Sunday, 16 February 2014

Modern Spearhead - Cold War Soviets in 1:285

A ZSU-23/4 - a lovely model this one

It's time for a change of historic period and this time it's quite a drastic one.  It's quite a move away from the Wars of the Roses!  I recently took the plunge and purchased 'Modern Spearhead'.  Having got the rules and read them through it was time to get the models.


 I decided to start off with a Soviet Armoured Regiment from the mid 1980's.  This had the added benefit of the Russians still using a plain green instead of camouflage (unless my sources are incorrect!).  So I thought that painting might be considerably easier with one basic colour.  I duly sent off a good sized order to Magister Militum and ordered the GHQ 1/285 vehicles.  I have to say how impressed I am with the amount of detail in such a small model. The sculptor must have eyes like a hawk!

BMP-2  side view

I was also impressed by how little flash there was on the model.  Just a little scraping with a sharp scalpel and I had prepared a BMP Motor Battalion in no time at all.

Just like a Soviet Red Square parade - Another BMP-2

I used a painting method shown in the handy GHQ catalogue which came with my order.  I used a base coat of the main colour without highlighting. I used a grey for the tracks.  A liberal coating of a thin black ink wash was applied all over.  When dry this was followed by the main colour applied again with a buff added to lighten the tone for the scale.  A dry brush of buff picked out the details and then I painted the details such as shovels, cables, worn metal work.  Some further weathering with mud etc followed that prior to varnishing.

The biggest difficulty was getting the main colour to look right for the scale (as with all models of course), in such a small scale I really didn't want the vehicles overly dark.  Under my painting lamp I wondered if I had gone too light, and then with the lamp off I wondered if I had gone light enough!  A tricky balance.

BTR-60  Regimental Engineer Platoon

I used 30mm by 30mm bases for these though I have since rebased some T-72s on longer 40mm x 30mm bases so the gun was not so exposed to bending/damage.

BRDM-2  Regimental HQ Defence Platoon

I used some of the grass patches which I had always thought looked too 'lawn-cut' for my 28mm figures. I'm very happy with how they look with 1/285 vehicles - so I can now use the box of grass patches again.

A scale shot

I find it is always easy to forget just how small 1/285 is.  I usually paint up 28mm figures so this is really quite a departure for me.  The one penny piece next to the vehicle illustrates just how much detail the sculptor achieved in such a small model.

Under the base markings

Each model will represent a platoon in Modern Spearhead. I have yet to finish labelling up unit details.  The main reason is that I was planning to cover the NORTHAG area of operations in Northern Germany and have the Soviets as 3rd Shock Army.  However, having placed an order of T-72s, I then discovered that 3rd Shock Army was probably completely equipped with a variant of the T-80.  This has thwarted my plans somewhat, so I need to find out if and what reserve divisions might have had T-72 (I knew I should have stuck to painting Romans!).

Soviet BMP-2 Motor Rifle Battalion

I'm really looking forward to getting to grips with Modern Spearhead and fielding very large formations on the table.  I find I learn new rules best with a few solo play-tests, so with a few units a side and I should get things moving.  I'll post my progress here as things develop.


  1. Amazing detail on those! Both the models and the basing - all the more impressive when a penny is next to them! Best, Dean

  2. Those are superb. Beautiful job!

  3. Hi,

    Your T-72's could be used for the Divisions based in Czechoslovakia, I've been painting some up for the 18th Motor Rifle Division which was based there.


    1. Thanks for the kind comments everyone.

      Richard, that's interesting about doing the T-72's for the Czechs. I'll consider that option as it sounds worth doing. Many thanks for that.
      Best wishes,

    2. Jason,

      It might be worth looking here and here for info on the Czechoslovakian front. There's also this series of blog posts on the Soviet forces in that area


  4. Very nice work, ive just gotten into 6mm Cold war myself.