Whilst the method of delivering figures by using multiple very small sets is not to everyone’s liking, you do quickly get some pretty unusual figures you would struggle to find in a full set. This set of British engineers seems to fit that description, since we cannot recall any WWII British engineers in mainstream figure sets. As this is primarily a game marker it is the concept that is being indicated here rather than specific activities, but nevertheless these are quite interesting poses.
Our picture starts with a team apparently laying wire from a reel. The set labels itself as 1939 to 1942, which largely means France to 1940 (and potentially home defence thereafter). As a modern country there was relatively little need for temporary military telephone systems like this as the French civilian network was used most of the time, so this is perhaps not a particularly useful group, but nice all the same. The kneeling man is holding a mine while his comrade is using a mine prodder to look for others. Mines were certainly laid at times in the Phoney War and the France campaign, but the high speed of movement meant they were not a major element in the fighting, and after all, once the combat began in earnest with the German invasion of 1940, the British mostly retreated, and so had no need to search for enemy mines. So it is a bit tricky to find much utility in these figures.
In terms of sculpting these figures reach the usual high Zvezda standard, with multiple parts per figure to ensure a great natural pose. However there are problems here, the most annoying being that at one point a rifle sling has been chosen as one end of a sprue connector. We simply could not remove this connector without also snapping the very slender rifle sling, so that was a poor choice. The wire pair was also extremely hard to put together because the reel is one piece and the spindle another, so the reel rotates freely (and pointlessly). This makes it hard to keep everything together as you assemble, so we recommend doing what Zvezda should have done in the first place, and gluing the reel and spindle together.
The dating on the box is absolutely correct. All the men wear battledress with a respirator in the alert position, an early war feature, as is the anti-gas cape rolled behind the head, the uncamouflaged helmets and the 1939 single-piece entrenching tool with bayonet on top that some of them carry. All have the usual canteen, but we were surprised to see no ammunition pouches on anyone.
As with most of the Art of Tactic pieces, these figures can either be based individually as seen above, or else grouped together on a single base which is fine as a game piece, but ridiculous as a real group since the wire-layers are striding forward into the minefield being laid or cleared by the others! So some nice figures but not well thought out in terms of ease of assembly, and that is frustrating.