Packed on the Back: A Japanese Artillery FireFight! | Print |  E-mail
Written by Don MacVittie   
Tuesday, 13 February 2007
Jan 20, 2007 by Don MacVittie

Don takes a look at a wide collection of 15mm Japanese artillery for WWII, including both Eureka Miniatures and Skytrex Miniatures for the first time. We do not announce what will go on our tables in this FireFight. Instead, as a thank you for being our number one supporter, Norris will be choosing some of this artillery to flesh out his upcoming Japanese army.
 
Packed on the Back: A Japanese Artillery Firefight!
Jan 20, 2007 
by Don MacVittie 
  
Pack it on your back! 15mm Japanese Type 92 70mm field guns.

Introduction



The entire Review at tabletop distance

Japanese field artillery played a major role on all of the fronts in which Japan was engaged. Each infantry battalion had Type-92 battalion guns available, and most also had Type-35 battalion guns. We decided to survey our Japanese artillery options and give you a selection of pieces from which to choose. We focused on Type-92 70mm infantry guns because every infantry battalion had them available throughout, and even before, the war. For those companies that do not offer a Type 92 mini, we went for a battalion gun of similar caliber.

We also acquired crews so that the weapons are usable and you get a full picture of what you'll have to purchase in order to field-support guns in your army.

For painting the guns, we chose a common Japanese Army green�single color so as not to obscure detail�and we painted the edges of the wheels a little rough to show normal wear and tear. The ends of the barrels were likewise smoke-stained. A good online reference for all weapons in this review can be found at Tarrif.net Artillery.

For infantry, we used several references, online primarily Digger History. See "Tools of the Trade," below, for information about colors.

As usual, all of these models are acceptable for wargaming purposes. This review is a little different in that we're not announcing our choice for our tables. It's not that we don't have our preference�we do. Rather, we're going to allow member Norris Eppes to chose his favorites, and we're going to base them, package them up and ship them off to him. To this end, we don't want to influence his decision by making him shy away from taking our favorites! We're doing this to thank Norris  for his continuing support of Wargames @ Nordalia. He was our first registered user and has been a wonderful source of encouragement and feedback, and we want to express our appreciation.

This is the first time we're giving away units, but it won't be the last: While some of the gear that we review will find homes in our own armies, going forward, some of it will find homes in yours. Stay tuned for an announcement about contests and giveaways so we can share the Wargames @ Nordalia gear with you.

Command Decision


CD1307 - 70mm Infantry Guns (8) with Japanese Artillery Crews CDJC05


Command Decision doesn't do anything small. This is just as true of its artillery as it is of anything else it sells. The bag of artillery pieces includes eight guns, and the bag of artillery crews comes with 50 figures�that's five times more than the next largest bag in this review.

The best thing about the Command Decision package is the number of poses that come with the set. There are loaders, gunners, gun commanders, spotters and staff figures. The only thing missing to build a complete artillery command is a command team, which you could build from these figures, but probably want to purchase separately. We really liked the inventiveness of the sculptor and were rather happy with the figures, aside from the usual collection of flash and mold lines that CD seems to specialize in. As we mentioned with Skytrex, that's a mere quibble if you have time to clean them up, though the sharp edges are rough on brushes.


One of each of the Command Decision poses

The worst thing about Command Decision package is the flash. This package was not as bad in the pitting department as some of its products, but the flash was deep-seated and required a lot of work to get clean. We also wonder about the sheer number of pieces and figures. Sure, they're not too expensive, but do you really need eight guns and 50 gun operators? The answer is a resounding "no" for most players. We will use all of them eventually, as we're certain you would, but the fewer spare figures, the better, since we seem to constantly need new and larger spares boxes!



If you're building several armies or an army that requires more than four guns, the Command Decision product might be just right for you. For everyone else, there are other options that are less work, and if your needs are truly small (one or two guns), cheaper too.

(single piece guns)
UK Sourcing: http://www.oldgloryuk.com
Guns: � 9.00 for eight
Crew: � 9.00 for fifty
US Sourcing: http://www.oldgloryminiatures.com
Guns: $15.00 for eight
Crew: $13.00 for fifty

Eureka Miniatures


(300WWT97)Type 92 Gun with (300WWT96) Japanese Artillery Crew, Assorted Head Gear.



We've wanted to include Eureka in one of our reviews since Wargames @ Nordalia first went online, and since the Pacific theater is a strong point for the company, we jumped at this chance. There was a minor problem, however: We ordered a single Japanese Artillery Crew member, thinking it was a set of four. While this isn't optimal for the review, we have enough to show you the figure and the artillery piece, and since we were lucky enough to receive a standing figure, we can measure him against the others. Because of this, we decided we didn't have to order more crewmen. For gaming purposes, there are enough Command Decision figures left over to staff the gun if it's chosen by Norris. You should be aware, though, that there are two different items in the Eureka list�a four man team (priced below) or individual figures.

The Eureka model is indeed a Type-92 Field Gun, and it's well made. The model comes in four parts�gun shield, barrel with rails in one unit, and two wheels�and our only nitpick about the piece is based on this configuration.

The best thing about the Eureka model is the wheels. On a model like this, wheels are very visible, and Eureka has them down pat. They nearly perfectly match the references we used for the review.

The biggest weakness we found in this model was barrel length. It appears much longer than the originals, but honestly, in 15mm if you were to equip an entire unit with this gun, you wouldn't know the difference. The gun was a bit nitpicky to put together, and as you can see from the pictures, even though the gun shield looks great at tabletop distance, in the end we glued it slightly crooked, and that shows in the close-ups.

The crew figure has standard kit for the period and came very clean, with no mold lines or flash attached at any point. For the truly nit-picky among you, there is one strap missing from the belt supports, but in our opinion, this is not an issue at all; because it is not there on front or back, the figure looks natural.



Overall, we would happily deploy a unit of these on our table, and the figure that we have is well-done, with some fine details.

Four piece (gunshield, wheels, gun)
Crew: Sold by single figure or four man team.
USA: http://www.eurekaminusa.com/product.aspx?id=1414&cid=130 ($3.00)
http://www.eurekaminusa.com/product.aspx?id=1413&cid=130 ($2.25 for 4)
Source: http://www.eurekaminusa.com or http://www.eurekamin.com.au
Gun: $3.00 (USD)
Crew: $2.25 (USD) for four



Peter Pig


(8-280) Japanese 70mm Infantry guns (2) with Japanese Weapon Crew (8-270)


This is the only Japanese artillery piece that Peter Pig offers, and luckily for us, it's the very one we wanted to review. The artillery pieces come two in a pack. The gun crew comes as eight pieces, mixed randomly, with the usual Peter Pig adaptability to customize for a small fee if you direct-order. In our case, we did not direct-order, and received three commanders, three loaders and two gunners. The gun came in three pieces: two wheels and the main unit, which included the entire center section of the gun, tip of the barrel to end of the rails.

The best thing about the Peter Pig set was the detail on the artillery piece. If you're only going to make one or two, having them so detailed that they nearly exactly match the sources publicly available is definitely a good way to go. This gun even has the over-sized cotter pin that holds the wheels in place, on the wheel pieces. We marveled at the detail all the way around the model, and were well pleased with it.


The worst thing about this set was the distribution of the figures. While a gun crew for this small a gun is definitely only those three figures, and there were enough to make crews for both of the artillery pieces, the many games that require a command team or a spotting team cry out for a more broad selection. Still, the figures are finely crafted, so if all you need is gun crews and you intend to take command and spotter teams from other sets, you'll be more than happy with them.

Overall, we consider the Peter Pig product just fine looking for any gaming table, and the level of detail is excellent. Given the relatively minute scale and that these are rather small guns, after all, we were impressed that the whole is easily identifiable as more detailed than the others from tabletop distance. This gun goes well with the Command Decision and Skytrex pieces, as the design is very similar, with the only real difference being the level of detail and the utter cleanliness of the Peter Pig models. It would do okay with the Eureka product, but there is a noticeable difference in barrel length between the two.



Three Piece (wheels, gun)
US Sourcing: http://www.brookhursthobbies.com
Guns: � 2.20 for two
Crews: � 2.20 for eight figures
UK Sourcing: http://www.peterpig.co.uk
Guns: $3.99 for two
Crews: $3.99 for eight figures

Quality Castings


Q-1012 Type 92 70mm battalion guns (3) with Q-1105 Infantry gun crews (24)



Lots of the Quality Castings products we own are small�roughly 12mm in size. This artillery piece and crew are definitely in that category. The set comes with three guns, each in eight pieces: two rails, two wheels, the gun itself, the gun shield, a gun mounting bracket, the axle with mounting hole and a base plate.

We were pleased that the finished product looks rather good at tabletop distance, and in some ways, these are the most detailed guns in this review. The overall effect is pretty good, but still doesn't match up to the best of the review.

The greatest weakness of this product was getting to "finished product." This process was more like "finish invading Russia" than "finish invading Poland." We hated this model, and the infantry that goes with it, from the beginning to nearly the end. This was the absolute worst in assembly, and the figures don't have enough of a base to support themselves. Thankfully, the final result is very nice, because had they been for our armies, they would be in the bits bucket. But they weren't, they were for a review. So we gritted our teeth and put them together, bent and re-bent bases until the figures stood (most of the time) on their own, and painted them up for you. The problems with figure bases will not matter to you if you mount your figures before painting, or you place them on a paint stick. We do not, and that made the constant drunken swaying and falling of these figures a major inconvenience.


One of each of the Quality Castings poses

The Quality Castings product�from figures to artillery piece�is smaller than competitors, but if you primarily use Quality Castings, or these will be the only artillery in your army, they should work just fine. In fact, the guns are closer to the size of the other artillery pieces than the figures are close to the other manufacturers' figures.



With that said, the process is painful, but the results are acceptable. It's not as if these figures look more like shapeless lumps of lead than what they are modeling. And there are products out there for which this is true, so if you naturally lean toward the look of Quality Castings minis, you may well be happy.

US Sourcing: http://www.warweb.com
Guns: $8.00 for three
Crew: $8.00 for twenty four
UK Sourcing not available

Quick Reaction Force


JAW02 70mm Battalion Gun (1) Type 92 (with crew).


Three times we've tried to include QRF in a review, and every time something has interfered. The one time we did get it in, we accidentally ordered only prone figures when we wanted both prone and standing. That makes our current problem � problematic. You see, we ordered the Type-92 Gun, and that's what we were shipped�on paper. What we actually received was the Type-38 field gun. It seems (according to the retailer we shopped through) that the U.S. distributor for QRF had some mixed-up item codes, and the two are switched. We asked the retailer if it had a Type-92 gun, but it did not, and by this time the review was held up long enough, so we ran with what we had. For the short-term, be certain to compare what you purchase from U.S. resellers to the pictures and model numbers on QRF's site, lest you too get the wrong model.

This artillery piece is really rather nice, well sculpted, and it painted up easily. It comes in four pieces (two wheels, the main gun and the gun shield), and assembled painlessly. The figures felt light on detail when we first started painting them, but by the time we were finished they looked just as good as the other figures in this review. The crew also has some built-in helmet camouflage that we worried would look silly, but as you can see from the pictures, with a minimum amount of work we were able to make them look just fine.

The best part about the model is the ease of assembly, closely followed by overall look. If your artillery needs are non-specific, this would be a good choice for your army, if only because of the overall look when finished.

The worst part of this model is QRF's U.S. distribution system. While we have bashed BattleFront for missing parts and slow shipping of replacements, this is the third time out of four tries that we have purchased QRF product and not gotten what we expected. We hope the company continues to clean up its line and distribution network, as the reps we've spoken with seem like great guys, but as of now we have to recommend you be careful about ordering.

The only other complaint we have is a nitpick that several other vendors are also guilty of: The detail in the leggings of the figures is light and a little jagged, making it tough on paintbrushes. Since there are entire figures that suffer from this problem, having it in the leggings is not the worst situation.



All in all, if you don't require the smaller gun, this is definitely a pretty model to have. We found it a pleasure to assemble and paint. The price isn't cheap, but the result is one of the best-looking artillery pieces we reviewed. Just be certain you're going to get what you think you are getting.

US Sourcing: http://www.warweb.com
Guns with three man crew: $ 5.25
UK Sourcing: http://www.quickreactionforce.co.uk/catalog/index.php
Guns with three man crew: � 3.50


Skytrex:


CD1307 - 70mm Infantry Guns (4)
With CDJC05 - Japanese Artillery Crews (10)



Skytrex is another first-time entrant in Wargames @ Nordalia reviews. We have never attempted to include them in a review because they share masters with Command Decision, and we're based in the states. Due to rumors we heard from other wargamers about quality, for our Sherman review we wrote and asked if there was a qualitative difference between its products and those from Command Decision. The company chose to downplay differences and talk about its separate markets and sales models (Skytrex sells figures in much smaller packages). Due to reader requests to get a straight-up comparison, we included the company in this review. As with Command Decision, guns are single piece, no assembly required.


The best thing about the Skytrex figures and models is the crew pieces. In our experience, Command Decision always has an excellent selection of poses, but lags in cleanliness of its figures. These particular Skytrex minis were some great poses (though fewer than the Command Decision crew poses because we purchased fewer figures) and they were clean. Interestingly, Skytrex is not known to have demonstrably better figures than CD, yet we felt the crew figures were less flash-encrusted than those that we received from CD. It was a nice touch that they were well-packaged, and the name of the individual who packed each bag was included.

The worst thing about this set, oddly enough, was the flash on the guns. For these particular models, the flash was every bit as bad as the flash on the CD artillery pieces, and that ties Skytrex for the worst flash in this review. In particular, flash running along the split rails had to be shaved off in several steps, and was nearly as thick as the split rails they were on. Our pictures show that this is not insurmountable, but it does make the job of preparing and painting the guns more difficult.

As with all of the reviewed products, the Skytrex minis came out just fine and would look good on your table when finished. The artillery pieces are pretty accurate, and the crew poses are nice enough, but details on the gun are not the best in this review, and combined with the flash, kept this model low on our list of favorites. We do recommend the crew though, as they are the same wide selection of figures that CD offers but with less flash.



Overloaded with flash that was more deep-seated than most, but no worse than CD.

UK Sourcing: http://www.sktryex.com
Gun: � 5.50
Crew: � 8.00 for 10 figures

US Sourcing not available.



One of each artillery piece from this review


High-contrast side view of pieces highlighting wheel and barrel details

Tools of the Trade


All models in this review were assembled and painted using the following tools:

- Armory black Primer
We really enjoy our other primers, but frankly there was a timeliness issue and both our stock and our FLGS' stock were empty, so we used Armory for this review after the positive results in the Sherman review.
- Valejo paints
Valejo brush paints are the first water-based paints that we have truly loved, though we admit that even their flesh is a little gummy.
- Future Floor Wax (Magic Sauce) blended with paint for highlighting
- Brushes are primarily Reaper, with a few Citadel, and Adikolor for specific tasks
- Armory Clear Matte Sealer for dull-coating
- Trimming and file tools from Foundry
- Gale Force 9 Hobby Glue for gluing

Coloring


There are few enough decent guides out there for painting Japanese uniforms, and the fact that there were two different branches (marines and army) with similar uniforms, and several different uniforms as the war dragged on--much longer for the Japanese than for most combatants--doesn't help.

We were fortunate enough to have both the Diggerhistory reference pointed to above and a single unpublished color photo of occupation troops from Shanghai. While we still have not identified the unit, we know that this photo is of a regular army unit working as prison guards. We will reproduce the photo for you here if we ever receive permission to place it into what essentially becomes public domain.

To get a color that was reasonable between the two references, we mixed Yellow Ochre and Khaki in a 3:1 ratio, then added white to the same color and dry-brushed with that. For our head scarves we chose dirty white. The one figure with a silk neck-scarf we chose not to paint the scarf. Gear is red brown for leather and khaki or stone grey for cloth-based bits. Metal is all painted black, dry-brushed with gunmetal grey.

Flesh is all done with Reaper Bronzed Flesh Base with very little highlighting in Reaper Bronzed Flesh. This closely approximates the skin-tones of Asian soldiers who have been exposed to the sun nonstop.

The artillery pieces are done in Bronze Green and dry-brushed with a light white mix (3:1) followed by a heavy white mix (2:1). The edges of the wheels were treated as metal � painted black and dry-brushed with gunmetal grey. The end of the barrels were dry-brushed with gunmetal grey.


Addendum 24 January, 2007


At reader request, we have done up the pictures of one of each figure standing, and are adding them here.


One of each figure, head on


The same image with the figures turned sideways

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