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Friday, September 16, 2016

Bolt Action - Review: Warlord Games' Ersatz Panther

During a secret German offensive through the Ardennes towards the end of WW2 (The Battle of the Bulge), Otto Skorzeny daringly dressed his infiltrating German soldiers as Allied troops, with varying degrees of success. His plan was called Operation Greif, or “Griffin,” and the rumours of its existence caused widespread paranoia in Allied troops across the region. In part one of this series, I discussed how I was converting and reequipping US infantry models to turn my existing greatcoat American army into a German infiltration force. As a lover of big tanks, I will be looking at one of the most unlikely infiltration vehicles of all time, Warlord Games’ Ersatz Panther.

 When Hitler approved Skorzeny’s plans he ordered that captured Allied vehicles and equipment be rounded up and passed to the 150th Panzer Brigade. What arrived was not what Skorzeny had hoped for. Vehicle wise, his forces received a large number of jeeps and trucks and a small pool of Greyhound armoured cars. They also got two worn out Sherman tanks, neither of which actually made it to the field. Otto’s forces desperately needed armour, so rather creatively Otto commandeered 5 Panther tanks, 5 StuG assault guns and a number of German Halftracks. He then had his staff paint these vehicles US army green with added white identification stars.  Additionally, before painting the Panthers and the StuG’s, plates of thin sheet metal were welded to the exteriors of the vehicles to change their outlines to more closely resemble their American armoured counterparts. While Skorzeny privately admitted that these measures were unlikely to fool Allied troops, in the field, in some cases, due to the often confusing nature of war, these sometimes feeble subterfuges actually succeeded.

 The Ersatz Panther is simply a Ausf. G Panther with added superficial plating to its turret and hull. This makes it resemble the Allied M10 tank destroyer. To help accomplish the intended deception, the tank’s turret cupolas were also removed. The changes to the vehicle were only to its façade. These modifications made no difference to its overall performance in the field. When I run mine on the tabletop, I use the rules for the Panther Ausf. G from the “Armies of Germany Book.” Because, well, that is what it is.

Interestingly, the FAQ from Warlord has allowed certain German heavy tanks, including the Panther to add a pintle mounted MMG. Historically these tended to appear late in the war as a means to help fight off Allied fighters. While these MMG’s were definitely used by Panther’s in the Battle of the Bulge, I have yet to see a picture of an actual Ersatz Panther sporting one.  I would really like to add a third weapon system to this otherwise expensive point sink of an armoured vehicle. I may end up modelling up a removable pintle mounted MG34 later so I have the choice of using it, depending on the game. Besides, in Bolt Action Second Edition, when you fire a pintle mounted machine-gun, your tank counts as open topped for a turn. Given the Panther's thick armour and points cost, I am not sure I want to do this, even if German tanks do get to finally use "Hitler's Buzzsaw."

 The Ersatz Panther that I received in the mail is typical of Warlord’s recent resin kits. It is very impressive. The corners are sharp, the casting is clean (not a single bubble was to be found) and the level of detail is precise. The tank is made up of four resin pieces: the main hull, the turret and the tracks. The rest of the model is made up of additional metal bits. Like the resin portions of the model, the metal pieces are cleanly cast and all of the parts easily fit together.

 The tank and its pieces had very little flash. There were a few casting tabs that needed removal but these were cleverly located on the underside of the tank for easy elimination. Using a hobby knife, snips and super glue, I was able to clean and assemble this large vehicle in less than 20 minutes. As a very time poor hobbyist, I really appreciated that I was able to get such a massive, beautiful looking vehicle together and on the painting table in such a short period of time.

As you can see in the picture below. The casting quality and the level of detail on this kit is fantastic!

 As an aside, one of the areas that many companies’ resin kits fall down is the tracks. These are often lousy with flash and mold lines or are badly miscast in parts. Despite its size, the tracks on this beast were almost perfect. Impressive.

 I could not be happier with this model. If you are looking for something historically unique to add to your late-war German forces, I highly recommend that you take a serious look at the Warlord Ersatz Panther. It is a winner!


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