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.
Sherman M4A3 75mm (Warlord)
Stuart M5 (Warlord)
Matilda II (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)
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)
US Sherman M4 (Warlord)
T34/76 (x3) (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!
2 thoughts on “A lamentation on the decline and fall of resin tank models”
Interesting post. How do you see the impact that 3d printing will have on the larger scales. I think that for smaller scales it is already having an impact on the traditional resin and white metal vehicle manufactures.
Good question. I don’t know, but if the designs are good and good printers are affordable, they may well take over completely. I really like old school, hand-sculpted figures and models. I only hope they wont be replaced by digital designs. Some new plastic figures for example have very fine detail, but the designs are a little off as they are not sculpted in the traditional way. But it seems some people prefer their minis that way. So I dont think the 3D printers in themselves are a problem, as I suppose that good sculpts could in theory be reproduced that way too?