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Friday, January 2, 2015

Fifty Tanks of Grey: German Barbarossa List

By Mitch Reed

With the release of every new Flames of War book from Battlefront, I eagerly look forward in creating new lists from the collection of troops and vehicles I possess. As I stated in my previous article on my Japanese forces, I do not play early war very much and only have the one nation in my collection.  I decided that with the new book I would try and field a new early war force from Barbarossa. 

The new book covers only two factions, the Soviets and the Germans, and since I already play the latter in mid and late war, I figured that a German Early War force would be the next force to build.  I have been interested in collecting such a force since I first leafed through the Blitzkrieg book a few years ago; I assume it was something about those iconic German armor columns slashing through Europe in 1939-1940 that made me desire to play such a list.

I decided on collecting a new force well before the book was released and I first took stock of what forces I had on hand that could be used for the early war period.  I used the previous early war books that had German lists as a guide and soon realized that German armor changed significantly from the early to mid and late war periods.  Plus even the few vehicles and troops that I could use were tanks panted in late war camo schemes or troops that also wore camo smocks or had equipment that was not found in the early part of the war.  While some of my artillery, AT guns, mortars, and even my SS troops could be used, I knew that I would need to purchase new tanks, halftracks, and vehicles.

As I was looking over my inventory I decided that my new force would probably be a tank list; it was something about the various types of tanks that these lists contained, and like I mentioned before, the vision of German armor was so prominent in the early stages of the war. 

Once a player has decided upon creating a new list they have to factor in what it will cost in both time and money.  We are not involved in a hobby that is economical on either of those fronts and that is what often curtails collecting a lot of different lists.  As I started to formulate what forces I need to purchase and paint, I wanted to ensure that I would not go overboard on cost and hours spent painting. 

While I wanted to take full advantage of Battlefronts “buy two get one free sale” I knew that going down this route would still be expensive and for the fact that many of the tanks for Barbarossa were re-sculpts that were not available for the sale.  I did end up ordering a full Schutzen platoon, along with a two 2cm AA gun set and a FJ command blister, knowing that I would be able to use these last two in my mid and late war lists.  I was not 100% pleased with the Schutzen blister; the figures were not of the same quality of my other purchases from Battlefront, however they will do fine in my new list.

Battlefront's EW Schutzen platoon

When it came to the tanks, I decided to add a few different types of tanks that most of the lists had.  At this point my choice was based on both cost and availability, and went with two companies that also make 1/100 scale models that can be used in Flames of War; Zvezda and Plastic Soldier Company.

I have always liked the tanks from PSC and I was very happy with the PZIII J,L,M,N five tank box set they came out with this past summer which featured single piece tracks, their older sets had two piece tacks that some have had issues in the past with.

Knowing I needed a few Panzer IIIs, I picked up the PSC PZIII F,G,H and once I got that hang of putting together the split tracks I was very happy with this purchase.  I also picked up a box of 5 Sd KFz 251/C halftracks from PSC and I was pleased with this set as well.

As for the other tanks I felt I needed, I went to the Russian model company Zvezda (meaning “star” in Russian) for five each of PZ 38(T) and PZ IIs, along with 4 PZ IVDs to round out my collection.  I have heard from a few other gamers that Zvezda models are a bit smaller and have a lot less detail than products from Battlefront; while I can see their point I did feel that the quality was pretty good and I did notice a size difference between the Zvezda PZ IVDs and my late war PZ IVHs, I felt that will never occupy the same table and as long as the whole platoon looked the same I wouldn’t notice the difference very much.

One thing that Zvezda models do lack are the commanders and crew spilling out there tank hatches; however this was fixed by adding some spare commanders I had laying around from PSC and Battlefront.

So even before the book came out, I was saddled with painting 19 tanks, 5 halftracks and a platoon of infantry.  While I was dreading painting yet another infantry platoon I was happy in the fact that I paid about an average of $5.50 for vehicle and about $18 for the infantry.  Thus far my total investment is around $150 and after I knock out the infantry the tanks are easy to do.

As I was wrapping up the above projects, WWPD had a preview of Barbarossa and based on that article I knew I had to get some extra forces.  Since I decided to play German lists I now needed something that could put a dent in the EW Soviet tanks: they are tough.  I now wondered if I picked the wrong side. However, painting countless Soviets for some of my friends, I was not motivated to start collecting hordes of Soviet forces.  While the review had a lot of detail, I knew I should wait for the book before in order to find what support assets the German lists had to take on the Soviet tanks.

Along with finally getting the book, Battlefront also released the points total for early war in 2015.  The new total of 1390 points is lower than I expected, however I had no plans to play in the EW Nationals and I know many tournament organizers would probably run events with differing point totals.  So after I looked over the book, I realized that a few more purchases would have to be made.

I knew I had to add some recce and I picked up two Sd Kfz 222’s from Zvezda with the intention of taking the cheap 2 vehicle platoon of a 221 (MG) and a 222.  I was able to modify one of the 222’s to a 221 by sanding down the top of the turret and then filling it in with some JB Weld plastic putty.  I also picked up a Stuka and two STuG Bs, also from Zvezda.  I felt the Stuka bomber (Stuka means dive in German) could deal with some of the Russian beast tanks and the StuGs would be a good addition if I planned to run an infantry force.

One weapon that was able to kill almost any tank during the war was the dreaded 88mm dual purpose anti-aircraft/anti-tank gun, which is something I do not have for my mid and late war German lists.  While almost every list has the 88mm gun as a support choice, I have never been a huge fan of towed guns since they seem to be easy to kill.  I decided to finally add some 88’s by purchasing some Bunker-Flak 88’s trucks that appear in many EW lists.

I was unable to find a box set of Battlefront’s Bunker-Flak platoon at the Fall-in Convention, so I picked up 3 vehicles from Command Decision for around $25.  These were very nice models, however they do not come with any of the guns crew which is not a big issue to me.  While I was looking over these models, I was wondering how I could get more use out of 88’s.  While I doubt I would ever take the Bunker-Flak platoon on a list, I knew I may have use of the 88’s in other lists in other periods.  I built the models putting in magnets on the gun and the mount on the vehicle and then took two large bases and made stands for the dismounted 88mm guns.  I scrounged my boxes for crew that would work with the 88 and found some work just fine.  I even had some that I could place on a medium base for the extra crew option.

The next issue I had was in artillery; one of the options in Barbarossa is to take a Nebelwefer battery, and I love those neb’s!  Looking at my collection I only had 3 Nebs on hand and the list calls for a platoon of two or four launchers, so I found someone on Ebay who was selling a full but open Nebelwefer pack for around $9 with shipping, a great deal even if I didn’t need one extra launcher.

So, after adding in the Nebs and the 7 extra vehicles my total investment in my new list was $205, which is cheap for 31 vehicles, a platoon each of infantry and guns.  In breaking down my per-vehicle costs, after subtracting $26 for the infantry and Nebs, I ended up paying about $5.77 for each vehicle (the Command Decision Bunker-Flak increased the average), not too bad.

Looks like I had some guns painted in Panzer Grey

.. And some trucks (that is the extra Neb stand I picked up... Oh and a Dicker Max

So now that the force is painted and ready, I wanted to add once last touch to give my new vehicles a distinctive early war look.  I went to Dom’s Decals ( to pick up some yellow vehicle numerals.  I figured that since these were only used in the early stages of the war they would do fine for me.  I also picked up some armor division symbols from Dom, which he sells in groups of units, however all markings that unit had during the war are included in a set. The set I got included the 3rd Panzer Division (Heer) which was raised in the Berlin area and the unit seemed to be everywhere during the war. I liked the fact that one of the symbols the division used was the Bear which reminded me of my trips to the city as a child and adult.

As for time, I did not think building this force took a lot of time.  I really had to motivate myself to paint the infantry, but that is due to my lack of time and a little painting burn-out.

Well the pictures above show the final product.  Now I have to find places to play an early war game.

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