A lamentation on the decline and fall of resin tank models

As I am away from my paint pots for a few days, but luckily am unusually free, I thought I’d just scribble down some thoughts that have been nagging in my head for some time. As long-time readers of this blog may have already understood, I like resin vehicle and tank models for 28 mm world war 2 wargaming. Now, reading other blogs and reviews, it seems that many people clearly prefer plastic models to resin (this excellent blog being a notable exception: https://spqvi.com/2018/07/09/review-of-warlord-28mm-resin-ww2-vehicles/). Similarly, many people seem to prefer plastic figures to white metal ones. I find this very curious, and I will try to explain why and argue the case for resin models (leaving the metal figures to one side for the moment). I will also leave to one side the question of pricing and ease of production, both of which are major factors in the transition from resin to plastic. They don’t affect my choices: I don’t make the models and I somehow seem to be able to afford many more models than I have time to paint. In fact, plastic sets are likely to entice me to buy more than I need (as they can commonly be in threes for a discount price). I have such a pile of unpainted models and figures that I try to go for quality rather than quantity. Admittedly, prices have gone up significantly in recent years (Warlord prices have risen steeply with €1-1,50 per figure for plastic, 2,5-3 for metal; €25 for a plastic tank, €35-40 for resin; a Waffenkammer resin Panther or Tiger can now be had cheaper than a Warlord plastic equivalent). But for comparison, WW2 figures and tanks are still generally about half the price of comparable WH40K models, often even less than that. And for games such as Chain of Command or Bolt Action you really need a comparably small number of models.

My experience with resin and plastic models is extensive. Admittedly, I have built and painted many more vehicles (and buildings) in resin than plastic over the last 6-7 years or so (thats from around the time I started painting historical figures on a big scale). From memory, the kits I have done are as follows (pictures of many of them can be found elsewhere on the blog). These are ones I have at least built and primed, some of them are still to be fully painted up; I have a few more unbuilt lying around.

Resin kits

Sherman M4A3 75mm (Warlord)

Stuart M5 (Warlord)

MkVIb (Warlord)

Matilda II (Warlord)

T34/85 (Warlord)

Early Tiger I (Warlord)

Panther ausf A (Warlord)

Marder III (x2) (Warlord)

Panzer IV ausf G (Warlord)

Panzer III ausf M (x2) (Waffenkammer)

Panzer II ausf D (Warlord)

Panzer I ausf B (Warlord)

Stug III ausf G “Saukopf” (Warlord)

SU76 (Warlord)

BA64 (Warlord)

Kübelwagen (Warlord)

Gaz AA truck (Warlord)

Morris Quad (Blitzkrieg)

Morris CS8 truck (x3) (Warlord)

Sdkfz 251/1/10 (x4) (Blitzkrieg/Waffenkammer)

Sdkfz 222 (Warlord)

Pak 36 (Crusader, I think…)

25 mm AT-gun (Mad Bob miniatures, if memory serves…)

Church (Total Battle)

Russian farm buildings (1st Corps)

Various small terrain pieces (Warlord)

Plastic kits

US Sherman M4 (Warlord)

T34/76 (x3) (Warlord)

KV1 (Warlord)

1/48 FW190 (Tamiya)

Wooden church (Renedra)

Ramshackle barn (Renedra)

Ramshackle house (Renedra)

Pontoon bridge (Renedra)

Stone bridge (Warlord)

Bren carrier (Warlord)

General pros & cons

First, there are some general differences between resin and plastic models. Resin is more brittle, whereas plastic is often more flexible. This often means that plastic models are more durable and survive gaming better. However, good resin kits include many smaller and exposed parts in white metal, which often negates this drawback.

Some people claim that plastic kits have better detail. From the kits I have done, this is not generally true. In fact the opposite is true, except maybe for the Tamiya kit, which is more of a modelling than a wargaming type of model. The Tamiya kit is therefore also a lot more fiddly to put together and cant really compare to the others.

A clear drawback with resin models is that they come with flash from the moulding process. There is some traces of the mould in plastic as well, but this is often more uniform and in general, plastic models require less cleaning. On the other hand, plastic models still have to be cleaned and mould lines must be removed, even though they may be slightly less conspicuous. As plastic models on the whole tend to have many more parts, I am not sure resin kits necessarily take longer to assemble, although some of them are very fiddly (trucks and cars in particular come to mind!).

One serious drawback with many of the plastic models I have done is fitting joints and “seams” between parts. On kits as different as the Sherman and the stone bridge, the same problem occurs: right across the side of the turret, in plain view, and in the middle of the bridge where the two floor sections meet up, there is a clear gap which is difficult to disguise effectively. This problem is also commonly seen on tank tracks, where these are made in two or more pieces.

The most important point for me is a less obvious difference. Resin models have a different surface texture. I suppose this is a result of the material. Plastic kits generally have a clear, smooth, even glossy surface. Resin models have a more matt, very very slightly “gritty” surface, sometimes with a slight unevenness. This type of surface seems to me to be particularly well suited for tank models. The surface of WW2 armored vehicles was often quite rough and traces of welding and casting was often clearly visible. With very good resin kits (e g many of the Warlord kits) the material is utilised to give exactly this kind of effect. For this reason, in my view, resin also receives paint better than plastic.

Specific differences between manufacturers and individual kits

Now, having highlighted some of the general characteristics of resin vs plastic models, it must be stressed that kits by different manufacturers are quite significant. Many of the Warlord kits are simply the best available. Warlord resin models tend to have very good detailing and are well-conceived kits, so that fragile details have been done as metal parts. This makes them more difficult to put together, but the end result is very good. Blitzkrieg kits are, in my experience, easy to put together, with fewer metal parts, but detailing is not as good as the Warlord models. One kit in particular was really weak in this regard: the Morris Quad artillery tractor. This kit had both some air bubble holes and what seemed to be printing lines all across the open surfaces. I may have received a particularly poorly moulded model, but I’ve had similar problems, although less severe, with other Blitzkrieg models. The same can be said of the Mad Bob models. These are, I think, cheap 3D-printed models, and therefore I can fully accept that quality isnt quite on a par with more expensive kits. I should also add, for fairness’ sake, that I’ve built other Blitzkrieg models that very good (such as the Sdkfz 251s).

The Waffenkammer models have almost the same level of detail as Warlord. They also have a very extensive range of models. They do have a couple of drawbacks though. I have had problems with orders from them in the past (and I am not the only one, https://tinyhordes.com/die-waffenkammer-schwimmwagen-review). Ive ordered from their retailer in the UK instead (https://www.wargames.shop/), and I would recommend that method to anyone in Europe or UK.

Waffenkammer models also have some inconsistencies when it comes to casting and detailing quality, so that results seem to vary more than with Warlord. But the main problem with Waffenkammer is that they do all small details, including gun barrels, mgs and crew, in resin, where other makers would do them in metal. Looking at the Waffenkammer models, it is easy to understand why (e g) Warlord use metal details in their kits – it is certainly a very good idea. Fine details such as crew faces and weapon details dont come out very well in resin.

Conclusion: don’t stop!

So all this comes down to a straightforward conclusion. All resin models are not good, but the best resin models are, in my experience, better than the best available plastic models (at least in 1/56 scale, a niche scale for plastic models). So in my opinion, please Warlord, don’t stop doing those good resin kits, we love ’em!

Germans

As I had quite a few of my WW2 German figures out and gathered in one place, I thought I might as well take a few pictures. I have a large number of early war Germans (appropriate for 1939–1941) that are not included here. As you can see there are some Germans in greatcoats, some in summer uniform, some in earlier style gear, some with late war equipment, some SS, some regular army. I can scratch together a fairly reasonable mid-war panzer grenadier platoon, but I really need more of every type of German to be able to field troops appropriate for typical Normandy, eastern front or Blitzkrieg type scenarios.

German half-tracks and passengers

I hastily painted my last two SPW armored half-tracks and also painted a few seated grenadiers for them. I have a few more of these passenger figures which I guess may work for marking when the squad is still inside the SPW. Figures are by Warlord Games, vehicles are by Canadian maker die Waffenkammer.

Hälsinge regt. WIP

I have been working on these off and on for the past year. These are not the most demanding figures, but they take a bit more time than the Finnish (all grey) regiments. Will be doing 2×24 of these. Not decided whether to do two flags per unit or not. If I paint the figures on time, maybe I will have time to do second flags as well. Figures are standard Perry metal Swedes, but several of the command figures are conversions based on Spanish infantry (with Swedish heads), as the Swedish range is quite limited in terms of poses.

Copper wire entanglements…

For my 1808 Russian forces, I need a couple of Grodno hussar squadrons. Unfortunately, there are no models with the correct uniforms available, at least none that match my other figures. So I have decided to convert Perry hussars to look like they have the older uniform. The big difference is the shako. Hussars had basically the same model as the infantry, but they had decorative cords around them, but the cords were differently arranged compared to the later (1812) model. At first I made cords with green stuff. This worked well enough, but when doing several figures, it is difficult and laborious to get the cords to be of a uniform thickness. So instead I have tried using copper wire which I attach using superglue and tie around the shakos. This seems to be working quite well, but I am not done yet…

1808 projects…

Many reading this will already have seen these elsewhere, but I might as well post these pictures here as well. These are the figures I have painted and based so far on both sides (Russian and Swedish). It should be around 350 figures and counting. I dont know how realistic it is, but if I paint around the same amount again I think I will have enough for most possible scenarios for the Finnish war.

Both armies are works in progress. As always with Napoleonic miniatures, one can hardly ever have too many infantry. On the Russian side, some of the most important regiments to do if you want to do the important battles like Alavo, Ruona, Lappo, Oravais etc. are: Sevsk, Kaluga, Mogilev, Petrovsk, Velikie Luki, Asov, Bielosersk, Lithuanian, Perm. Some of these are quite similar in appearance, and I think you can get away with just painting one and having it represent the other if needed. The Russian regiments were organised into “inspections”, and regiments beloning to the same inspection would have similar colors and identical flags. Thus, Asov and Velikie Luki are almost identical; Kaluga and Sevsk look similar; Petrovsk, Bielosersk and Lithuanian (all three of the St Petersburg inspection) are similar enough. For my part, I would be quite happy to add one more (grenadier) battalion for the Velikie Luki regt and then four battalions of the Petrovsk/Bielosersk/Lithuanian regts.

The Russians also had a slightly stronger cavalry arm than the Swedes in Finland, and that should show on the table as well. The most important Russian cavalry regiment was the Grodno hussars. They participated in many battles. A couple of squadrons of those would be an important addition.

On the Swedish side, I have painted mostly Finnish units up until now. I still havent done the Tavastehus and Österbotten regiments, and I hope to do those sometime in the future. But first, I will focus on the Swedish regiments, Hälsinge (blue and white) and Västmanland (blue and yellow with white piping).

Further on down the road I would like to add the Uppland and Västerbotten regiments, some Swedish artillerymen, and the Horse Lifeguards. It would also be appropriate to do a number of battalions with all or partly civilian clothes, as reserve battalions and lantvärn (militia) generally had no uniforms, only a ribbon around the hat and a cockade to distinguish them.

Detail of a contemporary plate showing the uniform of the Swedish Horse Lifeguards (1798 uniform with 1807 hat/helmet)

Russian colonel, 1808

I just finished a colonel or similar officer for my 1808 Russians. A nice figure, not too difficult to paint. Figure by Brigade Games, sculpted by Paul Hicks. These figures are very nice, and this one has a particularly tough looking face.

Empress miniatures late war British

I had a slight mishap when doing the shading wash on these. The wash caused an unusual number of cracks, maybe I was careless when applying it. I was a bit disheartened by this and just let them gather dust, half-finished, for a few months. But finally this week I finished the first squad. The painting is very basic with little highlighting, but I did manage to hide most of the cracking in the shaded areas. Overall it works relatively well despite the problematic wash. The figures are well detailed and that also helps a lot.

The Empress British wear some very late war kit, such as the camo jackets (similar but not identical to paras’ smocks) and camo netting worn around the neck. These were only used more widely during the last months of the war.

Sevsk and Mogilev grenadiers

I just finished the command figures for the Mogilev and Sevsk grenadier battalions. With these I have painted 8×16 Russian infantry for the 1808 setting. Just as I was uploading the pictures I realized I missed the gold band around the top of the shako of the Sevsk NCO. Ill have to go back and correct that…

More German armor

I finished a Panzer III Ausführung M and a sdkfz 222 leichter Panzerspåhwagen to add to my German armored collection. Pictures are not that great as I didnt have my usual camera to hand [I have replaced them with better pictures since I wrote this!]. The tank is a resin kit by die Waffenkammer and the armored car is a Warlord Games kit, also resin, but whereas the Waffenkammer kit has only resin parts, the WG model has details in metal, and there are quite a few of them as well. They are both very nice and with great detail and cast quality. But there are advantages with having the smaller parts in metal as the resin is brittle.

The Panzer III has armored side plates but I am not sure Ill be adding them. The tank looks OK without them and many lost them in the field. I think there may be a risk that they will just come off as the construction seems to be quite fragile. Also, a headlight came off from the tank when I was painting it and I couldnt find it again. Maybe Ill fix it with greenstuff, or maybe Ill just leave it. Im sure many came off IRL as well…