Monday, November 23, 2015

Help! A Tale of 2 BTRs (Greens)

A week off but not as much time as I had originally thought to get hobby stuff done.  That said, with World War III in full swing here at SOUND OFFICERS CALL, I thought I would take a minute to share with you all my latest "crisis"  (I know, I know, first world problems, right?)

Some of you who have been following the blog know that a few months ago, Ken and I played a "big" game of SABRE SQUADRON.  In that game, I used my "top of the line" T-80s and BMP-2s.  All painted with FoW "Tankovy Green" washed with "agrax earthshade" and drybrushed khaki.

 Right now I'm looking at my collection of Roskopf T-55s and other older vehicles that are currently being used as Cat II or Cat III Soviet units (or possibly even Pact allies) and I'm wondering what colors they "ought" to be in...

BTR on left is Flames of War "Tankovy Green" and on the right is a simple Krylon dark Olive Drab.  Both are washed with "agrax earthshade" and drybrushed VJ khaki.

No decals yet as I didn't want to waste a single one!  The tankovy green one really pops doesn't it? ....

And the armor.  Command Decision T-55 next to a Zvezda "Hot War" ZSU-23-4 "Shilka"

"Command Decision" 15mm T-55 next to a ZSU.  Pardon the horrible fit of the ZSU.  It really is a nice model.

So what is everyone thinking?  Right now I have three (3) separate formations:

Guards T-80s and BMP2s painted in "tankovy green"
Regular Tank Division T-72 and BTR 70/80 painted in this same krylon dark olive
Category II/III units of Roskopf plastic T-55s painted in a dark olive / tan camouflage scheme.

My logic behind the camouflage was if this was the late 1980s and these older formations were committed, they would have had some camouflage on them to give them a fighting chance...

Another advantage of the camouflage force of Roskopfs is that I can use them for Chinese, Arab, Cuban, Pact, or other allies of the Soviet Union who used these vehicles.  The thing is, I dont want to play an Arab Israeli game with the T-55s decked out in Soviet "tankovy green" (although I admit there is nothing wrong with that).

Prussian 15mm musketeer in there for scale...

The drab is certainly more "boring" but definitely has that dark, menacing Soviet horde look to it I think.

Finally all 3 schemes I've been considering...  #304 has some stuff added to it, but just know the Roskopf models are very bare on the outside in terms of detail.  But here is the current scheme I have my Roskopf T-55s in.

So in review, there are a number of Courses of Action we could follow here:

COA #1: Paint ALL units in tankovy green - repaint everything already painted.

COA #2: Start a new Roskopf T-55 Company (ones ear-marked to get tan for Egyptians) in Tankovy Green, keep the other company in their current camouflage.

Paint the BTRs, support equipment, and essentially everything besides the T-55 company in Tankovy green.

COA #3: Continue to field three separate commands with the Guards painted in Tankovy Green, Regulars painted in Olive Drab, and the Cat II/III troops painted a mix of camouflage and olive drab.

COA#4: Paint all "modern" stuff in Tankovy Green.  Including T-72s, BMPs, BTRs, and BRDMs.  Paint all "old" stuff (built pre 1980) in drab.  (I dont have a problem mixing the drab and the camo as they all have the same base color).

I guess I would like to hear everyone's thoughts about these choices of green.  What would you do?  Do you mind having units on the tabletop painted differently?  Answer in the comments section.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

SABRE SQUADRON: Soviet River Crossing Part 2 Final

I got to play the remaining turns of my SABRE SQUADRON Soviet river (canal) crossing operation today and the final result probably won't surprise anyone.  Voroshilov gambled with the first platoon and sent them through the minefield, even as the engineers furiously cleared the mines behind them.

  He lucked out significantly as the crossing resulted in a mere 2 "suppression" results, most likely a result of setting off an anti personnel mine, instead of an anti vehicle mine.  Anyways, the Soviet armor poured across the canal and the infantry platoon on the left stormed the bridge with very heavy casualties.  This was a Soviet victory.

Armor pours across the canal crossing covered by the Hind gunship.  "Hmm.  We're still alive" muttered the lead tank's commander.
 The Soviets moved through the gap covered by a Hind gunship which fired off its last missile, missing the target, a Dutch Centurion.

The village with destroyed buildings and burning Soviet tanks.
 The Soviet infantry on the left receive priority of fires and the FO calls in their supporting battery.  The rolling goes well and the mission is successful, bringing 6 tubes of 122mm artillery down on the the area formerly occupied by a Dutch squad.  For all intents and purposes, the Dutch have given up the town.

122mm towed artillery plasters the village as Soviet infantry lower left attempt to move in.  They become neutralized by the .50 caliber on the M113s on the far bank.
 The Dutch move their M113s through the crops up to the outskirts of the village in an attempt to provide Final Protective Fires on the village position and allow the infantry to get into the fight.  It works well and the M113s score quite a few hits on the advancing Soviet infantry.

The 122mm barrage barely misses the M113s.
"We got out of there just in time!"  Marvels the Dutch squad from the department store.
 Voroshilov, monitoring the tank canal crossing, doesnt realize there is a big infantry fight starting on his left.  Soviet fireteams maneuver against the bridge but are being held back by the Dutch HMGs.

Soviet infantry storm the bridge and shelter behind a knocked out Soviet tank.  Then the mortars start dropping...
 The Soviet platoon commander notices mortars on the far side of the bridge but has a different reaction:  "That's good.  We've reached their final line.  They've had it here."  He urges his men across.

Gritty house to house fighting in World War 3!

The Soviet infantry platoon commander drops his binoculars and grabs his AK74.  He moves forward to be closer to his men.  As much as he'd like to stay in this cozy church steeple, there is work to be done...

Soviet infantry swarming the bridge
 The infantry make it to the far side of the bridge and grab a toe-hold on the other side but a fusillade of .50 caliber tracer fire finds them as they do.  Men start dropping quickly.

 Voroshilov slams his palm down on the turret.  We made it!  Suddenly a voice he is not accustomed to hearing sounds on the radio.  HAWK 03, the Hind gunship finally checks in with Voroshilov.  "This is Hawk Zero Three.  We are out of missile ammunition to cover your tanks.  Unless you have more work for us we will return to base."
Voroshilov hammers back onto the radio "NO!  NO YOU WILL TURN NORTH TOWARDS THE TOWN AND ENGAGE HOSTILES WHERE THEY APPEAR!  AND MANY THANKS IN ADVANCE - OUT"  Feeling happy with himself, Voroshilov decides to check in on #301 and see what the hell is going on in the town.

NATO APCs are exacting a brutal toll on the advancing infantry.  If only the Soviets had tank support here.  
 Voroshilov once again yells into the radio.  THREE OH ONE THIS IS THREE HUNDRED.  REPORT YOUR STATUS AT ONCE!  But to no avail.  #301's morale drops to withdraw and stays there for the remainder of the battle.  Pasha's tank sits back at the assembly area....  Thinking the first platoon knocked out, Vorshilov decides to move there himself now that he has tanks across the canal.

Tank #301 skulks in the rear, his platoon, destroyed.  When Voroshilov finds out about his cowardice he is immediately sent to Division for his court martial.  The rumor went that the Category II unit courts martial were brutal with the leadership desperate to prove they were not "soft" as their regular active duty comrades accused them of.  Pasha was stripped of his commission and sent to an infantry battalion to serve as a rifleman.  He is lucky he was not shot immediately.

Note the breach in the minefield as the second platoon moves into the breach area.  Third platoon is over and engaging NATO targets on the far side.  The lead T-55 fires at a Centurion and hits it, only to have the round bounce.  He couldn't have known that the crew became neutralized from the shot

The Soviets throw their men across the bridge and bring up the APCs for extra fire support.  The infantry are taking heavy casualties now but the morale is holding.
More mortar fire finds the attacking Soviet troops but none score any direct hits.

note the infantry on left bank of the canal and more moving up.  The Hind spots Dutch infantry in a park off-picture to the left.  The Dutch decide to bug out.

Voroshilov watches the battle unfold.  He's got to reinforce those infantry on the far side.

plenty of heavy metal moving west now.

Final Dispositions.
There were a few lessons learned and, believe it or not, rest on tactical principles.  Here are some things I learned (the hard way).

Obstacle Plan:  The defender's obstacle plan, in this case the minefield at the canal crossing, was not covered by fire.  This battle may have had a much different outcome had those Dutch tanks or infantry been covering the canal crossing in conjunction with their minefield.  The Dutch tanks started out, as a protective measure, too far behind the canal.  This was to avoid being hammered by Soviet artillery or direct fires right away.

Infantry Maneuver:  The Dutch, who used their APCs very well against the advancing Soviet infantry, still had a squad in a reserve position.  Initially it was thought to put them in however the Dutch commander felt the town was going to fall and they would need to have their collective rears covered in case.  They probably should have been moved up as soon as the Soviet infantry reached the bridge.  The Soviet force on the Dutch side of the canal was a weak one and probably could have been pushed back with more aggressive use of infantry.

Use Your Mortars!  The Dutch had an 81mm mortar section in the reserve position in the park the whole battle and the first time those tubes reached out was turn 9???  In Sabre Squadron, artillery controlled by your force has a good chance of actually making it so it's advisable to use it whenever and wherever possible.

Air Defense Troops:  Sad to say my ADA troops, in this case a MANPADS section with the Dutch HQs didn't hit the Hind once after 3 shots!  The only successful result was fire from a Centurion tank which suppressed the pilots.  Probably should have had a dedicated AAA vehicle there which would have helped tremendously considering 100% of the Dutch Armor casualties were from the ATGM fired from the Hind.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

T-72 Tank Kitbash Hijinks 1/100 Scale

Everyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that I really like the Zvezda "Art of Tactic" and "Hot War" models for a number of reasons.  Price, scale, and easy assembly immediately come to mind, and in that order.

Some of the complaints about their T-72B model in the "Hot War" game center around the fact that the vehicle is too modern to be used in Cold War Hot, 1980s scenarios.

Ever since I opened the first package, I wondered if I could remove the Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor (ERA), which supposedly can defeat kinetic energy penetrators as well as chemical energy penetrators ("sabot" and HEAT rounds respectively).

While the online debate regarding Kontakt-5 rages on and the "experts" discuss the efficacy of the new Russian gadgets and gizmos, I wanted to come up with a way to go back in time and get these metal monsters onto Captain Bannon's battlefield in TEAM YANKEE...

The gambit involved the amount of plastic used in the construction of the ERA blocks - were they hollow?  If I scraped them off the turret (whittled them off, more like), would there be solid plastic or would there be an unsightly hole?

Ponder no more, plastic fans.  There's solid plastic underneath those blocks!

Same model, but with the Kontakt-5 ERA removed on the left and a different paint color.
 Now I can only complain about the front glacis, but that looks like a bridge too far...

Not bad.  Some odd looking shapes still on the turret, but more a result of my shoddy sanding then anything else.  Plenty of room now for decals and/or smoke dischargers.  Also need to properly secure those side skirts and paint everything but you get the idea.

Side comparison.  The Zvezda skirts are way too thin to mess around with those extra armor plates, although I wish I could remove them.  

Like I said, I need to properly secure the side skirts...

Top down view.  Not bad!  I dare say the tank looks a "little" less ultra modern now.
And not to claim any pioneering, it's been done before:

And there are no shortages of reviews of this nice, simple little kit:

You can read more about Kontakt-5 ERA here.

Still more SABRE SQUADRON gaming to come...

Friday, November 13, 2015

SABRE SQUADRON: Soviet River Crossing

Played another game of Sabre Squadron before work today.

This game was a little more complicated than previous games as I introduced helicopters and battlefield engineering.  There was a considerable amount of page-flipping but a challenging and fun game none-the-less.  (as an interesting aside, this solo game would have been much better with Ken playing one side or the other as  I believe I screwed up some things on the infantry-firing side).

Dutch Centurions in cover awaiting word of Ivan's advance.
 Also, instead of using the regular programmed artillery for just blasting the tree-line, I used a pre-programmed smoke screen since this battle takes place in the  70s, or possibly the very early 80s and before the more sophisticated imagers are in place amongst TA units and Soviet reservist or Cat II troops (which these all are, by the way)

White puffs are the Soviet smoke screen.  18" x 4" it would do a commendable job of covering the advance for the tank company - but not enough!
Soviet T-55 Company moving forward.  

BRDM 1 reconnoitering forward.  The AOO is part of the recce crew
World War III Traffic Jam!  The BTR open top is my engineering vehicle.  Going to use him to punch through the mines.
Objective is a small canal crossing.  There is another one, more like a ford, downstream that is another Soviet objective.
NATO spotting round - which I quickly removed from the table after realizing the spotter can't see the ground through the smoke!
 The other echelon of artillery continued to hammer NATO positions for this hasty assault and brought artillery screaming down on everybody.  NATO did surprisingly well throughout and resulted in only a few squads becoming "SUPPRESSED" but no vehicle or infantry losses at this point...

Dutch Squad in the town in a destroyed building.  They are directly overlooking the bridge.
MILAN section occupying a pig sty
More Dutch troops at the farm complex overlooking the crossing.  They're suppressed but so far ok.  
"I can't see them but I can hear them moving!" T-55s approach the canal bank and crossing site.  The Soviet Company Commander dispatches a platoon to support the motor rifle troops on his left.
My unfinished Soviet BTR 152s moving towards the town.  Their armor support would be separated from them as they crossed the line of departure.
Meanwhile Dutch Centurions move forward.
Dutch Squad in reserve.
Soviet platoon commander radios the company commander "THIS IS THREE OH ONE - WE ARE ENTERING THE VILLAGE!"

BTRs race along to catch up.  The Dutch have a nasty surprise waiting for them when they do, from the department store across the canal.
Soviet metal bears down on the village and enters the edge of the smoke screen
 So far the Soviet advance is slow - very slow to get started.  The company commander opts to move them straight through the woods to minimize his company's footprint and artillery vulnerability.  In hindsight that probably wasn't the best idea as it took about 3 turns or 4 turns for the company to get straightened out for the attack and the smoke covered them at the wood exit.
Soviet hind skirts the smoke screen and tries to find some NATO armor
 Meanwhile the infantry platoon has reached the village.  "THREE OH ONE THIS IS VOROSHILOV [the company commander], WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE INFANTRY PLATOON?  HAVE THEY REACHED THE VILLAGE?

"oh how the hell should I know?" the Third platoon leader thought to himself.  I lost sight of them a few minutes back.  The old man is not going to like this...."

BTRs reach an the old church at the edge of the village

Voroshilov's company fans out to reach the canal - their first landmark.  Voroshilov, seen sticking up out of the turret, backs off. 

The third platoon leader tries to order his men forward. THREE OH TWO, THIS IS OH ONE, MOVE FORWARD AND...One of the third platoon vehicles erupts into a fireball as a Dutch tank destroys the lead Soviet armor crossing the bridge.

Vehicle 302 destroyed
The Soviet recce troops request smoke from a 122mm towed battery to cover the canal crossing as Soviet armor lurches to the right. The Dutch tanks creep to their left to cover the crossing
 The Dutch troops open fire on the BTRs to no avail - the Carl Gustav misses and their small arms fire barely chips the paint.

Firing at the APCs in the village

MILAN section fires but the range is too close!  Time to break contact!

The Soviet infantry platoon dismounts their APCs and runs into the village.  With no radio however, the Platoon Commander is helpless to let Voroshilov know.  That was supposed to be the Third platoon's job.
Advance!  Assault!  Attack!

 The Soviet Hind crew finally checks in with a target.  They fire an AT-5 and miss.  NATO tanks spotted in the treeline!  The Soviet second (middle ) tank platoon lines up along the canal and blasts the Dutch infantry on the other side.  The MILAN section and a fireteam are wiped out!

Note the Soviet armor skirting the mine field.  The engineers are still exiting the woodline!  
 2 MANPADS shots against the Hind fail to hit their target...

THe Soviet infantry start blasting away at the infantry firing from the other side of the canal, knocking out a fireteam in conjunction with the tanks.  The Dutch luck goes even further south as all of the Heavy RPG fire misses its targets due to suppression and the MILAN is ineffective.
The Soviets have occupied the Gasthaus on the edge of town and are entering the church.
 THREE OH ONE, THIS IS VOROSHILOV, PASHA, LISTEN TO ME - I NEED YOU TO FIND OUT THE STATUS OF THE INFANTRY AND GET YOUR TANKS MOVING ACROSS THE BRIDGE! NOW! OUT!  The old man's voice was getting nervous but third platoon had problems of its own as NATO artillery starts falling all around them...

The third platoon leader's then got even worse as his next lead tank finds itself blanketed in 155mm HE.  He loses radio contact with 304.
Voroshilov moves at speed over to the minefield and the breach site to find that the engineers haven't started work yet on the clearing.  The second platoon in the background is firing coax and AAMGs at the infantry on the far bank.

IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE, YOU'VE GOT TO DO IT YOURSELF!  Voroshilov decides to encourage the sappers.

A Hind finally knocks out a Centurion in the orchard.
 The Soviet hind finds one target and KOs a Centurion but as the Third platoon crosses the objective, it loses another tank to NATO tank fire.
The Third platoon finally gets moving as fire erupts from the church on the Soviet side of the canal.  The third platoon gets moving again - still under the watchful eyes of a Dutch Centurion!
 Voroshilov arrives at the breach site and urges the engineers forward.  In SABRE SQUADRON you can perform an action of engineering as part of your action options.  Engineers clear 1 Movement Segment of mines per turn so it's going to be a slow process and likely the Dutch AOO (FO) won't just let them do it.

This is the end of Turn 7 with 5 turns to go.  At this point, the Soviets are gaining the upper hand in the village after an intense back-and-forth firefight. The Dutch are attempting to extricate themselves from the village but the Dutch infantry platoon morale is still holding despite the loss of the MILAN team and a fireteam from the second squad.  They still have a mortar section and another infantry squad in reserve and the Dutch company commander thinks now is the time to put them in
The Soviet infantry platoon fans out into the village to cover the bridge.
The Dutch tank platoon morale starts to waver as the Hind scores a hit!
So this game took awhile to get started as I had to look up a few things.  Namely Anti Aircraft fire from MANPADS (man portable air defense systems).  SAM fire is actually in the air support section and firing at helicopters is in another so I had to look that up.

Engineering rules are quite nice as are the smoke rules.  A pre-programmed smoke mission lasts until turn 4 - which is great because that's about how long it took my Soviets to get into position for the attack.  The smoke was helpful since no one had thermals and the IR only sees about an inch into the smokescreen.

Going off my previous lessons learned, instead of "penny packeting" my tank platoons, I tried to use them more decisively and in conjunction with one another.  After playing against Ken's deadly Chieftains, sending a platoon or 2 "up the middle" is not going to win any battles.  So this time I tried using them in conjunction with the artillery smoke and the infantry.  Unfortunately the timing didn't work out quite right for the first part of the battle but now that the engineers are clearing a lane through the canal crossing, the attack can start to shape up in earnest.

The Soviet tank company is using a platoon to cover the crossing while another platoon moves forward with the engineers.  The third platoon, under the half-hearted command of "301" is tasked with supporting the infantry, but 301 probably isn't thinking about his foot-slogging comrades at this point.

The Soviet strategy to advance in line through the woodline was a bad one.  Woods really slow down movement and the smoke screen was protecting the T-55s for 4 straight turns so in the interest of speed, they could have just as easily moved in column through the forest gap along the "hardball" or improved road surface.

The Dutch also had a tough mission for this battle.  There is much constricting terrain and no great lanes of fire to set up a kill sac.  Everything is close range or near close range.  Better, probably, if they allowed the Soviets to capture the objectives and then launched violent counter attacks with artillery.  If you're curious about that, you'll get to see it in the next installment, provided the Dutch squad in the department store, now suppressed, can get the hell out of Dodge...

That said, the mission was "hasty attack" and the Soviet objectives were the bridge in the village and the canal crossing.  So there's no good reason to set up a defense in depth I suppose.

I can see Soviet weight of numbers winning the day here, especially if the MANPADS AA section continues to miss that bloody Hind and if the Dutch lose another tank.