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Friday, May 30, 2014

Bolt Action - Review: Wargames Factory Soviets

$26 Soviet Airborne Army

Wargames Factory is a plastic model company that makes a variety of figures for a variety of eras. Wargames Factory multi-part plastic figure sets include historical, moderns, zombie, sci-fi, and fantasy. Wargames Factory figures are inexpensive and range in quality from poor to good. Wargames Factory’s first model kits were fairly poor in quality, but their newer kits are much better. As the company has grown over the last few years there has been a noticeable improvement in the quality of their model kits. Wargames Factory also makes models kits in both 28mm and 15mm scale.

I got turned on to Wargames Factory years ago when I was playing 28mm Romans and Celts. Those kits were fairly poor. The Romans lacked detail, where made a softer plastic, and had odd body shapes and sizes. The Celts were a large improvement over the Romans, but still suffered from a general lack of detail and weird body shapes. Another thing to note is that the weapons in the kit were thin and tended to break easy. However, I was able to get a large Celtic army (cavalry, chariots, nobles, and warriors) for around $100.  I even got a wild hair (What? Where? - J)and made Celtic Centaurs out of a cavalry kit. What has always attracted me to Wargames Factory is their price. Some people have a hard time financially committing to miniature gaming because of the costs involved, so any company that make "gateway" models to help me turn my friends onto miniature gaming is alright with me. 
Soviet Airborne Rifles Squads
Wargames Factory box sets normally contain around 30 troops (foot) for about $22 USD. For Bolt Action they have three World War Two infantry kits; Germans, Americans, and Soviets. The Germans were the first of the three kits and the Soviet kit is the most recent. I have seen all the kits so far and in keeping with Wargames Factories trend, there has been a notable improvement in quality between kits. In fact the Soviet kit was nominated for an Origins Award recently.

Despite the award nomination, low cost, and improvements, I have been hesitant about buying Wargames Factory sets for my Bolt Action collection because of quality issues. Additionally Wargames Factory are "true 28s" and everyone else makes what seems to me as heroic 28s. What that means is the details are more "real" in size and proportion as opposed to being over exaggerated. I find true scale harder to paint than heroic scale and certain bits are fiddly, thin, and tend to break easily during game play.  True scale works great when you’re making dioramas, but have a rough go at it on most table tops.  I was also worried about mixing troops of “heroic” and “true” scale on the table.  However over the Easter weekend Wargames Factory had a 40% sale. That made their box sets around $13 each. The temptation became too great and all my concerns regarding Wargames Factory were washed away.   I picked up two boxes of Soviets (for myself), a box of Germans, and a box of Americans (for others).  I also saw this sale as an opportunity to tempt my friends who are cheap (or hesitant about getting into a new game) into getting into Bolt Action.

Soviet Airborne SMG squads
Soviet Airborne

Before the box sets arrived at my house I made up my mind on how I would use my Soviets.  I was recently watching a documentary on the first Battle for Kiev.  During the battle the Germans ran into a nasty surprise when, what they thought were air crews, launched a ferocious counter attack.  The Russians leading the attack were not air crew members at all, but were the elite and highly trained Soviet Paratroopers.  Fighting in and around Kiev began intense and all but thwarted Army Group Center’s advance.  This created a salient that exposed Army Group North’s southern flank.  This exposure worried Hitler so much that he diverted Guderian’s Panzers - which were closing in on Moscow - south to cut off and trap the Soviets around Kiev.  Despite the potential fall of Kiev being a windfall victory for the Germans (more than 600,000 to 700,000 Soviets being killed or captured) Guderian openly opposed the move and believed that if Germany could capture Moscow the War would end.  Guderian publicly disagreed with Hitler and criticized the redeployment of his Panzers.  In his book, Panzer Leader, Guderian attributes this decision by Hitler as the reason why the Germans failed to take Moscow in 1941.  Throughout the War Soviet paratroopers were known for being sent on what seemed to be suicide missions behind Germans lines to support partisan operations, spearhead offenses, and cause general havoc.  Many Soviet paratroops divisions were honored as Guards divisions and there were countless Heroes of the Soviet Union in their ranks. 
When Soviet paratroopers jumped into combat they often wore a pilot’s flight cap. When on the ground they would often exchange their flight cap for a blue side cap of the Soviet Air Corp. I decided early on that this would be how I would distinguish my airborne troops from my regular army troops. By late war most Soviet airborne troops wore camouflaged jump smocks, but at Kiev in 1941 many of these troops were wearing regular army uniforms. Alternatively you could use Soviet scout models in smocks and paint their side caps dark blue with light blue trim.
Soviet Officer

Soviet Airborne Sniper and ATR.  ATR uses the Warlord kits arms and ATR.
Model Review

For $26, I was able to build out a full platoon of Soviet airborne using the two box sets of Wargames Factory models. I was able to build a command section, medic, commissar team, sniper, anti-tank rifle, three rifle squads and two SMG squads. The Wargames Factory set has a good variety of body poses and lots of weapons options. The kit easily has twice as many SMGs as the Warlord kits. It also includes a variety of rifles, and LMGs. It does not have ATRs or panzerfausts and only has one pistol. It does have Molotov cocktails and stick grenades. There is also a variety of bags, pouches, and general kit. The weapons are thinner than most other kits and I broke several of the SMGs when removing them from the sprues. The rifles are much thicker, but I found they lacked the detail you see elsewhere. In the end they look like rifles. I felt the LMGs were chunkier than the ones found in the Warlord kit.
The models themselves had posable arms that are coded to a matching torso type.  This was nice at first, but I quickly found assembling them as monotonous as assembly line work.  By the second box I wasn’t even following the matching codes, this freed me up and I enjoyed assembling the second box much more.  The figures from the second box looked better.  The arms also come already holding their guns (which is very nice). Some of the torso poses were very nice and some were just weird or odd.  I thought one of the poses made the model look like he was ice skating. I also didn’t care for the commissar’s body pose, so made my commissars using different bodies (and heads from the Warlord kits since there was only one in the Wargames kit). Lastly the heads had no necks and I found myself getting glue everywhere now and then. 
There were only a limited number of heads wearing the side caps (I think it was twenty in each box). Lucky for me I have been saving heads from Warlord kits for my airborne project. The Warlord side cap heads matched well to the Wargames kits and all I have to do was trim the necks on the Warlord heads. I would not use Warlord helmet heads on the Wargames kit though. The Warlord helmet heads are noticeably larger than the Wargames helmet heads. I was also able to have limited success using some of the Warlord arms and weapons. I wanted an airborne ATR, so pulled an extra from the Warlord kit. I also made a couple NCOs with the pointing finger arm from the Warlord kit.
Individual poses

With Warlord heads

When compared to Warlord plastics

Close up of the ATR

Female Sniper Team

One cool thing about the Wargames kit is they include four female heads in the box set.  Many women served with front line units in the Soviet Union during the war.  This included in the airborne.   However I was only able to identify one female torso in each spur.  This meant that all the women had the same pose, unless you did some modeling work.  I made a female sniper team.

LMG teams
Overall I am mostly pleased with the figures. They lack the level of detail of most other kits or models (I equate them to army men or old airfix kits). Once painted, the models look a lot better. Since these guys have side caps and not the helmets, they match a little better to my Warlord and Black Tree Soviets, but it is not a perfect match. The Wargames figures are definitely thinner when compared to other models. One thing to keep in mind is Wargames only make basic infantry and not support weapons right now, so if you buy these kits you won’t have a choice to but to mix them with other kits that don’t match.

Comparing the size of the SMGs
As far as the airborne look goes, I am on the fence.  I love the look and the idea of running a Soviet airborne force, but am not sure if this army will see much table time or collect dust.  I’m a little OCD when I come to my models and won’t use these in games or scenarios unless I am running an airborne force (which might not happen all that often).  Meanwhile I was looking at my regular soviet army and realizing I need more riflemen.  I recently re-painted a bunch to make dismounted cavalry.  I guess what I am saying is don’t be surprised if some of the side caps get a repaint. 

If you own any Wargmes Factory troops let us know what you think of them on the forum. 

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