Saturday 26 August 2023

Wargaming The Eastern Front

When I returned to historical wargaming some 20 years or so ago, one of the first forces I had was a 15mm WWII Soviet force for BKCII. Whilst I enjoyed the games, I actually knew little about Soviet doctrine and how it developed over the course of the war. Still this didn't stop me playing and at the time my only resource was the FoW Soviet supplement and Zaloga's Osprey book used for info on uniform colours. With the move into 10mm this force was sold on and at some point a replacement one was bought from Pendraken, only to languish like so many of my projects in the bag it arrived in!

Despite not having a force to game with, over the years I bought books on the Eastern Front covering the usual suspects of Barbarossa, Bagration and the Fall of Berlin. All fascinating but again not really covering Soviet doctrine aside from general points in the text. Now one of the joys of our hobby IMHO is the research part of it, which I'm sure many of you will agree with. So with a project in the pipeline (more of which another time) I went in search of a good overall view of Soviet doctrine. 

Of course I knew anything by Zaloga and Glantz would be excellent, already having the brilliant 'Companion to the Red Army' by Zaloga and Ness. Whilst this is a superb resource, it is hard to place the OOB and changes within the wider conflict on the Eastern Front through out the War. After a bit of Google searching I came across 'When Titan's Clashed' by Glantz & House, which had good reviews and looked to be the sort of book I was after and was duly ordered.

A good starting point.

Lots of detail but hard to put it into context. Essential reading though.

Another simply essential book.

The book arrived pretty quickly and after a quick flick through I started reading it and was thoroughly impressed and it was everything I hoped it would be! Why? Well it answered many questions I had such as:
  • Why was the Soviet C&C so bad at the start of the War. Well we all know of the Purges and the effect that had on the command structure, but it adds more flesh to the bones, such as newly graduated Majors being put in charge of Divisions, no real staff structure at any level really above Battalions and so on. This lasted well into 1943 and sometimes beyond, but as the War progressed, you can see how the C&C was massively improved and how it worked.
  • Why was the Soviet Artillery arm so centralised above Divisional level? Again it came down to a simple lack of experienced staff and it was easier for C&C to keep them under a more centralised control for much of the War, only giving some flexibility towards 1944 onwards.
  • Despite the huge manpower reserves that the Soviet Union could call upon, as the War progressed, they faced exactly the same issues as the British and the Germans, with a limited pool of reserves to call upon. So by 1944, they had understrength units that were a mix of veterans and new recruits, so with very variable combat quality. Right until the end of the War Soviet units were suffering 50% losses and higher in nearly all attacks.
  • The book does show theoretical OOB versus the reality due to the above, with Divisions at 50% - 30% nominal strength levels. Tank units suffered especially high attrition rates too.
  • It gives a good overview of Soviet offensive doctrine, which I found very useful, with the Infantry supported by Tanks and Artillery making the breakthrough, then Mechanised or Tank Corps exploiting the breaches made, with Cavalry Corps protecting the flanks. All new to me for sure!

So in wargaming terms I've learnt an awful lot from this book already and still haven't finished it, with plenty of info that I can take forward for the 'project and for future games too. Alongside this I've also been reading the following book:

Now I've got loads of books on the campaign for NWE, so I wasn't expecting to learn much from this book that I hadn't already read about in one way or another. Well I was wrong and pleasantly so. There are plenty of snippets of info in it that I hadn't come across before or that expanded on bits I did know about. A few examples below:
  • The Sherman's rate of fire gave it a significant advantage over the Germans and the tactic of fire first and keep firing paid dividends. The sheer volume of fire, even if it didn't cause penetrations, often broke the glass on the vision ports, effectively blinding the crew and forcing them to bail out.
  • We all know about the issues of C&C and navigation in Normandy and especially the Bocage, but there is one great example of a Battalion commander who simply could not locate his infantry companies for hours and had to rely upon the tanks to help him. In another radio issues meant that one tank troop continued to advance and so lost contact with the rest of the Squadron, became isolated and only by luck managed to restablish contact after coming under fire.

I thought those above examples reflect rather nicely the C&C that BKCII can bring to a game, where things don't always go as planned, or where units wander off or retreat due to a command blunder, which I know not all gamers appreciate, but it works well for me, especially in solo games.

I feel that 'When Titan's Clashed' is an essential book to buy for any one interested in wargaming the Eastern Front. I'm sure I will continue to refer to this for many years to come for my wargames or when planning a campaign.


What's in a Name?

Maybe 10 years or so ago there were a series of articles in Miniature Wargames magazine on adding character traits to commanders etc to the original Black Powder rules from Warlord Games. A nice idea and a good way of adding a bit of detail to the game or even a campaign. I kept them in a wallet but sadly lost them sometime ago, which is a shame, but such is life.

These came to mind recently whilst travelling the long journey to rural North Norfolk to see family. The 4 hour journey passes many villages with interesting names that I thought would be perfect for Georgian and Victorian type chaps as they battle 'Johnny Foreigner' in some far flung field for fame and glory. Given the forthcoming HEIC bash in 18thC India I thought it high time I did more with this idea.

This is not new to me, nor others for that matter, as I have done something similar for my AVBCW commanders. Of course there are many ways to come up with names, with wines and cheeses having had a good run our over the years. All it needs is for a theme to tie everything together. So far I have:

Hawkesbury Upton
Preston Bisset
Barton Hartshorn
Marston Moretaine
Stratton Audley

Naturally there are more to be had, but these have struck as rather fun and with a bit of character to them. To add a bit of chrome to them, one could add the following:

The Honourable

Again more to be made, but you get the idea.

Combining Them
The fun starts when you begin to combine the above, such as:

Mr Chetwode
Sir Hawkesbury Upton
The Honourable Lord Stratton Audley


Chetwode's Light Horse
Bisset's Irregular Horse
Moretaine's Light Infantry
Upton's Frontier Guides

Well these are just my initial ideas and as the show approaches and units are painted and finished, these will be firmed up and labels made, so that I can refer to them during the game, just to add a bit of fun to it.


Monday 21 August 2023


Real life stuff over the past week has meant that I simply have not had the mental energy to paint figures come the early morning or evening, which are my sort of default times to paint. Still all was not lost as aside from reading (always a pleasure), I worked on some terrain for the forthcoming Cotswold Wargames Day get together. Now I love making stuff so was quite happy to fit this in as and when time allowed.

As you may recall I bought an MDF building from Blotz at the recent model show I attended, so picked this up to have a play with. The results of which can be seen below:

The basic kit. Pretty easy to put together, aside from filing out a few slots to ease the tabs to go in, but nothing major at all.

The basic kit added to a base and pimped up a bit. The crenellations we made from the negative shapes left from the floors, which have their wooden beams integral to the shape. Pretty easy to add and only one side needed reducing in height to fit the others.

I was toying with the idea of adding bars over the ground floor windows, but in the end left them off for a variety of reasons (ie too lazy to do them!).

The rear view of the model.

I have a pack of 'N' Guage railway accessories that includes doors, so added these to the open gap in the kit. I forgot the put them on before I glued the fort to the base (school boy error), so has to make a frame for it, which worked out OK I think.

More doors and gates added. The main gate is a roller shutter door turned on its side,

To make the roof area less bare, I scribed in some tiles to add a bit of detail, that will be painted in different colours to make the fort pop a bit, or at least that's the plan.

I've put this to one side now as hopefully I can get back to figure painting this week and this can wait a while to be honest. I need to decide upon colours, but most likely a generic whitewashed finish so that I can use it in other theatres, such as the Mediterranean. I've also ordered more civilian figures from Pendraken so that I can dress it up a bit during the game, which I will be picking up from Colours in a few weeks.


Sunday 6 August 2023

IPMS Avon Show

Today my back played ball and although a tad tender, I was able to make the drive to the local IPMS Show. Knowing parking can be an issue as it gets very busy, I arrived an hour before the doors opened and managed to get inside to drops some books off at the bring and buy stall. As short while later they allowed early entry and so by 9.00am I was inside.

The venue is spread across 3 large sports halls, so I spent the first hour or so just having a good wander, to get my bearings and to see what is on display, which is an awful lot I can tell you! Rather like a visit to a museum, it's hard to take it all in to be honest. Some bits I skipped (modern aircraft and  modern AFV's of little interest, ditto Sci-Fi), but even then I only really skimmed all the models on offer.

The flyer our son brought home some months ago, purely becuase of the Daleks I think, but handy for sure to remind me of the date, so I didn't double book myself.

As with wargames shows, you bump into plenty of people you know, which is part and parcel of the fun of attending. So after a good chat with an old friend and colleague, it was time to wander round with the camera. Some photos (and be warned there are plenty of them!) aren't as clear and crisp as I would like as it was hard to not get in the way of other punters when taking the shots. I hope you enjoy them and I've annotated some where appropriate. 

The Models

A beautiful model with wonderful rigging and I was drawn to it by the 'turret's along the hull.

A favourite WWI plane that I had a 1/72nd model of IIRC.

One of the many mad German ideas of WWII, this one for a mine clearing tank. There were several of these on display and in different scales.

This German train was damned big and I loved the simple camo scheme.

You can't beat a bit of Dad's Army and this displayed in the tin was a real eye catcher.

Plenty of wonderful dioramas from this club that takes me back to the 1970's Tamiya magazine articles/adverts for Verlinden, which seem crude by comparison to today's offerings.

Two of my favourite WWII German aircraft and there is something lovely about the yellow engine cowling on the Bf-109.

Sheep stop play!

Hard to get good shots of these and the following displays, as it was understandably popular and all looked superb! Not sure what scale they are but the attention to detail is superb.

On all of them the water was brilliantly done and very natural looking too.

That's one big and powerful truck.

Tante Ju, another favourite German plane.

One of many, many wonderful displays of aircraft, possibly 1/72nd?

1/35th figures or thereabouts?

I loved this RCW diorama.

French & Indian Wars? Again large figures and superb terrain too.

The iconic Spitfires.

A nice Vietnam diorama.

A nice mix of ships once again.

I loved the mix of vehicles and camo schemes here.

The dazzle camo on the turrets and superstructure caught my eye.

No diea of scale but these were BIG figures.

In contrast a sample of the many 1/72nd AFV's on display.

Possibly my favourite display as not only do I love the humour, but I had this kit as a child. In fact all the local schools were invited to put on displays in 1975 at Churchill College, Cambridge, to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe. I used this kit on a sand table and can remember being driven to the college. I also had the radio operator in the background, which I had completely forgotten about.

Classic Tamiya kit and figures IIRC.

A nice mix of WWI aircraft.

This just reminded me of my Dad making the Airfix Yorktown model back in the 1970's.

Presumably a matchbox kit? It completely appealed to me and am tempted to make one for my AVBCW forces!

The Crusader a perennial favourite ever since having an Airfix kit as a kid.

Another diorama that had very effective water, a bit of a theme this year or maybe I just noticed it?

More sensible mine clearing tanks than the earlier German one?

3D printed models I believe, certainly for the first US tank in the background.

Where it all started and a popular stop for many between the halls.

A really dynamic diorama!

A non-military display, very nicely done.

A model from the film.

The sort of display you would fancy having a game on.

Silver planes and float planes to boot: what's not to like?

More joy.

A very large display, with 28mm figures or possibly 1/32nd. So much going on it was hard to take it all in talk less of getting good photos. Again a popular display with lots of people having a gander.

A good mix of models.

6mm figures and vehicles, set in Stonehenge IIRC.

Inter-War aircraft.

A very, very large Stratofortress. I did wonder how does this get transported, talk less of stored. Hard to display in the house as it would need a large dining table at the very least.

Every mark of Churchill tank.

British Light Tanks. Useless by so charming.

Simply done but very effective and not too OTT.

Parachute Regiment in North Africa.

A simple and very effective way to display and transport your models.

Rather unusual by really nicely done.

Daleks to keep my son happy!

The Games

15mm Napoleonics.

ACW riverine action. Possibly Hammerin' Iron rules by Peter Pig.

Lovely models.

France 1940.

Warhammer 40K.

What A Tanker! type game?

Nice aircraft but never saw the game actually being played.

Somewhere in the Far East.

SAGA type skirmish game?

The competition games around lunchtime. MeG rules? 

At least these table appeared to be enjoying themselves.

The Loot

A nice model from Blotz that will be used for my 18thC India games. Great value at only £5.00 and I intend to add more detail and possibly another storey to it too.

A great range of brushes and good to see them in the flesh. Outstanding value to get 18 brushes for £15.00 and should keep me going for detailed painting for a few years at least.

Post Show Thoughts
Well done if you've made it this far! I really enjoyed the show and spent a good 3 hours just taking it all in. Honestly you could spend all day there as there is so much to see and I'm glad I took my time, rather than the quick dash of previous years. So a few thoughts:
  • It is a great venue as there is plenty of space once inside, but you do need to take sometime to start with just to have a quick wander around to orientate yourself. One of the rooms was not as well lit as the others (indoors bowls?) but a minor quibble.
  • The quality of the models on display is outstanding, as one would expect from an IPMS show. I saw a good range of scales, periods, AFV's, planes and cars too. Some Sci-Fi as well so something for everyone.
  • It was busy at the start but by Midday it had quietened down so it was easier to get a good look at the models, which would have made taking photos a lot easier.
  • The wargames on show were patchy and some very poor if I'm brutally honest. I'm not a fan of clutter on the table to say the least, but most had drinks cans on there and other detritus, which made it tricky to get any nice photos without the offending materiel in view. Most game had little or no info and on-one to have a chat with about the game being played.
  • Not many games were ready to go from the off, with some still being set up when I left. Now I know this is mainly a model show, but still, it's not good form to be late to the party!
  • I did like the ACW Riverine game and, along with the ship models on display, has piqued an interest in some form of naval gaming at some point in the future. Some research to be done for sure but more on that in another post I'm sure!
  • It was lovely actually to have some quality 'me time' as we call it these days, something that is very rare, but very precious. Catching up with some friends was a nice treat too and as an exhibitor remarked, only about a month until Colours!

Right, that's more than enough me-thinks and hope you enjoyed the photos! Back to painting tomorrow and touch wood the back is slowly getting better.