Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Stalingrad - Red Barricades Factory

I've been wanting to wargame Stalingrad the last twenty five years or so.  The thing you always run up against is the sheer amount of gear required.  I've played plenty of Stalingrad games in 6mm, never in 1/72 which is my preferred scale. I managed to get the Red Barricades Factory scenario to the table towards the end of 2023.  

My pals Sydney and KT came over and we gave it a run through.  As a first draft of a table, it wasn't bad. 

There are some things I'd like to fix before I go much further, but it's getting there.  

The table setup 

The scenario briefing; 

"By mid October the fighting amidst the rubble of the Red Barricades Factory Complex in the northern section of Stalingrad had drawn in more and more of the German 6th Army’s forces. On the 22nd the 79th Infantry division, supported by engineers, tanks and artillery, launched an intense attack over the Railroad embankment toward the Barricades Factory.

Under heavy fire from dug-in tanks and Russian snipers, the German troops slowly made ground toward the Factory. The Soviet line finally broke, but by day’s end only a corner of the factory had been taken.

The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history."

KT regarding Sydney with perplexity as he advances

I need to do some more work on the table.  Having the buildings sit on the white table without some attempt to blend the two together doesn't look right. 

German infantry probes making their way forward.  

Sydney was very careful to use his armour to destroy barbed wire to clear the way for the infantry.

Soviet infantry contesting the bombed out buildings as the German's advanced. 

The building in the foreground is a 3d print that was very kindly supplied by KT and painted by Capability Savage.  I had a shortage of suitable buildings for the board, so I subbed in some European buildings that I build for our Bastogne game. These were taken from the European Buildings book by Peter Dennis published by Helion.  These are scaled for 28mm, but they worked just fine for 1/72.  The paper buildings went together very quickly and needed no painting strictly speaking.  To make them work for the winter board, I gave them a quick dusting with a white spray paint and then added snow effect flock to the rooves. 

Soviet infantry (foreground) being outflanked and surrounded by German infantry (background)

A strong push on the German left by infantry forced the Soviets out of their initial positions.  The Germans then began to put the Soviet second line under pressure.  German engineers are clearing land mines, but they were taking casualties from the Soviet snipers.  The snipers were deadly, but they didn't cause enough casualties quickly enough to stop the German advance. 

Once the infantry had cleared the way, the Panzers started to roll. The barbed wire marks barbed wire (obviously enough), but the shell holes actually mark minefields.  I use these because the minefields have a concealed effectiveness, being rated as 0, 2 or 4 depending on how thickly the mines are spread.  The 0 minefields are dummies and using the shell holes allows me to put a slip of paper underneath to show how effective they are.  The German player only finds this out when they either enter the minefield or probe it with engineers, while the Soviets can check at any time. 

Soviet infantry fleeing encirclement. 

You can see that the forward German armour unit has taken one hit, which I've marked with a blast marker. 

The scenario actually uses  Beach Obstactles to represent rubble that is impassable to tanks, but which infantry can shelter behind.  As I didn't have anything suitable, I used the Beach Obstactles I built for our last D-Day game. I had a look for photos of Stalingrad and I know that the Soviets made extensive use of tank traps, so I'll substitute those.  KT very kindly 3d printed some for me. 

After developing the German attack on his left, Sydney begins pushing on his right. KT's Soviet artillery managed to find the range after several turns of lack lustre shooting and rains shells down on the advancing German armour. 

The final move

Having pummeled and out outmanoeuvred his opponent, Sydney unleashed the panzers. The Soviets just weren't able to withstand the pressure and that ended the game. 

I think Sydney definitely had the upper hand throughout the game as KT found it hard to co-ordinate a response because of the Soviet command rules.  Sydney was also more methodical in his approach, carefully bringing infantry, armour and artillery to bear to crumble the Soviet defences.  He was also better at evacuating badly mauled units from the front line which prevented KT finishing them off and scoring badly needed victory points. 

A fine game with two good friends.  I hope to do it more often, but this year keeps getting away from me. 

Lastly, I've actually got back into shooting recently, something I really enjoyed as a youngster and that I would like to go back to again.  Heading out to the range with a rented .22 was a lot of fun. There is something very satisfying about poking small holes in bits of paper far away.  I'm not sure if I'd take the plunge of getting my own kit, but there was a lot of entertainment in knocking about with rented stuff.  Perhaps I make a habit of it. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Sikh War Project - A project long in the making?

The 16th lancers charging Sikh troops

I've been thinking about wargaming the Sikh wars since I first read about them in Ian Hernon's book "Britain's Forgotten Wars".  There's something tremendously compelling about the situation of a kingdom so divided against itself that it's court conspire against their own army. 

It reminds me about reading about the later years of the New Model Army or the Roman Army during the Crisis of the Third Century.  An organisation that became so mad with power that it became ungovernable and ended up either being bought off or destroyed.  That coupled with the fact that the Sikhs are a fascinating people combining asceticism, excess, warrior glamour with an exotic locale - I'd be a fool not to give it a try. 

Files boxes, notes and bags and bags of figures. 

The plan is to wargame the four main battles of the First Sikh War using the Colonial Campaigns ruleset against my old foe the Welsh Wizard.  We've already played Naushera and Jumrud from the Sikh-Afghan wars. 

I had been picking up figures from the excellent Newline Designs range of figures and have most of what is required for the First Sikh War. Now, I made the listen of reading John French's excellent book on the British in India from Foundry which includes a raft of details on different units, some of whom were wearing shakos rather than the more usual peaked cap. 

At the moment the challenge will be finding figures for the Ghurkas both in Sikh and HEIC employ and for those British infantry units that wore shakos rather than peaked chaps. Irregular do some Sikh war British infantry in shakos, but they are bell topped rather than covered. 

I'm still debating how punctilious I want to be about this, as I mainly just want to get the game on the table, but then again - I will know if I get it wrong and sometimes that's enough. 

Figures for painting, sorted into bags and marked with a label. 

There was a lot of gathering and sorting and lining up with the various orders of battle I want to cover.  Realistically, if I want to get this project to the table in a decent amount of time I am going to have to subcontract the painting for a fair amount of it. But having thought about this seriously, my time for painting is very limited with a young family and a demanding job, so needs must where the Devil drives. 

More Storage

I've been building up a collection of jungle trees, palms, exotic vegetation, elephant grass and so on for a while now.  But up until recently, it all lived in a number of different boxes scattered around the War Room.  I picked this box up in Woodies (a local DIY shop) for a tenner.  It's robust, clear plastic (which means that I don't need to worry about labels) and will stack with others.  I'm beginning to think that I may start using these for the majority of my terrain collection as using smaller boxes is just not working very well.