Picture the scene – you turn up at your local gaming club with your lovingly-painted German army for a friendly knockabout. You open your case and pull out unit after beautifully painted unit. Stepping back, you admire the fruits of your hard work, magnificently formed up on the tabletop, and look around the room. To your horror, all your friends are laughing at you! Instantly, your mind flashes back to that nightmare you had where you arrived at work having forgotten to wear trousers. A cold sweat drips from your brow. Why are they laughing? What do they have that I don’t?
The realisation hits you like a sledgehammer – all your mates have mechanised armies! You’re the only footslogger present, while they’ve got half-tracks and lorries and jeeps galore. Chastened, you scurry back to your hobby room to re-write your army list. You’ll show them – but what transports to take? Armies of Germany is a veritable cornucopia of transport options, with a bewildering array of vehicles to choose from. Fear not – I’ll be your trusty guide to the wonderful world of wheels and uncomfortable bench seating!
First, let’s establish some categories:
SMALL transports hold five or fewer models.
MEDIUM transports hold six to ten models.
LARGE transports hold more than ten models.
I’m also adding the OTHER category for those vehicles which don’t quite fit into any of the above, but are too cool to ignore.
Up first is the absolute classic German light transport, the Kubelwagen. Cheap, cheerful, and beloved by officer teams (and flamethrower teams, for the competitively minded) the world over, you’ll never go wrong with this in your list. The only way it could be better is if it could float…
This brings us nicely to the Schwimmwagen! For a mere five points more, you get all the benefits of a Kubelwagen, plus the Amphibious rule – no more going around that pesky water obstacle for your small teams!
If swimming cars are your thing, why not get weird and wonderful with the Trippelwagen. Like the Schwimmwagen, it’s fully amphibious, but it also has the benefit of the Recce special rule, meaning it’s much more survivable once it’s delivered its payload. It also happens to be beautifully ugly, which is always a bonus (this from the man who considers the Bf 110 to be the best-looking aircraft of the war -ed.).
All three of the above can also sacrifice their transport capacity for an MMG, making them a perfect cheap option to sit in your Armoured Car slot and throw some pins at careless enemy units! They do, however, suffer from a slight problem. None of them fit inside a glider!
For the Fallschirmjäger players amongst us, the Kettenkrad is an absolute must-have. This awesome little half-tracked motorbike looks incredibly cool on the tabletop, both as a small unit transport and as a tow for lighter artillery pieces – certainly nothing to sniff at. For those of us who think jumping out of perfectly good aeroplanes is rather silly (insert that old paratrooper joke here), they were used by all arms of the German military, so there’s no excuse for not having one somewhere in your collection.
Finally, we have the Sd.Kfz 250/1 – I’ve already waxed lyrical about the 250 series here, so suffice it to say that for my money, there’s no finer transport of five-man squads. We’ve just put out a new plastic kit as well, so there’s no better time to pick one up!
Staying on the theme of half-tracks (what German army would be complete without one or two?) as we move into the Medium category, we have the Sd.Kfz 3, 6, and 10 – really more prime movers with an auxiliary trooping capability, but always worth considering for those awkward 6-man squads.
Next up is the Horch Heavy Field Car, the must-have set of wheels for any discerning German commander, and one of Studio boss Paul’s favourite vehicles. Available in open-topped and closed versions, and capable of carrying six men (albeit presumably in the manner of a clown car), they’re comfortably one of the cheapest (and most stylish!) way to get smaller squads around the battlefield.
At the other end of the style spectrum is the VA 601 (B), a captured Belgian Vickers Artillery Tractor. Quite how you get six chaps inside is a mystery to this author, but there’s a lot to be said for German ingenuity. Possessing a modicum of armour, it might look so goofy that your opponent has a laughing fit, but they’ll be laughing on the other side of their face when your flamethrower-toting Pioniers jump out with malice aforethought!
Modern technology is great, but sometimes it’s nice to party like it’s 1870. Storm into France (again), or anywhere else you care to go in the Horse Wagon, found in D-Day: British & Canadian Sectors. At 18 points for Regular, it’s pretty much the cheapest way to get 6 men around the battlefield… provided they aren’t in a hurry! Contrary to popular belief, these humble wagons were the most common form of transport for the supposedly-mechanised German forces.
Finally for the mediums, we have the Sd.Kfz 251/10, the favoured ride of Panzergrenadier platoon leaders. With room for up to 8 men and a light anti-tank gun, it’s the perfect choice for the head of your column of Hanomags as they churn up the dust on their way through France or Russia.
We’ll begin this section with the iconic German transport of the war – the legendary Sd.Kfz 251/1 Hanomag. Whether you go for the earlier C or later D model, you really can’t go wrong with your platoon mounted in a few of these legendary vehicles. For extra firepower, add an extra MMG to keep the enemy ducking as your soldiers leap out to claim objectives. Pionier fans have the option of upgrading their 251s to the Pionierwagen variant, mounting the fearsome Panzerbüchse 41 – while pricy, this gives your transports a very credible anti-armour threat at short range, meaning that no opponent can afford to ignore them.
For those of us who like to accurately represent our transports being full to the brim with soldiery, we offer a variety of plastic and metal vehicle passengers for various German units and vehicles. We also have the incredibly dynamic, and just plain cool, Raus! figures, which depict Waffen SS Panzergrenadiers debussing from their hanomag.
There’s a saying that goes “the French copy no-one, and no-one copies the French”. While this may be true, the Germans captured vast quantities of French equipment during the Battle of France – which were thence pressed into German service in many and varied roles! The UNIC P107 fills an almost identical role to the more famous Hanomag but can mount up to three MMGs for some serious anti-infantry firepower. This rather odd-looking beast is perfect for those of us with Normandy-themed armies and is sure to turn heads at any gaming event.
For those of us who like to get down and dirty in the infamous Russian mud, the Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO) is a unique-looking utility vehicle, again carrying twelve men and with a very respectable towing capability. The modelling opportunities for a squad of German soldiers in winter clothing crammed onto an RSO are endless – just like the amount of weathering mud you’ll need to get it looking properly Ostfront!
While half-tracks are indisputably cool, there will always be a place in my heart for the humble truck. Whether it’s a Krupp Protze, iconic Opel Blitz (more on that later), captured British Bedford, or commandeered civilian bus, there’s very little substitute in terms of economy and efficiency for a good old-fashioned lorry with benches in the back. Surprisingly nippy on good roads, a wise commander will keep them away from rougher ground and use them to deliver large numbers of troops wherever they may be needed.
Of course, sometimes you want the best of both worlds. Enter the Maultier and its armoured cousin, the Sd.Kfz 4. Perfect for Eastern Front forces, they combine the classic stylings of the Blitz with the off-road mobility of a Hanomag, with the 4 even providing the crew and passengers with rather more protection than a canvas awning and some fervent prayers. Our plastic Opel Blitz/Maultier boxed set not only allows you to build both the truck and half-track variants of this vehicle, it includes a passengers frame and options for either covered or open rear compartment.
While some might consider it a waste of the mighty Sd.Kfz 7’s incredible towing capability to use it as an infantry transport, there are an enormous number of photographs of them acting in this capability during Operation Barbarossa. If you’re a fan of the legendary FlaK 88, the Sd.Kfz 7 is a great utility vehicle to include in your list. If required it can of course pull the big guns around, but if you’re playing a scenario where they can be pre-deployed then press it into service as a troop carrier!
Finally, we have the rare and enormous Land-Wasser Schlepper. With only 20 made I wouldn’t advise them for every list (that’s rich, you run a ton of Pumas! -ed.), but they make for fantastic amphibious transports and scenario objectives.
We come to the two new variants of the Opel Blitz – the ambulance and the wonderfully-named Funkwagen radio truck. The ambulance variant is perfect for the Field Ambulance rules in Armies of Germany, whilst the radio truck serves admirably as a command vehicle with the Command Vehicle upgrade (used with your opponent’s consent!).
For budding Sanis (medics for us non-German speakers) who want to get closer to the action, the Sd.Kfz 251/8 Hanomag variant gives your medics (and patients) a bit more cover from enemy fire.
With this somewhat exhaustive rundown of German logistical options to guide you, there’s no excuse for not mechanising your forces. Remember, you can’t spell Blitzkrieg without an (Opel) Blitz!