Early War German Armor: A 6mm FireFight! | Print |  E-mail
Written by Don MacVittie   
Saturday, 06 September 2008

Early in World War Two, German armor seemed invincible. Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, and the Low Countries all fell rapidly to German armored might while Rommel went on to push England back from the brink of victory in Africa. For the first six months of the campaign it seemed that Russia would also fall to the German armored machine. Reading accounts of German tank commanders in those early days of victory after victory leaves one with the impression of whirlwind battles and long forced marches – long even for the panzers.

You will notice that some vendors pictures prior to painting do not match the painted final product. This is because we originally were going to do this as both British and German EW armor, and our packaging and pre-assembly pictures reflect this fact. After reviewing the size of the collection, we decided to split it into German and British reviews. Our apologies, where practicable we cut the British vehicles out of the pictures.

 


The entire review

The equipment that Germany was using was serviceable, but not truly fantastic. In the Panzer II one could find equals in the French, British, and Russian armies. One could find them in droves – either destroyed or with swastikas on them after the battles. The key to the German success was not the unbeatable quality of those early war tanks, it was the way in which armor was utilized. Mad rushes into the rear of the enemy to make sweeping encirclements and put tens or even hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers out of the fight typified this early period.

But the equipment that they used was often lacking. All of the armor utilized in the Invasion of France was deemed unable to perform its designed role, and many – like the Panzerkampfwagen I – were removed from front-line combat duty and placed with security or observation forces, others put through field upgrades, and even more scheduled for replacement as soon as factories could be retooled.

We brought early war German armor models in from all of the 6mm vendors we could find to paint them up and let you decide where these models fall. Are they, like most of the originals, good enough for early war if painted up by a skilled commander, or are they like the Pzkw I, not good enough under any circumstances? Can you make them able to run over the hordes of Communist swinehund, or will they just look like blobs of metal no matter what you do?

We brought various models from the following vendors into our painting area: GHQ Models, Skytrex Miniatures, C-in-C Models, Heroics and Ross, Irregular Miniatures, and Scotia Micromodels. We painted them up in that wonderful Panzer Grey, and will let you decide which best suits your needs. This review is a little different than most, as we ordered a range of models from each vendor – so that you can see in one fell swoop how the various vendors’ products go together.

C-in-C Miniatures


As delivered

We have some C-in-C models, but have never brought them in for review. C-in-C miniatures are at the higher end of the quality scale, and their price of  $1.60 per tank and $1.38 per STuG is reasonable. We found the difference in packaging to be a bit odd, why not put five STuGs into the STuG bin and charge the same $7.00 for it?

We found these to be the best packaged miniatures in the entire review, coming in plastic closable trays with foam padding keeping the vehicles from bouncing around and banging up their details.

But packaging only helps if the miniatures are worthy of protecting. And in fact these most certainly are. In a market where quality is largely dominated by the amazing laser precision of GHQ (see below), C-in-C holds its own. In fact, in some ways we liked the C-in-C products better. Let’s look at why.


Package Contents

The greatest strength of these miniatures is the price/value proposition. For a reasonable price you get a high-quality product that paints up both easily and rather well. Worthy of calling out separately even though it figured into the greatest strength was the quality of detail. Each road wheel and return roller is paintable, the hatches are all visible, and the vehicle overall looks like a miniaturized version of a larger model.

The greatest weakness with this product is the lack of stowage, even the standard gear that was issued to and stored on all vehicles like roadwheels and shovels. This doesn’t have to be a show-stopper, and we think they look good mixed in with that other vendor’s vehicles.


Ready for painting

One thing about 6mm that’s more important than in other scales is how the turrets mount up. C-in-C uses a circular depression in the hull and a protrusion on the bottom of the turret. If you’ve ever seen BattleFront miniatures 15mm armor, that is the same system used by C-in-C. This arrangement means that you can’t glue studs onto the end of the turret mounting post to keep the turret from falling out while maintaining mobility, but it also means that you can drill and pin the turret. If the drilled hole is smaller than the pin, then you’ll get a mobile turret that doesn’t always fall out. More work than some vendors, but it works.

Note that C-in-C barrels are likely to scale, they’re pretty fragile compared to everyone else. Caution is warranted with them.

You won’t feel sorry for purchasing these miniatures, and you might be able to afford a force large enough to win through to Moscow.

US Source: Direct from C-in-C PFC

US URL: http://www.pfc-cinc.shoppingcartsplus.com/front_page.html

US Pricing:

STuG IIIB - $5.50 per pack of four

Pz IIIE or PzIIIF or PzIVD - $7.00 per pack of five

UK Source: None known

 

GHQ Models


As delivered

What can one say about GHQ other than “wow”. They are the acknowledged leader in the 6mm space for good reason. Their models are always beautiful, always highly detailed, and always as accurate as you could possibly expect at 6mm.

But they’re always expensive. Of all the products in this review, they are the worst by far for price. There is some truth to “you get what you pay for”, but whether the difference is worth your while is something you’ll have to decide.

The thing we like best about the GHQ models is the details. Each roadwheel can be individually painted, the stowage – from spare track sections and roadwheels to jacks and tow cables - are there. No one else in this review includes this level of detail, and only C-in-C comes close – having the same general level of detail but not including GHQ’s stowage.


Package Contents

The thing that is the most annoying about GHQ is actually their greatest strength. There is so much detail on these that some of us (this author included) tend to want to paint every detail like this was a 1:72nd or 1:48th model. While possible, it turns a “quick microarmor project” into a long convoluted process. You certainly don’t have to paint all that detail – as we’ve said elsewhere, The Ninja thinks that a can of grey spray-paint is all microarmor needs – but the detail is there, so you start thinking “I could/should paint this!”

GHQ uses the industry standard pin and hole turret mounting, so you can glue something too large to fit through the hole to the bottom of the pin, and your turret is attached and mobile. Quick and easy, and works really rather well. The one caveat is that GHQ models come with the pin ending pretty much flush with the bottom of the hole, so you have to be more careful than most vendors when utilizing this method.


Ready for painting

You’ll always be pleased when surveying your GHQ army. Always. Even if your painting sucks, it will still look better than your paint job on other vendors. But you won’t be pleased when you pay for them. At $10 USD for five tanks, modeling Kursk could get expensive rather quickly.

Finished product

US Source: Direct from GHQ

US URL: http://www.ghqmodels.com/store/german-micro-armour-self-propelled-guns-&-rockets.html

US Pricing (all models): $9.95 per pack of five

UK Source: Wargames Emporium

UK URL: http://www.wargamesemporium.co.uk

UK Pricing: £ 6.50 per pack of five

Heroics and Ros

We didn’t own any Heroics and Ros going into this review. We’d heard good things about them, but had never sought them out when we knew that C-in-C and GHQ would meet our needs. One of the nice things about doing reviews is that you do get exposure to products you wouldn’t normally bother to purchase. The downside is that we decided to add H&R last minute, and somehow didn’t get prepainted pictures.

The H&R vehicles are nice enough, and we think that the ability to buy a single vehicle is very useful for rounding out that company/battalion/division with just what you need. Availability in the US is in doubt as their US retailer – Green Dragon Hobbies – is going out of business, but hopefully they pick up and find a new outlet quickly. We were unable to track down H&R to find out if this is in the works or not.

H&R is part of what we’ll call the “second tier” of vehicles in this review – nice enough, but lacking in some of the details that put GHQ and C-in-C at the top of the heap. More detailed than most offerings, H&R vehicles are still noticeably less detailed than the top two.


The finished product

The best thing about H&R vehicles is ease of painting. If you want a product that will look good with a basecoat, a drybrush, and (if you choose) a few details like tracks painted, these will be a great choice. They offer enough detail that drybrushing with lightly watered paints will bring them out marvelously, not so much detail that drybrushing is ineffective due to the high volume of closely aligned bumps.

The worst thing about H&R is the same thing. These vehicles are easy to paint because the detail just isn’t there. In some places they feel a little rounded where they should be sharp and square, in some places they’re missing bits, but if this isn’t a problem for you it should not be a major detractor. In fact, it’s not so bad that we had a problem with it.

H&R vehicles are true 1:300, meaning they are noticeably smaller than some vendors in this review. Watch that as you build your army and make certain it is acceptable to you before mixing and matching vendors. This is a bigger problem for us than the item we listed as the worst thing about the product, but we presume that this foreknowledge will not make it so for you.

Overall, you’ll be pleased with these models as long as you don’t try to mix-n-match them with the larger vehicles. Even if you do mix them, a little caution will probably make you happy.

UK Source: Spirit Games 

UK URL: http://www.spiritgames.co.uk/figs/wwttanks.php

UK Pricing: £ 0.40 per vehicle

US Source: Unfortunately, H&R recently lost their US reseller when Green Dragon closed its doors. We do not yet have information for you on a new US reseller.

Irregular Miniatures


As delivered

We picked up our Irregular Miniatures in an army format when we did the Irregular Miniatures Review (http://wargames.nordalia.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=137&Itemid=65 ). When you look at the pictures, this is why the Irregular Miniatures are a slightly lighter shade than the other vehicles in this review – they were painted with the army for its review, not with these other vehicles, and we painted them lighter on purpose, part of something different we were trying (which we don’t like, but looks better mixed in with darker vehicles).

As we said in the above-mentioned review, we thought they were a bit simplistic, indeed, they are toward the lower end of the detail and accuracy ranges for all of the models in this review.

The thing we like the most about these models are the tank commanders. Need to know which is the lead tank? It’s the one with the tank commander sitting in the hatch! Honestly, receiving tanks where some have commanders and some don’t was just a nice touch. It would be cool if more vendors did the same.


Ready for painting

The thing we like the least about these tanks is the turrets. Taking a close look at them (or a glancing look when near any other vendor’s tank), you see that the turrets are elongated. On every model. While they’re clearly Panzer IIs, IIIs, and IVs, the elongation is obvious and mis-shapes the turrets.

Running a close second is the quality of the overall details. Most of the details that you would expect is present on these vehicles, but the detail is blurred or mis-shaped. Roadwheels are difficult to paint well even with magnifying goggles, barrels are generally wider at the base than at the tip, etc.

These vehicles are scaled to fit nearly perfectly with Heroic and Ros miniatures, with the two brands looking darned close in size when set side by side. This effect is lost a bit because of the items listed as weaknesses above, tough you could mix and match by armor type without too much pain.


The finished product

Irregular armor uses a short stud and a depression in the hull of the tank to hold the turret in place. This is difficult to hold in place and maintain mobility without modification, but cutting off the stud, then drilling and pinning would hold it just fine.

Price for these vehicles individually is not great but not horrible – it’s in line with the low end of prices, so you may find it to be perfect. We aren’t certain of the cost/value proposition though when C-in-C is close in price and H&R is cheaper.

UK Source: Direct from Irregular Miniatures

UK URL: http://www.irregularminiatures.co.uk/

UK Price: £ 0.50 per vehicle

US Source: Silver Eagle Wargame Supplies

US URL: http://hometown.aol.com/eaglewars/private/sews.html

US Price: $ 1.25 per vehicle

 

Scotia Micromodels


As delivered

We own some Scotia Micromodels for different years and fronts, and it has always served well. This is the first time that we have included them in a review, and it was fun to put them up against the rest of the market.

Scotia Grendel is the only vendor we could not get an early war STuG from – we wanted STuG A-F1, but they don’t make any of these models, so we ordered a STuG IIIG and painted it for the Eastern Front. While this isn’t the best solution, some things stayed relatively constant throughout the STuG line, so it’s not a spurious inclusion.


Package contents

We also chose Scotia to order our “extras” from. That means we have Sdkfz 250s and Opel Command trucks from Scotia.

The thing we like best about these models is the service – honestly. Every time we’ve ordered from Scotia we’ve been satisfied with their timely delivery and effective packaging. Every time we’ve contacted them we’ve gotten a relatively speedy response. Given that this is a product review and not a service review, we’ll go with our second choice – the compromise between the ability to paint and detail. This is another model that you could base coat, drybrush, and paint the tracks on, then drop on the table.

The thing we like the least is the same exact thing again – by emphasizing some details Scotia must by definition minimize others. Running a close second to this “degraded detail” syndrome is the extreme over-sizing of barrels. Compared to every other product in this review, the barrels of the Scotia products are huge.


Ready for painting

With all of that said, their command vehicles and Sdkfzs are very nice, and we’re glad we picked them up. The tracks on the Sdkfzs suffer some degradation, but since the body covers the tracks from most angles we don’t see this as a huge negative. You might, so we thought we’d warn you. Otherwise, they’re nice enough vehicles, and while the GHQ models we have from previous armies are at least as nice, these serve very well.

Scotia uses the pin and hole mounting system, cutting the pin right flush to the bottom of the hole in the manner of GHQ. Like GHQ, if you are careful you could superglue a small disk on to the bottom of the pin to allow turning of the turret while holding it in place.


The finished product

Overall, Scotia models have character. If for you that means your army looks more active and mobile, then you will enjoy this fact. If for you character implies cartoonish and that is bad, then you probably won’t like them. They are scaled at 1:300, fitting in well with the other smaller vehicles in this review.

UK Source: Direct from Scotia Grendel

UK URL: http://www.scotiagrendel.com/

UK Price: £ 0.40 each for PzIIF, Sdkfz 251/1b, PzIvD, and STuG IIIG

                 £ 0.50 each, Opel Blitz

US Source: None at this time, but Scotia-Grendel assures us that International orders are welcome. Our service when ordering from the U.S. was excellent.

 

Skytrex Miniatures


As delivered – though a bit messily arranged

We’ve got plenty of 15mm Skytrex, but this was our first foray into their 6mm range. Again, we were happy to bring in something different and see how/where it fit our needs. Hopefully we can help you make the same decisions.

Skytrex comes with five or six models in a pack, and at first glance they’re a bit cartoonish. Rounded corners, riding high, etc. We bore with it though, and here’s what we found.

The thing we like best about these models is the price. Let’s face it, micro armies have a ton of tanks in them, and Skytrex makes that possible without spending a ton of money to get there. At £ 1.75 for five figures, they are the cheapest models in this review. A close second is the pin-and-hole mounting that leaves the pin sticking out well below the hole, making it easier to mount the turret to be mobile while keeping it from falling out every time you carry the box.


Package contents

The thing we like least about these models is the cartoonish aspect. While the STuG and the Panzer IV are okay, the Panzer I and II have turrets that don’t look very realistic to us. They are likely okay for 1:300 scale, but after comparing them to the other vendors in this review, we find them to be a bit lacking. The way that the PzII turret expands from rear to front and then just cuts off on the front is particularly odd looking to us.


Ready for painting

Skytrex are larger, in line with GHQ miniatures. They won’t likely mix well with the smaller vendors listed in this review.

If you build your entire army from Skytrex miniatures, you’ll be happy with them and you’ll keep a significant amount of change in your pockets. If you are intending to mix and match, then you should use some caution – laid next to the other vendors their lack of detail is obvious, but possibly putting entire Skytrex units of similar vehicles into your army might be okay..


The finished product

UK Source: Direct from Skytrex

UK URL: http://www.skytrex.com/

UK Price: £ 1.75 for six PzIB

                 £ 1.75 for five PzIIB, IIIF, IIIA/75

US Source: None, but Skytrex is great with serving the US for all the scales they sell.

 

Measurements

We looked at several ways to accurately measure these vehicles and came to the conclusion that the best was to put them on the cleaner side of our working board and take a picture with the guides showing. In the picture below, each square is one inch and each dot within the squares is a quarter inch.


Comparative measurements for most armor – one H&R tank is missing from this picture

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