In my first encounter with squad-level WW2 gaming I was impressed by how beginner friendly it was. After all, the miniature requirement is much lower than for the kind of army level games that I was used to. Even when you add a lot of support points to a Chain of Command game, you're still looking at 30-40 guys and about two or three choices of guns, vehicles or small teams of engineers or a lone medic. Not exactly enough to fill an entire wardrobe.
However, if there's anything stronger than the power of love, it's the power of wargamers to find excuses to add to our lead mountains. Now that we reached the point where we can field two (or even three!) platoons of ordinary riflemen for both Soviets, Germans and Italians, it's not enough for us to just get more troops. Instead there are fierce Cossack raiding parties forming in the Soviet camp, and spectacular Bersaglieri plumes are spotted among the light Italian tank, so can I be faulted for starting to feel left out with my bog-standard German infantrymen? Something had to be done.
The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Fascists
I considered my expansion options carefully. I wanted to do a smaller force, just a single platoon, that I could invest some effort into now that we have enough minis to easily play even a four-player game. So having to do some simple conversion jobs was not a hindrance, but rather something appealing. I also wanted it to something slightly unusual as far as WW2 wargaming goes.
Fallschirmjägers is a popular force with lots of miniature support, but also kind of out of place on the east front at the time. SS units are also notoriously popular among certain wargamers, but not really my cup of tea. Ragtag squads of naval troops would be very cool, but a bit limited in scope and availability as minis. But Gebirgsjägers started to make more and more sense, the more I looked at them.
Once decided, I did some web-based resarch to figure out what I needed to represent these alpine Teutons and what to use to convert them. Visually, the Gebirgsjäger are distinguished by their different headwear (Bergsmütze), Edelweiss emblems on caps and arms, mountain trousers with extra reinforced seats and crotches, and wool puttees (leggings). They also had a special anorak to wear in snow or cold mountains.
Looking at my available options, it dawned on me that the Perry Miniatures Afrikakorps box could be the way to go. First of all, it includes several of the M43 field cap, which was closely modeled after the Bergmütze. If I could just shave off some of the bill it would be close enough. The trousers are not that big a deal, and just painting them stone grey instead of field grey is good enough for me. The puttees will have to be converted with some cutting/filing and green stuff.
As a bonus, the kit comes with a light mortar team, so I wouldn't have to get any extra metal minis to convert these. However, the kit also only covers three squads, so I would have to get two boxes to field a full platoon. On the other hand, this would leave me with enough extra men to convert up some Gebirgsjäger crew for the guns we already have.
Rules-wise there are not that much to adjust compared to a normal German riflemen platoon at the time. The Gebirgsjäger would generally use lighter weapons suitable for cramped urban fighting or that could be dragged along by pack animals in difficult terrain. This can easily be represented by choosing anti-tank guns or Flak 30/38 guns instead of tanks and heavy artillery when deploying for battle.
Speaking of pack animals, they used a ton of them (around 6000 per division, including everyhing from donkeys and mules to camels!) to carry their stuff. They would also have a designated animal caretaker in each squad. This is a great source of ideas for Jump Off Point markers and I won't settle until I have a small Wehrmacht zoo to accompany these men.
So here's where we stand: two boxes of Afrikakorps, the obligatory Osprey book for a cursory grasp at the subject, and an old reference picture book liberated from the Buckinghamshire County Library via Amazon. It has tons of great pictures, both staged propaganda ones and from real actions, so I am ready to give this a shot.
WW2 Campaign Blog
This blog follows the second Chain of Command club campaign, set in the intense fighting over Stalino in October 1941.