced in various upgrades. As always – DRY FIT EVERYTHING BEFORE PICKING UP THE GLUE.

Once assembled it looks like this. Immediately you can see just how detailed the vehicle parts are. I have my doubts how long the wing mirrors will last under constant gaming use, but there is at least more material to glue together with these compared to the metal bits in the technical sets. I’ll talk about the turrets more later but it’s great to see them spinning pretty freely.

The rear view shows off the special piece you add just for this version. The armoured section behind the cab turns this truck into the light cargo hauler/utility variant. Not one you’d always see in combat but it could be useful in a convoy situation. With the right turret setup, it could also be pretty great for various NGO forces that want something tougher than an SUV while offroading.

One comment is that this kit is only £16 for a good-looking vehicle. Combine this with Upgrade Alfa and a M2 and for around £20 you get a classic Humvee all ready for somewhere not many people are going to shoot back at it.

Chassis Upgrades

Of course, as cool as the basic version is, it’s highly likely you’ll be needing more than just a 4×4 pickup truck. So to help this out, Spectre have three upgrade packs available that take advantage of the modular design

HMV Upgrade – Alfa

If you’re wanting to make the classic design, this is the back you need. Sloped back covering the boot (or trunk) and a front mounted bullbar for smashing your way through any obstacles you might meet such as parked cars or insurgents getting in the way.

One simple install later and the shape seen on a thousand news broadcasts arrives. I can see this upgrade is probably going to be quite popular.

HMV Upgrade – Bravo

If you’re finding the Technicals to be a little too vulnerable for karting your operators around, than Upgrade Bravo is certainly worth looking at. Like Alfa it upgrades two parts of the vehicle, adding an IBIS TEK style front bumper (for even more smashing potential), a new rear bumper and an armoured open-topped box to surround the cargo bed. This box also includes a new rear hatch, allowing assualters to quickly mount and dismount when on operations.

Assembled and you can really see the change in shape that the new rear section adds – perfect for adding stowage to (either inside or on the sides). Additionally, the front bumper looks mean although the sheer size of the thing might make turning a little interesting.

HMV Upgrade – Charlie

The last upgrade pack is an interesting idea. Rather than new chassis, this just adds some new extra detailing elements. These are:

  • 2x Smoke Grenade Launchers
  • Spare Tyre
  • Spare Tyre mounting point
  • Additional weapon mount
  • Microwave Antenna (for jamming primarily)
  • 2x aerial mounting point

One thing with these is that most need a fair chunk of material removing before they were ready for use on the vehicles – the actual items are actually quite small so take care when preparing them.

When mounted on the vehicle, these elements really add the little bit of extra detail. The aerials go into slots at the rear of the common hull, meaning they can be used across any vehicle – the second aerial base went on the other Humvee I’ve been working on. The additional gun mount simply adds another post with the mounting system many of the newer weapon systems have while the spare wheel just looks cool. I had mounted the smoke grenade launchers on the vehicle (you can see the super glue marks) but they were removed so I could spin the larger turrets 360 degrees without the front shield clipping.

This pack feels like it’s designed to go with Upgrade Bravo, but I think it could be used with other variants. For example the spare wheel mount could go on the back of the boot panel and the additional weapon mount could go inside a turret for mounting some close in firepower. I really like the fact the aerials fit into slots on the base chassis making them incredibly useful.

Doors

A key part of the Humvee throughout it’s life has been the arms race between where the vehicle is deployed to (and what people shoot at it) and what sort of armour it carries. This has led to some interesting changes in visual profiles of the vehicle as more and more armour has been added to what was designed as a utility vehicle. Luckily, Spectre have included some options to let you up armour your vehicle.

By default, the core vehicle comes with lightly armoured doors moulded into the chassis. These doors have lots of detail on them and look pretty great, even down to the towing hooks needed if the doors are jammed shut. In most cases, these doors should be pretty great. The only comment – these doors are flat sided which means that a basic level of armour is on them. They are very much designed for post 9/11 and onwards. Depending on your local group, you might have a few people pulling faces if they turn up in early ’90s Somalia.

However, if you are rolling into serious trouble, you might want to invest in the more heavily armoured doors. There are two version available:

  • Door Armour Alfa (left) upgrades covers the windows, making them bulletproof while still able to open for troops inside to shoot out of.
  • Door Armour Bravo (right) covers more of the door making it more resistant to damage although it does prevent the troops inside from shooting out

As much as I like these additions to the vehicles, I did find the doors troublesome when removing from the excess material. There wasn’t a major cut off point visible to say “this is model” and “this is flash”, leading to some irregular edges and some overzealous trimming. It might be a case of me using the wrong tool for the job so I recommend being careful, otherwise you’ll be hanging some damaged armour off the side.

Turret Options

Of course, the other major feature on these Humvees is the turret on the top. As wargamers, this is probably the most important detail for us – we need to know what heavy weapons we’re rolling in to games with! The main common fact is that these turrets all have the usual notch that all the Spectre modern weapons fit into. I haven’t managed to run a full test of all the weapons to see what fit but it’s safe to say most of the sensible ones will work just fine.

All of these turrets are quite light, with only a thin ring to attach to the vehicle rather the plug some other companies use. I’d recommend being very careful when moving vehicles around off the table, lest the turret drops off and onto the floor. Adding a crew figure and some other upgrades should help to rebalance them. Speaking of crew, the distance between turret ring and the “floor” of the turret section is relatively short so expect the crew to be trimmed slightly, probably at the knees. Also, several pictures on the Spectre website show a plug covering up the turret ring. This is currently unavailable but may be released soon if you’re wanting to make a more civilian looking 4×4.

Final point, be careful when accessorizing your vehicle – positioning certain upgrades (like smoke grenade launchers) may stop the larger turrets from swinging freely.

Turret Ring

Included in the base variant, the turret ring is super simple to set up, with only two parts (turret ring and hatch). The hatch design is common across all the turrets and although it doesn’t close completely (the front half of the hatch is moulded onto the other half) you can still assemble it buttoned up or open.

Turret Alfa

Building on the turret ring is Turret Alfa, including a half height armoured panel and a gun shield. The gun shield fits onto the rest of the turret really easily with a big solid bar and socket. I also mounted the basic M2 .50cal – although it’s not designed for the half circle mount like the more recent guns, it has plenty of resin to bond to.

Turret Bravo

For proper armoured protected, Turret Bravo is the way to go. Based on the OGPK kit, this system has bullet resistant glass in both the gun shield and protective turret, giving the gunner both protection and visibility.

For this turret I added the SF version of the M2. As you can see, the under weapon light makes it a quite tight fit with the armour shield but as you can see – it looks pretty beefy.


All this analysing is cool but what am I doing with my vehicles? I haven’t yet got round to painting or adding the stowage (that will come later in the series) so for now, here are my first two Humvees.

Vehicle 1 is the first of what will be at least a pair of “Patrol” Humvees. This style is probably the most common in use and can stand in for pretty much any force. The Patrol Humvees will probably end up wheeling around US Army or Marine troops, especially if I get round to playing some of the Skirmish Sangin scenarios I’d previously avoided due to lack of Humvee. Similarly, the turret I built with it is all about being the most used setup I’ll go to.

Vehicle 2 is expanding out the SOF vehicles I have in my collection, giving them something a bit sturdier than the RZR or Technicals. It’s using both Upgrade Bravo and Charlie which, combined with the armoured doors, make it perfect for getting into the midst of the action and dropping off the assaulters on the X.

The original plan was to mount a minigun in either the turret or the rear section but due to stock issues I settled on the SF M2 in the turret (also a test to see if the two extremes of large weapon and massive turret would work) and one of the M240s from the twin GPMG mounts. The idea was to make it look like a proper mount and more like one of the troops had put their own MMG in place for the ride in before dismounting it later. I also placed it close to the spare tyre, working off the idea that it will provide a little cover. This is a vehicle that will definitely need a lot of extra stowage added to it.


Of course, no vehicle is ever used by itself so I’m going to do the photo comparisons and talk a little about cross compatibility.

EDIT: I realised that I missed out a photo showing off the vehicle compared to infantry figures. Here is the Spectre Humvee with a Empress SEAL (WIP) and a Spectre Ranger.

Can’t have a new release without some comparison shots. First up we’re looking at the Spectre vehicles, in particular the SF set. As you can see the Humvee is massive compared to the RZR and still chunkier than the Technical.

Looking at another Humvee available, you can see the Empress and Spectre vehicles are pretty similar from a distance. Up close, the Spectre vehicle is slightly larger, both in length and width. The M-ATV continues to dominate over all comers.

Speaking of other makers how do the Spectre parts compare? Well I’m not sure I’m rushing to replace all my turrets just yet. The Empress turret rings are slightly larger and, although the Spectre turrets fit and mostly cover up the hole, it’s not quite as smooth as the original. However, this could be easily fixed with some plasti-card.

Going the other way, I think the Empress vehicle crew will work well but you will need to build a floor up for them as they are cut off at the waist and maybe a little too short for your liking.


So after a first look, what do I think of the range? Well, the HMV set is the set to get if you want the most detailed Humvees currently on the market. Apart from a few minor issues (and those flipping doors) everything was really easy to get out, clean up and build. The end results look great, and I can’t wait to break out the paint and get them on the table. It would have been nice if all the weapon systems had been in stock on release day and a few new crew figures would have sweetened the deal. I’m interested to see what is coming next for this range – hopefully extra weapon systems (like a MK19 for the less SOF looking teams) or maybe a few smaller weapons (like a PKM or a M107 on pintle mount) ready for mounting in the back of the Bravo upgrade.

NEXT UP

That aside, what’s coming next in Project Humvee? Step one is going to be looking at adding the stowage and getting painting on these vehicles. Next month I’ll also be picking up some more turrets (and hopefully crew for them) to give me all the options I might want. I’ll also be picking up two more vehicles to build. One will be the other Patrol Humvee but I haven’t decided what to do with the last one.

Some people have made some really cool mothership Humvees laden down with cargo for other vehicles but I’m tempted to go a little more “Middle Eastern Militia” with my fourth vehicle. Battlefield 3 has a really cool DLC called Aftermath which included some jury rigged vehicles. The Humvee based system, the Phoenix, has a MK19 launcher in a forward facing turret in the back of the vehicle so I may work from this and create something suitably bodged. I’m going to have a think, but keep your eyes open for more updates from Project Humvee coming soon!