Battlefront Pioneer Platoon (Late) Review (GE727)
Quite often when purchasing wargaming miniatures the reaction is “meh”, or even disappointment. When Spotting Round obtained Battlefront’s Pioneer Platoon (Late) our reaction was not “meh”. We didn’t get what we thought we would, but we were not disappointed with what we got.
The Battlefront Pioneer Platoon (Late) Pack
Battlefront packages miniatures for use in their Flames of War tabletop wargame. While other manufacturers will happily sell you a small amount, Battlefront sells whole platoons at a time. There are 45 figures in this pack. Retailing at $24 that’s $0.53 per figure, which is reasonable. While we were surprised at the variety of figures included we have a niggling complaint.
There are 15 specialist pioneer figures, plus a goliath radio controlled demolition charge on tracks. Three flamethrowers, a couple with detonators, a couple dragging big crates, a couple with poles, a couple with coils of rope, a couple kneeling doing something, a minesweeper, and our favorite, a soldier with a spool of telephone wire on his back. So one third of the figures are dedicated engineering types. We were pleasantly surprised at the variety of these figures.
Most of the remainder are needed to fill out Flames of War team bases. There are three light machine gunners with three loaders, and sixteen riflemen. We were a bit disappointed with the selection of machine gunners and loaders as we know that Battlefront has a variety of figures that can fill this role and yet we ended up with three pairs of the same figures. The riflemen on the other hand showed a large variety, with nine different poses. Like with the pioneer figures, this is a nice variety as well.
Rounding out the pack are the figures intended for the command base(s). Included are a panzerknacker figure, a figure with a panzerfaust, two officers with one helmeted and one in his cap, and three submachine gunners. With no two of these figures being identical, again the variety is excellent.
The castings themselves are up to the usual standard. Some figures need more cleaning up than others, but nothing is terrible and nothing is miscast. A few of the rifle barrels suffered in the package but nothing out of the ordinary.
So with this great variety and good workmanship, why isn’t Spotting Round happy? Because this is not a “proper” pioneer platoon but rather a panzerpioneer platoon or a converted grenadier platoon. So what exactly does that mean and how is this not just nitpicking?
Nitpicking (oh yes) the Battlefront German Pioneers Pack
Spotting Round’s complaint is not that this is a bad pack. On the contrary, we appreciate the contents. Our complaint is simply that it is not what it is advertised to be.
Flames of War indicates the number of figures that are supposed to be on a base. A normal German pioneer team is made up of five riflemen. A couple of the engineer figures and three riflemen would be appropriate. However, there are not enough riflemen in this pack to accomplish this. Count as well that the flamethrowers need their own bases, and you need 45 figures just for the rank and file stands, before the command stand is made. This cannot be accomplished with this pack alone.
With only four figures per base (which is actually how the FoW website has this set pictured), then everything is rosy. Instead of needing 45 figures for the nine bases (six pioneer and three flamethrower), you need 36 figures. This leaves you sufficient figures to even create two command stands, so you can have one with a panzerfaust and one without.
So What is this Pack Suited For?
The pioneer figures in this pack are nice. If you can come up with an additional two riflemen you can make six “proper” five figure riflemen bases, but will need an additional eight to finish out the flamethrower bases. Why eight and not twelve for all three bases? Because you can only replace one stand per squad with a flamethrower and since pioneer squads have three stands apiece you can only take two flamethrowers. You need three more stands worth of figures before you can employ a third flamethrower in a normal pioneer platoon. Spotting Round has that many lying about due to our review of the Command Decision riflemen pack, but I’m sure most people do not. So you are likely not going to make “proper” bases.
However, this pack is ideally suited for (at least) two different things. First is for a panzerpioneer platoon. Panzerpioneers are rifle/MG teams and have either four figures per stand or nine figures per squad, depending on what list they are from. In addition, with only two teams per squad you get to employ all three flamethrowers without needing additional figures. 39 to 42 figures total to kit out panzerpioneers and their flamethrower teams. This pack is perfect for this use.
The second way to employ this pack fully is to upgrade a normal grenadier platoon to pioneers. In this case to have “proper” squads you need nine figures per squad. 27 figures for your normal pioneer teams, 12 more for the flamethrowers and 3 for the command stand makes 42 figures. So this pack is perfect for this use as well.
Concluding Thoughts on the Battlefront Pioneer Platoon (Late)
At the end of the day, this pack is not terribly well suited to kit out a “true” German pioneer platoon in Flames of War. It is, however, very well suited to kit out the large variety of variant pioneer platoons that late-war Germans can take. Spotting Round had picked up this pack in order to add three stands to an existing pioneer platoon. Instead, this pack will get built-out as a “white” pioneer platoon (converted grenadier platoon) for which it is better suited, and Spotting Round will obtain another German Riflemen pack from Command Decision and combine it with Quality Castings late-war engineers pack.
Spotting Round gives a conditional recommendation to this pack provided that you understand the figures that you need.
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