Forward Observer Unit (1985)
After quite a few months more than I expected, I’ve finally hit the end of the line for the battlefield accessories available through Hasbro as a later mail-in rerelease. The Forward Observer is, hands down, my favorite of these sets. First of all, it’s very clear that this one is the Action Force version since the decals have been changed. The Action Force decal strikes me as pretty cool, probably because it’s one of the few international variants I’ve ever had in my collection and it wound up there by complete accident. Secondly, all the pieces work together well and create a cohesive concept of play which is something that not all of the battlefield accessories did.
Starting off small, the radio is nicely detailed and the telescoping antenna is a nice addition, though it doesn’t do a great job of staying up. My only real problem is the color they cast it in. The dark green they used doesn’t match the main body of the radio, which makes it stand out a little more than I’d like. Also, the photos in the directions didn’t really look that much like the antenna, so when I was assembling this set last year, I honestly initially mistook the antenna for a piece of plastic used to hold the items to the tree. Had I been paying a little less attention, I very likely could have damaged it while extracting the stand for the large mortar.
The second small piece is listed as an infrared monocular. It’s small and turns freely on its pivot point. However, mine pivots almost a bit too freely. It’s rather loose in the socket and doesn’t hold its place very well. However, what I like about it is that it serves a dual function for the set. As a covert observation position, the infrared monocular would be very useful in tracking troop movement. However, since the set also comes with a large mortar (which will be discussed later), the monocular could also be very useful in night time attacks against positions before bugging out.
The final small pieces are a mortar box and two mortars. The mortars fit nicely in the ammo box and also can rest in the opening at the top of the large mortar. It’s not a tight fit, but it does show some foresight in respect to interactivity between the mortar and its launcher. Because they’re high explosive mortars, the box is made to look very stoutly built and looks like it could take some banging around without too much danger.
Moving on to the larger portions of the set, the first piece I want to look at is the tent. Though it’s large and only one piece, much like the Mortar Defense Unit’s sandbags, it’s got a nice, burlap-like texture molded into the plastic that does a very good job of making it look so real. According to the set’s instructions, it’s also bullet-proof…that’s one heck of a tent. A single figure can fit in the tent and stay under cover during the day resting while observing Cobra positions at night. Once again, attention to detail is the name of the game as the two ropes molded into the plastic stretch all the way back to a pair of posts that are part of the mold as well. These are designed to hold the tent open and I appreciate that the designers went to all that extra effort regarding realism with this tent.
The final piece of this battlefield accessory is a very large mortar tube. With this mortar tube, the Joe manning the Forward Observer can dish out some very serious hurt. It’s very well detailed and looks quite impressive on display. While it works with the set, it honestly feels just a little too large for the scale of the Joes. Mortar tubes can be quite large and tall, however this one is almost as tall as Big Brawler. Most photos of even large mortars I found on online only have the tube reaching up to about mid-chest height while the mortar unit for the Forward Observer reaches well past that. I still like the piece, but where the Mortar Defense Unit’s mortar tube was too small and unimpressive, this one is almost too big, especially when you consider a mortar is designed to be transported relatively easily without needing vehicleassistance. While Roadblock could possibly pull that off considering he uses a Ma-Deuce as a personal weapon, I don’t think many other Joes could pull that off.
This set really works well together and I appreciate the attention to detail that was giving to this set. For something that was relatively inexpensive, Hasbro really went all out on it when it was made. That’s something I wish they’d get back to doing. Some of the less expensive product they’ve released in years past definitely felt like it was made on the cheap and to be cheap.