I was halfway through painting my BRDM when it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen anyone write a review of them for Breakthrough Assault. It was too late to get my normal kit view and assembly photos but, on the other hand, you actually get some painted models to look at for once!
The BRDM began life as an off shoot of the BTR-40 wheeled APC, morphing from an amphibious version of that into a dedicated scout car. It had a distinctive boat shaped body allowing it to cross water features without bridges and minimal preparation, useful attributes in a scout. What was less useful was its open top and limited armament.
The BRDM was followed up by the BRDM-2. This enclosed the hull, repositioned the, now larger, engine to the rear and added a turret containing a 14.7mm Heavy MG and a coaxial 7.62 PKT MG. The overall shape became more box-like but the boat shaped “bow” was retained, as was the amphibious performance. All in all, the BRDM-2 improved on the original model in every way, except crew access. All the crew, including the turret gunner, had to access the vehicle by the two driver and commander hatches – a limiting factor when your mount is brewing up! Still, at least it kept the rain out…
Oh yeah, it had drop down central wheels too because the only thing better than a 4×4 is a 4×4 that can be an 8×8…
The BRDM-2 was then used as the basis for numerous variants. Of particular interest was an ATGW platform equipped with a rooftop mounted launcher assembly for 5 Spanderal ATGW (improving on an original version that used the more limited Sagger missile), and a SAM variant that replaced the turret with a gunner position and elevating launcher for 4 Strela-1 (SA-9 Gskin) missiles.
“See Ivan, when having five ready missiles – can shoot five times before having to get out.”
The BRDM-2 saw widespread use through-out the Warsaw Pact and countries within the Soviet sphere of influence.
Amongst others of a more fleeting and less formal nature…
Firstly, each kit comes with cards for the Soviet versions (preempting the upcoming Red Thunder army book) and, attached on the outside almost as an afterthought, bizarrely, the East German version. The only real difference, bar a typo on the BRDM MG, is the East German ones have a higher skill but lower remount and counter-attack.
In a sensible move (so much so that I’m surprised its not a multi-variant plastic kit), Battlefront have used a common BRDM hull and wheels as the basis for the Recce and ATGW (and presumably the SAM) version. Annoyingly, the wheels are a separate metal part, like the West german Luchs, rather than being part of the hull as on the Hail rocket launcher. This inevitabley requires some filing then the annoyance of gluing 4 wheels on at the same height so the mdoel sits correctly. I’m curious why the intergrated resin wheels got dropped by BF – it was a welcome feature.
The Recce version drops a resin turret with metal MG into the hull’s turret ring while the ATGW places a metal top plate on the top that the launcher mounts too, complimented by a cupola mounted sight that sits on top of the resin commander cupola.
This “common hull” construction has no detriment on the recce version of the BRDM but it does hurt the ATGW version a little. The top plate, for some reason, lacks the hull vent that should be present; and cant fully encompass the existing resin hull vent so has a cut out that looks ugly but can be easily filled. The hull plate also doesn’t sit flush with the hull sides so looks like a separate part rather than being a natural continuation of the existing hull as it does in real life. This can be filled but is more work and I decided not to bother. The commander hatch on the ATGW also appears to sit further back than the model version, due to using the resin hatch to locate on, but its a very minor thing and I can’t fault BF for how they have done it here.
The work of minutes with greenstuff
Other than that, the parts were clean, well moulded and gave a suitably accurate visual impression of a BRDM with the later style “mushroom” engine intakes – albeit the resin hull lacked the drop down wheels, presumably due to how the models get moulded and the fact that you wouldn’t really see them anyway! Other than the frustration with getting forty wheels glued on (I had 4 Recce and 6 ATGW to assemble), and some minor warping of the ATGW top plate, the kits went together nicely. So far the missile launcher and wheels have held up well to being in a figure case too.
The BRDM and Spandrel were the first units I painted for me East Germans so be kind!
The missile launcher is slightly bulkier than in reality but on the other hand its survived four weeks of relatively intense gaming and home-Saloon transport
The rear features driving lights and the large cover for the amphibious drive. It also has two extra circular protrusions just above the wheels that don’t seem to correlate to anything on actual examples.
The side shows off the array of vision slots that dot the hull – a useful feature in a scout vehicle and carried over onto its variants.
In reality the commander cupola should be slightly back from the driver cupola. But at this scale its a minor flaw that can be justified by the need to re-use a resin hull. It wouldn’t take much work to sand the existing hatch down and glue the Spandrel cupola further back.
In the Game
The recce BRDM-2 is really there for one thing; Spearhead. Yes, it’s very situational, but when you can do it in a mission its generally worthwhile as you need to close up of NATO and get in under their ATGW as quickly as possible. At 1 pt for a pair, it gives the Warsaw pact forces their Luchs equivalent (albeit with neither ‘Scout’, nor a 20mm cannon, nor the skill of the West Germans for exactly the same points! Got to love the 100 base pointing system) – a unit that secures the ground then largely stays out of sight or goes for soft targets.
Ah, ‘counter-attack’ vs the forever scout-less US – all your board belong to us! The rare chained counter-attack with dice marking the expanded set-up bounds – apologies for the gray hoard
The real issue is that for 1 pt more you can have a pair of BMP-1 that have better mobility, armour and armament! Of course at that point you have to reign in an instinct to start looking for trouble with a weak unit and finding that extra point can be tricky. Thus the BRDM can serve a useful “bargain basement” role that doesn’t leave us feeling like we are wasting points if it spends the rest of the game hiding/off in reserves. Plus that 44″ road movement can make for a handy objective grab with some luck and thought!
Thank you well developed capitalist infrastructure
The ATGW Spandrel BRDM serves a useful role in the East German force of providing a long range ATGW punch to cover for the weaker T-55, export T-72M and BMP-1. This puts it in a similar bracket to NATO equivalents such as Swingfire and ITV but with one critical difference, it lacks the ability to stay gone to ground when firing that those two have. It does benefit from the better East German skill in being able to make better use of Blitz/Shoot and Scoot than its Ruskie equivalent.
Of course, some walls work better for that than others…
On the plus side, if the enemy shoots at them then its not shooting at a T-72 or T-55 that closing on their flanks and its cheap – 3 of them is a mere 2pts, a third of the cost of a similar number of Jaguar 1 or Swingfire. An East German BMP Battalion can have up to 6 of the Spandrel BRDM, plus a whole company of BMP-2 (and with points left for a decent number of T-55AM) so SPAM-dral tactics ahoy!
All in all, both units have a place in my East German force (and presumably a Russian force come Red Thunder) and allow points to be conserved for big ticket purchases like more tanks/hinds/BMP-2.
The BRDM has a RRP of £23 for 4, pricing each BRDM at £5.75 a car. That compares very favourably with the likes of QRF and Skytrex who retail at £6.50 with wholly white metal models. Bizarrely this is reversed on the ATGW version, with BF charging £20 for 3, or £6.66 each – the competition are still £6.50 each. It should be noted that most stores will discount Battlefront models by at least 10% so that helps the case for the Battlefront models, plus you have the unit cards to consider in the price too.
All in all, the BRDM family is a useful addition to Team Yankee at a price comparable to the competition. My BRDM and Spandrel have done excellent work for my East German force so far!