The Final Offensive

TL;DR   This is my Flames of War Euro GT 2013 army, that won the Best Painted trophy. The company is a Führerbegleitbrigade Panzerfüsilierkompanie led by Otto-Ernst Remer.

In 2013 I began preparing for the Euro GT as early as January. I was hanging out at my friendly local game store when an issue of Wargames Monthly magazine caught my eye. The issue had an article -and more importantly an army list- about the famous “Führer”-brigades for Operation Wacht-am-Rhein. I grabbed the issue and instantly fell in love with the Panzerfüsilierkompanie and decided to field them on the next GT.

The actual composition of my army was not fixed until late summer. To be exact, I believe it was merely a day before the army lists were supposed to be submitted for the GT organizers, that I finally made up my mind. However, the main components were there from the beginning – two armored infantry platoons, an infantry platoon on Schwimmwagens, a platoon of Panzer IV’s and a platoon of Sturmhaubitze 42’s with tank escorts. Also, having Otto-Ernst Remer tagging along is a must, since he is probably the best hero you can have on any German list.

The Infantry

As I knew there was going to be a lot of infantry on the list, I began the project by buying a Volksgrenadier company box from Battlefront miniatures and also a platoon of Panzergrenadiers in winter clothing. I believe it is always better to mix figures from different boxes and blisters to avoid monotony. As I had used Kerr&King infantry bases for my Kampfgruppe Peiper army the previous year, I thought I’d go with those again. Not only do they look good, but the two armies would then fit together nicely as well.

Before attaching the figures to their stands, I clipped nearly all of the white metal base off each figure’s feet leaving only a narrow strip about 2-3mm wide of white metal to the base. The round, flat bases are very hard to blend into the stand, so it’s easier to just clip them off. Also, having only a narrow base strip on each figure, makes it possible to position the miniatures better on the stand.  I then filled the figure holes on the stands with green stuff and set the individual miniatures to their places using the green stuff to hold them in place. After the miniature was in place, I used a sculptor’s tool to flatten out the green stuff and blend it in with the surrounding terrain. I also did some minor sculpting at that point as well, such as floorboards, cobblestones etc. that were ruined by the figure hole. When the green stuff was dry I used Vallejo’s Grey Pumice acrylic paste to finalize the blending work and to create areas of rubble and debris on the stands. At this point I also crafted some additional details on the stands, such as road signs, piping and crumbled bricks.

 

I base-coated the infantry platoons with the legendary Chaos Black. After it had dried out, I did additional base-coating using an airbrush and Vallejo’s black acrylic-urethane Surface Primer. I find this step to be extremely useful as it is quite hard to reach some areas of the miniatures with a rough spray from a can. After the base-coat was even and dried out, I did some pre-shading on the stands with an airbrush using Vallejo’s white Surface Primer. I sprayed the stands lightly with white from above to create an effect of light and shadows.

After pre-shading I airbrushed the bases with earthen tones not giving too much attention to neatness at this point. I find it easier to begin the painting process from the base instead of the miniatures, because you can use more straightforward techniques and you won’t mess up the finer paint work on the miniatures themselves. I didn’t touch the brick walls or details at all yet, but only gave the bases a general earth colour.

After that I painted the miniatures themselves, using a quite basic pallette of Feldgrau, white and splinter camo for uniforms. I have several books about german WW2 infantry equipment, but still I find myself turning to the Battlefront painting guides for inspiration. The fact that they have a Vallejo paint suggestion ready makes it very easy to begin the work. However, I find the suggested colors from the painting guides to be a wee bit too dark for this scale. I nearly always use lighter tones instead, often by mixing the suggested color with a light flesh or sand tone. I avoid using white for this business as it makes the tones a little bit too hard in my opinion. I followed the lines drawn by the pre-shading with the paint work as well leaving the shadowed areas darker and highlighting the lighter ones.

With the miniatures ready I painted the brick walls, floorboards and cobblestones on the bases. I chose to use a pallette of yellows, browns and greys for the bricks and stonework. Even though it takes some time, I highly recommend painting bricks one by one using a rich pallette of at least 5-6 colours as it makes the result very vibrant and realistic. Often you see stands with brick walls painted with just a single shade of red (often too dark) and they have a tendency to look very unnatural and toy-like. After painting up the minor details on the stands the infantry was ready for the snow. For this army I used modelling snow from Scale Supply. The modelling snow was mixed with matt varnish, a tiny drop of white glue and a drop of water and then painted on the stands with a brush.

 

 

The Vehicles

I decided to paint all the vehicles in this army with a tritonal hard-edge camo using the colours from AK’s German Late War colour set. I chose the Dunkelgelb I, Olivgrün and Rotbraun as they are in my opinion the classic three-tone. With tritonal camo in 1/100 scale, I strongly believe it is better to aim at a good illusion than strict realism. The real camo patterns of the time were rather complex and if not significantly simplified for this scale, they are both very hard to recreate and also usually look rather messy. I believe that the biggest effect comes from the harmony between the tones, and the relative amounts of each colour. That way the model will look “right” even though the camo patterns are exaggerated.

The 251’s are from Battlefront’s older resin series with plastic tracks and small parts. After putting the models together and base-coating them I painted the models Dunkelbelb trying to create natural shadows by leaving the dark base-coat visible in the shadowed areas. Then I masked the first layer of the camo pattern with an excellent product called Panzer Putty and painted the models Olivgrün. After that I masked the second layer of camo pattern and airbrushed the Rotbraun on the models. After removing the Panzer Putty I airbrushed a barely visible layer of DG on the models to blend the tones a little. I also airbrushed some highlights with Vallejo Model Air series’ Sand. I skipped chipping almost completely, as I intended to use heavy mud effects and on the 1/100 scale I find doing both those steps can easily cause the models to lose definition and become very messy, especially the models with tritonal camo.

I used Dom’s Decals’ stuff to mark up my vehicles and after that I pin washed them with a mixture of Mig’s Dark and Brown washes. Last I blended the camo even more with Abteilung 502 oils. I also created streaks of rust and grime and general decoloration using oils. The final step before the mud was to highlight the edges, handles and other details with oil colour of very pale buff tone.

After the highlights had had a couple of days to dry it was time for the mud effects, for which I used Easy Mud. Even though this is a winter army, pictures from the Ardennes offensive show that the roads the forces used were  almost always reduced to rivers of mud and therefore I reasoned that the vehicles should rather be muddy than snowy. The whole process was pretty much similar with each of my armored platoons.

The bases for the Panzergrenadier platoon’s Schwimmwagens were an absolute blast to craft. They are completely scratch built from green stuff and various bits and pieces. The brick walls are from BF’s urban base set. With this platoon there was a lot of room for modelling, as the bases have so much space on them. I imagined the grenadiers scouting ahead the main Kampfgruppe and advancing through a shelled village in the general direction of St Vith. With that image in my mind I crafted the bases and painted up the platoon..

The Schwimmwagens are from BF’s SW blister. I dremelled their original bases off to make them sit more nicely on the road.

Of everything I have ever painted for FoW this Sturmhaubitze 42 platoon with Begleit tank escorts is my favorite. There’s a harmony and natural realism in them that makes them very pleasing to my eye.  I think it might be the infantry on board that makes this platoon so interesting and alive.  I must say, even today I’m quite proud of this platoon.

The Hummels of this army are having a second life. When my army list was finally coming together, I remembered that I have an old platoon of painted Hummels sitting on a shelf. As the previous paint job was thin enough and I hadn’t even used any weathering products on the models I decided to press them into service again. I gave them a full repaint beginning with Dunkelgelb and building up from it. I think they turned out really nice and very little detail was lost even though the models have been painted twice.

The Panzer IV J’s were the last unit I painted for this army. By the time I got to painting them I’d had an overdose of Panzer Putty and tritonal camo, so I decided to make things a bit easier for myself and drop the Olivgrün from this platoon. It was a bit of a gamble, as I didn’t know how much it would compromise the coherency of the army, but I think the result was more than fine. On the models I used some parts from BF’s older Panzer IV H box -mainly the Schürzen and their railings- to break up the monotony a bit and to make the platoon more interesting. I also gave some of the tanks an ad hoc winter camouflage by crafting white sheets around their gun barrels out of green stuff.

Painting this army was a very rewarding experience, even though it was a rather lengthy one. As always, many lessons were learned and many mistakes made. In hindsight I could have done a better job with color modulation using oils, and of course my overall paintwork could have been tidier. Even though I say it myself the army is, however, a very coherent in appearance, and that is it’s biggest strength. Also, the snow turned out mighty fine.

In future posts I will elaborate more on how I make the infantry stands and especially the snow.

Stay tuned and paint on!

-Anton von Wirtzenau

 

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5 thoughts on “The Final Offensive

    1. Thank you!
      The Pz IV colors are AK’s 1944 Dunkelgelb I and Rotbraun. On top of them some blending with Abteilung 502 oils. Oil tones were Buff, Light Flesh and Tritone Fading if I remember right.

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  1. Great article. I found myself agreeing with many of the points you made about painting. I totally agree on lightening colors and mixing up colors on brickwork. I’ve had the same boredom with camouflage patterns. I always regret changing the camouflage though as coherent camouflage looks so good across a whole collection. I hate having a mix of vehicle camouflage on my models.

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