My club “What a Tanker” campaign is moving from France to the deserts of North Africa soon, and I put my hand up to provide the toys. I’ve done the Italians, so to give them something to shoot at I picked up a box of Plastic Soldier Company’s A9 and A10 Cruiser tanks.
The early war British tanks in the desert seemed to come in several different paint schemes. There was a very early two-tone pattern, then for a while tanks were painted single-colour, then the famous Caunter scheme, and then switched back to single-colour.
Caunter didn’t really feel right for the very early clashes between the Brits and Italians, so I went for a mix of the plain light sand and the two-tone scheme. The latter was essentially the same pattern used in Europe but in desert colours. Interestingly the documents that controlled British Army camo (Military Training Pamphlets, or MTPs and General Orders) outlined the general principles of camouflage but didn’t specify any actual pattern, so units were free to make things up. That’s great for a modeller, there’s no wrong way to do it!
I wanted the tanks to be easy to tell apart in multiplayer games of What a Tanker, so I’ve done one of each type in plain sand, and one in camo.
At the next tier up (ie: later in the war) if I do something like a Valentine I might do some Caunter on that.
Just for a laugh I decided to model one as a knocked out tank, to use as scatter terrain. The kit allows you to model the commander’s hatch open, and I cut the loader’s hatch in half to have it open too. After a bit of light damage (broken track, stowage bins blown open, etc) I painted it blackened and added some black acrylic stuffing for smoke (two-part epoxy seems the best bet for getting this to stick to the miniature).
The box includes five identical sprues, allowing you to build one tank per sprue. Each can be built as either an A9 or one of two marks of A10 Cruiser, or as the Close Support (CS) versions armed with howitzers. Each of those can also be built with or without sand skirts. That gives twelve possible variations, which is not bad from a single sprue.
They are quite wasteful though, once you’ve built your tank you’ll be chucking most of the parts in the bin. Each sprue contains four upper and two lower hulls, but only one pair of tracks. A few bits like commander figures and fuel drums can go in the bits box but most of it will be heading for the bin.
A double-sided set of instructions is included, which uses colour-coding to try and navigate you through which parts to use for what tank.
The instructions do a fair job, but in my opinion the order of assembly is a bit off. It’s far easier if you ignore step 3 which states to assemble the upper and lower hull, especially as step 4 shows them still separate anyway.
What I found is the easiest way (especially on tanks with sand skirts) is to:
- Attach tracks to lower hull
- Attach lower hull to upper hull
I think this is sort of what Step 4 suggests anyway, which again make you wonder what Step 3 is on about.
Although the kits assembled OK in the end I wasn’t overly impressed with them. They’re more fiddly than they really need to be. Each turret is between nine and eleven parts, for example. The exhaust is a separate piece which has to be glue on using pliers/tweezers and has to be lined up by eye. This probably doesn’t even need to be a separate piece at all. Thankfully the tracks are all a single piece though.
Some hulls have sand skirts, if you just follow the colour-codes on the instructions you might miss this. I had built my first A9 before I realised that instead of the red-coded A9 parts I should probably be the green-coded A9 CS hull for a desert A9. Slightly confusingly the situation is reversed for the A10s: if you want a desert A10 use the blue one indicated for the A10, if you want one without sand skirts instead use the orange one shown for the A10 CS.
The A10 is a more complex build than the A9, involving adding several pieces to the hull to build up the right shape. However, the right-hand superstructure side piece doesn’t actually fit properly onto the hull, there’s a small jutting triangle of plastic that has to be carved away to get a good fit.
Speaking of good fits, the peg on the turret is a bloody tight fit into its hole on the hull. Way too tight, in fact, you’re likely to damage the turret turning it. To get a better fit you’ll need to gently expand the hole in the hull, but go carefully as it’s easy to overdo it and end with a loose turret that’ll fall off.
It took me about 30 minutes per tank, which if you’re a keen modeler probably sounds like fun, but if you’ve got a whole company to build might not be good news.
Don’t get me wrong, these are not awful kits and anybody with basic modelling skills will get them knocked into shape ok. But if your attraction to the cheap PSC box is because you’ve got twenty of them to build you might want to weigh your time against the money and decide whether you really want to build these or just get some nice quick resin/metal ones.