This week the Goonhammer Historicals crew turn their attention to the latest small-scale infantry kit from Victrix.
As the Second World War raged on, Nazi high command became every more fractured. Fascism is, inherently, a factional and inefficient form of governance (despite their claims to the contrary), and part of this is that it prizes only power and the approval of the leader. As each senior Nazi desperately positioned themselves to look the best in Hitler’s eyes, and also set themselves up in the strongest possible position to avoid being undermined or attacked by those who were in theory their allies, the German war effort collapsed into a confusion of hierarchies and competing subgroups.
One of those who was most keen to build a strong position for himself as the 1940s wore on was Hermann Göring, the Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe. Determined to prove himself indispensable and gather more power he began to expand the role of the airforce in more and more diverse ways. Germany already, effectively, had two parallel land forces – the Heer, the regular army of Germany under the direct command of Adolf Hitler, and the Waffen-SS, the combat branch of the paramilitary arm of the Nazi Party, commanded by Heinrich Himmler. Göring had seen how much power this separate organisation had won Himmler, and he wished to emulate it. As such he undertook a programme to expand the paratroopers divisions of the airforce, the Fallschirmjäger, into a more traditional land force.
There was some sense to this anyway – with Allied air dominance increasingly the default, and the Luftwaffe therefore lessened in utility, redeploying the paratroopers (who were well-trained and well-equipped soldiers) into more traditional land roles made sense. But to Göring it also shored up his declining influence, and increased his based of power. He expanded the Fallschirmjäger hugely, bringing in thousands of new recruits and establishing them as a key player within the complex German military organisation.
Some of these companies were veteran units who had been trained extensively and had considerable combat experience, but of course rapid large scale recruitment, especially in the waning years of the Third Reich, meant that the newer companies weren’t comparable in military capacity. They were also increasingly poorly equpped, and as 1944 passed the reputation of the Fallschirmjäger fell, despite being buoyed up for a long time by expertise of the more elite units among them.
This kit contains 196 infantry models across four identical sprues. Unlike many of the other Victrix infantry kits this doesn’t have a separate command sprue, instead having the command models appear on every sprue. This does reduce the variety of the models included, but there’s still a decent amount of it, and the sculpts are of an extremely high quality. I would put it on par with if not exceeding the quality of their previous infantry kits, which is an absurdly high bar. It’s beyond impressive what they continue to manage to achieve with injection moulded miniature tech at this small a scale.
The kit itself contains a selection of armaments for the soldiers – rifles are the most plentiful of course, but you’ll also find a decent number of MP 38s, MG 42s (both tripod mounted and carried), panzerfaust, panzerschrek, a variety of mortar teams and also some pioneers lugging anti-tank mines around. This is alongside the very nice command models, which are particularly impressive sculpts.
So here’s the good news: this gives you easily enough models to portray a full Fallschirmjäger Kompanie with a range of supports, assuming what you’re portraying are the somewhat less well equipped companies, such as from the 2nd and 5th Fallschirmjägerdivisions that were part of the 2nd Fallschirm-Korps which deployed in Normandy. These units usually had a single man-portable MG42 per squad, relatively few MP 38s, and a smattering of panzerfausts between them – there’s more than enough to portray this perfectly accurately.
The bad news is that there aren’t enough weapons of certain types to portray the better armed, more elite, companies. These usually had two MG42s per squad, and there’s just not enough to out fit three full platoons like this, even putting some of them MG42s on tripods into the mix (which did happen, but was less usual than in dedicated MG teams). They also usually had six or more panzerfausts per company, and there are nowhere near enough of these in the kit (though this is perhaps less of an issue on the grounds we can assume some of the riflemen depicted have simply already used on).
Now for many game systems, especially those with full squads on multibases, this will be entirely moot – it really doesn’t matter if every single weapon is modelled accurately. But considering how many more models than a full company this box contains it is something of a shame that a few more weren’t dedicated to making it possible to field them accurately. More MG42s would also have allowed for you to field the MG platoons that often accompanied them – since they include the heavier mortars that were in support platoons like this, added options would have been good.
Overall, the choices made of what to include in the kit feel at times like a compromise, and at times a little odd. It’s a wonderful set of sculpts, fantastically designed and produced, and yet I find myself questioning the inclusion of some of the items. If you’re going to put pioneers in this kit, which I love that they did… why have them carrying anti-tank mines. That’s absolutely something that pioneers did, but rarely in a direct combat role. A flamethrower or two would have been a nice addition, just for some variety, for example. It’s still a fabulous kit, and if you want to add some German paratroopers to your forces there’s none better on the market, but be prepared to gloss over some of the exact armaments if you’re looking to portray the Fallschirmjäger in some situations.
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