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Building A Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK) Force For Bolt Action


Getting started with the DAK(a)DAK(a) boys

The brief is in from HQ. We have been selected for a Bolt Action North Africa escalation league and only miniatures that are fully painted and based will pass muster. The Allies (people I met at the pub) have 3 British players while the Axis (More people I met at the pub) have an Italian and German player which leaves them one short. Here comes lieutenant Hasvik to fill the gap. Between my two options I opted for Germans because playing Italians in Bolt Action is equivalent in difficulty to playing Dark Souls on a smart watch.

So, faction selected but what do? Through this series of articles I will share with you my attempts to build, paint, base, and constantly procrastinate finishing a Bolt Action force. Just one quick thing before we get started though….

The Elefant in the room.

Bolt Action supports play of all major and many minor belligerents of WW2. While no faction came out of the conflict completely free of questionable acts there is no doubt that the atrocities of the forces of the leading Axis factions (Germany, Italy, and Japan) were horrendous.

I am an enthusiastic armchair historian. While I have been playing Bolt Action for over a year and am already 3 factions deep, the Deutsche Afrika Korps will be my first Axis faction and If I’m honest I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

On the one hand their rules are interesting, their options are some of the most versatile and extensive in the game, and the North Africa campaign has always fascinated me. In addition, When I collect a faction I deep dive on the history of what I am modelling and playing via audiobooks, podcasts, YouTube videos, etc. which is a process I thoroughly enjoy.

On the other hand, the North African campaign, which was once held high as the Gentleman’s war and a War without hate is a sentiment that has been largely debunked by modern historians. This was a brutal and bloody battlefield just like everywhere else that saw conflict during the period, and there is no doubt the Germans and Italians unleashed barbaric atrocities against their opponents in the field, prisoners of war and local populations with cruelty that has since characterised their regimes.

Look, for some people this is a non issue because this is after all… just a game. For me, I had to do a little soul searching given how I personally oppose everything the Third Reich stood for. That said, I landed on this being an engaging opportunity to educate myself on some hard hitting history and better round my understanding of the theatre. If you too are struggling with the idea of playing the bad guys then I encourage you to do some reading first and see where you land - everyone will have their own take on this and that’s fine so long as we remain respectful of each other. That said I will be mindful not to glorify the real world actions of Deutsche Afrika Korps through this and any following articles.

Handbook for the troops

To ensure the men understand their orders let’s cover some key terms:

Escalation league - sometimes referred to as slow grow, a method of organising campaigns, tournaments or simply recurring wargames with friends where a force is built gradually over time with all participants slowly growing their force in tandem. Great way to make those larger army games less daunting and stay motivated.

DAK - Deutsche Afrika Korps

EasyArmy(.com) - My personal go to for building and printing army lists for Bolt Action. There are many like it but this one is mine.

So why play DAK?

Great rules. German officers are harder to kill and more powerful, their machine guns spit bullets like hellfire, and there is some slightly controversial tank stuff but that’s an article in itself. Maybe not the best rules in the game but damn effective if used well.

Great for tank nuts. While most of the wacky and weird stuff rolled out of German factories long after North Africa was in allied hands the DAK still had some impressive armour to put against the allies.

Easy to model. Simple uniforms with no camo patterns and sand is hella easy to base but we’ll get into that in good time.

How to start collecting DAK?

So what’s your context and your point limit? Are you a tournament player or are you too in a friendly local slow grow league? Are you in fact the other DAK player in my league? In which case you seriously need to pull your finger out Kevin. The game is this weekend.

The points limit of your game will help guide you to how big a force to build. Also if you are targeting specific events then ensure you read the tournament pack or talk to the organiser to ensure you are abreast of any restrictions or requirements for your force. The restrictions for my league are:

Start at 500 points

Nothing above 7 armour

Has to have been in use in North Africa during Operation Torch.

To my mind there are few obvious routes in to collecting DAK:

Afrika Korps Starter army - This is your default answer. 38 infantry, MMG team, mortar team, Flak 88, and a Panzer III makes for a solidly playable force at lower points costs and a solid backbone to larger ones.

A Gentleman’s War - Great if you have someone interested in collecting or bolstering their British force as this starter set comes with British and German forces, as well as rulebook, tokens, and everything else you need to actually play the game. For the DAK this set includes 24 infantry and a Sd.Kfz 222/223 armoured car. Useful for very small games or to enhance an existing collection.

There are plenty of other German starter armies that would be useful for starting a DAK force as North Africa uniforms varied quite heavily, and not everyone had shorts and short sleeved shirts. Some troops were even wearing great coats so painted and based appropriately most troops would fit quite nicely. just be sure to check the suitability of included vehicles to ensure suitability for the theatre.

Alternatively you can create a list on and pick and mix the units you need specifically for that force. This is likely to be the pricier option compared to the baked in discount of a starter box but if you are opting for units and vehicles not in those starters then this might provide greater value.

I ended up with both the DAK starter and going halves on the Gentleman’s War box as one of our league’s British players was getting one and had no use for the German bits. This gave me more infantry than I had a plan for as well as some great support options.

Mustering the troops:

Finding myself in the completely ahistorical position of having more men than I needed, I set about building my force. For the uninitiated, Warlord’s Bolt Action plastic infantry tends to come as a single sprue with loads of modular options. I usually prefer this to the more modern approach taken by companies like Games Workshop who seem to prefer dynamic but inflexible posing. In this instance though… I was slightly disappointed with the DAK sprue as it contains an anti tank rifle and light mortar - two options you likely don't want too many of. While initially that feels very generous but when you end up with high numbers of sprue that feels like a lot of wasted plastic and leaves the rest of the sprue short of much needed alternate arms. As a consequence my minis started to look a bit more samey than I would like.

One strong point for the DAK sprues is they come with plenty of cloth cap and helmeted heads. I decided to build two near identical forces. One with cloth caps and the other with helmets to represent inexperienced/regular troops, and veteran troops. Where possible I like to make my forces easily identifiable across the table so this was a nice bonus.

Let’s make this a compliment sandwich shall we? The mould lines on my sprues were, at times, awful. It was a mixed bag with some being present but easily managed and others really were a nuisance, especially over some of the detailed areas like the weapons and hands. I think this is luck of the draw but when Warlord sell 30 odd posable infantry for sometimes less than £30 it becomes difficult to argue with too harshly.

Top tip - with the modularity of the posable arms this can quite often lead to gaps or noticeable joins where the arm meets the shoulders. If you hit the same issue then you make you some “sprue glue” and yes, that’s actually a thing. For those not in the know this is your standard plastic glue with sprue offcuts added in. Over time the sprue will dissolve and turn your glue into a plasticy paste. It’s still an adhesive but globs and dries to fill large gaps in plastic brilliantly. Just add bits of spurs slowly until you’ve reached your desired thickness. I have several bottles of the stuff labelled “Kinda gloopy, gloopy and Megagloop” for different thicknesses.

Vehicles and support teams

For the vehicle options, I built my Panzer III as the J variant as it felt like this gave me a good degree of flexibility with its medium armour and medium AT gun. For the armoured car I went for the 222 as the points cost fitted better into my army list. Regarding the kits, the Panzer went together well enough but I really struggled with the 222. I ended up with quite a few gaps along panel joins that needed filling then sanding. Not the end of the world but definitely the worst Warlord plastic kit I have put together so far as generally they are quite reliable…. Miles ahead of their metal models though so, eh.

Lastly I put together the metal weapons kits. Mould lines were not too bad on the mortar and machine gun team so I carefully filed them off with a fine sanding stick. I also had a very small amount of flashing to deal with which was easily removed with a hobby knife. Next I thoroughly washed and scrubbed them in hot water with a drop of dish soap, then a final rinse in clean water. Not removing the release agent can cause issues with the paint not adhering to the model. Lesson learned on that one. Once cleaned I dry fit the model and made sure I was clear on what went where before reaching for the glue. The mortar was entirely self explanatory though the machine gun was a bit esoteric. After a few Google searches which almost certainly got me onto a government watch list I found some excellent reference images and just about worked it out but an instruction sheet would not have gone a miss there.

When it came to actually connecting the leg bones to the knee bones, etc., I have a thing about building models for durability. Therefore I use two part epoxy where I can. Some people would say this is overkill as superglue is much easier to use and provides a strong enough hold for most gaming needs but to those people I say DUCK because if I throw this my epoxy resin metal model at you then my model will be fine. Enjoy your conclusion with my compliments. That said…. Two part epoxy is gloopy to the extreme and difficult to use with finesse. For example, I used to much of the stuff when glueing a head on one of my chaps and…. Well…. meet Günther the Goitre.

And with that I have a full crew of Rommel’s finest, or poorest, I’ll let the dice decide that for me. Thing is, now they need painting. Tune in next time where I get overwhelmed by 30 different colours of beige, and try to come to terms with how many different types of sand exist.


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