Review of Bolt Action’s British Airborne, WWII Allied Paratroopers

Greetings Wargamers and Hobbyists, welcome to north west Europe. It’s 1944…

Back in June, for Father’s Day, I was lucky enough to be bought a box of Warlord Games’ new plastic British Airborne models, which were one of a few things I was hoping for in order to put together some Polish Paratroopers, to join the British Paratrooper force I already have as part of my 1944 Operation Market Garden themed collection.

It’s only in the last few weeks I have got around to assembling them, and realising at the same time that I now have three different Paratrooper models by two different manufacturers (the new plastics from Warlord, their older existing metal British Airborne models, and several metal British Paratrooper models including characters from Black Tree Design, I felt like I had seen enough different models to bring you something of a review. I hope it will be interesting and of use.

History Lesson

For anyone who wasn’t aware, the reason I wanted some Polish Paratroopers was to represent the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, who along with the American 101st and 82nd and the British 1st Airborne Divisions, were tasked with capturing bridges during Operation Market Garden.

When I started out in Bolt Action around twelve months ago, there were no plastic British or Polish Paratroopers that I was aware of, so the force I purchased at the time was all metal. The models are all very nice, but as is the case with the majority of WWII metal miniatures I have seen, are one piece models, so the variety of poses is limited by the number of different models that Warlord stock.

The same can be said of the models from Black Tree Design (which I purchased during one of their regular sales – well worth looking out for), which again are nice casts, but limited in the number of poses available. The various character models from both companies are especially nice. I had heard that there might be plastics in the works, so decided that I would hold off on adding Polish Paratroopers to my force until they were released, which of course I made sure my wife and son heard all about…

The Plastics

The sprue pictured below one of five identical sprues that come in the box, which you can click on and link straight to the Warlord site.

Each sprue will build six troopers, and include options for squad leaders and platoon level characters, as well as a range of weapons. There are enough Sten submachine guns to equip the maximum number allowed in a squad, five, which is one for the unit NCO and four for other troopers. You can also build a Bren Gun team, and a Piat Team.

British Airborne

I feel as though the box is designed for you to build larger squads with the maximum number of Stens and a Bren, or smaller five-man units with either Stens or Rifles or a mix of both, as there are not enough Sten Guns to build six five man units with everyone carrying a Sten or as part of the LMG team, but this is fine with me as I tend to favour larger squads anyway.

It’s fantastic to have the Piat option in there as well, however I feel it would have been even better if they could have found a way to squeeze a light mortar on there somewhere, as this would have made the box even more of a Platoon building block than they have already made it.

Of course the defining feature of the box is the head options! The set includes a huge number of different heads, both moustached in the recognisable style and clean-shaven, plus helmeted heads with bits of camouflage attached to the netting, and heads with berets.


Of the beret wearing heads, there is the choice to have either British maroon berets with the badge of the Parachute Regiment proudly displayed on the front, or alternatively you can have the Polish beret option, which is distinct from the British beret in the way it is worn. This will be a boon to all fans of Polish forces in Bolt Action, as until now as far as I am aware players have had to file off the British emblem from the front of the beret to use as representative of the Poles. Now we have not only the differing badge, but also the differing style of wearing the beret that distinguished the soldiers of the two nations.

There are also various pouches, ammo and grenades etc that you would hope to find filling out any plastic sprue worth its salt, as well as hands and arms to give to officers etc, such at pointing fingers, binoculars and even the famous hunting horn.

If you ever wanted a plastic set that had ‘A Bridge Too Far’ stamped all over it, it’s this one.

My Build Choices

As I mentioned, I already have a medium sized force of British Paratroopers; four ten-man sections, sniper team, light and medium mortars, MMG team, a 6lb gun, flame thrower team and some officers to lead them. I also picked up a pair of Twin Vickers Machinegun toting Jeeps from 1st Corps, and a Sherman Firefly to represent the XXX Corps element as a way of including armour in the theme. I hadn’t bothered before now to pick up any additional weapon teams, as I was already maxed out on the organisation chart for a single platoon.

What the addition of the Poles allowed me to do was re-organise slightly to give me a second platoon, and if necessary, a third, but cutting down the number of men in a section. So I decided that with the plastics I wanted to build an additional Piat Team with British Berets (as the Para force is never going to have a lot of big guns, and sometimes the infantry will need to be able to look after themselves – XXX Corps may never arrive!).

I also built a Polish Piat Team. My plan was to form the British and Polish models in the army into independent platoons and not mix them. I also built a Lieutenant and adjutant. This took the models built to six out of the box of thirty. With twenty four models left, I decided to build three sections of eight men each. Every section would have an SMG armed NCO, a Bren team (one man with a rifle), a further four SMG armed troopers and the remaining trooper armed with a rifle.

This gave me three sections, plus the necessary command and a support weapon for anti armour work, which allowed the Poles to form their own platoon. In the future I may add some extra support to them in the form of a mortar team and an MMG team, however for now that’s enough, as they will be fighting alongside my Brits on most occasions.

Assembly

I am afraid that these days I have become a stickler for scraping of plastic components, and I usually clip everything off the sprues before I start, until all the components I need to use are scraped and ready to glue. Thankfully I can say that Warlord’s sprues seem to be getting better. The first sets of sprues I had from them were German Grenadiers, and they weren’t too bad either, but these are better. When I was scraping over the tops of berets I was really just going through the motions. The arms also required very little tidying. Most of the scraping was on the legs, but even then if I wasn’t too bothered about it being perfect, I could have got away with not scraping at all. I’m am however conscious of these things and so scraped they were.

Putting the models together was simple enough, however it did take a bit of dry fitting to get armed into the right position to connect both with the shoulder joints and with the other arm or gun. In some cases it was more difficult than I would like, and there will be a couple of narrow gaps to fill at should joints before painting. Otherwise the models went together pretty well.

I should say I used superglue, despite this being a plastic kit. This is because superglue is quicker than poly cement, doesn’t smell as bad, and allows me to break models apart for painting later if necessary. Many people may say that it is better to use a cement, and that this not only gives more time to positon components, it makes a stronger bond as well, and this is entirely true, but the permanent bond that it makes is precisely the reason I am not using it. Plus, I have always been a gamer first and painter second, so I want to play with my minis and I want to play with them now damn it!

Comparison to Metal Minis

Righty ho, the age old ‘metal vs plastic’ debate. I am confident many of you will have seen and contributed to this debate before, so I will try to be brief.

Plastics are lighter than metals, and therefore easier to transport, and less prone to chipping the paint off when being handled, and are often easier to repair, perhaps using some of the pile of spare bits that plastic kits often come with. They are typically multi-posable, with almost endless build options where metal minis, especially historical minis just aren’t, and tend to be one piece miniatures. Also, generally plastics tend to be cheaper than metals, and much easier to convert to give even more variety of poses and options for conversions. Plastics have a lot going for them. They are however pipped by metals in two areas in my view, one a question of preference and the other one not.

Metal models have a quality in their very weight, that feeling that you have something of substance in your hand, which is something that plastics just don’t have. Some gamers feel this so keenly that they even glue bits of waste metal or washers to the bases of their plastic minis to give them more weight. This is of course a question of preference. Some gamers may only rarely or even never dealt with metals, so this issue wouldn’t even occur to them.

The second point, and one that affects this kit, is character. Simply, in my view, it is very difficult to replicate in a generic plastic kit that is great as an army builder, the kind of character that we see in a metal miniature. The metal Paratroopers I have are often bursting with character, especially the officer models, and though the plastic kit has many options for building officer models, the character just isn’t the same as with the metal minis I have. If my whole collection was made up of these plastics I wouldn’t have noticed or been bothered, but as I have several metal models, it’s there in front of me. Otherwise this is a really great kit.

It really could just be me, but I think that the metal models just look that little bit more alive than the plastics. It might be that the metals can be sculpted in slightly more natural poses, or that the faces on the metals are more or less unique to that model and don’t duplicate the way the plastics will. It may be the way that with the metal models there are no issues with joints and fitting pieces together, as they are all cast as single piece models. I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Conclusion

In closing, I am going to say that this is a great set, high quality product, with almost the perfect set of options. It is just what we needed to see as an army builder for what is a very popular theme in Bolt Action, and of course would do just as well for any other WWII game played at 28mm. You certainly can’t beat the price with any of the metals available, and best of all; I now have my Polish platoon!

As always, thanks for reading,
Eternal Wargamer

  • Nice job with the review.

    While I don’t play the game, the models do look good. Plus, getting kits in plastic is great. I personally HATE metal models.

    • Frank Ford

      I have to say I like metal models, but plastic tends to be easier and more convenient to work with, and certainly easier to repair!

  • Very nice review!, I hope you’ll do more of these, there’s a big lack of good reviews for BA imo so this is very helpful.

    • Frank Ford

      Thanks Nils! I am a big fan of Bolt Action, and have plans for a review of a box girder bridge from Sarissa Precision, plus building an army of Greeks, and I fancy doing a quick review of the awesome Airborne Twin Vickers Jeeps from 1st Corps!

      Was there anything in particular you wanted to see reviewed?

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