Thanks to Wargames Atlantic for sending these over to us for review.
“Grognard” is a term I know well – I use it, I’ve been called it, I build it, so when Wargames Atlantic’s Les Grognards kit arrived, I was well placed to pick it up and give it a go. Les Grognards is part of WA’s growing Death Fields range, where warriors from Earth’s history are harvested from the battlefields in order to fight again and again in blood sport games at the behest of pitiless alien overlords. Out there in space, the Grognards are warriors united through their French cultural heritage – Old and Young Guard from the fields of Waterloo, Poilou holding the line at Verdun, and the indefatigable Foreign Legion.
In our world, Les Grognards were the second of the Death Fields kits, the French accompaniment to the WW2 German inspired Raumjager set. Death Fields is where Wargames Atlantic flexes some of it’s significant plastic production experience and skills into historicals-inspired future infantry, filling a gap long since vacated by GW’s abandonment of the old metal Astra Militarum lines. Even more excitingly than the concept alone, these were sculpted by the indescribably influential Bob Naismith – the man who made a fairly influential thing: the Imperial Space Marine.
Future infantry inspired by historical periods and armies isn’t a new idea, but here it’s done very well – giving you some oblique, and some very direct, references to historical uniforms and armies scaled and built to be compatible with hundreds of other ranges. It’s the not-quite OG Imperial Guard for your Imperial Guard. Woah.
The Grognards base kit is a box of 24 heroic scale soldiers which can be built as line infantry with laser rifles, several special weapons and a heavy weapon, along with options for making squad leaders. The box comes on two sprues, one that’s all bodies and weapons and the other that’s mainly heads. There are no bases in the box though, so you will have to provide your own. The body sprue also doubles as your special and heavy weapon sprue – a grenade launcher, a flame thrower and something that looks a bit like a melta-style heat weapon – and, depending on how you paint it, a man portable plasma thrower or heavy cannon. You get three bodies on the sprue, which excitingly means you get eight of each weapon per box – enough to fit out a whole unit with special weapons, in addition to grenade throwing arms, backpacks and grenade extras.
The review copy was accompanied by the Death Fields Weapon Upgrade sprue, adding in laser rifles and solid slug throwers that fit right alongside other ranges, a new range of WW1 German inspired gas masks and a fantastic plethora of bionic arms.
The bodies are chunky, sizable lads and lasses with a real feeling of heft to them. They’re modelled with upper body armour and a characteristically French greatcoat. The French style greatcoat is something that crops up elsewhere – Krieg infantry, while they have German heads, definitely have the greatcoats of the WW1 French Infantry – and here it’s somewhere between the Napoleonic and the 20th century, enough of both to be recognisable but not generic. The bodies come with flat arm attachment points at the shoulder and a divot attachment for the heads. As a result, they are ridiculously cross-compatible with multiple other ranges, though removing the occasional pouch from the front will help to achieve any pose where arms are held close to the body. The pinned back greatcoat grants a certain thickness that gives the models a nice presence on the battlefield. Detail is mostly prominent and clear, without being fussy or overwhelming, though there’s areas that are strangely plain like the upper back. The backpack provided to cover it is also light on detail – in little places like this you can tell this was the first of the Death Fields kits. Having said that, detail where you want it most – heads, weapons, hands – is all present and correct, and nothing is cluttered or too/not enough detailed to paint easily.
It’s heads where the kit just suddenly overwhelms you with options, and particularly for someone into Napoleonics and historical wargaming generally, the head sprue had me cooing over the little details of the kit. While the bodies are definitely French inspired, the heads are perfectly on theme. You have proper, almost perfectly historically accurate Grenadier Guard heads in bearskins complete with front plate and cords, Napoleonic line/Young Guard Shako heads, with modelled Eagles, plumes and pom-poms, Kepi-equipped Foreign Legion or Franco Prussian war infantry and a perfectly modelled WW1 Adrian helmet.
Each of these heads also comes with a gas mask option, and gas masks on shakos and bearskins looks absolutely rad. I can see anyone who wanted to do any kind of Scifi infantry army veterans or storm troopers, or grimdark fantasy like Turnip28 picking up a box of these just for the gas mask Napoleonics – and with 192 heads in the box, you’re generally sorted for 28mm infantry heads with a single box.
Adding in the weapon upgrade sprue gives a wider range of variation in poses and weapons, with rifles particularly very close in design to other popular ranges. The highlight here though is the bionic arms – the subtle ones holding the weapons and the decidedly unsubtle three fingered hands. Just a nice touch for extra variety.
With mainly flat joins, these build extremely well, and quickly. Body and torso being one piece does mean that you’re limited in your poses, relying on heads and arms to give you movement and silhouette variation that you would otherwise get from torso and leg combinations. Everything cleans up easily, and mould lines are unobtrusive and easy to deal with. A few of my pieces had sink holes which required filling, but nothing that couldn’t be solved with some sprue glue or liquid greenstuff.
The fast build does slow down a little when you’re looking to pair arms and weapons. Double handed weapons in the kit are made with one hand on trigger, and one hand sculpted onto the rifle barrel, with a matching handless arm. This brings up two problems with the kit. First off, Wargames Atlantic don’t include assembly instructions. For the most part, this is fine – the kit is not complex – but matching arms to weapons becomes almost entirely trial and error, especially as the weapons aren’t necessarily found next to the arm they should attach to! The other issue is that the special weapons aren’t modelled in the same way – the weapon has a single hand sculpted, with an open hand (and arm) for the other, so take care to keep matching weapons to hands. Otherwise you’re looking at a frustrating attempt to match them up as you build.
Once built, the models have a real presence to them and scale well with similar offerings from other manufacturers. They paint well, and the moulded detail is prominent enough to make all the typical quick shortcuts work, and reward a quick contrast and drybrush style. I’ve painted up mine to accompany my Ultramarine heresy army, in dirty blues and high contrast white.
There’s a look and a sense of weight and threat about the bodies that really captured my imagination, and after writing this article I came back to the kit again and stuck a few more together to test out integration with other ranges. They’re heroic scaled but not too heroic, so the hands aren’t giant ham fists and the heads are big because they’re in big hats, rather than big because they’re giant heads. As a result, they fit in with everything – I’ve made one into a Acolyte Iconward using modern and retro GW bits from the Genestealer Cult and Brettonian ranges. The other is some kind of techno-barbarian-chaos cultist-thing using Frostgrave bits, GW Skitarii and some Fireforge pieces. You’ll have a massive amount of useful additions to your bits box with each kit as well, so you’re not just building for now but adding masses of options to your future builds.
Why get this kit?
It’s a fun kit packed with lovely details, solid infantry troopers and endless bits providing an interesting, different and visually striking alternative and supplement to the Games Workshop Astra Militarum kits for 30/40k or a fantastic soldier kit for other games. As the joints have been kept so simple, you can add heads and arms from virtually anything. The downsides – no bases, and the slight difficulty in pairing arms – aren’t too big of a deal, and I’d be surprised if you’re not reading this at least near to a giant pile of assorted spare bases and rifle-toting arms.
They’re going to be absolutely perfect for Imperial Army forces for Horus Heresy armies – as I’ve used mine. In a Scifi universe where the Army is supposedly incredibly diverse but in reality everyone has the same hat, armour and trouser combo, this kit – and the Death Fields range as a whole – stands out as an opportunity to do something much, much more interesting at a great price. When you want Scifi infantry quick, cheap and interesting with a distinct French feel these should be your go to.
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