Review: Monty’s Desert Rats Box

Today Paul takes a look at the British starter set as he begins a new army.

A little while back, I reviewed the Patton’s Fighting First box set for US forces in MW. In summary, the box contained 10 vehicles and provided a good base to start a desert force. I had a lot of fun with that box and on the strength of that, picked up the British Equivalent – Monty’s Desert Rats at my local store.

Monty commanding from a Grant in Africa

I have been working on upgrading my British force for a while. I originally started it as a Motor Rifle Company way back in Version 2. After sitting in a box for several years, V4 seemed like a great time to work on bringing the army up to date and adding some new toys.


I have already painted up some of the excellent plastic Crusaders but needed more. I also needed two more 17/25 pounder guns. This Monty’s Desert Rats box seemed perfect. As a bonus, the box also comes with some Grants. This will be the start of another future project! Anyway enough about me, let’s look at the box.

The Contents

The box is typical of the new style Army boxes from Battlefront. It is a large format box packed with models. The cover photo shows the models included, namely:

  • 5 x M3 Grants,
  • 3 x Crusaders
  • 2 x 17/25 pounder guns.

The back of the box provides a full listing of the contents. There is also 2 decal sheets, a mini rule book and 8 unit cards.

The Crusader

Crusader Frame

First up the Crusader. I have put together a dozen of these so far and I am becoming an old hand at assembling them. The frame is pretty well thought out. It provides all the options to make a Crusader I with the distinctive deck turret (EW) and the Crusader II (MW) and Crusader III (MW). The frame contains a CS, 2 pounder and 6 pounder guns to make up any of the options. Finally there is some cool stowage (spare wheels, tarps and jerry cans) to individualise your models. This frame is a one stop Crusade, everything you could need is included.

I plan to assemble my three tanks as a Crusader II with a 2 pounder gun and two Crusader IIIs with 6 pounder guns. I will make the 2 pounder vehicle the commander. This is a legal unit for Desert Rats.

The 17/25pdr Gun

Frame for 25 pound or 17/25 pound gun

Next up the 17/25 pounders. Again, these are the new plastic models. Like the vehicles in the box, these come in the yellow plastic. There is a frame for each of the two guns. As a pleasant surprise, the frame also has the option for the classic 25 pounder. In fact there are two different 25 pound barrels; the earlier model for the desert and the later model with the muzzle brake. There is also a limber included and some spent and live shells that could be used in modelling up the complete guns. The crew are included on a separate grey frame. There are two frames each containing six crew. There are crew with 25pdr and 17/25pdr rounds – another nice touch.

The M3 Grant

Grant/Lee frame

Finally, the Grant frames. There are five in the box. On closer inspection, there is also a smaller, Lee turret included. Clearly Battlefront have made a single frame for both models and therefore saved on tooling and production costs. However this is a win for us gamers too. I have the option of using these five models as Grants, Lees or a combination of both.

Again, like the Crusader frame, this one is fully loaded. Aside from the different turret options, there are sand skirts that can be applied for the desert or left off for European themed armies. Next there are two different barrels for the belly gun. You can run a short or a long 75mm gun (the latter not used by the British in Africa). Finally there is also some stowage. There are the usual, useful jerry cans and tarps. Interestingly, the rolled tarp on this frame is different to the one on the Crusader frame. A small but nice touch that allows some mix and match to add variety.

The Rest

To round out the box, there is a full set of rules. This is the mini, soft covered A5 rule book. I now have two of these which is great. I can leave one in the study for easy reference and one in my gaming bag.

The two decal sheets are identical and have more than enough decals for ten vehicles. This will give you some spares for the eight in the box.

The unit cards provide all the options for all the models in the box. There is divided opinion on the cards. I personally quite like them, others don’t. However it is better to have them and not want them that to want them and not have them.

The Damage

I picked this box up for AU$110. This is $11 per vehicle and gun. In the new plastic box sets, the price runs at about $13 per tank. This is a nice saving. Add in a free rule book, and this is a great price. The box is US$80 on the FOW site. R.R.P appears to be 55 pounds in the UK.

In the Game

In terms of game use, the box provides a small, legal force. The five Grants can be an HQ of two plus a troop of three.

The three Crusaders tanks are the 2nd troop as the Grant Squadron can have a troop of Crusaders as its second compulsory troop.

Finally the 2 x 17/25 pounder guns are a small but effective anti-tank support platoon. In this configuration, the box set is 35 points. A good start to an army.

Summing Up

In summary, this is another nice offering from Battlefront. These box sets are a useful way to pick up a starting force and can also be useful in quickly expanding an additional force. In my case it has allowed me to round out my existing force but also take the army in a new direction by starting my Grant Squadron.

The box is nicely priced and an easy, one box purchase. Everything needed is here – models, cards, decals and rules. There is nothing here that isn’t useful.

Look out for some future articles as I paint up some of these new models.




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