I think it’s a good time to reflect on what Battlefront is up to lately with its minis, especially tanks. It’s been a few months since Blood, Guts and Glory hit the shelves, and the new models that accompany it have been at my painting desk and in my mind ever since.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with Battlefront this year. They have bulked up their terrain range significantly, successfully executed a new edition, and soon they will be breaking new ground with plastic infantry that, unless the preview photos lie, simply put the old metal stuff to shame. But, FoW is a game that encourages those most iconic of WWII weapons: Tanks! And it’s what Battlefront is doing with their tanks that interests me most.
The best examples I can think of are the new U.S. Armor models. Shermans of every type, from the sturdy M4A3E2 Jumbo to the most deadly tank on the move, the M4A3E8 “Easy Eight”, have been hitting the shelves in rapid succession. And with the many variants, there are also many similarities and differences in how they are made.
The first thing I noticed about the new Shermans is that those with metal tracks show improvement over previous methods. Only a year ago, I can remember putting together dozens of tanks whose metal tracks were marred by poorly positioned injection points and rough casting that made the most visible parts of the tracks the worst-looking. The new Shermans have minimized this a great deal. Whereas it took me ages to re-sculpt some dignity into my tank tracks, now I can just clean them, put them on, and get on with my life.
The next thing I noticed was the amount of new stowage options you get. The array of options in the new Sherman and U.S. Tank destroyer sets is impressive. You definitely get a lot of tools to add a personal touch to each tank. While the greedy side of my wanted a little more, I was certainly very happy with the selection.
All of the Shermans, like all tanks made by Battlefront until recently, are solid resin. The new Shermans show some improvement in their casting over previous years, with more attention to detail and less problems with miscasting, yet there are still a few thin places that are annoyingly fragile at times. As an example among the Shermans, great care must be taken with the back cargo racks, which can easily break with direct handling. When I run into thin areas like this, I like to use brush-on super glue to put a thin layer on the least-visible side of the part, in the case of the Sherman cargo racks, the obvious choice is underneath. This will reinforce it a bit, though you should still be careful about how you handle it.
The real pain with the new Shermans is the resin .50 MG mount. As a thin piece of resin with a metal MG glued to the end, it is very prone to breaking. The plastic MGs that come with those Shermans that have plastic tracks put less strain on the resin post, and as such are much less of a problem. As for the metal MGs mounted to resin, I have had to remount several of them using thin plastic tubing and pinning the MG to the turret through the tube. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, provided you have the tools, and if you are the patient type, I recommend just doing this from the start and sparing yourself the headache.
If this sounds like a lot of extra work, don’t despair! There are some new kits out there that show Battlefront is paying attention. New Panthers with all-plastic tracks, MGs, guns and other various parts are setting the new standard for Battlefront tanks. With the high fidelity of plastic, these Panthers are not only easier to assemble and less susceptible to breakage and chipped paint, but they look fantastic as well.
Those who, like me, were not impressed with Battlefront’s initial foray into all-plastic tanks with their StuG and Sherman tanks, may be pleasantly surprised in the near future. While the tanks that come with the Achtung! starter set are rather bland and generic, the pictures from the new OpenFire! set seem much more promising, with a few Sherman variants such as the Firefly making an appearance. While the real star of the new boxed set is without a doubt the plastic infantry, it will be interesting to see how Battlefront is progressing with plastic tanks.
We will see soon what Battlefront has in store for us! Until then, keep your eyes open my next article: Painting U.S. Armor, with tips that will help out with any tank project.