Citadel’s Astra Militarum Leman Russ Main Battle Tank: Serious Fun

Looking ahead of them, the soldiers could vaguely see a line of dust on the horizon. They knew what that meant – the enemy was approaching. Looking back over his shoulder, the squad leader made a quick hand signal – take cover. Their skills honed to a fine point by continual war, the soldiers moved quickly, shielding themselves from both view and incoming fire behind boulders, in the crags of rocks, and down gullies.

Withdrawing his binoculars from their case, he carefully scanned the horizon. Vague outlines were now visible in the swirling dust – tanks. Many of them. Holding out his hand, the radioman placed the receiver in his palm. “Psycho 92… 921. Tanks approaching, two klicks. At least a dozen. Over.” A brief bit of static, and the voice came back. “Roger 921. Hold tight. Out.”

Shaking his head, the grizzled squad leader thought to himself… “Hold tight. Easy for you to say.

Suddenly a shadow loomed overhead. Looking up, the men’s eyes grew wide in terror. A giant hand emerged from the hazy sky, reaching down towards the soldiers. Grabbing a few as though they were toys, the men were tossed to the side in a most inglorious fashion. “Hang on boys! Here we go again!”

You’re Dead! No I’m Not!

Those guys are totally dead! They’re just laying there, behind a few pebbles. There’s no way my tanks won’t see them.

The other boy reached for the soldiers, now tossed to the side. “No way! They were dug in behind those boulders. Your tanks are too far away to see them. My guys could have just laid there and watched them roll on by.”

The first boy was incredulous. “How? They’re laying on flat ground!

“You’re an idiot. You have to use your imagination. In real life they’d be dug in, not laying on flat ground. I told you that when I put them there. ‘They’re hiding under rocks and in ditches.’ How hard is that to understand?”

“No, you’re an idiot! My tanks have infrared heat detectors, so they can see them. Even through the boulders, because…”

“What? You’re crazy! No one ever said anything about ‘infrared’. When did that come up? Now you’re just making stuff up as you go along!”

“I am not! Everybody knows that. Tanks have all sorts of special sensors! In fact….

The More Things Change…

I’ve written many times about my memories of playing with toy soldiers alongside my driveway so many years ago. A jumble of leftover driveway chunks and poured concrete from some house remodeling served as my Iwo Jima, Anzio, Normandy, Kasserine Pass, and whatever other battle me and my friends could think of. 

And we had hundreds, if not thousands of soldiers. Everything from Airfix HO scale to the generic green Army men from the grocery store. Generic plastic tanks mixed with scale model aircraft and artillery pieces. Homemade WWII pillboxes were right at home next to commercially produced old west forts. In the world of our battles, anything could be included. It just required a little imagination.

When I played alone, I tended to be a bit more particular about things. I tried to move soldiers into logical positions, and in my own youthful way think tactically, just as I’d read in history books. Battles were slow, deliberate, and thoroughly predictable. In my world of battle, there were good guys and bad guys. No one was mixed up about it at all. The good guys always won. 🙂

Getting Along With Others

How I played when friends were over simply depended on the friend. Some liked doing it the way I did – carefully and deliberately. One introduced me to the use of dice to add a layer of chance to the whole thing. It was simple, really, but it worked. Roll a 1 or 2 and the fire had no effect. If a 3, 4 or 5 was rolled, they were set on their side (or flipped over) for a turn, and thus out of action. When the dice showed a 6  they were dead. Removed from the battlefield.

A few other kids simply wanted to throw rocks at the soldiers lined up, or to blow them apart with firecrackers. It was kind of fun for a while, but I was fairly particular about my armies. I knew the count of every unit, and would go to great lengths to find any lost soldier. So the thought of blowing them sky high was a bit hard to swallow, and was usually reserved for the very cheapest (and easiest to replace) green army men.

The Appeal Of Warhammer

I suppose my love for those childhood days of plastic army battles explains why I have so thoroughly enjoyed building Warhammer 40K kits. They’d have fit right in to those battles so well. In fact, I think it’s because they’re the kinds of models that would have been my “star players” which have made them so appealing. Even today I can picture 10-year-old Jon looking at these designs and shouting “Cool!”

Funny thing is, I’ve never played the game, and have not had the urge to do so. For one, I can’t afford the investment, even in the smaller skirmish games. Our family budget is so tight that if I buy a model, I have to sell it at a profit, even if it’s a small one. Having even a small collection of models reserved for play is not practical.

A second thing that has kept me out of it has been the rules. The childhood method my friends and I used was simple. Set up your army, call your shots, rolls the dice. There wasn’t a lot of nuance. Battles were over in half an hour, so we could start over if we chose to, or go build a model, or hop on our bikes and head to the lake for a swim. Or whatever it was we wanted to do…

But the models… those things have captured me. Frankly, I love spending my time building and painting them.

The Leman Russ

The Leman Russ Battle Tank is an almost perfect kit for any modeler. If you’re a 40K player and you play an army that uses them, you’ll of course like the kit. (You probably have multiples already… 🙂 ) If you’re an armor builder who wants to do something a bit different, it’s right up your alley. And anyone who is curious about Citadel kits in general will find it a great place to start.

The model can be assembled in just a couple of hours. While there are options for armament configurations, unless you plan on playing the kit in a game, it simply comes down to the “rule of cool” in how you arm it up. The fit is very good, and there’s nothing about it that is fiddly.

Aside from leaving the tracks off, and maybe the exhausts, the whole model can be built fully and then painted. And while there are canon colors and schemes, the very “made up” nature of it invites free expression. The entire genre is essentially an enormous “what if”.

From Bare Plastic To Heavy Metal Weathered

Bonus content for both base painting and weathering is available on Patreon.  The steps are covered in detail. I’d be grateful if you’d consider becoming a patron today!

I opted to go with canon colors for the model, which are Citadel’s Zandri Dust and Castellan Green. However, to “kill two birds with one stone”, I opted to give the model a base coat of AK Interactive’s Dunkelgelb Ausgabe ’44 (RC061). It is a close cousin to Zandri Dust, and because it is a lacquer paint, it could also act as primer.

The camo pattern was then brush painted on using the Castellan Green. I made sure the pattern “wrapped” the tank nicely, so whether viewed from either side or the top, it flows together nicely. 

Additional detail was added, with Citade’s Leadbelcher being used for silver parts, and the same maker’s Screaming Skull for the white adornments.

To make painting easier, I left off the tracks, smaller weapons, and search light. I should have left off the exhausts… should have being the operative word. 

With the base paint on, the model was given a gloss coat, and a few of the kit decals added.

Making It Worn

The Vallejo weathering products I used.

The weathering started with an enamel panel wash, which was followed by sponge chipping. I used a two color approach, with Straken Green used in the green areas, and Ushabti Bone for the tan areas. (Both are Citadel paints.) A steely gray mix was then applied to some of the previously chipped areas. The goal was to create the appearance of both minor paint scratches, and chips that went right down to the underlying material… whatever it is in the 41st century. 🙂

Rust effects were applied using Vallejo Washes. I focused these on bolt detail, and in larger scratches, to suggest older abuse that had started the oxidizing process. More weathering was added using additional Vallejo products, these being applied as streaks, splotches, stains, dirt, muck, grime, and mud. I didn’t follow a particular order, but rather applied them “all together”, blending and mixing and manipulating them, working towards the “I’ll know it when I see it” stage. While acrylics don’t have much working time, they are generally translucent enough that effects can be built up. And the fast drying time allows for quick layering.

The tracks were given a simple treatment. I based them in Leadbelcher, a darker silver color. I sponged on Runefang Steel, a brighter silver, to make them appear nicked and scraped. Citadel’s Nuln Oil was applied, and then several rust colors were sponged on. I painted the square pads in the middle of each track shoe black, and sponge chipped it with neutral gray. The tracks were added only when I was doing the final weathering, so they could be dirtied up organically with the rest of the model.

The weathering was finished off with some airbrushed smoke effects around the weapons and exhausts. A few additional weathering touches were added, and a matte coat applied.

All Done

I was pretty happy with how the Leman Russ turned out. It met my goal of being heavily weathered, yet I think the weathering products used should be solid enough to allow for tabletop gaming if the eventual buyer chooses to do so. It has a look that is believable in a sense, yet is also “over the top” enough that I feel it fits the universe it is drawn from.

Either way, this is a great kit for any modeler. If you’re wanting to try Citadel Warhammer kits, I highly recommend it.


The darkness around the squad was impenetrable. If not for the fact that they were all next to each other, cramped up in a small prison cell, they might have thought each was completely alone.

A voice spoke from the void.

“Sarge, you think this will ever end?”

Had the squad been able to see him, they’d have noted his eyes were shut, his body relaxed. He sat silently for a moment, finally breaking the silence that hung in the air.

“You know how this goes. We’re here, then The Hand picks us up and we’re on a battlefield. We fight, sometimes we die, and then we all wake up here in the dark. Only to do it again the next day.”

The squad leader let this sink in for a moment, then continued.

“It’s the way it has been as far as anyone can remember, and it’s likely how it will always be. The wars never end. Better get used to it.”

Though he could feel the other soldiers around him, the old sergeant felt alone. His mind drifted to memories of childhood and family, but then drifted away again, those images only briefly glimpsed in a fog. He closed his eyes.

“Get some rest. You’ll need it tomorrow.”



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