Articles

Zvezda - German Reconnaissance Team 1939-1942 (6153) _________(EXT)

 

Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6153
Year 2011
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 4
Additional Items 1Torn.Fu.d2 radio; 1 Kar98K
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Medium
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Easy
Optimal Period 1939 – 1945

 Review 

Zvezda’s intention of providing for “Art of Tactic” board-game a large amount of topics on WWII Germans is continuously surprising, by these efforts benefitting via the Mini-box series not only the game-players but also collectors, diorama builders, and other wargamers, the company transposing in individual small sets the noteworthy figure content supplied for “Operation Barbarossa” game and its expansion sets. A rarely depicted theme referred to 1/72 WWII Germans is recon troops, practically except Zvezda’s “German Reconnaissance Team 1939 – 1942”, no other mass-production manufacturer giving attention to the subject in specially dedicated sets. However, no differences in terms of gear and weapons are registered between regular troopers and reconnaissance units, so thousands of figs in the scale are appropriate to portray such units. 

While reconnaissance is of foremost importance in war, almost all missions involving proper scouting, the WWII German High Command could not let unregulated the matter and established special units to perform such tasks, extremely necessary also within Blitzkrieg strategy. Theoretically, recon missions involving communication means were given to Signal units, in this purpose a Signal regiment being attached to a tactical army while at division level, a Signal battalion activated in infantry, mountain, paratrooper, armoured, and other ground divisions, smaller units benefitting by the services of their own Signal company. As main duties, except reconnaissance, Signal troopers had to lay and maintain cable as well as radio communications in places where cables were impossible to be laid or where those would have been endangered, radio messages being normally limited to those without secret content. 

Nevertheless, depending on the situation on the battlefield, each unit, even the smallest one, sent troopers in recon missions, so any kind of gear and clothes are suitable for those soldiers. There are well-known examples that major achievements in terms of military performances registered following successful reconnaissance, for instance Michael Wittmann’s Villers Bocage and Otto Carius’ Malinava successes coming after proper recon, in fact both Panzer commanders were scouting when they spotted the enemy and scored their most outstanding achievements, forever recorded by the military history.

The single distinct feature of Signal troops was the yellow waffenfarbe, and often not only them, but also other troopers performing recon tasks were equipped with observation and communication gear. Taking into account that virtually any 1/72 WWII German figure dressed in M36/M43, Panzer wrapper, camouflage or winter items of garment is suitable to be arranged as in reconnaissance, a set aiming at the topic should mainly focus on  communication and observation equipment and that is what Zvezda makes available inside their special set.

Also accessible in “Blitzkrieg 1940” expansion set, in the small box the manufacturer included forGerman Reconnaissance Team 1939 – 1942” a single spure and created an excellent front artwork illustrating the soldiers in identical stances with the ones chosen for the 1/72 army-men. This fact-finding is enhanced by the back of the box where three small photos, introducing the assembled product, unpainted and painted, tempt the possible client. As usual, next to the three small photos, there exists supplementary info on the kit such as number of parts, image of the wargaming card, and an advert regarding gluing and painting properties of the material. Inside the box, except the sprue and wargaming card, there is delivered an assembly guide printed on a piece of paper, indicating not only the steps for putting together the figs and gear, but also how to set them on bases. For this reason, the sprue incorporates two kind of bases, individual or a larger one, capable to host all figures and the wargaming flag, as well as displaying a Kar98K on the ground and as location for the radio, a small hillock covered by a rag, perhaps laid for preventing the device to get dirty. Along with bases and gaming accessories, the sprue comprises the necessary parts for assembling four figures, a Torn.Fu.d2 radio, and a Kar98K. The reference image illustrated in the upper part of the wargaming card discloses two soldiers in a ditch, one scrutinising the distance through binoculars and the other prepared to fire off his Kar98K, a good image with connection to the kit subject.

Putting together the minis goes smooth, arms and legs being delivered as separate pieces and as stressed on the front of the box, glue is not necessary, the common Zvezda’s snap fit technique being applied. Thanks to precise planning, parts finely stay in position even without a special adhesive, but for a no-concern handling and appearance, permanently gluing those would be finer, standard modelling adhesive being the normal one but super glue flawlessly working, too. The figures and radio snap on bases and if those are going to be deployed in other locations, removing the associated pins is solved with simple cuts.

For the reconnaissance team, Zvezda decided to portray two prone forward observers and two crouched radio operators, obviously set a little behind their colleagues. The incentive is very welcome, especially the transceiver team because it is notorious accurate radios and correlated crews are quite scarce in Braille Scale. Due to the featured characteristics, the present radio might be immediately identified as the renowned Torn.fu.d2, one of the most intensively utilised WWII German portable transceivers with a 3 km communication range. This true 1/72 model should be assessed as one of the best in the scale, the outstanding sculpture and engineering transposing most of details, including the tinniest ones in a precise size as well. Clearly noticed on the panel are various dials, plugs, knobs, switches, and other minuscule fine points, even small tags and screws, all extremely accurate shaped and displayed. Overall, the antenna emerges more than fine and those appreciating it a hair too thick, although unnecessary, might straightforwardly thin it with a modelling knife or razor blade. As a back-pack radio, Torn.fu.d2 had two shoulder straps as well as some other characteristics on sides and reverse as well as a handle on top, from those here being remarked just the pad on the back for body protection during transportation and another small detail on the right side. In addition, a special battery generated extra power for Torn.fu.d2 but it does not emerge in the set. Those intending to recreate the complete transceiver set might use the present Torn.fu.d2 in conjunction with Pegasus Hobbies’ radio in case which might be taken as a proper battery, the referred devices being available inside “Waffen SS Set 2” and “Germans in Berlin 1945”. On the other hand, some modellers might intend to deploy this transceiver in combination with other figs belonging to different producers, Pegasus Hobbies, Preiser, Dragon or even Zvezda listing excellent hard plastic miniatures wholly fitting in this purpose with or without modifications. Likewise, by simply changing the operator’s head with headphones, he can be turned into a regular infantry-man, the rest of poses, even in standard approach, fitting in such roles since the beginning.

According to KStN regulations, a radio team was formed by three members, all armed with Kar98K even if they had to carry the radio and battery. One of the Zvezda radio operators is armed with MP40 and the other with Kar98K, by selecting such weapons the manufacturer possibly wishing to emphasise the idea that now is not about regular Signal units but other ones, infantry-men according to the white waffenfarbe identified at the figs in the artwork. The second member received the regulated Kar98K, practically having more rifles at his disposal, one directly sculptured on the large base, another on the small base allocated to this figure, and a third one, separately given if none of the supplied bases is employed.

The radio operator with MP40 is bare headed and with headphones set in position, works with the right hand at a switcher, trying to establish the connection with the base and pressing with the left hand the headphones for better hearing the signal. He received bread bag, canteen, and the classical two ammo pouches for his weapon, the left hand side one missing the small pouch. A more important lack of this figure sets out the wires coming down from the headphones to the radio. Nonetheless, it would have been extremely difficult for the manufacturer to cast such wires, particularly on account the operator and his radio are distinct pieces and a considerable length of the cables would have been not on the body. For this reason, it was left to the hobbyist’s choice to add or not such wires, the operation being uncomplicated and achievable with ones made of thin metal wire or scratch built from melted plastic sprue. Maybe better would be metal ones, the material supporting eventual twists for increasing the real appearance, in this case super glue gel being the necessary adhesive for sticking the metal wires below the headphones while for those of hard plastic polly-cement following to be employed.      

The other soldier attached to the radio puts down in a notebook what the recon team have spotted during the mission or the orders received from Headquarters. This figure wearing steel helmet is supplied in a most exciting crouched position, with both knees facing the ground and excellent holding a notebook and a perceptible pencil. Furthermore, his entire body supports the performed duty, leaning a little in front, looking down in the notebook, while the pencil marvellous touches the page. He has got bread bag, canteen, map case, bayonet and Kar98K ammo pouches. In manufacturer’s view he put down the rifle but the distributed spare weapon can be effortlessly glued on his back, painting or scratch-building a strap for it being painless, too.

Regarding the other half of the team, the two prone troopers seem in the middle of a scouting activity, one supervising the movements of the enemy through binoculars while his colleague points towards something important that he has just noticed, indicating the direction for his comrade with binoculars. As a true scot, the last mentioned soldier is bare-headed, possibly he removed the helmet for not hampering him or its shine to divulge his position. He is armed with a MP40 kept on the back and a pistol in holster on the right front side, and because of the pistol, he adjusted only the left hand side M40 ammo pouch. The holster is finely sculptured but the details on the ammo pouch entirely miss. Still, those would have been impossible to be seen when the fig is set in position and the three related front straps might be simply painted by the modeller for a more authentic depiction. Except his firing weapons, the army-man took with him in mission a map/dispatch case, bread bag, and canteen. According to the pistol holster, it is feasible him to embody the commander of the recon team, pertinent for NCO or officer roles, especially due to the lack of helmet or officer cap. In order to recreate a more natural appearance and stress the scouting activity, the prone figs are shaped slightly raised from the ground, the given bases being modelled to finely accommodate them. Because of that, the hobbyist has to pay little attention when emplacing the two prone miniatures in other locations than the given bases.

In an attractive pose comes his comrade or subordinate, also armed with a MP40 but held in the right hand while with the left hand index indicates to his mate where to look. As gear he has bread bag, mess-tin, canteen, entrenching tool with bayonet, and the two ammunition pouches afferent to his weapon, again the small left hand side pouch disappearing. Of note is the odd display of his ammo pouches, practically impossible due to the fact the back tabs would have kept those in a slight angle to interior and not to the exterior as visible here. On the other hand, being placed in front, the mistake is impossible to be spotted when the trooper occupies his site in the field. In addition, it has to be praised manufacturer’s effort of bringing details on all sides, being acknowledged that often several companies, including major ones, refrain losing time and resources for carving their prone figs on sides facing the ground. Likewise, the incentive of issuing prone soldiers with MP40 is of great value while such army-men have not been included in any mass-production sets dedicated to 1/72 WWII Germans.

According to the given period, the figures are dressed in M36 tunics, regular trousers, marching/jack boots and have “Y” straps, fact that makes them best starting with 1940. Of course, the miniatures might be utilised throughout the entire war in warm or temperate environments, soldiers similarly dressed appearing even in the last days of the war. Only two of four have steel helmets, the others being bare-headed, which works in relation with the tasks performed in that moment. For the bare headed ones, in case it is appreciated necessary, the hobbyist might bring next or glue on these steel helmets or other head covers, various Dragon, Preiser, and Caesar figure sets proposing impressive stocks of head gear as separate pieces. Furthermore, the same sets represent excellent sources for bringing further gear or weapons to these army-men, Zeltbahns, gas mask containers, and flash-lights emerging as fine items to be added. Made of hard plastic just like the figures, the pointed out gear or weapons are without any trouble permanently positioned with standard modelling glue. Nonetheless, gear kept at minimum and the map/dispatch cases confer a plus of realism and correctness in the attempt of portraying troopers participating at recon missions, the real ones also trying to take with them only the most necessary items and weapons, such actions certainly imposing soldiers to be as light as possible.  

With reference to details on uniforms, these appear quite vague in front, in particular on chests, but carefully done on the back, with natural creases, visible being also collar and shoulder boards as well as a number of buttons. Boots continue in the line encountered in all Zvezda sets, wonderfully modelled and featuring the stitched central, vertical spine to the reverse. Anatomy is very attractive, with faultless facial expressions enhanced by perfectly carved eyes, eye-brows, noses, mouths, ears, cheeks, chins, and hair for the bare-headed ones, including more than accurate haircuts that were adopted and made famous by WWII Germans.  Body parts have got natural proportions and the palms show all fingers, a plus for the soldier pointing with his finger and the operator switching a button of the radio.

Flash is in limited amount and as a result of the multi-part method, no annoying excess of material registers, except an inconsiderable quantity passing barely noticed, in the area of the bread bag of a couple of figs. The hard plastic utilised by Zvezda sets out as one of the best materials ever invented for toy-soldiers, exploiting and adopting in a brilliant manner the qualities of soft and hard plastics, being capable to resist to shocks, flexible enough, and providing an excellent base for enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils, painting emerging as a real pleasure, the artistic endeavour being integrated and retained despite heavy handling. Due to this material, Zvezda products are ideal not only for wargamers and collectors, but also for diorama builders which can effortlessly make further upgrades or modifications on these figs if wished. Conversions are practically at home here, simply mixing limbs and heads of the soldiers from the box being sufficient for accomplishing several more than useful and innovative poses in the scale.   

Manufacturer’s consistency of providing toy-soldiers of same height and close sizes for equipment and weapons is a major advantage for the Zvezda tender, no matter the set they come from, the figs being perfectly compatible from all points of view. In the tall side of 1/72, the members of the recon team fit with all soldiers integrated in the mini-box series and those wearing M36 uniforms are the most numerous, at least for the moment. Furthermore, troopers dressed in the same way and with similar sizes and gear are encountered in catalogues of numerous producers, a couple of examples on the matter representing Imex’s “German Troops” and Pegasus Hobbies’ “German Mortar Teams”. Obviously, these are not the only options, Preiser, Dragon, Esci, Italeri, and Revell offering a huge amount of choices as well as the cottage industry with other hundreds of 1/72 army-men.

In line with the rest of sets dedicated to 1/72 WWII Germans by the company, due to its unquestionable qualities emphasised along the present review, the reconnaissance team addresses to all groups activating in the hobby. In spite depicting infantry-men, this set might be appraised as one of the most fascinating and exciting in the long list of Zvezda mini-box series, bringing in the hobby several figs in extremely realistic and functional poses as well as with an impressive potential for conversions. The enclosed radio definitely emerges as a key item of the kit, its size, shape, antenna, and front panel niceties propelling it on a leading position in the field, perhaps the best Torn.fu.d2 transceiver existing in Braille Scale. On this occasion, it is reiterated the notable research activity carried out by Zvezda team as well as the fact that if desired, extraordinary figure sets might be launched on the market at very attractive prices, and certainly, the present one deserves to be bought in more copies.          

Historical Accuracy 10
Anatomy 10
Poses Quality 10
Details Quality 9
Mould Quality 10
Sculpture 9
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion 9