Thursday, 22 June 2017

Too good...

Whilst clearing out some old files from my even older harddrive I came across these 5 images. They were taken years ago, but they reminded me how good this 1/35th diorama was (is). Made by my friend Phil, the single best miniature painter I have ever met... this is all his work. Genius.

It's the Battle of the Bulge, 1st SS at Stoumont. It depicts the moment Hauptscharfuhrer Knappich's Panther returned up the hill to Stoumont after an engagement at Stoumont Station, where Oberscharfuhrer Ropeter's Panther was hit and set alight by a US 90mm anti-aircraft gun. Ropeter was transported back to the aid post on Knappich's engine-deck after bailing out from his tank, his other crewmen died. Badly burnt, Ropeter's life was only saved because he was wearing U-boat crew oilskin leathers rather than standard-issue Panzer crew uniform.

Phil did all the research to get it all spot on... right camo colours, right people, visited the right building, etc... the build's skill and patients boggles me, but I was fortunate enough to have a private viewing and close inspection and take some pictures - and I just re-found them.

I'm not a military modeller myself, except building and painting what I need for gaming... but I have dabbled in 1/35th stuff though (inspired by Phil) and somewhere I still have the kits and extra parts to build my grandfather's Churchill tank in Italy... one day.  I see the two as different, if related (just) hobbies.

Anyway, this is just pure, shameless eye-candy... check out the ground work, it's brilliant. Love the subtle colour tones, the winter atmosphere and those trees, which are hand-made!! Almost unbelievable, this isn't his best (imho), that still goes to his Euro-Militaire 'best of show' winning Panzer IV and SS grenadiers during Operation Konrad.  Enjoy.

 Overview

 1st SS commanders Pieper, Poetsche and Diefenthal watch on

 ?? and crew watch over the stricken Ropeter

In the Ardennes, trees had white stripes painted on them, for nighttime driving aid, great detail


Thursday, 15 June 2017

DAK, On Review

In a couple of weekend's time, I’ll be down at Battlegroup South at Bovington Tank Museum to take part in the Battlegroup Tobruk campaign weekend. This weekend will see each player play three games for his side, Axis or Allies, to earn campaign victory points towards the overall winner. They are great fun days, always a big highlight of my wargaming year and getting to play, rather than run the event, is a treat and worth the five hour drive to Dorset. (I’m at Tankfest the weekend before too, so I get do it all twice!).

This year, we’ll be using the new Battlegroup Tobruk book, so lots of sand… with German and Italian forces taking on the Brits, somewhere in Libya, in late 1941.

For a change, I’ll be playing on the German’s side, so I thought it was time to get my DAK forces out, review them, mend any damage, touch up paintwork and see if their was anything new I’d need for the upcoming battles. I still have 2 weeks to get any last minute units finished.

Whilst the army was all out of it storage boxes, I took some pics… so here is my full DAK force in detail, as an example of a Battlegroup collection. Quite what I’ll use at at the weekend I’m not yet sure, I’ll probably change my force for each battle and try to get everything some table time. Time for list building later, first get the models sorted.

Here they are, ready for Rommel’s inspection, before storming off to smash the British… I hope! Can’t wait.
HQ Assets: Forward HQ SdKfz 265 (First to Fight kit), Forward Signals Unit, SdKfz 263 (Roden), Luftwaffe Air Liaison Officer (Ace car, Brittannia miniatures)

Infantry Assets: Schurzen Platoon Headquarters and 1st Zug  
(mixed SHQ, Britannia, Foundry and a few Caesar plastics)

2nd and 3rd Zugs (same manufacturers) 

Platoon Support Weapons, 80m mortar, HMG, 50mm mortar and AT rifle team (all Britannia)

The infantry's soft-skin transports (mostly pinched Italian trucks)  
(Britannia Dovunques and a converted diecast SdKfz 7 with AB passengers)

Tank Assets: 1st Panzer III Zug (PSC kits with extra Valuegear stowage)

2nd Panzer III Zug (as above)

Panzer II Zug (Revel kits)

Other tanks, a Pz IV and captured Matilda (PSC Pz IV and Lancer Miniatures Matilda)

Artillery Assets: Observer Teams, guns off-table (Britannia and SHQ)

Recon Assets: The armoured cars, gone a bit mad on 222s (Airfix kits) 
 and a SdKfz 232 (Altaya diecast)

Kradschurtzen Zug and 2 x snipers (all Britannia) 

Logistics Assets: Two supply trucks (Fujimi and PSC kit)
 
 Special Support Assets: Pak-38 battery (PSC guns, SHQ crew and Altaya diecast tow)
I'm missing the other tow... which I have, must find it. (I did, in another box, SdKfz 10 mis-stored)

Panzerjaeger I (old Esci kit with AB crew) and Flak 38 with captured British tow 
(Altaya diecast gun, SHQ crew and Airfix tow - gun went to the Brits).

88, must have, it's the law. (Revel kit, AB crew and Airfix kit for the on-tow version)


Converted Flak Vierling, not for this time, but it'll come in useful in my planned 1943 Tunisia games. (Converted PSC truck, diecast gun and AB crew)

 Additional Fire Support Assets: Stuka, what else? (Hobbyboss kit)




























Tuesday, 6 June 2017

LAST STAND AT THE KONIGSGARTEN, GAME 7

The final installment of the Konigsberg campaign… it’s game 7, and the last Germans in the city are dug-in in hedgehog defence around the Konigsgarten, under which (actually the Opera House I believe) was General Lasch's command bunker. It would be a mini pre-run of Berlin and the Reichstadt.

The scenario was Das Hexenkessel, with the Germans almost surrounded. They were well dug-in, in trenches with barbed wire across the gardens, with 2 fortified buildings (the Opera House and the University building - both also objectives). These also had cellars, very good against IDF. There was only a single StuG III still rolling, and an 88 plus loader team dug-in too. The infantry were mostly Volksgrenadier with some auxiliary Volkssturm as well. Their rather feeble morale was backed by all three special rules to boost it, ‘To the Last Bullet’, ‘Backs to Berlin’ and a Field Gendarme team. They all gave the Germans +11 BR!! They were determined to fight to the very end.

Here was my strike force, something a bit different, very good assault pioneers infantry and my JS-II platoon, heavy tanks (there first ever roll out as a full platoon). I would use my on-table 122s for direct fire to bring down buildings. The infantry platoon's job was to pair-up with the pioneer squads, they would lead (ie take the hits and pins) and the pioneers would follow-up, use Reserve moves to get close and then unleash flame-thrower naughtiness! No off-table artillery, points did not allow anything but medium mortars, way too feeble in a city fighting and this was an experiment… to go in hard with the infantry supported by big-ol' 122mm HE from the howitzers and tanks. Mostly though, it's models that needed tabletop time.




Pioneer Assault Platoon    
JS-II Platoon - 5 tanks                  
1 Supply Truck                
122mm Artillery battery - 2 guns   
ZSU-37        
Inf Platoon       
FHQ                      
IL-2 Timed Strike                
Totals  750 points    40 BR    4 off, 0 scouts


Time to finish this…

After deployment the game started badly, for me… first ambush fire killed 1 artillery man on the 122 gun facing the Opera house, (with the mission of making sure Wagner was never heard here again). The rest of the gunners ran! Cowards. Plan down the pan in about 5 seconds.

Then the other gun made up for it. 2 hits on the university building and then 3 sixes for structural damage brought it down! Boom!! 4 German squads were wiped out in the collapse, MG team, stretcher party, HJ AT team (all those Panzerfausts). Ouch! After just 2 orders, we both already had 4 counters each… this wasn’t going to last long.

In the end the game lasted about 3 hours. Hard fighting at close quarters, my flamethrowers did the business and wiped out 2 German rifle squads (the Volkssturm didn’t sign-up for that treatment). The JS-II arrived to support and I went for surrounding the enemy, rather than one strong attack, making the most of the scenario’s deployment rules. I lost one JS-II to a Panzerfaust strike, but the others all did good work. The first hit and destroyed the 88 after its frontal armour had survived the incoming ambush fire. Two others hammered a trench line and wiped out the men inside with 122 hits… the last man was pinned and fled. The final JS-II got into a prolonged duel with the StuG, which bounced 4 shell impacts off its frontal armour… get in… so nice to survive German AP shots for once. It’s return fire missed and it ran out of ammo, including using HE shells at the StuG. But when the re-supply truck arrived, it re-armed and the next shot vapourised the last AFV in Konigsberg… German counters were building fast…

My Sturmovik timed strike arrived, buzzed the gardens, but was driven off by small arms fire on ambush, drat! The pilot flew off to find an easier target. My infantry, on the roof tops, shot-up his supply wagon, killing all the horses and one squad moved up to grab the big pile of rubble which had been the university objective, and then my ZSU-37, in a very rare outing, finished the game, its 37mm cannon wiping out a Volkssturm machine gun team in a blaze of fire. The last Germans had had enough. The white flag was flying over the Opera House. General Lasch emerged from the cellar to find JS-IIs parked on his lawn, literally.

It had been short and brutal, merciless from the Red Army, but like two boxers slugging eachother in the face. Even so, my BR counter total (amazingly, I can find 4s with monotonous regularly) had reached 37 from 40, so it was close. The Germans had broken at 41 (with their +11).

It has been a top campaign, the 3 VPs for the Russian win makes the campaign victory points stand at Germans 8, Russians 7… close, but the German’s squeaked it… winning 4 from 7, with 3 Russian wins. We have glutted ourselves on FotR goodness, I really love the feel of these games over 1944.





Sturmovik's eye view of the Konigsgarten and Opera House before German deployment 

 Germans deploying, making a mess by digging up the park. 

The objective, command bunker/Opera House... bit wierd, but that's how it was. 

 122 howitzer abandoned after first ambush fire shot of the game. 

 StuG vs JS-II, the mismatch. 

JS-II wins... but it made hard work of that, mainly due to lack of ammo. 

 Not this one, roof top Panzerfaust... err, watch out for them. 

88 in the park. Dug-in with loader team, a tough nut. Unless it rolls a 1 for morale and auxiliary gunners all do-one!  

 The JS-II claiming that kill, having worn an 88 shell of the front armour... nice! 

German Senior Officer, co-ordinating the last stand from the Opera House, they're not playing Verdi tonight!

JS-II clearing the trench line (there's nobody left in it). 
Infantry have the building, a second objective. 

 Bit of battlefield wreckage...

Bringing the gardens under HE fire...

Endkampf... Herr General Lasch, the Red Army is parked outside, they'd like a word! 





Time for a change of scene now. Maybe away from WWII for a few games… I hear the bugles call for some Longstreet ACW action… or maybe my Romans are due a few battles in Solders of Rome (coming one-day).

Monday, 8 May 2017

Breakout from Konigsberg - Game 6

The sixth of the Konigsberg campaign games saw the Germans attempting a break-out scenario during a nightfight, with the top Nazi and SS officials, and a lot of other men too, trying to escape the surrounded city. The game would take place in the industrial district of Kosse, on the banks of the Pregel river and along the main road west, the Holsteiner Damm (where 2nd Panzer Division are not too far away).

The German force was very infantry heavy, 2 platoons, plus an extra auxiliary squad (civilian staff), a veteran SS grenadier squad, pioneer squad and bicycle fusiliers too. They were supported by a StuG, a 37mm cannon on a heavy truck and a SiG33 for artillery fire. The Goliaths were back, 2 of them with their controllers, sneaky! They also had +3D6 to their BR (9 was rolled) for ‘Backs to Berlin’, ‘To the Last Bullet’ and an SS field police team. These would be very determined (read desperate) Germans.

My exact Russian forces are listed below.

FHQ in Gaz Jeep            23    3-r    senior off, art spotter
FSU - truck                     18    1-i    comms
Rifle Company               188    16-i    4 x officers, mortar spotters
3 Platoons + CHQ
MMG team                     18    1-i
AT Rifle team                  14    1-i
T34/85 Platoon (3)          138    9-r    officer
2 x 82mm mortars           64    2-i    on-table
+ loader teams
2 x Zis3 76.2mm guns     55    4-i
Fortified Building            30    0
Minefield                         20    0
2 Snipers                          20    2-v    sniper-scout
Jeep recce team (3 men)         18    1-r    scout, mortar spotter
37mm AA gun + truck tow     40    1-i
Timed Katyusha strike            25    0
PRTP                                       15    0
1 counter battery fire mission  10    0    4+
Timed PO-2 air strike               5    0    2 small bombs   

Totals                    701pts    41 BR    6 off, 3 scouts


With the night fighting rules in play, the game was a different one, with everything out of range and LoS to start with. Good job, my entire deployed force was 2 units (on 2D6), both the Zis 3s (lacking tows otherwise Id have to drag them into positons). The rest would slowly arrive from turn 3 onwards.

The plan was to have 1 platoon and support on the right blocking the buildings and Holsteiner Damm, with a second on the left, covering the open grass area. The third platoon would be in reserve in the centre, on the table edge, a last line should the Germans get through. Each platoon would have a sniper, a Zis3 gun and a tank (or 2) in support.

The German advance was swift and their reinforcements arrived in good numbers. The leading infantry squads made their sneaky way through the tangle of rubble and buildings to close in on their objective, escape off my table edge.

Game on.

Well, the first Germans crept forwards and the Russian infantry did likewise, a few leading infantry squads that got the jump on the Germans and as the DPs, rifles and PPSHs blazed, caused a few losses and got the Germans well pinned down. The leading veteran SS guard squad, super-aggressive, immediate unpinned (with tactical co-ordination) and assaulted one of my squads, only to be fought back, with strangely few losses on both sides. Trapped in alley, a second Russian squad then wiped the Nazi’s out.

With LoS so short, artillery and mortar fire was difficult. My PRTP came in very handy, throwing harassing fire down onto the German lines and causing random pinning, that slowed the German attack down and broke it up, they could not bring large numbers to bear, good job, because my troops were taking their sweet time turning up and getting into position. I did get a squad and the Maxim MG into my fortified building, and they would hold out most of the game, even attacked by 2 Goliaths, which almost brought the building down.

The initial exchanges favoured the Russians, the PO-2 swooped in, engines-cut, to silently drop its 2 small bombs (no effect!), but it was a counter for under air attack. After 6 turns I had taken 1 counter the Germans 7. It didn’t get much better for the Germans, as more Russian reinforcements arrived to thicken the line and I built-up the forces on my left for their spoiling counter-attack. The plan was to force the Germans to react, spend their orders fighting-off the Russians rather than keep advancing, but the slow rate of reinforcements arriving was delaying me… time to be patient and not attack too soon.

We had a brief break for lunch, the now traditional bacon butty and a cup of tea… time to reflect. It seemed bad for the Germans, their counter stack was at about 12, the Russian just 3, and the Russian’s armour had now arrived, I was warily keeping it back though, fearing all those Panzerfausts. The main German thrust through the buildings (the centre), had stalled and bogged down, to be abandoned until more troops could get forwards. Their Goliaths had finally gone off (3rd game lucky) but failed to bring down my fortified building. My mortar fire was a constant pain, with nothing coming back in return. (historically there was little German artillery fire, with most of it being on tow for the break out or already lost).

After lunch the Germans changed attack-plan, and decided to try and press directly up Holsteinner Damm, along the river bank, sending pioneers, the StuG and AA truck forwards. At 20” range all hell broke loose… the StuG was missed by multiple waiting AP shells (frustrating), and then its return fire hit and bounced off my guarding T34/85. Next turn its hit didn’t bounce and my tank was wrecked, lost that duel!. But the Zis3’s fire kept the Germans back, and narrowly missed the AA truck, which then scooted away. The pioneer squad, flamethrower-and-all, got pinned down in a building, and so couldn’t get forwards either. I made sure I kept it that way with infantry and sniper fire ever turn. That little crisis dealt with, my own counter-attack started, sending infantry to clear the first building, with tank and mortar fire to shoot them in. Raked by MG fire the infantry squads took heavy losses and fell back, leaving my two T34/85s to pound the buildings until their HE bins were empty, then turn to MGs. The building was under very heavy fire, and the Germans within (including the civilian staff) all pinned down. That prevented the second wave of Germans getting forwards and so I judged the counter-attack had done its job, even if it did cost be some BR counters (I could spare them).

The Germans weren’t making any progress now, along the front line the firefight continued, building to building, and the attrition was mostly still in the Russians favour. The loss of another squad saw the final BR counter draw break the German escape attempted. It had failed. Victory to the Reds, much needed in the terms of the campaign, but the score is now 8 to 4 campaign VPs to the Germans.

The final battle of the series now awaits, the last assault on the Konigsgarten and the HQ bunker in the city centre. I still need a big win in that one, but it can be done and I have my heavy weight forces to field for the first time, JS-IIs, flamethrower-wielding assault pioneers and some big guns for house demolition work.

The tabletop, Germans at the top, Russians at the bottom, Pregel river on the right.

 German end of the table, deployng into the factories

Russian end of the table. These houses would see the heaviest fighting of the breakout battle.

Kosse... 

On the waterfront. 

First Zis3 has Holsteinner Damm it covered

Second crash-boom watching the open ground on my left

German scouts come forward

SS squad leading the way, into deep trouble...and death. Sometimes an irrational belief in the Fuhrer 
just isn't enough. 

Russian infantry begin to arrive to block the German advance

Reinforcements on Holsteinner Damm

PO-2 silently glides in. 

Russian mortars deploy, new AB miniatures, painted for this battle, and they all survived. 

Holsteinner Damm attack force on the way forwards.

Here is what is waiting for them. 

StuG gets into range (20" in the darkness)

 Ahh.. well that could have gone better!

 My little counter-attack building up, tanks now in place for fire support

 Ura! Bold infantry dash, MGs within soon put an end to that though. So much for the support fire!