28mm: Comparing WWII models

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It is indisputable that war has been under continuous change over the centuries with evolutions in arms, tactics and scale. Soldiers themselves have also changed from era to era, owing to changes in diet, fitness standards and healthcare. The size of soldiers have also been used to promote propaganda of superiority for one nation over another, often falling back on nationalistic or stereotyped perceptions of one country’s peoples over another. Thus, photos like the one above from the Boxer Rebellion are instructive but potentially do not tell the whole story of how an entire nation’s soldiers may have measured up against their allies and enemies.

A 1986 paper on the physical characteristics of US soldiers in 1864, 1919, 1946 and 1986 depicts the average World War II era US male soldier to have been 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 155 pounds. There can also be no doubt that within these averages there was a great deal of variation from man to man and at what point in their service they were measured. So, while we may be able to get at some sense of the size of the average fighting man in World War II’s US military, each man was an individual.

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Historical miniatures gamers spend a lot of time talking about scale, and I have fielded WWII miniatures from numerous manufacturers in 6mm, 15mm and 28mm while also occasionally playing in 20mm with other collectors at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. For my recent projects, I’ve focused on 28mm US Airborne and German forces with models from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games.

I’ve sourced my 28mm WWII miniatures from three separate makers for a few reasons. Firstly, I prefer metal figures for their durability, heft on the table and quickness in getting them painted up and ready to play without a lot of assembly. Some modellers will blanch at the higher cost of metal, but my opinions of pluses justify the investment. I also prefer not to duplicate poses, so purchasing across manufacturers allows me to have every model be a unique representation of a soldier or officer in the field. Third, although some outstanding plastic options are available, I like the detail that comes through with a good metal sculpt and casting. Finally, Black Tree Design in particular runs weekly sales which makes frequent orders of their miniatures a great deal when looking to field a sizable force from any number of available WWII Axis and Allied nations.

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28mm US Airborne NCOs from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

By way of comparison, I’ve first taken a few images of US Airborne figures from the three manufacturers I use and also seem to be the most commonly cited within the WWII gamer community. In the first photo above, three NCOs stand side-by-side. The figures from Artizan and Warlord on either end show similar details in equipment and bulky helmets. The Black Tree model in the middle shows slightly less detail in the netting on the smaller helmet and carried equipment, but his pose calmly smoking a cigarette makes him one of my favorites.

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28mm US Airborne riflemen from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

In the second photo above, I’ve got three riflemen in slightly similar battle-ready poses. Again, the Artizan and Warlord figures on each end are a bit more bulky and the bandage pack strapped to the helmet of the Artizan figure creates some nice variety. At the middle, the Black Tree soldier’s standard helmet without the camouflage netting likewise breaks up the sameness of how the soldiers are kitted out without sacrificing a single bit of detail.

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Equipment detail on 28mm US Airborne riflemen from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

Having a look at the equipment detail at the rear of each manufacturer’s models is also useful in the picture above. Again, the models from both Artizan and Warlord are most burdened with packs, multiple ammo pouches and canteens. The Warlord figure is also toting a shovel at his left hip and even more extra pouches. On the other hand, the Black Tree soldier is traveling a bit lighter with only a canteen to one side and an ammo pouch on the other. I take the differences in equipment as representative of different soldiers who lost, dumped or acquired more equipment depending on their specific roles and points in their mission.

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28mm US Airborne riflemen from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right) in front of a M4A3 Sherman from Rubicon Models

Next up, the photo above takes on the often-argued topic of soldiers and armor scale when playing at 28mm. The three riflemen stand in front of a M4A3 Sherman from Rubicon Models. To my eye, the tank does seem a bit undersized for its listed 1/56 28mm model scale when set next to soldiers from three different companies.

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The M4A3 Sherman from Rubicon Models and a US Willys Jeep from Warlord Games

Comparing sizes of vehicles across two manufacturers also depicts a fair amount of difference in perceived scale. One of my recently completed US Willys Jeep models from Warlord sits next to the Rubicon Sherman in the photo above. While the tank looked small against standing infantry, the Jeep looks to be a bit better at scale.

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A photo from near the end of WWII in featuring captured German officers and US GIs in a US Jeep next to a US tank

By way of comparison, historical miniatures gamers like me often rely on WWII period photos to show variations between troops and vehicles. The photo above depicts a US Jeep alongside a tank toward the end of the war in Europe. Despite the documentary nature of photographs, they can be deceptive in representing reality in terms of the angle, perspective and depth of field from when the photo was taken. Compared to my Jeep and tank models, the photo does inform a bit about real-world scale. My model Jeep’s hood measures up at a height about equal to the treads on the tank model. That said, the historical photo perhaps doesn’t present the full story given the placement of the Jeep in the foreground with the tank behind.

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28mm German infantry from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

Aside from my US Airborne models, I also have a good sized collection of German troops. Most of these are from Artizan and Black Tree, and I’ve only just recently added some Warlord Grenadiers armed with assault rifles to the mix. In the first photo above, I have three soldiers walking forward, guns at the ready. The partially camouflaged Grenadiers from Artizan and Warlord on either end flank a Wehrmacht soldier from Black Tree at center. With these figures I find little difference in scale and sculpt across manufacturers, and only their differing equipment, uniforms and weapons set them apart.

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Equipment detail on 28mm German infantry from Artizan Designs, Black Tree Design and Warlord Games (left to right)

Above I have some rear detail of equipment carried by soldiers from each maker. In the case of these soldier models, both the Black Tree and Warlord kit are my favorite both in detail and how it hangs from their backs and sides back with a shovel, mess kits, water bottle,s ammo pouches and rolled ponchos or bedding all included. The Artizan model is only carrying a couple items and his pack is a bit larger than that on the Warlord model, but all three form a diverse compliment of presentation.

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28mm German officers from Artizan Designs and Black Tree Design (left to right) in front of a Warlord Kubelwagen

For comparing Germans to a vehicle, I’ve got officers from Artizan and Black Tree alongside a Warlord Kubelwagen. The officer from Black Tree is perhaps a bit broad with his sculpting but no less animated as the Artizan model who stands confidently with a battle plan and hand firmly on his left hip. The driver from Warlord sits well with scale of the standing soldiers, and the two officers look as though they would fit nicely in the rear of the car to be chauffeured to the front.

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A WWII photo of German officers conferring in and around a Kubelwagen

As with the US vehicles, I’ve found a historic photo for comparison with a variety of officers and soldiers standing and sitting in and around a Kubelwagen.These real life men and their small car reveal the accuracy in the models I’ve got ready for the table.

No pictures, whether taken from WWII or snapped on the workbench, are going to tell the full story of how men and machines stack up. Modellers and gamers will gravitate to a mix of models that fit their tastes in cost, material, sculpt, diversity and historical accuracy as they see fit for their use. That said, when I have a look at my 28mm metal armies recruited from three leading manufacturers, I find them all well-equipped and scaled to take the field together.

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Micro Armour: Fielding the GHQ M7 Priests and Infantry Heavy Weapons

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The 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M7 was a powerful invention to support infantry forces during World War II with a combination of a heavy artillery gun, tracked mobility and armor. Christened the ‘Priest’ by British forces due to its round pulpit-like machine-gunner’s ring, the M7 saw service in North Africa, Italy and Normandy and had a powerful showing during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-1945.

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I’ve been wrapping up a bunch of lingering modelling projects at multiple scales for the past two months, and I found I still had a number of 6mm models from GHQ to wrap up. Every time I go back to 6mm from my usual 15mm and 28mm modelling, I’m reminded of how much I love working at the micro armour scale. I’m a big fan of how Priests look with their boxy profile and huge gun, and even at the micro scale the GHQ M7 models have a bunch of detail. Finishing these models involved just a quick shot of olive drab armor base coat spray was followed by a brown wash and some dry brushed highlights in a lighter green. Decals add that last bit of detail before the bases are flocked and the models get a matte coat finish.

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I also had a pack of GHQ US infantry heavy support weapons on hand to add to my other existing ground forces. The M2 mortars and M1919 light machine guns wound up with a pretty tiny, low profile on my flocked washer bases, but they fill out my infantry with flexible support. Along with my new Priests, my tiny US force is diversely equipped for some micro action.

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Flames of War: Novus Design Studio 15mm City Block Ruins

ruinsWar is destructive by its very nature, and World War II was the most destructive war in history. Aside from the tens of millions of military personnel and civilian deaths, the war brought unprecedented ruin to the thousands of villages, towns, cities and industrial areas through and over which the war was fought. The nearly immeasurable physical and financial impacts of WWII rippled for decades to come, including enormous effects on buildings and other physical spaces worldwide.

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My 15mm European terrain during a recent game

For my 15mm WWII wargaming using Flames of War and I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules systems, my terrain has been modeled almost entirely on Western Europe using buildings from numerous manufacturers collected over the past few years. In all my 15mm modelling, destroyed buildings have largely been absent so far, so I’ve been really happy to add my new city block ruin models from Novus Design Studio to my terrain collection.

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NDS was founded just about a year ago in April 2014 by Robert and Nancy Rumfelt, the founders and original owners of JR Miniatures. Like many wargamers, I’ve got a long history with models from JR Minis and so in many ways I knew what to expect from NDS when the company’s launch was first announced. I watched their inventory grow in the past year covering 6mm, 15mm and 28mm scales across WWII, sci-fi, fantasy and modern themes, and they’ve continued to add new products in the new year.

IMG_4969A complete set of four 15mm city block ruins from Novus Design Studio

The two and three story 15mm urban ruins retail for $26-31 USD each but I picked up a full set of four in a 40% off deal NDS ran at the end of 2014. The straight and corner buildings match up nicely together in a row or bunched into a city block in various configurations. The models also look great placed among buildings from other manufacturers, especially other city row houses from JR Minis. The castings in a creamy resin require a little flash clean up with a sharp hobby knife and air pocket holes show up here and there but don’t distract from the destroyed nature of the structures.

Novus Sample Front BackFront and rear view depicting multiple removable floors of a typical city block ruin model

All the NDS city block ruins feature removable floors molded with plank floors, piles of rubble, walls and interior doorways. The buildings have staircases and walls on the interior, broken window panes and more rubble on the attached sidewalks at the front. Everything about these make them very usable for 15mm gaming whether it be for 20th-century historical scenarios or contemporary and near-future gaming in European or even American urban settings. Getting multiples of the models on the table would easily allow setting up a truly impressive cityscape ravaged by the impacts of war.

IMG_4987Cleaned and primed corner city block ruin model

After cleaning up the flash on the models, I washed them all in warm soapy water to remove excess casting residue. The main building structures got a spray of flat gray as a base coat followed by layers of dry brushed tan, light gray and off white paint on the exteriors. Sidewalks also received grays and off white to highlight piles of ash and broken masonry heaped on the ground. On building had shutters which were painted in a dark blue and green and then highlighted with the same color mixed with a bit of white.

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For the interiors, the removable floor levels were base coated in flat black. Plank floors were built up in layers of browns ranging from dark to light in each coat. I went basic on interior walls, using an off white to create a simple plaster look. As with the exterior, the rubble and tile floors on the ground floors were built up in grays and off white.

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After a finish of a few coats of clear matte spray, the city block ruins were done. Arranged in a square block or stretched out in a row, these models easily blend in with other 15mm terrain manufacturers and add a great bit of variety to a tabletop set up. Bringing a bit of destruction to my overly neat wargaming battlefields is a welcome addition with my first buildings from Novus Design Studio.

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28mm: German Infantry And MG 42 HMG By Artizan Designs

waffen After wrapping up my first 28mm US Airborne troops, I set to work on some Germans. I ordered a bunch of Late War German infantry and command, plus an MG 42 team by Artizan Designs from Brigade Games and received them speedily. The detail in the figures really pops, and the personality and variety in the poses make them really engaging at this scale. I particularly like the stern officer in his greatcoat and the other figures screaming out orders and gesturing on the move. ADlogo Painting WWII Germans for the first time at this scale, I really wanted to go for more detail than I do at 6mm or 15mm. Artizan Designs offers some great painting references on their website, including a general uniform guide and a lot of detail on German camoflage patterns. Using paints I had on hand plus a few more colors I picked up from Citadel’s paint line, I came up with a palette and painting scheme that produced some great results on my first go. paintgermanThe Artizan figures require little flash clean up before being glued to metal washers. The three man machine gun crew went on a 60mm plastic base I picked up from Proxie Models. Here’s the steps in detail for painting my German infantry.

Painting 28mm German Infantry

  1. Clean flash from metal models with a sharp knife and glue to metal washer or plastic bases.
  2. Apply filler putty to bases. When dry, scrape off excess with a sharp knife.
  3. Basecoat models and bases with flat black spray primer.
  4. Paint smocks and helmets with Tallarn Sand.
  5. Paint pants, soft hats, officer greatcoat and gas mask containers with Skavenlight Dinge.
  6. Paint camouflage on helmets and smocks with alternating Waaagh! Flesh and Dark Brown.
  7. Paint faces and hands with Tallarn Flesh.
  8. Paint packs with Baneblade Brown.
  9. Paint boots and equipment straps Black.
  10. Paint bases, gun stocks, water bottles and helmet straps with Dark Brown.
  11. Apply Agrax Earthshade wash to uniforms, helmet netting, webbing and packs.
  12. Mix 50/50 Baneblade Brown and Off White and lightly dry brush packs, webbing, socks and holsters.
  13. Dry brush pants, soft hats and officer great coat with Light Grey.
  14. Lightly dry brush bases and gun stocks with Baneblade Brown.
  15. Paint metal gun and water bottle parts with black and finish with a light dry brush of Metallic Silver.
  16. Dry brush gasmask containers with metallic Silver.
  17. Paint eyes with small dots of Off White and Dark Brown. Clean up around eyes with Tallarn Flesh.
  18. Mix 50/50 Tallarn Flesh and Off White and brush highlights on cheekbones, chins, forehead, nose and hands.
  19. Cover bases in white glue and cover in 50/50 mix of fine light green and dark green grass flock.
  20. Glue small pieces of clump foliage to base.
  21. Spray coat completed models with matte finish.

 IMG_4954 Helmets, smocks and pants base coated on the MG 42 team and infantry models

IMG_4958Infantry and officer uniforms base coated

IMG_4955Flesh base coats and helmet camouflage added to infantry and officer

IMG_4959Camouflage painted on helmets, and gun stocks and water bottles painted brown

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Equipment detail being painted

Here’s a round up of my finished German infantry from Artizan Designs…

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Now that I’ve got my core German and US forces completed, I’ll be looking to fill out forces on both sides with some additional support weapons and some more infantry from some other manufacturers. In no time at all, my 28mm force continues to grow.

28mm: US Airborne By Artizan Designs

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After a lot of modelling and gaming World War II over the years at the 15mm scale and some toes dipped into 6mm last year, I decided to move up to 28mm at the beginning of 2015. At this larger scale, there’s a lot less needed in terms of getting numbers of models on the table and there’s an opportunity for much more detail and personality in the figures, too. At about $2 USD per metal figure on average across a number of manufacturers, a more than healthy sized force for squad level engagements can be had with 30-40 or so figures on a side for under $100 USD.

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To get started, I happened a  timely sale deal for Artizan Designs miniatures ordered from Brigade Games. I’m very much a late war post-D-Day player, so I purchased a variety of US Airborne riflemen, officers, characters and a M1919 30 cal. machine gun team. I really like the detail in sculpts on the Artizan figures, so the prospect of getting these guys painted up was pretty exciting.

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Artizan Designs provides a lot of painting reference information on their site, and the US Airborne painting guide gave me a good jumping off point. I have plenty of experience painting the US 101st Airborne Division in 15mm, and the larger 28mm scale gave me the opportunity to work through a lot more detail with my miniatures. My existing paint inventory as well as a few extra colors from Citadel gave me all I needed to whip up a solid painting scheme.

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US 101st Airborne decals from Company B

To finish off my figures, I really wanted to add that last bit of realism at this scale with the appropriate patches and uniform markings. Since my painting skills don’t extend to the level of detail needed in painting patches and insignia, I was pleased to come across decals at this scale from Company B.

After some minimal flash clean-up, the individual figures got glued to metal washer bases. The prone LMG team went on a 60mm plastic base from Proxie Models and the two-man team on the move was glued to a larger metal washer. Here’s the painting guide in detail for my US Airborne:

Painting 28mm US Airborne

  1. Clean flash from metal models with a sharp knife and glue to metal washer or plastic bases.
  2. Apply filler putty to bases. When dry, scrape off excess with a sharp knife.
  3. Base coat models and bases with flat black spray primer.
  4. Paint uniforms and bandages on helmets with Tallarn Sand.
  5. Paint helmets and knee and elbow patches with Waaagh! Flesh.
  6. Paint faces and hands with Tallarn Flesh.
  7. Paint webbing and packs with Baneblade Brown.
  8. Paint bases, boots, gun stocks and helmet straps with Dark Brown.
  9. Apply Agrax Earthshade wash to uniforms, helmet netting, webbing and packs.
  10. Mix 50/50 Baneblade Brown and Off White and lightly dry brush packs, webbing and socks.
  11. Lightly dry brush bases, gun stocks, helmet netting, holsters and elbow and shoulder patches with Baneblade Brown.
  12. Paint metal gun parts with black and finish with a light dry brush of metallic silver.
  13. Paint eyes with small dots of Off White and Dark Brown. Clean up around eyes with Tallarn Flesh.
  14. Mix 50/50 Tallarn Flesh and Off White and brush highlights on cheekbones, chins, forehead, nose and hands.
  15. Apply decals to shoulders and helmets, followed by a coat of Solvaset decal fixative from Walthers.
  16. Cover bases in white glue and cover in 50/50 mix of fine light green and dark green grass flock.
  17. Glue small pieces of clump foliage to base.
  18. Spray coat completed models with matte finish.

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Filler putty applied to US Airborne .30 cal machine gun teams

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Helmet and uniform base coats on US Airborne riflemen

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Flesh base coat on hands and faces on riflemen and command figures

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Uniform, helmet and flesh base coats on the .30 cal machine gun teams

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Washes and dry brush layers added to the .30 cal machine gun models and bases

And now, a whole series of my completed US airborne troops from Artizan Designs…

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I still want to fill out my US forces with some additional troops and support weapons, so there will be more to come from Artizan and some other manufacturers. Getting some Germans ready for the table is another pending project on the workbench. Transport and armored vehicles are also very much on my mind. I’m also still debating rule sets, and I’ve been reading up on a variety including the popular Bolt Action from Warlord Games and Nuts! from Two Hour Wargames. With my first 28mm troops ready for action, WWII at a new scale is keeping the period exciting for what I’m certain will be another new year of painting and playing.

Bringing Modelling Into Focus

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As a wargamer and scale miniatures modeller working my way through the latter half of my 40s, eyesight has become more of an issue for me. It’s a reality of just getting older (I like to think, more experienced) as I’ve aged through about 30 years in the hobby.

Recently, I picked up the magnifying visor from Sharper Image and it’s become a welcome addition to my modelling tool kit. Retailing for about $60 (and less expensive with an additional 10% off for new customers), the visor brings a number of great features which separates it from other magnifiers I’ve seen. The adjustable visor comes with four lenses at  1.5x, 2x, 2.5x and 3x strengths stored in a separate small plastic case. Each lens snaps into the visor and flips up and down easily with a flick of the wrist while painting. Most visors or magnifying eyeglasses used by hobbyists come with just one fixed lens strength, so being able to adjust the level of magnification depending on the project adds a lot of use to the Sharper Image’s visor.

Living in an a Brooklyn apartment, I do most of my modelling projects in natural light at the dining table flanked by a tall set of large windows. For a lot of other hobbyists relegated to painting in basements or small, darker rooms, lighting is often supplemented with workbench lights or a separate camping-style headlamp. For hobbyists like me without a permanent workspace, tabletop lights just aren’t practical and adding a headlamp is just one more thing to store. With these factors in mind, the added feature of a powerful LED light on the Sharper Image visor is also a welcome addition. The light adjusts easily to angles which can direct a beam of cool, white light directly to the area needed. Again, this kind of thing just isn’t found on lesser magnifiers.

I got the Sharper Image visor just as I started going to a smaller scale with 6mm World War II microscale models from GHQ. Whether painting or applying decals, the visor makes details pop on these tiniest of models. At this scale, I found the 2.5x lens to be the best option. The smallest bits of equipment and other features on models practically jump out at me when wearing the visor, and I feel I could practically apply paint with a house painting brush if I had to. I’ve got some other 15mm projects coming up in the coming months, and I’ll be using the visor at that scale for the first time, too.

Regardless of the scale and veteran status in the miniatures hobby, the outlay for the magnifying visor from Sharper Image is a solid investment. As I soon head into another decade in the hobby, I’m grateful to have this new tool to keep my future projects in focus.

Micro Armour: Fielding the GHQ German Kampfgruppe and Panzer IVs

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After getting my initial GHQ 6mm US armored infantry and tank force painted-up a few weeks ago, I’ve moved on to my Germans next. My Axis starter force comes from two GHQ box sets. Ten Panzer IV tanks are included in the Shermans vs. Panzer IVs Battle BoxTo this armor I’ve added the contents of the German Kampfgruppe 1944 box set which includes two towed 20mm Flak guns, two Marder IIIs, two 150mm Bisons, two Sdkfz 10/1 transports, a Kfz 15 command car, a couple horse-drawn wagons, infantry mortars, machine gun teams and a pile of infantry. All together, this gives me a pretty hefty late war German set of models with a solid mix of infantry weapons, tanks, transports and supporting heavy weapons.

IMG_4105GHQ’s Kampfgruppe 1944 Combat Command box set

As with my basic US force in 6mm, I’ve worked up a simple painting method for my Germans. The key is to get an even, thin base coat on the models so tiny details can show through as highlighted areas as I add subsequent colors. Using a magnifier is also a necessity at this scale, and staring at tiny models through the lenses makes painting a downright breeze.

IMG_4111Getting the models and workspace organized is key when working with 6mm

IMG_0599GHQ German infantry, machine guns, Sdkfz 10/11 and Marder IIIs

Painting German Infantry

  1. Glue a small piece of card over the center hole of washers.
  2. Glue models to washer bases.
  3. Basecoat models and bases with white spray primer.
  4. Wash models in a mix of 1 part dark grey, 1 part light grey and 5 parts water.
  5. Paint boots, gun stocks and equipment details dark brown,
  6. Paint hands and faces flesh.
  7. Paint gun barrels and equipment details gun-metal silver.
  8. Paint bases dirt brown.
  9. Cover bases in white glue and cover in 50/50 mix of fine light green and dark green grass flock.
  10. Glue small pieces of clump foliage to base.

 IMG_0603Completed GHQ Panzer IVs

Painting German Armor and Transports

  1. Glue a small piece of card over the center hole of washers.
  2. Glue models to washer bases.
  3. Basecoat models and bases with white spray primer.
  4. Wash models in a mix of 1 part dark grey and 5 parts water.
  5. Lightly coat models in mud brown wash.
  6. Dry brush light grey highlights to models.
  7. Dry brush tracks, machine guns and body details gun-metal silver.
  8. Paint bases dirt brown.
  9. Cover bases in white glue and cover in 50/50 mix of fine light green and dark green grass flock.
  10. Glue small pieces of clump foliage to base.
  11. Paint tire tracks on bases dark brown.

Getting decals applied to the Panzer IVs is finicky, but with some trial and error using my process I did get that last little bit needed to get my Germans rolling onto the table at a very small scale.

IMG_0607GHQ German machine guns

IMG_0605GHQ wagons and 20mm flak guns

IMG_0600GHQ German infantry and Kfz 15 command car

IMG_0601GHQ German infantry and mortar team