Thursday 23 May 2019

Warlord Plastic Char B1 Bis - Build Review

I have been eyeing this kit up for some time. It's one of my favourite tanks, being all clunky and very much an interwar design, unlike the sleek later war behemoths.

There were some kits of this available at Carronade, but it's very much a 'nice to have' rather than an essential model. Like the Somua S35 from an earlier post, it's quite an effective beast in Chain of Command, with a decent 75mm gun for HE vs infantry and buildings, and the reasonably effective 47mm (in period), in a turret for AT work.

What this means that taking it as a support option is pricey, and you can get an awful lot of other toys instead.  So I looked at the kits but decided to spend the money on other things that would see a lot more game time.

I nearly resisted temptation altogether, but WarHQ offered me a great deal, (show discount, plus free postage) and it showed up yesterday, so, like a kid on Christmas Day, I had to get to it.

Two sprues of nicely moulded grey plastic

Handsome Beast!

First impressions:

Firstly, you can build at least 4 different models: French, German, German Flammpanzer in several configurations. For the purists there are enough parts to pretty much replicate almost any Char. The decal sheet looks good, with plenty of French symbols and names to personalise the model. I would urge folk to look online for paint schemes, as there are so many brilliant ones to choose from.

Build quality:

Overall, very good. I had three very minor issues and noticed a questionable design decision.  So the minor issues.

I had a tricky bit assembling the small connectors between the main hull beside the 75 and the front of the track sponson. One part, that slots in there and has the connecting shafts, had an upper panel that was slightly warped. Easily remedied by the application of poly cement and a bit of pressure. The connecting shafts needed a fair bit of pressure to ensure they lined up neatly.

The second issue was with the turret mantlet. The rear piece sits over a rotating cylinder to ensure the 37mm and coaxial machine gun can elevate and depress, check the fit on placing this in the turret before applying glue (I didn't and ended up cursing).

Final 'issue' - there appear to be two moulding marks on the legs of the rail running logitudinally to the body and sits to the rear of the turret. Perfectionists would fill these before assembly. I didn't notice till I was nearly done, and didn't have the patience.

Questionable design decision? The French turret cupola is moulded in two halves, so it pays to assemble this first, then smooth out the join, as it's hard to file or smooth when in situ, I also had to remove the small lug underneath at the front to get it to sit down flush on the turret.

Other comments:

This is one of Warlord's collaborations with Italeri, and the model itself contains a lot of fine detail, as you can see in the pictures. A lot of this can be left off, for example the lifting hooks on the turret, but there are some legitimate questions about how robust the rail and so on will be for wargamers. Thankfully the hull sides are nice and flat, and this is how it will be most commonly handled.

The track assembly is simply a matter of making sure that the track plates are all running in the same direction, and the locating lugs are really well done, giving you a positive location, and about the easiest multi-part plastic model track assembly I have done yet. So a big plus for that one.

The fine detail such as the chain on the rear hull and the various towing hooks are very nicely done, and all contribute to a very handsome model. There is zero flash, and the only apparent moulding lines (on the gun barrels and exhaust) were easily dealt with.

Finally - the build sequence is in a very nicely done instruction booklet, but within the steps there are some parts that should be assembled in a careful sequence.

For example, one stage incorporates the sponsons, hull bottom, 75mm gun sub assembly and the connecting shafts. I suggest a dry fit, then work out which you do first. I glued the right hand sponson to the hull bottom first, then the gun assembly, then the shaft connctor piece, (applying pressure to get it to conform), then the left sponson, and applied pressure to make the shafts line up. Then the hull top.

I recommend you dry fit at each stage and try to work out what makes logical sense in each assembly sequence.

So overall, despite a couple of niggles in construction, (which were at least partly my own impatience), I am very happy with the model, and I'm looking forward to getting some paint on this monster!

(Oh and yes, I intend to go back and sort out the turret base seam now that the glue has had time to set.)


  1. For the same support cost, the Char B1 bis gives you significantly more effect than the S35. The 75mm has much better HE (6 vs 3) and only slightly worse AT (4 vs 5, I think), and the 75 also isn't affected by the 1 man turret rule if you're not also firing the 47mm. So as far as expensive French armor support, a much better deal in my book.

    1. Thanks Chris, my impression, perhaps wrongly, was that as the 75 is in the hull you need to activate the driver to turn the tank to target it, so that can make it more vulnerable to a flank/rear shot.
      It's nice to have both now.

    2. I assume that the hull mounted 75 does have the same field of fire as a Stug III or similar turretless vehicle and hence needs to change the vehicle facing similarly. At worst, the turret is identical to the Somua's so you're never worse off. Also better armor and th eonly minus is the Char B isn't fast.