Articles

Esci - German Soldiers (201) _________(EXT)

Manufacturer ESCI
Scale 1/72
Set Code 201
Year 1982
No. of Figures 50
No. of Poses 15
Additional Items None
Aspect Medium
Material Soft Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Intermediate
Glue-ability Poor (Super Glue Gel)
Convert-ability Difficult
Optimal Period 1939 - 1945

 

Review 

Like in all things, and especially in kits industry, someone has to make the first step to push things forward and than others will follow, and this is the great merit of the present set, a milestone in the field of 1/72 WWII German Infantry. Bringing more and more details, featuring even the smallest ones previously considered untouchable and searching accuracy through better study, Esci gave a proper example and encouraged other companies to approach the topic in the same manner. Before the launch of the hereinafter reviewed set, the subject was treated in the scale only by Airfix and Atlantic, but during the time other tenders appeared, nowadays the WWII German Infantry being one of the best represented army in the scale. The theme enjoys great popularity and is one of the best sold, but in spite of numerous sets, there is still a lot of space for further offers. Not only due to its age, but also for the reason that it was reissued by Italeri, Esci's "German Soldiers" has a huge success, being one of the most known sets related to 1/72 WWII Germans. It can be highlighted that as a result of superior details as well as large number of figures and weapons, this set revolutionized the field for which was manufactured, for the great satisfaction of the fans of the scale, particularly those attached to WWII. 

Along the years the artwork of the box suffered some modifications, but the content always remained just the same, unchanged even in reissues and bringing to us some qualitative German Infantry soldiers, most of them in combat poses. They are dressed in the uniform specific to the Early stage of WWII, respectively M36 tunics, regular trousers (with a single exception), marching boots and steel helmets for all, including the officer who diverges from the troops through his M34 officer trousers, a distinctive sign of his rank, because either binoculars, map cases or pistols would have been encountered at privates or specialized troopers. Nevertheless, the common approach in 1/72 sets is that almost constantly, the figure with pistol is the officer, which is still pretty fair, reference photos showing extremely rare privates or specialised troops firing off their pistols. In addition, all the figures, except the officer, possess "Y" straps and are pretty well equipped, most having gas mask containers, canteens, bread bags, Zeltbahns, mess-tins and entrenching tools with bayonets attached in a random selection. Based on the thickness of the uniforms, those fighters may be used in either warm or cold environments, but for sure they are more suitable for warm ones. Likewise, with a couple of exceptions, figures may be used along the whole war, excluding the figure with MG42, his weapon restricting the exploitation before 1942, and the soldier with RPzB54 that may be employed only after 1944. A point of attraction is the great variety of weapons provided, namely four Kar 98K (one with scope), four MP40, one MG34, one MG42, one Raketen-Panzer-Büchse 54, one Flammenwerfer 34, one Granatwerfer 34 (81 mm mortar), and the officer holds in his right hand a P-08 Parabellum. Furthermore, the set incorporates a figure with radio, another holding a Tellermine 35 Stahl, while several received StiHg-r 24 grenades, in this way being covered almost all the main WWII German Infantry weapons. Moreover, a good mark is granted as well for the ammunition pouches of all soldiers, each of them having those appropriate of his weapon.

The great majority of poses are well made, but quite common for plenty of sets, featuring nine standing, three crouched and three prone, a fine balanced percent of fighting poses for sixteen figures. Definitely, soldiers firing off their Kar98Ks and MP40s from widespread positions could not miss from this set. A combat pose hardly encountered in 1/72 WWII German Army mass production sets is the trooper firing off Mp40 from the shoulder area, but here we have the great pleasure to find such a pose. In an overwhelming number of cases, German soldiers making use of MP fires it off from the waist area, but tons of materials taken in that period reveal to us army-men shooting with such weapons like with Kar98K, from shoulder. A plus point of this Esci set is that not only brings a figure firing his MP40 from shoulder, excellent for emplacing in a trench or behind a window, but also another one shooting with a similar weapon from waist, even if the way of holding it is out of the ordinary. Attention is grabbed by the presence of a crouched sniper, who is searching his target before aiming and releasing the deadly bullet. A pretty similar pose is reflected by an image from that period, so nothing atypical in it, and another good mark for the sculptor. A crawling warrior is also provided in one of the most frequent versions, revealed both by reference materials and offers in the scale. Between special poses may be counted the soldier with MP40 in the right hand and Tellermine in the left and that of the fighter with Flammenwerfer 34 because such weapons have a low frequency in various sets related to 1/72 WWII Germans. An almost identical pose, this time of a real soldier, armed with a Flammenwerfer 34, appear in a familiar picture and perhaps that image served as inspiration model for the sculptor. We can bump into figures with Tellermine in Revell's "German Engineers", Pegasus Hobbies' "Waffen SS - Set 2" and in another Esci,  "Afrika Corps Soldiers", while with Flamethrowers  are endowed several soldiers from Revell, Esci and Caesar sets, respectively "German Infantry", "Afrika Corps Soldiers" and "German Infantry (Late War)", pointing out the fact that Caesar's model is Flammenwerfer 41. The pose of the officer is classical, but the figure benefits by qualitative fine points. Apart from the common approach of such a pose, this officer has on his head regular steel helmet and not officer cap. He was armed with a pistol in his right hand and received as gear gas mask container, map case, pistol holster and binoculars. It should be emphasised that the pistol here depicted is probably one of the best in the scale, overcoming similar weapons made either in plastic or metal and even resin. On the sprue we receive as well a grenade thrower, but he is not so persuasive in his move, an almost identical pose following to be encountered again in Esci's "AfricaKorp". Further grenades are identified inside the set stuck in boots, according to a common practice of the German soldiers.

With reference to the MG gunners, there are more things to say, a very nice characteristic being that not only the MG434, but also the MG42 are fed by 50 rounds drum magazines while a drawback is that the gunners miss their personal weapons, the pistols. The one firing off his weapon from a prone position has a MG34 that misses the bipod. In order not to own a weird figure, firing a MG supported by the air, it is required something like an ammo box, sand bag, tree or other thing for propping or the modeller has the option of adding a folded bipod borrowed from Preiser's "Advancing Grenadiers with MG" or other at hand source. Nevertheless, this figure is better done than the standing MG gunner firing off the MG42. This latter pose is very interesting, but unfortunately, he props the MG42 on a bizarre device fixed on an ammunition box. Both the box and the device are extremely odd, the box missing one side, probably for mould reasons, while the device, is a strange combination between a bipod and a Lafette tripod, these being the regular pieces used by Germans for shoring up the MGs. The device here portrayed is larger than a bipod and lacks the third leg of a Lafette tripod, so if it is not removed by the modeller, it could be assessed as a field conversion. This pose and its ammunition box served as inspiration model for other two Italeri figures released at more than 20 years distance,  one of them taking a smaller version of the box, also missing one side and another one copying the MG gunner propping in its new version his weapon on a brick wall. Both MGs in Italeri's "German Elite Troops" are better built, based on the fact that these weapons are sustained by accurate bipods. Concerning the 81 mortar and its crewman ensemble, it must be stressed that the weapon is fully compromised, being one of the funniest things that we could run into inside the Braille scale, but at least the projectile held by the soldier is correctly and nicely shaped. The mortars produced by Esci were extremely poor and contrasting with the other weapons that featured excellent details. The present mortar completely misses the bipod and stays in a strange position, fixed only in the base plate. For improving the aspect of the ensemble in case there are two solutions, either gluing a bipod taken over from another mortar or removing the weapon and using the figure together a mortar from sets like Pegasus Hobbies' "German Mortar Teams", Armourfast's "German Mortar Team", Preiser's "WWII German Mortar and Crew" or even Italeri "German Elite Troops", which mortar looks familiar to the present one, but still it is much upgraded. Except the Tellermine, another famous German anti-tank weapon is featured here by Esci, namely the Raketen-Panzer-Büchse 54 or RPzB54. Neither the pose of the soldier, nor the details on the weapon do not impress too much, but the figure is quite useful due to the low presence of such a weapon at 1/72. A nicety and also rarity brought by the set is the radio operator, German Infantry figures having communication devices representing a serious gap in the scale. In spite of the large usage of communication gear by Germans during the war, in mass production sets the issue is poorly reflected, another infantryman with a radio device appearing only in Imex's "German Troops" while further communications stuff could be found inside various Pegasus Hobbies sets. Even gathering all these communication devices it should be underlined that are more than insufficient comparing with the number of 1/72 German soldiers. Returning to the radio operator here portrayed, his pose is quite fine, holding the microphone in the right hand and his radio between his legs. The radio, an unidentified version, is quite simplified and also very thin. However, the appearance of the device is much improved by an antenna which can be slimmed a little if it is considered too thick.   

The bodies are well proportioned and faces are fine, with pretty clear details while some figures wear the strap of the helmet placed in the regular position and others miss it. Except the mortar, and several remarks on MGs and other heavy weapons, the small ones are well sculptured and do not register differences in size from pose to pose. Clearly countable fingers are completing the picture of a good anatomy that enters in the circle of small size 1/72 figures. Likewise, a critic in the field of anatomy can be brought to the manufacturer, namely several figures do not look were they had to, in accordance to the developed activities. Nevertheless, figures in general portray only a fraction of a second in the life of the embodied human-being that is intended to be represented, so looking in other direction than normal may occur, even when carrying out activities such as loading a weapon, so in this regard the critic is not so vehement. At their turn, uniforms are well depicted, including tinny details like buttons, shoulder or collar boards, correctly shaped pockets and acceptable creases. The impressive sculpture of the flaps and folds of the tunics makes the model easily recognised while the correct number of buttons and their good shape turns in a real pleasure the complicate operation of painting such small stuff, often giving headaches to the modellers who want to represent with accuracy the uniforms. Furthermore, all figures have the tunics buttoned up, and because of this corroborated with their type, M36, it can be underlined the fact that we get here some very smart troops, best fitting with the Early War when Germans scored their easy victories. Flash comes in a small and effortlessly removable amount while excess of plastic is not present at all. Paint will agreeable adhere on the soft plastic used for manufacturing the figures and will not influence the properties of the enamels. Without the prone soldiers and the standing guys with the mortar tentative and the MG42 which are supported by their weapons, all the rest received bases, but these are easily detached if it is desired such a thing.

Most of the sets portraying 1/72 WWII German infantry are compatible, the size of the figures in general allowing the mix, not only in wargames, but also on the same diorama. Taking into account the uniforms, sizes of bodies, gear and weapons, the present set matches the best in the following order with: Airfix's "German Infantry", Caesar's "WWII German Army" (Parade Series)  Revell's ‘German Armoured Infantry", plenty of Preiser sets treating the WWII German Infantry, Imex's "German Troops" and Hasegawa's "German Attack Group". Moreover, there must not be ignored numerous sets released by different companies that are dedicated to the legendary Africa Korps, most of the figures from there being compatible with regular German soldiers thanks to their uniforms, gear and weapons. A remark regarding the mess-tins reproduced here is that are noticeable smaller than similar items found in other sets. 

The year 1982, when the set in case left for the first time the factory, represents antiquity in the field of 1/72 plastic soldiers and bearing in mind this fact we have to fully acknowledge the great merit of manufacturer. "German Soldiers" represents a classic in the field, its poses constituting a rich source of inspiration either for posterior sets made by Esci, but also for those coming from other companies, a good illustration being „German Elite Troops", appeared after a collaboration Italeri/Revell. Moreover, this Esci set is very useful, the large number of distinct poses, extremely varied area of weapons endowing its soldiers and covering almost all representative WWII German infantry arsenal being only several values recognised by plenty of collectors, wargamers and diorama builders. This idea is also emphasised by that it is still in production and after more than 20 years and not only for collection purposes, but also for its qualities.  

Historical Accuracy 8
Anatomy 9
Poses Quality 8
Details Quality 9
Mould Quality 9
Sculpture 8
Recommendation/Utility 9
Reviewer’s Opinion 8