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Friday, January 31, 2014

Review: Pink Team Assemble! The Cobra and Loach in Vietnam.

Let's do this!
By Throck "T-Rock" Morton

One of the biggest draws of the new-ish Vietnam briefing book, Tour of Duty, for Flames of War is the helicopters.

I mean, who doesn't want to field flying death machines in force? So, when our benevolent overlords at Battlefront sent along a Loach and two Cobra kits recently of course I wanted to paint them up.

Plus, I just got my first airbrush rig, so this gives me the perfect opportunity to whip it out and start brushing.

Armed forces regularly use "hunter killer" set ups in various different ways, where the "hunter" acts as a spotting team and the "killer" does... well he does the killing. From Bradly AFV's and Abrams tanks to snipers and spotters, the team works together to get rounds down range in the most effective way possible.

Due to the nature of the fighting in Vietnam, quick reaction close air support was a necessity. Thus was born the "Pink Team," consisting of one OH-6 Cayuse or "Loach" (from an observation or "White" team) acting as spotter while the venerable Hueycobra or a UH-1B Hog (from an attack or "Red" team) did the killing.

In game, these two boys make a super effective combo. The Loach has the ability to "mark targets" on a skill check. Once the test is passed the marked team is no longer concealed or gone to ground, superior to the normal recce ability of simply removing gone to ground.

Unlike normal recon teams, the little bird can also still fire it's hull mounted weapon. Also, like all recce teams, it limits the placement of ambushes. Finally, if unarmed, it can act as a spotter for your arty even if it moved. It's an exceptionally good unit, and when paired with the huge amount of fire power that can be dealt by the the Cobra or Hog, you've got a devastating Commie killing combo.

The other boy in the pair, the Hueycobra comes equipped either with a chin turret sporting a high ROF low FP mini gun and a medium ROF and medium FP grenade launcher and a 42 tube rocket launching package, which can act as a 4 gun artillery bombardment each turn, in other words your classic HueyCobra. Or, a 20mm minigun, smaller tubes (which can bombard but have to go home to rearm) and the same chin turret package, known as the Gatling Cobra.

Keeping all that in mind, here are the stats from the epic

Gatling Cobra and Hueycobra

The Loach
Alright, so lets get down to the review:

Loach Build
Front o'Box. You get two choppers!

Has anyone ever used the IR Code at the bottom there? I know I haven't. Probably takes you to their website or something. :)

Unlike previous helo's in the series, this little guy is all plastic. 

And everything you need to build it comes on one compact sprue. 

The package also includes your flight stand, 

Crew and magnets, which are an absolute necessity for storing and transporting the choppers. 

And decals. Sadly, and this is the first time this has happened to me, I apparently got a batch that were super thin. The US Army bit there kept coming apart on me, I actually went through all of the ones on the sheet and only got 3 of the needed 4 as usable ones. 

It's a pretty simple build. The only bits that gave me trouble were the horizontal stabilizer in the back, where the pin and notch might need to be a bit deeper to get a solid join. The blades, they're pretty easy to put together but I had a hard time keeping it from popping off the rotor. And the landing bits, which were fussy to set right despite there being some small groves to put them into. That last one I blame more on myself though, I have meaty fingers and tend to hit things when I don't mean to so I knocked them off like 5 times. 

Cobra Build:

One cobra per box, and you get the gubbins to do the Gatling or Huey variant. I went for the Gatling variant on both, because I like dakka.  

An "older" kit, that could probably have used a plastic redesign. But it's perfectly serviceable. Note the plastic blade sprue at the top of the pic, I'm pretty sure it's the same one you get with the Huey's. 

All built up. 

A couple of notes. I left the bulgy metal part that goes above the skids off of one of the choppers, some pics I saw from the era showed they didn't have them. Plus, it gives me a way to differentiate them visually if I'm running them as a squad. Thing two, I would highly recommend pinning the tail assembly to the body. It's a heavy piece and just to be safe, plus to give it more support, put a pin it. Finally, I found two major construction issues that bummed me out. First, the rotors were exceptionally finicky to build. There are some thin pieces of plastic that could break easily and despite the post/hole construction joining the two blades to the... spinny bit (?) I just couldn't get the blades to sit straight. Second, the tail rotor was quite thin. So much so that one of the rotor blades broke off of each Cobra. In the end,  I just chopped off the remaining blade o it didn't look lopsided. 

OK, Let's Paint:

Yay! Time for the airbrushing. Here's my set up. 

Primed a color strikingly similar to the resin. 

And the Loachs. Note the depth of detail on the doors and windows. A huge plus to me. 

Also primed a color strikingly similar to the plastic. 

Based coated in brown violence... errr violet. 

Now the fun part, I did the canopies of each pair of helicopters in a blue gradient. This is the first time I've tried this technique, in fact these are 4 of the first models I used an airbrush on! I'm not an expert yet but I think it turned out pretty great for a first try. 

Afterwards of course you're going to have to go back over the Brown Violet bits to clean it up. 

And viola! Like magic, they're all cleaned up and painted. 

I don't blame battlefront for this one, but the back horizontal stabilizer of this boy broke off. I blame my meaty meaty fingers. These small plastic kits should be handled with care, which pretty much means I shouldn't handle them... ever. 

You can see here that one of the United States Army decals is missing. These things were so thin that they just straight up disintegrated. 


Here's a good example of what I was talking about above. Those two struts rising above the helo blades are thin pieces of plastic. You need to pop the blade through them to get it to sit on the post that holds the blades up. In doing so, I ended up snapping one off. 

Ready to rumble. 

Red team go! Red team Go!

Here's another close up of the engine assemblage. 

And one of the place where the tail rotor used to be. 

Overall: The Loach and Cobra kits are gorgeous but require some finesse and a bit of luck to build. They'll be a great addition to your Vietnam collection and are well worth the cost, which come two to a box.

Build, 3/5 Pink Teams: If it weren't for the relatively fragile plastic parts on both kits this would have been solid 4 or 4.5. The finicky nature of those bits though drags it down a touch. The addition of disintegrating decals on the Loach dragged it down even further.

Detail, 5/5 Pink Teams: The upside of plastic is excellent detail. Even the resin Hueycobra had very few casting flaws and is significantly better than any aircraft I've had to paint before. Add in the gun options and the overall cool factor and these two models are simply superb.

Value, 4/5 Pink Teams: You'll need fewer of both of these than you will of standard Huey's to build out your Air Cav list or to add in to another Vietnam list. Well worth the cost.

Overall, 4/5 Pink teams: If it weren't for that build... But even with those hiccups it's an exceptional set of models that any Vietnam enthusiast should look to acquire.

Throck "T-Rock" Morton is a reclusive cactus farmer from the snowy wilds of Alberta. There, he plans world domination and fails at it regularly. 

Models provided by Battlefront

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