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Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: Battlefront's 20mm POLSTEN AA Gun Para (BR530)

The new Operation Market Garden Compilation books, specifically the Market Garden book, add a new weapon to the Flames of War Brit Para lists...the 20mm POLSTEN AA Gun Para (BR530).  No longer will the paras have to tremble in fear of  enemy air power.  What am I saying...Brit Paras never tremble with fear.  This now makes them a threat to ANYTHING the enemy can throw at least in one list (more on that later).

A little quasi-history from Wikipedia:

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the Polish design team escaped to England and resumed work together with Czech and British designers. The need for the Polsten was apparently mooted in June 1941. It went into service in March 1944 alongside the Oerlikon. Both the Oerlikon and the Polsten used similar 60 round drum magazines, however, the Polsten could use a simpler box magazine with 30 rounds. It remained in service into the 1950s.

When compared to the Oerlikon cannon which was made out of 250 parts, the Polsten was made out of 119 parts, without sacrificing the effectiveness or the reliability of the cannon. Simplification of the design of the Polsten cannon made its production much cheaper. The cost of one Oerlikon cannon was about £350, while the cost of the Polsten was between £60 and £70.

The Polsten was used as a substitute for the Oerlikon in the same roles, one of which was as an airborne unit anti-aircraft gun. It was used on a wheeled mounting that could be towed behind a jeep. Various double, triple and quadruple mounts were developed. John Inglis Limited of Toronto, Ontario in Canada produced many thousands of guns and some 500 quadruple mountings that saw limited service at the end of the war. These multiple mounts were both trailered and truck mounted.
The Polsten gun was used for armoured vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft guns based on the Cromwell/Centaur tank.

The Polsten was also mounted on early models of the Centurion tank not coaxially with the main gun but in an independent mount on the left hand side of the turret.

The origin of the name is not entirely clear. Some sources suggest Poland and the "Sten Company" to give Pol-sten, though the Sten gun was not made by a Sten Company. Official (United Kingdom) sources indicate the name to have been a compound based on Poland and the Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield in the same manner as the Bren gun (Brno + Enfield) or Sten (Shephard, Turpin + Enfield); also to reflect the gun design being mostly Polish (and the magazine mostly Czech) and the 8 Polish engineers in the design department. The "Sten" ending may also have linked in with the idea of the gun as a cheaper and quicker to produce weapon just like that gun was.

So how does this perform in Flames of War:

MOBILITY:  Light Gun
RANGE:  16"/40cm
ROF:  4
AT:  5
NOTES:  AA & Turntable the model its self using my AQVPO review format:

Accuracy:   Accuracy is almost spot on.

The model is a dead ringer for the gun, although a little chunky and the barrel is a little short. The crew is spot on in the Battlefront style and fits in perfectly with the rest of the Battlefront Brit Para range.  Overall 9/10.

Quality:  The crew had little to no flash or mold lines.  Some of the cleanest infantry/crews I have had in a while.  The gun was a little different.  A decent mold line on the gun barrel and flash on the legs do detract, but are manageable.  One thing you do need to be aware of is that assembling the carriage and legs is a royal PITA.

The legs are VERY fiddly when putting them together.  You have 4 legs on 2 sprues for each gun.  there is a pair of short legs and a pair of long legs. If you look closely you can tell the legs apart; just make sure you have 2 long and 2 short for each gun and be p-a-t-i-e-n-t when you glue the legs on and you will be alright.  It takes a little patience.  Also pay attention and that both short legs go in between the tires as shown (with the long legs on the other side) and not on either side of a tire.  Overall: 8/10.

Versatility:  This is the only real hit on this blister and that hit comes in two flavors. The first is tied to the actual contents of the blister.  The set comes with the new brown bases with holes for the crew and some plugs to fill the holes you don't use. 

Using the holes for the crew severely restricts the completed model's arrangement on the base and limits versatility.  I also couldn't get a good arrangement for the crew by using the holes and still be able to place the gun on the base.  I gave up and went to 2 extra old grey bases that I had. 

The second hit has to do with the fact that this blister is VERY limited in the lists it can be used in.  I should say in the LIST (singular) where it can be used.  It is restricted to the Brit Paras at Market Garden; but so are several other blisters and boxed sets you say.  Ah, but the POLSTEN is only available to the Airborne Recce Company as a Headquarters support option. That is the only list where you can get it...but for that one list it is perfect.  Why it is not offered as a Divisional Support option to the other Para/Airlanding lists is unclear and a topic for further discussion. Overall: 6/10...8/10 if you want to build the Brit Para Airborne Recce Company.

Paintability:  These were a dream to paint.  Lots of great detail.  I even tried a new primer on these I will talk about in a later post as well as deviated from my usual modus operandi of painting each figure on a separate nail.  I glued everything to the base first, pumiced the the base for "dirt" and then primed and painted using my standard Brit Para technique. Loved the results.  Overall:  10/10. 

Overall: 8.25/10 or a 8.75/10 if you specifically want to build the Brit Para Airborne Recce Company. The fiddly legs move this from an easy kit to build to a kit that requires the builder to have some above average modelling skills.  The lack of being able to use this blister in other lists makes it a very specific item to round out a very specific force, but it is a must for that one list.

Soapbox time.  I love the addition of the AA guns to the Brit force.  Fills a gap historically that was missing in the earlier A Bridge Too Far lists.  Two of these guns were part of the Airborne Recce Squadrons TO&E and were manifested in the Market Airdrops.  But that is only part of the story.  There is also evidence that they were used in and around the Landing Zones and the Hartenstein Hotel (See ArnhemJims Blog for a quick synopsis).  This would have made them available to several other Brit Para fact every other list except the Frost Perimeter list.  From a game play point of view you can still get the AA guns into a another list, but you have to make a 2 company list and take a Airborne Recce Command, and 2 platoons just to get the AA additional 360 points of compulsory troops (CiC and 2 Platoons of 2 squads each) to get the guns for 65 points...and then the troops for the other company.  But this has a big negative. Your entire Army is vulnerable now as you have to deal with having a target in the shape of a small company that the enemy will try reduce and force a Company Morale check on and if they lose.  In effect, you only have to lose 25% of your force before have to check....ugly.

SonBae (AKA Jeff Flint) is a long time gamer and painter and runs a blog at Journey Back To The Table where he posts photos of his work, reviews, BatReps and the “Painting Miniatures Declassified” modeling and painting tutorials.

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