Empress Miniatures – M1A2 Abrams TUSK CROWS Ref pics and wip9

CROWS finished ….

The CROWS is pretty much finished and ready for painting I think. Very hard to photograph due to the bits being mostly white so I had to faff around with the colour to show some of the detail. The pics are still not the best and it does look somewhat better IRL …..








Some CROWS (XM153) reference pics from the interwebs (and included for discussion only). As you can see the are several detail differences (and more in the pics in my stash) in both gun shield and overall fitting between various installations. I took some liberties with my version partly because of scale and my ability to scratchbuild and partly as it’s for wargaming use, not for diorama or competition entry.







Empress Miniatures – M1A2 Abrams TUSK and M2A3 Bradley BUSK wip8

Bradley and CROWS wip ….

Made some mesh grills for the Bradley air-conditioning units from thin wire, superglue and lots of “bleep” words.

Then while the iron was hot I cranked out the base shape of the XM153 CROWS remote weapons station. Still got a fair bit of detailing to do on it (apart from tidying that is) such as adding the cartridge collection shopping baskets, various rivets, gun cradle mounting gubbins, remote firing adaptor, ammo feed chute – lid and latches and the rain covers for the optics.

The base shape is pretty repeatable now I have dimensions I’m happy with so I should be able to make a few more, some for the other Abrams and one “swappable” for the MATVs.








Empress Miniatures – T90A & M2A3 Bradley BUSK wip6

Shading and lining …..

Base lining and shading done on the T90A and Bradley. There are some details now to add as some were left off during the handling/painting process then it’s decals and final weathering.

The next lot of ERA blocks were shipped so late next week I can start on the Abrams and second Bradley.

And so what’s left to do on these guys ….

Periscopes for the TCs hatch
Covers for the Shitora system laser detectors
Cross wind sensor
Unditching log (mandatory on all Russian AFVs)
Tow cables
IR lamp (on top of the LH turret top smoke dischargers)
Front mudguard springs
Left hand turret bin footrest
Side plate footloops
MG ammo belt
Replacement wheels (and maybe tracks)

Armoured TC glass
Mesh over gunners primary sight
Crosswind sensor
Pioneer tools
Clamps for tow cable
Headrest for TC hatch
Mesh for air conditioning units
IFF panels (maybe as I haven’t seen any fitted on BUSK Bradleys)
Towing shackles







Empress Miniatures – M2A3 Bradley BUSK wip5

Base camo on the Bradley ….

I know, I know …. I said the BMPs would be the last of the Modern vehicles for a bit however I couldn’t stop without completing the base paint on the Bradley. So the NATO camo (or my version of it) is laid on and ready to weather/tone down ….






Empress Miniatures – Modern Vehicles T90A, M2A3 Bradley, BMP3 wips

Current vehicle batch primed …..

Well decided that these guys are ready for paint and so gave them an enamel primer undercoat. Pretty pleased with how much more “tank” like they look with a uniform base paint on. Next step is to decide on the correct shade and then lay on the basecoats with acrylic. The primer has shown up a few areas that need some tidying up and smoothing of some of the file marks so after fixing those it’s painting action …. at least until my next lot of parts shows up🙂



Group goodness


M2A3 Bradley …






BMP3s …


T90A …




And a couple of on table shots …..



Empress Miniatures – BMP3 wip

BMP3 progress ….

Fortunately not much to do to these boys compared to the Bradley and T90 although I may add some side ERA to the third vehicle when that arrives later to make the numbers up to a platoon. Add ons are just really cosmetic goodness, front MG brush guards, a few grab handles, wiring for the turret laser and searchlight and thickening up the hatches which are quite a bit more prominent on the real vehicle.


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And some final detailing on the T90 and Bradley which are now pretty much ready to undercoat. The remaining final detailing will be added after most of the painting is completed …

emp grp 040 1400

emp m2a3brad 080 800

emp t90 061 900

Empress Miniatures – T90A conversion wip2

T90 conversion progress ….

The T90A (welded turret) conversion is almost ready for paint. A raft of small changes have been made in addition to the major part of the job the welded turret itself. The welded turret sides were built up using 2mm styrene. Gaps were filled with Milliput and smoothed off before adding the Kontakt ERA blocks from 1.5mm sheet.


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emp t90 0229 800

emp t90 031 cl 800

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Some useful T90A reference pics from the internets (from open web sources) and included for discussion purposes only.

ref t90a 22

ref t90a 20



ref t90a 23

ref t90a 26

ref t90a t72 28

ref t90a 30

And the latest progress. Almost finished and ready for paint. Still a few very minor things to add (springs for the front mudflaps, port for the loaders hatch, unditching log and inner ring / second breather hose and cover flap for the fuel tanks …. I might still try and correct the road wheel spokes too but I’m not so sure about that yet.

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Empress Miniatures – M2A3 Bradley BUSKIII conversion wip 2

Empress Bradley update/conversion …

Just a small update showing off the new 3D printed air-con units (courtesy of Jason) and a little more detailing (various lift handles and the re-positioned rear M2 variant periscopes). Only really the fans to install plus a couple of lift points I missed then it’s ready for paint.


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And managed to delete a the post before this while posting the above above update …. because of “reasons” … ie incompetence.
So here’s most of it reposted, hopefully.

Bradley M2A3 BuskIII wargaming conversion using the Empress (ex Imprint) Bradley M3A2 ODS as a base. Settled on using Laser cut acrylic for the ERA blocks (6mm) so as to get them more repeatable and consistent and pretty pleased with how the worked out to be honest.

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And some useful Bradley ref pics of various M2 and M3 A2s and 3s with BUSK kits. Also included are a couple of non Busk tracks (one a nice BFIST) in Nato with Tan accessories . Pics are from open web sources and included for discussion purposes only.

brd ref211

brd ref21

Bradley Fighting Vehicle drives off range. CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Infantrymen from 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, drive their M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle off of Memorial Range after zeroing the 25mm main gun and M240B machine gun during a live fire exercise in support of Operation New Dawn near Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, July 29, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Quentin Johnson, 2nd AAB PAO, 1st Cav. Div., USD – N)

Bradley Fighting Vehicle drives off range.
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq – Infantrymen from 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, drive their M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle off of Memorial Range after zeroing the 25mm main gun and M240B machine gun during a live fire exercise in support of Operation New Dawn near Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, July 29, 2011.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Quentin Johnson, 2nd AAB PAO, 1st Cav. Div., USD – N)

brd ref23

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brd ref24

Iraqi Freedom

Iraqi Freedom

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brd ref29

brd ref30

And intermediate detailing progress ….

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Empress Miniatures – M1A2 SEP TUSK conversion wip2

A little carpentry ….

Hunting for something to make the ERA (explosive reactive armour) blocks from proved tricky for a while. Sounds easy doesn’t it, after all it’s just some plastic blocks/strips. However none of the plastic sheet on hand including some acrylic was thick enough and would prove difficult to cut accurately anyway.

After much searching I went alternative and looked at the wood strip supply. I finally found something that looked close and after some measurements decided it looked almost perfect to get both the required hull length and side rail depth. I cut a test piece and decided it worked well enough to crack on with.

The wood strip is bass wood used in picture framing (1/4″ x 3/16″) and should be readily available at hardware outlets, which is handy as I’ll need more including a thicker depth for the Bradley tiles. Ideally this should be done by creating a strip of tiles with it’s mounting backing plates and then casting it in resin for the multiple copies required. I may …. still try this if I can fund some resin but as finding that amount of spare cash is unlikely I’ll probably have to carry on manually.

Either way the strip was marked to the length required for the double stacked block (13mm as the Abrams side skirt is 14mm), cut to size with the diamond saw and then cleaned up by a gentle sanding. A half way line to simulate the 2 separate blocks was marked and then an impression cut into the block with the saw. I painted it with some Vallejo Sand to seal it and check that the grain didn’t show. Being a denser wood required for picture framing all was good as so the test block was ticked off.

The Abrams has 32x ARAT XM19 ERA Blocks (31 plus a spacer block) fitted to mounting rails attached to the side skirts and so I cut 16 (to be cut to simulate doubles) blocks. I’m not sure yet how detailed the backing mounts will be yet, there’s a line to be drawn in the detail somewhere …..🙂

emp m1a2 017 era1 1020

emp m1a2 019 era2 900


The Abrams can be currently retrofitted with ERA bocks as part of the TUSK (Tank Urban Survivability Kit) upgrade. Amongst other upgrades which are modular and it is possible to see some tanks with mixed equipment fits, the ERA system is fitted to mounting rails attached to the tanks side rails. This can be done with a field install kit and by troops on deployment.

The block part of the system is called ARAT-1 (Abrams Reactive Armour Tile) and the blocks are designated XM-19. The mounting package also includes brush guards fitted to the front and rear side rails. Note the front side rail on each side of the vehicle is replaced by a specialised and thinner plate although I won’t be modelling this.

To create a TUSKII level package, ARAT-2 curved tiles, XM-32, are further mounted to the side XM-19 blocks and to the sides of the turret.

REF Pics included from web sources and for discussion only. I believe some are from the excellent looking Tankograd publication M1A2 SEPv2 which is highly recommended as a modelling resource.

Abrams desex 14

Tusk 1 and 2 mix

XM32 ARAT2 22

M32 tiles on M19 Blocks v2

arat1 011 900

arat2 021 900

arat maint 12 900


And a couple of general Abrams ref pics from exercises held in Eastern Europe and showing the look I’m hoping to achieve as well as the CROWs remote weapons systems fitted to the turret roof.

Abrams euroex 22

Abrams euroex 31

Empress Miniatures – Vehicle conversion project

Assembly wips ….

Decided to post all the various wips from the project into one series but give them each a separate “feature” once final painting is finished.

T90A Welded Turret conversion

First step was to prepare some scale plans for the base T90, the T90A welded turret and the prototype T90MS Tagil. I reduced some reference plans until hull width matched a scale 1/50th. The Empress T90 was within a mm or so width wise but a little short in overall length. Not much I can do about that but I’m planning to fit extra fuel tanks on the rear so the length wont be an issue, not that it is, just covering it off from a completeness point of view.


The tracks fit inside the upper hull track guard and against a chamfered edge and with a lip to provide fore/aft location. I had to file off the upper outer edge to get them to sit down properly. I also relieved the inside of the front idlers to simulate the bearing housing because the wheel sits so far forward of the front plate and is visible.


The first step was to remove the turret bins, ERA blocks and fittings using a razor saw. I then ground the turret into the basic welded shape using a bench grinder, the dremel and files. Next the shape will be tuned then flat plates made from plasticard attached. Any gaps will be filled and the whole thing sanded and filed into the final profile. Last steps will be to add back in all the removed details …..

emp t90 0011 1100 conversion planning

emp t90 0015 1100 turret conv

emp t90 0019 1100 turret conv

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emp t90 0021 1100 track fitting

emp t90 0023 1100 front idler

Abrams TUSK conversion

The only work so far was to grind out the tank commanders hatch so a crewman can be fitted to one of the tanks.

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Bradley BUSK conversion

One vehicle is going to have the twin air-conditioning units fitted and so I removed the rear stowage bins with the trusty razor saw. Both vehicles had their front headlights removed so that the front BUSK ERA plate can be fitted. The headlights will be put back in place on top of the new block. I also started grinding down the inside of the hull turret ring. I’m planning to build up the base of the turret so that it fits better/more securely. In the past I’ve just drilled and pinned the turret on but as the ring is so shallow it was difficult to seat properly. I’ll probably grind this down about the same distance again and if the experiment works all vehicles except the BMPs will get the same treatment.

emp brad 016 1100 hull fittings


Empress Miniatures – Modern Vehicles

Modern battlegroup project ….

The start of what will probably an on-going period or project for us, large scale moderns. We have the troops (gee almost 200 or so Empress Modern Infantry from various nations), we have the rules (almost anyway, the set is currently being worked on in collaboration with the Empress Ladz) and now we have the tanks, or at least some of them!

We put together what is basically a “starter” set of vehicles for both the Russians and Americans to fight out some “what-if” conflicts on the table. We’ll probably push the numbers up to correct platoon establishments as both time and more importantly funds, allow. For now though we have 2x M1A2 Abrams and 2x Bradley IFVs for the Americans, and 3x T90s and 2x BMP3 IFVs for the Russians.

The bulk of these will be modified in some way as you should now expect🙂 For the Russians I’m toying with updating a T90 into a T90A with the later welded turret and maybe even taking another a step further to try a T90MS, although I’m not sure about that one. The BMP3s will pretty much be a straight paint although they will probably get a few small details added such as added grab handles etc.

The American vehicles will both be updated to the present armour and equipment standard with the Abrams getting a TUSK II or III outfit including side ERA blocks and probably a CROWs remote weapon station and the Bradleys will get the same, ERA, CITV etc. I’d like to do one with the rear air conditioning units but they wouldn’t be on Europeans Bradleys, although maybe one could have been “transferred” from hotter climes and the units not removed …..


emptks 010 cvr 1450

emp t90 010 cvr 1250

emp bmp3 010 cvr 1250

emp m1a2 010 cvr 1250

emp brad 010 cvr 1250

Airfix Jackals – take 2 …. or more

More Airfix modern goodness …..

We have some more Airfix Moderns on the bench (including a Coyote, Warrior and hopefully with a couple of WMIKs thrown in later). Got a few resin and PE goodies for them so they are getting the royal treatment for a change vrs just some nice paint🙂

Not too much to see as basic assembly is underway. Lower hulls are in place, replacement resin wheels on and the side PE screens attached, enough to allow the next steps which pretty much need the crew positions to be sorted out first.



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Ersatz M10 Panzer Brigade 150 – Dragon 1/72nd Panther D and Cpl Overby conversion wip3

Base paint …..

Finally decided what latch details to add to the new turret hatch (no detailed pictures show the locking mechanism) and laid on a base coat of green, my version of Olivgrun 6003. Various US technical documents on the M10 conversions state the colour was US Olive Drab but I suspect that is rubbish, with neither the German supply system being able to husband and supply stocks of US paint but also GIs being unable to see the wood for the trees and viewing all greens as “Olive Drab”.  My view is that the conversions were most likely painted with the predominately available German green at the time, RAL6003.

Anyway enough detail, the base colour is mixed with GW acrylics and brushed as normal. I’ve started the lightening process with a basic highlighting and streaking, nothing too obvious yet, again just my standard painting process.

Also I’ve included a bonus pic of some other 20mm “stuff” that managed to fall under the rattlecan for priming …..



EM10 w 048 1150 EM10 w 047 1150 EM10 w 049 1150 2 EM10 w 046 1024


A wild herd of primed 20mm ……

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Modern Combined Arms 28mm wargaming rules – Empress Miniatures

Empress – Queeg project update ….

Just a quick note that we’re excited to let people know that we’re currently working down the path in developing a set of modern wargaming rules with the lads at Empress Miniatures. The rules are aimed Company Battlegroup / Combined Arms sized games and are a larger scale partner to the Empress Danger Close Skirmish rules. Aimed at around a reinforced Infantry platoon with support teams and around 6 – 9 vehicles per side it does however scale up or down easily depending on your game preference (or megalomania)🙂 Either way it’s a chance to get some of those lovely vehicles on the table …..

As you can see in the post below this one testing is currently going well and even better than we expected. Anyway, we (the Queegs – Craig and I) look foward to being able to update on progress and also post what are going to be some supporting and interesting modelling projects.


From the Empress Face Book page …..

Empress Miniatures
May 20 at 9:12pm

Just thought that we should share some information.

We are currently working on a set of rules for ‘BIG’ games. Containing tanks, vehicles, infantry units, helicopters, support artillery, etc. In other words a set to recreate true war scenarios at company, and perhaps larger, on your table in an evening.

Working with Brent (Queeg) and Craig (one of the original guys behind Skirmish Sangin), the project is aiming at bringing a very full on modern reenactment experience to a table near you with us not forgetting that this is a tactical game that is designed for entertainment. Play testing of the mechanics are under way and working well.

Release date is difficult to say but we are aiming for early next year or ASAP as we want to play them ; )

As stated early days but we will update you all as they develop and no doubt get into asking for ideas, opinions, help, etc in the not too distant future.

Here are few pictures of the original play test to add a bit of atmosphere.


Modern Rules Testing – v01

New rules set testing …..

Haven’t posted for a bit as we’ve been working on a new modern Battlegroup/Company rules set which is currently at the concept proofing stage. Craig managed to scam some time off work, came up for a visit and we did some rules thrashing. Can’t go too much into rule mechanism detail yet but basically we started with a platoon infantry game to make sure the basics worked and then escalated into tanks, MICVs and Platoons.

ps the pics are raw as they are straight off a phone but they should give an idea of the scale and movement etc.

Game 1

A meeting screening engagement between Russian and American Infantry platoons. Each platoon is split into sections which are further each split into two fire teams.

The first turns saw the cunning Americans moving two sections up to a tree and scrub covered ridge while the bulk scarpered along using the ridge as cover to move into a small village. For their part the brave Russians advanced up to a ridge line commanding both a view of the opposite ridge and a valley in front of the village.

Fire was exchanged with some teams being pinned but recovering and little overall effect until Big Willie Apiata (attached to a US team for morale purposes to give it some “extra stiffness”) stood up to taunt the Russians. The Russians were at first offended but then changed tack and focused the fire of three teams onto Willies Team, causing first one, then two casualties and finally wiping it out in the crossfire. The second team (same section) watched Willie go down and panicked, dropping their packs and legging it back towards the Company CP (which was unfortunately off-table).

The remaining US teams stood firm but the longer range fire from the more spread out US infantry was sporadic, variously suppressing or pinning but failing to cause Russian casualties. In desperation the US brought on an MATV to try and stabilize the line but it was targeted by three RPGs from the Russian Infantry teams who had gone on overwatch. Before it’s M2 could lay down some pain two rockets had whistled close by with the third catching it squarely and ending the US hopes.

Game 2

The second game was an escalation to test the vehicle and AFV rules in concert with a decent amount of infantry. Each side had 4xMBTs, 2xMICVs and 1 Infantry Platoon.

The US infantry drove into the village and debussed from their Bradleys which then took up blocking positions on the flank. Two Abrams slowly moved through the village to provide support while the infantry took to the buildings and walled gardens. Two Challengers (on attachment) moved onto a ridge on the opposite side of the start line to provide a balanced threat.

The Russians balance split their forces with two T90s, a BMP3 and Infantry moving into an elevated farm complex. The other BMP3 and Infantry (plus HQ) advanced onto the central ridge line while the T80 section tried advancing into hull down positions on the left flank to try and prevent the Abrams down the valley moving out of the village.

The Challengers advanced up onto the ridge into hull down positions and rapidly made short work of the T80s, the Riussian dice apparently having been tampered with during a coffee break. One Challenger stayed on Overwatch to engage the T90s across the valley and one advanced to close with the infantry and flank them. The Russian infantry RPGs couldn’t penetrate the advancing Challenger and resorted to harassing fire trying for a miracle hit (lucky 12’s always hit). A Konkurs team attached to the platoon HQ got off an ATGW shot but as the Challenger had moved around a ridge ending out of sight it could only score a glancing hit, pinning the Challenger.

The BMP on the ridge debussed its infantry and engaged a Bradley which had broken from the cover of the town but at long range and partially behind some cover it missed. It then had to back off the ridge as to avoid both the flanking Bradleys and Challenger. On the other side of the table shots were traded for a bit but due to positioning the 2 Abrams managed to trade with the T90s one at a time, eventually knocking both out in turn while suffering only 1 pin.

Finally the BMP in the farm complex had a lucky escape when an Abrams shot ricocheted (a double 1 is always a miss) when it only needed any roll over 2 to hit. It was pinned and popped smoke to cover itself until its crew could recover and move back. Infantry on both sides exchanged fire but with the Americans and Russians in buildings the cover and range prevented any real casualties. Eventually with their armour gone and the Russian infantry now getting flanked the brave green men had no choice but to pull back under the cover of a smoke screen and plot their rewenge.


01 rusinf 010

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03 rus inf 33 2

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04 usinf 33

07 usi twn 11 2

08 usi twn 12 2 2

09 rusinf 338

10 usinf 33

11 rusinf 4555

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12 dice

13 Bigwillie

13 usinf 339

14 matv  3  x1 2