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

Testing Report: Skirmish Sangin 08/09/2016

The last few reports I wrote were done in a narrative fashion. I’m not abandoning that format, but as this is a special game I’m going back to a more descriptive style.

Rather than using a pre-made scenario, I instead decided to spring on them a brand new, beta version of a scenario I had been working on. Tentively named “House Call” the new scenario sees the ANP and British advisers entering a Afghan village to hunt down an insurgent leader. However, the insurgents have dug in hard and have a load of special items in the toybox to use. Additional, most of the OPFOR are in hiding, waiting for the opportune moment to pop out.

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Overview of the map for this scenario

As the game starts, a squad of Afghan National Police (along with a British NCO acting as an adviser) ready to start searching from house to house. In addition, a Panther CLV is heading into town carrying two engineers and a medic to assist the search.

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Board level view as the game begins. Civilians help to confuse the battlefield.

Testing Notes: Checking a house requires 6AP worth of action to be spent on it. The idea behind this is that a single soldier will take a while to search while a big group is more efficent. The downside to rushing in with a load of guys to clear is that after clearing you roll a D10. Roll high and you might find intel, reveal an enemy fighter or even bring the target VIP out of hiding. Roll lower and you’ll either find nothing or set off a booby trap. In the initial version of the scenario played, ISAF players gained 30VP per building cleared to incentive them to actually clear buildings. However, this is way too much. The plan is to increase VPs from finding intel and not give any if you search the buildings.

You can see in the above picture, the board is pretty scenery dense. You can also see there are a fairly large number of civilians milling around. In fact, the board above only has two hostiles on it – two spotters ready to set off IEDs and spot targets. The rest of the insurgent force is currently lurking in the ratlines waiting to deploy. The insurgent player also got to place three IEDs and (initially) 5 booby traps.

As the game began, civilians milled around as the ANP starting investigating buildings, primarily as a big group so the check only takes one combat phase. As one group cleared the white building with the courtyard, a second group (along with the British NCO) moved up to the street to investigate another building. Crossing an alleyway, there was a sudden boom as a booby trap was triggered.

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A booby trap detonates just as an ANP squad is about to clear a house throwing everyone to the ground

This booby trap was initially placed on the corner so the damage was less than it could have been – the lead guy and the NCO were both only knocked down. However, both machine gunners took damage through their paper thin body armour. One was still able to keep fighting but the other was knocked unconscious, a major blow.

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The Engineers get to work

Outside of the town, the approaching armoured vehicle decided to stop and start searching the route instead of possibly blundering into another IED. Disembarking the two engineers, the vehicle stopped and went into a covering position. After a few tests, the engineers eventually found a medium IED with a pressure plate and managed to disarm it, clearing the way for the Panther to move into town.

Testing Notes: When the scenario was written, the Medium IED had a booby trap placed with which went off when the engineer originally failed his IED test. This would have required a casulty evac, ending the mission pretty quickly. As accurate as this is to the potential situation and after careful investigation of the rules, we decided to roll this back in order to keep playing and reduce the number of booby traps for the insurgent player.

As ANP troops rushed to clear the building close to the booby trap, they quickly discovered an enemy fighter and dragged him outside. As this happened one of the players turned to me and asked “Can we start interrogating him?”. After a little bit of persuasion, I agreed and the leader of the ANP started doing activities that if the British were doing this and a Western news crew were nearby, they would be in serious trouble.

Testing Notes: Okay, so Skirmish Sangin doesn’t include rules for interrogating captured enemies. There are several probable reasons for this (including the issue we had that certain characters spent most of turn 1 kicking the snot out of an opponent in order to get any info from them. However, thanks to the RPG style system, it was super easy to throw in a morale check and then start providing information that a novice fighter would know whenever the poor devil was being interrogated. This is a potential rule I’m playing around with as part of some civilian interaction additions, but I will be making it an awful lot harder.

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ANP officers move through the shipping containers as they clear the town

The ANP continued to move around clearing buildings and as they checked they found some weapon caches but not much else (although they did cause both of the spotters to swiftly move off the street to prevent their arrest). However, clearing the buildings did reduce places I could make insurgents appear. In order to make the most of this situation, I popped up both a sniper and an RPG team on the outer edge of the town. However, the RPG gunner decided to duck back in the ratlines to avoid death at the hands of the Panther’s GPMG. His assistant moved to a position overlooking a group of ANP heading into an alleyway and managed to spot them. Bringing his AK up, he fired a burst and… hit nothing. Oh dear.

Testing Notes: Ratlines are a useful way of getting troops in place, breaking the frontlines that most players want to setup in any game. Sticking them in buildings is handy way to make the town seem like bad guys are everywhere and clearing buildings becomes a way of preventing them being outflanked.

The response was what you would expect – pretty much everyone who could see the shooter opened up, hitting him with 10 points of damage and knocking him unconscious. The ANP  moved on to start clearing the building the shooter had been on top of in order to prevent it being used as a ratline position. The other ANP group moved up to the final few buildings, sprinting past two IEDs which failed to detonate before running headfirst into a recently arrived machine gunner.

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The Casualty Collection/Holding Pen is setup on the edge of town

At this point the British had parked their vehicle at the town’s entrance and appeared to be setting up a casualty/prisoner collection point, administering aid to the various unconscious fighters.

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Finally, the Taliban fighters appear from the most bizarre of ratlines

The battle was starting to wrap up, and I was running out of time to cause some more damage to the (so far) successful BLUFOR forces. IEDs and booby traps had been failing so far so I decided to deploy my commander and a few other fighters down in the south (including an RPG popping out of the well). My plan was to get them close enough to attempt and arrest and then detonate my last IED. After, of course, I tried to knock out the Panther with an RPG. Sadly he was obviously not happy about having jsut climbed out of a wheel and the rocket spiralled off into the fields. As a response, the GPMG on the Panther swung around on it’s weapon mount and leveled the attacker with a burst of 7.62.

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The Fox appears again! And doesn’t die this time.

While the gunfire banged up and down the open square, the ANP 2IC decided to put pressure on my sniper. The sniper’s response was to dive off the building and make a run for it. Deciding to snapfire, the 2IC put a burst down and did nothing more than spook the guy as he ran past. This did expose the 2IC and left him locked in place, perfect for The Fox (newly arrived via the ratlines) to pop up and drop him with a single shot from his trusty G3.

Down the far end of the street though things were going horribly wrong for me. With one fighter down, another stuck in the street with five morale markers on him and several markers on the commander and his bodyguard, some of the ANP managed to get close and arrest them both (even if it took a while for the commander to actually get it). As the ANP mopped up, both of the snipers on the outskirts manged to merge with the population and disappear away.

At the points tally, BLUFOR wins, thanks to clearing every building and arresting quite a few of the insurgents. Part of the massive win was due to how the points had been awarded by – I was giving away 30pts per building which quick adds up on a dense urban map, in addition to points gained to taking out enemies and finding intel. Although that said, managing to actually arrest the commander was also a pretty big boon.

Final Thoughts:

This scenario has lots of little additional tweaks and really needed a good play. There are a few things I’m going to take away and work on before getting it finished off. Its a different style to many of the other scenarios, with BLUFOR having to react to the moves of the OPFOR while the OPFOR has lots of angles of attack to strike back against the .

As for playing the game, my opponents seemed to really enjoy it. This is kind of the most important thing when playing at the moment – as interesting as it is to be simulating a warzone, playing something that people loose interest in by phase 2 is a terrible thing and almost a waste of an evening’s play.

Looking at the board, I may occasionally be annoyed by all the models I’ve purchase/had to paint but it makes for some great shots. Civilians in particular help to set the scene, especially when you dot a few of the armed guys among them – Eureka have some wonderful sculpts for the Taliban in more static poses, perfect for matching with their civilians. Spectre’s

Also vehciles look cool on the tabletop so it was great to get Evil Bear’s Panther out on the streets of Afghanistan. I’m not 100% on the wash job but I was happy enough to get it on the tabletop. As I write this I have more vehicles ready to be painted, so expect a shift to an imagi-nation soon so I can get my Challenger 2 on to the streets of Bazistan or some other fictional warzone.

Additional Photos:

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“If you play Wonderwall again, I’m throwing you down the well young man”
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Two figures on the rooftop. Enemy fighters or just locals enjoying the view?

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Another view showing the start of the game. Thanks again to SESWC for the awesome terrain
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Some of Eureka’s fantastic ANP figures on the tabletop. Having painted these models specifically for this scenario, I’m really looking forward to getting to use them again!

Lead Mountain Update 12

Well this week was a painting success. 15 models finished and a few more well on there way. On the other hand, I think we also saw the last set of purchases before this challenge ends.

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So lets take a look at the finished models! First up we have the USMC Force Recon set from Eureka Models. These guys are pretty cool, slightly older style gear than my previous models. The .50cal is going to be fun to use and also was a cool model to base. Tempted to buy some more and a ghille suits to them to give the UKSF some longer range punch. The only issue is that these models are about a head smaller than Empress or Spectre but match up to Radio Dishdash. If anyone asks, they are from South East Asia

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Next, we have Empress PLA Special Forces. I wanted to do something different than the camo everyone else had and so went with urban/night time clothing of navy blue clothing with black vest. I did the blue by darkening down some Kantor blue, applying two coats of it and then drybrushing the undarkened colour. Overall, fun models to paint and should be cool to have as an alternative to the Western black ops troops

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Finally, I got round to painting the first of the VIPs figures I have. This is one of my weak points – no webbing to hide their clothing and often no gun or head gear. However, I’m relatively happy with my first attempt. Doing a suit meant careful work to fill in the shirt and then adding the tie colours. Face details follow then a liberal grey drybrush to give the black some depth and make it look painted. These guys, along with the VIPs I have on the way, are just waiting to be piling out of SUVs and fighting off ambushers.

New Deniable Ops figures - Picture from Spectre Miniatures.
New Deniable Ops figures – Picture from Spectre Miniatures.

As for new purchases, well, its that time where Spectre reveal a few more figures. This time, they have added a load to the Task Force Operators range, with a new dog team, a breacher (who I spotted at Salute earlier this year) and a figure with a pirate gun M79. I also picked up a few operators (both standard and marksmen) I hadn’t grabbed before. As a fan of Strike Back, I was also really excited to see the Deniable Operators turn up. With modded AKs and civilian gear, these guys will be used as everything from Russian contractors to undercover SF to well equipped survivors. To make sure the order got over the free postage, I also added two African Soldiers with special weapons. This brings the squad up to 7 figures, perfect for a colonial nation mimicking the French system or leaving space in the vehicle for a Western SF advisor. I also managed to get some Airfix 1/48 scale vehicles at a ridiculously low price but I’m not adding them yet – need to see if I have time to assemble AND paint them seeing as I have to source some crew for them. They might end up being a post challenge reward – a kit with a bit deeper instructions than a simple bit of super glue.

New Task Force Operators from Spectre - Picture from Spectre Minatures
New Task Force Operators from Spectre – Picture from Spectre Minatures

Looking ahead, this will be my last set of purchases for a while – Christmas coming up means everything slows down. But, I am going to have plenty of time to paint when I’m back in Leeds over Christmas break and so should just finish the challenge. Hopefully Santa bring some wargaming things. In addition, hopefully going to start back in on writing up AARs.

 

So how does the list stand?

Painted, varnished and based – 165:

  • 38 Empress – Modern British Infantry
  • 14 Spectre – UKSF (of various types)
  • 6 Spectre – Task Force Operators (painted as SAS) + 1 Spectre Dog
  • 10 Spectre – AK armed contractors
  • 5 Spectre – Western Contractors (being used as US Special Forces)
  • 11 Spectre – Task Force Operators (being used as US Army Rangers
  • 2 Spectre – Intelligence Agents
  • 5 Spectre – African Soldiers
  • 4 Empress – Armoured Troopers
  • 4 Empress – US SEAL Team 6
  • 8 Spectre – Task Force Operators (To be split between UKSF and Rangers)
  • 17 Radio DishDash –  Taliban
  • 4 Spectre Direct Action GRU
  • 14 Spectre – Insurgents
  • 4 Empress – US Frogmen
  • 1 Eureka – Taliban Sniper
  • 2 Spectre – Hostages
  • 1 Evil Bear Wargames – Hardsuits
  • 1 Eureka – Force Recon .50cal Sniper
  • 6 Eureka – US Force Recon
  • 4 Empress – PLA Special Forces
  • Spectre – 1 VIP and 3 Bodyguards

In the process of being painted, varnished and based – 22 :

  • 1 Empress – Dog for Counter-IED Team – Based, needs painting
  • 1 Spectre – Dog – Based, needs washing
  • 1 Empress – Warrior IFV – Repainted in Desert Tan
  • 1 Spectre – UKSF (ghille suit with M4)
  • 5 Spectre – Western Contractors (Converted with Shemaghs)
  • 7 Spectre – Task Force Contractors (To be split between UKSF and Rangers)
  • 5 Spectre Covert Action GRU
  • 1 Evil Bear Wargames – Panther – Base coated in Desert Tan

Basecoated with Basing Material– 39:

  • 1 Evil Bear Wargames – Hardsuits
  • 5 Hasslefree Miniatures – Modern Troopers
  • 8 Spectre – SMG Armed Contractors
  • 6 Spectre – Intelligence Agents
  • Spectre – Female Contractor (Salute 2015 model)
  • Spectre – 1 Agitator and 1 Bodyguard
  • 6 Spectre – African Locals
  • 2 Spectre – Deniable Assets
  • 8 Gripping Beast – Falklands War Brits

Basecoated – 1:

  • 1 Spectre – Contractor (being converted)

Not Arrived – 45:

  • 3 Spectre – VIPs
  • 4 Spectre – Close Protection Agents
  • 19 Spectre – MENA Militia
  • 1 Spectre – Offroad SUV
  • 2 Spectre – SUVs
  • 2 Spectre – African Forces Special Weapons
  • 6 Spectre -Deniable Operators
  • 2 Spectre – Task Force Operators
  • 2 Spectre – Task Force Operator Marksmen
  • 2 Spectre – Task Force Operator Breachers
  • 1 Spectre – Task Force Operator Dog Handler
  • 1 Spectre – Task Force Operator Grenadier (pirate gun)

Total Models: 272

Models finished (Based, painted and varnished): 165

Percentage of collection finished: 60.66% painted

Exempt (Not Arriving in time) – 28:

  • 8 Radio DishDash DELTA Force
  • 12 Radio DishDash US Army Rangers
  • 8 Radio DishDash Somali Gunmen