Sunday, April 30

Read n' reviewed: Scale Modeling WW2: German Camouflage Uniforms by Plastic Invasion

We have previewed this book & some of the extra bonuses that accompany it on Kickstarter, but now, the team at Plastic Invasion have released the book "Scale Modeling WW2: German Camouflage Uniforms" to the general public. It is a monster at 288 pages, and full of information & inspiration. We check it out in our review...

Read n' reviewed: Scale Modeling WW2: German Camouflage Uniforms
Published by Plastic Invasion
By: Pavel Beránek, Jaume Ortiz Forns & Branislav Lukačovič
288 Pages
Colour & B/W Photos
English language
ISBN: 9788011025106
A book aimed at the history buff, military gear lover & the figure painter and modeller specifically. The self published book by the team at Plastic Invasion is at fist impression - a large and impressive looking book. We had not appreciated just how thick it would be throughout seeing the campaign to launch it through Kickstarter, and on opening up the very well wrapped box fist impressions were good...
But what's it like inside? Is it any good? We have read it, and we will give you a thorough account of the pages and chapters, but first - the physical makeup of the book;

The book in it's physical form: 
Scale Modeling WW2: German Camouflage Uniforms from Plastic Invasion was written and contributed to by the team of Pavel Beránek, Jaume Ortiz Forns and Branislav Lukačovič. the hardcover, matte finish cover of the book is in portrait format, in an A4 size. The book is full of coloured & black & white photos (which were mostly the historical or the re-enactor shots) and text in English. The matte finish cover and thick pages really do give this book a heavy weight and very much a quality feel when turning the pages.
For obvious reasons (TLDNR) I will cut down the word count as we go from page to page, chapter to chapter now. (I promise to try and keep the account of such a big book brief).
The book's raison d'etre.
The book's main purpose is to introduce you to the six main camouflage patterns used on German uniforms during World War Two, and how to paint them on 1/35th scale figures using realistic illustrative photographs as a guide.

The book features five chapters, six camouflage uniforms, six re-enacted campaigns, and six detailed step-by-step guides for painting 1/35th scale figures with acrylic paints.

Contents: (the camouflage & setting next to it for each chapter)
Platanenmuster - Operation Barbarossa, Summer 1941
Splittertarnmuster - Operation Eiche
Eichenlaubmuster - Drina river downstream, May 1944
Erbsenmuster + Telo Mimetico - State Road 13, Caen, June 1944
Sumpfmuster - Sniper training, Autumn
Chapter by chapter, page by page...
Promise to keep it brief folks!

Chapter 1: Platanenmuster - Operation Barbarossa, Summer 1941
Several series of step-by-step (SBS) photos of the painting of the figures in 1/35th scale are shown throughout this book, along with some fictional re-enactor-type histories for each of the six camouflage styles that are made up to build a story around the items, gear and uniforms of the figures that we are painting. 

For the first chapter, we get a (fictional) historical story of a soldier during Operation Barbarossa, in the Summer of 1941. This story aims to tie the reader in to the setting, and relate the gear he wears, clothing and the weapons he uses during this story.
The authors state this at the very beginning of the book, that they are not at all Nazis or what-if sympathizers, but passionate hobbyists who are interested in telling stories and bringing to life these historical items. The stories they have created make a human connection to some of the camouflaged items modellers seem fascinated with. The authors pooled a team of likeminded enthusiasts that included real actors and props captured in realistic natural locations. Along with these scenes, each chapter provides us several views of the equipment and armament taken in the studio and then by the scale figure painting techniques themselves. 
The detailed step-by-step (SBS) guides in the book were created by Jaume Ortiz Forns and Branislav Lukačovič. Two guys with serious talent, and the perfect type of modeller to learn how to paint your figures from. Their guides go for several steps over multiple pages. The instruction is never rushed, and in each chapter, like this one with the Platanenmuster starts with the face, the artist showing you his process in depth. The use of acrylic paints in dark to light then dark and light again.
The real meat of the story is in these difficult camouflages, and the process of applying them are discussed at length in the SBS format. Pants, helmets, equipment, it is all here in patient, well-laid-out processes.
The weapons, gas masks, bread bags, grenades flasks, boots, leather items and wooden gear is all shown in a didactic method of teaching the individual. Always laid out the same, while the layers of information for that scab on your learning brain that creates the informed manner that seeps in after the five chapters are done. 
A pay off at the end of each chapter features the actor in the gear we wanted to represent, alongside the figure that is painted in the method shown to show how lifelike your efforts can be if you follow the steps in the book.

Chapter 2: Splittertarnmuster - Operation Eiche (Oak)
Operation Eiche - the capture of  Benito from his mountain prison on Gran Sasso is the subject of the historical piece in the second chapter. It features the "Green Devils" of the Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger's arm, famously led by Otto Skorzeny for this mission. The writers do combine the REAL history with the soldier's attachment to the weapons and equipment. You can learn a fair bit from the actual factual parts of the book, where the photos of the re-enactors meld in seamlessly with the real, historical shots.
The soldier for this story is shown in the form of the actor again, his tory is intertwined with his uniform, his equipment and his weapons. Interesting for many, that the paratroopers had significantly different gear. Things like the gas mask containers had to be re-engineered, so that they did not harm the wearer on jumping. The writers really do know about their gear and equipment and the reader ends up knowing a lit more because of this.
The painting of this figure follows the same pattern as the first chapter, with the priming, the face-painting, the very difficult Splittertarnmuster or shatter camouflage pattern is replicated. Jaume not only shows you how he replicates this, but explains his though process behind the methods as he goes about it step-by-step.
Gas masks, bread bag, entrenching tools, canteen, boots and the real identifier of the Fallschirmjäger, the FG42 is featured in how-to's. The feature of having the shots of all of these items and weapons with re-enactors is that they are again shown with the items to give you a side by side comparison on the same page, while illustrating how well these painters do in replicating the artefacts. 
Again, we see the great feature at the end of this chapter and the payoff, in the comparison with the real gear and the painted up figure...

Chapter 3: Eichenlaubmuster - Drina river downstream, May 1944
The unfamiliar gear of the SS "Handschar" which included men from many different nations all under the brotherhood of the Muslim religion is featured in this chapter. The author explains of how this division was formed, and it's main task of fighting the partisans of Tito in the former Yugoslavia. 
Again, this real history is melded in the second part with the fictional soldier and his (again, very real) gear. The mountain troop gear of these soldiers, not only the unique Fezzes, but hose hobnailed Bergshuhe boots and Styrian Gaiters along with patches on the tunic and propaganda of the time in the hands of the re-enactors is an excellent and natural form of reference for figure makers and painters, and all in detailed, colour photos. 
The Eichenlaubmuster or oak leaves pattern worn by these soldiers from the Balkans is the subject of our next tutorial. Our figure is primed, the face painted (with a real highlight on his face actually, as the Fez exposes much of his features), the camouflage pattern on the tunic and his simple grey trousers along with his gaiters and boots are shown in step-by-step. We get that lovely pay-off at the end of the chapter, with the re-enactor and the figure side by side - (love that bit).

Chapter 4: Erbsenmuster + Telo Mimetico - State Road 13, Caen, June 1944
This chapter features two camouflage patterns to show and to learn. These were synonymous with the boy soldiers of the 12th SS, the Hitlerjügend - the Hitler Youth Brigade as it was called. We get a very brief history setting section here before we look at the soldier and his gear.
A suitably young looking man was used in this re-enactor's pose with the Erbsenmuster (pea pattern) gear, weapons and equipment. An Alpine Miniatures figure is the subject, which is primed, the face painted in step-by-step, the camouflage process is more of a light to dark affair using lighting techniques than the previous camouflages. The Zeltbahn, bread bag, canteen, gas mask and spare MG barrel, mess kit, the anti gas pouch, leather gear, boots, hands, cloth straps, entrenching tool, bayonet and MG-34 are all shown in the same methodically laid out process that has the reader sinking it all in as they read.
As with the other chapters, the payoff of seeing the painted figure and the re-enactor together in the same pose on the same page is strangely satisfying and a great guide in itself.
The M1929 Telo mimetico (camouflage cloth in Italian) military camouflage pattern was acquired by the 12th SS, and the authors explain how and why. A good story in itself, the next part of this chapter tells of the fictional soldier with his real gear. As is the case with the other chapters, the creators try and keep it fresh, showing and telling you of the new gear in an informative way that even I learned from it. (I think I know everything, don't worry I know I don't).
As in the previous chapters, the figure that replicates this soldier is primed, the face painted, the bread bag, leather goods, MP38, canteen, hands, boots and the soldier's top coat are all shown in the painting process from start to finish. That same step-by-step process is so helpful to the modeller who wants to learn. The more daring of readers might want to even set this up next to the painting bench and paint a figure!!! 
You know by now I love the side by side payoff...

Chapter 5: Sumpfmuster - Sniper training, Autumn
The final chapter of this book features another camouflage, the Sumpfmuster or swamp pattern, used by some snipers of the German armed forces. Our historical story is more fictional account of a sniper in training this time, and not relating to a particular event or camouflage. the writers does give us the details of how the snipers were trained.
We again look at the snipers equipment, with the reversible smock a standout, woollen gloves, M43 helmet and sniper equipment and rifles - both Mauser 98K & Gewehr 43 shown in detail. Great pictures of the equipment of the soldier, 6 x 30 optics, bread bag, canteen, ammo and bayonet. It is a great account that again covers most all of what the soldier in the situation was issued. Great photos are right throughout this book, both of people and of their gear.
I like the concise face and camouflage pattern step-by-step tutorials again shown here, with the sock, trousers, bread bag, the banged up mess kit and his sniper rifle are all shown in the how-to painting process. This seems a little shorter this time, but it still captures everything you need to paint your own figure - except the practice, and the steady hand that is.
Lastly, you know how much I love the ................
Right at the end of this book are two nice lists. First, the list of supporters (and I guess how much they pledged without really telling us) to secure the publishing of this book. For those of you that buy the book without the risk that the Kickstarter participants had, you can thank these people for getting this book to the publishers for you to buy from the shops if you got it from there. Salut to the "Heroes of Kickstarter".
The second is a bio of the figure painters in the book. I think this would be maybe better at the start? But here is just as good.
And there we have the 288 pages - I tried to be brief...

What do I think?

Well Its a bit of a feast. A BIG book but not too much reading, and not too much to take in as each of the camouflages for a painter of figures is shown in its each chapter. If that is your need then it is fulfilled here six times over in the five chapters.

A historian's needs are fulfilled, with some real history interspersed with a story of a fictional soldier to relate to the items in each part. The items themselves, the equipment and weapons are all well interspersed through the book, with each man getting a different weapon and often a unique piece of clothing or gear. I like the way they have selected the schemes and the stuff they soldiers wear and shoot.

It is a book you can pick up, paint and put down, but you might get some arm muscles while you are doing it, as it is such a tome!

A great work and congratulations to all who created, who pledged and took part in the making of this multi-level book.

Adam Norenberg

"Scale Modeling WW2: German Camouflage Uniforms" is now for sale from many distributors, we found it at 59€ at this link on the MBK Website