Well, another epic Battlegroup campaign weekend is done and dusted. It was a brilliant weekend of gaming as 24 players met at Stafford games for three games each over Saturday and Sunday. Each player brought a 450 point Battlegroup Barbarossa force, 12 forces on the German sides (almost all Panzer divisions) and 12 on the Russian (mostly Mechanised Corps, but with a few nice infantry-based forces also supporting them). Each player had 2.5 hours to complete their game, or get a result by whichever side was closest to their break point. Victories in games won points for your side, with big (massacres) wins getting 3 points and marginal wins just 1 point. All the points were added together to see if the Germans or Russians had won overall. No individual winners here, you are just a small cog in a far larger machine, fighting to do your bit.
Anyhow, at 10am on Saturday, after everybody had arrived (well almost everybody), and tables had been assigned, the players lined up for game 1. Soon the dice were clattering. The chatter and greeting had been replaced by the issuing of orders, measuring of ranges and the drawing of chits (lots of that). Saturday’s games were the Russian ad-hoc counter-attacks against the German’s drive towards a link-up at Lokhvitsa (and thus encircling Kiev). The meeting engagements saw T-26s and BT-7s on the roll, en-masse, with Pz IIIs and IVs (and a few 38(t)s and even some Pz 35(t)s) meeting them head-on. Soon , artillery was thundering, Stukas (lots of them too) were plunging and Katyushas screaming. As each game ended I collated the points, and it was close. The first wins went to the Germans, one a massacre (aided by a heinous amount of Stuka Zu Fuss fire), the other the narrowest of wins (over me) by 2 BR (drat, one more counter!). But the Russians fought back and turned in a few solid wins. They had 3 KV tanks handed out to random tables (these rare beasts were not allowed to be taken by players themselves). All had survived the first round of battles (one broke down and was immobilised, but would be fixed for the next games) and would reappear in the afternoon. The Germans gained extra random timed Stuka strikes to compensate for those KVs.
It was lunchtime, time for the buffet sandwiches and tea and a quick review of the action. The campaign score sat at Russians 11, Germans 10. Very even.
1.30pm and it was time to start it all over again, with a new table and a new opponent. Again, this would be another meeting engagement, more counter-attacks to buy time for the Russian troops digging in at Lokhvitsa behind.
The afternoon saw a shift in the balance of power. The Russians relentless amounts of light tanks (and the occasional lumbering, far too big ones) saw the Germans stalled. I lost my second game, again narrowly by just 6 BR, so could expect a visit from the commissars for my force’s performance. The first KV was permanently lost, the crew abandoned it after it broke down completely this time. The scores started to roll in. Over the 12 games, the Russian had inflicted 5 massacres on the Germans, with only 1 taken in return. The Germans won 5 games out of the 12, but the Russian tank attacks had reaped a massive harvest in campaign victory points. They didn’t need my help!
It was 4.00pm and we called it a day. As the last games wrapped up their final turns, the score board didn’t look healthy for the Wehrmacht’s drive to seal-off Kiev. Germans 19, Russians 30.
Having cleared the decks for tomorrow, we headed down to the pub, for a review of the day, a chat with fellow wargamers about all things ‘toy-soldier’ (and to find out the Rugby score). There were some slightly glum German commanders about their side’s performance this afternoon. After a solid start, the wheels (well tracks) had come off. Could they pull it back tomorrow?
It was a misty Sunday morning in Stafford as we gathered for the last round of games. Today would see the Russians on the defensive, dug-in. The Germans faced a different task (but they could take a different force if they liked, or use the same one) of overcoming those trenches, bunkers and gun-pits.
The players were assigned new tables and opponents (except James and Mikhail who found themselves face to face again after meeting yesterday, so I shifted them apart). Everybody had a new table and new opponent again the Russians deployed their defensive positions. It looked formidable. At 10.30 we began. This time I sat out, so I could take photos and answer rule inquires, as well as drink tea and watch the battles evolve (we still had 11 players aside though).
The first results came in, a marginal German win, then a marginal Russian win. It was close again. Looking around I didn’t see many tables with German forces ‘tooled-up’ for fighting the defensive Russians, where were the assault pioneers with their useful equipment, or flamethrower tanks, or bunker-busting artillery? One German player’s advance was completely halted by Russian minefields he couldn’t clear, another ran smack into Andy Greenwood’s ‘Maginot Line’, and saw his panzers vapourising from large Russian artillery deployed as anti-tank guns. Still, the panzer forces fought valiantly and started to turn in a few more marginal wins, but so were the Russians. As it reached 1pm, the end of the event, I added up the final scores. Both had added exactly 8 points to their overnight score, a very even final round of battles, but the Russia wins yesterday afternoon had secured them the overall win (again). Russians 38, Germans 27. It had not been quite the big margin of victory from Kursk last year, but it was a solid win.
Pete Valinski (he runs Entoyment down in Poole) was the Russian player to earn his side the most points and thus declared ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’, gaining 8 points in two massacres and a solid win. Steve Vine won the Iron Cross, being the only German player to win all three of his games and earning 4 points on the way. Other Germans also earned 4 points too, but took a defeat along the way.
Well done and thanks to all that came and played, and massive thanks to Andy T and Mick P, up from Bournemouth and Poole who helped set-up on friday. Thanks also go to Andy Edwards for switching to an emergency Russian player to even up the sides on Saturday, and my brother Ken for switching on day 2 and using my less than impressive Russian force for me. I had a great time in both the battles I played, my Katyusha strike that saw Mick P lose 4 Pz38(t)s as they rolled over my pre-registered target point will live long in the memory, as will his Stuka’s large bomb scoring a direct hit on my lead BT-7. My first game, against Steve Vine, was such a close call, he fought back well from a dire start when, for a while, I thought I had him on toast. Also, thanks to our host Roland at Stafford Games for the venue (hopefully he’ll have a new one by next year) and to the three players who came the furthest to play, Mikhail, Juho and Juuso from Finland, who stayed up until 3am on Friday night painting their air support in the hotel, just in case it turned up. They gave everybody hard games, we all knew you got a tough fight from the Fins.
Here are loads of photos of the weekend’s battles. I have to say, I loved it, it was all played in the right way, tough fights played in the spirit of friendly competition, no contentious refereeing decision for me to make, only calls or clarifications on the rules. For those inclined towards numbers, we fought 35 games. The Russian won 20, the Germans 14 with 1 draw. The Russian scored 6 massacre wins, the Germans only 2. 17 (so about half) of the 35 games were marginal wins to one side or the other, so very close games.
Next year, (hopefully) the campaign weekend will be in the desert 1941, so I better get the book written.
The games underway on Saturday morning.
My first Katyusha strike, pinning most of the deployed Germans in turn 1. Then my BTs rushed them.
Katyushas go off!
Grey panzers, hundreds of them!
Telltale smoke column rises of as the first losses are taken.
And the Luftwaffe arrive, not much seen of the VVS all weekend
Never will T-34s scare the Germans so much as in 1941 games. But their unreliability prooved their weakness, attracting Breakdowns and German 1 counters as fast as they were draw.
The German casualties rise, this was a costly village to clear.
Russians occupy the ruined factory board. The KV-1 has already conked-out!
Soviet armour massing.
The eclectic mix of Russian armour keeps Barbarossa games interesting, here, an SU-5 SP gun, KV-2 (it survived the entire weekend) and various T-26 variants all ride into battle together.
Andy T's T-34s catch hell from a well-timed 150mm artillery strike, destroying 2 early in the game.
But his hordes of T-26s rattle on (quite slowly).
There they go, burning, little Pz 35(t)s on ambush fire reaped this carnage.
Not all the boards were open cornfields, this one was the forest/marsh/stream table. Not great tank country.
Motorise rifles, awaiting the orders to advance to help the tanks. Orders being in short supply for the Russians.
T-28, pinned and immobilised by a breakdown, not the last to fail to get into the fight.
A T-35, a suprisingly popular Russian choice. I blame the S-models kit. Hardly anything to give the Germans nightmares though.
Ouch, the attack has failed.
My BT-7s on the move.
Russian infantry force commanded by Ian Grey.
Russian casualties were equally as heavy, burning T-26s would be a feature of the weekend.
Village and objective secured, at some cost.
This stream prooved awkward for the Russian armour, being slow, they took turns to get over it.
Mick P's lovely 38(t)s advance against me in game 2.
Little Kate is waiting...
Right on my PRTP. Kaboom!
All four wrecked. But he still squeaked a win anyway.
Second round games hard at it...
The KV-2 beast, still rolling.
Ralph Gibson's lovely Germans deployed to hold the road.
BT-7s streaking off over the horizon, in my expereince, speed is much over-rated. It just gets you into trouble faster. I lost all my BT-7s in both games, to just about no gain.
Horse-towed 45mm gun battery deployed.
Day 2. Andy Greenwood's 'maginot line'.
Dug-in Russians everywhere.
Horse towed guns... so quaint in a tank battle...
Cossack charge! Well, not for much longer as the Germans hold that factory.
Pete Valinski's victorious BT-7s.
Juho's defence line, bunker hill.
Carl Hellicar's panzers try to go around it, exchanging long ranged fire.
38(t)s advancing into artillery fire (again).
Not to be outdone, Graham Bayliss' SS cavalry (not pinned).
Those horse-towed guns just got hit by a Stuka strike,
The heavy mob...
Well, James' attack has turned into an inferno before the maginot line. He is also parked on a PRTP!
Andy T's T-26 mob charging again.
The other KV tank, still rolling too, in game 3 supporting Pete Valinski's BT-7s (like he needed the help).
My BTs, doing what they do best, burning! The T-34 was still fighting on alone though.
The players. Hero of the Soviet Union Pete Valinski in red (at the front), Iron Cross winner Steve Vine next to him (on the left).
Thank you all, great gaming weekend, let's try and do it again next year!!