During the static warfare of the Western Front in the Great War, the sniper had become a more significant form of soldier than ever before, but strangely this particular specialist had received little attention after the peace. When war broke out again in Europe in 1939, only the Soviet Union still placed any great importance on the sniper, but after their invasion of 1941 the Germans quickly realised they needed to rediscover the skill to counter such losses. Initially men had to be trained, but more importantly there was an early shortage of weapons with suitable sights. However as the fight continued they produced many of their own snipers.
As with the whole Art of Tactic range, this is primarily a game piece, and contains just four figures. Normally this is a significant disadvantage when men might fight together in large numbers, but for snipers things are very different. Snipers might work alone, but would more commonly work in pairs, although two or more such pairs might also work together on particular missions. Past Zvezda box artworks in this range have shown the poses in the box very accurately, but here the box figures bear no relation at all to the contents. This is because the artwork was for their 1/35 scale product, and these smaller figures are totally different, as you can see in our photos. Each man is sitting or prone, and each holds his weapon. Two are potentially firing, although they could just as easily be tracking a target or simply lying in wait. One man seems to be crawling forward, and one sits behind a wall, perhaps sheltering or hiding, or simply preparing himself to take up position. We liked all the poses, but the copied box artwork highlights a pose that is conspicuously absent – that of the observer. It was common for one man to observe and look for targets while the other would take the shot when required, but there are no observers here. Equally, none of these figures are particularly well concealed. It would be reasonable to expect a sniper to be cleverly integrated into his surroundings, giving the least possible visible profile to the enemy. Three of these men have some cover, but none are particularly well covered, and that is something this set could have included in our view.
Each figure has been given a fairly complex little piece of terrain rather than just a plain base. Bits of wall and discarded items were a vital part of the sniper’s strategy whether they were on the battlefield or in a tractor factory. So having said these men are not well concealed, we thought the inclusion of these extra items was a good idea, and all of them are nicely done.
All the men seem to be dressed in standard uniform, but three also wear some sort of over garment which we could not positively identify. Since concealment was so vital, snipers might take any garment or material to help hide themselves, and plenty of soldiers of all sorts used sheets to form a rudimentary snow suit for winter camouflage, which may be what we have here. We did wonder about the Zeltbahn 31, the triangular tent quarter that provided more camouflage than the standard uniform, but if this is the intention then it is not well done. Since the mystery garment is sleeveless and loose around the body, it could be one of a number of camouflage items, which is appropriate here. Elsewhere the men all have long boots and helmets with covers. All seem to carry the same sort of rifle with full optical sight, two of which are covered in fabric to make them less conspicuous.
This is a more intricate set than most in the range thanks to the complex poses and the extra terrain items. All the poses come in several pieces, so take a little time to assemble, but the result is excellent and the pieces fit together with the usual perfect engineering we have always had from Zvezda. The result of the effort is a quartet of really good-looking figures, well-detailed and very natural in pose. As usual the four can also be grouped together on a single large base as seen here, which is fine as a game piece but pretty absurd in any kind of real situation. Kept separate however these are lovely figures, and while the poses do not cover the subject as well as they could, every figure is useful and well worth considering for any diorama or wargame.