Over the last couple of weeks us mountaineers have become stuck in all things World War Two. And no sooner had I struggled through painting a British platoon (with add-ons) than the Perries released a complementary set of Afrikakorps Germans.
You know where this is going – a few days ago my pre-ordered box arrived. I ripped it open immediately, and here is what the avid customer encounters:
Closer Look: Paperwork
Before we delve into the actual contents, though, let’s take a look at the box. No surprises there, if you’ve seen any other of the Perry sets before. The cover art by Peter Dennis (actually attributed on the box which is nice!) indicates actual contents and makes for additional reference for building and painting your miniatures.
On the back there’s a brief summary of history and contents, an assembly guide for your basic infantryman (showing gear variants) as well as a few coloured sketches of some of the troopers included.
The same sketches are used on the enclosed leaflet to illustrate the standard composition of a German platoon or Zug during the Desert War. I’ve no clue how accurate it is for the whole period but you certainly won’t go too far astray with these guidelines on both organisation and variety of uniform colours. If you flip the sheet over, you find another, perhaps even more useful assembly guide.
Closer Look: Contents
The set comprises four sprues in total: three identical infantry ones and one for the “command options”. Each infantry frame carries twelve models, seven of which are upright (or moving forward), three kneeling and two prone. The latter two are meant primarily to crew the support weaponry, i.e. a choice of light machine guns (MG34), mortars (5cm calibre) and anti-tank rifles (Panzerbüchse 38/39). There is one of each weapon per sprue with a second MG34 to be carried on shoulder for variety of poses. A nice touch are the headgear options with a mix of (early) cork helmet, (later) Stahlhelm and field cap. However, you won’t be able to equip all your men with either field caps or cork helmets since per box only 19 are provided each.
The command sprue contains one platoon leader (Leutnant or Oberleutnant) and a single radioman (Funker). Confusingly, the latter is operating equipment carried by two men, so perhaps find him a comrade. Apart from a peaked cap and the actual figure (which lacks webbing) the officer’s equipment isn’t that specific, so you can mix and match as you see fit.
Finally, a close-up of some bits. As you can see, there is very good detail on all the pieces. That impression is enhanced by the overall crisp casting and clever composition of the sprues. Most bits come off easily and without danger of damaging them. Also most mould lines run along seams on the model’s sides – that is apart from those figures rotated on the sprue which suffer from lines running across their faces. This is mildly annoying but hardly visible at all.
Let’s do some maths here. The box set of 38 miniatures comes in for £20.00, so that’s about £0.53 per figure. If you want to supplement these with some metals, you’ll pay about £1.17 for the average Perry infantryman. Probably their main competitor for the North African theatre in 28mm is Artizan Designs, and they charge you £1.40 per infantry model. No fair fight against plastics, really, so let’s see how other manufacturers compare. First off, there’s Warlord Games, of course: Their ‘Blitzkrieg’ Germans come closest, and a box set of these will cost you £25.00 or £0.83 per figure. (I’ve been told there’s a good amount of additional bits in this box, hence perhaps worth a look if you are after optional equipment, anyway.) Another one in the market is Wargames Factory; their “Late War German Platoon” gets you 30 models for about £0.41 each (USD 19.95 in total). And even if they’re more prolific in other scales these days, there is Plastic Soldier Company to be included as well: The impressive amount of 57 Russian infantrymen are down to the no less impressive price of £18.50 or £0.32 per model.
In a nutshell, despite the price rise Perry plastics are still a good deal (the Desert Rats were at £0.47 per figure before). In their particular setting they are your cheapest option for now – and likely the foreseeable future as well. If used for Sicily and beyond competition gets tougher, though.
Assembling the Troops
In general, if you have assembled the odd plastic model before this set won’t pose a problem. Each model consists of four to five pieces: torso, headgear, arms and one-piece equipment pack. Some parts can be a bit fiddly, for instance those arms to be attached in pairs to the torso (although they are now a better fit than on previous sets). Also, the grenade launching arms are a nice idea – at least on paper as you have to “thread” the man’s rifle in somehow before glueing it all together. A nonsense!
For some parts like the backpack there is no particular “glue point”, so I had to guess where to place them both correctly and safely (and may therein have failed miserably). By default I now cover the main joints with liquid Green Stuff – yet any putty will do, really – in order to avoid gaps. Another lesson learned from the Desert Rats plastic kit is to trim down the heads. I do this for a closer fit of those separate helmets and caps which often appear to “hover” on a model’s head. A bit laborious but worth the effort me thinks.
A thought on the bases which come with this set: The small, round ones (20mm in diameter) are perfectly serviceable. (I use washers to work with magnetised transport boxes.) From the following picture, though, you might gather that you’d have to come up with your own basing solution for the prone gunners. That’s bad planning.
Another quibble comes from the fact that there simply aren’t enough pieces to equip all men properly, at least according to the OOB included. The main issue here is the insufficient number of Kar98 guns. You get 24 in total, but 26 would be required. No big deal? Perhaps. But frustrating nonetheless.* As it wouldn’t work out anyway I opted for a slightly adapted platoon using a 5cm mortar and an ATR along with a couple of supernumeraries. You’ll see these in detail once painted; in the meantime here are all the minis from the box assembled and ready to progress.
Unfortunately, my collection of WW2 models is (still?) pretty small, and for the African theatre I’ll stick with Perry Miniatures anyway. At least, though, an US paratrooper by Warlord Games was at hand. I’m a big fan of Paul Hicks’ work in the Bolt Action range, but his sculpting style is definitely more pronounced (in neither a good or a bad way) than what the Perries deliver. It’s a bit like character figures against army-builder models.
Besides the “scale” of style here’s one of the upright figures measured base to peak of his cap. That’s about 31mm, so quite average in height for “28mm” models if, as I said, a fair bit different from most others on offer.
Raising the Colour
Most of us (I hope) like to play with painted models. Thus ease and constraint of brushwork has to be part of the verdict.
Once again, I tried to focus on quick paintjobs, i.e. no emphasis on neatness and so readily reproduced. However, easier said than done! Better brace yourself not to get carried away by the level of detail on these models. That said, despite the crisp casting those details have a relatively low profile and some of the defining lines (like collars or scarf) are simply petering out. Hence a quick & dirty wash won’t do the job as well, and you should be prepared to spend extra time on painting it all back in – if you are so inclined.
One should also bear in mind that the variety of colours can be both joy and curse. There is much creative leeway in painting Afrikakorps uniforms. On the other hand the various tones differed a lot from each other; that means if you’re aiming for that rag-tag look you will have to change constantly between drab and sand, greenish and greyish tones. A bunch of “test models” like the ones shown here can help to decide what works for you. (I have yet to find a reddish ochre or light brown to complement my palette – advice is welcome!) Again, the painting guide on the Artizan website was a great starting point.
There are many positive things to say about this set. You get a platoon of expertly sculpted, well-cast and easy-fit models for a mere 20 bucks. That includes a nice range of optional bits, some basic information on organising your force and, not the least, a set of bases. Add to that a box of Desert Rats, and you’re off for a cost-effective and pretty painless start into WW2 gaming in 28mm. From that side of things there isn’t much left to ask for.
However, where there is bright light at least a few shady spots are to be expected. My perception is that the composition of this set is probably well-meant but somewhat ill-conceived.
For example, I’m aware of certain manufacturers providing you with shedloads of options but a limited number of models to actually attach these to. It’s on purpose. At least, though, you should be able to build the basics as advertised – and this kit doesn’t allow for that. Furthermore, there is very little leeway for conversions out of the box as the number of poses is restricted. Both these issues come from a lack of spare bits on essentials like backpacks, arms, weapons etc. A few options less or a better distribution thereof (e.g. why not shift mortar and ATR to the command sprue?) would have helped a lot.
Also, if you include add-ons like instructions or bases do them properly for those people relying on them (e.g. provide a detailed assembly guide for ALL models not just a few).
And finally, I would’ve liked a bit more character on some of the models themselves. Not talking about action poses and grim facial expression – but a few extra heads, maybe scarfed, with goggles on, perhaps some open hands to hold shovels etc. wouldn’t have been to great a deal to include.
All that said, I see this box as another experiment. Maybe it was planned like that long before, maybe the Perries tried to react to the customers’ call for more options – I don’t know. But there is development. Thus, regarding all its qualities the Afrikakorps set is arguably the best Perry plastic box set to date. And I’m looking forward what the twins are up to next.
*Update 02/10/13: Investigating further (haha!) on the lack of Kar98s, here’s what the Perries told me: Obviously they were still designing the infantry sprue when the command sprue had to be sent in for tooling. Therefore equipment couldn’t be shifted as the main sprue quickly filled up, and in favour of additional options the two rifles were dropped. In hindsight, the Perries would have altered the leaflet to recommend using the MP40 instead – as it was a widespread variation, anyway.
Well, I can live with that. The better since metal riflemen are on the horizon… 😮
Manufacturer: Perry Miniatures
Contents: 38 hard plastic figures, 32 circular (20mm) & 4 rectangular bases (40mm), double-sided leaflet (force organisation, assembly guide)
Recommended Price Point: £20
NB the reviewed item was no review copy but regularly purchased by myself, thus no inclination or obligation to the manufacturer.