Review: Zvesda A13 Cruiser

Following on from his Zvesda M3 Lee review, this week Lee takes a look at Zvesdas A13 Cruiser MkIV.

The A13 kickstarts the British Cruiser line with every tank up to the Comet sharing similar layout and features (principally: big road wheels Christie then Torsion bar suspension, emphasis on speed over armour/armament – excepting the Comet).  In practice, the Cruiser concept, light but fast tanks dealing with enemy armour, was a bust with the tanks almost always (the Comet being the only real exception) being too fragile and under gunned compared to the axis medium tanks. 

Compared to the PzIIIG in the desert, the A13 had an equivalent gun in the 2pdr but less armour and no protected ammo.  It was however fast.  Critically, it lacked a HE round for the 2pdr and, combined with a cavalry predilection for charging after withdrawing Axis tanks, this was quickly exploited by the German PaK front tactics.  The A13 would fall by the wayside, largely forgotten and unloved by those crew who survived the experience; replaced by lend lease Stuarts and the next in the Cruiser line – the A15 Crusader.

So, is the Zvesda kit as disappointing as the tank was in real life?  Let’s find out.

Firstly, let’s get something straight.  Zvesda – this is not a  bloody “Crusader”!  I got excited when it was announced that they were going to make an A15 Crusader and this was shattered when I then saw the box art depicted the A13 Cruiser IV.  It’s like being a kid on Christmas day and finding the bike shaped present under the tree is actually a spinning wheel.

It was a harsh childhood.

Anyway, continuing on from the M3 Lee review, I also got one of the A13 to see if it would be any use for doing the much maligned British Armoured Regiment list.  The BAR (both the Battle of France version, from ‘Blitzkrieg’, and the ‘Hellfire and Back’ African version) got severely hit with the NERF bat shortly after ‘Hellfire and Back’ came back on the basis that it was “brokenly good”.  That would be fine except I had never won with the dammed thing which made wonder what trick I missed…

Assembly

The box contents are your normal Zvesda affair.  There are two, rather empty, tan coloured sprues.  The instructions are simple enough to be to the back of the box and I didn’t feel they were insufficient at any point.

DSC01256ITS NOT A CRUSADER! STOP CALLING IT A CRUSADER!

DSC01258Memories of the old BF “cracker” instructions, anyone?

The assembly is pretty straightforward, excepting one feature of the turret which we will get to.

The tracks get attached directly to the lower hull.  The upper hull goes on top of that.  The engine deck goes on top of that to set the undercut the exhausts.  It’s all ‘push to fit’ without needing glue and all straight forward enough.

The turret consists of two half’s (one of which has the gun as part of it) that push together.  Also simple, right?

Well, yes.  But the turret is held together by a central divot and there is nothing to stop the turret halves rotating or staying aligned beyond inherent stiffness.  I had added glue to ensure a gap free bond between the two halves but hadn’t noted that the turret was very slightly skewed.  You can see it by the way the mantle cut-outs aren’t fully aligned.  I can’t see why there is no alignment tab inside on of the halves like most other plastic kits so it’s a little frustrating and something to be aware of.

That’s it.  It’s literally the work of minutes.

DSC01286

It’d do better on the “as quick to assemble as it is to blow up test” if it didn’t have the handicap of being a British cruiser tank

Appearance

Profile wise, it’s definitely a later mark A13 Mark IV with the bolt on sloped armour on the turret.  No complaints there.  Even the oddly space road wheels are correct to type.   Viewed from the other side of the table, there would be no errors in identification.

When placed alongside a Battlefront A13 (I only have the earlier flat sided turret so make some allowance please) it sits about the same height overall but has a squatter turret.  Length and width are comparable.  You could mix the tanks in the same army, but probably not in the same Troop.

DSC01287

The Zvesda kit certainly gives a better impression as to what a pop gun the 2pdr was!

DSC01290

Head on and the lack of vertical detail becomes painfully apparent – no vision blocks or headlight detail, as does the inadequacies of the Battlefront metal parts

DSC01289

Side profile compares favorably excepting the rivets and rear stowage bin (better on BF) and the roadwheel/tracks (far better on Zvesda)

DSC01291

Battlefront wins out on derriere detail, although the exhaust transition from resin to metal is painful.  The Zvesda exhausts don’t really match the real examples in how they emerge.

Detail wise and we start to run into the normal Zvezda issues of inconsistent levels of detailing.  This is especially true on the sides of the parts which may be a limitation of the Zvesda toolsets (to keep cost down through a simple tool) such as the driver vision slots, rivets on the hull and the forward and rear lights.  The turret cupola, when compared to the BF version, lacks much of the detail.

That said, the tracks and roadwheels benefit from the crispness of the plastic when compared to the crude lumps of the BF model.

Options

None whatsoever.

No sand skirts for Africa,

No open cupola or loader hatch options,

No early turret option.

It’s pretty typical Zvezda fare in this respect.  You get *exactly* what is on the box (or not in this case considering its not a Crusader).  Its still my big bugbear with the Zvesda kits compared to the other two plastic suppliers and, in my opinion, limits their utility considerably.  YMMV.

It should be noted that, with a  little work and some plasticard, you could probably add skirts and open hatches.  Good if you don’t mind trading money for time!

Conclusions

Its not a bad kit, although after the unexpected joy of building the M3 Lee, the A13’s simplistic build was always going to pale in comparison.  The level of detail harks back to the older Zvesda kits in its absence but one could argue that the A13 was never going to be a great subject matter for the model maker.

For doing a BAR on the cheap then it will certainly work so long as you are happy to compromise on some details or don’t mind putting the effort and some plasticard to use.

Category: BritishEarly WarReviewsZvezda

3 comments

  1. Good review mate. I think they have a place on the battlefield; especially if you want a heap of them. Small compromises to be made.

    1. Oh for sure. For a massed A13 army or just a low investment side project then they certainly have a place and that is true for all of Zvedsa’s output.

      Some of their kits do give more bang for the buck though (such as the great, if limited, M3 Lee kit) but the A13, sadly, is more on the “you get what you pay for” end so its hard for me to recommend it outside of the ‘bulk’ argument.

  2. The Zvezda road wheels lack the flat sheet metal covers shown on pretty much every photo of the A13, that’s why they have all that interesting detail. Unfortunately, as I said, it was always covered by the big flat disks, hence the Battlefront model’s simpler-looking road wheels.

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Article by: Lee

Wargaming since Rogue Trader in 1990; I made the move to Flames in 2006 and have been with it ever since! I play at the Brighton Warlords most weeks.