Archive for the ‘Paratroopers’ Category

OK … a number of things –

I’m still experimenting with decals … how to use them and which ones … I’ve got this winter thing going on (appropriate, you might think, to the Summer of 2017) … and, well, I had to buy something at Partizan

I have a little rule … I try to spend a little at every show (whether I need anything or not): spending helps the world go around – and whatever I buy I have to paint (so as not to let the pile called ‘dormant projects’ get any higher) …

For all its many merits as a show, Partizan doesn’t have much for me but (in addition to books and scenics) I did find a 1:100 Zvezda T60 which I haven’t built or reviewed yet so why not …

Well it turns out I have already done that (here … ) and the appropriate slot in the divisional box is already filled.  I am sure all enthusiasts will occasionally forget they have bought something and get one again …

So, to fufill the second directive (to build and paint) I decided those airborne troops in Winter garb might possible deserve their own, Winter camo, support.  A T60 with whitwash swaths and snow-suited tank riders:

(Zvezda’s 1:100 T60 given a P.B.Eye-Candy makeover)

Brushes up nicely, of course.

I put a little red star on the glacis … occasionally you see them on Soviet armour – but less is definitely more.  The Russian for star is zvezda, as I’m sure you all know.   And that’s what inspired an interlude of tinkering.

The decal sets are the I-94 ones.  I had good results with the aviation symbols and vehicle plates but had also bought a Red Army slogans one which I hadn’t tried.  The lettering looked a little thin to me (not exagerated to the extent that you might need on 15mm/1:100 vehicles).

So I tried to liven up my aerosans …

The ‘guards’ slogan is 15mm … it’s kind of nice but you struggle to see it if you don’t get close up.  Thank heavens for the wonders of modern digital technology.

So I tried a 20mm slogan on a PSC T34

It’s the later, big turret 85, otherwise I’d not have got the decal on – but I do think the 20mm lettering is better for these models …*

But really what these pictures show is where mobile phones are, these days … the pictures are taken with my Samsung Galaxy  … now I did try to set the focus up properly as I wanted you to be able to see the decals – even so, when I reviewed the results I was quite surprised.

It made me remember when I did a magazine shoot back in the 80s with my (then) 35mm SLR … I got passably professional results but only after quite a bit of setting up.  How things have moved on.  And I guess what we do on our blogs today will look primitive tomorrow.

Here’s a T60 beauty contest.

A Zvezda win in my book … and they win on price, hands down.


*the PSC has Zvezda running gear … something I did for variety and compatibility … I also think, on reflection, that I’ve probably got the front tactical symbol turned through 90°, thus, perhaps, a talking point.

**the aerosans are from QRF … they’ve used one of mine on the website 😉 …

You can find I-94 on the internet or you can get them at UK shows from minibits

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Snow troops 01

Just a quick experiment really … I swapped on a few ushanka heads and painted some of the new Piggie scouts in snow camo …

Now mostly the Red Army’s snow suits were one-piece coveralls with the equipment under the suit (2-piece suits on the Eastern Front seem generally Finnish or German ..) … but these paras show there were variants …

GroundParatroopers(Soviet Paratroops ready for wintry conditions)

So here’s the result of the experiment, ready for Chris’s next NQM retreat from Moscow.

Snow troops 02(Peter Pig 15mm Red Army Scouts with head swaps and white suits)

I think it works quite well and expands upon my ski troops.  Hopefully, in time, Martin will make some new packs in the more familiar voluminous coverall.  I would buy some.

The truck in the background is one of the new Piggie resin models.  Looks good I think.

Snow troops 03

I’m happy with that experiment.  The force expands.


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Tiger 01

This game mirrored some real events that took place in the Winter War … but for our purposes, the mission takes place in North Africa, just after the Vichy French forces joined the Allied cause.

Tiger 02

Some isolated German paratroops have taken possession of a broken down Tiger tank.  A French armoured car patrol has run into them and called up support.

The game is PBI and support for the Germans will come in the form of 2 ‘platoons’ of Saharianas … for the French, infantry is arriving and there will be an airstrike.

As you can see on the picture, the French player has been allowed to place a small platoon in ambush.


Tiger 03

The main objective is the broken down Tiger in the middle of the table.  It is not manned and has no function other than as a marker.

There are two secondary objectives …

Tiger 04

The Paras transport assets …

Tiger 05

… and the field kitchen and its essential victualing resources.  Because you just have to have one.

The Game:

At the start of the mission, some Laffly armoured cars are in a firefight around the gates to the old Casbah …

Tiger 06

The German AA truck was actually taken out by an anti-tank rifle from some of the Legionaires approaching from the East.

Tiger 07

But there was also a MG42 crew on the roof.

Tiger 08

… which effectivel pinned the Laffly’s down … and ultimately took them out.

Tiger 09

(one of these is destroyed, the little dice means the other is immoblised but might be recovered – unfortunately it got hit again … )

Meanwhile, the Arabs burst out in the buildings and close assaulted the Paras.

Tiger 10

Actually the placing player forgot they were in the square and machinegunned it.  So the first action was resolution of those hits … one of which went on the old jaloppy … and, on a saving roll of 1, turned out to be the group leader (PC equivalent and a Regular French Officer as it happens) …

If only you could plan these things.

In a bloody melee, the Arabs were thrown out …

Tiger 11

(PBI-style … the French airstrike lands in 3 empty squares)

Equally frustrating, the Hawk fighter missed its target (the required die roll allowing the defender to define the ‘off target’ drift).


We diced for these in traditional PBI style (which caused some predictable consternation as not everyone likes the mechanism) … I usually build arrivals into the scenario, but for this gathering I wanted to retain some flavour of the basic game.

Tiger 12

The Axis did rather well, getting their Company Commander and his jeep on early …

A fresh patrol …

Tiger 14

… and my newly painted Semovente – bought at Campaign, painted during the week – and straight onto the wargame table.  It had to be done.

Tiger 13

Amongst the French arrivals were these truck mounted Hotchkiss AA guns … quite vulnerable but about the best support weapons available to the French commander.

Tiger 15

But by this time the game (and real) clock was running it – and the intitial ‘coup de main’ had failed.

Although a bigger engagement could go either way, at this stage the French held none of the objectives and had lost a number of key vehicles (indeed all of the Lafflys … ) …

Fortune had allowed the Axis build to be more immediate and, as the picture shows, a strong grip was closing around the French footholds.

Tiger 16

Many thanks to the players for entertaining me for a coupe of hours – I really enjoyed seeing it play out.

This game still works for me.

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Dec 2015 01

Back to the Rostov project and some tidying up in the German boxes …

I’m publishing some pictures despite the basing not being fully brushed and tufted because I may not get much more done now before Christmas other than playing some games and sharing good cheer.

There have been some Zvezda Opel Blitz trucks waiting to fill the services role … so we have an ambulance for 22PZ and a repair truck for 5th SS Motorised

Dec 2015 02

(we can add these in the fullness of time to that open-ended topic: what can you do with Zvezda trucks?)

It is also about time that I crewed up 22PD’s integral artillery (Panzer Artillery Regiment 140) which is represented by the 15cm FH18 model ..

Dec 2015 03

Dec 2015 05

The gun is Skytrex and the crew figures are by Peter Pig

Dec 2015 04

Oh – and I bought a Zvezda Panzer III whilst making my first visit to Battlefield Hobbies so I had to make that up (as is the rule with any new purchases – plus, there seem to have been a lot of Panzer II’s at Rostov and I was doing Germans … ) …

Whilst I was fiddling around I also added a couple of Russian air drop markers .. the parachutes are from an old Airfix set and have been pending for a while – so I tidied them up.

The parachutists are from PP‘s AK47 French FFL with headswaps and the weapons removed so they can drag in their chutes.  I think the marriage is a good one.

Dec 2015 06(Russian generic parachutists)

The FFL have webbing like parachute harness and little in the way of identifying kit other than their weapons so make good generic paras.  I chose to swap ushankas onto them rather than flying caps as it makes them less period specific (NB my Ice Station cold war game) and, anyway, most Russian WWII airborne ops seem to have been Winter missions.

Dec 2015 07

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Being a Cold War seasonal entertainment staged for the MondayNight group …


The game combined some elements of the celebrated Operation Cold Feet and some real and fictional mayhem from Ice Station Zebra.    The rules were AK-47 classic with a few scenario tweaks  (plus a personal EDNA die roll which was set too easy so allowed a fair degree of role play to direct the narratives*).

AK-47, of course, is designed for Post War semi-historical African Warlord battles … but in its earlier format (sometimes referred to as classic) has a simple and swashbuckling style that translated comfortably from the savannah to ice flow.   3 of the 4 players were new to it but picked it pretty quickly.

BGD ISCF 05(Ice Station Cold Feet)

Briefly, something has fallen out of the sky somewhere on the ice flow, and a Soviet Ice Station has gone off line.   Nato has sent a mission to find out what is going on – and maybe gather some goodies.

ice station zebra poster

The Nato mission is … parachute in – find and check out the Ice Station – skyhook out any sensitive gear** – RV with the submarine for extraction …

There is a Soviet mission which is after the same materials and is charged with denying the Nato mission.

BGD ISCF 04(the Nato troops dropped successfully close to the station and only lost one member on the ice)


BGD ISCF 07(Nato operatives secure the Ice Station and search for clues)

Soviets at Zebra

There then followed a preposterous aside where they find a dead Soviet astronaut who has crawled in for shelter … In the ‘real’ narrative, it is a spy satellite, but Ian, on his departure, passed me some old Airfix astronauts which he not found a use for for years, so I painted one up and got him straight into a game (however circuitously).


(Space debris found at Ice Station Cold Feet)

By this stage the Russians were aware they were coming second in the race and had begun to mortar the Station and called up reinforcements …

BGD ISCF 09(the Soviet team were quickly reinforced by a 1940s style detachment of ski troops and aerosans)

And everyone was surprised when some light tanks turned up to support the Nato contingent.   A miniature battle on the ice broke out and a couple of airstrikes caused havoc (the professional Soviet special force had few heavy weapons, but proved good at rolling the ‘Double Four’ with their small arms fire – which in AK-47 wins then an airstrike special effect: very handy when you have some tanks to quieten down!***)


(Cold War: battle on the ice)

By this stage the Nato force was having problems … the skyhook mission had been aborted due to the presence of enemy Ground Attack fighters over the RV so everything would have to go out by submarine …

BGD ISCF 12(Cold War getting hotter … Flogger strike coming in on the Nato tank support)

But, thinly disguised as Soviet, the extraction team shows up in the nick of time (and the random roll put it very nearly adjacent to the the Nato team which was all but pushed off the end of the ice) …


I won’t include full details of the debrief (as we may run the game again, so reserve the right to recycle some of the twists) but we ended up with a clear outcome for the mission and a thumbs up from the players who seemed to have got into the swing of things.

Of course both sides subsequently denied everything and such is the nature of the pack ice that eventually it will all have disappeared without a trace …

BGD ISCF 13(Ice Station Cold Feet: a last man seen leaving the chaos)

AK-47 ‘classic’ seemed to work very well for this freewheeling evening game … and has a ‘cope with anything’ simplicity that enables the game to bundle along …


*purely to avoid those catastrophes where players get killed early on, everyone was allowed a ‘get out of jail’ argument plus an edna roll – as nobody failed the rolls, that aspect morphed harmlessly into a more ‘matrix’ style mechanism and allowed players a little role play.

** the Fulton Skyhook … it was real but had to be aborted due to the crowded skies ..

***basically we played all the bits of AK’s main rules bar we ignored the ‘choice’ morale test (so as to keep the small number of units we were using all in the game – for a good while at least) …

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Southern Russia 1942/Northamptonshire 2013

Road Block PBI 01

This was an Umpire driven PBI scenario game based on accounts of Army Group South pushing beyond the Don in 1942.   It didn’t go entirely to plan!

The basic narrative is that rather than being encircled as the previous summer, Soviet forces are now falling back in front of the German spearheads.   The game starts with German light armour and recce rolling onto the table chasing fleeing Russian vehicles (armoured cars and T70 tanks) …

Road Block PBI 02(Achtung Panzer!  … and ‘ammo’ in the background)

Unknown to the Germans, the Russians have been allowed to dig in some anti-tank guns to deny the road and have some paras in the woods.   The scenario evolves: the Germans shoot up the fleeing Soviet armour but run into the concealed guns … they therefore call up their mechanised infantry.   The remaining Soviet armour is therefore able to get away, leaving an infantry game where the Germans may have some vehicle support if it has survived the ambush – and where the Russians will be able to deploy a couple of conscript platoons in the town once the German infantry turns up.

Road Block PBI 03(burning and immobilised armoured cars in a ploughed field around a dug in 45mm gun)

Road Block PBI 05(a couple of T70s attempt to get their front armour facing the enemy)

What actually happened?   The German shooting at the Russian rear armour was less effective than the A/T guns firing at the German front armour.  The ambush worked.  The German lead platoon then attempted to stay in its 250 half tracks as it drove up to tackle the gunners: cue lots of black and red cotton wool and some lousy saving rolls from the soldiers caught inside.

Road Block PBI 04(the highway from the Russian end: raw rifle platoons deploying)

Unfortunately before the armoured infantry could do much reorganising, the parachute assault troops broke cover and scrambled over the positions, hitting with everything from PTRDs to Flamethrowers.   The Germans would face a Break Test at the start of the next turn.  That was the last we saw of them.

Road Block PBI 06(Road Block PBI: Red Army Paras break cover)

This was below par from the Germans and above par from the Russians, pretty much consistently across three game turns.   It left the second German platoon over-tasked but pluckily trying to work its way around the left of the position.

Road Block PBI 08a

Road Block PBI 09(the German thrust around the left of the position is temporarily disrupted by a prowling Airacobra)

Actually they did quite well and mopped up much of the remaining Russian armour, and, despite the temporary attention of a marauding Russian fighter, had moved up to threaten the wooden buildings around the road junction.

By this stage, and after a few clumsy attempts to get themselves sorted out, the Russian reinforcements were starting to move up.

Road Block PBI 07(after some trouble finding the doors and gates, newly formed rifle units move up – some have SVT rifles)

Road Block PBI 10

Road Block PBI 11

Unfortunately the Russians managed a round of good motivations and APs with their reinforcements and were able to saturate the square next to the buildings and although a number of saves were made, 3 were not.  This prompted the Company commander to call up more support and ended the attempt by the initial two platoons to do the job on their own.

Road Block PBI 12

Game over.   At this stage, the Russians had lost 2 light and 2 medium armoured cars plus 2 of the 3 anti-tanks guns.  The other vehicles had driven off table.    The Germans had lost 2 armoured cars a half track and a Panzer IV in the process.   But they had also had a platoon break and taken significant damage on the other … without clearing the position.

Returning to the narrative, this will end up another victory for the Germans … just not on the first morning.   They will reinforce the  thrust with heavier assets and the Russians will realise this and take advantage of the lull to fall back again.  The Germans will probably be left that third gun.

If you were to score it as a PBI game, the lost hardware on each side actually favours the Germans … but their troop losses and the fact that they have not taken any objectives would swing the score against them.


This may have been Ian’s last PBI in the Shedquarters before he emigrates to Cornwall, so herewith picture file 8, full height – with best wishes …  I have wargamed regularly with Ian for more than 25 years but it will now be much harder to set up and involve some serious travelling …

Road Block PBI 08(finally winning a WWII wargame?    After how long?)

 Road Block PBI 05b

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3 9 Ski Attack game 01B

We cooled off a very warm September evening with some further adventures on the Eastern Front.

The game was a dawn variant of the airborne scenario I have run a couple of times previously

3 9 Ski Attack game 05

(Battlefront Quad AA, PP Russians with a minitanks cannon, converted toy shop plane)

Background: research shows that the Red Army’s main use of parachute troops in airborne operations was as a way of achieving deeper penetration during the Winter months, when other offensives were severely limited by weather.    The insertions were often planned to be met by ground troops and Partisans, and it does seem that the dropping could be haphazard.

Here, as part of a wider operation, the paras attempt to link with a detachment of Ski Troops who are engaging a supply dump in the forest.

3 9 Ski Attack game 01A

The Ski Troops come on at the bottom, the paras dropping within the ringed DZ.

The three objectives they were given are marked with red stars.  

The Germans opted to defend a compact perimeter (ringed in black) and let the Russians come on to them – presumably planning to deny the other objectives by counterattacks.   They had two scary Quad 20 AA guns dug in defending the dump.

The Russians chose to drop at dawn, giving one turn of reduced visibility, hoping this would mean the paras wouldn’t be cut to shreds, ‘Arnhem-style’, as they drifted down (which had been their fate, last time, when the dropped too near the objective).   On turn one, visibility was limited to one square.


I’m still working on terrain ideas …  for this game I tried laying the snow tiles out on a blue cloth (which saves them rocking and sliding) with a river edge cut back so the blue shows.    Then the river is cluttered up with chopped shards of laminated paper to suggest broken ice.   I’ve pinched the idea from something I saw on the Perfect Captain‘s site (I think).   Anyway,  we all thought it worked quite well.

Winter Warfare: Ski Troops approach an icy river ...

Winter Warfare: Ski Troops approach an icy river …

(QRF Aerosans, converted PP Skiers)

I also played about with sculpting a hill that I could drop some 6″ area tiles into (so it would be part terrain piece, part tiling system).   So far so good.  Hills are rarely seen on PBI boards although they are covered in the rules.    You need to shape them and place them so how they block line of sight is intuitive and feels right.

Tile/hill: on the desk and on the table)

Tile/hill: on the desk and on the table)


The game started in partial darkness and the TB-3s came in …

archive cap a

3 9 Ski Attack game 02

Dropping parachute infantry in the first wave …

archive cap b

… and a T-60 tank by glider in the second wave …

3 9 Ski Attack game 03

The paras hit the drop zone bang on, and – for the first time, ever – the tank safely crash-landed without any dramas (they appear to be getting the hang of it).

Due to the limited visibility, the paras took no incoming fire during the descent and took few casualties hitting the ground (three of the 4 squares had minor issues – which gives them a ‘pin’ result) but one soldier was fatally injured … which was inconvenient as it was the Platoon Commander.

The attempt to bump up a successor failed (which is annoying), and I overruled a subsequent failure which was excessive (Russian rolls: 1 saving on the drop; 2 on the attempt to replace; 2 on the next attempt to replace).

There were a couple of sections of leaderless infantry in the woods, and the Russian players now attempted to  replace their Platoon Commander – but failed (and again, I overruled a second failure – Russian rolls for this platoon 2; second attempt 1)

3 9 Ski Attack game 06

(German AA gun position comes under mortar attack)

Meanwhile the Ski Troops moved up using their first turn movement advantage to attempt to jump the German perimeter.

Unfortunately, the Aerosans, which could have helped give cover, had whizzed off towards the river, and the Germans proved to be surprisingly alert.   They got off some accurate Opportunity Fire and the Russians failed their saving rolls.  

Unlucky Ivan!

Day had broken, and under normal visibility the Germans were getting worn down, but although his comrades were still sorting out leadership issues, one of the Aerosan commanders decided to try out the enemy defences (and test the ‘armour’ of his sled).

Rather than use the rail embankment as partial cover, he decided to whizz along it, going for the bridge and attempting to shoot up the enemy command post.  That meant going at close range and fully exposed, into the fire of a Quad 20mm AA autocannon (and, contemptuously – bravely or foolishly – he did not even shoot at it in self defence …) …

Aerosan vs multiple autocannon at point blank

Aerosan vs multiple autocannon at point blank

The hamster-bedding probably fails adequately to capture what really happened to the aerosan.

This phase of the battle was stalemated … the Russians were in a mess but had two of the objectives … the Germans were taking losses but still firmly in control of their main position.    Both sides were looking to reinforcements for some extra impetus.

To be continued …


Replacing Commanders … we will change this to a ‘dice again’ alternative if you fail (so the platoon will upgrade, but the new leader might not be where the player would like).    I also think I will use the same process for saves on the parachute landing so the PC is never lost – I am convinced by the various arguments that airborne troops were expressly trained to cope with this, given the variables of their particular mode of warfare.

Darkness: the simplistic dawn mechanism gave one square of visiblity … this was a great help to the paras, but the ground troops quickly discovered that it meant holding back for a turn or coming into the (PBI) Op Fire zone in order to see sufficiently to be able to lay down their own fire.   In the game they were unlucky with the dice that followed.   I’m not sure I am unhappy with this but will give it some thought.

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Snow Drop 01

This was the third in a little run of games, and pulled a number of threads together.

I had thought some more about the use of air assault in winter (TMP discussion), and it makes sense for a number of reasons…

Air assault offers deep penetration.  Deep penetration would be the standard Soviet offensive intention, and it may be that only airborne operations do offer this option during a Russian winter – put another way … there are safer/better ways of doing it when the roads are in good condition, so the resources don’t go to the parachute units (who are then used as infantry).

Red Army ski troops (Peter Pig conversions)(PBI Russian ski troops … converted Peter Pig figures with some QRF aerosans)

Despite my toying with Antonov’s flying tank, the standard way of delivering heavier equipment (before airstrips were secured) was to ‘free’ drop the kit from a low slow overflight.

Now, the TB-3 for example was able to fly very slow, and the tactic undoubtedly worked … but there may be advantages in dropping light tanks this way into fields of snow rather than a hard summer landscape (the equipment missions are probably the airborne drops ‘without parachute’ into deep snow of red Army legend …) …

Soviet Airborne caps 03

It might also be worth looking at the operational availability of a plane like the TB-3 which had made Arctic exploration missions … I’m tempted to wonder if it was able to operate at times of year that notoriously kept the Luftwaffe grounded.   Certainly, the very possibility that German fighters might be frozen up would make such a mission more attractive if the transports were less affected.

Generally, although we make next to nothing of it in our wargames, the Russians do comment at times of their preference for fighting ‘winter Germans’ as opposed to ‘summer Germans’ – another reason for mounting such missions as were viable during the winter months rather than just sitting out the cold.


The PBI Game

Snow Drop 02(the Germans were clustered around the airfield, which was the Soviet objective; the ski troops would arrive from this end; the airborne fly in from the left, and the Partizans were hiding around the church)

So, with players voting for another go at the parachute insertion variant, I thought it about time I combined the winter warfare game with the parachute drop.  The game and the forces would be quite similar – just the board would be white not green (so I swapped the undamaged terminal for some Warbases ruins, and swapped an off table Russian platoon for some Partisans).

The winter parachute assault game … Forces …

(as usual figures are mostly Peter Pig, vehicles PP, Battlefront, QRF, Quality Castings and Skytrex/CD)


Snow Drop 02aThe Germans had a platoon of Gebirgsjaeger, some dug-in guns, a StuG and the Company Command holding the airfield.  2 snipers were available in the usual way, plus a motorised platoon and a detachment of armoured cars were available as reinforcements.    This was very much a repeat of previous games, and having learned better ways to deploy them, this force was easily enough to hold the position (if running it again, I would probably remove one of the guns and the StuG and maybe a mortar …)


Snow Drop 02b

(the TB-3 delivery system … this time showing the technique of carrying the light tank attached to the underbelly …)

Snow Drop 02c

The tanks would enter the table by the road, the ski troops and aerosans in the adjacent fields.   The partisans were deployable in the vicinity of the church (the blue truck was a marker for them, not just a scenic piece) … and the parachute assault platoon would drop as previously (the drop included a 45mm gun and a T-60 tank, both of which, like the aerosans, were independently motivating as normal although they deployed with their notional ‘unit’)

Linking up with Partisans is, of course, a common theme in Soviet deep operation plans at this stage of the war.

Special rules …

Parachute drop: we used the same system as last time (here) including crash landing the light tank.   All German squares count as pinned at the start of their turn to represent their being ‘stood down’.

Snow: Ski Troops and aerosans get 2 free APs of movement in addition to their diced APs on the turn they enter the table.  Wheeled vehicles pay double APs off road for open and partial squares, aerosans can’t use road movement benefits but otherwise move as unpenalised vehicles.  In combat they are Gun:LMG/Armour:4 …

Partisans: the Partisans were diced for as normal, and (as usual with reinforcements) could enter when the Russian player chose but from the secret position … if the enemy entered or shot at the square before such deployment, the  Russian player would have to chose whether to vacate the square (deploying whatever was ‘ready’ immediately in adjacent squares) or whether to try to hold the position (in which case the Germans entering the square would have to make an impromptu assault – it would cost no APs, and would effectively be a sort of random ambush) …

What actually happened …

The game started badly for the Russians and didn’t get much better.

Snow Drop 03Soviet Airborne caps 02Snow Drop 04

Despite the best efforts of the umpire, the Russian commander insisted, this time, in dropping right on top of the objective.   Unlike previous games, the Germans were well positioned from a command perspective and rolled well enough to overcome the effects of being pinned at the start of the turn.   MG42s were quickly hosing into the air in a scene reminiscent of Market Garden

As the parachutists drifted to earth, those that were not killed in the air were lost on landing or to opportunity fire.   Or such was the fate of those on the airfield.

Snow Drop 05

(the airdrop sequentially … red markers being hits during the drop … to which landing and op fire was added before saving rolls made … in pic 2 the combat stands or casualties are placed … and during the turn, the tank crashes in, and the platoon remnants gather in the trees)

Half the platoon was lost (including everyone who came down on the airstrip).  The platoon commander spent all his motivations getting the survivors into cover and managing casualties.

Snow Drop 06

The ski troops swept onto the battlefield with their usual rapid advance, but were only able to secure a perimeter around the airfield … there wasn’t really an assault to support at this stage.

Snow Drop 08

(a couple of QRF aerosans provided mobile fire support for the ski troops)

The T-60 had already been lost in an attempt to rush beyond the StuG’s position (and gain a position from which to support any attempt to rush the open field of fire around the objective) …  And things were getting desperate in a firefight that was going the way of the Germans – and which was pinning the Russians to the cover line.

Snow Drop 07

With no assault in prospect at the other end of the position, the only real prospect was for the Partisans to emerge and hope they would find the Germans less determined at their part of the perimeter …

Snow Drop 09

(Partisans enter the fight … a mix of PP WWII and SCW  types)

… however, when a player is having a bad day, very little will go right … The dice attempts were poor and by the time enough APs were available to make the rush for the buildings, the German MG42s were ready, and the close assault proved disastrous …

Snow Drop 10

(nobody could doubt the bravery of the Partisans … none returned from this final attempt on the airfield buildings)

To cap it off, in the attempt to extricate the aerosans, the Russian player had to concede an opportunity shot to the StuG … one shot, which was all that was needed (the StuG needs a 5 or 6 to op fire, and an 8 on 2 D6 to hit, but when the game is going your way those shots come off all the time – the consequences of a 75mm hitting an aerosan are pretty much inevitable).

Snow Drop 11

Meanwhile, in the firefights, the ski troops had lost sufficient men to require a break test, the airdropped platoon had lost their commander (then the replacement roll had failed) and the Partisan leader had died in the airfield assault … At the start of the next Russian turn the ski troops broke, leaving the player just with some light armour and some leaderless fragments.  The battle was over.


So a game which yielded almost nothing for the Russian player.   In retrospect, I think that is probably about right … assault by parachute was a very risky mission with the potential to go horribly wrong.   In the first couple of tests, it went better for the attackers than I would have expected (although they failed to follow up aggressively on a successful insertion, so nevertheless did not achieve the mission).

This time, with the Germans fully aware as to what was going to happen (no way could I rewrap this again), the Russians went for an even more risky plan (right on the objective) which pretty much relied on the Germans not reacting (possible, given that they were pinned, but not actually likely), and, indeed, ignored the umpire’s offer of a pause for a rethink.

So I think in this game we tested what could happen if you try a parachute assault without taking full account of what the enemy might do.

In terms of player response, the tests seem to have been successful … allowing some variations on the standard PBI game, and allowing us to use some of the other kit characteristic of battle on the eastern front, but less regularly wargamed (ski troops, parachute drops, aerosans, partisan attacks etc.) …

Chris K has promised an Eastern Front NQM game, soon,  however – so I suspect I should be painting trucks by now …

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Parachute Assault 00

Our latest PBI game was a chance to test out my air drop rules – and give a debut to my new Parachute markers.   The basic idea of the rules addendum is to allow troops to start from a plane overflying the objective.   I need markers to show where they drop (which may drift and may be exposed to Opportunity Fire by the time they hit the ground) …

For more on the simple markers, see the Modelling page

Parachute markers

Parachute markers

Courtesy some useful tips I gleaned on TMP (parachutist thread), it seems there were a number of tactical drops during the Great Patriotic War.   Typical would be an attempt to seize an airfield by coup de main.   I assume airfields were particularly attractive as it would enable the airborne troops to have reinforcements and supplies flown in .

These assaults seem mostly to have been winter operations (probably because they were the only deep attack options open at that time of year) … still for this exercise I chose the green table, assuming the snows had gone.

The objective was the airfield which was held by a platoon of Gebirgsjaeger who had the support of a StuG and a couple of quad AAs.

Parachute Assault 01

I have ringed the German sections.   They had a platoon of motorised infantry and a group of armoured cars they could call in for support (dice for as reinforcements)…

The Russians had a mixed column of motorised scouts and infantry set to come up the table from this end, and elected to fly onto the table as arrowed.    The airborne force landing here was a platoon of typical configuration … automatic weapons plus plenty of light mortars and flame-throwers.  They also had a 45mm gun in the drop, and hoped one of Antonov’s experimental tanks would land successfully (purists may prefer to assume this was free dropped rather than towed with glider wings attached*)

Parachute Assault 02(parachutes trail behind a TB-3 lumbering over the drop zone)

The AA guns fired at the TB but missed.   The drop happens at the start of the defender’s first turn.   The string of parachutes are placed along a line of squares chosen by the attacker.  The plane can deviate like an airstrike.   The paras drop down during the enemy turn.  These are scary moments as they can be shot at without LOS or cover issues as they float down.

Actually, the German motivations were very poor and just 3 hits carried forward to the Russian turn.

At the start of their own turn, the paras land, and resolve any casualties collected on the way down, in the landing, and from Op Fire.

The square they end up in is resolved, marker by marker, by rolling 2 D6 and deviating as follows …

Parachute Assault 04

This is what happened in the game …

Parachute Assault 03

Fortunately none of them drifted into the same square – which might have given worrying cluster problems (PBI: more than 3 bases in a square makes it ‘clustered’ and an easier target for machineguns) … The red markers are hits carried forward during the drop.

There is a die roll per square for landing injury and confusion, but again, the Russian diced well.  No casualties were taken.

The TB-3 was followed by a PE-2 towing the flying tank.   It crashed to the ground, but a little active umpiring meant it ended up in one piece (just a ‘minor damage’ to resolve at the end of the turn)

Parachute Assault 05(the StuG crew were just waking up and opted to drive away from the arrivals rather than turn their assault Gun round!)

Parachute Assault 06(the Krylya Tanka  detaches its wings and joins up with a typical assault section … in PBI, LMG, SMG and Flamethrower team)

The main danger at this end of the building was the AA gun but this was quickly blown apart by the hastily deployed 45mm.  Small arms similarly dealt with a dug-in mountain gun, and the paras took charge of the ground.

Although the StuG is a tough target, one of the 45mm, the ATR or the flamethrower hit it for a ‘minor damage’ each turn (keeping it out of the game) …

Parachute Assault 07(Platoon commander and AT rifle break into the perimeter near the burning quad AA half track)

But despite all this good progress, the main attack on the airfield buildings floundered: an assault team went in against just a platoon commander and mortar team.    The para’s combination of LMG,  SMG and flamethrower gave them 12 dice against the defenders’ 5 (and in PBI, effectively, whoever gets the most kills – 6s – wins the assault): 12 dice ought to do it.   Actually, a Signal photographer caught the critical action:

Parachute Assault 08(looking for 6s, the attackers get none with their 12 dice … the defenders get 3 with their 5 dice … killing all three attacking stands) 

A further assault, led by the PC, also bounced off the position, leaving the failed assaulters in the open.   Somewhat unsportingly, the Germans got a lot of action points with their one remaining Quad, and drove it out from behind the buildings … there is very little men in the open can do against multi-barreled autocanon ...

Parachute Assault 10(lethal firepower from a second 20mm quad which had been lurking in cover until this point)

The whole attack stalled, the paras losing their Platoon Commander in the failed assaults … But by now other forces were starting to arrive … the Soviet scout column was racing up the dirt road expecting the assault force to be on the objective …

Parachute Assault 09(soviet scouts scan the horizon for signs that the airfield is safe)

But actually, out of sight, the attack has been suppressed, and a motorised platoon has arrived to secure the perimeter.   The Germans are sufficiently confident they don’t even bother to spread out …

Parachute Assault 11

There are some isolated remnants of the parachute platoon scattered around the objective, but they have morale tests to come, a new leader, and are bogged down fending off the counter-attack (if they don’t just disperse) …

They have done a lot of damage, but the support column will have to take the airfield themselves …

A whole new action is about to begin …

Parachute Assault 12

*the glider method was not followed up after a trial programme that did include a successful mission … aerodynamic problems and a shortage of suitably powerful tows meant wartime practice was to drop them from very low altitude or fly them in strapped to the underside of their transports.

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With the Society of Ancients BattleDay and Salute coming in quick succession in this busy Spring, I have had a lot of photo reports to edit.  Although that has slowed down my blogging, it has not stopped the wargaming.    Quite the opposite.

Luckily, locally and at events, in March and April we have played ancients (really, Ancient, Dark Age and Medieval – Armati, DBA and FoG), Marlburian, ACW, RCW, SCW, WWII (PBI and NQM) and Post War (AK47) … to add to the Civil Wars, I have ECW games I am putting on at Naseby and COW (so those toys are also currently out ...) … and Treb is setting up a Science vs Pluck game for the Bank Holiday!

NQM Gazala 1 07(Gazala … great battles in the desert with everyone bundling in)

The Gazala series was great fun, and very thought provoking.   In the desert, Chris Kemp’s free-rolling system was a bit lost – without roads and towns creating a network of distances and locations, it was much harder both for players and the Umpire to keep track of what was where (and when) and which formations could cooperate and combine.   The game needed a clock and a more rigorous ground scale, and confirmed my previous thoughts on using squares to manage the real estate issues.

Although this would potentially give the players more control, it would be a more authentic operational ‘quasi map-based’ control, and it would take lot of pressure off the Umpire.   Otherwise, I think the game demonstrated that what are now quite venerable mechanisms stand up well: the recce rolls, table XII shooting and risk-style close combat all did their jobs well enough.

NQM Gazala 1 08(Free French stubbornly defend the perimeter at Bir Hacheim)

Of course, NQM has always been an event-led system with a certain variability to the bounds … but I think there are ways in which a stricter spatial structure would actually help that more  fluid game turn.   I think squares can also help clarify supply avenues and associated problems.

It is all too easy to allow operational games to degenerate into vast bun fights at the critical point.  Sometimes that would be historically appropriate, but not always.    More anon.

RCW Mar 01a(RCW: White Cavalry pile through a gap between woods and villages in a rush to outflank the Red Army)

We had slipped in another game of Treb’s Return to the River Don … a control heavy game with lots of markers (but fewer than the Perfect Captain, so that’s a relief!),  but a well-honed command system that really has a period flavour.   A game took us two sessions to play, but that is hard to avoid if you want to use a lot of toys and have an alternating activation method (rather than everyone moving simultaneously).

I would like to see this game go to the next stage of evolution.

Meanwhile, on the Home Front, I rejigged the snowy landscape for more PBI.

Snow battle II 02

Richard was bringing up his Easy Company paras, so I replaced the Russian buildings with blown apart European ones (a half-way house to our ‘outskirts of Bastogne’ project).

Ironically, Richard had driven up with all the other toys we needed for a feast of wargaming but left his Band of Brothers behind.   So we kept the new set up, but dropped some veteran Russian paras into it …

Snow battle II 06(Red Army paras: PP figures with some of the heads swapped for tanker helmets which have been trimmed down to flying caps)

I was pleased to oblige as the Soviet paras have been around for while but had yet to be blooded on the table.   I had expected them to be sent up the line in an operational game as emergency blocking troops – but battle is battle,  and tactical combat seemed to suit them fine (rated veteran for the game they were nothing if not stubborn!).

This was a great game also notable for the cork building shells I made up a while back but had not finished.  I thought they might work for this so gave them a very loose spray with grey and while paints, and some snow flock.

Snow battle II 03

You can see it was a rush job, but somehow the abstract look worked very well – I’m never sure if that sort of effect really works in photos.   Cork is a very inexpensive and easy material to work with and is a good alternative to foamcore for some jobs.

Anyway, I drove my Aufklarungstruppen up the road, allowing myself to run into the enemy outposts … then swung support platoons out to the flank, but also tried to force my way up the road …

Snow battle II 04(figures by Peter Pig … Kubelwagen by QRF, truck by Battlefront)

Mimicking the Americans they were standing in for, these Russians were festooned with anti-tank guns and captured Panzerschrecks, and they had been deployed to cover all the approaches.

Snow battle II 05(not a good day on which to drive up in your vehicles)

This is a very heavily armed German unit (MG42s, Sturmgewehrs, SMGs, the lot …), and they are used to being able to blast their way through blockages (as their historical prototypes were expected to do) – but not on this occasion.

Stubborn infantry in buildings or dug in anti tank guns meant I could make no progress anywhere.   And my plan to seize the key positions from which I could converge my fields of fire got nowhere.   So I needed to get lucky.

Snow town 03(a Peter Pig 45mm AT gun tucked away inside one of my cork ruins …)

That didn’t happen, and we chalked up a resounding win to the Americans … err – Russians …  Last time we tried a similar game, Richard was less canny with his use of the terrain, and I was luckier with my firepower.  It wasn’t a very long battle – so turning it round by shrewder deployments was quite a satisfying outcome.   Good on PBI.

And I was very pleased with the new additions to the winter layout – I am inspired to go back and do some tidying up!

Snow town 04

And almost as suddenly, we were playing AK47 again.

The idea came up an we all said yes … there is a second game I will report shortly but here is a taste from our ‘get your toys out’ refresher game (in which we got ourselves back into the swing of the rules)

AK Apr 01(A fine African landscape in Treb’s shedquarters … I have left bodies everywhere, but have parked an armoured car on the main objective)

AK Apr 02(PP figures … a Professional unit with Humvee have dashed to take control of a terrain template …)

AK Apr 03(the kind of resource without which no AK army is ever complete) …

We will return to all of this soon.   We do indeed live in exciting times!

archive red para drop

French North Africa

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