Wednesday, May 5

Read n' Reviewed: Bear In The Mud - Modelling the Russian Armor in Eastern Europe from Pla Editions

Pla Editions recently released a follow-up to last year's special on Russian armour modelling. While "Bear in the Sand" looked at Russian armour in warmer climes, this book, "Bear in the Mud" - well - you get the idea! See what Paul thought of the book after he read it & what's inside in his review...
Bear In The Mud - Modelling the Russian Armor in Eastern Europe
from Pla Editions
180 pages
All Text In English
Price: 30€
One of the most often heard comments about armour around the modelling tables is that modern armour just doesn’t weather, unlike older vehicles. While it may be true for peacetime vehicles, there is plenty of photographic evidence that this isn’t the case, and Abrams Squad certainly gives us plenty of this evidence of just how dirty and banged up modern armour can actually get.

A while back, Abrams Squad released Bear in the Sand, which was a publication about Russian armour being used in the Middle East, and that publication turned out to be a super seller, so Abrams Squad has chosen to do a follow up called Bear in the Mud, which is about Russian armour being used in Eastern Europe.
As usual, the publication comes in the standard A4 portrait and just by flicking through the pages, it is quite apparent that this is full of pictures and lighter on the text, but not too light that it is too vague on what the author is trying to describe. 

Contents of this book
Introduction with amazing photographies for reference.
"Bear in the Mud" T-90 by Pere Pla
"PION 2S7" by Diego Bruzzone
"T-55AM in Georgia" by Zhendong Li
"2S9 NONA in Grozny" by Ignat Pomazkov
"Disintegration of Sanity" MTL-B & GAZ-66 by Bernard Bassous
"Even the strong get hurt" URAL by Konstantinos Tsiompris
"The Battle of Chechnya" BTR-80 by Imad Bouantoun
The magazine starts with some real life photographs of various Russian equipment being used in the Chechen Wars, Georgia and the Ukraine Crisis, and as I mentioned before, there is a large assortment of vehicles shown although they are mainly frontline combat vehicles, but you get a great array of BMP’s, SPG’s and MBT’s, all in various stages of weathering. 
In particular one of a BM-21 Grad showing a surprising amount of wear given that it is not a frontline vehicle. I was also quite surprised by a number of pictures of Russian ERA tiles, particularly on MBT sideskirts where they were nowhere near the perfectly aligned blocks we are used to seeing on their model kit representations.
The first article by Pere Pla is the titular Bear in the Mud, which pretty much describes the scene that Pere has depicted, which is a T-90 driving up a muddy path. The author uses Meng’s T-90 for this build, although it will be somewhat familiar to Abrams Squad readers since it first featured in issue 3, so it is somewhat brief about the construction of the tank, but still takes you through the main painting process. The author gives this kit its “second life” with additional weathering, and then takes you through how he creates the groundwork and how he brings it all to life, as well as the two figures in the scene.
The next article is by Diego Bruzzone and depicts a 2S7 Pion on a simulated nuclear/ biological training exercise made apparent by the two figures in gas masks, and uses the Trumpeter kit. Comparatively, this is probably the least weathered of all the vehicles, but considering it is an SPG that isn’t in frontline combat, it should not be too surprising that it would be more well kept than a vehicle in constant combat. Interestingly enough, there is one photograph in the article of two soldiers amongst some artillery shells laid out on the ground which have a good amount of chipping on them, but I assume they are training rounds because of their blue colour, and don’t imagine live rounds being handled roughly enough to chip the paint on them.
Zhendong Li takes Takom’s T-55 AM and puts it in an urban scene in the 2008 Georgian War with a section of curb, and some steel beam anti-tank obstacles like the ones you see in pictures of Omaha Beach on D-Day. One particular addition which stood out for me was the authors sculpt of the bag on the left fender, painted to look like one of those bags made from the Asian style rice sack and adds a very nice touch to the vehicle. One strange thing was the two real life photos of the T-55 AM in black and white, especially if they were taken during the 2008 Russo- Georgian War, although that is only an assumption and the details of the photos are not actually given. This is the smallest of all the scenes presented, although it is not any lesser in quality.
Next up is a vehicle that I didn’t even know existed called the 2S9 Nona, which is an airborne 120mm SPG. The author Ignat Pomazkov had to use the Easter Express kit because no other kit of this vehicle exists and takes us through his build and the numerous corrections and improvements he had to make to get a reasonable representation of this vehicle. The groundwork is fairly simple with dried grass and mud, and also features a Russian airborne trooper using a TKZ anti-aircraft device mounted on a tripod, which the author had to create from scratch, in what is a simple, but effective scene.
Moving along into larger and more complex dioramas now, Bernard Bassous takes us through how he created his diorama called “Disintegration of Sanity” which shows a Ukrainian MT-LB driving past a GAZ-66 with a twin ZU-32 mounted on the back, on a cold looking Ukrainian street during the war of 2014. Using Trumpeter kits for both vehicles, the author takes us through his builds as well as the modifications he makes to them, and then the creation of the base and scenery. The author’s use of pictures really helps illustrate the processes the author uses to achieve his results, and the light use of text make this an easy read.
Even the Strong Get Hurt is Konstantinos Tsiompris’ diorama of a Russian Ural-4320 truck parked in front of a house in a Chechen village with some wounded Russian troops making their way towards the truck. In line with every other article, the author takes us through how he created his scene, as well as the photo references he used for his inspiration.
Last but not least we have Imad Bouantoun’s The Battle of Chechnya, which depicts the aftermath of a Russian pursuit of Chechen rebels, and a woman remonstrating with a Russian soldier over the damage done presumably to her car and house.
As with every article before this one, every aspect in the construction and painting of this scene is covered in the article, and I was particularly impressed by the wet mud effects the author was able to achieve.
For existing fans of Abrams Squad, there is not much I need to say to convince you to buy this magazine. For people who do not necessarily have that level of interest in modern armour, this magazine is well and truly worth a look at because the weathering principles and scenery work will be applicable not matter what time period you are modelling from. 

This magazine gives you some good examples of what mud would have looked like on the Eastern Front. Highly recommended.

Paul Lee

Thanks to PLA Editions for sending this magazine to read and review. It is available on their website at this link...