To match their debut set of British Tommies 1944/45, Valiant produced this set of German Infantry for the same period. The period was not a happy one for the German army, with a series of defeats on the Eastern Front made worse by Allied successes in France and Italy. However that does mean there are many interesting battles and campaigns that can be represented with these figures.
Unlike most of the sets reviewed on our site this one is made in a hard plastic which is easy to trim and glue. Valiant have taken advantage of this to provide a number of figures with separate or optional parts which expands the apparent 13 poses we picture above. By looking at the full sprue (of which there are four in each box), it can be seen that the third, fourth and fifth figures in our top row are provided without arms, but there is a selection of arms carrying various weapons to complete them. Each sprue, which has five armless figures, contains left arms carrying binoculars, an ammunition box, a Raketenwerfer 54 (also known as a Panzerschreck), a rifle and empty-handed (there are two of the rifle and empty-handed types). For the right arm each sprue has a mortar bomb, a Panzerfaust, an MP44 assault rifle and empty handed (all but the mortar bomb appear twice on each sprue). Therefore there is more than enough to allow a lot of flexibility, although as can be seen from the instructions all the weapons are being carried rather then in use.
The rest of the poses are OK but there are some obvious omissions. No one is apparently firing their rifle or submachine gun, and no one is throwing a grenade. Indeed there is not a lot of action about any of these figures, which makes them seem more appropriate for situations where they are not in direct contact with the enemy. Having said that there is not much wrong with the poses that are provided.
By 1944 the years of war had turned the once smart German soldier into a rather more shabby but more practically clothed individual. Helmets often had camouflage covers, and all manner of overall and camouflage clothing was employed. Aside from the spare heads there is nothing in this set that particularly suggests that change, although such things as camouflage trousers could be done with a suitable paint job. All the men are correctly wearing the short boots and ankle gaiters that were the norm by 1944, and the tunics are also of the correct cut for the period. However we found these soldiers far too neat and regulation for the likely appearance of these battle-hardened troops of the last 18 months of the war, although it must be pointed out that the set title refers to 'classic' infantry, which implies the sort of neat appearance movie-goers expect rather than the grubbier reality.
All the men are in light order, with the classic 'Y' shaped strapping and many (though not all) of the usual kit items. Very few have the bayonet and entrenching tool, and many also lack the tent section, while there is a complete absence of the many other items that experienced soldiers tended to carry by this stage of the war. Again this leads to a rather unconvincing 'clean' look, but again the set title implies this is deliberate.
Weaponry is in abundance thanks to the multiple arm options of some of the figures. The designer has wargamers in mind with this set, and the instructions specifically talk of the composition of units for the Rapid Fire rules system. This means all the major infantry weapons are present as we have already said, although for the most part not actually in use. Still for wargamers in particular this does offer an exceptional variety of weaponry, so this is a strong positive aspect of the set.
The style of sculpting is a little different to anything previously seen in this hobby, and whether or not you like it will be a matter of personal taste. The style means these figures do not mix well with those of other manufacturers (see our comparison page link below), with a look that is reminiscent of metal figures. Much more of a problem however is the scale of these figures. The box advertises 1/72, but these figures are between 26 and 27 mm tall, which at 1/72 scale makes the average man about 1.91 metres tall – taller than the average even today. Worse still the weapons are equally oversized. The MG42 has a total length of 21 mm, which scales up to 1.51 metres, significantly more than the correct length of 1.22 metres. If you can live with the size then the sculpting is well done, with plenty of detail and very little flash. A small number of the figures in our box suffered from air holes causing gaps in the plastic, but this was not consistent between the sprues and Valiant tell us that this was an early production problem that is now resolved.
Also included in the set is an 81 mm mortar and an MG42 mounted on a Lafayette tripod. Both are well detailed and look good. A small selection of spare weapons is also included. However a particularly interesting addition is shown in our bottom row - a number of spare heads (40 no less). The first four shown are of a helmet with a cover, followed by two with the peaked field cap, two with a sidecap and finally two that are bareheaded. Each is on an extended 'neck', and the instructions suggest you drill out a suitable hole for this peg. We have not tried this but it seems to us this would be a considerable task and since the plastic takes glue so well we would be tempted to simply cut the neck off and do a straight swap for the figure's own. Still it is good to see these sorts of extra options being included, which all add value to the set.
The apparent value continues as one side of the box has some coloured drawings of ruined walls which can be cut out and used as accessories. However the doors on these are considerably smaller than the figures themselves so this nice idea is actually of very little value unless you also model in much smaller scales.
We would have to say that while we liked these figures and the considerable flexibility that the set offers, the poor scaling means they are not useful with the many other figures depicting this subject, and that is a serious flaw for many. Even if only used by themselves (or with other Valiant products), the poses are not particularly lively and the absence of firing stances will deter some customers. One final observation - both the officer figures (first two in third row) are sticking their tongues out, or is that a cigarette in the mouth?