Thursday, February 7, 2008
Background: Weird War
Sixty three years since the Second World War, and even as its veterans and victims live amongst us to many it is no more than a colorful activity book, a ledger of derring do, and a playground grimoire of mad and comfortably far away ideas. Coated in that veneer of appeal that separates history from fiction, it has historians, garage hobbyists, and small boys constantly in its orbit.
The human imagination being what it is, the further an event ripples away in time, the more we get to reinvent it into something more interesting. The first ripple is the informed and deliberate projection of "what if." What if the Germans had won the war? Fatherland is probably the best WWII themed book in this genre known as Alternate History (which Brian Aldiss reduced fairly accurately to being chiefly "Roman crap, Dixie crap, and Nazi crap").
The next ripple out abandons any pretense of seriousness. In the case of WW2 this was both comedy and pulp fiction - with everything from Dad's Army and 'Allo!, 'Allo!, to Indiana Jones, and Wolfenstein 3D. Spielberg did not invent the Nazis as entertainment, but he helps make the rest of us get away with it.
The next ripple is post structuralism - World War Two is no longer interesting as a topic in and of itself, but instead as a medium for whatever we'd rather be examining. This is commonly called "Weird War," and is populated with SS psychics, grenadier zombies, and flying tanks (there really were flying tanks). Weird War in the past ten years is or so is especially disinterested in the details of the actual conflict, and fills the ruins of Villers-Bocage with Japanese style giant robots (you really want to click on that link. You'll thank me for it). We know we are in still in this ripple because many are still uncomfortable with this melding. There's no melting in the pot if someone isn't unhappy with what they see.
This brings me to my latest project - the Gepanzerte Soldats. Sadly, these were not my idea - I first saw them done by W.B. Kurgan on my favorite forum, the Lead Adventure's board:
Kurgan was putting together power-armored Germans, something just as Weird War (and unevenly accepted) as giant mechs. My interest was more in what these 28mm space marine conversions would offer a 15mm German army, since, well, I have one and I need something to spice it up.
The Gepanzerte Soldats scale pretty well with Flames of War Germans -- not huge like anti-ship Gundams, but rather more like medium-sized tanks. I like mechs that seem practical and realistic like the mobile armors in the anime series Gasaraki, and the Gepanzerte Soldats were bang on the money.
Putting Them Together
Games Workshop's space marines are fairly fascist looking (form does follow function you know). The newer ones look more like angry space knights, but the older stock, tube-sock, standard marines are just the right amount of plain to be compatible with other products.
The "Kolony Militia heads" from Pig Iron Productions are perfect for the headswap. They have not only iconic German helmet going for them, but my favorite fashion accessory - gas masks!
Power armor Nazis in gas masks. You can't go wrong with that.
We didn't mount them on the 28mm round bases the space marines came with, but instead on Flames of War medium bases. They look a bit odd on them (initially I had them on Flames of War small bases), but I needed them on the larger bases so that could be more easily accepted as light tank proxies in a (semi) serious game.
I painted them differently than Kurgan did. He opted for field gray, a mostly green color. I wanted these to pass as armored vehicles, so I painted them Vallejo German Grey -- the same dark color early war vehicles were painted in, so they could hide better under the shadows of trees. Many people think that the German early-war, infantry uniforms were this color too, but this is just a popular (and for commission painters, quite annoying) myth.
The problem with this is that German Grey is a grey -- and that is to say, automatically boring. To add color I did the lenses in red with green in the little sight things on the side. To help the problem, I also went for a rich, loamy, brown basing and gave them camo netting.
The camo netting was a stroke of luck. These are a brand new product from Antenociti's Workshop, for 15mm vehicles and terrain pieces. I got it for use on client minis but it needed to be tested of course. On my minis. First. Of course.
I think it came out nicely. I did what I could to make the netting hang straight down to give the suggestion of mass and size. The problem is that it's easily over done, so I just did one platoon with them and the rest will be bare.
Right now I have ten of these chaps, which is two platoons in tankland. I've got more space marines coming to flesh these out to a total of 22, which is enough for four platoons with two "tanks" for the HQ. In plain German, that's a Panzergrenadierkompanie.