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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bolt Action - Review: Warlord Games Panzer III J

Since tanks had been officially warring for a few weeks now, it was high time I did a new review on some Warlord Games vehicles. 

With a video on the laptop and some unopened boxes - sent to me by Warlord Games' UK staff - before me, I set to work. Check it out!

The goal of this project, since I now have somewhere around fifty days to prepare for all the dice chucking BARbarian action at Fall-In, is speed. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as compared to the rest of the guys here at BoltAction.Net I'm a hack painter. If I can't get tanks ready for the table at my relatively low standards in a short amount of time, then what is the point? Right?

Right! Start the clock! (I started timing the project at the stage you see above, with the boxes on a tray and the tools nearby.)

Ideally, the fact that I've got three different tanks, instead of one single tank, packed and shipped by Warlord Games, will give me a better representation of what you might find.

These three little panzers each came with a resin hull, turret, and two tracks. The tracks, thankfully, come with a fool (Judson) proof method for making sure you face them the right way. A little post sticks out on the inside of each track at the front, and a hole at the front of the hull indicates exactly where to put it. That's helpful. Rounding out each box is a small bag of metal parts. The bags pictured above, at the top of the image, represent additional stowage that didn't come with these boxes, while the bags below contain the barrels of the anti-tank guns and other little bits.

Sadly, I noticed some not unnoticeable track warping at this stage, but more on that later.

Here is a shot of what the tracks look like fresh out of the box. 

There was a gap between the back of the tracks and the hull on each tank, but the insert also advised that if left in hot water for a short time, they would regain their intended shape.

As you can see from the picture, there is a lot of residue on these tanks. This is also warned on the Warlord Games insert. They suggest washing each resin part with soap and water, which I did before cleaning off flash. The hulls and turrets had very little flash, although the tank pictured above shows an odd ridge on the sculpted access panel near my thumb.

The tanks cleaned very well with a soft sponge and the aforementioned soapy water.

As seen above, every track that came with these three tanks had some pretty serious flash between the wheels. The tracks are a very ambitious "open" sculpt that also include some good detail. I'm a fan of the access panel sculpted on the inside of each. With some work - maybe two minutes per track - I was able to clean them up to a satisfactory level, bearing in mind that speed was my primary goal.

I microwaved a small bowl of water for two minutes before submersing the tracks individually. It wasn't at a rolling boil by any stretch, but the water was steaming hot. After leaving a track in for two minutes, it did straighten out a bit. Unfortunately, even after reheating and re-submerging the tracks, I couldn't quite get all the curve out of them, as the picture above shows. The success of this operation varied with each tank, and the worst result is pictured above. One came out with slightly less warping evident, and the other came out with only a bit of apparent warping.

Once again, given that time was a prime consideration for this little project, I did not have the desire to continue to fiddle with heating and bending tracks. It would not surprise me much if one of my fellow BoltAction.Net staffers was capable of better results. That said, there's value in showing what the "average gamer" was capable of achieving with these kits, and my results reveal this.

These three glued together well enough. Unfortunately, at that point I'd spent as much time as I'd planned for the night, and had to stop production there.

Around an hour later the kitchen clock was telling me my time was up. I suspect that one of these tanks would have been washed, trimmed, cleaned, and fully assembled in an hour, but I have yet to even open one of the metal bits bags. The contents of each box was packed quite well, with the bag "protected" from incidental box slamming by the resin hull itself. This, of course, was tightly wrapped in bubble wrap.

All in all I'd say these tanks were fine for the sale price I paid for them. Clearly, I wasn't wowed by them, like I have been in past reviews of armored fighting vehicles, but the details were crisp in the sculpting. There are some imperfections and bubbles here and there, but the insert Warlord Games now includes tells the purchaser that this might happen. Speaking of which, this insert struck me as odd - a bit of a pre-apology to the purchaser before even seeing the model itself. I understand the intent of the insert, but telling the purchaser to expect imperfections because these models were hand-made by an artisan just doesn't sit quite right with me. Some other manufacturers' products involve less clean up, while other manufacturers' products involve more, yet all include the expression of some form of craft and art before they get to me. I'd put these models firmly in the middle of all manufacturers' I have experienced.

Edited 09/17/14: I've added the insert referenced in this article to address requests below.

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