Thursday, 28 November 2013

First to Fight - TKS with 20mm cannon

Let me start with a quite recent release - a 1/72 scale model of the Polish TKS tankette armed with a 20mm cannon (or, as it was called in the 1930s, "heaviest machine gun"). This is the first set out of a series called "Wrzesień 1939" (September 1939) which, as the name suggests, centres on the German invasion of Poland (the later Soviet invasion is to be covered later) and consists of both vehicles and soldiers. In addition to the minis, a ruleset is to be released, though I don't know if it will be available in English or any other language other than Polish.
The box comes with the first issue of a magazine which contains a description and history of the tankette, a short introduction to the series, and a brief, day-by-day synopsis of the invasion. As far as I know, the magazine too is available only in Polish. Annoyingly, the box is glued to the front cover and it's quite tricky to separate.
Definitely the most interesting part of the magazine are the two middle pages with big pictures of the tankette in the later Polish camo, a short painting guide, a table with technical data, and short descriptions on painting schemes for TKS captured by Germans, Soviets and Hungarians. It's a shame these additional schemes got no illustrations.
While the front of the box is only in Polish, in the back there are short descriptions in English and German. There are some minor issues with the translation (in fact, the German text lacks one small part of the info... oops!). What is more, there are paint suggestions (from the Vallejo Model Color range), a picture showing the paint scheme (the same as in the magazine), and instructions on how to build the model.
When I opened the box, the first thing that came to my mind was "why is it so big?". The sprue is really tiny, but then I guess the box is standardized and was designed with bigger models in mind (the TKS is really, really tiny, as you can see below).
Apart from the sprue, inside you'll find a plastic "test-tube" with glue and... a toothpick. The glue stinks like hell, but glues all right, though not as good as plastic cements.
Unfortunately, I forgot to make a photo of the unpacked sprue... Shame on me.
The vehicle is made of 12 parts: lower hull, upper hull, left tracks, right tracks, cannon barrel, 2-part gun mantlet, spare wheel,exhaust pipe, support for an AA MG, shovel, crowbar (that's what the manufacturer calls the big metal rod).
The parts are very firmly attached to the sprue. Sometimes this was overdone, as is the case with the tracks, which are attached in 6 places and have 4 additional attachments, and that means a lot of cleaning. What's worse, the barrel, shovel and crowbar are attached to the sprue in 3 places each, and as they are all very thin, it's very easy to break them when cutting off or removing the excess plastic where there where attached to the sprue. I myself broke the shovel twice... But the two tools could not be moulded together with the hull (limitations of the form), so it's ok that they were included after all - the model is much more interesting with them.

Apart from the issues mentioned above, preparing all the parts is quite easy, as the plastic is hard, yet cutting or filing it is not a problem. There are some mould lines, but they're easy to remove. Building the tankette is quite simple (after all it's a wargaming model), although you need to be delicate when gluing the tools in place. The only problem is with the MG support - the instructions do not clearly show where to glue it (somewhere on the right side, but where exactly?). However, it turns out that this part is unnecessary (see below).
The finished model is really nice. The quality of the casting is great, the details sharp. The model lacks rivets on the side armour (again, limitations of the mould), but they're not hard to make on one's own. From a wargamer's point of view, the only issue is the flimsy barrel, which might not endure frequent use.
There are, however, several errors, and you don't have to be a rivet-counter to spot them - they're visible when you compare the model with the pictures on the box. Firstly, the barrel should be positioned a bit to the left of the mantlet, not in its centre. Secondly, the commander's hatch should be made of 3 parts, not 4. Additionally, the model lacks front and rear lights, though they'd probably make the kit even more complicated.
Two other faults were pointed out on Polish historical/modellers' forums. As mentioned earlier, the support for an AA MG is unnecessary, as it wasn't used on cannon-armed tankettes which simply had no MGs. Finally, the commander's periscope (a Polish invention, later used by all major WW2 participants, by the way) should be positioned closer to the centre of the vehicle.. This again is a feature that differs the cannon-armed TKS from the MG-armed version, and the error might be explained by the fact that the manufacturer plans to use the same parts for the MG-armed model, which is to be released later.
Speaking of the TKS with an MG, some of the boxes included an additional sprue with the MG barrel and mantlet, allowing the buyers to make both versions. I wasn't so lucky.
All in all, the model is very nice, although some of its parts (barrel and tools) might be a bit too delicate for people used to sturdier wargaming models. Still, it's a great choice for anyone interested in 1/72 Polish armour... and it's quite cheap (10 PLN in Poland, 4 GBP in the UK thanks to the Plastic Soldier Company).

Review in Polish can be found here. / Recenzję po polsku można przeczytać pod tym adresem.

If you want to know more about the September 1939 series, visit their site or their Facebook profile.
For more photos of the sprue, visit War in Miniature.

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