by: Peter Ong [ ]
With the advent of board wargames and alternate universes, some model kit companies have taken advantage of the fantasy/Science Fiction “alternate universe” to design armored fighting vehicles around these new alternate or post-World War Two stories and concepts. The Allied or Axis “walking mech” is one such design concept—taking a recognizable AFV hull and converting and modifying it with various kitbashed or scratchbuilt parts to produce something unique and original and seemingly Science-Fiction and yet retaining enough of the armor, armament, and features to make it recognizable to post or alternate World War Two. For some, these “alternate universe post-WW2 walking mech” designs are indeed acquired tastes. For others, they’re a new breath of fresh air, and for some, a great unique valuable addition to their wargaming piece inventory.
As my first Black Dog resin kit, I admit this would not be something I would buy. First off, I’m not a fan of World War Two-retro walking mechanical robots or “Steampunk” as I find those designs too weird and abstract for me. I’m more into the high-tech futuristic sleek designs when it comes to Science-Fiction models.
My personal preferences aside, this is my first 1/72nd scale Sci-Fi armor kit, and my first Black Dog resin kit. I didn’t know what to expect. I do have the display shelf space to model larger than 1/72 scale for AFVs so this scale is new to me when it comes to armor.
As a design, the M11XR7 Stryker “SNOW BEAVER” looks the part, combining a hull of a 1/72 Stryker with a side cannon, mast-mounted boom camera sensor, forward twin machine gun, drive train wheels, propulsion engine propeller, and skis. It seems quite well-armed and powered for a recon vehicle with legs, skis, and landing gear that could support its weight.
The Black Dog kit comes in a colorful black box with a color photo of the completed and painted model on the cover. The box is quite large for a 1/72 kit. Inside packed in Styrofoam peanuts rests the kit’s resin contents in a sealed clear plastic bag. Instructions are printed in crisp black and white on one side of 8X11 paper.
Being 1/72nd scale, the hull measures 2 3/4 inches long to the end of the prop shaft, 1 3/4 inches wide, and 7/8 inches tall.
There are a total of 27 parts of which some are:
• Propeller blades
• Twin gun barrel cannon
• Two gun barrels for the cannon
• Propeller nosecone
• Two skis
• Two ski mounting attachments
• Two exhaust fans
• Exhaust pipe
• Twin forward machine guns
• Twin forward machine gun armor plate
• Two double-wheels with snow chains
• Landing gear for the double wheels
• Two legs for the skis
• Two shock absorbers for the legs
• Four triple-tube smoke grenade launchers
• Sensor boom
• Camera masthead
• Two headlights
• Various hull details
Many parts are small, thin, and fragile so I would suggest separating the rods and tiny details from the hull in the main plastic bag. My sample already had some thin rods snapping off from the pour blocks but fortunately the bag contained all those pieces.
What’s pretty neat about this kit comes from the fact that many of the parts are not easily recognizable. Some Sci-Fi modelers like that. Sure there is a Stryker hull here and maybe a BF-109 nosecone there, but many of the parts used seem to be scratchbuilt or custom-made in this model. If taken from an existing kit, most of the pieces have been altered to be unrecognizable.
The Black Dog kit has superb crisp casting and contains a lot of small parts for such a small model. Surface details look amazingly good even for such a small vehicle. Pour blocks are well-placed and parts are attached in an organized fashion with the bottom of the piece on the pour block to ease and simplify cutting and sanding. The kit has a good mix of large and small parts to entertain and please the AFV Sci-Fi modeler who enjoys big brutish pieces with fine small and delicate details. The light gray resin has a lightweight feel to it so I’m positive the skis and legs could support the weight of the hull.
My sample had small rough flash at the bottom of the hull that simple sandpaper swipes should take care of. However, most of the pieces look nice, delicately detailed, crisp, smooth and proportional. The placement of rivets, panels, grates, grills, and grooves appear very well-done. The tires themselves are a marvel to look at right down to the tiny snow chains and threads. As my first 1/72nd resin and Black Dog kit, I am impressed with the quality, engineering, and attention to detail this kit has.
I believe one could use this kit as a basis for something else, which adds value to the kit itself. I don’t intend to build this kit out-of-the-box and instead intend to use it as a donor kit for some other creation. I mention this because the hull has very few holes and mandatory pits, grooves or gluing surfaces that require gluing on parts; that is the hull is basically flush surfaces so anything could be glued and added to it. While the hull design does limit the possibilities of conversion (the propeller shaft nose is cast fixed to the hull), a modeler with enough spare parts should be able to make something else besides the “SNOW BEAVER.”
The black and white laser-printed instructions are very nice with crisp photos and nice callouts for the placement of parts. The top half of the page has a parts layout photo while the bottom half of the page shows where the parts go onto the hull. What’s great is how the printer made the shades of grays differ to allow the modeler to see the fine surface details and even the camouflage patterns. The photo angles give the modeler three profiles of the kit, oblique front, oblique rear, and left side view, enough to see the placement of the 27 major parts.
All in all, Black Dog’s M11XR7 Stryker “SNOW BEAVER” has the quality and engineering of a unique original quasi-Science-Fiction armor kit. Part casting and detail has a superb quality. It may not be for everyone as the abstract and weirdness may turn some modelers off. Nonetheless, many of the design features (skis, guns, sensors, exhaust, etc.) could be explained as the “SNOW BEAVER” does retain some armor aspects to identify itself as a fighting quasi-AFV. It’s abstract, but not so much that form and function are too remote to explain.
Special Thanks to Black Dog and the Kitmaker Network for the review sample.