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Archive for January, 2011

The next trial of my Megablitz (squared) variant is loosely based on the battle of Rostov, 1942 … a small game run over several evenings focussing on the decisive thrust of the 22nd Panzer Division.

We first met 22 Pz Div in the Crimea last year, so it’s time they said ‘hello‘.

22nd Panzer Division

This is organised along the lines recorded for June/July 1942 for the first phase of Fall Blau (the ‘Stalingrad’ campaign).  I say ‘along the lines …’ because the easily available sources are inconsistent, particularly concerning the stripping from the division in May of some or all of Grenadier Regt. 140, the Divisional Artillery and the third tank battalion.

Although I like to characterise 22 Pz as ‘not your typical wargamer’s Panzer division’, in fact, after their inauspicious start in the Crimea, they acquitted themselves well, and were to play a key role in the successful assault on Rostov.  Overall, of course, Blau was not to be a good campaign for them and after a promising summer, Stalingrad was to see the division stripped even further, then shattered beyond recovery as, with barely 20 tanks still operational, it  stood in the way of the Soviet’s 5th Tank Army.

Some of 22 Panzer div’s components are reconstituted into kampfgruppen, most are disbanded or reallocated to rebuild other shattered divisions, and there is a direct lineage to Detachment Kempf in the following year’s reorganisation for Kursk.   However, as division, 22 Pz doesn’t really survive Blau, and thus it’s unit history is entirely on the Eastern Front.

Panzer Regiment 204

The core of 22 Panzer was the (already virtually obsolete) 38(t) – it was the last division to be formed with the Czech light tank as its principal equipment (records for July show 28 Pz II; over 60 38(t);  plus 22 Pz IV – 11 of these were ‘G’ models newly delivered for Blau).

Despite the long-gunned, heavy metal attractions of the Pz IV G, I have used a Panzer II and a 38(t), the predominant vehicles, for the tank battalion stands.  The Pz II is Battlefront, the 38(t) Skytrex.

Generalleutnant Wilhelm von Apell and HQ units

22 Panzer was part of Kleist’s 1st Panzer Army (Army Group A) for the opening phases of Blau.  The commander was the decorated First War veteran Wilhelm von Apell, seen here in front of the Befehlswagen that represents his headquarters and the radio half track that is the unit’s admin stand (signals:  Panzer Nachrichten Abteilung 140).

The division was apparently generously supplied with 88s for its Flak batteries, but it is unlikely that the artillery regiment had original Sig33 I have used (it was formed too late for them) – but it is an iconic model, and suits the old-fashioned look of 22 PZ’s equipment.   Equally, it would be nice to imagine that the Panzerjaeger battalion was self-propelled. 

150th Anti-Tank Battalion

That said, I don’t doubt that the trusty 37mm shown was the division’s principal anti-tank gun.

I have given the infantry brigade 3 battalion sized stands, 1 armoured, 1 lorried and 1 depicted by the infantry gun and jeep … this essentially shows 129th at full strength, and whatever other infantry might have been present (half of 140?) as the other stand.  Again, this is a bit of a compromise … but five battalion stands between the tanks and grenadiers seems about right – any fine tuning can be taken care of in the SPs.

At the back are the usual supply elements, plus the bridging column attached for the encircling attack on Rostov.

 

NOTES

*(A fair old mix of models are present including Peter Pig, Battlefront, Skytrex, QC, FiB)

* The SPs for 22 Pz are pretty much cribbed from 2Pz in Tim’s ‘Megablitz!’ book ( see ‘Dot sur La Mappe’ … I have dropped most of the value by a point to reflect the slightly obsolete flavour of a lot of the equipment, except the Flak, which had 88s).

Div HQ (Pz Befwg I): 2 SP;

Nachr Abt 140 (Sdkfz 250/3) : 1 SP;

Panzerjaeger Abt 150 (Pak 36): 3 SP;

Flak Abt. 140 (88mm): 4 SP/3 AA;

Pz Pion Abt. 140 (Sdkfz 251/4): 4 SP/3 EP;

Pz Artillery Regt. 140 (Sig 33): 3 SP;

Panzer Regt. 204: I Abt. (Pz II): 4 SP; II Abt (Pz 38(t)) 4 SP;

Pz Grenadier Regt. 129: I Abt. (Sdkfz 251): 4 SP; II Abt. (truck): 4 SP;

Grenadier Regt. 140 (truck): 4 SP (may not have been present for Rostov);

Recce groups were designated 1 SP (R) and the supply units have access to plenty of fuel and stores …

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Following up on recent ideas, and trying to get a few components finished for the next Megablitz Squared evolution, the basing project worked better than I’d expected.   And it was achieved more easily.

This is a naval gun mounted on a flat car – it isn’t an armoured train, but represents a whole range of rail mounted medium to heavy artillery moved around by rail, and often found defending Soviet cities.

Soviet Navy Gun Carriage

It can be shifted around by locomotive, fired from its railway mount if necessary, or craned off and dug in for static deployment.    The Sea of Azov Naval Command also ran some armoured trains, at least one of which (‘Za Rodinu!’) had naval guns on its armoured carriages (so although not armoured in this case, it will serve equally well in that role).

In resolving the basing, my problem was this  …. I dislike wargame train models that sit on the railway lines like toy trains.   Partly this is because they don’t actually always fit, derail easily (the wargame table just doesn’t function like a train set), … and look dreadful when anything other than exactly fixed in.  Partly it is to deconstruct the illusion that the model is a single train component (no it isn’t – the base represents a military unit, the model on it simply indicates what sort).

But it is also because all that matters for the function of the game is which squares the rail assets are in (and there may be many of them … fighting stands, supply units, transport etc.): so I want the models to be able to stand within the appropriate squares, not necessarily on tracks, but look OK without me needing to model sidings etc.).  Clearly the model components need to be on their own bases, compatible with sitting on the rail lines but equally sitting beside the tracks elsewhere in the square.

Basing also encourages the models to stay where they are put when they are back in the box.

So it seemed likely that a clear plastic base would be the best solution – definitely not a railway modelling solution, but allowing the wargamer imagination to accept the illusion that it is on the tracks, giving it a ‘lift’ roughly similar to the basing up of the other models in the game, and maintaining a reasonable appearance when not lined up on the rails.    I have used a similar solution for AK 47 civilian cars, and had always planned to get round to trying this for WW2 trains.

Nevertheless it is a relief that the finished look seems acceptable (I can get on do the rest now!).

For this first go, I made the rails out of thin card, but found that this material has a habit of twisting and isn’t that easy to fix down exactly right.    It needs to be exactly right, as the wheels need to line up with it when you fix down the vehicle (otherwise, whats the point?).   For next time I will try to source a neat and straight bit of pre-cut plastic strip from the model shop, glue this to the underside of the wheels (guaranteeing the line-up), then fix that assembly down onto the base.   The track, of course just wants to be the top of the rail (most of the height is ‘within’ the plastic depth of the base).  For the flanges on the wheels, either cut a groove in the base for them (a very good way of making the bond permanent), or flatten one portion off so it will sit down onto the rail convincingly.

(this image comes from the Rostov game – you can just see the part of a tailplane in the picture … an airstrike going in alongside the naval guns’ and Anti-Tank Regiment’s defence of the river ..)

The base is made from clear (polycarbonate) plastic sheet from the garden centre.  It can be a pain to use until you get the hang of scoring it and snapping it (a deep and accurate score gives a reliable snap, any sort of clumsy cutting causes cracks and fractures).  I bevel the edges (as I do on all my bases) with whatever comes to hand (files, sandpaper, both work well enough).

I had thought of stripping the rails off the sleepers, now that the trains will come with rails on their own bases (so the model will then sit down nicely, and the rail lines will look a bit more map-like/ a little less ‘train set’-like.  I mocked this up in the test shot above just by turning the track upside down).  I’m not so sure now … I didn’t have time to do that before setting up the most recent game, and it all looked fine just as is.   I’m definitely dropping down in track size, but otherwise, it may look fine without the extra effort.

Quite an informative article on Armoured Trains can be found on the War and Game pages …

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Riders on the Don

We were the Whites, and we had to defend our train.

It had ‘broken down’ … but it turned out the engineer wasn’t exactly helping our cause.   More of that ‘wrong sized leaves on the line’ nonsense, I suppose …

The Set Up

This was a Return to the River Don game, and Graham will probably blog it Blood on the Tracks as it featured a whole host of cavalry from both sides rushing to a no hope settlement somewhere in the middle of nowhere to save or seize the apparently immobilized train … and there was some debate about mechanisms.

So I’ve bagged ‘Riders on the Don’ – a good name for the cavalry supplement in due course 🙂

Obviously, it was a fabulous game … It had Red and White cavalry and an Armoured Train.

Now, in truth, I can think of quite a few things wargamers like more than Cavalry and Armoured Trains – Hmmm … but I should stop thinking about them right away as I am trying to update my 20th Century Wargames blog.

Returning to the River Don scenario, yes, it pushed a lot of buttons.

For Martin Goddard … a few more pictures of the train …

The Peter Pig Armoured Train

… in the dawn, with White cavalry squadrons forming up in the distance …

Stuck and Going Nowhere

… and seen from the white horizon.

The Peter Pig Model is based on the BP 35 train (1930s/early GPW), I think.

Following the comment thread here, the great length of the impressive PP train was largely decorative … the piece in play was the artillery car (which Graham allowed to deploy 2 regimental guns and 2 maxims).   Everything else was ignored for all game purposes. It was stuck at the station (a BUA with a footprint roughly the size of the building base) but its armament was fully functioning.

So I think we were dealing with a single train, in scale mustering up something like a battery’s worth of medium gunnery and 2 company stands worth of maxims.  All round, but there was some debate about this.  And about whether it should have been able to shoot through/over the station buildings template.

Of course I think ‘yes’ on all counts – but then I was commanding it (and would give it lots of bonuses anyway, just to reward players for putting them on the table).

However, to follow-up on my recent comments re the strength points of these train units (and I would again emphasise that just as a base of troops might represent more than just the guys on it, so a train model in a game might represent more than a single train – and the typical train unit seems to have been 2 fighting trains + back up) …  I thought I might share with you all the following quote from Wilfried Kopenhagen’s handy guide ‘Armoured Trains of the Soviet Union’

‘ … Armoured trains were first used in larger numbers during the fighting for Tsaritsyn …. in October 1918.   With the help of central fire control, it was possible to manoeuvre the twelve armoured trains with their fifty guns so as to quickly go to the aid of the most threatened sectors … ‘

Well, even I’d assume that was exceptional (did I hear someone say … there’s a game in that … ?) …

We just about hung on … the Red cavalry ejected us from the buildings but we managed to get back in … our own troopers turned up in the nick of time and intervened between us and almost certain butchery at the hands of another Red unit sweeping down from the other end of the battlefield.

Amidst all of this, and just to frustrate the game designer, almost every melee was drawn, even the 19 dice vs 4 dice! (yes, I know) … and that in itself made all the factors, dicing, and saving throws feel like a lot of work.  Too much work …

Some of this is in the mechanisms.  I am reminded of Professor Sabin’s mantra re cavalry in the ancient wargame.  In all his games, they give and receive many more hits than do most infantry … the reason is that cavalry actions, from the Age of Alexander (if you like, to, say, Mars La Tour …) resolve themselves faster than infantry actions.  My guess is that this will prove to be true of the Russian Civil War too (quality issues aside).

At the moment, my impression is that cavalry melee is pretty much the same as infantry melee – so faster, deadlier and more brittle would likely give a better flavour ..

Then again, the joy of it all is that RCW is a period about which I been able to do very little original research, so my thoughts on this are mostly assumptions, analogies and military common sense.  And the last of these, at least, has often proved to be a classic oxymoron.

You learn something all the time in this game.

Graham has updated his blog since the game, so you can read more on this in his post Remaining Civil

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A Divisional Gun

Tidying up the Soviet artillery park, I just had to post this one when I realised where all the bits come from.

It is (pretty much) a Model 1909/30 (Schneider style) 152mm Howitzer … the most numerous divisional howitzer in the Khalkin Gol and Winter War arsenals.  The tractor is a modified QRF model, towing a Skytrex limber (German, but ‘Russified’ by the addition of some Battlefront wheels) and a Quality Castings 152 (with the spoked wheels replaced by the wheels off the German limber – but with the holes filled-in, so they look less German …)…  The driver is Battlefront with a Peter Pig head.  It sort of sums up my 15mm WW2 collection.

It is my usual configuration … with the gun on a tin-shim, and the tow and crew bases with a magnabase strip to keep it in place.  The magnetic patch is here mounted on a sort of ramp, so the piece will offer up onto the limber.  I like to think that tweak creates the right illusions without being too clumsy.

What I like about this mongrel model is that – to me, at least – it looks right.  Despite being from three or four different sources, it looks like it was designed to go together, and gives me the late 1930s artillery unit nobody offers straight off the shelf.  The QC 152 is a particularly nice gun, although it can look a little delicate alongside some of the less subtle models that are common in this scale.

 

Modified QRF tractor; Quality Castings howitzer

 

These old-fashioned looking pieces continued in use throughout the war.  The Finns used quite a lot them also (the Red Army donated a few as a consequence of some of the more muddled episodes of its operations …)…

Happy New Year.

 

 

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