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Monday, January 23, 2017

Unboxing the Volks Armee

Part of bringing you the Preview of a new book is writing about the toys that come with it. For the Volks-Armee book, Battlefront is releasing 6 new boxes and one blister of NVA goodies that I was fortunate to get my hands on. I also was able to get a copy of the new book and I picked up some of those very cool NVA tokens and decals as well. In my last article I detailed a fight between my Iron Maiden army and a T-72M list from VA. As I look to playing in my first real Team-Yankee tournament in February, I think the NVA will be the guys I pick to battle with.

The Book
I hate to start off with an excuse, however when we preview a book it is always a PDF draft and may differ from what comes out in the final version. This was true in VA where the final draft of the book does not have the Basic Stabilizer on the T-55AM2, so no +2 when you move and shoot, it’s just a +1 for being Slow Firing. I first saw the book at a tournament in December, and even now I am so impressed with the front cover and I think it may be the new wallpaper for my laptop. So you will just have to excuse me for giving you a false alarm about the T-55AM2.

The book comes with all of the “conversion cards” for previously released models that are used in VA. So you get cards for a T-72M force, and unit stat cards for the T-72M, BMP-1, BMP-1 Scout and OP, Shilka, Gopher, Carnation, Hind, Raktenwerer, and Hind. Let me tell you how much I like this and I think it opens up a lot of flexibility for Battlefront. Once the product lines are put in place for commonly used equipment, it makes adding other nations that much easier since they can come out with the book and the cards. So we may see Poles, Romanians, and Hungary one day in TY. Same can be done for a lot of the smaller NATO nations as well taking into account the lines put out for TY, Vietnam, and Fate of a Nation. I think this strategy grows the game’s appeal and of course will sell more models with those of us with OCD.

The BRDM-2 Series
I am calling these boxes the BRDM-2 Series because the chassis of the recon vehicle, Gaskin, and the Spandrel are all the same. These models come in resin and contain 4 models for the recce and Gaskin, and 3 for the Spandrel. The models look excellent and one box of each is all most lists will need. The only different in chassis for the 3 variants is that the Spandrel has a different hatch for the gunner to aim the missile, other than that the tops of these 3 vehicles are interchangeable. Maybe one day Battlefront will sell just the tops so you can swap these out. Each box came with the Soviet cards inside and the East German cards in a Ziploc outside the box except for the recce version. This could be an oversight when shipped and the box you order when the line is officially released will have the DDR cards with it.

I painted these like the dozens of Soviets before them, by using the Soviet Spray that is sold by Battlefront. After they dried I applied a black wash to them and did a light dry brush with some German Camo Beige. Applied the numerical decals, and painted the details such as the tires and it was done. Even at a moderate pace you will wait more for things to dry than spent assembling and painting these guys. I chose the plain green because I have a feeling these boxes will also be used in the new Soviet lists that are coming out in late 2017.

Mot-Schutzen Company and Heavy Weapons Platoon
Uggh back to painting infantry! The company box has all you need for the basic infantry company, 9 x RPG teams, 10 x assault rifle teams, 2 x LMG teams and 1 x company command stand. Unlike the previous Soviet company box you do not get the SA-14 Gremlin team, which comes in the Heavy Weapons Platoon. The models themselves are very well done and the distinctive “Gumdrop” helmet is certainly noticeable along with the pockets on the sleeves. Much like what I pointed out with the British, we do not have a ton of variety with the sculpts; so some of my stands ended up being the same and you will have to put two of the same sculpt on the LMG stands. The Heavy Weapons Platoon adds to the above collection with 1 x SA-14 team, 1 x AGS 17 team, and 2 x AT-4 Spigot teams which only are available for the BTR-60 mounted infantry. Much like the other box set, not a lot of variance here, each AGS-17 and Spigot sculpt is exactly alike.

While the guide in the book is a great reference, I thought the primary colors of the two uniforms used were way to light. I recall the uniform being somewhat of a darker brown and like the VA book points out the “rain drop” camo was impossible to distinguish from a distance. I did my own research and went to many painting forums to formulate my paining strategy here.

For painting, I gave the models a shave, wash, and then an undercoat of black primer. Then I used a spray of Testors Olive Drab as many painters recommended. In retrospect I should have used a lighter primer since the OD appeared very dark. I then painted the webbing in Khaki Grey and applied a very light dry brush of Buff to highlight some of the models details. After this I painted the shovel handles and wooden parts of the rifles in Saddle Brown and then used Gunmetal Grey on the metal parts of the weapons.

The color of the helmets caused me some concern. While many were issued helmet covers with matched the rest of the uniform, I remember the helmet uncovered and being painted in a very unique color. Once again back to researching the uniform and the consensus on many forums was to paint them Olive Green. I did a test sample on some models with this and other colors as well as keeping them the same color as the uniform. In the end I went with the Olive Green, which breaks up the dull color of the rest of the uniform.

After this was done I did coat of Minwax Polyshades Classic Oak, which is the lightest shade I have and used it in order to not darken the brown any more. I am ok with how these guys turned out, yes they may be darker then what was recommend in the book, but heck it’s only a recommendation.
I give the Polyshades wash a good 24 hours to dry. If they are sticky you end up getting sand all over the model when you apply it to the base. I use a mixture of Mod-Podge and water and brush the base each model with a liberal amount of the solution. For the base, I use a mixture of very fine and fine ballast and I wait a few hours for it to dry. Once dry I pick one of the many browns I have and squeeze a healthy amount in an old blister pack and add a good amount of water. Once you apply the first brush to the dried sand you will know if your mixture is just right. I let this dry over night and then dry brush some "earthy" colors on the brown base. I will usually use a light shade of brown followed by usually some Dark Sand. After this I add some flocking and maybe some shrubs and bushes is I have any around. Do not be afraid to give the bushes a bit of a dry brush to get its colors just right. Once this is all dry I give the bases a spray of some type of matte finish that will also protect the model. Since I will only run one Mot-Schuzen unit, I do not see a need to paint the edges of the stands a unique color to mark which unit they belong to as I did with my British force.

Tanks, a Lot
As I was wrapping up the infantry the T-55AM2 box arrived along with some other odds and end I got from Battlefront. These odds and ends included a single T-72 sprue, the DDR decals, and DDR tokens. This shows you my level of OCD, that I must use the right tokens with each of my armies. My OCD also led me to get another T-72 just to paint in that cool DDR camo. A note on that camo, even the books states it was only used in the late 1980’s, almost at the time of the wall coming down. Further research showed me that some T-72M units used it and it was not common among the remaining T-55 units at all. However the camo looks cool and I wanted to use it for my T-55’s and paint one T-72M with it. I plan to use that T-72M as the command tank and the camo just says shoot at me.

While was not happy the T-55 line was done in resin, once I checked them out I have to applaud its quality. These models have a ton of detail and look neat in my opinion. The horseshoe armor around the turret gives the model a very unique profile as compare to the other versions of the T-55.
These models were a snap to build however they seemed to come with some extra pieces which were not used on the build diagram in the back. A different set of flaps, and hatch covers that did not seem like they belonged on this tank. Perhaps these are for future versions of T-55 in a future release?

I did make one change, instead of using the DSHK HMG which was attached to the commander’s cupola, I used some extra NSV HMGs from the T-72 set. Some T-55 did have the NSV and I thought they fit on the tank better. Plus they will make my T-55’s look a bit different from others. For the T-72M, you know those extra parts in the T-55 box? I used one of the hatches on the tank to have another crewman visible on top. If asked why two, I can say that one is the commander who is watching the battalion and the other is with the Stasi who is watching the Battalion Commander. Just to be different again, I used the DSHK HMG on this tank instead of the NSV.

After building these guys I gave all 6 tanks prime coat with Battlefront's NATO Green spray then when they dried a healthy wash with some Magic Mud. After this dries I had to look into what color grey would look best in the camo scheme. I knew the ubiquitous Black Grey would work well, but when it comes to mid-grey shades, the selection is wide open. So after I did the Black Grey camo, I did a light dry brushing with Green-Grey. For the other camo color I ended up using Neutral Grey.

After this was done I painted the details on the tank and did some spot washes. Once they were all dry I put the decals on and we were done. A quick note, the DDR emblem for the T-55 has to go on the sharp curve on the horseshoe armor and a few of the tiny decals broke.

I like how these guys turned out!

Future Deployments
I am really excited about what mayhem this army will bring to the table. In TY my first force was the West German’s who can be labeled a finesse force. They are small with some great weapons, however cannot recover from a hit. I worried about this and that is why I really championed the British who I felt had some durability and could lay down some pain. Upon evaluating these two forces I felt that in some ways they offer some of the same experiences I have seen in other games. I want to run a horde and be “that guy”, so just for sake of doing something different I plan to use this DDR force at the next TY event.

So here is my plan and yes you will see yet another list change from me.
T-72M Battalion: 100 points
1 x Commander (3 points)
9 x T-72M (31 points)
9 x T-72M (31 points)
5 x T-55AM2 (6 points)
Full BMP Company with AGS-17 and SA-14 teams (21 points)
4 x BRDM (2 points)
4 x Gaskin (2 points)
2 x Shilka (2 points)
Div Assets: 3 x Spandrel (2 points)

At first I planned on the full 10 tank T-72M companies and cut it to 9, just so I can add the T-55’s and the Shilka platoon since they are good versus things other than aircraft. So why take the T-55’s? Well If I am going to paint it, I want to use it. They are also a cheap option to guard the stuff I plan to leave in the rear, but who knows what their role will be once the shooting starts.
I can't wait to see how my Volks-Armee force does at the 12 Feb tournament at Showcase Comics in Swathmore PA. If you are interested in playing, please contact to see if he has room for you.


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