The Chief - Reviewing Battlefront’s Chieftain Mk. 5/10 kit for Team Yankee
Chieftains advancing through a West German hamlet - two Chieftain Mk.10s with Stillbrew armour lead a Mk.5
The Leopard 2, M60, M1 Abrams all claim to be more iconic of NATO tank forces in the Cold War - yet it is the legendary British Chieftain that takes the crown arguably the first Main Battle Tank of the Cold War.
Yes the tank was first introduced into service in 1966 - nearly two decades by the start of the Team Yankee period. At it’s introduction it was a true beast of a vehicle, with more armour than any other contemporary tank at that time, and with the biggest gun ever fitted on a tank then. That by 1985 its 120mm rifled cannon is still so deadly in the battlefield is a testimony to its design, and the constant upgrades the British boffins could slap on it.
Before the release of Iron Maiden, I have to admit I was wondering which of the 11 production marks of the Chieftain we would get - in particular I was hoping for the Stillbrew armour package fitted to the Mk.10 and Mk.11. This armour packaged theoretically boosted the Chieftain’s resilience to the new 125mm Soviet shells and HEAT ammo.
Mk.10 with Stillbrew on the right, Mk.5 without on the left.
Turns out Battlefront really outdid themselves - we have the ability to build both the Mk.10 with Stillbrew - known in Team Yankee terms as ‘Chieftain Stillbrew’ and the venerable ‘pinched nose’ Mk.5 without - just ‘Chieftain’.
The kit went together really easily - the fit being way better than the T-72 kit. Chassis detail is much better than the shallow areas just above of the T-72’s track.
I do have one complaint - that would be about the smoke dispensers. Due to the moulding process the launchers aren’t sculpted well, with unrealistic vertical supports and very faintly recessed barrels. I would have been willing to go with two additional pieces just to get it to look right - but it is what it is.
I have to admit that I always favoured the chunkier Stillbrew ‘look’ - it just looks more modern, but Battlefront’s rendition of the ‘pinched nose’ Mk.5 is one great looking tank, particularly when painted up.
All in all, great kit - with a few niggles.
I did like the light-greenish rendition on Battlefront’s box art - but with the paints not out - I decided to try mixing my own. I did a base coat of Vallejo’s German Camo Dark Green, then modulated with layers 50/50 Cayman Green and Panzer Olive with increasing white.
This was followed by masking each with blue-tac, before spraying Black grey.
The finished model was tidied up with a drybursh of 50/50 Camo Bright Green and Iraqi Sand. It’s not one-for-one with BF but I think the shade is alright.
I also made an effort to paint in the barrels of the smoke dispensers. In my honest opinion this goes a long way to the look and feel of the tank.
How does it play?
I got into miniature wargaming like Flames of War and Team Yankee because of the Tanks. I know a lot of guys go in for the visceral infantry assaults, but I’m always a tank guy at heart - in part due to my military background.
So the first Main Battle Tank of my usual wargaming faction would naturally be of great interest to me.
First impressions - those used to the sheer mobility of Abrams and Leopard anchored forces are going to be in for a rude shock. Yes the Chief packs a whooping AT22 gun that even has Brutal (first for a NATO tank) - but the gun’s ROF drops to 1 when its on the move.
Combined with speed stats that are the worst of any of the MBTs out now - and the sheer lack of any specials the other tanks are used too like Chobham, Advanced Stabilisers or Thermal Imaging, the Chief probably has more in common with the Churchills of Flames of War than the Abrams or Leopard.
On the plus side - it comes in at just 6 points a tank or 7 with the Stillbrew package. A relative bargain compared to the AT22 Leopard 2. I would have though the Stillbrew package would have given it an FA19 (given its theoretical abilities plus the hints that were dropped long ago about the British tanks being a counter to the BMP2 spam), but I guess the powers that be decided on FA18 for game balance reasons. Maybe they’re saving FA19 for the M1A1 Abrams! (Just won’t be a Battlefront game without a touch of US bias? hah!)
Honestly - as much as I like the model - my thoughts are that you won’t want to use this ponderous beast to lead your charges. The low moving ROF, weak side armour, slow speed and low platoon count are four factors which I think will wreck any player trying to use the tank in the same way as the Abrams or Leopards.
I think tank is best in its element when advancing alongside accompanying infantry - it provides a solid base of fire to launch an alpha strike of AT22/Brutal shells that can make tank or infantry sweat. The infantry will also provide some measure of flank screening so that marauding enemy tanks can’t get on your weak flanks.
In the attack - use of Scimitar/Scorpion recce is a must. With the ample recce the British get through these two light tanks, it is imperative that any Chieftain commander use them to get his tanks into the optimal firing position for shots.
Lastly - with the best skill of any NATO tanker - the Chieftain begs to be used with Blitz moves. For those that you can’t afford to fail - join your IC for a 2+ Blitz move.
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