by: Russ Amott [ ]
There was a lot of misunderstanding and some ill will between Italian and German forces in WWII. The Germans considered the Italians inferior allies and the Italians often felt they were used by the Germans as an expendable resource when German commanders didn't want to waste their own soldiers. This new set from Dragon models represents some of the tension in a small confrontation between and Italian soldier and a German NCO.
The box art depicts a small scene in which an Italian mountain soldier is expressing some sentiment towards an arrogant, posturing German soldier. Two other German soldiers are looking on. The set is very creative, and may depict a common scene, but is perhaps too clever for it's own good. Many modelers may pass on this set because of how restrictive they see the poses, which would be a shame as the quality of the figures is quite nice.
What you get in the box is one sprue containg four '39-'45 Series figures and some accessories, one sprue of German gear, one sprue with four German entrenching tools, one sprue of German weapons and one sprue of Italian weapons, for a total of 122 plastic parts. There are also three brass etch straps for rifles.
The main sprue comes with the four figures, broken down into six main parts each, of two legs, torso, two arms and a head. It also includes two drum magazines in a carry rack, what appears to be an oil can and a large insulated carry canister of a type used for keeping food warm. Equipment for the Italian soldier is included, consisting of two pouches, two magazine pouches, and a water bottle. His helmet and a covered German helmet are present, along with a partially eaten apple to be held by one of the figures. The Italian soldier's thumb is molded separately to allow for a clearer representation of his hand gesture.
The molding of the figures is done very well. Straps, buttons, pockets and laces are all clear. The collar boards on the German figures carry the "SS" runes, which were omitted from the box art. The figures are listed A to D.
The "A" figure is the Italian. His boots have fine laces detailed on them, slightly offset because of the mold line. The socks show a neat texturing. The lower portion of the uniform jacket has two pockets, one depicted very nicely, the other being softer on detail but it will be covered by one of the pouches he carries. His upper torso has straps, pockets and other jacket details depicted very clearly, including the insignia on his jacket. The head is very cleanly molded, with outstanding appearance for plastic. The chin strap for the helmet is just faintly visible and can be easily removed for replacement with paper or other material. The thumb attaches to the hand very well and will only need some minor touch up to make it look clean. His gear is molded in contour, with the two large pouches being curved to fit his body.
The "B" figure is the German NCO. Again, from boots to shoulders he is molded very neatly, with all details being very crisp and well defined. Seam lines on this and all the other figures are prominent but easily cleaned up. The plastic felt soft and was easily worked, but from my experience with Dragon kits, is also somewhat prone to tearing, so using a sharp hobby knife is always a must. The soldier's head is again very well molded with the face being quite expressive.
The "C" figure is standing with one leg resting on an oil can, eating an apple, and watching the "hand discussion". Again, molding quality is very clear and precise. His poncho has draw strings and a loose appearance covering his uniform. The belt buckle, stitching on his boots and holes for adjusting his suspenders are all very clear. The heads on all figures have fairly good ears, and this one also has the chin strap again visible. The hands are very nice. The only area lacking definition is on the top of the shoulders, where the mold seam runs across, but this can be reshaped without too much difficulty.
The "D" figure is standing, holding a small cage with two ammo drums for a machine gun in one hand and a large insulated canister in the other, perhaps coming back with lunch when he stops to watch the confrontation. Molding is similar to the "C" figure, with the poncho, draw strings, belt buckle, suspenders collar and top button all clearly defined.
The sprue containing the German equipment is labeled "G". It has gear for four soldiers, with the helmets showing the two rivets, the gas mask containers being hollowed out on one end and the end cap molded separately, details visible on the reverse side for all pouches, holsters and bayonets, four ponchos, and as extras, three stick grenades, a pair of binoculars and two pistols, one Luger and one Walther P38. Four entrenching tools are on a separate sprue.
The weapons are on two sprues, with four German Kar 98 and 3 MP 40 on the "W" sprue, which includes two spare MP 40 magazines, and four clips for the Kar. There is also a wire folding stock for one MP40. These appear not to be Gen 2 weapons as these come without the separate receivers, but detail is still quite good. The "WA" sprue has one Mannlicher-Carcano M1891 carbine with the permanently attached bayonet, one Baretta Modello 38A Muschetto (carbine), and one Breda model 30 light machine gun with a separate magazine and bipod.
I did a partial assembly, selecting the Italian figure simply because he was the first listed. I glued the two legs together without any clean up and the fit was quite good. The torso attached to the legs again with only a small area to touch up. The arms are not permanently attached but fit was still very good, needing only a little filler. I placed the thumb on the hand and it also fit very well, with again only a little filler required. If the other figures go together this well the kit will be quite trouble free.
As mentioned above, molding of the figures, for this medium, is excellent. The heads are quite well done and very expressive. Clearly the two German soldiers wearing the ponchos could be used almost anywhere, simply as standing, talking or observing figures. The Italian can be used as is, or posed with something in his hand (cigarette, blond hair he found on his girlfriend's dress, three day pass he is showing off?) or the hand can be cut off and turned around (that dinner was really great). The NCO can be used anywhere you need a domineering jerk face to boss people around. It's all up to the modeler to decide.
I was a little surprised when I received this set for review, but when I opened the box and saw the details, my mind filled with possibilities. I would still like to see Dragon do something more commonly applicable, like tank or artillery crews, but this set really has a lot of potential uses. It can be used as is or modified to fit the circumstances you create. I recommend it.