Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A Weighty Issue

There can be no doubting the quality of First Legion figures. Sculpted and master painted in Russia, and then manufactured in China, Matt Pavone and his team have brought us connoisseur quality figures at reasonably affordable prices

Having set such a high standard with his figures, the challenge has been to produce equally spectacular vehicles and scenic items. There are currently 5 vehicles in the Stalingrad range, two versions of the Stug III, the SdKfz 232 in field grey, and two versions of the Panzer III, Ausf. J, one in field grey and the other in winter camouflage, with more in the pipeline, and a sensational scene stealer in the shape of a massive building facade!

The first thing you notice about their vehicles when you buy one is their weight. If, like me, you are used to the offerings produced by the likes of K+C and the Collectors' Showcase you will be surprised, nay shocked, by their weight, or rather lack of it. I distinctly remember feeling somewhat disappointed when I picked up the box holding my own Stug III. 'Have I really just spent £260 of hard earned on something so insubstantial?' Then I opened the box, and my disappointment soon turned to delight

In one, very real and unmistakable sense, they are lightweight and the reason for this is simple. First Legion have deliberately shunned the use of the industry standard polystone and elected instead to construct their vehicles from a combination of resin, different types of plastic, photo etched steel and other metals. The result? Highly detailed, superior quality models, much more akin to professionally built and painted 1/35th scale kits. In another, also very real and unmistakable sense, they are heavyweight contenders in the competition for collectors' cash

At £260 each they are by no means inexpensive but, as with so many things in life, you get what you pay for, and what you get with these vehicles is something a little bit special: vehicles constructed from over 100 separate pieces, realistic looking and 'feeling' track and wheel setups, fully rotating turrets with positional guns, movable ball-mounted hull machine guns, opening hatches, antennas that can be lowered, a variety of removable, and re-positionable, stowage items, full-bodied crew figures that can be displayed equally well inside or outside the vehicle, and in the case of the winter version of the Panzer III the only vehicle in this scale to have been produced with Winterketten extensions to the normal tracks. Oh, and yes, I very nearly forgot, an unparalleled level of painting depicting battle-worn and weathered 'heavy metal', with an attention to detail that is quite frankly second to none

The SdKfz 232 eight wheeler complete with its characteristic 'bedstead' aerial and various removable extras, including the swastika flag draped across the antenna for recognition from the air

The beautifully detailed undercarriage of the 232.....

.....and a close up showing some of the detail that's gone into the execution of the paintwork

Two pictures of the field grey version of the Panzer III, shown here with tank riders [sold separately]. You can clearly see the opening hatches, the MG34 mounted as an AA weapon and the full-bodied crew figure deployed outside of the vehicle
Spectacular close up detail of the turret of the winter version of the Panzer III
A full frontal of the winter version. You can clearly see the Winterketten extensions to the normal tracks

This tank has clearly been put through the wringer! This version of the Panzer III represents vehicles from the famed 'Leaping Horseman' unit, the 24th Panzer Division which was annihilated, along with the rest of the 6th Army, fighting for Stalingrad

The one I don't [as yet] own. The 'upgunned' version of the Stug III, with L48, welded on armour and Ostketten extensions to its tracks

This is the one I do own, and I'm very, very pleased with it indeed!

Roll up! Roll up! Support your desperate comrades

A Stug III acting as support to advancing infantry, shown displayed alongside a background poster from John Gittins and custom made terrain from TM Terrain

Weather worn and rusty, but still packing a punch! The towing cables on this model aren't fixed in place, so you can display the vehicle towing, or being towed, should you care to

To complement the figures and the vehicles, First Legion have produced a quite sensational building facade depicting the battered and crumbling remains of the railway station terminal building located a few hundred yards away from the famous Stalingrad Tractor Factory, or STZ, which during the war was re-tooled to produce equipment for the Red Army, most notably the T-34 

The building comes with a central entrance way supported by four columns, standing proud of  two additional side pieces, and is made of intricately sculpted and expertly painted polystone. This is a truly massive piece with an overall length of 31 inches and weighing in at a hefty 23lbs!! Putting it on a glass shelf would probably be ill advised, but it would look wonderful on a bookcase and even better as the centre piece of an even bigger display, on top of some cobbled matting, strewn with debris. Figures can be displayed behind the windows, in between the columns, and out front, and there is plenty of room on top for even more figures and/or the odd support weapon. What a corker!!

The Swastika flag is removable

German armour and an observation team 'spotting' from the top of the ruins

Pictures courtesy of First Legion from whose website more details can, as always, be obtained

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