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Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Ostwinds from SS Kampfgruppe Peiper Box Set (GEAB11)

Edited by author to clarify the track complaint.

I just want to start off by saying this review is related only to the Ostwinds that come in the SS Kampfgruppe Peiper Box Set. I can only hope the blister variant is better.

So with Steve's splitting of the pie, I receive the Ostwind platoon out of the SS Kampfgruppe Peiper Box Set, excited because I only use 3.7cm German AA (we can play the numbers game later). Boy was I in for a surprise on this one.

See our Other Ostwind Review here
That is totally not the hull MG that comes in the box.

The box comes with four of the new, re-sculpted Panzer IV J hulls. These hulls are designed to be used with the new plastic set of bits, tracks, etc. that come in the Panzer IV J blister/box. If you recall, the Panzer VI J was also sculpted to be slightly smaller than the Panzer IV H to bring it closer to scale.

This set does not come with plastic bits.

This leads to all sorts of assembly trouble. The guide marks on the tracks line up with the hull, but don't fit into the recesses in the resin hull. Even after filing the guides to fit, the tracks didn't line up 100% with where they should be (left track was too far forward compared to the right track). I didn't take any pictures of that issue, since it's happened to me before with other models - I figured, okay, no big deal. File down the guide marks and line up the tracks manually.

Onto the hull MG.

That's...uh....tight fit.
Well, crap.

The hull MG mount on the Panzer IV J hull is drastically smaller than it's Panzer IV H counterpart. This of course means that I have to butcher the hell out of these Hull MG's to get them to fit - and of course it's the smallest thing in the box, so I'm filing the ends of my fingers off in the process. I should also note that I had to chop a significant part of the bottom of the MG to get it to fit; it was simply too tall to work with the re-scaled hull.

Left - Fitted MG, Right - Out of the box
Now onto the turret, which is 100% small fiddly bits that all need some filing. It wasn't that terrible, but my fingers did not appreciate it after all the hull MG work. Then I noticed something about the barrel of the 3.7cm cannon.

You can start to see it if you click on the picture to make it full screen.

It's tough to see from the picture (it was the best out of all that I took), but the barrel is "pinched" right before it hits the gun shield. For whatever reason, the barrel is thinner just before it hits the main structure of the weapon. While I didn't run into any trouble during assembly with this, I could see a longevity issue as the weak point in the barrel is right where you don't want it to be. Not as major as the hull MG, but the gripes add up.

Gaah, my fingers!
The tracks have the "option" for two steel rimmed front road wheels, but the Ostwind used the standard rubber road wheels. More fiddly bits to file and glue into place. It's not the end of the world, but there's no reason (on the consumer's end) not to include the plastic tracks instead.

I didn't take any pictures of the turret internals during assembly. Even though the pieces were small, they fit together relatively well. I will mention this now as well as later - do not glue in the crew heads during assembly. Painting the internals is a complete pain in the buttocks, and painting the heads separately will save you a world of trouble.

At least the finished model looks pretty snazzy.

I glued my heads in during the assembly process, and most of my crew looked like they had giant black beards instead of helmet straps at first. There is simply no good angle to get in there and paint them if you put everything together at the start. For any open topped vehicle, I usually paint the crew on sticks, then glue them into the vehicle. While the compartment is crammed, I probably would have preferred to use the same method.

To sum it all up:

1) Overall assembly was some of the worst work I've ever had to do with a Battlefront model. I wouldn't say it's the worst thing I've ever put together, but it was certainly not enjoyable, nor remotely close to any other BF model I've assembled.

2) Pin/Glue/Whatever those heads to a another painting system and paint them separate from the rest of the model. If you do this, you'll be able to add more detail to the crew compartment and save yourself a lot of frustration/repainting.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with these models. Since I wasn't putting these together for any specific list or goal, there were quite a few times where I just wanted to say 'Screw it!' and leave them in my 'to-do' pile for a week while my fingers healed. The mismatch of parts included in the kit is a shame, and there's no obvious reason for it. The M10 and M18 kits come with the standard plastic Sherman sprue, and these should come with the new Panzer IV J sprue.

The finished model does look good, and at least they had the foresight to give you separate heads for the crew. I could even see this type of mistake coming in further down the production process - maybe someone  figured everything 'looked' the same, so they thought the parts were compatible.

Either way, the end product to the consumer was not up to par. I would expect this much assembly work, fiddling, filing, and filling with other discount manufacturers, but not with Battlefront's brand and price point.

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