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.