Painting the Highlanders
A big issue when painting these was that I could simply not find a single contemporary colour photograph! Given that my cursory amateur research didn't show any signs of wether or not they actually fought in kilts in North Africa to begin with, I ended up going with a painting scheme that was based more on feeling than historical records. So if my colour choices are way off, I apologize in advance.
The biggest choice came when painting the kilts. The miniatures didn't include the pocket that comes in the middle of the kilt covers, so I assume they are not meant to look as if they wear them. However, it's also a very special look, and I didn't want to miss out of it - but I also didn't fancy converting kilt pockets on every single model. So I ended up half-ways, merely painting some sections as wearing kilt covers and painting the full pattern on other sections.
The kilts were not as hard to paint as I expected. I painted them dark blue, and then did the broad green lines and finally the thin yellow lines. The platoon was meant to be ready for my clubmates to use for our North Africa games, so I painted for speed. This meant that I only did highlights for a few of the colours, which I think is quite fine for tabletop quality paintjobs.
Some of the photos ended up really badly, but I hope it will give you an idea of how they ended up. Overall I really enjoyed this project, as it gave me a chance to both try out to do some conversions and also paint a unit that I had never heard of, or even less seen on a gaming table, before.
The Whole Platoon
Click for larger images
Here it is, the whole lot of them. I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. As you can see it's a lot bigger than an actual platoon, with five sections and several extras and support options. In Chain of Command you can use support points to buy extra sections, so it's always handy to paint up a few more men than the minimum number. However, that always puts you close to the temptation of just painting up a few more men to make a second platoon as well.
Officers, Medics, NCOs and Mascots
Click for bigger images
First out is the platoon commander, flanked by his batman, a trusty bagpipe player, and two medics. All of them are from Wargamers' Homestead. As you can see on them and the rifle armed NCOs I decided to mix and match, giving some of them the red-and-black regimental socks and some of them the simpler grey woolen ones. Some also have kilt covers. This way I think the multiples of the same casting doesn't look as obvious when using them on the table.
Finally I couldn't help painting up two mascots to follow these South Africans into the desert.
The commonwealth infantry platoon structure for 1942's North Africa calls for the NCOs to be armed with SMGs, so these Warlord conversions with Thompsons are there to make the platoon historically correctly equipped. However, if the rifle armed NCOs previously showed are used, these guys can also serve if the player buys extra SMGs to a section using support point.
Riflemen & LMGs
I painted up a some sections without kilt covers, and I think they will really stand out on the table next to the standard 8th Army or DAK forces. As mentioned before I used a minimum of highlights on these, yet the bold colours on the kilts are enough to make them special. The riflemen are all from Wargamers' Homestead.
I still gave some kilt covers though, which I think also ended up looking nice. I did a bunch of google image research when basing these, and found quite a lot of colourful wild flowers in Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. So I decided to use flowery tufts on some of these bases, and I really like the results.
The Bren gun teams are again just two single poses (Bren gunner and prone rifleman) being repeated, so I used a variation in the tufts on the bases to make them look less samey.
Examples of complete sections. Click for larger images.
The various extras such as mortars, anti-tank rifles etc. are a big part of Chain of Command games, so I couldn't do without them. It's also the part of this force where the new Warlord 8th army box came in handy, making up some gaps. All of these can be clicked for larger images.
Sniper team (Wargamers' Homestead)
Light mortar team (Warlord)
MMG team (Wargamers' Homestead)
Boys' anti-tank rifle team (Warlord gunner, Wargamers' Homestead spotter)
3" Mortar team (Wargamers' Homestead)
Extra Bren gun team (Bren gun from Wargamers' homestead, rifleman from Warlord conversion) and extra generic crew member (Warlord conversion)
Looking for some guns
With the bulk of the Cape Town troops close to being completed, I kept mulling over a problem. While the troops we bought covered most thing in a basic platoon, there were gaps. Most obviously, there were no SMG armed minis, and the Thompson SMG was a common armament for section leaders in the desert. There were also no anti-tank rifle, and only a medium mortar, not a light one. We were also a tad short of support weapon crews.
Needless to say, the options out there to add these are not great. There's a set of kilt wearing specialists from Pulp Miniatures which would net me a Thompson, but it would be quite impractical for equipping an entire platoon's worth of leaders. I had to look elsewhere.
Filling the gaps
Green stuff and magic sculpt are useful putties for filling in gaps on minis, so why not use it to fill the gaps in our Highlander force as well? We managed to time our North Africa adventures with Warlord's new releases for the theater, so I checked out their new 8th army plastic set. Indeed, it comes with both Boys' anti-tank rifles, 2 inch light mortars, and a bunch of Thompson SMGs. Perfect! It even comes with several head options, one of them being tam o' shanter caps. That's pretty much everything we need...
...except the kilts.
I went about to make some kilts and the kilt hose flashes out of modeling putty. It was a long time since I tried sculpting, so I tested several options. Both Kneadatite ("green stuff") alone, magic sculpt alone, and some different mixes of them. In the end, I liked mixing them best. If you mix a bit of magic sculpt into your green stuff, it becomes much harder and you can scrape or even file the material after it cures. Pure green stuff becomes much more like rubber.
Leaders with Thompson SMGs. Comparison mini on the right.
Mortar and AT rifle weapon teams, as well as an extra crew for the MMG.
Well, for good and for bad, Warlord minis are really beefy. To me it feels a bit odd, especually as you look at pictures from the desert, and a lot of soldiers look thin, lanky, and sinewy after serving for a while in the arid climate.
On the positive side, it was a great way to add both weapon teams and extra leaders to the platoon. The kilts were pretty quick to sculpt, even for a novice like me, though I'm not sure I'd have the stamina to sculpt kilts on the entire box.
Now I look forward to see how these guys will match up with a coat of paint on them. That, and I'll need to decide what to do with the rest of the box!
Why South African Highlanders?
This little project is an example of how sometimes, everything doesn't exactly fall perfectly into place, so you have to settle for something pretty neat, but not 100% perfect.
It all started when we had more or less chosen Gazala as the probable starting point of our ventures into the North Africa deserts. We already had several platoons either painted or planned out, and started pouring over the Orders of Battle for Gazala 1942. We had French legionnaires, we had Indians, we had Brittish motorized infantry, all of them partaking in the battle. But there were also two South African infantry divisions, forming the main frontline (the one that Rommel avoided) together with the 50th Northumbrian infantry division. While we could just use our British infantry to represent them, was there anything more interesting we could do with these formations crossing the continent to fight?
Somehow, one name stuck out of the list of regiments on that list - the Cape Town Highlanders. The mere idea of something so quintessentially Scottish as highlanders, but from the other side of the world? Now that's something unusual.
Cape Town Highlander History
Once I started reading up on them, they kind of grew on me. The regiment, formed mainly by South Africans with Scottish ancestry in 1885, saw action in many of the operations that we've looked into around the Mediterranean: from El Alamein to Monte Cassino and, of course, Gazala. While not in the thick of the fight during the initial and middle phase of the battle, the South African divisions fought a running defensive fight against Rommel's DAK after the writing was on the wall and the Allied forces around Tobruk were hastily ordered to pull back to the border to Egypt.
Such a retreat could make for some interesting games. They also didn't have that much of their own vehicles and other support options, relying more on British tank support, which would give me an excuse for not doubling our tank investments for the desert.
A final bonus is that I've never seen anyone making these as a wargaming force. I tried to google them, and found nothing remotely connected to wargaming.
Drafting the Platoon
As a tabletop wargamer, the next step is maybe one of those that tend to eat up way too much of my time, but can also be a lot of fun: finding the actual miniatures.
The tricky part was to even decide what they were going to represent. I simply could not find any pictures online of the Cape Town Highlanders in battle in North Africa. On one hand, I saw comments that no Highlanders fought in kilt after 1940, and there are plenty of pictures of say, Gordon and Cameron's highlanders that supports that:
The look above could easily be accomplished by using Perry's plastic Desert Rats, and the metal head swaps they have available. I also found pictures of the Cape Town Highlanders in Italy, in similar uniforms, either with typical highlander headgear or in helmets.
On the other hand, all the pictures I could find of the Cape Town Highlanders related to Africa had them in shirts, tropical helmets, kilts and kilt covers, which is just a very unique look:
Snazzy indeed! And I also found pictures that could be highlanders in kilt in North Africa, though online research is always sketchy as you can't trust the date or even the image descriptions:
But basically we have two options here: making quite similar to our other planned platoons, or potentially fudging things a bit to make a more interesting tabletop experience. I like historical accuracy, but I'm also prone to go with the Rule of Cool now and then, so why not dive in and make these Highlanders something unusual?
Sourcing the Miniatures
I don't think I'm alone in spending more time and effort in pouring over miniatures online than actually playing games. Searching for new available options, comparing them and finding companies you've never heard of before - it's really like digging for hidden treasure.
Finding suitable miniatures for our potentially slightly romanticized Highlanders turned out harder than expected! There are quite a few options out there for WWI or earlier conflicts, as well as non-kilt Highlanders suitable for 1944-45, but that's pretty much the only things we could find at first. That is, until a clubmate stumbled over an expired kickstarter project.
I had never heard of the company, Wargamers' Homestead LLC, before. But they turned out to be friendly enough and after some e-mailing we had ordered a full platoon, some a support weapons, and an extra section of riflemen.
Now, these are clearly depicting Highlanders in France 1940, so they are not perfect for this project. First of all, they have gasmask bags on their chests, something that I haven't seen that much of in North Africa in 1942. They also come with the Brodie helmet, where in the few pictures I have of the Cape Town Highlanders they sport the tropical helmets.
My initial plan was to make two conversions on these: to make a pocket flap on the front to make the kilt cover more obvious, and to cut off the Brodie helmets and replace them with tropical ones. But once I got the actual miniatures in my hands, I could tell two things:
1) it would be much harder than I expected to remove the helmets, and
2) if I were to paint up all these guys for September, I got to get a move on rather than spending time on kilt conversions.
The miniatures themselves looks pretty nice - far from the most detailed I've seen, but that can be a very good thing when you want to paint a force quickly. For miniatures destined for the tabletop rather than the display cabinet, clearly defined areas means they are easier to paint, and will usually look good at an arm's length or more.
First of all I glued all men on flat-headed nails and primed them with brown paint from a Tamiya spray can. Then I put down a very rough test painting scheme on them, to see how it would look, with the clubmates helpful support over Facebook. This is a good idea when you start out a new army, as you want to find out if you dislike the colour scheme before you've painstakingly have applied several colours on dozens of minis.
Test 1: Vallejo's British Tanker Highlight for the tan on shirt and kilt cover, desert yellow helmet, and a rather green khaki for webbing and socks.
This just didn't feel right. The crowds booed. Cats wept. Let's try it again.
Test 2: replaced the greenish khaki on the socks with Deck Tan. Added a splotch of red for contrast. Filled in the black on the rifle.
Much better balance IMHO, and I like the green khaki much more now when it doesn't take over quite as much.
Test 3: the big kilt cover line-up of 2018. In this blind test, kilt #3 from the left (Vallejo Light Mud) won out over the other contestants.
So, with two main issues settled - models and paint scheme, it's now down to the Mother of All Batches (64 men just for the rifles and LMGs!), as I get cracking on painting up the platoon plus support!
The Holiday season is a regular source of bargains for us miniature gamers. This year a few good deals caught my eyes, as I was forming up the first DAK platoon from plastic Perry miniatures. I had enough figures by far for a single platoon, but I was lacking a lot of support options. As I started to check available deals for metal DAK figures from Black Tree Designs and Artizan Designs, the check-out carts mysteriously grew bigger.
When all was said and done, I had added enough extra troops to field two full platoons at once (not to mention some Fallschirmjägers for later), which is great for future multiplayer games of Big Chain of Command. I think we're still a tiny bit short on MG34 crew if both platoons are fielded with two MGs per section, and there are a few support options that we lack in desert outfits, or example a PaK 36. But all in all we're pretty much set for "basic" DAK infantry now, and I can shift my attention to painting vehicles and other platoons for the desert.
Click for bigger pics.
First out is a mix of weapon teams. The first three are built with remaining minis from a Perry DAK box: a forward observer (heavy mortars are off-table in CoC, and are called in by these), a light mortar crew with a 5 cm Granatwerfer, and a sniper.
The next three are LMG crews (armed with MG34), the one in the middle is again from the Perry plastic box, while the other's are from Black Tree Designs. Finally, I used up whatever leftovers I could find in the box to make three extra LMGs and a single ammo carrier.
Next up are the guys responsible for why I started to look from more DAK to begin with, as I wanted some flamethrowers. I didn't need four, but that's how Black Tree sells them, so four it is.
I had to get this set as well from Black Tree, as I was looking for a medic miniature. I painted up the water carrier as a medic, and at first I considered using the rest of the set as a deployment point diorama. But in the end, I thought I'll use them for exceptionally unfocused crew members, as you always get too few when you buy anti-tank or infantry guns etc. They'll add some character to the force, for sure!
I love these Artizan guys carrying satchel charges and extra explosives. I painted their scarves red, to distinguish them easily on the table. In worst case, they'll get the doubtful honor of trying to take out tanks up close and personal.
I made a bunch of SMG troops from the remaining Perry box. Extra SMGs is a decent option for adding more close up firepower to a platoon. I've heard that there'll be a lot of houses built for this project, so don't expect everything to be settled over empty stretches of sand. These will do well in cramped streets and house-to-house firefights.
Finally, a whole bunch of riflemen! These are both Perry, Artizan and Black Tree. I specifically made the Perry with the tropical helmets, to distinguish them from the other platoon.
I must say that after this, I'm a fan of both the Artizan and Black Tree miniatures. They are surprisingly similar in style, so much so that I needed to check their websites to be able to write which ones I got where. So they mix incredibly well, but also well enough with the Perry guys.
Adding these metal minis gives the force a lot of extra variation, and I'm happy with how it turned out. The two platoons are pretty much done now, but I won't swear that no extra men will ever turn up among them.
Is there anything that's missing that you think is a given addition to a DAK force? If so, don't hesitate to make a comment! Otherwise, the next set of Germans will be Fallschirmjägers and mechanised support of these men.
This platoon was something of a communal effort at the club. One player is not an avid painter, so we helped out to with getting these Frenchmen ready to hit the table.
I received them when they were already prepared, basecoated and washed, thanks in large part to Alli who did a lot of the work. I went over them with an additional layer on top of the wash, and then picked out some highlights.
The miniatures are from Perry Miniatures, and make up a basic platoon and some support. They'll get some vehicles of their own later on, I bet, but I expect them to primarily use plain British tanks to begin with. In reality, the French Foreign Legion on both the Axis and Allied sides quickly ran out of their pre-war gear, and used equipment provided by the US/Commonwealth or Germany.
I really like that this platoon has black and red kepis. That way they are really easy to see on the tabletop. Starting out with a mix of leaders with SMGs, rifles, or just pistols.
These men make up the bulk of the platoon with their trusty rifles. Each section comes with two riflemen in the LMG team, and four riflemen in the rifle team.
These helmeted men can be used as extra SMGs.
No platoon is complete without some machine guns! Each of the three sections comes with a LMG (M24/29) team consisting of one gunner, one loader, and two riflemen.
Some sneaky Frenchmen that can be used as snipers, forward observers, or just LMG crew or riflemen.
These are the defining trait of the French platoon - the Viven-Bessières rifle grenades. Each section comes with one, and there's also a fourth one in a separate V-B team. The platoon can choose to pool all these into a single V-B group.
Finally, some heavy firepower in the form of an MMG, ready to pour deadly fire across the desert landscape.
With this final addition, the French are ready to enter the dunes on North Africa. Rumours are spreading that the next addition to the theater will be more DAK! Stay tuned!
These are intergral to the game of Chain of Command - you don't deploy your units from your table edge or a certain deployment zone, but based on Deployment Points that are placed on the table. You do this through a scouting phase which is kind of a game in itself, and you can get a big advantage on your opponent if you grab some good position, while leaving your opponent to deploy at unsuitable positions.
You can definitely get by with just using markers for your deployment points, but they offer you an opportunity to theme the table towards your army of choice. They can be anything from stacks of supplies (some weapons with limited ammo can resupply at your DPs), foxholes and rolled up parachutes, to stacks of casualties or a burning truck.
As we stared painting up the desert board, I wanted to make an initial set of rather generic DP markers that match the table. This way the players who want to make platoon specific markers are free to do that, but there'll always be the option of using these.
Keeping it nice and simple, the ingredients were limited:
- MDF circular bases
- Plastic stowage bits from Rubicon Models (Allied Stowage and German Stowage kits)
- Leftover weapons and helmets from plastic infantry sprues
- Spackling paste and sand
I spread an even coat of spackling paste on the bases, and stuck the boxes and oil drums into it. This way they look stuck to the ground. I used an already mangled brush with a lot of water on to even out the paste. The guns are glued onto the boxes with plastic glue.
A few bits were not solidly stuck to the paste after drying, but it's easily fixed by just glueing them back with PVA glue.
After drying, I put some watered down PVA glue on top of the paste, and sprinkled some fine sand on it. Once dry, the pieces gets a rough coat of paint. As the DPs are visual markers, I decided to use different colours for the Axis and the Allied bases, with the Allies having darker browns and khaki green, and the Axis having lighter browns and beige.
I kept the idea of keeping the DPs visually different by using two kinds of grass tufts. The stars and crosses are also not really historically correct, but there to make them visually clearer.
Once I got to the point of putting on the decals, I noticed a mistake: 90% of the time, you'll be looking at these from almost right above! But on some of the bases, there were no good place to put the decals so that they are visible from above. Next time, I'll keep that in mind if I plan to use decals on the boxes.
The finished DPs (click for larger view):
DAK reinforcements #1 - a DAK Flak
One of my New Year activities this year was to reorganize the ol' lead pile in the cupboard. One thing I dug out was a 20mm Flak cannon that I had initially built for my Gerbirgsjäger platoon to use in the Stalino campaign. I never finished it back then, so instead of stuffing it back I took the time to give it a quick paint job.
I built it without the gun shield, as that was a common field adjustment for Gebirgsjägers who often had to lug it around and needed it to be as light as possible. Now that it's a Dak Flak instead, I'll just assume they wanted to carry as little as possible in the hot desert sun.
DAK reinforcement #2 - more infantry
Shirty asked me to paint up some more DAK infantry, as he likes the support option of an additional squad. I also like some redundancy in my platoons, as you never know when you might lose a rifleman or an officer during transportation or in storage. My initial batch of infantry was also light on ammunition carriers and SMGs, so this was an opportunity to beef it up a bit. There's also two crew members for the Flak gun in there (click for larger pictures):
A lot of things are happening now. We're painting up the board and the initial batch of terrain, which I'll try to take some pictures of and post after next terrain building session. We're also looking at how we'll play the actual campaign, and we're now talking about making our own support lists specific to Gazala '42.
As for the DAK side, I've ordered a bunch of tanks and trucks. With this additional section, I'm getting close to a second platoon, so it's quite likely that I'll end up just painting more and more DAK infantry as well, until we can field two platoons. It's always useful to have the option, for a game of Big CoC.
So until next time, have a happy new year!
Mustering the Troops
The club is again buzzing with discussions about Chain of Command, and both terrain and miniatures are being painted up for a North Africa campaign. But what would be our first stop in North Africa?
Any discussion about a campaign should start with what forces you have, and what forces you want (and have the time!) to add to them. In our case, we have a few suitable platoons ready, and some that are more or less finished:
On the support side it's also looking good for both sides, with several players working on new tanks and guns painted suitably for North Africa.
With all these different platoons available, we're looking at various campaigns that would be fun to play. While I'm planning to eventually have the troops to span all the way up to the invasion of Italy, we're initially looking at something earlier to have an excuse to move out some early and mid war toys.
The Battle of Gazala - 1942
One solid candidate would be the Battle of Gazala. This month-long battle, from May to June, saw Rommel lead his German and Italian Panzerarmee Afrika against British, Indian, South African and Free French forces. An interesting line-up, isn't it? The battle saw a lot of high-stakes attacks through the desert, both with infantry and tanks, and both sides gained the initiative at different times, but ended in Rommel pushing the Allies back and overrunning Tobruk.
Basically, all our forces except the Fallschirmjäger and Airborne platoons would be covered by the historical forces of the campaign. There was even Fallschirmjägers who were technically attached to the force but weren't committed, so a simple "what-if" scenario could take care of that. However, there are a few things we would like to add if we're refighting it, such as a M3 Grant (which we lack), and some more transportation since the fighting was conducted over large stretches of desert. Personally, I'm looking at adding some captured Allied vehicles, as DAK was relying heavily on captured trucks due to the difficulty of getting supplies across the sea. In this battle, the Axis fielded both Stuart and Crusader tanks, which would make an interesting addition.
Anyway, we haven't decided yet, but it's always good to have a starting point when planning what new to buy and what terrain to build.
As mentioned, the DAK is being reinforced. I built a full squad with a single LMG and riflemen. I noticed that our first platoon had a bit too few ammo carriers for the LMG teams, so I added a few as well. Finally, there are some more SMG troops (in case you buy extra SMG with support points) and some extra crew for the PaK teams.
This is showing how they look after my initial painting step, where I just add flat coats of the basic paints. After this I'll wash them, and then go over them again with the same paints, and finally highlight them.
While Gazala would be too early for these, I'm making a (probably highly incorrect) tank for the French Foreign Legion platoon. It's a Warlord Games Sherman with crew converted to wear FFL headgear. I'm not even sure if they ever drove Shermans, but this picture is close enough for me to make this "fantasy" style tank:
Anyway, I got a nice decal sheet with a Rubicon M10 tank destroyer (that I'll paint up later, 1942 is much too early! It saw combat in North Africa from March '43), and I took some French and generic Allied decals from it. I then based the layout of the decals roughly on pictures I could find of Free French Shermans, a lot of them from 1944. So, frankentank it is!
Once the decals are dried I'll give them a coat of Micro Sol, and then I'll give the entire tank a coat of gloss varnish, and get to work with weathering it. Even if it doesn't find it's way to the first campaign, it's a fun little project, and suitable for one-off games for now.
I was asked how we were going to play the French Foreign Legion in our games, so here's a quick write-up of one way to field this famous French outfit.
The Legion was in a weird spot in WW2. Before the start of the war, German volunteers had gradually joined the outfit to such a high degree that it was a dangrous mix of German infiltrators and victims of the ravages of fascism. They were deemed safe to send as support against Soviet in Finland though, and the 13th Demi-Brigade was trained as arctic troops in France with this in mind. The Winter War ended before they could be sent, but after weeding out German infiltrators they were sent to Norway to invade Narvik, where they fought well but eventually had to be extracted when France was attacked.
This meant that they were in transit in Great Britain when France fell. At this point, the Legion was divided into three parts: one part aligned with the Vichy government, one with the Free French, and the 13th Demi-Brigade stuck in Britain. The latter ended up joining the British 8th Army, and in Syria legionnaires ended up fighting each other during the war.
Playing French Foreign Legion
Given the complex history of the Legion during WW2, you have a lot of options as a player. Some parts of the Legion were far away and cut off, and would make do with what pre-war equipment they had or what they could get their hands on. Others were outfitted by Allied or Axis forces, so could look and be organized just like an American, or British or German soldier.
Since variety is the spice of life, we went with the more unusual look, instead of just treating them as British or Americans. This list is based on how a platoon would look at the outset of the war. One of the main draws of this platoon is the flexibility of the rifle grenades, which you can either spread out to give additional firepower to your sections, or pool into a grenadier section.
French Foreign Legion platoon (1939-)
Force rating: +1
Lieutenant, Senior Leader with pistol
Sergent-chef, Senior Leader with rifle
Three Infantry Sections
Each section includes:
One Sergeant, Junior Leader with rifle
One LMG team (M24/29), consisting of:
-two crew (gunner and loader who can't fire)
-two riflemen (can fire)
One rifle team with, consisting of:
-one V-B launcher with one crew
One Viven-Bessières rifle grenade (V-B) Team
V-B Caporal, Junior Leader with pistol
One V-B launcher with one crew
One Sniper Team
Platoon special rules
LA LÉGION EST MA FAMILLE
Legion Platoons counts their current Force Morale as two points higher when checking for whether they lose any command dice. That means they lose one command die when they reach 2 Force Morale, and two command dice at 1 Force Morale. They still rout at 0 Force Morale.
GROUPE DE LANCE-GRENADIER
Before deploying any troops, you can choose wether to have the V-B launchers as part of each section, or to pool them together into V-B group.
If all the V-B-equipped men in the platoon are formed into a group with the ‘V-B Caporal’ from the HQ, the group will co-ordinate their fire more effectively than as individual grenadiers.
If either the Team, or the V-B Caporal (if he is within 6” of the team), have Line of Sight to the target, it counts as firing at Close Range. Otherwise all fire is treated as being at Effective Range. The team is treated like a single weapon team and its members as its crew. It may either fire as a ‘V-B Team’, or as a normal team of riflemen. The V-B has a minimum range of 18”. Similar to a light mortar, the V-B group targets a team rather than bombarding an area. V-B grenades ignore cover.
A V-B group causes 2 hits in the open, with an additional +1 per additional grenadier in the team after the first. A full group will therefore inflict 5 hits. In confined areas an additional 1 hit is caused for the first grenadier and a further one per two figures in the group. A full group would therefore inflict 7 hits.
Out of the Feldgrau and into the Desert
When we settled on doing the Mediterranean theater of war as our next WW2 project, I knew that I had to put together some Deutsches Afrikakorps (or DAK for short) to meet the Allies. As a painter, DAK offers the German player a great chance to play with a different palette of colours, and some more variation in the uniforms as well.
The DAK were an expeditionary force sent to northern Africa in 1941 to pull Mussolini's pancetta out of the fire, as the British were rapidly advancing. It's a popular force to play in wargames, as the desert warfare was not a total war like the eastern front, and is remembered on both sides as a more 'chivalrous' theater. Wether the "Rommel myth" of him being an apolitical commander is true, or if he was opportunist when he eventuelly got implicated in the 1944 attempt at assassinating Hitler, he did end up a victim of the Third Reich in the end, forced to commit suicide. So all in all it's about as "non-evil" Germans as you get in WW2, if that is a factor in how you choose your wargames.
The miniatures themselves are from Perry Miniatures. Later on we'll see if we add from other manufacturers, as there are quite a few nice choices for DAK. I had about half a box of DAK left from when I converted my Gebirgsjäger sections, so together with a second box we built a platoon with three sections, and made the extras into crew for the support weapons.
For the starting force we settled on a three-section platoon with extra LMGs, so that they can be fielded as Shútzen or Panzergrenadiers. For support we got two PAK anti-tank guns, a light mortar, a MMG team, some anti-tank rifles and a Forward Observer. I think that is a pretty well-rounded start for a German force, and we could always lend some miniatures from our Eastern front for vehicles until we have a pool of desert camo vehicles.
After spending a year painting almost exclusively complicated Napoleonic uniforms, I wanted to take this chance to try out a very quick painting method. The British and French Foreign Legion players were already working on platoons already, and I have a growing mountain of unpainted lead, my aim was to get these painted and out of the door ASAP. So for this project I settled for an impressionistic style, where I don't spend a lot of time on details and careful shading, but to get a decent overall look on the table.
The base layer was a very light desert yellow, which I sprayed on with a paintbrush. This ended up saving a ton of time, as the miniatures were halfways coated with the right colour already. Nice!
After that, I picked out three or four versions of khaki green, light brown and bone white, and randomly painted articles of clothing, webbing and gear. The North Africa Campaign was notorious for troops looting each other due to the logistics difficulties, and for the variations in how well each nation's army managed to produce suitable gear for the harsh terrain. Uniforms would also rapidly bleach in the strong sun, another reason to go for several different hues of light brown. I also painted the metal details in silver, and the rifles in Vallejo's Light Rust.
Once the basic coats were down, I painted on a brown wash for everything except the skin, which got a flesh wash. When the wash had dry, I went back with the original colours, and covered areas where the wash had pooled up in a way that obscured details or looked too smudgey.
After everything was done I couldn't help myself from adding a few more details anyway, such as the black ribbon on the sleeves, but it was definitely a much faster paint-job than I'm used to. The entire platoon with support took about a month to paint, and then I gave them very simple bases with just sand and some tufts of dried grass and dead desert flowers. While they do look a bit blotchy when you look pick them up and scrutinize them, I think the impressionistic paint job and the colour palette means that they'll look nice on the tabletop, especially when we get around to make some suitable terrain.
The Starting Force (click for larger pics)
I could not decide on camouflaged PAK guns or not, so I did one of each. These should be able to fend off most of the flimsy British tanks, at least early on in the period.
These support options are a mix of metal miniatures and plastics from the Perry box. I think that the only major support choice missing now is an anti-infantry gun, but a MMG team is a pretty solid alternative for anti-infantry support.
These crew members will have to be flexible, and support whatever gun is fielded. In CoC you will field the correct number of crew for a gun, while many manufacturers will only have 2-3 crew members, so you'll end up being a lot short for crew. Luckily, you're not likely to field more than one or two guns at once, so you should get some generic crew that can switch between guns.
The platoon's leadership consists of two Senior Leaders and three Junior Leaders with SMGs. The Junior Leaders will head one section each, while the Senior Leaders command the entire platoon.
The LMGs are the main source of firepower in any German platoon. With six LMGs we can either field the platoon as a Shützen platoon, with one LMG team and one rifle team in each section, or as a Panzergrenadier platoon, with two LMG teams in each sections. I'm a bit short on men carrying ammunition, but if I field them as Panzergrenadiers I can use the leftover riflemen as members of the LMG teams, so it will work out. It just looks nicer if all the members of a LMG team are decked out ammo mules!
Finally, the rifle teams. I like how much variation in the looks and poses we easily got out of the Perry plastics.
Future for DAK?
So that's pretty much it: a self-contained project, where I managed to get a playable force ready in about a month of painting. Of course, we can expand from here: I have another unbuilt box of Perrys, which could make up a second platoon in case we want to play larger games. There are also a lot of support options that we only have painted for Barbarossa, such as anti-infantry guns. Finally, while some tanks used in North Africa were left grey as they were suddenly diverted from Russia, it would be nice to have some yellow panzers and other support options that would be perfectly suited for Rommel's Panzer Group.
But for me, it's now more important to make some suitable terrain, so that this platoon can feel at home.