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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Product Review: Volkssturm Platoon

By Mitch Reed

With the recent release of the Remagen for late war Flames of War play a player has the option of fielding a Volkssturm Platoon with either 4 or 3 squads. These troops represent Germany’s last ditch efforts to stave off enviable defeat.
While I was unsure of my desire to ever field this unit, I thought it would be a fun platoon to use if I had the extra points (105 for a full unit, dirt cheap), and it would challenge my mediocre painting skills since they have a mix of uniforms and civilian clothing. I picked up the blister at Historicon and put it at the top of my painting priorities. 

The blister contains enough casts to build nine medium based squads and a platoon commander. The casts themselves were excellent, with a mixture of models in both military uniform and civilian clothes. The blister also contains the MG-08/15 LMG, a relic from the Great War, which can be substituted for one of the other Rifle/Panzerfaust teams for -5 points.

Full platoon 

After I primed these guys I did some research; while many of the Volkssturm members wore civilian clothes, most had some type of uniform either issued to them when they were called up, or they wore a uniform they had from the Great War or from another branch of the German government (more on this). When examining the sculpts, you can easily tell which models are in a full uniform, a mixture of different uniforms, or wearing all civilian clothing. I even was able to quickly pick out the sculpts in their Hitler Youth attire. Any player who has painted one or two armies in the past will find that they have enough colors in their collection to complete these guys.

Note the Hitler Youth member with the Panzerfaust

Note the MG-08/15 on the right.

I decided to give them an urban base, partially inspired by their historical use and how they were pictured in the product spotlight on I found these figures easy to paint and with a steady hand, the armbands were simple to do. I liked the varied weapons these guys carry, everything from old weapons to experimental models that were produced in limited numbers.   

In play Volkssturm are Reluctant Conscript rifle/panzerfaust teams and use the "Local Militia" special rule which means they always start dug-in on the table and do not count towards your platoon count when factoring how many platoons will be held in reserve.

While I can agree to the R/C rating I do not feel that this was how all Volkssturm acted in battle. It would be interested to play with these guys starting a game as R/C, however after they lose their first stand a player can take morale check for each stand, and those who remain become Fearless Conscript for the rest of the game.

What were the Volkssturm? 

By the end of 1944, many saw that Germany would need additional manpower to fight off the allies and Soviets closing in on Germany on two fronts. The call went out from the Nazi party to conscript men from the ages of 16-60 to form units and fight the enemy in their local area. This call pulled in men who were previously deemed unfit for service, wounded in combat and released from active service, men too old to serve, and men who were deemed too important for the war effort to serve in the military. Another group called up was the Hitler Youth, who were previously too young to serve. One can easily see how the Volkssturm was a desperate act by the Germans. Another interesting thing about the Volkssturm was that they were not called up and formed by the German military. Much like the Waffen-SS, these troops were formed by the Nazi Party itself and were to be used as a complete unit by the local military commander. 

Volkssturm march for the camera in Berlin in late 1944. Note the Volkssturm title worn on the cuff of the man third from the camera in the front row. While these troops seemed to be well armed with new machine guns, legend has it that after the march they turned these weapons back to the soldiers they borrowed them from. 

When they were called up, the troops were given an armband that identified them as combatants and mostly antique small arms with plenty of Panzerfausts and told to head to the front line. They had very little time to train on tactics and relied on the German army for most of its support, like artillery and medical services.

Note the Volkssturm armband worn on the cuff of the middle figure.

While some were given uniforms, most Germans had some type of military style uniform in their closet. The Third Reich had uniforms for everything; police, national labor service, railway workers, coal miners, postal workers, and even forestry and falconry officials had a distinct uniform issued to them. Nazi party members as well as the Hitler Youth also were issued uniforms, which they wore into combat. No matter if they were issued uniforms or wore service related clothing, they all wore the arm band which was either red and white or yellow somewhere on their sleeve or cuff.

I had a blast painting these guys and it has tempted me to add them to a list in the near future.

Detail: 5/5 The sculpts were excellent and I liked the variety of weapons and uniforms. The fact that can paint identical sculpts different colors gives you some variation in how you base them. 
Build: 4/5 I could almost go with a 5 here. You will need to examine what each model is wearing, and then plan how you will paint them, which took me some time. The guide in the Remagen book and the product spotlight is a good help, but I still did my own research. 
Value: 4/5 I grabbed this blister as a painting project more than something I planned to use on a list. If you are unsure about ever using these guys or using them sparingly you can use early war Germans as a proxy. Since I finished them I have used them in play and will probably use them quite a bit in the future. 
Overall: 5/5 Right now they are only in a few lists in the new Remagen book, If you plan to play lists from this book they are a must buy and something that should be considered when building you lists. 

German Uniforms of the Third Reich 1933-1945, Brian Leigh Davis and Pierre Turner,  Arms and Armour Press, 1997
HITLER'S LAST LEVY: The Volkssturm 1944-45; Hans Kissel, Hellion Press, 2012

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