by: Jim Rae [ ]
Introduction One of the most heavily-criticized areas in 1/35 figures has been the lack of animation in the poses. Now, the requests from the modeller seem to have been answered with a conscious attempt to provide a series of figures which are doing something rather than standing around... Masterbox has taken a COMPLETELY fresh approach by bringing out three 'linked' sets - of which this review will be the first of a series. What do I mean by linked? Well, the three sets are designed to complement each other in a diorama setting although ALL can be used as individual components in a diorama or even a vignette. The subject area is useful as well - Early-war (1941-42) Infantry sets are always welcome considering that we are getting more and more suitable vehicles for the period as well. A truly interesting initiative from an equally interesting manufacturer.
The bare details MAS 3523 - WWII Soviet Infantry in Action, 1941-1942 will be released by Masterbox Ltd. in the next few weeks. The set consists of four, 1/35th scale styrene figures which are moulded in a light-grey plastic. The figures come on a single sprue inside a side-opening box which, has probably some of the best box-art on the market.
In depth: The four figures comprise three infantrymen and an officer. The infantry are wearing the typical (for virtually the entire WW2 period) Infantryman's 'smock'. The officer is wearing the same uniform with the addition of the Russian 'Sam Browne' crossbelts.
Well, enough of the brevity, let's look at the aspects of the figures in a bit more detail:
The Heads: I make no apologies for my comments here - these are some of the best 1/35th (plastic) heads EVER produced. A variety of expressions, open mouths etc. A total of six heads are provided - two with the Forage cap and two for helmets. The officer is wearing a (very useful) peaked cap which will allow the possibility to be modelled as NKVD.
Hands: With the hands, moulding varies from excellent to the not so good. Curiously , the best are the open hands, the 'clenched' fists are a touch indistinct.
Legs/feet: Two types of footwear are provided - the long boots and puttees. Definition is exellent with clear division between instep and heel on the boots.
Torsos: Good, subtle creasing on the folds, good definition on pockets and equipment belts.
Equipment A variety of pouches and Russian 'sack-type' haversacks are provided, a nicely done pistol holster, map-case and items such as ammunition pouches are all there,
Weapons: Some diversity with the weaponry - The PPsh smg, the early-model Mosin-Nagant rifle and the Degtyarev LMG are all provided. Although the weapons are pretty good, this is an area where MasterBox COULD improve on.
The Poses:: For me, this is the highlight of this set. With some judicious placement of heads and arms (some spares are provided) the possible variations are impressive. The figures (even in their hastily-assembled manner) suggest movement. This is NOT an easy thing to achieve and the sculptor has done some VERY good work on giving them the impression of movement.
Multipose: When I spoke to the designer of the figures at Nuremberg, one of the intentions with this (and the other two sets) was to produce figures which were 'modular' in design. In other words, to give basic assembly instructions and allow the imagination of the modeller to 'mix 'n match' the various components to get the desired pose. This has worked very well indeed giving a LOT of possibilities.
Construction: Very straightforward. Each figure consists of just 5/6 parts (without weapons or equipment) and although there are a few seam lines to be removed, the moulding is clean and well-defined. I built the four figures quicker than I normally would - simply for the purpose of this review. Alignment of the two leg halves is excellent with the creases matching-up perfectly. The plastic which Masterbox are using now is also very good allowing detail to be held better in the mouldings. The headgear also fits better than before although a little care is required in lining it up.Construction was carried out using Tamiya Extra-Thin and Revell liquid cement
Other Areas: As I mentioned previously, the Box-Art is superlative. On the reverse side of the box are brief line-drawings of the figures which serve as construction notes. There is a color guide also. This uses references from five paint manufacturers - Vallejo, Tamiya, Lifecolor, Humbrol and Agama. Other manufacturers pleae follow suit!
Conclusions Most manufacturers do, if they are sensible, continue improving the quality of their products. In the case of Masterbox their recent products have been good, but not spectacular. This set is without a shadow of a doubt the best they have produced so far. However, that is only part of the story. The quality of this set, is as good (in certain respects) as anything on the market today. Quite often, I used to conclude reviews with 'Not quite DML standard...' now, i'm not so sure. The quality of this set is, a quantum leap from anything they have done before. The other point, is the approach of doing three connected sets. Now obviously, not everyone will use them together, However, importantly, the option is there. The other aspect is the 'Multipose' nature of the set, this gives many more possibilities and adding other sets, even more. In conclusion, welcome to the Majors, Masterbox!