by: Andras [ ]
I have received the 1/350 scale SMS Markgraf by ICM to review, and I decided to look around for PE sets to go along with the build. The first one was sent to me by White Ensign Models (WEM) designed for the Konig class ships; I will review the others in separate articles, and then I will do a build review of the ship with at least two of these sets used. At least this is the plan.
Going to be a long project… so keep tuned.
König class PE detail
First off, to start the review, I have to say the WEM set is really comprehensive and very nicely detailed for the price; it will be enough to provide you a very good level of detail for your build. It is designed for all the König class ships (of which Markgraf was one), and since ICM essentially reboxed the same model with very few modifications as the Konig, Markgraf, etc., it should fit the Markgraf -or any other ship- just fine. (If you want an accurate representation of your chosen ship at your chosen period, you will have to do a lot of research to tailor the ICM kit to your needs, but overall it is a pretty good model.) I will keep referring to the Markgraf, but keep in mind that all four König class ships were very similar to each other (although they did have a few distinguishing features mostly on the masts and the structure of the bridge), so it should really not matter which ship you end up using this set with.
First important thing to mention: the set provides you with the anti-torpedo net shelves. This is a great feature, since if you want to build your König class ships in pre-Jutland configuration, you will definitely need these. (The nets were removed after the battle of Jutland.) The set does not provide the nets themselves, but the rolled-up nets can be easily simulated with a thick shoelace cut to size. (And WEM provides a separate set for the nets as well -not sure if it is only waterline or not, so check before purchasing.) A word of warning: the assembly is VERY fiddly with over eighty tiny PE parts.
The metal itself is great: not too thin, not too thick; it can be handled quite well. Most of the set - not surprisingly- is made up by the rails. They are the single most important addition to any large-scale ship, because they really have a large impact on the visuals. As with all 1/350 ships, there are a LOT of them, and there are different types. The etched detail is really delicate and well-done, especially of the chain rails; I think these are the best rails available for Markgraf. (The ship has been modified/modernized in 1917, so check your references -if you can find any- about if a particular area of the superstructure had railing or splinter shields at the time you are depicting.)
There are three rail types: chain, two bar and three bar railings; the instructions are immensely helpful about what type goes where -but then again, check your references (of which there are not many, and mostly in German) if you really want to have an accurate model.
The funnel grilles are also very important replacement; the ICM kit provides a solid piece of plastic with ribbing on top. Aside from the railings, it is the most important point where you can improve the base kit.
There are a lot of ladders provided: one-piece vertical ladders, which you have to trim, and inclined ladders with railings provided to replace the kit’s somewhat bland and featureless plastic ones. If you decide to install the vertical ladders, you will have to remove the moulded-on detail.
The boats stowed on the ship also have a lot of additional details, which really dress them up (oars, wheels, engines and screws, etc.). The boat cradles also have additional details making the plastic parts a bit more realistic; they really transform the somewhat basic plastic pieces into tiny little scale models.
Anchor chains are also provided, but honestly they are a bit useless, since they are two-dimensional. The moulded-on detail of the kit is even worse, but if you really want to replace it (and you should because it does make the model a lot more realistic), use real chain. The PE can help you as a reference about the size of the chain links.
The foremast aerial spreader is a very nice, delicate part, however it will not really bear the weight and the tension of rigging, should you decide to install rigging on your ship. (Neither are the ICM parts strong enough, I might add.)
You will find a lot of very welcome, very tiny detail which will make the ship even more realistic: a ton of skylight covers for the decks, dead-lights, armored doors for the turrets, twenty standard doors for the superstructure, life rings (but no PE nets for the life-rafts), open deck hatches, equipment for the bridge (ship’s wheel, telegraph, binnacle). Etc., and finally, my real favorites, the PE detail for the tiny 88mm guns.
There is a very nice, detailed foremast lower spotting position provided; again, check your references if the particular ship you are building had it or not.
There are a couple of alternative parts as well. The bridge extension platform supports are nice, but I am not sure if the Markgraf had these bridge extensions (König, as a capital ship, had them at one point of its life, but they were removed after Jutland). In fact I’m fairly certain they were only installed on the König. (The König also had an extra bridge for the admiral on board.)
A nice touch is the inclusion of casemate covers: the 1917 modernization (or, alternatively, after Jutland, as the instructions state; I have contradictory sources) saw the removal of the 88mm guns; these covers serve as a replacement of their mountings. (Crew accommodation was created in their place.) They are very useful if you want to depict the ship after this modifications- but then you won’t get to use the amazing detail for the 88mm guns… Hard choices.
The lower bridge roof provided is probably also a König-only modification.
The set contains the four bow crests for the four König class battleships; the etching is really fine, although the crown design is wrong for the Markgraf. (The crown should be a fleuron crown, not the imperial one.) The presence of bow crests is a somewhat debated issue, anyhow. Since Markgraf was put in service after the war started, the crest was not installed. (And crests were taken off ships which had them to make identification more difficult.) However, there are photos of the SMS König in 1917 with a crest painted on (they did not reattach the cast metal crest), so this issue is somewhat more complex than a statement of “no crests after the war started”. It really boils down to personal preference, since we don’t have definitive answers: you can add it and paint it grey, you can paint it in the appropriate colors, you can use the decal coming with the kit, representing a painted-on crest, or you can just leave it off altogether. My personal opinion is that even though it is not the correct shape it would be a shame to leave it off.
Another small issue is that no torpedo launcher doors are provided. It is not a waterline model, and the ship’s torpedo tubes would be visible on this model. It would be nice to have the doors available, but their omission does no way take away anything from this set.
The instructions provide the layout of the PE sheet with the names of the parts listed- which is incredibly useful for the assembly.
The instructions themselves are printed on four A4 pages, and are generally good and easy to understand. My main issue with them is that only the main assemblies are detailed (placement of hatches, doors, and whatnot are not shown). The modeller is expected to have some experience and knowledge of what goes where and how. Which, for this particular modeller, is a somewhat stressful proposition. For example, I have no idea where to put the life rings; there are not many closeup photos of Markgraf- or any other WWI German ship for that matter. They probably go on the walls of the lower decks, close to the sides of the ship, but I’m not sure. if you want to be absolutely accurate, then there will be a lot of searching involved. They do provide great contrast on the otherwise quite dull, light grey ship, so their inclusion is very much welcome.
Overall, the instructions are good, even if they leave a couple of smaller things out. But then again, all ship aftermarket PE instructions I’ve seen so far are like that.
Overall, it is a great set. If you want to buy one PE set for your Konig class battleship, especially if you want to build it pre-Jutland, this is the set to get. For its price, it gives you an awful lot of detail - but obviously not as much as the monster PE sets do for the more popular ships, like the Yamato; but those sets cost four times as much. Be prepared, though: you WILL handle a lot of tiny PE parts. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, with this set, you will have a very well detailed WWI German battleship.