Archive for the ‘PBI’ Category

A little bit of PBI

Thanks to Will we were back on WWII and back on PBI but this time with his 20mm figures.

Quite an old school look, then, to this brave attempt by the French to hang on to a farmstead in the face of escalating German advances.

Will and Patrick took the Germans, ‘NQM Chris’ and I the French.

The Germans had a lot more automatic firepower than we did and slightly better tank support.  I doubted our 25mm Hotchkiss would stop them and expected to be overrun quite quickly.

(Patrick and Will deploy – withering fire and an assault seems iminent on our weak front)

We got some extra troops on sooner than the Germans and they had to swing left to help protect the Hotchkiss from an infantry attack.  Turret MGs proving sufficient for this as the Germans had already broken cover …

(Ooh la la … What a target mon ami!)

The Germans hastily responded but in doing so presented a perfect taget to the little French pop gun.

Rarely do I do ‘dice shots’ on P.B.Eyecandy but requiring 9 to hit, the French gunners excelled …

The remaining German troops on that flank (coutesy of maximum roll for action points) mounted an immediate grenade assault on the mixed French force.  They managed to strip away the infantry with preparatory shooting then trusted to their Manner gegen Panzer training.   It was messy.

(PBI: infantry assault armour … the red tokens are casualties)

It was heroic but ultimately failed.  As a game mechanism, they did get to roll more dice, but the vehicles get to roll to save (the foot do not): 2 hits a-piece, but the tanks saved one so the infantry are repulsed losing 2 stands.  The surviving stand was lost in the disengagement roll.

This, combined with a failed morale test on the other flank (after a mortar stonk) meant the German plan to wrap around the position had not worked.

They still had the means to mount a frontal attack.   But fresh French troops were now reinforcing the near empty position and the game clock was running down.

Against expectations, this hastily organised French position would hold on just a little longer.

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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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The Forgotten Front …

Sept Manch 01

At Lake Khasan in 1938 and Khalkhin Gol in 1939 the Red Army decisively stopped Japanese expansion in continental Asia.  It proved decisive: the Japanese instead focused on the Pacific and, ultimately Stalin had reinforcements he could pull from another front when Moscow looked about to fall.

OK: that’s an oversimplified historical take … We tried it with PBI

And more or less by the book (rather than fully worked out as a historical scenario) … my Winter War/Early Barbarossa Russians vs Trebian’s basic PBI Japanese.

We both tried to attack, but the Russians gained a considerable edge in the recce game, so the Japanese started as the on table defender … and after working through the pre-game, the table looked a bit like this …

Sept Manch 02

Fortunately, the Russians had defined (1) as the key objective and hoped to use the terrain to work around the flank and attack from several sides.    Across the more open front I lined up for a speculative advance.

The Japanese had 2 big-ish platoons on table, plus an MG platoon defending Objective (1) and some light tanks at the back.  They had another platoon plus a Coy Cmd platoon dicing to arrive.

The Russians one rifle platoon on table plus an MG platoon and Coy Cmg group.  There were 2 armoured attachments, 1 supporting the CC and one supporting the rifle platoon.

A further full size rifle platoon was dicing off table.

Sept Manch 03

In the early turns the attacks went very well and the Japanese firepower was of low lethality.

I hoped to follow historical tactics and use the shelter of tanks to get my infantry across the open ground ..

Sept Manch 04a

(in PBI vehicles make Open squares Partial Cover so this might work, as long as I can avoid 1s and 2s in my saving rolls)

Sept Manch 04

Sept Manch 04b

On the flank, the tanks moved up in the open squares while what little infantry there was used the full cover.

Sept Manch 05

All this got them up into the threat zone with few losses and with Russians being able to assault for 3APs there was a fair chance I could get some numbers into an assault (preferably taking the vehicles in with them for a few more dice to roll) …

Sept Manch 06(foreground: a BT tank waits for its infantry to form up; background: maxim gunners set up in front of the buildings to lay down fire support)

The CC’s attached AA truck went up, worryingly indicating that the Japanese could hit things after all, and I had to grab everything I could before the luck swung (as it often does in PBI) …

Meanwhile, the Japanese moved their light tanks into the open to get some shots in.

Sept Manch 07

Two of them stayed wisely out of range of the Russian flamethrower tanks … but one got too close and went up in a ball of flame.

Sept Manch 08(black smoke billowing from an incinerated Japanese tank) 

The flame tanks are really there to help infantry tackle dug in defenders but their anti armour capability is fearsome if enemy vehicles get close (these early ones have a downside however and are unable to shoot back at all against armour that stands off – a fault fixed on later models, but in game terms at least these simple ones are cheap to employ) …

Sept Manch 09(machine gun fire and close assaults with vehicle support clear out the Japanese on the left flank – here a flame tank tries its luck against a distant pocket)

The first line of defenders fell quite quickly to a moving combined arms attack.   But on the right, a swift counter attack saw the Japanese bayonets set about their work and casualties began to undermine Russian resolve.

Sept Manch 10

This left the flamethrower tank isolated and it did little thereafter other than survive (albeit immobilised).

The turn counter was rattling down and it was clear that although the key objective (1) was secured, (2) was out of reach.

(3) might just succumb, however – especially when those Japanese assaulting out of it were gunned down before they could slip back into their buildings.  So although most of the platoon was still straggling, I rushed my reinforcements on to snatch the objective (which was actually unoccupied by the time they got there) …

The Russians had lost quite a few groups but no units, and just one truck from the vehicles.    The Japanese had fared worse and only held one objective.

We rarely ‘score’ games but playing more by the book, we went through the ritual tallying (which for the attacker involves some die rolling so is far from certain – but this had all gone well)

A closely fought encounter, but by and large a historical result: advancing sheltered by tanks worked, and the Japanese proved under-gunned and not quite tough enough to withstand a combined attack.

Sept Manch 11(objective (1) …) 

Sept Manch 12(objective (3) … )

Another couple of turns and maybe the Russians would have run out of steam, worn down units might have headed for home …

A decent game of the fuller version of PBI which certainly vindicated the area movement and firefight/assault model of the game (even if it had its usual ups and downs on the dice) …

Historically, the Japanese pushed their luck on the Manchurian frontier because they believed the Red Army was operating too far from their rail head to be able to sustain armoured warfare.  They were wrong.   Surviving the purges, Georgy Zhukov was refining his craft.

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Djebel Sahariana II

Djebel Sahariana II 00a

Here are some pictures from the completion of the game …

Djebel Sahariana II 10(The Italians have a captured jeep from their encounter with the LRDG)

Djebel Sahariana II 02(shot up French AA trucks in the wadi)

Djebel Sahariana II 01a

Djebel Sahariana II 01b

Djebel Sahariana II 03(French reinforcements arriving from the west)

Djebel Sahariana II 04(air power … a Hawk fighter still wearing its Vichy colours flies over the smoking wreckage of the French armour)

Djebel Sahariana II 08c

Djebel Sahariana II 07(those crippled trucks are repeatedly hit by Sahariana guns and go up in smoke … )

Djebel Sahariana II 06(… and contact is gradually lost with the platoon which seemed to be making progress into the casbah)

Djebel Sahariana II 05( … whilst the Italian defenders still seem active and return fire)

Djebel Sahariana II 09(… so with very few serviceable vehicles left, the French commander calls off the attack)

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Djebel Sahariana 01(some vehicles from the Compagnie Sahariane mustering at dawn)

The Action at Djebel Sahariana was a fictional encounter played with RFCM’s PBI in the evening of our summer games day.   We are going back to it so this is just an introduction.

Earlier we had played a vigorous treatment of Paraitakene using Neil Thomas’s AMW (and Treb’s much admired plastic soldiers), and a trial WSS game which everyone enjoyed.  While I set up the PBI game, the others had a quick look at my emerging generic battleships game (of which there will be more to come, I hope) …

Djebel Sahariana 00(summer games at Trebian’s shedquarters)


Operation Torch throws Tunisia into chaos with the French governor uncertain who to trust.  The Germans exploit the uncertainty and airlift in 3 divisions, occupying the French colony.   In the mountains of Tunisia, French units are ordered to defend their localities if Axis troops cross the line.

At Djebel Sahariana an Italian desert patrol is caught attempting to refuel at a French logistic dump.

Djebel Sahariana 02(the PBI table … each of the big squares is 4 PBI squares in the 8 by 8 battlefield.   The Italians are arranged on table, the French start from the left edge … scenario rules provide arrival points for reinforcements)

The French force is a typical Vichy infantry outfit without much in the way of support weapons (which were severely limited by the agreements made with Germany) … 2 1930s style rifle platoons, a small HMG section and a Company HQ with a Brandt light  mortar and an A/T rifle acquired from the Italians – but mostly more riflemen …

Djebel Sahariana 04

Probably because defending airfields was a core task, Vichy troops in North Africa had a useful supply of mobile AA units, and this company has access to some typical twin 25mm auto-canons mounted on American trucks.

It has also cobbled together some ‘armour’ … a Laffly 80,  an S15 TOE armoured car and a trusty old (or was that rusty old …) FT17.

The Italian auto-sahariana unit is fully motorised and though small has a daunting array of automatic weapons and small caliber guns. The unit is built around the dedicated AS.42 all terrain vehicle

Djebel Sahariana 07

Configured as a PBI force, the patrol has 2 units of small carriers with mixed fixed weapons and carrying 6 foot groups.    There is a self propelled gun platoon and a porteed infantry gun …

djebel sahariana 03

The Company Commander has an HMG and a Flamethrower in his liberated truck, as well as the radio man and code books.   In addition, the Company has the enthusiastic assistance of a small unit of local tribal auxiliaries who dislike the French (3 rifles, 2 LMG + a rifle PC).

The Italians were allowed to start with a patrol plus the support troops on table in the central areas, plus the tribesmen in an ambush.   The second patrol would come on as reinforcements.

The French (2 players) came on from behind the railway lines in two groups … a rifle platoon each plus either the Company Commander or the HMG platoon.

Djebel Sahariana 05(French troops use the dried up river as partial cover in their attack on the Italian patrol)

The supporting vehicles will come on as reinforcements, and will probably be vital if the French are to stand a chance against the small but well equipped Italians …

Djebel Sahariana 06(French machine-gunners set up in a dominant position overlooking the occupied buildings)

Most of the early phases of the game were indecisive as players fumbled for rules and shot ineffectively at each other.   The tribesmen were set up right in front of them (almost as a forlorn hope 😉 ) and succeeded in slowing the attack …

But towards the end of the session, preparatory fire for a speculative attack hit everyone in a section of buildings and the French were fortuitously able to get a foot hold.

To be continued

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Road to Rostov 01

This MNW group game supposed an encounter between 22nd Panzer’s recce squadron and outlying fragments of the Soviet 63rd Tank Brigade (LVI Army)

The table is standard PBI, 8 squares x 8 squares (so each ‘square’ is a quarter of the full size tiles evident in the pictures: I use a mix of big and small tiles which players seem to get the hang of and which doesn’t look too artificial – by wargame standards).

The Germans drove up the road in two armoured cars supported by a ‘jeep’ platoon (actually in a light truck and a couple of Kubelwagens).    They were later able to get support from a Pioneer heavy platoon in half tracks.

The Russians were defending this sector with a Motor Rifle company … with a platoon on table around the church, plus a dug in 45mm AT gun and a dug in Maxim team.    They had some piecemeal allocated armour available, and another full platoon of riflemen in the vicinity (i.e. available as reinforcements)

All the troops were rated average.

Road to Rostov 02

(end of turn one (from the Russian player’s view): the Russian positions are marked in red, the German in black … the Russian platoon commander is in the rear square; the nearer ring is the AT gun, the farther is the Maxim … the Germans have swung their jeep platoon out onto the flank and dismounted but one of the armoured cars has already been hit and taken major damage)

At this stage of the war 63rd had just over 50 tanks, but only 9 KVs and 2 T34s … the rest was a hotchpotch of light tanks including a number of OT26 Chemical tanks (i.e. flamethrowers) … in the game they managed to get a light tank, a BA20 and an OT26 into action …

Road to Rostov 05

(some tanks arrive and take long range shots at the Germans)

While the BT and BA hung back, supporting the 45mm gun’s suppression of the road, the OT moved around the flank to bring the German infantry within the much shorter range of its flame projector.

Now everyone knows that flamethrowers never work in PBI and that fortune never favours the brave … so imagine our surpise when the little OT successfully set fire to the buildings, killed most of the occupants and got away with the piratical attack scot free.

Road to Rostov 03

(only one German survived the flame attack but went down under small arms fire before testing morale)


At the same time, a Russian section by the road made a successful, if costly, close assault on the approaching German infantry, taking the platoon to breaking point.

It all seemed to be going Ivan’s way when, just as the heavy platoon arrived, the jeep platoon failed its test (and headed for the rear) and a couple of lucky shots finished off the immobilised armoured cars …

Road to Rostov 04a

(confident in their mix of MG42s, demolition charges and flamethrowers, the German Pioneers drive right up to the Russian lines)

… and then the flow of the game ebbed …

Pausing only to get out of their Hanomags, the Pioneers piled into the Russians from the adjacent squares (2 extra dice per base in PBI) and made a mess of the position.   With some losses, the Russians were all killed, and the cut down platoon broke at the start of its own turn.   A text book assault.

Road to Rostov 07

(No survivors … the German Pioneers punch their way through the Russian defence)

Neither side had used all its resources at this point, but the departure, first, of the Russian infantry gave us a pause in the action which was a convenient point to finish for the evening (a Russian counterattack would be a new game should we want to play through it) …

Even so, we rolled the potential German break test (on the now battered Pioneers)  – and they failed too (so this action really would have petered out without our intervention)

Actually, the local Soviet commander will decide that this slowing action has done its job and he will pull back to another hidden roadblock.   The German thrust presses on but this Spring, the Russians are being more slippery …

Road to Rostov 06

PBI (figures by Peter Pig; vehicles by PP, Battlefront, QRF and Quality Castings; Russian Orthodox church (10mm) by Timecast)

22PD Aufklarungs vs 63TB MR, Donbass, 1942

Wednesday Night (GE and RLi) … costly German win (GE)

1-100 Pz38T

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New Year accessions 01

Happy New Year to regulars and followers … Welcome to newcomers …

I’m sorry there hasn’t been much on P.B.Eye-Candy over Christmas and New Year: I try to reserve the ‘break’ for go somewhere projects – I find, during the rest of the year, with its events, shopping and shows, I tend to focus on the dominant public project whilst only nibbling at other bits and pieces and/or maintaining my commitment to paint and put into service any new stuff I buy.

So, for a magical couple of weeks, I like to pick something that never gets done or has stayed not done for too long, and really tick a box.

This year I managed to shift a number of ancients flats from to do to ticked by configuring them into a ‘displays options’ project (more of which on my FoG Blog ), in addition to which I have cleared up the last remaining German half tracks.

These were originally acquired as Headquarters assets available to send forward to support my PBI Company … so represent various Panzer Division vehicles that might come into play, and come in pairs to suit PBI …

The Rocket Troops had never been built (see below), only one of the Flammpanzerwagens, and neither they nor the Flakvierlings had their basing done properly.    So the Stukas have been done, and the others tidied up.   That leaves nothing outstanding from the original project, and some useful and attractive vehicles allocated to new tasks.  Tick!

New Year accessions 07

New Year accessions 08

New Year accessions 09

In addition to which I have done a Half track ambulance for the unnamed project … I get two ticks for that one as it is one of the delightful little Zvezda models and is a proper NQM reorganisation model all in one.  I have wanted to fit a Zvezda Hanomag in somewhere, but given I still had metal ones to paint (til now) it wasn’t immediately clear where I should go … but searching Medical assets proved fruitful …

New Year accessions 02(Sdkfz 251/8 armoured ambulance – from the Zvezda 1/100 model)

It’s a really nice model to which I have added a canvas made from a piece of plastic bottle which I have covered with tissue to represent fabric (as usual).   The red Cross symbols are hand painted of course (so apologies for that, I need to go back and tidy them up or get some decals I guess – but until the scrutiny of a digital camera they looked OK 😉 )

New Year accessions 03

For my on going Operational Games project, I intend  that players will either need – or do better with – reorg/recover facilities in the field … for troops, that means medical facilities or similar, for vehicles that means a repair stand or similar.  I think I may have mentioned that when I introduced 22 PZ’s recovery tractor …

What I did to the Zvezda that wasn’t at all necessary is I swapped the running gear with a Quality Castings model that was waiting to have its rockets attached.    This I did just as a fiddler, and to harmonise the models: the Zvezda is just a littler bit big, and the QC just a little bit small.   Also it adds a little plastic to the metal model and a little metal to the plastic (which I though might make the ‘feel’ similar*)

New Year accessions 04(1/100 SDKFZ 251: QC with Zvezda tracks, left, Zvezda with QC tracks, right)

It was not quite as clever an idea as I thought, as it mean extending the mudguards on the QC vehicle (and now I’ve mentioned it, I suspect you can see what might otherwise count as a gap on the Zvezda) …

That said, it does make it harder to spot the different makes in a line up and I think the QC with Zvezda tracks is probably my favourite 251 of all of the (BF, Skytrex, Piggie, whatever) …

In all, I am particularly pleased with the Stuka Half tracks …

New Year accessions 05(Sdkfz 251/Wurfrahmen 40 – left: Quality Castings mount; right: Skytrex … the rocket equipment is all Skytrex and the crews a mix of Skytrex, BF and Peter Pig)

The 251 Wurfrahmen 40, or Stuka zu Fuss, was available to Panzer Pioneer support companies and could rapidly saturate an area in High Explosive if your first responders got into trouble …

These vehicles took ages.   Although I swapped the vehicles around abit, the gear is all Skytrex and I chose it because it looked sharper and less clumsy than some of the alternatives.   Now they’re done, it was perhaps a good idea.   The disadvantages were …

It is very fiddly: each mount has a fixing and a rocket pack (so 6 + 6 per vehicle) … and like all metal kit, the fit is only ‘so so’.

As ever, there are bits I want to fiddle with – e.g. the Skytrex gear lacks the front and rear cross pieces (added from brass wire – the front one is not straight, so involves a bit of fabrication) … the mounting brackets have spaces in them which are not open in the miniature versions (so would need drilling and filing).  OK – simple enough – but (sigh!) repeat 12 times

After that, paint.   This also takes much much longer … it is just a green bomb in a wooden box … but, again, repeat 12 times**.

So I a so pleased to have finally stopped putting the project off, done it properly and finished!

New Year accessions 06(OK – I did have to go back and repaint the base of all the rocket packs when I saw what they really looked like)

Russland, schwerer Wurfrahmen an Schützenpanzer

(It is ironic that you only seem to find pictures like this when you think you have finished!)

On balance I think the Peter Pig models (which have all the rocket gear cast on) have a lot to be said for them.  Less fine and less adaptable but, trust me, the self assembly versions are quite a lot of work, I have seen plenty that look more than a little (shall we say) wonky, and all those joints are only an accident away from disaster …

Fiddly?  I feel some horse-drawn transport coming on …

*in retrospect I might have added the rockets to the Zvezda model and used the QC for the ambulance: the ambulance is still a bit of a lightweight – I didn’t fill it with plasticine as I thought the weight of the tracks might help (wrong) – whereas the metal vehicles with all that gear bolted on a really hefty beasts!

**each box has 3 visible sides, of course … so even though painting the green bomb is only a dash of paint plus a dash of highlight, that is the repeat 36 times ….

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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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The SVT 40 Self-loading Rifle

1940_Tula_SVT40By the 1940 official TO&Es, the standard Soviet rifle squad was to be fully armed with automatic weapons.   A rifle section was to have a leader, a 2-man light machine gun team, 2 men with SMGs and 6 more with self-loading rifles.    Over 1.5 million such SVT rifles were produced.   They are commonplace in photos of the period and the Finns record having captured 20,000 of them in the Winter War and Continuation War (which clearly must indicate widespread supply to the front line).

But for some reason they are poorly represented on the wargames table and in the hands of model soldiers:  the stereotype of the ill-equipped Red horde seems not to allow them the most  modern of weapons(1).   If tested, wargamers will often dispute the agreed numbers and fall back on the rifles being too widely dispersed to make a difference, even that they may not have been reliable enough to have allowed semi-automatic firing(2).

Re those numbers,  we must recall that the SVT was not intended to replace all Moisin Nagants … just for those 7 members of the rifle sections not already equipped with automatic weapons (plus similar personnel in the pioneer and reconnaissance formations) … that’s just under 1,000 (988) of the 3,000 men (3182) of a rifle regiment’s establishment.   So at 3,000 or so per division, 1.5 million will go some way to delivering the requirements of the divisions in question.

svt1(most of these riflemen have SVTs … it isn’t a particularly early picture judging by the soldiers helmets)

Penny packets?

The 20,000 captured by the Finns seems to suggest there were a large number of rifle regiments with their front line sections fully equipped.

Zaloga, in the Red Army Handbook, reckons that other than for specialists (recon, pioneers, motorised etc.) the true extent was limited to the squad leader, the LMG no. 2 and 2 of the riflemen.   Even so, that is half of the section.

Probably more than half, allowing that many would have been below full strength.

Was it really any good?

Phil with SVT-38(checking out an SVT-38 at the DCC armoury)

The design was very ambitious, requiring a lighter rifle than the equivalent Garand.   As a consequence the less heavy barrel would quickly overheat if the SVT-38 was fired on full auto.  This was fixed by restricting the improved SVT-40 to semi-auto mode – and although it was the 38 that had the reputation for jamming, it was the 40 that was built in the hundreds of thousands(3):  tests show the weapon to be durable and accurate.  The Finns kept thousands of them in the field so long as they could be used, and the Germans reissued any they captured.

There seem to be no issues with battlefield accuracy or reliability with the SVT-40.

SVT coll

(clockwise: Waffen SS with SVT; ‘fix bayonets’; ‘fully armed with automatic weapons’; Red Army riflemen – all with SVTs)

Note that when huge combat losses and production disruption resulted in shortages of machineguns for newly formed units, SVTs were issued to rifle sections in lieu of DPs and ‘full auto’ specials were issued for AA use.   These are obviously desperate measures – but would have been pointless had the SVT’s rate of fire been compromised.

Although the SVT had a relatively short production life, its successor, the AK-47 is probably the most successful rifle design of all time, and the related iconic FN rifle is a modern version of the basic SVT design.

So why did production stop?

Production was wound down from 1942 on.   Probably this was less because of dissatisfaction with the rifle than the emphasis on fully automatic submachine guns: SMGs gave the Soviet infantryman the firepower that was wanted in a form that was easier to use and cheaper to manufacture.

Sniper rifles continued in production.   Remembering that the original brief was for an automatic light-weight weapon it is easy to see that this requirement was eventually fully met by the AK-47(4).

Tactical function

The purpose of adding the automatic weapons to the rifle platoon was clearly to up the output of fire.  If this is not obvious, I think it is shown in the prioritising the LMG no. 2 for the new weapon (upping the rate of fire for the rifle section’s firebase ahead of dispersing the extra firepower across the whole unit).  For leading the assault, the Red Army’s preference was for the sub machinegun – again upping the output of fire, in this case at close contact ranges.

stalingrad firebase

(a fire team in the ruins at Stalingrad … a DP LMG, an autoloading rifle – looks to me like an AVS – plus 2 SMGs: NB this photo is frequently seen on the internet but is usually seen back-to-front … an easy error with old film but one that ought to be corrected more often)

Tactically, as well as putting out as much firepower as they could themselves, the Red Army also learned to target the German firebase – the MG42 – ahead of other low level priorities: wherever possible support weapons and local attacks would aim to strip the enemy infantry unit of its dominant fire power (which would enable the remaining soldiers – with their bolt action rifles – to be easily overwhelmed).

The Germans found this unsettling and ultimately sought a solution in the Assault Rifle … a weapon which could disperse more weight of fire across the unit, protect the MG42 against being singled out and match the cheap Soviet SMGs in close range fights.

Recognising an SVT

Looking carefully at wartime photos in my collection of books and guides, more than half the pictures showing rifle section soldiers – so not artillery men, mortar crews, maxim guns etc. (5) – show SVTs.  Mostly they are not captioned as such.

The SVT has a larger box magazine set noticeably forward of the trigger guard and a split forestock with ventilation slots (all easily obscured in photos) plus a prominent fore sight and a muzzle brake.   Whereas the Moisin Nagant typically has a spike bayonet, the SVT had a sword/knife style bayonet.  The prominent fore sight and the knife bayonet are dead giveaways …

Voronezh, 1942

(SVTs in action showing all the characteristics – but note the bayonet)

Wargaming implications

Given that the Russian use of SLRs and SMGs at low levels prompted the German development of the assault rifle, it is obviously as important to model the Russian distribution of automatic weapons as it is the German response.

In operational games there is little that needs to be shown – the whole regiment/brigade/division’s combined firepower and staying power will be important … how each individual delivers their share of the mix will be unlikely to feature.

But in tactical games like PBI it is clearly important to allow properly equipped Soviet units enough firepower to unsettle the Germans in a way the western allies seldom did.

For fully equipped units … motorised, Naval, maybe airborne (though I would expect airborne to be all SMG aside from their snipers) it is easy enough to issue all rifle groups with self loading rifles using the Garand rule and cost.  Such units should be Veteran or Average.

If the sceptics are right and some only got 3 or 4 rifles per section, a PBI platoon might look more like this (using my conventional corner clipping notation):

1941 inf platoon

The platoon commander (contra the 2006 book) would not be ‘pistol’, but either SLR or SMG depending on your reading of the evidence.  He would have control of a 50mm mortar, and 3 or 4 sections.  Each section would have a DP group and a group of bolt action rifles.  The other stand should be either SLR or SMG(6).

Later, the mortars would likely be grouped with the Company Commander … but an anti-tank rifle team might be attached to the platoon – maybe a maxim under some circumstances.

Again, use the Garand rule and cost (+1 point per base; +1 die per turn in shooting and in op/ret/HTC fire).

Such units could as easily be Raw as Veteran or Average.

It probably won’t shock the Germans the way the real things did, but it will get us closer to what probably went on.

Modelling the SVT

Nobody seems to make one in 15mm despite the weapon’s wide usage and significance.

Although the rifles on 15mm figures are quite small, the details on small arms are plainly visible and it is useful if the weapon type is properly modelled to aid recognition.  The best bet is to resculpt the weapons with a sharp knife and a fine file.

Ideally you need to add a box mag slightly ahead of the trigger guard, re-detail the fore stock and capture the prominent fore sight and muzzle brake.  A knife-bayonet would be good too.

PP adapted SVT groups 01

(Peter Pig Russians with resculpted weapons and headswaps: I used WWI/RCW figures for these to get the puttees we see on the soldiers with automatic weapons at Stalingrad)

I had a go at some WWI/RCW types in my oddments box and the results look OK (sorry the photo is a little over-exposed, but I wanted to get a reasonably crisp shot of the weapons they are carrying for obvious reasons): hopefully they will be rendered obsolete soon by Martin Goddard making some new figures with SVTs.  The magazines had to be added from modelling putty.


(1) in this context we should perhaps not forget the the Soviets were also amongst the first with rocket artillery, surface to air missiles, cluster bombs, parachute forces and were already building the KV and T34 … they were at the forefront of technology in this period.

(2) indeed, one sceptic, confronting the numbers in Finnish hands countered by saying ‘just proves they were useless … the Russians must have been chucking them away as soon as they jammed’

(3) also, much of the jamming mythology comes from Finnish experience with the captured weapons – given that the Finnish standard rifle ammunition was not actually the design size for the SVT (Jaegerplatoon) that may not be the rifle’s fault.

(4) between the SVT-40 family and the AK-47, of course, the Red Army briefly adopted a Simonov designed SKS.

(5) which do account for a lot of wartime pictures as they show troops generally a bit back from the danger zones (where the Press prefer to be …).

(6) if you require a rule to be added to the Russian Company lists, delete the second line in the top box on ‘Russian Rifle Company 1939-1942’ (up to 2 rifle groups ...) and replace with

‘Up to 4 rifle groups per platoon may be replaced with SMG or self loading rifles – all if the Company is of Naval, Airborne or Motorised infantry’

… and in the ‘Infantry Platoon’ box, change the Platoon commander group to ‘(SMG or self-loading rifle)’


Zaloga: The Red Army Handbook; Soviet Army Uniforms in WWII; Rottman: Stalingrad Inferno; Walsh: Stalingrad 1942 -1943; Google Images; (amongst many other casual searches) … http://www.ww2photomuseum.com/GerRusArms1.htmlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SVT-40http://www.gunpics.net/russian/svt40/svt40.htmlhttp://www.jaegerplatoon.net/RIFLES4.htm

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3 9 Part 2 01

This was the concluding part of a PBI scenario we started earlier in the month.   After a stumbling start, the Red Army paras and ski troops were reinforced with a column of tanks and some accompanying rifle sections.

Although they had let the Russians take control of the mud road, the Germans were stubbornly dug in around the fuel dump in the woods, and had a platoon of scouts in half tracks plus some light armour just off table.

3 9 Part 2 02

This phase opened with an airstrike by the VVS who have just taken delivery of some new LAGGs and Airacobras (as in … I put my latest toys on the table) …

Following the standard assets procedure (dicing for deviation), this went way off target and hit a section of paras (blue on blue) hiding in some adjacent trees.

The Russians got their tanks quickly on table and rolled into the assault.

3 9 Part 2 03(Russian Tanks and Riflemen sweep up to the German positions)

After losses to preparatory shooting, the German position was left mostly being held by Officer bases (Platoon Commander, Company Commander), but with some effective use of the SMG, and closed terrain, they were able to bounce the first wave assault.

Unfortunately, the German reinforcements just made it onto the table in time to see the second wave break over the position.  Two hits killed the Officers (hits in the assault cannot be saved if foot groups)  yielding the objective to the attackers.

3 9 Part 2 04(T-70s get the job done, helping the infantry break into the position … PP figures and PSC tanks)

The Germans had put up a good fight, hanging on til the half tracks appeared.

The counterattack faltered with a mix of good and bad Action Points (3 of 7 vehicles rolled very poorly so could not exploit the exposed sides of the thinly armoured Russian tanks) …

Some enterprising armoured scouts managed to break through with an effective mix of MG42 and Panzerfaust, brewing one of the T-70s on the way … only then to be destroyed by opportunity fire from the other …  The woods were filling up with wrecks and casualties …

3 9 Part 2 05a(the smoke denotes the vehicle is destroyed; the fire marker reminds me it happened this turn – re next morale phase)

My new armoured car failed to dislodge some paras hunkered down around the road bridge, a flamethrowing half track missed, and the Platoon Commander’s carrier with a (Gun Effect 7) PzB rolled insufficient points to fire it – so sat staring at the rear ‘armour’ of  an Aerosan.

Hmm…  All bad luck, but I guess the Russians would have described these as Winter Germans.

These reverses let the Russians reorganise after their assaults, drop into defensible squares, and persuaded the Germans that they would have to pull out whatever they could salvage: the battle was over.

3 9 Part 2 06(The Return of Winter: a battle won)

Apologies that between the two parts, the battlefield and some of the figures changed … I left some boxes at HQ and had to improvise – but we were able to retain the core layout balance and starting positions.

We had 4 players for this part of the game and played for around 2 hours which disappeared almost unnoticed (which is a credit to PBI and the snowy scenario) … it seemed to engage the players and had a good mix of content including some nail-biting combined assaults, some narrow escapes, some blue-on-blue and some big hits.

Great game … I think I need to post a synopsis of where we are with PBI.

3 9 Part 2 05b(PBI: The Return to Winter Part 2)

SS Panzer Division Wiking Tscherkassy

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