The latest issue of Aces High from AK Interactive has landed with us. Issue 9 changes pace a bit, with a whole issue dedicated to a certain famous Austrian body builder’s favourite transportation method – helicopters. Doubling up this month, we’ve also been blessed with a bumper ‘Hind Special’ issue of the magazine series – with a much higher page count that usual. The Special edition dedicates it’s pages to a very in depth look at building a scale model hind from start to finish.

Let’s kick it off with issue 9.

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If you’re familiar with the magazines and books AK Interactive puts out – then the quality of the pages and overall presentation should come as no surprise. Every page is full of high quality images, printed on good sturdy paper stock and laid out in an easy to read format. From a presentation standpoint, there’s really no faulting them. Content is the king however – no point having pretty pictures and glossy paper if there’s nothing worth reading. I think it’s fair to say that you won’t be disappointed here.

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The magazine kicks off with a thorough look at the history of the helicopter. Over the first ten pages they cover just about everything from the earliest prototypes in the 1930s all the way to the modern day. Obviously your mileage may vary on this, but if you’re at all interested in the history of these modern war horses there’s plenty of nice insights alongside historical photos and schematics.

With the history out of the way, the magazine kicks right into the modelling side of things. There’s a few tutorials here focusing on a variety of different helicopters, each one is a little different but the overall quality is pretty top notch.

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There’s a big focus on highly detailed models here, with quite a variety of different products used throughout the projects. As a wargamer who only dabbles in scale modelling, my initial impressions when thumbing through the issue was that it wasn’t really for me. There’s a lot of focus on getting those canopies perfect and adding heaps of detail – things that can often be lost on a tabletop. However, after Turing back to the start and giving each tutorial a thorough read through I was quite impressed. While I won’t be following the guides step by step, the magazine provided heaps of great little tips and tricks on how to achieve certain weathering effects in a really straight forward way.

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The instructions are very clear but they can be a little too general at times, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more detail on some of the ways they achieved particular effects. It’s a small thing, but it does make it a little bit more difficult to apply these techniques to other modelling projects. That said, I appreciated quite a lot of the way instructions were presented. Rather than simply showing the what, where, when and how, the writers also relayed their motivations behind why they chose to use particular methods, techniques and products.

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Overall I’d say the magazine does a good job of covering how you can create highly detailed models with just a few simple techniques. I’ll definitely be using some of the things I’ve picked up here and while I can’t see myself painting any helicopters anytime soon – I’ll certainly be trying a few of the things I’ve seen on other models I’m currently working on.

Let’s move on to the Special Issue now.

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The Hind special is pretty much what it says on the tin – if you’ve got a scale Hind model sitting in the corner somewhere then this is the magazine you’ll want. The first part of the magazine is dedicated to a bit of background on the real life helicopter, providing enough detail without really waffling on too much. It’s much shorter than the section I talked about earlier, but as we’re only talking about Hinds here, that’s to be expected and I still found it quite an interesting read.

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The section that follows however, is really a standout. Almost half of the 139 page count is actually dedicated to a wonderful photo gallery of a real life Hind MiL Mi-24D. As someone who’s really into military hardware this section was a big standout. More than just some photos of the areas we’ve all seen before, the guys have taken a photo of almost every nook and cranny this bird has. Short of actually standing inside one you’d be hard pressed finding a more detailed look at one of these amazing machines. I can see this being a tremendously useful resource for any scale modeller interested in building a model of this particular helicopter. We’ve probably all seen a helicopt before, but have you seen the floor plate that the pilot sits his feat on? Until I picked up this magazine, I sure hadn’t!

With all that out of the way, the rest of the magazine is dedicated to building a scale model representation of what those photos have just shown us. The amount of attention to detail here is truly stunning, with each step of the process outlined in meticulous detail. They spend just as much time looking at how to paint the gauges, seats and other small details as they do the body of the helicopter itself. It really is quite amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much time and effort dedicated to these details in a tutorial before.

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That said – obviously this isn’t going to be for everyone and it can be debated just how useful some of this information is. Quite a lot of the tutorial isn’t really going to be useful outside the specific circumstances presented. That’s not to say that you couldn’t gain insight into how you’d paint the chairs inside a model truck or tank, but if you’re not interested in painting to that level, you might find it doesn’t really provide much use.

Personally, I found it quite insightful and there’s a lot in here that I’ll be keen to give a go on other projects – particularly some of the ways they use unusual tools and materials such as foil to recreate certain details. Overall, I still found heaps of little useful tips and tricks here to take home.

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While it’s mostly focused on the creation of one model – they’ve also included a great part near the end which shows the creation of a Diorama piece to present it. This includes not only using some of the new AK Dioramas range to construct the scenery – but also detailed painting tutorials for some pilots and a jeep to pretty things up as well.

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As a final bonus, the last few pages are dedicated to showing you how to paint decorative artwork like animals onto the sides or even entire surface of a helicopter. This was quite interesting – but I feel it could have used a bit more embellishment. It gives you enough to get started but with only a few pages dedicated to it you don’t really get to dive into enough detail. Honestly, it felt more like filler, great for inspiration but far from a detailed guide.

In summary, both these magazines are certainly worth the price of entry. Speaking objectively, you can’t really beat the quality on offer here. The aforementioned print standard and layout is commendable and both issues read exceptionally well – although the English translation can slip a bit from time to time. I’d have an easy time recommending either of these magazines to scale modellers, particularly those who are into helicopters.

My primary criticism would be how specific they are. If you’re not looking to achieve high detail or realism, you might find there’s not enough in either of these for you. Even from a scale modelling perspective, the focus on Helicopters is a little narrow and not all of this can be applied to other projects. Ultimately however, it’s not a problem with the magazines themselves – more the audience they are aimed at.

Personally I’ve definitely gained a bit of knowledge and have no regrets about reading either issue. If you’re big on helicopters or just looking for high detail scale modelling tips I’d recommend giving them a read. If you’re after something more general however, you might find these just a bit too focused for your tastes.

 – Mike

 

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