Thursday, July 28, 2016

Warlord’s JS-3 (Objekt 703/ Josef Stalin Tank 3) – A Review

Warlord recently released this pike-nosed monstrosity in an anticipation of Konflict ’47 and the appearance of late, late war tanks that will be making their way to Bolt Action 2nd edition.  In this review, I’ll provide a brief history of the tank, features of the kit, and give a generalized walkthrough of the building process.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The JS-3, also known as Objekt 703, was one of the first tanks developed by the Soviet Union to adopt a semi-hemispherical turret.  It was developed very late in World War 2 and left factory doors for deployment in May 1945.  Although it did not see combat during World War 2, it was said to be the “strongest tank in the world” at the time of its release.  The JS-3 was innovative with its soup-bowl styled turret, low height, 122mm D25T gun, thick armor, and its well-angled pike nose that earned the tank the nickname “Shcuka” (Pike).  The JS-3 made its first appearance to the outside world during the Allied Victory Parade on September 7, 1945.  While being innovative, the tank was plagued with problems ranging from limited gun depression, various mechanical issues, and an issue regarding cracking in hull weld lines.
Photo courtesy of World of Tanks/
Released recently for the game Bolt Action, Warlord did a great job bringing this tank to life.  Rules-wise it lives up to its reputation of being a hefty tank to brawl with.  Given a 12+ to penetrate the tank from the front, the rules distinctly reflect the pike nose and the 60 to 230mm of armor the tank sported.  The armament is no joke to mess around with as Shcuka is equipped with a heavy anti-tank gun with its own special rule (HE 2D6 hits!) and a pintle-mounted dshk heavy machine gun to spread love to planes, troops, and light armored vehicles.  Russia’s fighting bear comes at a hefty price though; if you’re looking to run this at a “regular” level, be prepared to pay 600 points for it.

Each JS-3 from Warlord is made to order.  The kit is supplied with the hull, turret, and tracks in resin.  The barrel, heavy machine gun, tank commander, fastening points, crew hatches, fuel barrels, and spare tracks are cast in white metal.  With the majority of the tank in resin, there are actually very few pieces to this kit, making assembly time relatively short.

Upon unwrapping Shcuka, I got the chance to scan the pieces over carefully.  I was very impressed by the detail that Warlord managed to include with this kit.  As it was resin, I did notice some slight warping with the tracks.  Slight bends and warping are a common evil with resin kits; it’s certainly nothing to get upset about.  To remedy this, I placed the two track pieces under warm water for 30 to 45 seconds.

With the pieces heated, I was able to place them on the main resin body of the tank and straighten them.  To set the tracks to the hull, I used CA glue with some zipkicker to speed up the setting process.  Once applied, you would never have guessed that the pieces had been slightly warped.

With the tracks in place, I moved onto the turret of the vehicle.  The first order of business was to do away with the excess resin from the pour points on the turret.  This was a quick fix with my dremel.

Once the excess resin was removed, I went to work on following my OCD tendencies and actually magnetized the turret.  I accomplished this by drilling hole in the hull and then drilling a corresponding one in the turret.  If you do this, be sure to make sure the depth of the magnet in the Goldilocks zone.  If it’s too shallow, the magnets will stick out and the turret won’t sit right; if it’s too deep, the magnets won’t be able to touch and your tank will look like it just got ammo-racked if it tips over.

After the magnets were in place, I noticed that the turret was too smooth to my liking.  Russian armor was notorious for its rough casting texture on its turrets.  In effort to keep Gunzo Sangyo in business, I reached for my Mr. Surfacer 500 and began to dab it on the tank.  By dabbing the lacquer-based primer on the model, it becomes slightly tacky and takes on a rough look to it.  This is perfect for emulating the texture that the rough sand molds left behind during the casting process.  (This is a neat trick I learned from Mig Jimenz of Ammo of Mig).  Adding a subtle texture adds a bit of character to the tank once paint and washes are applied.

With my texture fetish satiated, I turned my attention to the fearsome 122mm D25T gun.  Be it in plastic or metal, odds are that a barrel will have a mold line.  This barrel certainly had one so I went to town on it with an Xacto knife and some fine grit sandpaper.  With little effort, the mold line was gone and I was on my way to my next task of fixing the barrel to the turret.  I did this by using a healthy amount of CA glue and zipkicker to fix the barrel in place.  I then followed up with some modeling putty and filled the gap using a sculpting tool.

After the barrel was in place, I went about securing the crew hatches and the tank commander himself.  I used some modeling putty to create a nice base for the hatches and the figure.  I did this so that the hatches sit naturally and that the figure wouldn’t be “floating” inside of the tank.  I may have been a little messy with the putty, but it cleans up easily after it dries and can be removed with an Xacto knife.

While I had the figure in place, I arranged the ring mount and the dhsk heavy machine gun to the turret.  I did this as to check the amount of clearance I would have with the figure in place.  With the correct spacing established, I glued the ring mount and the heavy machine gun in place.  The tank was now ready to turn away unwanted solicitors at a moment’s notice.

With the turret correctly situated, I turned my attention to the various bits around the tank starting with the improvised track armor.  These were easy enough to clean up and glue into place.

From there I attached the fastening points on the front and rear of the tank.

After the fastening points, I turned my attention to the fuel tanks situated around the tank.  The rear ones went on easily enough.

The side ones were easy as well.  I did have to remove some mold lines, but they went off quickly enough.

And there you have it, Shcuka is ready for a fight.  In all, the kit only took about 30 minutes to build.  I probably could have gone faster, but I took my time with the putty and also adding some loving texture to the turret of the tank.


While I love this tank and the amount of detail packed into it, I’d say it’s not for the faint of heart if you can’t part with points when creating a list.  At a regular price of 600 points, many people will fail to regain color in their cheeks as they shove on to finish a list.  However, if you’re up for scenarios, larger point games, or are an armor whore like me, then I certainly suggest picking this tank up.  Warlord did an outstanding job of creating this tank at a 28mm scale and I can’t wait to put it on the table.  My only regrets is that I wish I could use it against Stefan Kraut’s Tiger II or throw it down against Andy Singleton’s Germans sometime in the near future.
If you enjoyed the review, feel free to leave a comment below as it really helps the site out.  Additionally, if you'd like to pick up a JS-3 of your own, head on over to Warlord Games or follow this link to the direct listing.
I’ll be following up with this post as I begin to paint it.  In a future post, I will be reviewing one of Rubicon’s new kits: the SdKfz 250/1 Alte!  Until next time, have a great one.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rubicon’s Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E

(Tiger I Ausf. E) – A Review

Rubicon set the bar high with this kit, offering a detailed yet easy model to build.  This review will provide an overview of the technical and aesthetic qualities of the kit.

It’s hard to believe that in my 6 years of building scale models, I’d yet to build a Tiger 1 tank.  I’d more than dabbled in German armor, building an E-100, a Jagdtiger, and others, but I never really considered conquering a Tiger 1 kit myself in any scale.  Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E’s, or Tiger 1’s, are usually one of the first kits people look to build.  They’re an iconic presence from the battlefields of World War 2, but I’ve always strayed towards other examples of armor such as the Russian JS line.

Playing Bolt Action has given me every reason to explore different kits that I would normally overlook.  Recently, I began building and acquiring different examples of armor for my German DAK/ Defense of Italy army, and it became quite obvious that building a Tiger 1 was long overdue.  I looked around at different companies and eventually stumbled upon Rubicon’s Tiger 1.  Friend and fellow modeler Andy Singleton, creator of the blog Volleyfire Painting, sold me on the kit so I snapped for it.  In a few short days, the kit was waiting for me at my house.

Coming from 1:35 scale kits, Rubicon’s Tiger 1 was a delight to build.  It combines both the practicality of a kit designed for wargaming with that of a finely detailed model kit accurate for its size.  The box itself gives no mistake to what it contains.  It offers an example of a good color scheme to apply to your own tank when it’s finished and offers a brief bit about the tank’s history.

The kit comes on four different sprues.  Each sprue is individually wrapped as to catch any pieces that may come disconnected during shipping.  Upon first glimpse, you’ll realize there’s actually not that many pieces to this kit.  You will notice, however, that there are duplicate tracks and road wheels.  This kit offers you the ability to create an initial production model, an early war model, and a mid/late war variant of the tank.  To make things easy, the instruction card comes with detailed steps for you to follow, and will distinctly tell you what pieces to add depending on the variant you’re looking to build.

The first steps will guide you through the assembly of the road wheels.  Rubicon eliminates the headache of the over-engineered overlapping wheels that the Germans were famous for.  You start off by selecting the wheels corresponding to the version of tank you were looking to build.  You place these on the arms and then simply slide the tracks with overlapping wheels on after.  It’s really that easy.  For the sake of my own sanity, I placed my wheels and tracks on the arms to ensure that they fit and then glued them to each other after removing them from the tank itself.  (I like to paint my tracks/ wheels separately as I tend to work and paint easier that way.)

Moving on from the track and wheel assembly, the kit has you assemble the two halves of the hull together.  This is easy enough as the two pieces interlock with each other.  From there, you place the front glacis plate and attach a plate to the rear.  The addition of these two pieces creates a sturdy platform to work with.

With the body assembled, the instructions have you move to the rear of the tank where you attach the exhaust system and attach other details such as the jack.  Everything lines up incredibly well at this point, however I would advise that you use some tweezers to line up and apply the tops of the muffler assembly as those can be a little finicky to place with the outside of the assembly in place.  With the mufflers in place, I took the liberty to create some texture to this area that often was the site of accumulated mud and rust.  I created the texture by dabbing Mr. Surfacer 500 on the bits to create a subtle but noticeable textured look.

With the rear of the tank completed, the instructions move you onto the turret itself.  You are given three paths to follow based on the variant you are creating.  For my DAK/ Defense of Italy Germans, I went with the Early Production build and attached the appropriate copula details and hatches.  One thing I did notice was the absence of vision slots on the copula.  This is fine and all as I can make them myself, but it’s just one little detail I noticed that was missing. 

Prior to joining the halves of the turret together, the instructions had me drill the gun port on the rear left side of the turret.  This was easy to do with the guide hole already molded on the inside of the turret and a few twists of my Xacto knife saw the job completed.

With the turret halves joined, the gun mount in place, I glued the turret together.  Next, I added the fearsome 88mm gun that the Tiger 1 was known for.  Rubicon included a neat feature by keying the barrel into the mount; gone are the days of crooked barrels or vertical breaches!  I did take the extra time to drill an opening into the end of the barrel as it’s supplied without an opening.  This is only a small detail, but I feel it does add character.

With a near-completed turret, I decided to get out the Mr. Surfacer 500 one more time and apply some subtle casting texture to the top and sides of the turret.  It’s a small detail, but I feel it adds some character to the model, especially once paint and washes are applied.  Once the texture is dry, I glued the hatches in place.

From here, the Tiger 1 is 99% complete with the application of the side skirts, which I normally leave off of my 1:35 German kits as the crews would normally throw them off with the many wheel issues they had.  At this point, you’re adding small details pertaining to the variant of tank yours will be operating as.  As mine was serving in Libya and Italy, I did install the filtration system that was placed on the tank due to the dusty environment it operated in.  To crown the build off, I placed the smoke launchers on the sides of the turret.  With those, the tank was complete!

Overall, the kit was a joy to build.  From start to finish and was a worry-free kit and it was completed in about an hour.  While lacking only minor details here and there, the kit presents an accurate representation of the Tiger 1 at this scale while lending itself to the functionality of a gaming model.  One thing I’d like to suggest to Rubicon would be the inclusion of zimmerit panels to add to the tank if the user is looking to make the tank into a mid or late production variant, however; the modeler can always add their own to the tank themselves with a bit of time and putty.  To date, this was the most fun I’ve had building a kit for Bolt Action.  I can’t wait to see the other kits that Rubicon is set to produce.  If they’re anything like this kit, I’ll be sure to pick them up as well.

Final verdict:
On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate this kit as a 9.9 for ease of build and its attention to detail at such a scale.  Some details can be improved upon, but they’re only minor.  I highly recommend this kit.  If you enjoyed the review, feel free to leave a comment below as it really helps the site out.  Additionally, if you'd like to pick up a Tiger 1 of your own, head on over to Rubicon Models or follow this link to the Tiger I Ausf. E.