Model Review: 1:288 (6mm) Eastern Express Antonov AN-71 “Madcap” AWACS

Summary:
The EE Antonov AN-71 is a fun, quick little build that will look fine as a gaming piece. Probably not the best overall choice for a “serious” micro-mini modeler, who will be screaming and flinging it out the window within minutes. 1:288/6mm scale makes it compatible with quite a few wargames, including Micro Armor, Fistful of TOWs, Battletech, and Robotech RPG Tactics. The limited historical deployment of this particular aircraft will hurt its utility for historical gamers, but other models in the series would likely serve them much better.
For Robotech Tactics modelers, the AN-71 is also an excellent base for an alternate version of the ES-11D “Cat’s Eye” recon – one of the guys on the Robotech Tactics Facebook group did up a conversion you can see here if you’re a group member.

Background:
First off – a little history. In 1984-ish, the Antonov company put together a bid for a new AWACS version of the AN-72 light transport airframe (NATO callsign “COALER”). It was intended to vector in ground-attack forces at the tactical level (taking the load off of the larger “MAINSTAY” and “MOSS”, which were busy handling strategic responses and combat air patrol), while taking advantage of the AN-72 airframe’s ability to make use of short, poor-quality runways and improvised airfields. While loosely equivalent to the role of an E2-C Hawkeye in USN service, the AN-71 was supposed to be a land-based design (the naval role was supposed to be taken by the Yakolev YAK-44, which never surfaced).  NATO assigned the bird the reporting name “MADCAP” after its first flight in 1985. Unfortunately, the USSR only ever made three AN-71 airframes before the economic collapses of 1986-88 killed the program. One of those three prototypes was shipped off to the Ukraine for their new Air and Space museum while they were in the process of seceding from the SSSR, which is why this particular model was originally Ukraininan.The Eastern Express company put out a series of models based on the Museum’s holdings, all nominally in 1:288 scale. Toko seems to have put out a version of the series as well, and you can find a box in the US from Imex (I got mine on the ‘bay for $4, so always check your supplier..)

The AN-71 herself is pretty unique – a STOL design that uses engine exhaust to increase lift over the wings. Unfortunately this design, while efficient, tends to be damned noisy for the poor saps inside the cargo bay, but hey. Whatcha gonna do? *(cancel it if you’re Boeing, of course. Keep using it for fifty-plus years if you’re a Russkie..)

Surviving AN-71 on display in the Ukraine

The Good: Simple, clean instructions. Good decals, although I have no need for them. Generally decent fit and polish on the kit.
The Bad: Lots and lots of flash on frame “A”. It cleaned up well after a quick pass with an emery board. Some gates on detail elements distorted the radome and tail. Shallow detail cuts had to be sharpened.
The Ugly: Does not include any parts to make closed landing gear bays. The engine mounting surfaces were poorly-designed, and the wing overall required a lot of work to mount.
Full model build/review under the cut. My apologies for the poor quality of a couple of the images -I plead being sick as hell and having a shit phone.

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yet another quick update.

Nothing super big going on for the last two days, just a lot of micro-progress. Still, I’m trying to publish at least once every two days right now, so here ya go.

As far as the ongoing cleanup goes, I sorted out the last of my terrain and materials into boxes, cleaning out and consolidating my three unsorted boxes of minis into one coherent whole. Still need another three to four plastic shoeboxes to finish storing everything (I need to sort the Mars Attacks suburbs and generic post-apoc terrain into its own box and clear out the big shoebox currently full of modular Necromunda and Russian industrial terrain so I can put my Space Hulk set into it). Bases are sorted for now as well, but I need to replace or repair the current Plamo case they’re in – the hinges on the lid shattered from UV degradation.

Less impressive-looking than perhaps it is. Top to bottom: Bases, Fantasy, Post-apoc, Warzone, Light Vehicles and Mecha. Gundams to the left, IG and moderns to the right.

Less impressive-looking than perhaps it is. Top to bottom: Bases, Fantasy, Post-apoc, Warzone, Light Vehicles and Mecha. Gundams to the left, IG and moderns to the right.

On the modeling front, I cleaned up, converted, and posed a Stalker, Wasp, and two RRPGT Valkyries, and did a photoshoot for my long-delayed review of the Destroid Tomahawk (which I need to finish now so that I can start on a Secret Project [tm]).

no soup for you

Finally, I’ve gotten the last bits of wood I need to do the paint shelf and finish restoring a bookcase I salvaged last month, so tomorrow’s gonna be a carpentry day.

About to be a couple of far more-impressive things.

About to be a couple of far more-impressive things.

Then I’m having guests for dinner. Should be a lot of fun.

Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave I – Part III (It’s Destroid Time, With Your Friend, the Defender)

Finally, we get into the home stretch of my Wave I reviews. The Destroids are the models I bought the most of, for various battletech reasons.

Edit: Palladium Books has released updated assembly instructions for the Defender (and other units), which you can find on DrivethruRPG (here) for free.
Previous Posts: Part I, Part II
Next Posts:
I started a great photo-set with my sprues of Defenders months ago. I just burned out on dealing with the damned things when I started my first Phalanx. Wound up throwing the entire mess of Destroids into a box for a couple of months in sheer frustration. To be frank, I was getting pissed just looking at the models. That’s a very bad place to be as a reviewer, and a worse one as a hobbyist. So, yeah.

That’s really about half the review right there.
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Generally speaking, the Destroid models are more poseable than the Valkyries or Glaug. There’s also no less Procrustean modeling, so you aren’t specifically forced to keep half the weapons in a fixed position. The joint layout makes magnetizing the arms and weapons very easy, which means you can even repose during a game if you want.
Unfortunately, they’ve also got insanely high part counts, with unsightly seams everywhere on most of the models. And, though the feet on the Defender, Tomahawk, and Phalanx are essentially identical, each sprue uses a slightly different and incompatible connection method for the ankle joint, reducing your posing options.

We’ll start off with the Defenders, because I actually have a full photoshoot prepped and ready to go (and I don’t want to keep this series on hold for the week (good Lord I was naive there) or more that prepping the other three will take)


Defender:


 

Defender Sprue obverse

Click to embiggen for assembly notes

Reverse of sprue, showing arm keying.

Reverse of sprue, showing arm keying.

Issues:
Three of the four legs are missing at least one detail. Only one is complete. In addition, two of the legs have gates on top of surface detail. You’d think, with the amount of copy-pasting going on elsewhere, that the legs would at least be identical..

Note that the leg on the right has only two strips, while the left side has four. Another is completely missing this detail, and a third has it damaged by a gate AND is missing the vent details on the side

Note that the leg on the right has only two strips, while the left side has four.
Another is completely missing this detail, and a third has it damaged by a gate AND is missing the vent details on the side

The body is a five-part model. It has several ugly, prominent seams that must be cleaned or filled, and leave noticeable gaps in the finished model. The searchlights on my models were also miscast, with mold lines and underflow on all four side torsos.

Gapping in the torso, hips, and arms

Gapping in the torso, hips, and arms. Torso searchlight miscasts.

The guns have extremely thin barrels, making extracting them without damage very difficult. Cut the bases of the gun first with clippers, then slowly cut off the barrels with a very sharp knife or saw. Preferably, add some padding behind them.
The connecting peg on the hips is wider than the hole in the torso, and must be carefully filed down to allow the model to mate properly.
The hip joint mounts on the legs force them into very specific angles, but can be easily (if carefully) modified to allow other positions.
There is no mounting point for a Command Destroid modification on the Defender, and the only position in which it “fits” interferes with both the arm placement and the radar sail. I have a functioning conversion that involves cutting down the piece into three parts and re-mounting them in the radar sail area.

Conversion prep instructions and diagram

Conversion prep instructions and diagram

Once the parts are cut, you can mount the search radar on the side of one of the ammo bins, or up over the shoulder/gun area. I cut off the top of the right-hand bin and hard-mounted it to the torso, however, and I think it came out pretty well.
Flip around the comms package, and cut it to fit the normal radar sail mount. It won’t take too much effort, and it looks pretty good up there.

The finished product

The finished product

Good Points:
The hard, flexible plastic makes the slender guns and radar blade surprisingly resilient once they’re off the sprue. The Defender’s posing is much more flexible than most of the other models in the line. There are points of articulation at the arms, legs, radar, and torso angle – all tweakable with minimum effort.

Number of Components
:

Twenty. Body is six parts alone, the legs and arms are three each, and the hips are two-parters.

Assembly Time:
Prep cutting took 15 minutes, not counting the time required to pin and re-glue an o.7mm gun barrel. Torso and hips took about 8 minutes to green-stuff and align, including filing and prefits. Overall, the two models took about 40 minutes to assemble, plus 8 hours of Green Stuff drying time. With a sharp, very slender pair of diagonal cutters the pair would probably take ~30 minutes.

 

Vigilante One, reporting for duty!

Vigilante One, reporting for duty!

International Tabletop Day BattleTech BatRep

Events at Sakuracon prevented the BT game I was hoping to get in last Saturday night. To compensate, we managed to get in a game at the last minute this Saturday for ITTD at Gabi’s in the new upstairs section. As a bonus, I managed to paint this Victor in a little over half an hour, while my opponent was stuck in traffic.

Yes, it's a Koffing. I'll finish the base tomorrow and get him sealed up to go with the rest of my pirates..

HE”S A PIRATE!

Deets below the break.

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Update: Robotech RPG Tactics corrections

According to the email I got from Palladium, their omission of various cards (see link) from the boxed set was deliberate. They have, however, made those cards and the missing Malcontent and Artillery cards available on DrivethruRPG for free. They’ll also be putting them up on their website “soon”.

They’re also working to make the Orguss Destroids and fighters slightly more builder-friendly, which is promising on the “later units” front.

Quick personal update/USN Squadron Reference dump (Robotech Tactics, Battletech)

Spent all day yesterday and a good part of today painting up my entry into the most recent Iron Painter contest on the Battletech forums. The deadline is Dec. 1st, in case anyone out there is watching and wanting to play.
This weekend is the big Customer Appreciation sale at Olympic Cards and Comics, so I limped over there and grabbed assorted Christmas gifts for the folks (and magnets, as well..).

I’ve been toying with the idea of painting up my Valks as some of my old squadrons from CAG-9, partly to give me a reason to finish my cruise jacket and use up all my patches. Since I was combat-deployed during the time-frame of both the Global Wars and the First Robotech War, it stands to reason that some of the squadrons active in the era might have survived and folded into the UEDF. Plus, we know the Screwtops and the Top Hatters survived into the Robotech war by the markings on some of the Valkyries in background scenes. Hell, Skull Squadron is blatantly the Jolly Rogers.

Seriously Roy, get that thing on your back looked at.

As far as assigning them, I know the Golden Hawks are getting the VEF-1 squadron (that royal blue and gold screaming eagle looks amazing on a radome), and the Checkmates will be at least one of the Valk units (my main intercept squadron). I’m thinking, though, that some of the Attack squadrons should really be rocking Destroids, possibly one squadron per Destroid type. The Screwbirds would map well to Defenders or my Lancers, and the Black Knights would of course be rocking the Tomahawks. I know I’m going to have several units of Spartans and Phalanxes, so I may just set them up as the Blue Diamonds and Argonauts, and HS-8 as the Ghosts.

The Argo’s commander’s bird is damned sexy too. Tell me that wouldn’t look good on a Phalanx..

The other option, of course, is to use the funniest squadron names possible; the Fighting Redcocks (with whom I also deployed), the Red Rippers, the Puking Dogs..

Actually, this is a decent time to talk about squadron markings, in case you’ve ever been curious as to how they work. The Argo up there, for example, is marked “NH-200”, and belongs to squadron VFA-147.
The order of precedence is Air-wing/squadron/plane number. Each Air Wing has a 2-letter code, further broken down into “coast” (Atlantic = A, Pacific = N) and the wing’s unique letter. These are completely arbitrary, however, so all you need to know is that they don’t use the same letter twice. I’ll be using either “O” or “R” for “Orbital”.
The first number in the 3-digit designation is the squadron number in the Air Wing. Traditionally, the Intercept squadron(s) – the “fighters” – are squadrons 1– and 2–, the attack squadrons 3– and 4–, and the Electronic Attack and AWACS (Airborne warning and control) units get 5— and 6– respectively.
Thus, NG-400 is the leader of the 4th squadron in “Pacific Air Wing G”.
The Squadron’s call-numbers, meanwhile, tell you what kind of unit it is. So “VFA” means “Fixed-wing” (V) Fighter/Attack (FA) Squadron. “VAQ” is “Fixed-wing” (V), “Attack” (A), “Electronic” (Q), and so on.

So, how can you apply this to marking your units?
The Air Wing’s commander typically flies in 100 or 200, with his XO flying in the other of the two, or on his wing in 101/201. That’s where your VF-1S and/or VT-1D are most likely to be. Yes, it’s beyond me why they made the frigging Training variant a commander unit in RRPGTobotech, but whatever.
Destroid groups would likely have higher squadron numbers than Valkyries. I’m using “D” to re-designate them, so VFA-146 would become DA-146 if I loaded them into Spartans, while VMFA-314 (the “M” is for “Marines”) would become DMA-314.
The VEF-1A is technically a non-combat or support unit. Non-combat squadrons get numbered after the other, sexier ones get theirs, so something in the 6-7 range would be appropriate (2 Valk squadrons, plus 3-4 Destroid groups, and then the AWACS squadron).

Edit: Current marking scheme follows
UN Space Self Defense Force Veritech Combat Group 9, call number OH
Valkyrie units:
OH-1xx – VT-211 “Checkmates”  – VF-1R with VF-1D support
OH-2xx – VT-31, “Tomcatters” – VF-1A with VF-1S support
OH-3xx – VT-147 “Argonauts” – VF-1A with VF-1J support
OH-4xx – VT-146 “Blue Diamonds” – VF-1A with VF-1J support.
OH-5xx – VTAQ-138 “Yellowjackets”- VEF-1, no support. 5 aircraft.
OH-6xx – VAQ-112 “Golden Eagles” – Cats-Eye Recon, no support. 4 aircraft.
Destroid Units:
OH-7xx – DMA-314 “Black Knights” – Destroid Tomahawks and Spartans. Major William J. Smithson commanding.
OH-8xx – DS-22 – “Fighting Redcocks” – Destroid Defenders with Tomahawk support. “Ogre” Inman commanding
OH-9xx – DA-151 “Vigilantes” –  Destroid Phalanxes with Defender support.
Drone Units:
OH-0xx – UP-8 “Eightballers” – Ghost Drone Fighters with limited Lancer support.

(DS: Destroid Superiority/Anti-air)
(VTAQ: Veritech squadron, Spaceborne Early Warning/Electronic Attack)
(UP: Unmanned Patrol, wingless)
Units are split out by type now, which bumped up the VEF squadron.

Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave I – Part II (Problematic Models and their assembly, and Component Quality)

This is part 2 of a multi-part series
#1: Compatibility and Scaling
#3: Destroid Defender

In addition, Palladium addressed some of the concerns expressed in this post, including making some of the excluded cards and assembly instructions available on-line (though they’re still partially incorrect)
See the post here.

By way of preface, this was supposed to be a fluff post, and take maybe a couple hours to write while I worked up test models for the game, took pics of the sprues, and noted down the hard spots for a new modeller.

It’s been a sodding week, and I’m only covering the worst offenders so far; the Destroids are on hold until I can get some magnets.

The mini quality has been, hands-down, the most controversial part of the entire game to date. Is everything shit? No, not by any means.
But all three armies (Zentraedi, Malcontent, and UEDF) get the shaft on something. The Quel-Regult is by far the worst offender, with multiple parts that don’t fit, and a missing component (see below). The UEDF player, meanwhile, gets a bit screwed by having even more models to build than the Zen player – models which take almost three times as long to build out, and have significant problems of their own. The Malcontents? The boxed set doesn’t even contain any legal units for them.
And while some of the models are a bargain, the Zentraedi get hosed on a critical component of their army.

Full breakdown after the jump.
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Review: Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave 1 Part I (Compatibility, Scaling)

This is the first post in a multi-part series
#2: Valks and Zentradi
#3: The Destroid Defender

So, I’ve mentioned my kickstarting in the past. The Robotech RPG Tactics (neé Robotech Tactics..) kickstarter was one of my first. I’ve been following this glorious clusterfuck since it was a guy on BlogSpot with a dream and a good sculpting hand. Well, a year and a half after funding (and almost three years since it’s inception) I have my models. Was it worth the wait?
The Short version:
The Good: Holy shit the detail on the models. Extra Valkyrie parts galore. A well-polished book with a tight and portable rules system I’ve already been hacking for a few months.
The Bad: The model sprues are un-labeled, and there are warped parts and missing assembly information. The partially-incomplete rulebook makes it difficult to build a force without shuffling through a massive brick of differently-sized cards, and several rules are ambiguous.
The Ugly: Deliberately bad poseability. Poorly thought-out gates on the sprues damage detail on some models, and require extremely careful prep work. Then there’s Palladium Books’ behavior.

This is the first part of a series; a quick preview, concerned with model scaling – since its the question I get most often, from every quarter. I’m also writing specific reviews of the rules and the model components; this will include build-ups of the Wave I mecha models, and a discussion of the quality and fit issues – of which I’m sure you’ve already heard.

The question everyone wants to know:
What’s that? “Doc, will the models work in [the major mecha game..]?”
Yes and no, it depends on what you want out of them. First:

The Bugs:
A properly built-up Super VF-1A or -1S will definitely pass as a PHX-1 or a Pixie LAM. Modding an extra gun-pod will make you a PHX-3-series, though it will require green-stuffing. A straight-up VF-1A or -1S without the FAST-pack will make a pretty good PHX-1K.  Based on the scale shots I’ve seen so far, Crusaders shouldn’t be an issue either once the Armored Valkyrie boxes come out sometime next year.
What they won’t do is get you the shorty Bugs – Wasps, Valkyries, or Stingers.

Family Tree

Clockwise from the top: Unseen Pewter CRD-3R, WizKids PHX-5L, 3e Plastic WSP-1A, 3e Plastic STG-3R, 3e Plastic PHX-1, and a RRPGT VF-1J in the center.

Hark - A Grognard

Gervalk VF-1J, with a dismasted Pixie. Arms taken from the Battloid-mode sprue. The pegs are mounted in different areas on each model, but can be used in either mode with a bit of time and green stuff.

The Heavies: (What everyone wanted anyway)
In general, the Destroids are more compact and detailed than the Unseen metals, and much better than the plastics. While mine are still on the sprues, CampaignAnon from /btg/ was kind enough to give me permission to post these pictures of his initial work. Phalanx and Spartan photos to follow once I’ve had the time for a build-up. I also have a lead Unseen Longbow coming in in a few weeks, which will help comparisons considerably. Notably, the Spartan box includes the parts necessary to make an ARC-3K (the variant with a pair of Large Lasers), while the Phalanx box has both the standard “Barrel” arms and the nuclear “Derringer” arms seen in the last few episodes of Macross/Robotech, perfect for representing an Arrow IV system – or Thunderbolts.

Left: RRPGT models. Right: Metal Unseen. Images by CampaignAnon

Left: RRPGT models. Right: Metal Unseen. Images by CampaignAnon

The Glaug is far too large for Z-scale. I’d call it a trifle small for N-scale, if WizKids had ever actually attempted anything like a consistent scale in their efforts. It almost fits in with that weird half-scale the HQ Loki and Thor from the 25th anniversary box had, but even then is in its own little niche. The Glaug sprue also contains a Quel-Regult (a scout/EWACS variant of the standard Battlepod) and a Quel-Gulnau (salvage/recovery unit), which means that the boxed set will be pointless for a BT player unless you want an N-Scale Ostscout for some reason.

"L-

The Breakdown
If you’re primarily interested in buying the models to represent otherwise un-obtainable units, the Destroid and Super Valkyrie “add-on” packs will likely be your best bet. The current MSRP is $33/box for either a box with 2 Defenders and 2 Tomahawks, or a box of 2 Spartans and 2 Phalanxes.
This is about half the price of the 3e Plastic Unseen on auction sites, and the added detail and friendlier material make them very much worth it – especially for the Phalanx/Longbow (which is very hard to find, and never saw a plastic release) and the Rifleman/Defender (the Plastech model is especially ugly and intractable). Before you cough up, however, I recommend reading the modelling review. These are still, effectively, 1:144 models shrunk to 1:285 scale, and require a great deal of effort and build time.

Legal note: all images and trademarks not owned by me are used without permission, for the Fair Use purposes of review and discussion. No challenge is intended by their use. I neither represent nor have personal ties to Harmony Gold, Palladium Books, FASA, or Catalyst Games, nor any other interested party. I am not a party to FASA vs. Harmony Gold. Thank you for your time.