One of the forces I’ve assiduously avoided for Flames of War is the Russians. It’s not that I don’t like the look of them as a force, I’m just not a big fan of horde lists when it comes to the tabletop. Except for Orks in Epic of course; you can never have too many 6mm Orks. Fact. Ok, maybe Tyranids too, but I digress. There is also the painting aspect with the Russians as there are just so many of them to do even with a tank battalion. It’s true they are significantly easier to paint in volume however as the Russian palette is minimal so rewards an efficient technique. For that reason alone I focused on Germany and Australia for World War Two, armies I could lavish some time on being elite lists and having a much lower model count. It also helps that one of my friends has a sizeable Russian collection so there is no reason to duplicate.
Then along came Team Yankee.
As I alluded to in my post earlier the week Battlefront’s Cold War era “what if?” ruleset really hooked me as it retained many familiar Flames of War mechanics but refined for a more modern conflict. Best of all though the miniatures represented tanks and aircraft fondly remembered from my youth. This was a game I really wanted to play and collect for, but that meant someone would have to collect the Soviets and that meant a horde force. As the instigator of Team Yankee in the group I felt that had to fall to me as it would really not be fair to expect Steve to collect what is effectively a second eastern bloc army, especially as I knew the forthcoming British would be right up his street. It was also unfair to expect Kev to buy into a huge Soviet force purely on spec when the US and West Germans have significantly lower entry point starter sets; especially the US which is already fully available.
So here I find myself finally collecting a mid-80’s Soviet tank battalion and rather enjoying the challenge. As the title says, quantity has a quality all of its own. The goal was simple; assemble and paint a 100 point force as quickly and efficiently as possible to tabletop standard so we could get some games in once the guys got their starter armies match fit. This way nobody (other than me obviously) needed to collect a full sized force as they could combine starter boxes for a 2 v 1 match up. NATO v Soviets. The other ‘ground rule’ I set myself was no purchasing of reinforcements until starter set was fully painted and complete. This was a crude attempt to keep myself motivated, honest and actually finish a project for once. What could possibly go wrong?
Battlefront have been following something of a formula with the Team Yankee releases in that each nation thus far has consisted of a fully plastic core box containing a number of MBT and two attack helicopters. This is then fleshed out by one or two additional plastic kits for the infantry fighting vehicles and anti-tank/air defence plus a range of metal/resin hybrid kits for SAM, artillery and ground attack aircraft (fast movers). There are infantry platoons as well but being a modern theater these are better equipped and in much smaller numbers to what you would see in Flames of War. Of the three core boxes available at time of writing the Soviet set is significantly larger and more expensive featuring nine T-72 and a flight of Mi-24 Hind. The T-72 and its modern successors are ubiquitous the world over and although in Team Yankee it is significantly outclassed by the Leopard 2 and to a lesser degree the M1 in game it still packs a punch so nine of them is a decent starting point from which to build. The plastic Hind however is the star of the box for me as its one of my favourite helicopters of all time and even in 1:100 scale is still a pretty massive beast. That’s not to say the kits not without its faults however as there are a number of very weak spots in the design, most notably with the rotors. These are probably the most fragile part of the kit and suffer from more sagging than I would like as a result of being so thin. The main rotor assembly also contains a piece which is ridiculously fragile to the point of being a challenge to get off the spruce intact. I highly recommend methodically clipping the spruce away from the part as opposed to clipping the part out as you will almost certainly break it no matter how good your clippers or careful you are. The shaft it slides over is also too wide for the hole it is designed to fit through. What I had to do was lightly ‘pare’ away shavings of plastic along the shaft to reduce the diameter slightly so it was an easier fit.
I also left off the weapons and tail rotor to make it easier to paint attaching both only at the very end. The flight you see here I did in more of an ‘Afghansty’ scheme, but I do plan to add a second flight in a slightly different scheme which also fits the period.
I’m probably going to be painting a lot of T-72s so I decided to go with a very simple scheme and no disruptive pattern. It’s almost certainly not a bone Fide Soviet Green but having looked at lots of photos of Soviet armour I came to the conclusion that the Soviets didn’t seem to care that much about it either as there seemed to be a multitude of variations. I decided to embrace that and just stick to a colour theme and not get too precious about matching exact shade for every single vehicle in the force, just ensure at least at a platoon or team level there was consistency.
I started with a flat black primer, no zenithal or pre-shade to keep it streamlined. I then applied several very thin coats of Vallejo Reflective Green as the base followed by 50:50 Reflective Green mixed with Khaki Grey and finally 30:70. For the rubberised side skirts I used Model Colour Dark Rubber all done with the airbrush. I used the same dark rubber for the road wheels and Panzer Aces Track Primer for the tracks having switched to a regular brush. For the AA MG I mixed black with gunmetal. That was pretty much all the painting as everything after was weathering effectively.
I gave the tanks a coat of Klear to protect the paint before adding the decals. A lamp black pin wash of oil paint helped pick out the panel lines and profiling after which I airbrushed thinned GW Mournfang Brown over the wheels and lower hull to simulate dried mud and dirt. I enhanced this with an even thinner coat of Vomit Brown to give the weathering lighter tones. Finally a coat of Vallejo Satin Varnish killed the gloss and restored the contrast. For such a simple palette I’m actually quite happy with the results as I can knock out five tanks an evening without too much effort.
The method for the hinds was pretty similar in that I started with a simple plain black primer which I base coated in 50:50 Ochre and Sand building the colour up over several thin coats. The disruptive pattern was applied in GW Steel Legion Drab, but any Khaki would do just fine. I temporarily attached the side weapon mounts at this stage to ensure the disruptive pattern was consistent across the entire aircraft, but let final assembly until after the underside had also been painted as this was a lot easier with the wings still separate. For the underside I masked off the lowest belly and tail before airbrushing in wolf grey. This wasn’t as saturated a sky blue as seen in the photos but was a nicer looking match for the Afghansty palette. As I planned on using these as transports I modelled them with the gear down so there was a little brushwork still do for a few small details, but other than that most of the heavy lifting was done using the airbrush. After sealing with Klear and applying the decals I applied some reprofiling with an oil pin wash before finally sealing with a last coat of satin.
Despite looking like a decent sized starter force, the Soviets are pretty cheap points cost wise so to get to a 100 point list was going to require a decent amount of reinforcements. I started by adding in a BMP-2 section and rifle platoon. Similar to the T-72s the BMP kit is all plastic and can make up to five BMP-1 or BMP-2 variants. I opted to assemble five BMP-2 for the extra punch from the 30mm cannon and ‘Spandrel’ AT missile, but actually only four are needed for the Mechanised platoon so a smarter thing to do would have been to construct the fifth vehicle as a BMP-1 which I could have then used as an Observer for the artillery.
Speaking of artillery the Soviets have two options at their disposal, the self propelled 122mm ‘Gvozdika’ and the BM-21 ‘Grad’ rocket battery. I added both to the list along with another T-72 platoon and a pair of Strela-10 (SA-13 Gopher) as by now I had found out Kev has requisitioned what was effectively two US starter boxes which meant four Cobra attack helicopters would be potentially hunting my tanks. In total this left me with a handful of points to still fill and I definately wanted to add some triple-A to the list in the form of a ‘Shilka’* battery so the final slot was just a question of more helicopters or some fast movers…
In the end I just couldn’t resist the temptation of another flight of Mi-24, not to technically increase the flight to four attack helicopters (although I could do that), but just to satisfy my desire to do another camo scheme. The first flight I did with the landing gear lowered so for the second flight I opted to keep the gear retracted and go with a more aggressive profile. The scheme was loosely based on the box art with a few tweaks after ‘Googling’ a multitude of real world photos. The sky blue underbelly was dropped in favour of a colder blue-grey and the weathering increased. For the base colour I used Deck Tan with Reflective Green for the camo. For the underbelly I masked off the rest of the fuselage as before and airbrushed Vallejo Wolf Grey. The rest was exactly the same as the other flight with the exception of adding burnt umber into the oil wash and weathering to create a few streaks of oil and grime.
If I had one criticism of this kit beyond the ridiculously flimsy rotor assembly it would be the packaging. The second flight was an expansion box and not part of the “Potecknov’s Bears” set. That meant the box was sized to fit the Mi-24 frames and nothing else. It also meant the box was pretty vulnerable to anything packaged with it so when mine arrived even though it was really well packed and protected by Element Games (thanks chaps!) despite that and the box being pristine both sets of rotors were damaged on the frame and needed re-attaching. Even one of the rotors which needs attaching by design the small attach point was broken. The rotors are probably highly accurate to the real assembly but far too fragile for such a small model with a big rotor-span. I would highly recommend Battlefront considers a tweak to the design to strengthen what is a ridiculously weak pat of a great model. The rest of the kit is superb, it’s only the main rotor that’s an issue and the fact it is magnetised only exacerbates the problem.
One of the nice selling features of the Soviet list is the ability to project air-mobility and carry troops in the Hinds. This was something neither the US or West German forces could do in Team Yankee so I was looking forward to exploiting that tactic to its full potential. That was until I saw the British preview and the fact that they can do the same only better with the Lynx and Milan Teams (dammit!). Still it did open up a slot to include some infantry. Not a full Motor Rifle Battalion but certainly enough to take and hold an objective as infatry can be notoriously hard to defeat when dug in.
I need to add some grass tufts and flock yet, but for now an infantry platoon should do it and along with their BMP-2 and Hinds have plenty of transport options to choose from. No walking across the battlefield for my troops!
The final unit I decided to add to round out the force is not really a listed option at all but more of a themed unit to “count as” a BMP-1 OP (Note to self again about checking lists before assembling all ‘five’ BMP as dash-twos). I spotted this Zvezda BTR-80 being sold off for £2.99 and thought it would make a great stand as well as an opportunity to see how well the kits scale against Battlefront.
You will have to wait until the weekend when I add a video showing off each of the units in more detail to see how it turned out. Until then feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, like, share or otherwise express disinterest if Team Yankee isn’t your particular bag. There will be more tiny fighters for Armada along shortly so fear not if that’s your thing. No sneak previews but I had a lot of fun doing the Y-Wings which are just adorable in that scale!