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: 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.

Empress Mercenaries Pack 1

Although most modern wargamers take inspiration from current events, it’s fair to say it’s not the sole jumping off point. Games, TV, books and film all play a part in whetting the appetite for wargaming. Empress have noticed this and decided to give us a group of four mercenaries inspired by a certain group of films focused. As someone who plays really small scale games, adding a few outlandish characters was something that just had to happen and I picked them up.

Of course, when painting up more characterful figures, you really need to find a way to fit them into your games in a bigger way than just some standard profiles. Seeing as I’m already writing a setting with multiple PMCs, adding a few hired guns to be hired when things go wrong made perfect sense. I also decided to change up their pant schemes – although all kit black looks classicly cool, and Typhoon camo is a neat design I really didn’t feel like painting them in the same style as their onscreen counterparts. Instead, I went for the same plan as my other mercs – solid colours.

This rear shot shows off some of the extra kit each of these guys is wearing such as various knives and sidearms. A great bit of detail and possible jumping off points for ingame rules to make these guys feel like real heroes.


Kruger

Ex-American Special Forces, veteran of several operations in Val Verde. Keen interest in politics.

I really like this guy – but then again, I say that about anyone wielding an AA12. Combine this models height with the calm, shotgun held at the waist pose and you’ve got the perfect merc to slowly advance down the street while you make the slow “CHUNK CHUNK CHUNK” sounds of the automatic shotgun.

Cortez

The polite term for Cortez is eccentric. But he brings a surprising amount of agility and luck to a team despite his ways and advancing age. His other nickname is Zorro.

Another cool sculpt of someone not quite wearing the usual amount of kit. I could see this guy ending up actually with the various insurgents or pirates thanks to his slapdash and low profile look. Obviously his 416 was “borrowed” from somewhere.

Weaver

American Special Forces veteran, recently returned from a contract in Myanmar. Keen boxer.

Well you couldn’t do the team without the big boss. AS well as the pimped M4 in his hands, he has two pistol holsters on his legs and a big old knife behind his back. The crest on his beret showed up really well despite only painting it in the single colour and then washing. Much like Cortez, I could see this guy being used among the pirates/insurgents as a leader figure.

Bishop

Former Royal Marine, expert in knives and guns. Weaver’s right hand man.

Probably the most useful of the figure, thanks to his uniform – paint it in camo and you’ve got a great figure to act as a trainer for the ANA or other forces. Not sure how you’d explain the knives to the CO but it could be useful when trying to mentor troops on the table top


Commando Global Solutions contractors and local support in Bazi City during the Marketplace Incident

As you’d expect from Empress, these are some really nice sculpts. You can easily see the inspiration when you pick them up and the level of detail is great as usual. When you spot the double holsters or the pair of knives, its obvious that the sculptor really did study the inspiration well and brought over the kit that makes the characters stand out.

The real question now, will we be seeing any more of the crew? Perhaps a Swedish Grenadier or an American with half an ear and a SAW. Heck we might even get the young bloods seeing as this group are all wearing kit from the finale of that film. I’m excited to see what else Empress releases that isn’t quite 100% historical.

You may have noticed I’m trying something new with the images – doing some post production work on them (i.e. trimming off the excess around the photo). I think it shows the models off better but does reveal all the little bit. What do you guys think – prefer images this style or the wider shot? Tell me in the comments below!

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 August Releases

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

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

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


TV Crew

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

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

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

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

US SF Character

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

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

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

Universal Range

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

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

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

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

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


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