by: Andy Renshaw [ ]
Master Box has recently released this kit of a German watchtower, complete with the choice of two different sets of figures (summer or winter garb), and various hardware such as a searchlight and field telephone box. An interesting subject, and perfect for a little diorama scene, I awaited receiving the sample in anticipation.
First, the box is printed in full color, with artwork on the front and the instructions printed on the back. This is the only instructions you get, but are adequate. The box however is a bit thin and flimsy, and this size box would have been better done with some thicker cardboard or a lid/bottom style instead of the side flap type. So don’t pile on other kits from your stash on top of this box, it won’t survive.
•2 plastic sprues
•1 pre-cut clear plastic disk
Opening the box you get two sprues of parts, one for the watchtower and one for the set of four figures, plus one small piece of pre-cut clear plastic for the searchlight lens. All of this is wrapped in a sealable plastic bag.
You get two sets of figures, one in summer garb and the other in winter greatcoats. This is an interesting thought by Master Box and allows for this set to be used in a variety of seasons. The clothing itself reflects more of an early to mid war period. Starting with the winter set, both are in greatcoats with upturned collars (something we haven’t seen before in plastic), and look the part of standing guard duty in the cold. The collars and bottom parts of the greatcoats are separate, which allow for some good detail and realistic separation from the body of the figure.
The summer figures are in different, more “comfortable” poses, with one even leaning on the rail looking down observing activity below (a great pose for a diorama). These figures are in the standard German uniform with high boots. Detail has better relief than what I’ve seen on previous Master Box releases, and overall sculpting is quite good. Also, the lower section of the blouse is separate, again adding to the realistic look to the figures.
Overall, there are still the large mold lines to deal with, but the equipment all appears to fit well during a test fit. Along with the standard bread bag, gas mask canister, canteen, and ammo pouches, you also get a flashlight.
Faces and weapons are sculpted quite well and once cleaned up will look great under a coat of paint. On the figures, I would give a rating of 8 out of 10, as they are not up to current molding standards, but the poses and details are very attractive.
Now, on to the disappointment of the kit. The other sprue contains all the parts for the watchtower. A first glance over all of the parts revealed that NONE of the wood parts have any hint of wood grain! If this tower was built from finely finished, painted wood, that would be one thing, but I will take a wild guess and say that most watchtowers (especially those of this design) were probably made from untreated rough cut lumber. Now I’m sure somebody will chime in about “scale distance” and “you really wouldn’t see it anyway at this scale” and “the grain is always overdone by modelers”, etc etc…but to do a whole model of a wood watchtower, weathered and made to appear like unpainted rough cut lumber, the smoothness of plastic would stand out like a sore thumb. To add to this, there are still some good size ejector pin marks on the underside of some of the larger parts, so those would have to be filled. For those that wish, you could use a fine razor saw and scrape in wood grain, or even some rough sand paper, though that may be tedious due to all the surfaces that need to be covered. You could also try some of the techniques others use on aircraft models such as using water based colored pencils, or streaking oil paint across a painted surface to simulate the grain.
Leaving the wood issue, the rest of the equipment looks good enough. I’m puzzled why the searchlight housing was split in half into two different parts, as this will require some filling and sanding when they could have molded that as one round piece. Don’t forget to add some electrical cables and conduit for the search light, and also the cables for the field telephone. Speaking of the searchlight, the clear disk is completely clear, so those wanting a bit of extra detail may want to scribe some vertical lines before inserting the clear disk into the housing.
I was thinking of putting this together as soon as I received it; however it is now on hold while I decide what to do about the wood grain issue. There is a part of me that is thinking after cleaning up all the seams and ejector pin marks, then scribing or painting on wood grain, that time could be better spent using the kit parts to make scratch built items from basswood. Being real wood, a simple stain to age the wood would be all that was needed.
Aside from the tower itself, the figures are nice and both sets are very useful. The small details that Master Box included, such as the upturned collars, really help set the mood the figure is in. I give high marks for the figures, but low marks on the tower portion for them leaving out such an obvious detail like wood grain.