So I decided to try out the future, aka the wonderful world of 3D printing. There is a ton of models in 1/285 scale on Shapeways, and the quality seems to vary quite a lot. From really rough, upscaled 1/700 models like KokodaTrail’s, to the very detailed models at Masters of Military. I decided to buy from Masters of Military, and decided to go for a Luna M rocket launcher, and turn it into a set-piece objective for my game board. Why the Luna M? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The 9K52 Luna M, NATO reporting name FROG-7, is a ubiquitous Soviet rocket artillery system from the mid 60’s. It’s more or less just a ZIL-152 truck with a big, unguided rocket strapped on top. Reloading is done with a crane on the launcher vehicle, from another ammunition carrying ZIL-152. The accuracy of the rocket was atrocious, its impact area being almost 3 kilometers long and 2 kilometers wide. To compensate for this, the Soviet Union deployed it with nuclear warheads.
The problem was that its range was still a pretty shitty 70 kilometers. So you had to drive all the way up to the frontline to lob a 3200 kiloton nuke in the general ball park of your intended target. Being nukes operating just behind the front meant Luna M batteries would have been very juicy interdiction targets for NATO. As such, it makes for a perfect objective on the cold war game board. Its easy to dream up scenarios where special forces or other forward elements would try to cross the frontline to neutralise Luna M batteries before they launch.
On a historical note, it bears mentioning that the Luna M was mostly used as a terror weapon against civilians. Since nuclear warheads were not an option in any conflict short of World War III, one of the few things that could be reliably hit with conventional high explosive warheads were cities. This caused a lot of grief for example in the Iran-Iraq war. Never forget that our dumb pastime is someone else’s actual, lived horror.
Overall I’m actually pleasantly surprised at the detail and quality of the model. Masters of Military (MoM) have really done a good job in their modelling software, and the print is great. I’d say it’s almost on par with GHQ quality. Perfect proportions and lots of details. The medium of 3D-printing also allows for detailing in places that are hard to do with pewter casting, like the delicate components around the launch ramp.
The model comes mounted on a sprue and you can build the launcher as road ready, or launch ready by attaching the ground stabilisers. The stabilisers are really tiny, and one of them came off the sprue on its own accord when I was cutting off another piece, so take care. It’s all printed in Shapeway’s Frosted Ultra Detail material, and it generally feels a bit more bittle than regular plastic models. You have to be really gentle when cutting the sprue and cleaning the parts. My goal here is to make a piece of scenery, but if this was for gameplay I think I’d base it solidly (I ordinarily don’t base vehicles).
Well, here’s the real problem. With shipping, this little sucker set me back 30 euros. The model itself goes for 20 euros, and then shipping was 10. 20 euros is almost twice of what an equivalent model at GHQ would cost. And maybe 4 or 5 times what a similar vehicle would cost at CinC. Compare for example with GHQ’s Scud B for 12 USD, or CinC’s SS-20 for 7 USD. Those missile systems are some of the most expensive models at the respective store as well when you put it in terms of dollars per vehicle in the package. Buying any larger quantities of detailed vehicles from the 3D-printer would cost a fortune. One of the main variables for price in the 3D-printer seems to be time, and more detail means more time in the printer.
The only shipping option is UPS as well, so you have to be available in person to sign for the package when it arrives. That’s a bit annoying if you have a day job (which you need to have anyway in order to afford insane garbage like this). I would have preferred some regular postal service.
To build an army out of 3D printed units today would be exorbitantly expensive. And in most cases the quality and detail would be much lower than the die cast stuff that’s already available. However, I’m convinced that as 3D printing becomes cheaper and better it will become very common for miniature games. Again, I was really impressed with the detail and quality of the Luna M model.
As it stands you should buy 3D-printed wargame miniatures if you identify with any of the below:
- You’re an insane one percenter hedge fund shithead with infinite money who suddenly started playing obscure wargames.
- You absolutely positively must have a specific piece of kit, like a particular nuclear cruise missile from the 50’s, or some obscure century series prototype in 1/285 scale.
- You’re an incredibly smart and handsome person who just wants a few striking set-pieces to use as objectives, while also sacrificing yourself to inform the public with your blog.
I hope you enjoyed this write-up, thank you for your time.