Imperator Nikolai I was laid down in July 1886 at the Franco-Russian Works in St. Petersburg. She was a nearly identical sister to Imperator
Aleksandr II
, with the major difference being that Imperator Nikolai I had her 12” guns mounted in a turret rather in a shielded barbette.  She was
launched in June 1899 and commissioned in July 1891. Soon after her commissioning, she became the flagship of the Russian Mediterranean Squadron
under the command of Rear Admiral Marakov.  In 1892, she sailed to New York City to participate in the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the
discovery of America.  She then visited Toulon in October 1893. During the First Sino-Japanese War she sailed to the Pacific Ocean and remained there
until late 1896. She then returned to the Mediterranean Squadron and supported Russian interests during the Cretan Revolt. She returned to the Baltic in
April 1898 where she underwent a lengthy refit, which altered her appearance and replaced all of her machinery, before returning to the Mediterranean
in 1901.

At the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, Imperator Nikolai I was transferred to the Baltic, where she received a quick re-fit and re-armament. She
became the flagship of Rear Admiral Nebogatov’s hastily formed 3rd Pacific Squadron which also included the obsolete coastal defense battleship
Admiral Ushakov, the old armored cruiser
Vladimir Monomakh and five transports and auxiliary units. This squadron sailed on February 15, 1905
from the Baltic to the Pacific via the Suez Canal to reinforce Admiral Rozhestvenski’s 2nd Pacific Squadron, which had left four months earlier to
reinforce the Russian fleet already at Port Arthur and Vladivostok.   Both squadrons eventually rendezvoused on May 9, 1905 off Kua Be Bay in
Indochina. On May 14th the Russian ships left Kua Be Bay to sail for Vladivostok via the Korea Strait which was the shortest route.  The plan was to
avoid contact with the Japanese fleet, reinforce the squadron based in Vladivostok and then engage the enemy. Japanese naval intelligence considered
this to be the most likely move for the Russian ships and Admiral Togo’s fleet was ready to intercept them.
The Battle of Tsushima took place on May 27-28, 1905 and it is well known that the Russian fleet was decimated in this battle. On the first day of the
Imperator Nikolai I received several hits, though none were critical. Later that day, the injured Rozhestvenski handed over command of the
Russian fleet to Nebogatov and
Imperator Nikolai I became the flagship of the remaining units. Nebogatov decided to continue on a northeast course to
Vladivostok. During this run, some of the Russian ships could not keep pace and the fleet started to disperse and come under attack by Japanese
destroyers and torpedo boats.  

Anticipating a run for Vladivostok, Admiral Togo took a position to bar Nebogatov’s ships. On the morning of May 28, the Russian ships were spotted
and the Japanese ships closed in and essentially surrounded Nebogatov. The Rear Admiral had no choice but to surrender and the flag on
Nikolai I
was lowered. The Japanese took the ship over and she was taken to Sasebo, where she was commissioned into the Japanese Navy as Iki. She
continued to serve until 1922, when she was scrapped under the provisions of the Washington Treaty.
The Imperator Nikolai I kit is another joint venture between Box 261 and Combrig. Box 261 produces the masters for the resin parts, designs and
produces the photo-etch and creates the assembly diagrams for the instructions.
Combrig casts all the resin parts, makes the final layout for the
instructions and prints them, then packs the kits and distributes them. The end result is another fine kit from this combined effort.

The kit represents the ship as she appeared at Tsushima. In the 1898 refit, her superstructure was cut down one deck abaft the mainmast. Looking at
the kit’s armament and comparing it to some of the references I have on hand, at first I thought that there was a mistake with the model. The kit has a
shielded 152mm gun mount fitted on the deck at the stern. I saw no mention of this in “Conway’s All the World's Fighting Ships 1860—1905” or
Tomvitch’s “Warships of the Imperial Russian Navy, Volume 1”. However, if you look closely at the photo of
Imperator Nikolai at the top of this
review and the other photo with a view of the stern, you will see this gun fitted. These photos are of the ship just before her departure with the 3rd
Pacific Squadron, so it appears that this extra 152mm gun was added as part of her re-armament. The number of 47mm and 37mm guns in the kit
differs from the information in Tomvitch regarding the wartime re-armament, but my guess is that
Box 261 had better information, so I will take this on
a bit of faith.
Hull Detail - As usual, Combrig offers this kit in both a two-part full hull and a waterline version. My kit is the waterline version so I don’t have any
images of the lower hull part.The upper hull has plenty of details cast into it, with hatches, gun casemate doors and portholes. Looking at the stern, I
would think that some doors giving access to the stern walk would be present, but there are none visible in the recesses. I would add some photo-etch
doors from another source.  Along the lower edge of the upper hull there is a resin lip that will need to be removed, but there is a scored line that will
guide you when doing this.

The deck is basically devoid of any detail, with the exception of the barbette and wood planking. While the latter is done well enough it suffers from the
common error that there are no butt ends. The decks have recessed outlines for the various deck coamings, housings and fittings which are separate
parts. This is supposed to serve as an aid, showing where the corresponding parts are to be glued to the deck.
Smaller Resin Parts - The kit is broken down into a lot of individual parts, which makes for easier casting but a little more work for the modeler. The
trade-off is that you do get a lot of detail in the final build and it could simplify painting is some areas. A thin resin casting wafer contains the raised
upper deck, the forward and aft flying decks, sky light and hatch coamings, the stern walk, the bases for the funnels and the decks for the pilot house.  
Some of the parts became detached where the casting wafer was thinnest.  Overall the detail in these parts is very good.

The armored conning towers are cast separately and have a resin lip, similar to the hull, which must be removed. The two funnels are well done with
deep openings and good cap aprons. Openings are present at the bases to accommodate the steam pipes, which are separate resin parts. The modeler
may wish to substitute these with brass rod. The turret is also nicely cast, with viewing cupolas and openings for the resin gun barrels. The turret will
have to be carefully removed from its casting runner. As mentioned above, there are a lot of smaller parts all attached to casting runners. The parts are
very well cast, need little, if any, clean up and must be carefully removed from the casting runners.  
One runner has a pair of wooden deckhouses that are fitted aft. The doors, windows, wood frames and the planking on the roof are done convincingly.  
A total of 11 boats of six different types (motor launches, cutters, whaleboats and dinghies) are provided. With the exception of the motor launches, the
boats have no real detail and are empty hulls.  The details, such as the thwarts, wooden planking and rudders, are all provided as photo-etch parts. A total
of eight large cowl vents are included which are fitted at the base of each funnel.

The smaller resin parts include the propeller and running gear (even though this is the waterline version), gun barrels, stern 152mm gun mount, 47mm
and 37mm guns, anchors, searchlights, boat davits and associated gears, lower sections of the masts, mooring bits and chocks and sundry deck and
bridge fittings.  With regards to the gun barrels, you will get a pair of the 305mm for the turret, four 229mm barrels that are fitted into the hull at the four
corners of the citadel and just one 152mm barrel for the mount fitted to the stern. I am disappointed that more 152mm barrels were not included to fit
into the casemate positions in the hull. I was also a bit surprised to see a pair of life rafts that look like Carley floats, but looking at photos of the ship they
are visible on the hull amidships.

Brass Photo-etch - A very thorough photo-etch part and detail fret is included with the kit, which is stored inside a large envelope for protection. The
first thing you will notice is that railings are included, which is usually the case for kits that are joint ventures with
Box 261. The railings have individual
stanchion ends, which I find harder to work with than those with a bottom rail, but it is good to see them included as most of the time
Combrig kits do
not. The unique stern walk railing is also included, as well as inclined and vertical ladders, boat details, raised boat skids, gun shields stern 152mm and
smaller guns, mast starfish, supports for the bridge wing decks and numerous other details. The pilot house structure is done in brass and will require
bending it into an oval shape to sandwich between the resin base and roof. A nice little detail is the plaque with the ship’s name in Cyrillic that was fitted
to the stern. A number of individual portholes are also included that are intended to do affixed to the hull over the openings in the hull.  Depending on
your skill or pain level, you may wish to omit these. In general, the relief etching is good and adds some depth and texture to the parts.  Part reference
numbers are etched into the fret to aid in their identification.
Instructions - The assembly instructions are provided on 16 total pages and are among the best that I have seen. The first pages follow the standard
Combrig layout. The cover sheet has a profile and plan view of the ship, some specifications and a brief history, though the text is in Cyrillic. The next
page has a breakdown of the resin parts with identification numbers which are referenced in the assembly diagrams. A small image of the photo-etch
fret is also present on this page. The following pages have numerous clear and detailed assembly diagrams with resin part numbers within circles and
photo-etch part numbers within squares. The effort made in the assembly diagrams should be commended and will facilitate model construction.  I
very much like the completed views, some in more than one perspective, of certain areas of the model. These help tremendously to show where all the
parts should be, which may get muddled in the busier illustrations. The parts upper masts and yardarms need to be made using brass rod, which is not
included.  The instructions give you exact lengths and diameters in millimeters to make these parts and they also give you exact locations, again
measures in millimeters from the base, of where all the parts are to go on the masts.

There are no painting instructions, but based on photos, the ship was overall black with wooden decks. The funnels were painted either all black or the
more traditional yellow with black bands on the top as photos show her both ways. I personally will go with the traditional funnel scheme to add a little
The Verdict - This kit, in my humble opinion, is excellent. There are some very minor quibbles, but they do not detract from just how well done it is
overall. If you are fan of Imperial Russian Navy ships, you must get this kit as your model fleet would benefit. So far I have been quite impressed with
the end results of the joint venture between
Box 261 and Combrig and I hope to see more in the future. This kit is available from Free Time Hobbies.
Felix Bustelo