Any introduction to German infantry in World War II seems unnecessary here, partly because we have already reviewed so many sets on this subject, and partly because there cannot be anyone with an interest in this period who does not know the basics of such men. The relatively high product code of this set highlights the fact that Zvezda avoided making figures for World War II for a very long time, presumably because there were already so many sets available from others. However the success of their Art of War game pieces, which originally concentrated entirely on the 1941-45 war on the Eastern Front, seems to have prompted them to cover this conflict with a couple of basic sets, of which this is one. The set claims to cover the period 1942 to 1944 - 1944 we can understand, but why starting at 1942 is a mystery. Nevertheless the set is made so we will take a closer look at the contents.
The 14 poses include some interesting ones, which is good to see considering you might be forgiven for thinking every possible pose has already been made. Inevitably we find the standing and kneeling firing figures, plus quite a nice one of a soldier attending to his rifle - perhaps pulling back the bolt. The pair operating the machine gun is new in the sense that others have such a pose with both men kneeling, but we were not pleased to see this here. Operating the MG34 in this manner would have been less than ideal, and seems to have been a practice done in emergency rather than as routine. The man on whose shoulder the gun rests would have very quickly had issues with the deafening sound of the gun and the heat of the barrel, so while there are photographs of this practice we definitely felt it did not deserve to have three examples of this pose in each set, and arguably even one is hard to justify.
Moving to the second row, there is a soldier clearly at ease, with helmet attached to his belt and walking along with arms resting on his slung rifle. Since most available poses are of men in combat, this really nice marching pose certainly does bring something new and we liked this figure a lot. Equally good is the next man, an NCO stooping and apparently directing operations while under fire. Nicely animated figures like this, keeping their head down, are typical of the period but too few in this hobby. The next man is bringing up ammunition for the machine gun, and is a pose often lacking in sets that have the machine gun, so well done to Zvezda again. Then we have a prone man about to throw a grenade - again nicely done.
The bottom row illustrates the poses of which there is only one in each box. First a decent kneeling figure throwing a grenade, and then a very nice 'advancing cautiously under fire' pose. The third man is holding his entrenching tool aloft, which signals that the men are digging in (although no one here actually is). The row is completed by an NCO apparently not under fire and pointing somewhere, and an officer in peaked cap looking through binoculars.
In terms of historical accuracy these figures present no problems. All wear the same standard tunic and long marching boots, plus the classic steel helmet. All are also fairly well equipped compared to many sets of Germans, for they all have full assault packs made up of the mess tin, text section, gas mask carrier with anti-gas cape wrapped round it, bread bag, water bottle and entrenching tool. The stooping NCO in the second row has organised his kit around his belt, revealing the webbing frame that all the men have supporting their pack. The precise arrangements vary slightly, which helps make it more realistic, but basically everyone is fully equipped. However as the campaign went on this very neat and smart appearance would become compromised by the addition of extra items, camouflage clothing, helmet nets or covers and all manner of other expedients. Needless to say, these figures are not facing a Russian winter either, so the general impression is of the look of the infantry earlier in the war, and during the summer months, and even then they are a bit too perfect in our view. Weaponry is mostly the ubiquitous Kar 98k rifle, but the officer and one NCO carry the MP40 submachine gun and of course there is the MG34 machine gun already mentioned, which is here being fed from a magazine rather than a belt. Apart from a few grenades tucked into belts and boots there is no other weaponry, which again makes the set seem better for 1942 than 1944.
The detail on these figures cannot be faulted, although in a couple of places where the torso is not facing the mould the chest is missing detail. For the most part however the detail is excellent, as it is on the weapons, so the usual first class Zvezda effort. Every single figure requires some element of assembly, but we found this worked well (if a little fiddly for those without nimble fingers). The poses certainly benefit from this approach, being anything but flat, so while it takes a while to build all the figures in this box the result is well worth the effort. As you can see there is no flash and no extra plastic.
Although the figures seem rather too perfect, there is nothing actually incorrect about them, and the standard of sculpting and production cannot be faulted either. Although there were always going to be a few of the classic poses seen in so many other sets, Zvezda have done a good job of delivering several that are rare or not previously done, so this set does offer something new. In the case of the MG34 team we don't think the new pose is particularly useful, but otherwise everything here is fine, although by producing something new and different Zvezda have made a set with relatively few poses that you might place in a battle. However they could not win on that score, for there is already a vast range of battle poses for these men from other manufacturers, yet the set they have produced delivers interesting and useful figures and maintains Zvevda's excellent reputation for high quality models.