onsdag 27 maj 2015

Rubicon and Warlord Games 28mm Panzer IV, a comparative review

Warning, long post!

After getting back from Gothcon (still need to do a photo report I know) I decided to reinforce my Deutsche Afrika Korps with another box of Perry figures and a Panzer IV. Having received the Warlord Panzer IV from my Secret Santa I ordered the Rubicon Models' kit which is a more recent release. Rubicon models are 3D designing their kits as I think almost everyone are nowadays, but they share the design drawings on their forum, which gives a lot of people the chance to chip in their view and expertise. I have been frequenting it for a time and was really interested in trying of their kits. I will be comparing it to a Warlord Games Panzer IV which I realise I haven't done a proper review of yet, but you can find my first thoughts about it here.

The first sprue of Rubicon's Panzer IV. Note the tracks assemblies.
The Rubicon Panzer IV comes in a standard sized box with three sprues; one smaller than the others, along with a set of decals and a comprehensive assembly guide. The kit does not feature a crew or commander figure. The plastic seems a bit slicker and of a different kind than the ones used by Warlord games, Italeri and Renedra for example.

Turret, side skirts, side amour for the hull and the back of engine deck.
The parts are well moulded with very little flash or mould lines. Generally the details are good. Some of the parts had an uneven surface that resembled cast iron, which I thought looked good. However I'm not sure it's intentional since it's not present on all parts that should have it. The surfaces that lack the cast texture are very slick instead.

The decal sheet and the third, smaller sprue, with lots of small parts on it.
Rubicon has made a fast assembly wargames model, but included some fiddly parts like the tow hook handle, which can just be seen on the picture above. It's the small part in the lower right corner, do you see it?

Warlord Games hull on the left, Rubicon Models on the right.
Compared to the Warlord Games kit, the Rubicon Models have better and finer details, but irritatingly lack some details which the Warlord kit has -- or worse yet, have wrong details. For example, in the picture above the Rubicon kit has much better treadplate pattern on the hull fenders, but it extends on the first part of the mud guards which didn't have any pattern because they were not supposed to be stepped on. Also, the fine pattern vanishes around the tools molded on the surface. Note that the Warlord model has holes for the headlights which the Rubicon kit lacks, making placement of the lamps quite hard. Furthermore, the Rubicon kit lacks the Notek blackout light that all german vehicles had.

Rear engine deck. Note the texture on the Rubicon models kit.
Continuing onto the rear of the tank, the Rubicon kit again has better details. In the picture above you can also clearly see the "cast iron" texture on the rear deck (which is a separate piece), except for a small area which is bizarrely smooth and flat. The main upper hull piece doesn't have the cast texture at all.

The hull is in two pieces that fit together fairly well, but this stage is where you can screw up royally.
The kit goes together well with some minor snags. Rubicon has chosen a few unconventional ways to break down the assembly compared to other makers. The hull is split in two halves with the suspension molded on, instead of a "tub" that you glue the suspension pieces to. If you don't get the two halves to join properly the rest of the work will be in vain. It's not hard to get it right, but it's easy to make a serious error if you don't dry fit the parts before glueing.

Having the outer roadwheels attached to the tracks gives a much more realistic appearance.
The tracks are also one part along with the outer road wheels instead of split into an upper and lower half. The result is that the wheels look better on the Rubicon kit, but the track patterns look better on the Warlord kit. It is a bit unclear how to assemble the sprocket and drive wheels and if you are not careful the tracks can end up askew.

Turret comparison. Some minor differences but overall they are pretty similar. Note the texture on the Rubicon turret.
There were some bizarre choices made when Rubicon designed this kit. Or maybe they ran out of time and money and had to "print" the moulds, I don't know. But some items have exquisite details, like the spare track piece which is both broken through, meaning it's not solid, the gaps between the individual track pieces are actually moulded as gaps. At the same time the track assemblies are very featureless. Likewise, the turret hatch is supplied as two halves, allowing you to choose an open or closed hatch. However the inside of the hatches are very featureless, and as I mentioned before, there is no crew figure to put in the hatch.

Note the very detailed extra track (C14) and the very un-detailed turret hatches (C30 and C12).
Another curious feature is the large hole in the upper rear hull. Some sort of armoured box is meant to go there, which is fine. Although I have only seen it on pictures of Ausf. F vehicles (I will get to the various ausführungs later) it is very much an historical feature, nothing wrong with that. But why did Rubicon put such a large hole when the almost flat and featureless rear hull would have been perfectly ok gluing the box to, while they haven't made any holes to mark where the headlights should be glued?

Say, what's that big gaping hole doing there? Also note the small tow hook handle I mentioned earlier.

Oh, it's where the thingamajig goes. (Honestly, I have no idea what that box is for.)
As I have said previously I wanted to make an early Panzer IV for my DAK, so I chose the short 75mm gun, making the panzer IV an ausf F. I had already started to build the Warlord Panzer as a late war Ausf H as I thought the Rubicon would be more suited for early war. I was not wrong. (Both kits claim to be useable from ausf F to H by the way.)

The nearly finished Rubicon Panzer IV. Note the folding step on the left side of the hull.
Now, I said that the Rubicon Panzer was more suited for early war. It's not perfect for it though. Let go over the details a bit (and yes, this is nit-picking at it's finest). The early models of Panzer IV's featured a folding down step on the left side which the crew could use when climbing on board their vehicle. This was deleted from ausf G and onwards, probably to save time and money during construction and to make room for a road wheel rack. The Rubicon panzer has it, but not the Warlord.

The armoured box on the rear hull that I still don't know what it is. Also the cleaning rod for the gun.
On the right side the Rubicon panzer features a shovel, a placement that changed after the F version. That armoured box on the rear I have only ever seen on photos of the F too. On early Panzer IV's the gun cleaning rod had two lengths since the short gun was... err, short. On the late war tanks with the long gun the cleaning rod had four lengths. The Rubicon kit features a short cleaning rod and Warlord's kit features a long cleaning rod. (Told you I was going to nitpick.)

Note the shovel below the trough for the folding down antenna.
Further, the Rubicon panzer only has an antenna for the right side, which was moved to the rear of the hull on ausf H. Rubicon notes in the instructions that the antenna is optional, but does not say when it should be used and when it shouldn't. The Warlord panzer has both the early and late antennas, and the instructions clearly note on which versions they should be used.

The cover for the driver's armoured viewport was not properly moulded and hard to glue in place.
All this makes the Rubicon Panzer IV more suitable for building an F1 or F2. There are however some faults for the Rubicon even if you chose to build the F version. First, there is no Notek light (which should be on all versions).

Second, spare road wheels was carried on the rear hull sides up until the G version. So the nice rack moulded on the finely detailed treadplate has to be carved away. Yes, there are pictures of ausf F's and earlier models carrying roadwheels on that exact location, but they were not stowed in a factory built rack. So I glued mine to the side and moved the cleaning rod to the rear of the hull. (The Warlord model has extra road wheels for placing on the rear hull as well as some in the stowage rack, but they are not as nice as the Rubicon ones.)

Third, a length of bent steel rod was welded under the gun to avoid the antenna getting caught in the gun barrel when traversing the turret to the right. This is completely missing from the Rubicon kit and is the real grave error. It was present on all ausf F1 and even on a lot of ausf F2.

With the deflection rod from the Warlord kit. Also note that the gap between the turret side and bottom which has to be filled.
Speaking of guns, the only real difference is that the Ausf F was upgunned with the L/43 KWK 40 75mm gun, which had a longer barrel. (L/43 just means how long the barrel is, logically it's much longer than the L/24.) This gun was meant for the ausf G but was installed on F's during 1942. To differentiate between the otherwise identical versions, the upgunned F's were named F2 while the short-barrelled were re-designated as F1.

The H version got a slightly longer barrel, namely L/48 (making it 37,5 cm or 15 inches longer). Now the L/43 gun had a distinct single-baffle muzzle brake while the L/48 had a double-baffle muzzle brake making it easy to distinguish them. Both Rubicon and Warlord kits has both the L/43 and L/48 barrels in their kits, but Warlord has made them the same length, which also is a grave error. (In this scale the difference is almost a cm.)

Size comparison between the two kits. Note the beginning of Zimmerit on the Warlord kit.
When dealing with later versions the Warlord kit fares slightly better the later you get. The loader's front turret view port and the signal flaps on top of the hull hatches were deleted so need to be scraped off from both kits. For the late Ausf G a double-baffled muzzle brake for the L/43 gun was introduced, but neither of the kits include it. Some very late G's got the L/48 gun and turret "schurzen" -- spaced extra armour. Both kits include schurzen but the Warlord kit has much better detail on theirs, which surprised me.

The overly thick turret schurzen of the Rubicon kit.
The turret schurzen on the Rubicon kit has some very serious issues. First, it's much too thick. I know that scale thickness isn't really possible without resorting to photo-etched brass, but the Rubicon schurzen are twice as thick as the Warlord kits. Second, they are almost featureless on the outside, which means that the hatches the crew opened to be able to climb in and out of the turret are missing!

A piece of Rubicon schurzen lying on the Warlord sprue. Visible are the hatches on the turret schurzen and the air filters.

For the ausf H version, the double hatch in the commander's cupola was exchanged for a single hatch. Air filters were installed on the right side of the hull -- these were removed on the ausf J so they seem to be a temporary fix to an engine problem on the H -- and are included in the Warlord kit but not in Rubicon's. Schurzen were used on both hull and turret and the radio antenna was moved to the rear left of the hull, as mentioned, the Rubicon kit does not even hint about it being moved. Additional armour was bolted to the front of the hull -- which is missing from both kits. Some vehicles were covered in Zimmerit, also missing from both kits.

The Rubicon side schurzen and its mounting brackets.
For some reason Rubicon has made the schurzen removable. The instructions clearly say they shouldn't be glued on. Instead the turret skirts are held in place by gravity and the thick solid supports moulded on them, while the hull schurzen are supposed to be wedged onto the track guards.

Ta-daaa! I am now a late war tank.
Now I don't know why Rubicon thinks we would want to remove the schurzen. Sure, we paint the tank without them on, but then we glue them on. It's not like I'm going to make my ausf F do double duty by putting skirts on it for late war and removing them from early war, the paint schemes are totally different even if I disregard all the minor differences! Also, the mounting method makes the schurzen sit too close to the body.

The infamous air filters on the left.
To summarize the difference between the ausfurungs:

Ausf F1 (1941-42)RubiconWarlord
Shovel on right hullYesNo
Antenna on right hullYesYes
Folding step on left hullYesNo
Short cleaning rodYesNo
Road wheels on rear hullNoYes
Antenna deflecting rod under the gunNoYes
Pistol port on rear turretNoNo
Ausf F2 (1942-43)

Single-baffle L/43 gunYesYes, but wrong length.
Ausf G (very late 1942-1943)

Single-baffle L/43 gunYesYes, but wrong length
or double-baffle L/43 gunNoNo
Turret schurzen on late modelsYes, but ugly.Yes
Road wheel rack on left hullYesYes
Ausf H (1943-1944)

L/48 gunYesYes
Air filtersNoYes
Hull and turret schurzenYes but uglyYes
Single hatch cupolaNoNo
Bolt on front armourNoNo
Rear hull antennaNoYes
Other stuff

Commander figureNoYes (late war uniform)
Jerry cansNoYes (two)

Note the difference in details on the rear hull plate. Yet the auxillary engine muffler is very plain on the Rubicon tank.
So which is the best kit? Well, neither. Or both. Generally speaking the Rubicon kit has better moulded details, but there are some basic mistakes on it as well. The Warlord kit has a couple of jerry cans and a commander included, and there is nothing stopping you from mounting all the spare road wheels on a late G or H as extra protection. And if you want to build a late war tank the Rubicon kit is let down by the very poor schurzen.

Brothers in arms.
Both kits are good, easy wargames kits. Both have their faults. For early-mid war, go with Rubicon. For late war, go with Warlord games.

I give the Rubicon Models Panzer IV 3 out of 5
I give the Warlord Games Panzer IV 3 out of 5

Happy gaming!

13 kommentarer:

  1. A very useful review for the rivet counters out there and also a good source for us "it's a PzIV with a long gun, that is AP 7, ok!?" guys who just want to know if the kit is well designed and easy to build.

    1. Ok, let's boil it down to this:
      Do you want Schurzen? Then chose Warlord.
      Or if you want a pre-schurzen tank, then chose Rubicon.
      Neither is perfect, neither is complicated.

    2. And let's add "Do you want to support a newly started company that intend to make loads of stuff that you want to buy in the future?"
      There will be Rubicon stuff for sure.

    3. Well, "Do you want to support a newly started company that intend to make load of stuff that you want to buy in the future, but puts out pure shite right now?"

      This is not shite, it's ok, but I hear their Panzer III is horrendous. OTOH their Hanomag and Tiger kits are supposedly good.

    4. Well, I'm not going to buy any PzIII anyway. ;-)
      Let's hope they get their shit sorted before they get to M5s and halftracks and other stuff I want.

  2. Ah, well, I guess a Rubicon Pz IV will show up on my painting table as well. I've just done 2 of the Warlords as F1s, they do look good (and there is a shovel on the right hull, btw, at the back, under the spare road wheel)


    1. The Rubicon kit makes a good F2 -- i.e. Mark IV special as the Brits called it in the desert. I will be getting another and do it as an F2 for El Alamein.

    2. Just forgot, the Rubicon Panzer has DAK decals included. That's a bonus.

  3. Great review! It is a pity that neither version is perfect... if these were regular model kits, we would expect to see aftermarket addons to correct the various errors and super detail the models, but since these are "wargaming" models, I will not hold my breath.

  4. pretty accurate description of playing pieces


  5. Now that's some serious modelling and you know your stuff. This is a very well done review.

    1. Thanks Anne. I actually cheat a bit and looked it up in several books. I hate to guess which piece goes where. And when you learn how it "should" be it's hard to disregard that knowledge.

  6. thanks a lot for the review, very useful.


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