Friday, January 30, 2015

Kursk - Part Six - The Battle of Prokhorovka

Tanks of the Soviet 5th Guards moving forward under fire, covered by infantry

Well, Ladies and Germs, this is, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear, the final Kursk battle report. To be honest I thought I'd posted this some time ago, so if you've forgotten where we are or what's happening you can read the previous sections here

The final scenario was Prokhorovka, which is just the mother and father of all tank battles. Hundreds of tanks meeting in the most extraordinary clash of armour the world has ever known. We used a slightly modified version of the official Memoir '44 scenario for this game. 

"The tank battle of Prokhorovka was a clash between two immense armored forces. As the SS Panzer Corps started its advance, the Soviet artillery erupted and soon after the 5th Guards Tank Army under Gen. Pavel Rotmistrov accelerated toward the German advance. Rotmistrov's plan was to close quickly to negate the advantage held by the longer range German tanks.

The fighting became a swirling melee and soon the battlefield was littered with the shattered remains of smoking armor. Losses on both sides were enormous. Combined, over 700 tanks were lost and because the battlefield remained in Soviet control the Germans could not recover and repair their losses."

From the official scenario background by Richard Borg

The Luftwaffe begin proceedings.

Now, both the Germans and the Soviets had kept the majority of their reserves for this battle. The Soviets deployed extra armour in a solid wedge in the centre, while the Germans deployed all their remaining Tigers on their right. The opening move of the game was a massed German air raid on the Soviet armoured reserve. The result was predictably brutal. 

Get him Laika!

The Soviets responded by deploying their own aircraft to drive off the Luftwaffe and a massive furball erupted over the Soviet centre. Neither side managed to down the other, but the struggle took some of the heat off the men on the ground. 

Tigers in the woods
(note: the telephone poles in the right foreground of the picture mark hexes that are not in play)

Meanwhile the German Tigers started to advance on the Soviet left. The woods echoing with the revving of engines. 

Some archive footage

The game is progressing along quite happily (my apologies for the poor quality). The German advance on the right and in the centre continues. 

A Panzer four takes aim

This was one of a little collection of German armour that I picked up from Ian Hinds Minatures to round out my Panther and Tiger heavy collection. It's an entirely metal piece and weighs a ton, not sure what manufacturer it comes from. 

Carnage in trees and in the fields

Meanwhile on the Soviet left, the infantry are dashing for the cover of the trees as the German attack goes in. The Soviets were quite short of cards on this section and as a result their counter attacks were bitty and piece meal. 

A graveyard of Soviet brothers

Meanwhile in the centre, the Soviets were in real trouble. Not only had the Germans managed to keep their airpower on station, but they'd managed to back it up on the ground. The resultant wedge of German heavy armour took serious damage, but wiped out the Soviet central reserve in return. 

The Red Armour is burning

The Soviet counter attack in the centre does some damage, but it's not enough to stop 
the rush of the Panzers. 

The Tiger reaps a deadly harvest

German airpower and aggression the ground meant that the Soviets were fighting from their back line a great deal of the time and didn't have as much room to move.  It also allowed the Germans to drive them back onto their rear areas, block their retreats and pick up extra kills from those Flag results on the combat die. 

The battle in the Soviet rear areas continues

In an attempt to win back the tempo of the engagement, the Soviet armour bypass the advancing German heavy armour and hit the retreating German arms our in their rear area. They wipe out the weakened German units, but it's too little too late. 

Laika lays down his life for the Motherland

The game actually ended with the downing the Red Airforce sole remaining fighter at the battle, which had attempted to end the Luftwaffe's reign of terror over the Soviet rear areas.  This clinched the German win and we all repaired to the bar for some refreshments. 

This was a tough game for the Soviets as the Germans hit hard right from the start and never really stopped piling on the pressure. By the time their attack was beginning to flag, the Soviets were already trialing so badly that they were unable to make up the lost ground.  The key to the German success was a canny collaboration between heavy armour and airpower, The Soviet artillery wasn't able to compensate and a recurring theme of the game was heavy panzers engaging Soviet armour that had been pushed by and that had suffered casualties from air attack. 

This was the fastest of all the games and finished in just under an hour.  This victory took the Germans to an overall victory in the campaign and ensured that juvenile conscripts would be fighting in the ruins of Berlin in November rather than May. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Too much for the Mahdi


I do not often plug things here - but I recently received an email that Science versus Pluck by Howard Whitehouse is now available (after some time out of print) from wargames vault for five dollars. 

SvP is a wargame where the players take on the roles of British or Egyptian army officers in the Sudan during the late 19th century. The Umpire devises the scenario and controls the Dervish forces.

As a sourcebook on the Sudan in the late 19th century it is excellent value, but even if you have no interest in the period or the conflict, there is a lot to be learned here. The author manages to create a wargame that grapples with logistics, scouting, coping with a hostile environment and even dealing with the press is a way that still makes for an entertaining game.  The best description of SvP I have heard is that it is a Generals roleplaying game.  I have never played SvP straight, but I have used the ideas in it to play Napoleonic games, early Colonial games and on one occasion, a Romans versus Britons game using counters. Like Paddy Griffiths seminal "Napoleonic Wargaming for fun" this is a book that will you probably read more than you play, but is so brimming with ideas and imaginative approaches to perennial wargaming problems that I think any wargaming library is poorer without it.

I am led to believe that a hard copy edition will be forthcoming, which will include some scenarios. The only weakness I think in the book as is is that it does not come with an example scenario, but in the mean time, you could spend the price of a pint on far sillier things and not enjoy them half so much.

Whole heartedly recommended. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter Trees

The full effect

Last year, I picked up a white hex mat with snow effects from Hotz Mats. It's a fine mat and as good as any that that company have produced.  But adding my usual trees to it, all of which are deciduous efforts in green and tans, made it look very odd. With that in mind, I decided to experiment with some bare limbed trees. 

This a Woodland Scenic tree armature stuck to an MDF base with some texturing added. This was then painted brown, dry brushed white with some Constables Snow. I gave the armature a drybrush of white as well which brought up the texture.  

Some PVA daubed on the branches

After that I added some dollops of PVA to the branches and the base and dunked the whole lot in a tub of "Snow" from Army Painter. I'm in two minds about this actually.  I think the snow on the ground looks very well, but I'm not sure about the snow on the branches. 

Branches unadorned 

This is an armature with snow on the base and a drybrush of white on the boughs. I was thinking of adding heavier solid blocks of white paint along the tops of the branches.

More like this

Either way, I'll be varnishing the result within an inch of their lives, but I think the paint version might be more resistant to the vicissitudes of campaigning. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

There is nothing like a hussar

You know what they say about men with big plumes?

Again, our unnamed man in Budapest has come up trumps.  This is a MB models 54mm French hussar, who I think you'll agree is really quite the thing. 

I'm in two minds as to where he is ultimately going to live, possibly on the bookshelf in the bedroom gaily trotting between the Henty's and the Haggard for eternity. Or on my writing desk, we shall see. 

A moustache for ladies who really should know better. 

Not my work I hasten to add, but I am very happy to have him.  He has a certain something about him, the French have a word for it, but sadly, I don't know what it is. 

This collecting toy soldiers just for the hell on it nonsense rather than for the infinitely more sensible collecting toy soldiers for wargaming could be catching. It's a good thing, I'm a strict Calvinist soul with iron self discipline who never gives into temptation. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Crimean Reinforcements

1ieme Battalion Zouaves

I took delivery of some reinforcements from Mark for the Crimea today. Proper photographs of his handiwork will have to follow, but for the time being some snaps from my phone will have to do. These are the first battalion Zoauves, who cut up rough at the Alma if memory serves.  Mark did some of them with green turbans, which shows up in some of the visual reference. We were having a chat about it and Mark reckons it might be a 19th century fashion statement, though apparently the green turban is the privilege of the Haji. 

4ieme Chasseurs a Pied

The Chasseurs are a little more sedately dressed than our North African friends, but still have that light infantry dash about them. They look rather well don't you think? Hopefully we shall see them storming the Alma before too long. 

Kuban Foot Cossacks

I really rather liked the flag with these fellas. These are a particularly piratical bunch and as a result of some of the poses, a somewhat smaller unit that I usually field. I used the old Gilder trick of using larger bases. The gentlemen on the right with knife for example is taking up the space usually reserved for two other ranks. 

Ingermanland Hussars

These I believe are the poor fellows who ended up facing up the Argylls at Balaklava.  They look rather dressy and I think they might end up on temporary transfer to my Napoleonic forces. 

A thin streak of red...

I have a unit or two of the Argylls, so they may be coming to grief sooner rather than later. 

No. 60 Don Cossacks

These are Strelets Don Cossacks, nice figures and quite robust. Again, suitable for Napoleonics as well as the Crimea. To be honest, the amount of overlap between the two periods is substantial. 

Kuban Foot Cossacks

These chaps will be doing duty as Russian light infantry in Napoleonics and in the Crimea. They could probably be found running around the 20th century if one was so minded, but I think we might steer clear of the grubby petrol age for a little while longer.  

Kuban Foot Cossacks

Another unit of Cossacks. These fellas give me the final light unit required for Borodino and some of the other large Russian scenarios.  Actually depending on how you want to rate 'em, they could pass for either light infantry or militia.  

On the whole, the Crimean project is looking rather healthier for this injection of manpower. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Thinking on 2014

Looking back at the year with the rather 
fancy bust of Wellington that Mrs. Kinch got me. 


I have all the figures I'm likely to need for this project. The vast majority of them are painted. I've written and played one campaign, though the final battle remains to be completed, in this setting.  I don't think I'll be adding anything much to this collection.  I have sufficient to play the games that I want to play.  One of the advantages of the setting I suppose is that as you are making up the scenarios yourself, you just use what you have. 

Verdict - Multiple games played, one campaign (almost) complete. Collection finished. 

Memoir '44 in 1/72 - MISSION COMPLETED
This has probably been in a very quiet way 2014s success story. There are some figures that I would like to pick up to play the very occasional scenario here and there, but for the most part the back is broken on this one. We've played two one day campaign games, one set in Normandy and the other at Kursk, both of which were well received. 

Mid-Late War British - Complete, barring some specialised armour and a couple of dozen paratroopers. 
Mid-Late War Americans - Complete, barring a couple of dozen paratroopers.
Mid-Late War Germans - Complete. 
Mid-Late War Soviets - Complete. 
Partisans & French Resistance - Complete. 

I may add a few bits and pieces here and there, but I can play a lot of Memoir '44 games with the assembled toys here.  No doubt, I will experience a rush of blood to the head and decide that I can't live without a Blitzkrieg era force of Frenchmen. Capability Savage of Arabia is no doubt getting measured for one of those special scarves for swanning around the Western Desert in, but for the moment I'm happy with the state of affairs here. 

Verdict - Multiple games played, two campaigns played. Collection (mostly) finished.

Command & Colours: Napoleonic - The Rajah of Kalaah-Akaata - MISSION STALLED

This has definitely fallen foul of lack of time. Haven't played any games. Scratched some ideas in notebooks. That's about it. 

Verdict - No games played. 

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - Dollying up - MISSION STALLED AND PROBABLY ABORTED

Curiously enough - this mission has been pretty much comprehensively trashed by the simple fact that I made a lot more progress with the rest of the Napoleonic armies than I expected.  That and as I don't really anticipate putting on games at conventions anymore, there's less motivation to put together talking points. 

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Russians - MISSION NEARLY COMPLETE

Another success story. We played our one day Borodino campaign and it was rather successful. With the exception of two units of Guard Light infantry, a couple of horse artillery batteries and a second unit of Guard Grenadiers, there's not a lot that needs to be done here. We've played a couple of games and I'd like to play some more, but there's plenty of time for that. 

Verdict - Probably half a dozen games played, one campaign day played (which was a great success).

Son of Bride of Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Russians - The Crimea - MISSION COMMENCED

This was the surprise of 2014. Not something that I contemplated really making a go of and it just sort of sneaked up on me. We've played two games, but I think there's a lot to be said for a campaign that re-uses so much of the Napoleonic collection.

Verdict: Eh - doing well I think. Du Gourmand and I are still tinkering with the rules of course. 

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Austrians - MISSION PARTIALLY COMPLETE

The Line infantry is completely done and there's a start on the Grenadiers and the Grenzers. The artillery are completely covered, barring horse artillery. Cavalry are the stumbling block here. 

Verdict: No games played. 

Command & Colours: Napoleonics - The Prussians - MISSION COMMENCED

A great deal of groundwork done here.  More painting to be done, but I pretty much have all the figures required. 

Verdict: No games played. 

The Sword and the Flame - MISSION STALLED

I had sort of expected that this would be the big deal of 2014. I was totally wrong on that one. John Cunningham gave this a shot in the arm with the sale of some Colonials in December. It won't be going anywhere for a while though. 

Verdict: Still struggling toward Khartoum. 

Not dead, but sleeping. 

So out of ten projects. 
Three are complete or so near to being so as makes no odds. (Memoir '36, Memoir '44 and C&C Russians)
One is over two thirds there. (C&C Austrians)
Two are aborted or on long term hiatus. (C&C Dollying up and Cold War)
Two are stalled (C&C Kala Akaata & The Sword and the Flame)
The other two are ongoing. (C&C Prussians & C&C Crimea) 

Not a bad year for wargaming all told.  Better for acquisition than play, but one follows from the other.