My Duchess Camilla’s Horse regiment already had armour for modern combats, but the infantry serve a dual-role as science fiction troops as well. There’s a large variety of science-fiction style tanks around, but I wanted something near-future like with tracks, so I selected Rebel Miniatures’ Merka tank, and got a troop of five.
Tanks in the near future will apparently be based on designs from now. The Merka is based very obviously on the Israeli Merkava. In the far future of course, that won’t be the case. Forty thousand years from now, armour will be based on designs from World War I.
By now I was expecting the products from Rebel Minis to be not entirely free of problems, and I was not disappointed. The resin cast hulls had very visible mould lines and the halves were not particularly well aligned. One of the castings had numerous air bubbles as well.
The “potato chip” effect from rapid prototyping for the master was clearly visible on the hulls. This, however, doesn’t detract from the lookl, but it does have an effect when applying washes, as any rough surfaces would be made more apparent. Because of this there’s a contrast in texture between the hull and the turret. This didn’t bother me, but it’s there.
The metal parts were slightly better. The barrels on all of the models were bent, though. This is no mean feat seeing as they are about half the thickness of 15mm figure. In addition, because the halves of the mould were not aligned perfectly, the barrels aren’t actually circular in cross section, so oblate shells will be required. Practically, though, this is unnoticeable from any realistic distance, but purists will be alarmed. The ends of the barrels also needed a bit of filing, which somehow suited the subject matter. . .
The turrets did have highly visible mould lines which required painstaking filing to remove, sometimes to the detriment of the details. More annoyingly, though, the posts for the turrets (which obviously are meant to fit into the hulls) are both too long and too wide by a significant margin. I had to drill a large hole, large enough that the bit doesn’t fit into a Dremel, through the hulls to fit the turrets in place. It’s not often you get to use macro-scale tools on a 15mm miniature. Then I pounded the turrets in with a hammer, by which I mean that I left them loose for painting.
Oddly, there’s another hole on the inside of the hull, which is not actually aligned with the hole on the top. Presumably this is for making a floating grav version of the tank. In any event, this secondary base/hole was utterly destroyed as I drilled through it.
The Merka comes with two tracks per vehicle to glue to the underside of the hull. On first glance they looked relatively good, but again on closer inspection, there were flaws. As usual, the mould halves did not align, putting a seam down the middle of the tracks. More inexplicably, the injection point for the metal is at the top back (or front) of the track, right in the centre. Over 90% of the tracks will be hidden when the model is completed, but the injection point is at the one spot where it can be seen very clearly from overhead, which is the primary view from a wargaming table. I have no idea what sort of thought process went into making this the injection point. Making the spot invisible would involve filing off and resculpting a couple of tracks, which was a non-starter for me. Luckily, flaws can be made to look like dirt . . .
There’s also another problem with the tracks. You get two identical sets of tracks per vehicle, with the road and bogey wheels modelled on both sides. However, the modelling on both sides is not really the same; on one side the bolts, etc are sticking up, as they should, and on the other, they’re recessed. I’m not sure if that’s an artifact from the sculpting process or not, or whether this was intentional. In any event, that means, practically, that there are two different sets of wheels. The side with the recessed bolts looks far worse, sort of blurry and unclear.
However, the actual tracks are cast so that they have a clear directional pattern. The end result? You have a choice in assembling your model. You can assemble it with the tracks going the right way, in which case your road and bogey wheels won’t match and look bad on one side. Or, you can have good looking sides, but a closer inspection of the tracks will make it look like you don’t really have a grasp of tank mechanics.
I chose the second option, because the road wheels will be more visible than the tracks. It still bothered me that I had to choose which wrong way to make the model. All of this could have been avoided had left and right track sections were cast separately.
Once the prep work was done, I could paint. I’ve already described the paint scheme and procedure with this article, should you care to reproduce it. I neglected the chipped paint bits, and weathered with airbrushed dirt colours and pastels.
The end result, though, is a very nice looking somewhat futuristic tank. Given the shortcomings from the casting, I’m not convinced that I will add another troop to my collection. However, if you’re willing to put in some extra work, the Merka makes a nice addition to a near-future force