While we had seen German mortars before this set was released, they have always been rubbish, quite frankly. Whether it is the ultra-simplified item in Matchbox sets or the ridiculous unsupported affair in the Esci sets, this was not an item that had been done well. Worse still, they had always been something of an afterthought, with one or at most two crew, which is not going to satisfy those wishing to depict any German unit accurately. Armourfast addressed this issue with this set, which is devoted purely to the weapon and its crew, and as with the first set of figures in their range this is an interesting idea.
The Germans were well known for making good use of mortars, and pressed many captured enemy weapons into service. However the main type used for much of the war and on all fronts was the 8 cm Granatwerfer 34, which is the weapon included in this set. Although the packaging does not specify the type, the model barrel length is 15 mm, which equates to the 113 cm length of the 34, and as such it is a good choice. The barrel, base plate and bipod are separate pieces, so there is the opportunity to deliver good detail, although we felt this was an opportunity missed as more could have been done, particularly around the clamp area.
The 34 normally had a crew of five, so it is nice to see five crew for each mortar here. All are kneeling and in reasonable poses, although one is using his MP40 machine gun rather than attending the mortar. One man has an empty cupped hand which could hold either the extra bombs or the rifle that are included in the kit, though gluing is required for this.
All the men are wearing ankle boots and camouflage smocks, which makes them suitable for the later war period. Clothing is OK and quite well done, as is the overall level of detail, but some elements of the personal kit defied identification, with a mysterious circular object and an unidentified bag (gas cape?) below the rolled tent section, possibly a misunderstanding of the gas mask case. For the most part there is virtually no flash, although in a few places flash is more noticeable.
The bombs in this set, both separate and moulded with a figure, are quite cylindrical with rounded ends, not at all like the pointed projectiles actually used by the mortar. The ammunition box seems to be a box with a lid whereas the actual box worked like a case, opening in two to gain access to the bombs.
Many people will find that specialized sets such as this will give them more flexibility in building their armies, so this was a welcome first figure set from this relatively new company (though in the end they only ever produced one other set of figures). With only small criticisms, we think this is a set that will find a receptive market.