Thursday, 25 January 2018

From GregB: Cold War Canadians in 15mm, eh? (54 Points)

Canadian Leopard C1s in 1/100 scale for "Team Yankee"

My pent-up interest in Cold War armour has been well and truly unleashed in this edition of the AHPC! I haven't painted this many 15mm tanks in several years, and it has been a lot of fun so far. I love tanks! After a couple of weeks of working up my West German Bundeswehr forces, we turn today to another NATO member - my home team, the Canadians!

During most of the Cold War, and particularly the mid-80s period envisioned by the game "Team Yankee",  Canada's contribution to the forward-deployed land defences of West Germany was the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. They were based in the Central Front zone and were intended to act as a reserve for the US VII Corps or German II Corps. While the 4th CMBG was mostly a mechanized formation, with stout infantry of the Royal Canadian Regiment and the "Vandoos" trooping around in M113 APCs, the cutting edge were the Leopard C1s of the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

The Canadian contingent was not a large force overall compared to the other NATO elements in 1980s Western Europe, but it was well-trained and would have given a solid performance if called on, I have no doubt.  As I have mentioned in my other Cold-War-Gone-Hot postings, thank goodness (at so many levels) that this is all fictional, as several friends, including a few Fawcett Avenue Conscripts, served in and around these formations...

Leopard C1 troop - 1/100 models from "Armies Army"
In NATO reserve, the Canadians could expect to be waiting for a Soviet breakthrough, and be sent to block it. NATO commanders would expect them them to stop and hold these Warsaw Pact elements for 24, 48 hours or longer, while other NATO formations rallied and counter-attacked.  The Leopard C1s of the Royal Canadian Dragoons would have been key to these expectations. So for me any "Team Yankee" type games with Canadians would start with getting models to represent the Leopard C1s.

Armies Army models - showing the lovely casting of the low-light TV system over the mantlet, and the FN MAG on the cupola
The Leopard 1 was a widely exported tank, and trying to make sense of all the countless small variations that seem to emerge on the different versions used by different nations (Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Brazil, and more) gives one a headache.  For example, one of the most widely-used variants is the "Leopard 1 A1A1" - WTF??? It's like they were varying them almost as soon as they came off the assembly line! Did some country out there use a Leopard 1 A1A1A2.5??? Maybe! I'm scared to check...

And while I'm not much of a rivet-counter (or so I like to believe, at least), I still get bugged by little details, small things here and there that still stand out on even small model.  Get them right, and bang, it all "looks" right!  Get them wrong and it's...well, it's OK...but it just bugs me...

Leopard C1 in 1/100 scale from Plastic Soldier Company - the FN MAG on the cupola is from Peter Pig; the decals on this tank are 1/87 - and the Canadian flag on the front plate is my own useful identifier for tabletop purposes...I don't think they actually had a big marking on the front of the tanks like that...
In the case of the Leopard C1s, two such "little details" nagged at me.  One was the targeting system mounting on the main gun mantlet - a container for a low-light TV and other gadgetry designed to help the gunners engage targets in darkness. On the Bundeswehr Leopard 1s this is a box-shaped gadget, but on the Canadian C1s it is a sort-of rounded cage. Why? Well, the Canadians had a different camera/targeting system. The other "little detail" is the cupola MG.  On the Bundeswehr tanks this is an MG3 (a.k.a. MG42), but the Canadian Forces had a 7.62mm MG, I think was the FN MAG, mounted up there.  Even in a very small scale like 1/100, the MG3 has such an iconic silhouette that the vehicle looks German.

Should either of these things really matter on a 1/100 scale model of a tank? Well, no...but...yes! What is wrong with me?  I'm such a DORK.

Another view of the PSC models...the targeting camera is not as detail as it is on the Armies Army model, but still great and well done to PSC for thinking of those sorts of "little things"...
The popularity of the period and scale sparked by the entry of a large player like Battlefront has inspired the creativity of some of the smaller figure companies to step up and offer more models. Plastic Soldier Company issued a box of plastic Leopard 1s that could be built as the "C1" variant used by the Canadian Forces. "Armies Army", another fringe-ish producer of cool 15mm figures did even more, producing, in late 2017, a full range of Canadian infantry, Leopard C1s, M113s, M150s (APCs with a TOW launcher) and even the Lynx recon tracks. WOW. So of course I ordered a bunch of here we go...naturally the Leopards were first under the brush...

There are nine tanks in the photos here - three are from the Plastic Soldier Company, and the balance are from Armies Army.  The Plastic Soldier Company models are a treat to assemble, and they have options for the little targeting camera on the mantlet to suit the Canadian variant, which is just great for a nutter like me! Only downside if the cupola MG is still the German MG3, and that is the only option on the sprue.  I worked around that by swapping in some FN MAGs from a pack of Peter Pig 1/100 IDF Centurion Shots that I haven't painted yet (long-abandoned Lebanon project - don't ask).

The Armies Army vehicles are a mix of resin and metal parts. I love that the Armies Army variant comes with all of the proper accessories - the FN MAG for the cupola, a well-sculpted thermal jacket on the main gun barrel, etc.  PLUS he sells you tons of stowage, something I will add more on later. But they are slightly trickier to assemble - you don't get the razor-sharp precision you do with the plastic kits from PSC. With the treads in particular there were a few challenges...but in all, the Armies Army effort is just so cool because it is so utterly complete - well aligned to the mind of a wargaming nutter like me!

AND, major bonus, you can get DECALS! Yes, the little things that really finish off the models! The downside is that, other than the maple leaf on the turret, the decals are hard to see, as they are small and the black stencils don't show well on the green.  Or, they might show in the photos if I ever purchase a light box - but, if you ever see me buying one of those, you'll know I have finally painted every single figure and model I ever want to paint and have moved on to less important things...but anyway...

Ready to roll out against the Warsaw Pact, eh?

It's just as good that most of the symbols don't show up too much...the Canadian forces used a series of call signs, numbers, letters and symbols on their vehicles that would leave ancient Byzantine commanders asking "Are you sure? Seems a touch complicated..." Mostly I just wanted to be sure the Maple Leaf showed up on the tabletop - and it does!  One of the tanks you see here does have larger decals than the others - these are from a 1/87 scale decal sheet, while the rest are from Armies Army 1/100 decals.  I reason the one with the larger decals is just an extreme patriot of some sort, and I'll use it as a Squadron commander or something.

And so, we have a couple of troops from the Royal Canadian Dragoons ready for action on the gaming table tonight! As newly-painted models, what could go wrong?

Keen to try any of these models yourself? I would say "go nuts" with either provider, but to further confuse things (so appropriate for a post about Leopard 1s and Canadians), Plastic Soldier Company appears to have acquired Armies Army...while all involved are excellent folks to deal with, I'm not precisely sure what plans PSC will have for the Armies Army Leopard models. But I do recommend BOTH products. 

Furthermore, Battlefront itself has hinted at providing figures for Canadians later this year, part of a rules expansion to be called "Free Nations" or something similar...but if you are like me, and you don't like waiting, go visit PSC right now!

Enough blather! Bottom line, nine 15mm vehicles painted here, should be good for another 54 points or so.  With that, I'm off for a little bit! All the best to the Challengers, keep the great submissions rolling in, it's all very inspiring.

I love it!  Your commentary on what you did and didn't like really made me chuckle.  I don't think anybody reading this will be unfamiliar with the process of things feeling "not right".  I hope you also went through the "talking yourself into the fact that nobody will notice and therefore it'll be alright" even though you know you'll never be happy with it and so changing your mind the next day?  And I like how you nonchalantly mention that you just happened to have exactly the right MG in another pack lying on the shelves of holding ;)

I like the highlighting you've done on these, dark green can be such a bear to highlight without looking cartoony and I think this is just right.  The usual excellent basing work and the decals really work to make them "fit" on the tabletop.

As ever, a pleasure to see the story behind the painting and 54 points winging their way to you over the interweb.


  1. he Canadian forces used a series of call signs, numbers, letters and symbols on their vehicles that would leave ancient Byzantine commanders asking "Are you sure? Seems a touch complicated..." My farorite line of the Challenge so far. I didn't know the Canadians used the Leapard in the 80s facinating. great post and great tanks.

  2. Always liked the Leopard, and the what ifs of 80s cold war, well done Greg!

  3. I was wondering what Thursday was missing and then wham! Up pops Greg and his Canadian tanks! These are excellent work.

    Love the Leopard and very nice to see it jumping to our Canadian allies! They are our allies right? Gets confusing being a Brit and all in this Cold War 😜

  4. Wonderful work Greg! Your Cold War stuff makes me wanna go back to that particular project myself. So much so, I might actually forget about my new years resolutions and get me some new figures ;-)

    1. Give in...we all want to see your brush skills unleashed on Cold War subjects!!

  5. More Home Team tanks! Boo Yaa! Well done Dude - this post makes me think of Mark and his epic microarmour games he'd put on for us. Good times. It's great that there are viable options for those who want to collect the vehicles and kit of other Nato nations. Terrific work.

  6. Yeah team Canada! Da, Da Canada Nyet, Nyet Soviet! I was chuckling all the way through the dorky bits discussion. Rivet counting, camo and decals - three things that keep me away from post 1920 modelling. I was wondering about your Arab Israeli stuff...

    1. Thanks Peter! I did finish a whole lot of Arab-Israeli stuff for the Yom Kippur War (and that is also a very fun period to game!). I figured Lebanon would be a simple additional part of the collection, but not so much...maybe I'll return to it in the future, you never know...

  7. Fantastic looking leopards, lovely tanks!
    Best Iain

  8. Lovely mean lookin armour Greg, meticulously researched and presented as always

  9. It is lovely to see Canadian units and so well done.

  10. Really nice to see these painted so nice and on a table. PSC took over my range last week, giving me more time to hobby again and more time to spend on 3d models for psc!
    The tracks do need a little filing as they are metal parts. Annoyingly the metal and resin can 'shrink' ever so slightly on production and its near impossible to make sure they match!

  11. Cool Tanks. Tanks rule. cheers

  12. Very nice! I’ve got some PSC Leopards in my mountain.

  13. Still enjoying your indulgence in the Cold War, Greg. I do like these Canadian Leopard tanks very much! They are wonderful little models and the green is done very well!