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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: Battlefront's Light Sensha Platoon Ha-Gos

by Jeff Flint

Japanese tanks were among some of the best armed and armored of World War II....I think you will find that....I am completely off my rocker   ;-)

But, for 1937-9, against Chinese infantry they did meet that statement.  Against much else...Well....

This review is all about the Light Sensha (Type 95 Ha-Go) Tank Platoon and specifically the models that Battlefront put out with their recent boxed set (JBX03) which I bought when I was at Historicon last month.

A little semi-history on the Ha-Go...from Wikipedia:

The Type 95 was a 7.4-tonne vehicle with a complement of 3 crewmen: a commander, a hull machine gunner, and a driver. Only the commander was seated in the turret, hence he was responsible for observation, loading, aiming, firing the main gun, as well as decision-making and commanding the crew. The hand-operated turret was small and extremely cramped.

The primary armament of the most produced version was a Type 98 37 mm gun with the barrel length of 46.1[3] calibers. It elevated between −15 to +20 degrees. The tank carried two types of 37 mm ammunition, the high-explosive and armor-piercing. For the latter, muzzle velocity was 675–700 m/s, and the armor penetration was 25 mm at a distance of 500 m.

 Secondary armament consisted of two 7.7 mm Type 97 light machine guns, one mounted in the hull and the other in the turret, not coaxially with the main gun but facing to the rear right (that is, in the five-o-clock direction).

The most characteristic feature of the Type 95 tank was its simple suspension system. Two bogie wheels were suspended on a single bell crank with two bell cranks per side. The tracks were driven through the front sprockets. There were two return wheels. The suspension had troubles early on, with a tendency to pitch so badly on rough ground that the crew sometimes found it impossible to drive at any speed, and so it was modified with a brace to connect the pairs of bogies. Despite this, the tank continued to give its users a rough ride across any uneven ground. It was provided with an interior layer of asbestos, primarily to isolate the crew from the sun-heated armor plates, but also to protect from injury when the tank moved at high speed across rough terrain.

In game terms:

Front Armor:  1
Side Armor:    1
Top Armor:    1
ROF:  2
AT:  5
Firepower:  4+

Special Rules:  Japanese Turret MG, Hull MG, One Man Turret

You can get up to 9 of these guys for 735 points as Fearless Veteran in a Light Sensha Company.  Here's the kicker: each platoon of 3 tanks in that Light Sensha Company is their own platoon.  So its one force option in the list, but can count as up to 3 platoons.  Each 3 tank platoon runs 245 points...  not too bad....and you can take 2 Light Sensha Companies in the 4th Sensha Rentai list (Rising Sun pg 18) for up to 6 platoons!  Wait a minute....had a flashback to British organization in Early War for a moment.

Not a real beast by any means...but a decent little gun for Early War...except that one man turret hinders you with a +1 if you move and shoot.  Against Conscript Russians, it moves a 2+ to a 3+ to hit in the open; against some of the other Early War armies who are vet that 4+ to a 5+....that is going to hurt.

So, now we have our baseline for this tank and how it fits in the overall world of Flames of did Battlefront do on this particular box set.  Lets crack it open and see....

Accuracy:  Rating: 9/10  One of the first things that jumps out at you are the MGs on the hull and turret rear.  They look 'Uge!!!!!   I really thought BF had missed the mark....until I did a little research (Knowledge is a powerful thing).  Check this out...

Looking at these pictures, the MGs look pretty close...also the proportions look right as well (within the heroic scale at least).  Both the soldier standing on the deck and the painted Tack Commander look to be in scale with the tank.  The tank is also pretty close to being in scale with the infantry...maybe a LITTLE on the smaller side.  I was amazed to say the least because the tank is so tiny itself.  The rest of the detail looks to be very close as well...

One thing I did notice was the little bronze star on the front glacis was not there or is just a little bump (like a rivet).
That little star dead center front.  It is a symbol of the Japanese Army since the Meiji could have been sculpted as easily as a rivet or even as a decal.  I just painted my on as a green dot with a smaller bronze dot in the middle. From a foot away it gives the correct  illusion.

Quality:  Rating:  10/10   Very high here.  The resin hulls were spot on.  No bubbles or extra resin flash.  The metal pieces were great as well.  The treads were very clean, maybe a whisker or 2 overall on the bottom of the tracks.  The men were perfect.  The sword did need to be straightened and then a little curve but I expect that from packaging.

Versatility:  Rating:  6/10  This is where the boxed set has its biggest issue.  The hulls and turrets are all the same - unique hull and turret sculps have been something I have come to expect from BF 's tank boxed sets.  Not here.  You do get 5 open & 5 closed turret hatches and 5 tank commanders  of which 4 are different sculps.  What makes it worse is there are no decals included either. The Japanese did have some interesting markings on their tanks.

 Not enough differentiation in the box set to bring this score up to the higher ranks. 

Paintability:  Rating: 10/10 The detail on the resin and the metal bits is all very sharp and crisp.  Whatever painting style you use, these will take the paint well and the detail will pop.  Also lots of lovely rivets to count!!!!!

My Paint Plan:

One note....when doing the yellow stripes (step 6), start with the turret on the tank to get the stripes lined up. I also made sure the paint was a little thinner than my typical base mix (maybe 1:2 paint:water) this will help give it that "applied in the field look" with a little streakiness effect.

I also added a little MIG Pigments Europe Dust to ...well make them look dusty  :-)

These painted VERY easily...and quickly

Nuhnuhnuh nuh nuh nun nuh .... STOP......Picture Time....


Get Closer....I want to Kill them with my sword!!!!

 1st Plt:

Platoon Leader:

Tank 1:

Tank 2:

Extra Tank:

Overall: 8.75....A decent boxed set.  A little same-same on the sculps...I don't like the 5 tanks per box when you only need 3 for a unit packaging strategy.  Addition of decals would have been a B-L-E-S-S-I-N-G!!! and offset several of the negatives. 

Final notes:  I am waiting to see what Plastic Soldier Company comes out with before I flesh out my Japanese tanks...also getting my hands on a Game Models Ha-Go soon and will let you know what I find.  My thoughts are to use PSC or Game Models to provide the basic platoon members and use Battlefront tanks for the Leaders...we will see.  More to follow!

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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