I have posted much on the topic of the background of the conflict, current events within the country and the factions involved, but I have yet to really touch on the gaming aspects of this project and let's face it, that is why we are all here. As I intend to try to do as much of this project in 20mm as I can, I'll keep mosto f the discussion of miniatures centered around that scale, but there is no reason I need limit myself to this scale. I do have Russian vehicles in 15mm as well as militia forces. I imagine that, if I so desired, there are some scenarios that might play best in 28mm, but as I tend to avoid that scale it's unlikely that I would do so.
Where to begin. I suppose manufacturers of models and their respective costs might be a good place to start. This of course is a pretty broad subject and to help narrow it down, I think I will discuss the vehicles that I have lined up in the previous posts.
One of the main things I have had to consider is overall value. For me this comes down to a combination of factors - cost, durability, and ease of deployment to the table (assembly/painting). Under these requirements, cheapest may not always be best and I have tried to keep this in mind. Sometimes it's easier to buy a nicely done diecast vehicles for $15 rather than a plastic kit that requires assembly and painting still and will not hold up as well. It all balances out with the following considerations -
Gaming Model: Cost - AVERAGE, Durability - AVERAGE, Ease of Deployment - AVERAGE
Diecast Toys: Cost - AVERAGE to POOR, Durability - GOOD, Ease of Deployment - GOOD (AVERAGE if a repaint is needed)
Alright, enough generalizations, let's take a look at the various T-55s out there.
1/72 T-55 models are pretty numerous but you have to be careful which ones you buy. Some of them are early models and do not have the IR spotlight and I'll be darned if I can find anyone who makes a conversion kit in 1/72. I have found these models ranging anywhere from the $10-20. I cannot give proper reviews because I do not own any of these kits yet, but I'll offer reviews as the products come available to me. Right now, I'm just looking at shopping options.
So far I have been able to track down three regularly available models from Trumpeter. Oddly enough their non-mine-clearing versions does not have the infrared spotlight and is also more expensive through many sources I've found. I suppose if you wanted newer variants, you could simply buy the mine clearing versions and then leave off the mine clearing equipment. These models have showed in the $10-15 range mostly.
Trumpeter also produces a Type 59, a Chinese copy of the T-55. This model is out of production, I believe but still pops up here and there. The biggest issues with the Trumpeter Type-59 is that is is missing the IR spotlight, leaving it usable for only the oldest or most backward of T-55s. If I can find a spotlight ocnversion kit or an easy way to scratchbuild one, I may have to take advantage of some of the occurences of Trumpeter Type-59s.
ACE Models (Russia)
OT-55 Sprue is identical to T-55 sprue.
This is the company that I really love to hate. They have such a great variety of tanks but they cycle their models out of production so often and it costs and arm and a leg to buy them most places. Currently, ACE only has their TO-55 flamethrower variant of the T-55 listed as in production. You can likely track down other variants, but if you can't find them, don't sweat it. Based on the pics of the sprues of the OT-55 and T-55A posted on their sites, I don't think there is much of an external difference between the two. This tanks is actually on the cheap side if you know where to shop for it I found it as low as $9.
Another option that does seem to pop up a lot is ACE's own version of the Chinese Type-59. Being a copy of the T-55 this model is just fine. The nice thing about the ACE model is that it does have the IR spotlight. The bad part is that, like the other ACE T-55s, the model is not in production anymore.
I don't know much about this company but I do know that their tanks are still available in the $10-15 range. Being another Russian model company they are hard to get a hold of except through specialist online stores like Hobby Terra. where they sell for $12.50.
Gaming models are kind of a curiosity to me. It seems that 15mm and 20mm vehicles tend to run about the same price. In general 15mm T-55s run from about (rounding prices up to the nearest dollar) $8 for Old Glory, $10 for QRF, $11 for Peter Pig. With gaming models you get a more resilient model that requires a minimal amount of assembly but will need to be painted. They also have the advantage of being slightly simplified over actual models helping with the durability.
This seems to be the only 20mm gaming model of the T-55 that I can find currently in production. There appears to be one from S & S Models but it's OOP. Britannia's tank runs at about $11 and looks to be a pretty solid model for gaming.
Calling these toys is a bit of a misnomer as the price and quality here really reflects a collectible than a toy. These models tend to have fair to good paint jobs that usually portray the paint scheme of a particular country at a particular time. Diecast tends to be kind of pricey unless you can snag a deal, but then again you have to look at the level of quality in the model. From a gaming standpoint, diecast is also going to save you time in assembly and painting (unless you plan a repaint) things that you will have decide the value on. You also get a bit more durability. Do look out on some of the more detailed diecast toys for small parts that may want to break off. One last note - it does seem that some variants, like most collectibles, fetch higher prices than other.
Hobby Master is at the higher end of the diecast range. Excellent detail and paint jobs from what I've seen. They also come in in the $20 range, even on EBay. This makes them a bit pricey when I could buy any two gaming models or plastic kits for the same amount. With most of the Hobby Master T-55 variants there would only be a minimal amount of repainting as most are in simple green paint schemes. Be careful when buying a Hobby Master T-55 as not all of their models are the same version of the T-55 and some do not have IR spotlights. Also, Hobby Master also sells T-54s which look very similar.
Seeming to be a bit below the standard of Hobby Master, but still quite nice, Easy Model may be the better way to go. Though the MSRP for these models is in the $20 range, I have found them online in the $10-15 range depending on who is selling them. Easy Model does not have as many variations (desert tan, green/white winter, green w/white cross, and three color Finnish camo) of their T-55 which, may make it harder to find one that you can use right out of the box.
I hope this has proven useful. I know that I am going to have to think about what tanks I want to play with. The good news is that in the 20mm scale I only need a few at a time. I've already hit on a few good deals and so that will help me along nicely, I think.
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