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.

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!

Technicals – High Speed, High Calibre

One of the more interesting systems you’ll see on technicals is the use of anti-aircraft guns. Requiring a bit more engineering work than a simple PKM or a HMG (unless you want to flip your vehicle) these AAA guns are pretty useful to an irregular force seeing as they are able to easily engage a whole host of targets from infantry to light armoured vehicles to helicopters and aircraft. Spectre have three of these weapons in their range and I’ve finally got round to finishing them off.

Pedestal

A common element of all the AAA weapons is the square pedestal mount. When it arrives from Spectre, each of the four legs has a slight cut out so it fits into the slots in the cargo bed. This makes sure that it gets a proper fit when glued into place. However, with me wanting to hot-swap the elements, this locator lug would probably start ripping through the paintwork. So, as with all my other weapons, I decided to mount on plasti-card pieces

I have three pedestals (one for each of the guns) – for two of them I simply cut out the usual “I” shape out of plasti-card so it fits around the wheel arches. For the final pedestal though, I had something else in mind.

Chopped Pedestal

By default, you can fit the pedestals into the cargo bay of the Technical Bravo chassis by either sticking it on top of the cargo bay or by trimming the legs and sliding it into position. However, both these options are pretty permanent. For hot swapping, I had to do something else. The plan was to cut down the pedestal to fit inside the cargo bay while still having a method to lift it out when changing weapons.

Unfortunately, my cutting wasn’t as precise as perhaps it should have been and so made a bit of a mess. Worse, the trimmed legs ended up not fitting correctly as I had worked off the wrong height for the wheel arches. So I had to re-do it; The intact legs would now rest on the wheel arch while a plasticard framework would hold up the other end. Overall it’s a cheap nasty fix but seeing as I’m close to finishing this project I kind of just wanted to get them done.

As you can see the it works pretty well, with most of the bad construction hidden by the cargo bed. It does mean I can’t mount all three weapons on Technical Alphas but it’s unlikely I’d be using all three of the heavy guns without having access to a Technical Bravo chassis.

ZPU-2

The ZPU-2 is a two barreled version of the 14.5mm KPV machine gun I mentioned in one of the earlier posts. The dual mounting upgrades it with proper anti-aircraft sights and large boxes for each gun to feed from. As you can see above, when it first arrives, there are plenty of pieces to put together. The main thing is getting the central section around the gun barrels and on the base and then work up from there.

Once assembled, the painting was pretty simple. I worked up from various metal shades before topping off with the usual Russian green. I painted the figure up while assembled although I can definitely see the advantage of painting him separately.

ZPU-4

If the two barreled version wasn’t nasty enough, the four barreled variant is designed to get as many rounds as possible down range in a short amount of time. With two massive ammo caskets on either side feeding each barrel and firing 4x the fire rate of a single gun, this is a nightmare to go up against in Spectre and other games.

I covered the basics in the first technicals post so I’ll focus on the painted side. Its the same process as the other Russian guns – metal and Russian uniform. Unlike the other guns, this one has a gunner already attached to the main body of the mounting.

ZU-23

The ZPU works by getting lots of rounds on target. The ZU-23 works by getting rounds on target that cause massive damage to whatever they hit. Rather than slinging the 14.5mm round, this dual barreled auto-cannon fires 23mm rounds with a variety of ammo types such as high explosive and armour-piercing. In game, this makes it very effective against groups of infantry and can even damage light armour and APCs. A real danger to most modern forces.

As with the ZPU-4, this was covered in the initial post back in 2017. One point I didn’t mention is that I seem to be missing the AA sight that sits in front of the gunner – luckily with these being for insurgents it’s easy to imagine it was snapped off at some point. Painting up was similar to the other AA guns.

THE END?

The AA guns are another way to help give the Insurgents a bit more firepower and increase the challenge for the more regular forces. A quad HMG or auto-cannon can really wreck a squad’s day, forcing them to actually use cover and smoke to prevent being caught in the open. It also gives the militia something that can take out vehicles with a bit more reliability than poorly trained troops popping up and firing RPGs. Finally, much like the improvised weapons from last week, these are also something that screams “militia” – they look gloriously ragged on the back of the pickups.

And we these finished, I have now painted up at least one of every weapon system offered by Spectre for their technicals. I’d say at this point, this is the final main Project Technical entry. From working away on these posts, I hope I’ve shown off what you can do with the range, from the conversion to add a PKM gunner for the MENA Regulars up to the heavily laden SF technicals and their massive selection of weapon systems. I’ve now got a nice selection of weapons that I can easily jump into most scenarios and pick out which weapons I want to use depending on the situation at hand. It also means that, I think, I can now fill a board with vehicles.

The real question is what modelling project to work on next. If only there was another range of modular vehicles coming soon to form a project I could really sink my teeth into…

Impressions: Evil Bear Wargames Combat Support Drones

The line between Sci-fi and Ultramodern for wargamers is sometimes a very thin line. With the rise of drones from things flying high above to smaller ones that fit in the palm of your hand, it’s highly likely at some point you’ll want to add a robot with a machine gun to your game (similar to the SWORDS robot), especially if you’ve played the Somalia level from Medal of Honour Warfighter or cleared a way to the helipad in Modern Warfare 3. Luckily, Evil Bear Wargames, whose range includes a selection of items from modern day to science fiction (such as the Spudies and Hardsuits), have two types of Close Support Drones ready to fill your need for some robotic support.

The two packs I ordered arrived in a single blister. Both vehicles are basically the same, sharing the same core unit and accessories. The main changes are the locomotion system and mounted weapons. As you can see, the entire kit is metal. One feature I particularly like about construction is the fact that both the chassis and weapon have enough space to fit in rare earth magnet in without any tweaking. This lets you easily switch between guns if you own both versions (or the Evil Bear Panther PMV which uses the same weapons). I’ve haven’t used them here but the pack includes two other little details, a control box and manipulating arm. These would let you theme the bots for a different purpose or for marking who has control of them in game.

Here are both vehicles painted up. This view also shows the vehicle in more detail, including the cool winch at the back of the chass

So what are the two variants? The first is the Medium Close Support Drone. This guy is armed with a GPMG and is equipped with wheels for moving around at speed.

The other is the Heavy Close Support Drone, equipped with tracks and mounting a M2 .50cal. This should be a nasty surprise when it appears and starts rolling around.

As you can see here, when compared to an Empress SF figure, these drone are certainly not man portable. They also won’t fit everywhere that people can get to, so more difficult terrain will prove to be an issue for them.

However, compared to vehicles these drones provide some serious firepower in a much smaller package. The photo shows both drones in comparison to the Panther from Evil Bear Wargames and one of Empress’s Humvees.
Honestly, these things are just cool. A little bit of ultramodern tech to add to your games (perhaps to show off the super high tech faction). You might need to jury rig some rules for them (most games don’t cover them quite yet) but they will be an interesting challenge. As the models, the casting is great with little clean up required and some neat details on them. Painting was a breeze and I’m pretty happy with the final result. C3 and R2 should useful when kicking doors and taking names.

If you’re wanting to get a pair of Close Support Drones yourself, they can be purchased from Evil Bear Wargames. At time of writing, their site is being re-developed but you can contact them via email at [email protected] in the meantime.

Impressions: Empress M-ATV

One key symbol of the Ultramodern era has been the rise of Mine Resistant vehicles. As improvised explosive device usage increased in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the classic Humvee and Land Rover became unsafe for use by troops on patrol. The MRAP program worked to fix this, creating a selection of vehicles that able to better protect the crew from most IEDs. However, these vehicles were top heavy and less manoeuvrable than the vehicles they replaced, which especially caused issues in Afghanistan. To find a midpoint between the MRAPs and Humvee, Oshkosh developed the M-ATV. For wargamers wanting one of these vehicles on the tabletop, Empress has two versions of this kit available from their store.

As with most Empress vehicle, the M-ATV is combination of resin and metal pieces. Most of the body is big chunks of resin such as the crew cab and chassis while finer details are made of metal. Although there are no instruction provided, assembly is easy enough. Overall the quality on the casting is really nice. I don’t recommend it for newbies though – there were a few gaps to get filled once assembled, especially on the join between the cab and the chassis.

Once all the resin is in place, it’s time to add the details. All of these details are easy to fit, with careful cut outs and placement guides to make assembly simple. This adds on everything from the cameras required for manoeuvring the vehicle to the steps needed to climb up to the doors.

And here is the finished vehicle. Like all my vehicles, it got a desert tan spray and a wash, as well as copious amounts of drybrushing to give it the dirty look. I think my washing brush was a little bit dirty so I might re-do the paint job at some point. However, for now I’m pretty happy with it.

From the rear angle you can see the cargo bay (waiting for me to prepare all the stowage for it). Many of the details on back are siting positions for aerials. You could add these yourself to make the vehicle look even cooler but I think they would last the grand total of 5 seconds before I’d snap them off.

First up, lets see the vehicle against infantry. As you can see, it really towers over them, no matter what brand they are. I really don’t fancy dropping from the crew cab to the ground when disembarking.

Lets take a look at some vehicles performing similar roles – vehicles designed to carry a HMG and a small number of people. As you can see, the M-ATV towers over the Empress Humvee and Technical from Spectre.

I was really surpsied just how bulky the M-ATV is compared to the Challenger 2. The MBT looks almost sleek and speedy.

If you hadn’t guessed, I really like this vehicle. It required a few little tweaks when building but the final effect is awesome. It’s also a very practical vehicle to pick up. Rather than tanks and APCs, the M-ATV and other MRAPs are a relatively common vehicles after their deployment, meaning it will get a lot of use without overpowering every game it gets into. The price is also pretty reasonable for the vehicle – it’s not quite as detailed as a model kit but it’s definitely designed to be a playable game piece like all of Empress’s stuff. One thing I would like to see is a version (or an addon) including the CROWS remote weapon system, which became very common as time moved on.

In fact I liked the kit so much I bought a second one – come back in a few weeks to see my attempt to build the M1245 SF vehicle based off the M-ATV. As for this vehicle, come back on Friday to see it in action.


So that’s talking about the kit. As it comes out the box I think it’s fine but there were a couple of tweaks I did to the vehicle while assembling it. Inspired by some points raised on the Queeg’s rather excellent work on them, I decided to do some adjustments. Now, I’d safely say my hobby skills are journeyman level – not complete beginner but not great. Some of these tweaks look a little rough (especially compared to the Queeg’s stuff) but it was fun to do.

First up, the rear cargo bed. Technically the bed on the Empress version is way too low. It doesn’t provide the same amount of travel on the wheels. However, increasing the height would require adding more details such as the suspension. I’m not that fussed so I decided to raise that vehicle up. I assembled several panels of plasticard to raise it to the correct height, including pips for the locator lugs.

The second tweak was to fill in part of the gap between the rear cargo bay and the main cab. I wasn’t a huge fan of the gap and reference photos seem mixed on how much space there was on the real vehicles. I decided to fill the gap entirely and extended the storage bins backwards. This gives me a larger area to fill with kit once I’ve divvied up my stowage between this one and it’s brother coming soon.

Another tweak was adjust the turret. After clearing the turret of flash, it sat flush with the top of the cab. However, the cab has a lip that was colliding with the bottom of the HMG mount. To fix this, I made a shell out of plasticard to sit in the bottom of the turret well and just make it smoother to turn.

Finally, purely for a visual improvement and based on a stock photo I had seen of the M-ATV, I added some mesh panels to the site. This just makes the rear cargo bay look a bit more practical than it would be if left empty without filling it with plain storage boxes. This mesh was made out of an old sieve, with some careful clipping to avoid sending bits of metal flying round the room. This was then glued into place to the existing frame.

That’s it for the M-ATV but as I mentioned I’m converting a second M-ATV to SF standard. Expect more details in an upcoming article.

Impressions: Empress GAZ Tigr

So far, nearly all the vehicles I’ve covered on the site have been either of Western origins or some form of technical. However, my regular OPFOR have been needing some vehicles to back them up. Where better to start than the GAZ Tigr, available in 28mm scale from Empress.

The Tigr is a infantry mobility vehicle developed for the Russian military and currently in use with several armed forces around the world. The model looks like its one of the armoured variants, capable of carrying a full squad of infantry through small arms fire and across rough terrain. This version is also armed with both a PKP medium machine gun and a AGS-17 grenade launcher, making it a pretty useful base of fire to cover your advancing troops.

Like nearly all the Empress vehicle kits, the Tigr is a combined resin and metal kit. The body, front bumper, turret ring and tyres are all resin while the finer details (like hatches, weapons and lights) are the usual white metal. There was a small amount of cleanup to do on the resin parts, but not more than would be expected for a kit of this type

Construction is simple – the bumper section slides easily into the slot at the front of the vehicle. Once done, the wheels can then be added; these fit both on the four struts and on the rear spare wheel mount. From here it’s simply a case of adding the various metal detail elements. The turret setup with the hatches is one place to carefully look at so I recommend dry fitting everything. If you want to go for a command version rather than a infantry carrier, the kit comes with a whole array of antennas to make it stand out.

As always, I hate painting vehicles. However, the Tigr was relatively quick to paint thanks to the level of detail on the body. After a desert tan spray, I followed up by quickly painting the tyres, glass and the tools. After that, it was several drybrushes and then a relatively thin wash to finish it off.

There are some really nice details on the vehicle (such as the tools on the side) which are impressive and really help to make the vehicle look detailed. Apart from the usual mess that I make of the wash, I’m really happy with the final look of this vehicle.

Picture here for scale are a few possible groups that will be using the Tigr in game. From front to back:

  • Warhansa Spetsnaz
  • Empress Universal
  • Eureka ANP
  • Spectre Spetsnaz

To carry on the comparison here are a few other vehicles alongside it:

  • Evil Bear Panther – based on the Iveco LMV, this is another infantry mobility vehicle. The similar size shows off some of the shared capapvilties, but the Panther is a much shorter vehicle as it’s for command and control rather than troop transport.
  • Empress Humvee – the main thing look at modern vehicle is showing me is that the Humvee is actually not the giant monster you always think it is compared to vehicles in the UK. Everything about it is

The final comparison is against some more civilian vehicles, both from Spectre. The pickup looks a similar size but much less bulky. The standard car though really shows the difference in size between civilian car and armoured troop carrier.


So my personal thoughts? I love this vehicle. It was beautifully simple to assemble, quick to paint and looks great on the tabletop. It’s also something different from the usual Humvees and BMPs, giving any games using it a nice feel. As well as military use, I think you could assemble it as the local SWAT van of a foreign country if you miss off the heavier weaponry. I’m planning to pick up another couple of these vehicle to carry the entirety of the platoon I currently own. At the very least, I’ll be setting up another one as the command vehicle. Expect to see this on the table dropping off squads of Bazistan Army troops wherever they can be the biggest pain for the other team.

If you’re interested in getting your own vehicle to carry your gang of Russians around, you can find it on the Empress store at http://www.empressminiatures.com/userimages/procart36.htm

Impressions: Empress US Stowage 1

Time for a little extra post to push you on through the week! As I’m looking at finishing off a few modern US military vehicles, I decided to pick up a pack of Empress US Stowage 1 to make them look a bit more used and in action rather than factory fresh.

Inside the bag you will find:

  • Two tow cables
  • Two wooden ammo crates
  • Two fuel cans in mounting bracket
  • One large tarp, stowed
  • Two small tarps, stowed (although one of mine seems to have gone walk about on my desk)
  • Three assault packs
  • Three small packs with bedroll
  • Three large packs with bedroll

Thanks to the style of the items, this pack could be used on almost any modern US armed forces vehicle. It also works for a large time period from the late 1980’s up until the modern-day. There is a really nice level of detail on them and should look great added to any vehicle. The packs are especially good, easily added to many of the Empress figures (such as the US Infantry) if you want to change to the look of them. The tow cables are also pretty handy. That said, some of these items are already moulded on some of the vehicles so I recommend having the vehicle in front of you before planning what you intend to add to it.

Overall it’s a handy pack to get the main Army look (as opposed to the better equipped SF teams that the Spectre pack feels better suited for). If you want this Empress stowage pack, you can find it on the Vehicles page on the Empress site.

The real question is, what do I have planned for them? Well, they will be going on the stowage racks on both of my Strykers – this will mainly be the rucksacks, stowed on the outside for the crew inside. The M-ATV is also going to be packed full of stowage thanks to it’s large cargo bay. In the future, I may pickup another stowage pack for other US military vehicles such as a second M-ATV, M113 or some Humvees. Finally, I’m to use some of the packs to add some extra variety to my US Army infantry platoon.

So this is the first of a new format of post. Every other Wednesday I’m going to start doing smaller posts, around 500 words. This will mainly be hobby focused (showing off WIPs) and smaller impression pieces (such as for single figures from existing ranges). The reason for this? I’m going to run out of weeks in the year for everything I want to write about!