I take a foray into Vac-U-Form Plastics

Amera Plastics Nissen Hut

Amera Plastics Nissen Hut

Some recent discussions on the Crossfire Yahoo Group brought up the old Bellona range of vac-u-form moulded plastic terrain. Many of you will remember these old classics from the days of Charles Grant, Donald Featherstone, and Terrence Wise, the terrain featuring extensively in their books, and later books by other authors such as “Operation Warboard”. For those like me, in countries like New Zealand, this was something you marvelled at in photos and wished you could get hold of… Bellona has long since gone out for production decades ago, although there was some suggestion the moulds had been purchased by someone in recent years to resume production – but to the best of my knowledge this is not the case. However the discussion led to Amera Plastic Mouldings, a company very much in the tradition of Bellona, and producing many very similar terrain pieces to the original Bellona range.

Inspired by the appearance of some old Bellona “Nissen Huts” in a Crossfire game run by Nikolas Lloyd in the UK (pictures on the Crossfire Yahoo Group), I decided to immediately order a selection of the products from Amera and see what they were like. Cost wise they are very cost effective versus traditional resin or metal terrain and a whole lot cheaper… Plus they are easily customised with just a sharp modelling knife or even a sharp pair of scissors! Amera has also previously appeared in Wargames Illustrated Magazine, in an article on painting vac-u-form models by well known modeller Kevin Dallimore (there is a PDF of the article on the Amera website).

Andy at Amera was very good to deal with and my order was despatched (in 2 medium sized boxes) within a few days of being placed, and was promptly delivered to New Zealand from the UK in just 12 days from date of despatch. In general the quality is very good; the plastic is strong and reasonably thick but will still be relatively easy to cut with a sharp modelling knife, etc… As can be expected from vacuum plastic moulding the detail is not etched as deeply as you’d expect with metal or resin models, but is still there in reasonable quantity and will just require some careful painting so as not to ‘fill in’ the finer details… (See the Kevin Dallimore article for more on this).

The figures in the photos are 20mm Axal/Bandera Italians (from Liberation Miniatures)  for scale comparison purposes – note the colours are a little wonky as I have played with the curves in the photos to try and increase the contrast and shadow of the details in the photos.

So, moving along here is a brief summary of the items I purchased (for those interested), and some accompanying detailed photos. The first batch of items are from the “S” range, these are designed for 1/72nd scale models, and most closely resemble the types of items in the old Bellona range:

S201 Short Trench & S205 Trench Emplacement

The Short Trenches are quite narrow at the bottom of the trench, a bit narrower than I expected – I had envisaged slicing down the centre to separate into 2 halves to use as 1-sided ‘stylised’ trenches for CF, but I think they may be a bit large (read high) for this and I may instead use them for my 28mm Colonials and such (which they will be ideal if widened to fir a 25mm (1”) figure base). The Trench Emplacement (S205) however is a much better model for CF, it has a large centre section that will fit 2 Squads and a PC fairly easily (note: My CF Squads are on 40mm square bases, with Platoon Commanders on 20mm x 40mm bases), and will just need a minor modification (widening) of the long trench section so a third squad can be accommodated (i.e. facing the front of the system). It will in my opinion model nicely for CF purposes a well entrenched Platoon position, potentially with room for 4 squads depending on how extensively it is modified – so a mortar squad or FO could be supporting the platoon in the rear part of the entrenchment.

S209 Tents & S216 Campaign Tents

All excellent and should serve multiple purposes well (i.e. CF, 28mm Colonial & ACW, even Napoleonics) – these look to be an excellent inexpensive way to get tents (short of scratch building), especially if you want some ‘bell’ one’s…

S212 Nissen Huts

I got a couple of these inspired by Lloyd’s last CF game photos – these are a very tidy serviceable model. Detail is very fine though so will need careful painting (probably washing is going to be the best way to bring out the corrugations). They are supposed to include a pair of side windows, but I didn’t notice any with mine (but might be hiding in the bottom of the box)…

S213 Cottage Street Scene

A nice simple scene in the tradition of Bellona. Detail is fairly good and it’s a quick easy way to get a section of bombed out village or small town street. I will probably cut mine up to rearrange the buildings individually to get more flexibility (and enhance placement of my CF squad stands which are 40mm x 40mm).

S219 Fighter blast pen

A nice tidy but relatively plain piece – possibly a bit large for most CF games, but may turn out useful for modelling/suggesting an airfield being present – or even for an ammo or supply dump or such like. Probably would go perfectly with Paul Ward’s 28mm Airfield stuff (see Matakishi’s Tea House). Should certainly get a bit of use long term… And at £3.25 it’s a reasonable price for the model, although is also something that could be fashioned pretty easily by scratch-building.

Next we move on to the “Z” range, these are items in Amera’s “Future Zone” series, designed for Modern and Sci-Fi periods and primarily for 25mm-28mm scales. I purchased some of these and I thought they might sneak in for use with my 20mm (1/72nd) Crossfire WW2 & Modern games, and others might be suitable for me 28mm Colonial games…

Z201 Crater Set & Z205 Barricades

The bomb craters are huge – looks like a Barnes Wallis testing range! To be fair as these are part of the Future-Zone range and aimed at 25mm-28mm models, they are obviously intended for use with fairly large figures. However the craters will still prove useful to some extent. And the barricades could well serve for the walls of demolished buildings in 20mm, although I may probably use them for 28mm Colonial & ACW games as improvised fortifications…

Z206 Observation Bunker

Although big this is a nice model, and would be an ideal feature for a CF game as the major objective of a Commando raid or such. It is again large, being part of the Future-Zone range, but wouldn’t be too out of place I think. A nice touch is the top and sides lift off, revealing a lower wall topped with sandbags, allowing it to be used as a gun position – you’ll fit about a 50mm x 50mm base in here (the circle is 70mm diameter) so should be enough room for a 1/72nd Quad-20mm FlaK model or similar – again a possible nice feature at the back of the table when staging a Normandy Landing or similar, or FlaK defences of a German City in the frontline in 1945…?

Z211 Bombed-Out Building

Another nice but larger model – would quickly get you the ruins of a fairly large building (and I mean pretty large in 1/72nd terms)… However I’ll likely use mine for 28mm (which is what it’s intended for) where it should paint up nicely as the ruin of a small fort or government trading post in the Sudan or NWF and it’s design leaves plenty of room for placement of individual figures on 25mm square bases…

Z214 City Block Ruins, Z221 Admin Block Window Frames, & Z233 Factory

These were what I was most looking forward to, I realised I was pushing my luck with these, hoping to use them for CF in 20mm, but they are very nice products and will quickly get you some very nice ruined buildings, unfortunately they are very large and I suspect they are very big even for some 28mm figures. These buildings especially make me think the Future-Zone stuff is probably closer to 1/48th than the 1/72nd-1/64th of 25mm-28mm as stated on the site (i.e. aimed at the more oversize Games Workshop 28mm figures which are actually somewhere between 28mm and 40mm). The factory is especially large. I’m not sure what I will do with these, but will give some thought to it – It was always a bit of a gamble purchasing these ‘blind’ but a judicious use of a knife may be all that is needed modify them for use with the smaller 1/72nd scale figures!

Z227 Demolished Buildings

Again quite large but will be workable for 1/72nd CF terrain. As they are modular it’ll be possible, with a little additional scratch building, to use this pack to create the ruins of about 2 or 3 larger buildings for Stalingrad type games and so on and include adequate space for figure bases to be placed within (i.e. my 40mm square CF squad bases), etc…

On the whole a fairly good purchase I think and relatively cost effective – as long as I can get something from the City Blocks (I bought two of these and with the factory as well they were about 45% of my order’s total cost)! Hopefully this is of interest to someone and I expect I’ll be going back to Andy at Amera for a few more bits and pieces somewhere down the line.

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Posted in Buildings & Fortifications
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OWEYUFFONAG44AYT3PZDQFFTNI Steve-the-Wargamer

    Brilliant to see a Bellona clone available – can you fill these guys with plaster of paris to make copies like we used to with the old Bellona wall sets??? :D

  • http://wargaming.info John

    Hi Steve – yeah, good to see, I hope they will expand the 20mm & 28mm scale ranges rapidly… Regarding your last comment, albeit tongue in cheek I suspect, I’m not sure I will have ot look – I suspect the details are not so pronounced on the undersides. ;-p

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OWEYUFFONAG44AYT3PZDQFFTNI Steve-the-Wargamer

    Yeah – it was tongue in cheek – things were a little “easier” in those days – I did a whole lot of copying/moulding and stuff I’d not dream of doing now!

  • roly

    tents also available at sarik vacform shop on ebay
    will also be doing range of diorama units

    • http://wargaming.info John

      Roly – thanks for the heads up – some interesting stuff model railroad stuff at your website too… http://sarik-vacform.com/ Cheers, John.

    • http://wargaming.info John

      P.S. Can’t find you on EBay? What is Seller ID?

  • Steve-the-Wargamer

    Brilliant to see a Bellona clone available – can you fill these guys with plaster of paris to make copies like we used to with the old Bellona wall sets??? :D

    • http://wargaming.info John

      Hi Steve – yeah, good to see, I hope they will expand the 20mm & 28mm scale ranges rapidly… Regarding your last comment, albeit tongue in cheek I suspect, I’m not sure I will have to look – I suspect the details are not so pronounced on the undersides. ;-p

      • Steve-the-Wargamer

        Yeah – it was tongue in cheek – things were a little “easier” in those days – I did a whole lot of copying/moulding and stuff I’d not dream of doing now!

  • Roly

    tents also available at sarik vacform shop on ebay – will also be doing range of diorama units

    • http://wargaming.info John

      Roly – thanks for the heads up – some interesting stuff model railroad stuff at your website too… http://sarik-vacform.com/ Cheers, John.

    • http://wargaming.info John

      P.S. Can’t find you on EBay? What is Seller ID?

  • aj.meara

    Great review of our products, thanks so much! We really value all the feedback and take note. Lots of new products on way, do have a look at our website, or new facebook page. We welcome reviews, and share examples of our products painted. Let us know if OK to share this on 
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amera-Plastic-Mouldings/339773496075836  

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