28mm: German Wehrmacht and Mortar By Black Tree Design

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Taking advantage of the frequent sales by Black Tree Design, I’ve added some additional Wehrmacht troops to my 28mm World War II German force. Previously, I had painted up more than thirty of Black Tree’s figures, so this later order filled out my collection with a few more soldiers armed with rifles, another officer and a mortar crew with a nifty spotter with binoculars raised to his eyes.

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When on sale, these metal cast models from Black Tree come in at about $1.50 USD each. This price point makes these miniatures super affordable, quick to get based and ready for painting up using my regular painting process.

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 pants, helmets, soft hats, officer greatcoats and gas mask containers with Skavenlight Dinge.
  5. Paint faces and hands with Tallarn Flesh.
  6. Paint packs ans straps with Baneblade Brown.
  7. Paint boots and equipment straps Black.
  8. Paint bases, gun stocks, water bottles and helmet straps with Dark Brown.
  9. Apply Agrax Earthshade wash to webbing and packs.
  10. Dry brush pants, helmets, soft hats and officer greatcoats with Light Grey.
  11. Lightly dry brush bases and gun stocks with Baneblade Brown.
  12. Paint metal gun and water bottle parts with black and finish with a light dry brush of Metallic Silver.
  13. Dry brush gasmask containers with metallic Silver.
  14. Paint eyes with small dots of Off White and Dark Brown. Clean up around eyes with Tallarn Flesh.
  15. Mix 50/50 Tallarn Flesh and Off White and brush highlights on cheekbones, chins, forehead, nose and hands.
  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.

With about 40 of Black Tree’s models now complete, I’ve got a flexible, reliably sized force of simply outfitted Germans ready for deployment in a variety of European tabletop scenarios.

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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.

28mm: German Wehrmacht By Black Tree Design

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I recently got back to my 28mm World War II projects with some Wermacht from Black Tree Design. After painting up a bunch of German troops in camouflage smocks, I wanted to get some more Heer infantry into the mix. And so, on the back of a big sale this summer, I’ve just about doubled my Axis forces at this scale.

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I was really pleased when I received my large order and marveled at all the detail on these figures. Lots of varied poses, weapons, equipment and personality make these casting from Black Tree Design stand as equals with all my other troops. As always, the customer service from the company was superb with nice hand-written notes included in each order boxed up in a little metal tin.

WehrDecalsGerman infantry decals from Company B

Along with my figure order, I also went back to Company B to order up some decals for the helmets. Even though it might not be as historical, I went with the national colors of the double decal helmet configuration which was phased out fairly early in the war. I really just wanted a bit more color on the otherwise monotone color scheme. And, while I’m on the subject of color, I really liked how the Skavenlight Dinge from Citadel Paint captured a nice mix of grey-green-blue tones of the standard German uniform.

IMG_6375A painted figure gets decals applied

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 pants, helmets, soft hats, officer greatcoats and gas mask containers with Skavenlight Dinge.
  5. Paint faces and hands with Tallarn Flesh.
  6. Paint packs ans straps with Baneblade Brown.
  7. Paint boots and equipment straps Black.
  8. Paint bases, gun stocks, water bottles and helmet straps with Dark Brown.
  9. Apply Agrax Earthshade wash to webbing and packs.
  10. Dry brush pants, helmets, soft hats and officer greatcoats with Light Grey.
  11. Lightly dry brush bases and gun stocks with Baneblade Brown.
  12. Paint metal gun and water bottle parts with black and finish with a light dry brush of Metallic Silver.
  13. Dry brush gasmask containers with metallic Silver.
  14. Paint eyes with small dots of Off White and Dark Brown. Clean up around eyes with Tallarn Flesh.
  15. Mix 50/50 Tallarn Flesh and Off White and brush highlights on cheekbones, chins, forehead, nose and hands.
  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.

I really like how these models scale with all my previous 28mm miniatures from Artizan Designs and Warlord Games, and my Wermacht forces will fit nicely in the defense of Europe from the tabletop assault of my Allied troops.

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28mm: M4A3 Sherman By Rubicon Models

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I’ve been quickly fitting out my 28m World War II infantry over the past few months with models from Artizan Designs, Warlord Miniatures and Black Tree Design. With scores of figures on the table, I thought it was high time to add some hefty support to the mix. So, at my recent journey to the excellent NJ Con I picked up a copy of the Rubicon Models M4A3 Sherman tank

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Retailing for under $40 USD, the 1/56 scale Rubicon Sherman comes on three sprues of well cast plastic. The very detailed instructions allow for the construction of three versions of the tank with 75mm, 76mm or 105mm guns and multiple turret variations. As this was my first at this scale, I opted for the most common 75mm gun, and the assembly allowed for loose gun for elevation at multiple angles. The interlocking turret also enabled easy rotation as did the top machine gun when left unglued but snuggly fitted into the turret. No stowage parts were included, but since this was my first model, I didn’t mind keeping it a relatively clean, right off the assembly line version of the workhorse Sherman of WWII.

IMG_6250My go-to basecoat for my US wargaming miniatures

After a quick assembly, my Sherman was hit in a basecoat in the US olive drab color from the Plastic Soldier Company. I’ve gotten a ton of mileage out of this product as a foundation for 15mm Flames of War models in the past, and it worked equally as well at this larger scale. Following the base spray, the treads got a black and then metallic drybrush. Seams in the hull were washed with a black-brown, and the hull received layers of dry-brushed rusty metallics and layers of varying brown mud. The included decals were easily applied and then washed and muddied up before the whole model was dull-coated in a final protective spray.

The resulting M4A3 Sherman armed with a 75mm gun is shown below in detail from a few angles and is ready to operate in support of my Allied models in the months to come.

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Battleground: Brecourt Manor 1944 Scenario

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This year’s 71st anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 didn’t get the same attention as last year’s full weekend of D-Day gaming at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Even so, a few of us did come together for a quick run through a gamer favorite small-scale battle at Brecourt Manor.

101stABDDaydropsDrop zones of the US 101st Airborne on June 6, 1944 and the area around Brecourt Manor (circled in red)

Made famous in more recent years in the hit HBO series Band Of Brothers, the action at Brecourt Manor by a couple dozen men from the US 101st Airborne has long been a favorite for military historians and a textbook example of a small-scale assault on a heavily defended position. With four 105mm howitzers firing on Utah Beach, the German gunners were defended in a series of shallow trenches by several MG42 heavy machine guns and a number of infantry. Through surprise and quick movement through the trenches, the US Airborne quickly took the position and disabled the German guns.

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Skirmish Campaigns  “Normandy ’44 – First Hours” scenario book

For our replay of Brecourt Manor, we turned to the classic Normandy ’44 – First Hours scenario book from Skirmish Campaigns. The Skirmish Campaigns series of books offers well-researched and detailed campaign scenarios filled with orders of battle, terrain layout maps and deeply descriptive narrative of how actual engagements unfolded during World War II. Adaptable to a number of rules systems, the scenario as outlined in the book scaled nicely to our game. Using most of my recently painted 28mm German and US troops and classic Battleground WWII skirmish rules, we were set to replay Brecourt Manor.

IMG_6025The 101st Airborne plot their assault on Brecourt Manor

Two players split their command as the US Airborne and set their battle plans before my Germans deployed in the trench system. Beginning German positions were defined by four gun emplacements each crewed by a team of five rifle-armed gunners and an officer. I also placed three MG42s at different points in the trench lines and one patrolling battery command squad of four riflemen and two officers deployed at the western end of the position.

IMG_6027Germans sit at the ready in their positions at Brecourt Manor

The Americans moved first, slowly deploying a .30 cal machine gun crew from behind the farmhouse at the northwest corner of the table. Directly to the north, a bazooka team crept into position behind a copse of trees with two fire teams behind the nearby hedgerows in support. To the west and toward the south, the other two US fire teams set up and moved toward the German lines, also under cover of the thick bocage.

IMG_6026105mm gun crews stand at the ready

Spotting the American bazooka team to the north, I quickly redeployed one of my machine guns to hold back the advance on that side of my position. Not waiting to get their machine gun in place, the Americans advanced on two sides and took heavy fire to their fire teams leaving them pinned in place. Hoping to pin down the Germans at the strongly defended north and western edges of the position, the US machine gun attempted to lay down a stream of fire but jammed is the trigger was pulled on its first shot of the day.

IMG_6029A 105mm gun position is destroyed by an American bazooka

Even under fire, the US bazooka team managed to get into place and a shot destroyed the northernmost howitzer, killing one German gunner and suppressing most of the rest of the gun team. On the western side, another of my redeployed machine guns was instantly spotted and raked with American gunfire and all but knocked out of the rest of the game. With only one MG42 left in the western trench line, a US Airborne team moved with over confidence toward making their first assault. The foolhardy bravery of the Americans was met with combined arms fire from my remaining MG42, rifles at the gun position and shots from the command squad. When the smoke cleared, one American fire team was left with just one man standing and the other had been briefly pinned.

IMG_6028   US Airborne units ready for a close assault at Brecourt Manor

By turn three, the American machine gunners cleared their jam and were finally able to lay down strafing fire along the entire western edge of the German trenches. With bullets whizzing overhead, the Germans were forced to the ground and the remaining Airborne came over the hedge and made way for the German howitzer. The Airborne soldiers poured into the German gun position and hand-to-hand combat ensued leaving two Germans and two Americans dead in the melee. With no clear victory in the first close combat of the day, the Americans bounced out of the German position, pulling back toward the hedges from where they had just come.

Back to the north, the American bazooka team had been cut to just one man who had retreated under heavy fire. One other US rifle team at the north had been eliminated, and the last had been whittled to just two injured men. With just a few rattled troops strung along two sides of the field, the US Airborne retreated and left three guns ready to continue raining shells on the beaches in the distance.

What the scenario showed us, as it did on the actual day some 71 years ago, was the importance the US machine gunners in a tight assault like the one at Brecourt Manor. Met with a larger, more well-defended German force, the American machine guns were the equalizer in real life. Had the American soldiers on our tabletop focused their assault after pinning the German defenders, our game this month may very well have gone the way of history with another victory in the hedgerows of Normandy.

28mm: US Airborne By Black Tree Design

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My new 28mm World War II project is marching on, and I’ve recently added some US 101st Airborne models from Black Tree Design. The UK-based BTD offers a diverse line of metal miniatures from various historical eras, fantasy, science fiction and a nifty Doctor Who offering. The WWII US Airborne line offers a nice selection of poses and weapons, so I bought into my first BTD models averaging about $2 USD per figure during one of their frequent online sales.

BTDIMG_4977Nice packaging from Black Tree Miniatures

The BTD miniatures were quickly delivered in the US bagged and packaged in a little tin with a hand-written ‘thank you’ note. Compared to my earlier Airborne from Artizan Designs, the BTD models are a tad smaller and thinner but scale well on the table. Detail is a bit more sparse with less equipment slung on the backs of the paratroopers and rifles which read a bit more like that on toy soldiers. Aside from rifles, the models also came armed with Browning BARs, Thompson submachine guns and one guy hurling a hand grenade. While most of the models are set in generic poses, a few of the models show a lot of individual character with one officer calmly smoking a cigarette and another charging forward without a helmet.

AB Paint SchemeOne minor bummer was the delicate nature of some of the BTD models cast with both feet held tightly together, and one snapped off the base when I attempted to straighten his pose more upright. With the rest of the models successfully glued to bases, I painted up my first group of BTD miniatures using the same quick and simple process from my previous 28mm paratroopers.

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 knee patches with Baneblade Brown.
  12. Paint metal gun, bazooka and mortar 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 Company B 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.

Finally, a few photos of my finished BTD US Airborne ready to hit the Normandy tabletop.

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