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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Forces of Valor - Toy Soldiers

Forces of Valor came into the Toy Soldier scene approximately 10 years ago, shortly after 21st Century Toys began production of armored vehicles. They also go by the name Unimax. Forces of Valor has produced high-end die cast vehicles for the most part, but it has also released a few figure sets. Its vehicles sometimes also contain figures as part of the crew or to enrich the scene around it. Their figure sets also contain a good number of accessories, such as sandbags, furniture, boxes, etc. The figures come factory painted and they are also unique in the sense that the base is detachable. I don't like that in particular because you have to put them together again when you deploy them and I have not found a good glue to keep them together. Considering FOV's output in terms of vehicles it would have been nice if they had produced a few more figure sets. They certainly seem to have the sculpting and manufacturing capability.

Forces of Valor German Infantry - Part I
These are the first series of FOV German Infantry. The paint job on the figures is very realistic,. For instance, the helmet have thin lines of metallic paint simulating scratches. The poses depict a decent level of action. The scuplting is on the blukier side, particularly when it comes to details like hands and facial expressions. As mentioned earlier, the bases are detachable and they constantly come off.

Forces of Valor German Infantry - Part II
This is the most recent set of FOV German Infantry. They still have the same detachable base system, but the sculpting of hands and faces has improved. This set comes with a nice MG mounted on a tripod. The plastic for the MG however is really felxible and you will need to spend some time straightening it with hot water. Hopefully it stays that way, as mine hasn't.

Forces of Valor German Infantry - Part III
These were actually released before the previous set, but as you can see, they are not meant for battle, but rather for some specific diorama scenes. They came with one or two GIs guarding them. The sculpting of these guys is actually better than that of their other figures. You can tell that they were made by the same people that sculpt the guys who come with the FOV vehicles.

Forces of Valor US 82nd Airborne Division - Part I
Forces of Valor released these over the past few years in two or three different series, each with 4 or 5 guys, with some poses being repeated across sets. Similar to their other figures, their hands and facial features are a bit thick. The poses are good and dynamic.

Forces of Valor US 82nd Airborne Division - Part II
If I remember correctly, the guy on the right was the guard who came in the set with the three German prisoners. That would explain why his uniform and sculpting look a bit different. The guy in the middle is my favorite pose.

Forces of Valor US Infantry
A decent set by Forces of Valor. Their other US figures had been paratroops, so it is good that they came out with an Army division. The machine gun needs some hot water to straighten it, and the bazooka is a bit on the small side. Other than that, the bodies are much better proportioned.

Forces of Valor British 7th Armored Division - El-Alamein 1942
This is a set that I originally passed on buying. I did not like the bulkiness of the upper bodies. Of course, later on I felt that I should plug the hole in the collection, but by that time, they were no longer being produced and were much harder to find and pricier to get. Anyhow, I am happy I finally got a hold of them. I am still not a big fan of the sculpting and I still don't like the detachable bases, but it felt good to be able to check them off the list.

Forces of Valor British 7th Division - Part II
Here are a few more poses. They came in a different set, Two of them appear to be repeats of guys in the previous set. One of them, the man firing while kneeling, might be slightly different - note the knee is slightly off the ground - or it could also be that the one on top os missing the base and they are actually the same pose. Either way, there's really only two new poses. The wounded man and the man calling his men forward. Sculpted in the same bulky style, so not much new to say about them. 

Forces of Valor German Winter Troops
These guys actually came as 'accessories' for the tanks. They were not released as a figure set. Because they were meant to ride/fight from a tank, I had to customize a couple of them. for isntance, the man on the right, would be sitting on a tank, but I made him sit on a box handing out panzerpfausts. The man on the left was supposed to be standing on the tank firing a machinegun, so I made him stand on a box, and fire a panzerschreck. Overall, a nice set of figures, with a nice degree of action in them. I will have to paint a few more Germans with winter outfits to complement them. I will also add bases to the other two to make them more stable. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

ESCI - Toy Soldiers

ESCI was an Italian manufacturer that was in business during the 70's and 80's. They produced models of vehicles, figure kits and a few plastic toy soldier sets, but their emphasis was definitely on the vehicle model kits. However they did produce a couple of interesting WWII sets. They are in 1/35 scale, but they are close enough in size to blend in with 54mm guys. In recent years Italeri has been re-releasing some of their sets.

ESCI German Infantry
This is one of their best sets in my opinion. As you can see, once they are painted they look fairly decent. The officer is a bit rare in the sense that he is wearing a helmet. Most officers are usually depicted wearing a cap, but in combat they would certainly wear helmets.

ESCI Soviet Infantry
These guys are on the smaller side of 1/35. Next to some of the larger TSSD figures they look very small, but when you need extra poses, you can't be very picky. The officer on the right might be a woman, but it's hard to tell for sure. The third figure from the right also looks like a woman.

ESCI US Paratroops
These are some hard to find guys. I actually had to order them from a hobby shop in Greece. For being 1/35 they are actually really close in size to the 1/32 guys. The poses are a bit too straight in my opinion, but the level of detail is nice. The commander reminds me of the one in the Airfix set.

ESCI British Paratroops - Part I
Here is another unique set from ESCI. Also pretty hard to find. So much that I wasn't even aware that it existed until one of our readers pointed it out to me. The figures are actually pretty decent and in my opinion, better posed than the other ESCI sets. They are using a good range of small arms and even their helmets show a bit of variety, some having a cammo net and some without.

ESCI British Paratroops - Part II
I particularly like the man charging forward with the Bren gun. One of the more dynamic ESCI poses that I have come across. I don't care that much for the guy standing guard. The guy on the right is one of those funny poses... he seems to be turning at the same time that he is running forward, but yet he is a bit too straight for that amount of movement taking place all at the same time. Anyhow, a good addition to the British paras. Maybe they can help hold Arnhem one more day...

ESCI Soviet Spetznaz - Part I
The Spetznaz are Soviet Special Forces, however they are post WWII figures. I find their uniforms however close enough to the Soviet Naval Infantry that I have decided to use them as such to complement the Pegasus figures. The weaponry is a bit modern, so I'll have to overlook that. In terms of the poses I like the men who are crouching better than the ones who are standing.

ESCI Soviet Spetznaz - Part II
Some of these guys are wearing a different head gear. Not sure if those will blend in with the Naval Infantry. Their weapons however would fit quite well in the WWII period. Again, I have my reservations about the poses of the guys who are running. I would like them better if their upper bodies were leaning more a bit forward.

Hing Fat (ESCI Clones) Japanese Infantry - Part I
These guys came with the 'Big Bucket of Fun' from Hing Fat. It took a bit of research to figure out that they were clones of the original ESCI figures. They are about 50mm tall.

Hing Fat (ESCI Clones) Japanese Infantry - Part II
Some of these poses are not my favorites, like the guy standing in the middle. He would really look out of place in a battlefield. ESCI produced 15 figures, at least that's what I counted on their 1/72 set, but Hing Fat only cloned 9 of them.

Click here to see more German Infantry
Click here to see more Soviet Infantry
Click here to see more Japanese Infantry
Click here to see more US Paratroops

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dulcop - Toy Soldiers

Dulcop is an Italian firm that manufactured toy soldiers during the 60's up to the early 90's when they transitioned into other types of plastic manufacturing. Their corporate site actually says that they were founded in 1938, but I guess they didn't do toy soldiers initially. Unfortunately for us, their WWII range is very limited. I am only aware of two sets. The rest of their sets are knights, cowboys and indians, napoleonics, and so on. That is too bad, because their sculpting, poses, and level of detail was fairly decent.

Dulcop US Infantry - Part I
I found these guys by chance at a soldier show a couple of years back. A solid, well done set of figures. The base it a bit unusual. It has a lip all around the upper edge of the base, and if you look at them from a certain angle, their bases seem to be floating above the ground.

Dulcop US Infantry - Part II
The Dulcop poses remind me of the Airfix set. They don't have prone guys, but the rest are kind of similar. The color reminds me of the Army Men from Toy Story.

Dulcop German Infantry - Part I
These guys were hard to come by. In fact I only managed to get 7 out of the 8 poses. The guy who is firing from the kneeling position is missing. A few of the poses resemble Airfix a little bit. Perhaps what I like the most is the variety of weapons.

Dulcop German Infantry - Part II
There are a couple of funny details though. Not how some men seem to be sculpted in a different scale. Also, the helmet on the guy on the left. Was that meant to be a paratrooper helmet or did they just did not sculpt the edge well enough? Anyhow, a nice set to round up your collection.

Dulcop German Infantry - Part III
This is the last man in the set. He came in a different plastic. Not just the color, but it is also harder and feels a bit easier to break. If not for the color, he seems to have been cast from an original mold. As you can see, he is a typical pose in most infantry sets. His carbine seems to be a bit small, but other than that he is a solid guy. 

Dulcop WWI Italian Troops
Dulcop really gave us a sampler of troops here. We are looking at two Bersaglieri (second and the sixth from the left), two Arditii, a specialty of italian Army which assaulted the trenches with hand grenades and long knives (first and fifth) and two Alpini (the two in the middle). While these guys are technically WWI troops, considering that Italy did not modernize their military that much during the interwar period, I think that their uniforms and weaponry could pass as WWII equipment. A nice, dynamic set by Dulcop, even if some of the poses seem a bit off balance. The officer's heard is also a bit too small. However the head gear and the facial hair in some of the figures are quite unique. A good addition to the collection.

Click here to see more US Infantry
Click here to see more German Infantry
Click here to see Germans and GIs in action

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

DSG - Toy Soldiers

DSG is a firm from Argentina which somehow ended up with a few of the molds from the original Britians Deetail figures and have renewed production of the figures. Unlike the original Britians Deetail figures, the DSG figures come mounted on a plastic base. This makes the figures feel less 'solid'. Also, the color schemes are different, although I think they are actually better than the original ones. DSG has also come up with a creative way of increasing its sales, by releasing the same sets with different paint schemes, with some sets -like the Afrika Korps- being released in up to 10 variations. In terms of cost, they sell for close to 3 dollars a piece. Still cheaper than the original Britains Deetail, but providing them a very healthy profit margin. Note that there is also another firm called First Gear that produces new casts of Britains Deetail figures. DSG makes the British 8th Army and Afrika Korps, and First Gear makes the other WWII sets.

DSG British 8th Army
For some reason this set has rectangular bases. These are even lighter than the green plastic ones, which makes the figures feel even less sturdy. But they turned out to be a good alternative to the original Deetail guys which cost two or three times as much per figure.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Britains Deetail - Toy Soldiers

The Deetail variety of Britains figures was launched in the mid 70's and went on strong through the 80's. It included a nice range of WWII releases. Most of them come in sets of figures in 6 poses. Their key feature is that they are mounted on a metal base which makes them feel more solid and sturdier than a traditional plastic soldier. Because of how they are attached to the base, sometimes they lean sideways, but they can be straightened with a little warm water. They are well sculpted and true to their name, they are nicely detailed. They come factory-painted and it is in the paint work that I have my main criticism against them. The colors are not very accurate. Sometimes they are quite off. Besides the soldiers, the Deetail range also includes some heavy weapons and vehicles as you shall see below. Today the deetail figures are among the pricier ones to collect, although you can find recasts of the original Deetail figures manufactured and sold by a couple compamies. One of them is First Gear which produces Super Deetail figures for US, German, Japanese and British Infantry and another company in Argentina called DSG which produces Afrika Korps and British 8th Army sets.

Britains Deetail Afrika Korps - Part I
This is one of the priciest WWII sets from Deetail. Not sure why. Maybe they just made fewer of them. The poses are certainly nice, but they are of about the same quality as the other sets. One good, special touch is that the field glasses of the officer are actually not attached to his face like most other figures of its kind.

Britains Deetail Afrika Korps - Part II
The rest of the set. To my taste the guy in the left and the one on the right are too similar. I would have preferred to see a different pose entirely. As mentioned, these figures are also produced nowadays by the firm DSG from Argentina. They somehow got the original molds and sell them in a wide variety of painted schemes representing other branches of the German military.

Britains Deetail Afrika Korps Motorcycle
Britains Deetail also produced a nice set of motorcycles. This one has some similarities with the Zündapp, but I believe it is actually a BMW. Notice how they gave the driver goggles, which would obviously come very handy in the desert. It is a nice complement to the infantry figures.

Britains Deetail Afrika Korps Motorcycle w/sidecar
This is essentially the same as the stand-alone motrocycle, with an attached sidecar. Notice how the caps on the two men are painted in different colors. That was not the case in all of these sets. I've seen it before with both men wearing the field grey cap, so I think these two guys are a bit of an oddity. Other than that, this model is not much different from the one made for the regular German Infantry.

Britains Deetail Afrika Korps Kubelwagen
This is also essentially the same Kubelwagen as the one made for the regular German Infantry figures, but in a desert sand color scheme and with the two men in Afrika Korps gear. Note that instead of a Wehrmacht sticker on the door, it actually has the AK symbol painted on to it. The man on the back is also just holding the MG, instead of aiming. A bit of a hard to find item, particualrly for a reasonable price.

Britains Deetail British Infantry
A nice set all around. All small arms are represented. It's nice how they all have bits of cammo attached to their helmets.

Britains Deetail British Mortar Set
A really nice heavy mortar team. The mortar can actually fire shells enabled by a spring mechanism inside the tube. There is a small lever in the back of the mortar which can be pulled and released to eject the shells. A pretty fun set.

Britains Deetail British Assault Boat
An officer and a Bren gunner on a raft. A tricky set to find a realistic setting for, but like the saying goes, 'that's a good problem to have' when it comes to the coolness factor of this set.

Britains Deetail L6 'Wombat' 120mm recoilles Antitank gun
The Wombat is actually a weapon developed in the1950's. I suppose this is why it looks so much like a WWII artillery piece. At any rate, since I don't have other British anti tank guns, I have decided to accept it in my WWII collection. 

Britians Deetail British Land Rover
This is a nice little set. The Rover comes with a driver and a Bren gunner in the back. I would have rather had the vehicle in a tan color scheme to use it for some long range patrols in the desert, but hey, we can still send this guy to scout the French countryside.

Britians Deetail British Land Rover - other side
From this angle you can see the Bren gunner better. Notice how his knee is resting on a little ledge behind the cabin so that he can lean forward and rest the gun on the top of the vehicle while he fires away. It's those touches of realism that make the set special.

Britains Deetail Daimler Scout Car - Part I
This is another version of the Dingo. In this case, it comes equipped with a Bren gun instead of the .55 Anti Tank Rifle. In terms of its shape, I think this one might be closer to the actual model than the one from Airfix. For instance, notice the angles on the fenders. The detail on this one though is a bit shallow. In addition to dark green I have also seen it in tan, ready for the desert campaigns. As you can see, it has a two man crew. The officer in my case seems to have lost his hand. As is the case with the other Deetail vehicles, it is not a very common find and it certainly makes a good collectible from that standpoint. 

Britains Deetail Daimler Scout Car - Part II
The view from the back. Gives you a better idea of the many angles and sloping armor plates, presumably to help it deflect direct shots. The Dingo's front armor was 30mm, which was fairly decent for when it was introduced. For comparison, the German Panzer III only had 15mm of armor on its initial models, so considering that the Dingo was 'just' a scout car, it was well equipped for its task, and it did not come at the expense of speed, which is very important for a recon vehicle.

Britains Deetail British 8th Army Vickers Machine Gun Team
This is a very nice set. Hard to find and a bit on the expensive side. The MG actually works. It comes with about 9 little ammo balls which you can fire using its spring mechanism, visible on the side of the gun. It rounds up the collection nicely. To see the other British 8th Army figures look at the upcoming post with the DSG sets.
Britains Deetail German Infantry - Part I
 These are the figures with more than 6 poses that I am aware of. It is likely that it was released as multiple sets. I am not sure why they gave them blue uniforms though, but I still like them. These are the 6 poses that are being produced by First Gear today.

Britains Deetail German Infantry - Part II
Here are the other poses. Note that some of these guys were manufactured in two parts, with arms that can move up and down, but can also come apart. That can sometimes be a problem and some of the guys that you can buy second-hand are sometimes missing arms. Note that a few of these guys still retain some of the stickers on the side of their helmets. A couple of rare poses are the guy with the flamethrower and the guy marching.

Britains Deetail German Infantry - A few modifications
Now, here is a more common pose. Unfortunately most of the guys I have in this pose are missing their weapon, which in the original seems to be an anti-tank rifle. So I have given these guys a variety of weapons/accessories and tried to make something good out of the situation.

Britains Deetail German Infantry - Mortar Set
Here is another nice set. The mortar can actually 'fire' mortar shells, just like its British counterpart. Unfortunately I do not have any of the shells that came with it, but you can improvise your own kind of shells and have some fun lobbing some shells at the opposing army.

Britains Deetail German BMW w/sidecar
There are several German motorcycles from Britains Deetail. This is one of them. It is supposed to be a BMW. The driver normally has a rifle across his back, but this one came without it. The other model is a standalone bike.

Britains Deetail German BMW - Part I
Here is the motorcycle by itself. It took me a while to find one that was in good shape and fairly priced, but it was worth the wait. The only funny thing is that the factory paint gave the rider a silver nose!

Britains Deetail German BMW - Part II
Here is another view. You can see the rifle on the back and how it is attached. Most models nowadays are missing it as it comes off relatively easily.

 Britains Deetail German Motorcycle - Early model
I recently ran across this version of the Deetail German BMW bike. According to the seller, this was an earlier and apparently less common version than the dark grey model. There are a few other differences in the design of the bike, like the muffler for instance and the fact that the engine is a different color. The rider seems to be the same.

Britains Deetail German Kettenkrad
This one was an elusive one to get. They are usually priced beyond what I want to pay for something this size, or they have some damage. In this case I got lucky and was able to pick up the Kettenkrad with a towed PAK 40 for a bit less than what a good Kettenkrad usually sells for. 

Britains Deetail German PAK40 towed by Kettenkrad
The Kettenkrad comes with a hook where you can attach the PAK40. I've actually seen real pictures of Kettenkrads being used for this purpose.

Britains Deetail German PAK40 deployed with CTS crew
Unfortunately I do not have the crew to go with it, so I had to enlist some of the new CTS guys to man the gun. One nice feature of this PAK is that it can actually fire. It has a small lever that you can pull to compress a spring and when released it could fire a round. I don't have the ammo that came with it either, but it should not be hard to improvise some rounds. 

Britains Deetail German Kubelwagen - Part I
This is another nice model by Britains. It's not so easy to come by so it took me a while to find one. As you can see, the vehicle comes with a driver and a machine gunner. The only thing that I don't quite like is that they chose to paint the fenders and the tire rims green.

Britains Deetail German Kubelwagen - Part II
From this angle you can see the mounted machine gun a bit better. Also note the corrugated detail on the body of the car. Gives it a nice, realistic look. Also, depending on the condition of the vehicle, they might still have the wehrmacht stickers on the doors.

Britains Deetail Japanese Infantry
The uniform colors are too light and green compared to the real ones, but the poses reflect a good degree of action and I like the bits of cammo on their helmets.

Britians Deetail Japanese Infantry - Recoilles Rifle
Aside from the infantrymen, Britains produced extra sets with heavy weapons. They were part of their special Combat Weapons series. Not sure if the Japanese Army actually had this weapon in the field, but nonetheless it makes a good addition to the army and provides some welcome firepower if you are wargaming with these figures.

 Britains Deetail US Infantry - Part I
The two men on the sides belong to the first series of GIs released by Britains. Aside from infantrymen, Britains also released a recoilless rifle. I've also seen it referred to as a 75mm gun. It is a nice addition to the collection, which can provide some indirect fire support at critical times.

Britains Deetail US Infantry - Part II
These are the rest of the poses in the Series 1 set. Note that the right arm is made separately and attached to the figure. As a result of this, the arms often move up and down and can sometimes come off. The later series 2 figures were cast as one whole piece. Also, these guys have a tan base. The later figures came with green bases. 

Britains Deetail US Willys Jeep
A bit beaten up through the years, but still remains a good set. Note how the man in the back is leaning back to shoot at the Stuka dive bomber coming at them!

Britians Deetail US Dispatch Rider
This guy is probably more of a messenger than a scout, but hey, you could still send him ahead if you needed to take a quick look up the road. Like the other Deetail motorcycles, it is a nice, well made vehicle. Will need to look into the make of the actual bike that it represents.

Britains Deetail US Motor Boat
Here is a simple two man team with a boat ready to attempt an amphibious crossing. The boat does not look like much, but having an engine it provides a big advantage over having to row while dodging bullets. On the downside, with that engine it would not be of much use for a surprise/stealth crossing. Coming to think of it, I think the figures are quite a bit nicer than the actual boat.

Britains Deetail 105 mm Pack Howitzer - Part I
From what I have researched, this looks like the Post-WWII Oto Melara 105 mm Pack Howitzer. Developed in the mid 1950's for the Italian Alpine troops. It could be disassembled into 12 separate components which could then be put on mules capable of dealing with the mountainous terrain. This version of the Deetail Howitzer comes with a movable trail which can be pulled apart when deployed.

Britains Deetail 105 mm Pack Howitzer - Part II
Here is another version of the 105 Pack Howitzer. This one comes with a collapsed, non-movable trail. It also has a spring-based firing mechanism. This howitzer could also be transported by having a small vehicle tow it. The Oto Melara became quite popular, being used by over 30 countries, with 20+  nations still using it today.

Britains Super Deetail British Paratroops - Set 1
These guys are actually modern Paratroops, but I like the poses quite a bit and the antitank weapon could come in handy so I've decided to recruit them into the WWII unit. The original Super Deetail figures were made of multi-color plastic fused together. There are an additional 4 poses which were made but not manufactured in large scale and are really hard to come by these days.

Britains Super Deetail British Paratroops - Set 2 - Part I
This is one of the other four super rare poses that collectors refer to as the 'Holy Grail' set. Unfortunately, I was only able to get my hands on one of them, even though all four of them were up for auction. But as expected, they were highly sought after. In terms of the figure, I really liked the pose and sculpting of the figure. The manufacturing left a bit of a defect on the neck. My understadning is that the Super deetail figures were made by casting the parts separately and then putting them together with heat, which might explain the neck. Anyhow, it is still a great piece and I am glad I have at least one of them. Maybe I get lucky again and manage to find the rest of his unit at some point. 

Britains Super Deetail British Paratroops - Set 2 - Part II
Another angle, in which you can appreciate his movement a bit better.

Britains Super Deetail British SAS (Special Air Service) troops
These are the same four poses as before, with grey berets and bases and a browner shade of uniform. They were also released with green berets representing commandos. Those have a uniform in a similar color scheme as the paras.

Britians Deetail British manned torpedo- Part I
This is an interesting find. Not sure if it is post WWII or not. The Italian military developed and used manned torpedoes similar to this one during WWII. There were usually employed on Special Operations missions against enemy port facilities. 

Britians Deetail British manned torpedo - Part II
Here is a view from the other side. Going on these missions was very dangerous. Getting into an enemy port and close to enemy ships undetected was difficult enough. Getting our and making it back to friendly territory was even more challenging.