Friday, June 22, 2018

Terrains4Games 15mm Destroyed Buildings for Stalingrad

I bit the bullet and last week purchased a shed-load of Terrains4Games ruined buildings from Poland.  I have to say I am very impressed, especially for the prices of these models.  (also equally impressed that they arrived already!)  All I can say is Ausgezeichnet!

They will make a great addition to my wargaming scenery and will definitely add some "class" to future Stalingrad games.

Townhouse (R) and Residential block (L)
I purchased the townhouse, residential block, some ruined corner sets, and the smaller factory.  After assembling all of them, I'll add rubble, spray paint them, and detail them as best I can.  The goal is for many destroyed structures for attackers and defenders to hide in.  The sense of mass of many rubbled buildings makes it really look like Stalingrad.  Thanks to the crew at T4G for quick service and delivering an outstanding product at an affordable price. 

Last night's building binge.  Tonight will see the rest finished.

I "may" have even ordered the iconic Barmaley fountain for the upcoming Stalingrad games!  Now all that is left is to find a corner of the city to fight over.  The Red Barricades factory, the tractor works, etc.

The Barmaley Fountain coming from Spain

I still need to work up more industrial terrain like large oil storage tanks, beam yards, factory areas, etc.  Many of that will be scratch-built, including a replica of the famous grain elevator. (note - link has some great Stalingrad resources including an outstanding German planning map which is exactly what I'll use it for as well).

Hopefully next post is the entire completed assortment of T4G destroyed buildings.  Just dont ask me where I'm going to store all this stuff...

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Stalingrad Musings

This post was more to collect my thoughts than anything else but I figured I'd share some of my thoughts with you all out there who happen to be the best historians in the business!  (wargamers usually always are).

I've always dreamed about starting a Stalingrad project in 15mm.  The brutal infantry slugfests in and amongst the rubble of a shattered major urban area is incredibly appealing from a wargaming standpoint.  Not only do you get to flex your creative muscles with creating or preparing terrain, forces, orders of battle, and scenarios, but you get to participate in and possibly change history!

To me, Stalingrad has everything a gamer could want, including that "win or die" approach where just one more big push might finish the enemy off, or, if you're the Soviets, today might be the day of the big counterattack.

It's important not to lose sight of the fact that Stalingrad is a graveyard for an entire German army and countless Soviet Divisions.  Any project would be taken on in the spirit of faithfully recreating the battles as best I could on the wargaming table.  So now that you have a rough idea of my objective, I need your help!

What rules to use?  Isn't that the question it always comes down to?

Personally, with the scope and scale of the battle, I'm not convinced that a Company level rules set would work and that leads me to think RAPID FIRE is the set for me for this project.  Still though, I'd pose the following options:

Rapid Fire
Battlegroup Kursk (think much smaller engagements with a company on each side)
Bath-tubbed Bolt Action where a group of 3 stands represents a platoon.
Flames of War at its intended scale

Right now I'm thinking the winner is Rapid Fire, simply because I still get a feeling of "playing with toy soldiers" but can fit entire Brigades on the table.  The large Stalingrad game I played at Fall In 2017 was a Rapid Fire game, and I pushed 3-4 battalions and reached 2 out of my 3 objectives!  It was exciting, tense, and a brutal, grinding slugfest.  So far, it's my first choice.

Battlegroup might be a really fun game to push with Stalingrad, and the folks over at "The Acceptable Casualties" group on facebook, who really inspired this project, are working on a Stalingrad summer project now.

Bath Tubbed Bolt Action?  you're probably wondering what the heck I mean by that.  That's OK I'm not quite sure, either.  I've played Bolt Action games where a stand is a squad equivalent and they were always much fun.  And SIMPLE.  Bolt Action is a very easy game to play and with a battle like Stalingrad, the simpler the better.

Flames of War?  Yeah - there are tons of scenarios for historical Flames of War Stalingrad battles out there and no shortage of resources.  One of my thoughts is to use the Steven's Balagan take on CROSSFIREGRAD (from Dr Phalanx fame) and reverse-engineer it as a Flames of War game.  I think that would be fun.

Originally, when I bought packs of Soviet Naval Infantry and Soviet infantry in greatcoats, my intent was to play a Stalingrad Crossfire game and based on the BATREP from Steven's Balagan of "Crossfiregrad" I'm not sure I could resist the urge to play some awesome back and forth infantry action!

Here are some Stalingrad resources I'm using for inspiration.  I'm happy to hear anyone and everyone's take on this new and awesome project:

Tigers at Minsk Stalingrad Scenarios

Pour Morale Stalingrad Campaign Game Supplement

Steven's Balagan CrossfireGrad

Dr Phalanx CrossfireGrad

Flames of War Stalingrad Campaign Game

and also this:  Flames of War Stalingrad Mega Game

Dzershinsky Tractor Works

Operation Hubertus

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Novus Design Studio: 15mm Russian Farmhouse and some project news

Way back during the 2017 Holidays, I purchased a few goodies from Novus Design Studios during their Black Friday sale. 

Well, all of the hub-bub on the Battlegroup and other wargaming facebook pages have a bunch of guys making Stalingrad terrain with the OUTSTANDING Novus stuff taking center stage so that motivated me to actually paint up some of the stuff I bought.  (Russian Farmhouse, Russian Peasant House, Train Station - and ANOTHER purchase - the Red Barricades factory, and the 15mm chimney stacks).  (more on the Stalingrad stuff later in this post, also.)

Home sweet home
 This house will fit in perfectly with my Eastern Front collection and I can't wait to get it on the table.  Although I didn't take any pictures, the roof does come off and you can fit about 3 FOW sized bases inside.
Bought a bunch of grass and flower tufts.  Here are some flower tufts on the model base.
 The detail that is cast into this thing is amazing.  And if you agree that this is amazing, wait until you see the big Stalingrad urban ruins.  I haven't painted them yet, but I did prepare the Barrikady Factory for painting!  Wohoo!

Timber, fences, even extra thatch for the roof, all here.
 I'm working on the chimneys next for the "forest of chimneys" at stalingrad which will make excellent Crossfire or "other" terrain.  That said, I did play in an awesome RAPID FIRE Stalingrad campaign game at Fall-In 2017 (hint).  Also here.

I also ordered a bunch of inexpensive MDF ruins from Terrains4Games to round out my Stalingrad collection.  Why on earth would I be buying all this Stalingrad stuff????  Ohh I dont know...maybe to play a Stalingrad Campaign of my own in 15mm????  Anyways, now that the cat is out of the bag, enjoy the pictures of my Russian Farmhouse.  More stuff coming soon.  Promise!  Stalingrad is calling!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Hoping to delve more into Tigers at Minsk, I grabbed some tanks and tried the Kampfgruppe Sivers scenario from the TaM rules which features a Soviet armor company with tank riders and artillery support clawing their way into Grayvoron against a battle-hardened German platoon with Panthers in support.  The Germans must hold out long enough to link up with fellow GrossDeutschland elements during the Kursk offensive.

GrossDeutchsland Combat Engineers dug in against Ivan

Series of 3 buildings is the village of Grayvoron.  Each building is defended by a German squad.  Panthers watching the flanks and the large open area where Ivan will come through.

The Soviets attack from the east (naturally).  The are bringing alot of firepower with them!

Soviet horde advances.

The panthers are knocking out the T-34s with relative ease but the infantry are another story.  

Soviet tank riders dismount to assault Grayvoron

Panther gunner making short work of Ivan's tanks

errant shots pin the German defending squad!

Soviet artillery falls among the defenders, pinning a squad but the machine gun is still hammering away at Ivan's squads!   Meanwhile I really underestimated how nasty the Panthers are.  90% chance of effects on the target!  Especially if it's a T34.

The advancing tanks and infantry are pinned by opportunity fire and sent packing.  The  AFV is stunned.

I did this wrong and the opportunity fire should have been 1 hex ago.  It stunned the T34 and pinned the infantry.
 I will say even though the Panthers were killing the crap out of Ivan's tanks, this was still a nail biter as the infantry are still a viable threat even after they're forced to dismount the tank.

The Soviets reach "6"  and must take morale checks.  

Soviet high water mark.  Thrown back at the gates of Grayvoron!

Heroes of the battle.  The Panther A.

These guys had a white bead (opportunity fire) on them for most of the battle!
Playing this battle, as epic as it was, only serves to make me want to play MORE Tigers at Minsk.  I feel as if the Russians really didn't have a chance with this one, as they had almost no way to get into position quick enough to get flanking shots on the Panthers.  Same for the infantry, who had to cross much open ground before they could come to grips with the defenders.  Lots of fun, plenty of tension and I am looking forward to playing more, although I think some modern Cold War stuff is in order soon!

And cant forget about Waterloo coming up soon?!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

TIGERS AT MINSK SOLO GAME: Follow the Elefants Redux

Leutnant Stahler grabbed the field glasses and surveyed the open ground in front of him.  Through the July heat, the haze boiled on the horizon.  All that could be heard was the rumbling of artillery fire in the distance, and sawing insects through the tall grass around them.  Directly in front of them, a small Russian farm hamlet stood abandoned, along with numerous outbuildings, a tidy orchard, and some copses of trees.  "Abandoned huh?" Stahler thought to himself.  

His company was to secure the breakthrough achieved by the Ferdinands this morning. All that stood in their way were these farmhouses which Regiment wanted cleared at once.  Stahler glanced at his watch.  1058am.  The assault would commence at 1100am, sharp.  

Around him, his men were quietly awaiting the signal to open fire.  They had played this scenario out too often over the last year....

I had a precious little bit of free time yesterday evening and thought a game or 2 of Norm Smith's outstanding "TIGERS AT MINSK" rules [download at bottom of Norm's page] would fill the time nicely.  I played the introductory, infantry-only "Follow the Elefants" scenario a couple times to see if I could crack the classic infantry assault across open ground problem.  Grab yourself a cup of coffee and settle in!  Also, this is the inaugural game of my German assault engineers...

One of Stahler's veteran NCOs prepares to give fire commands to his squad.

The orchard upper left.  Hamlets to the front and some scrub to the right.  Stahler's men will step off from the treelines.

Leutnant Stahler prepares the company for action! 

The game is 8 hexes by 6 hexes, marked by the ugly basswood rectangles, although I would like to open it up a little.

11.00 Hours
Stahler's men didn't have to wait long.  Ivan opened up with a fusilade from the outbuildings and orchard that cut into the left-most platoon with a vengeance.  Men went down fast as the accurate Russian fire found its targets.  "Multiple machine guns up there" Stahler said, not turning away from his field glasses.  "No wonder Regiment wanted a company to assault this."

The Germans lose a squad off the bat on the left, with another squad pinned.  The attack is not going in as planned and casualties are high.

Russians in the orchard open fire on the Germans at the line of departure.

Stahler sees an HMG team tucked into a destroyed cattle pen.
 11.11 Hours
The German squads rally and return fire as best they can but clearly the Russians have stolen the initiative from them.  Stahler notes the lack of effective return fire, leading him to troop the line and make sure his men are up and firing.

Stahler's men getting into position under fire.  The Russian squad in the orchard is pinned offering some respite from the storm of lead.

 11.15 Hours
The murderous Russian machine gun fire zig zags across the field but miraculously, it stops.  Stahler looks to see 3 Russian soldiers furiously smacking and banging the deadly device.  Jam!  Now is our time, gentlemen!

Soviet HMG rolls a "15" and is broken down for the game.  One of my  favorite features of the Tigers at Minsk rules!
We've rolled a "15" !!!

11.24 Hours  Random Events!  Soviet CP hit / German "Men of Action"
The Soviet officer leading the defense of the hamlet is killed by a stray bullet and the soldiers try to figure out what to do next.  The Soviet fire slackens again for a brief moment and Stahler's men take full advantage.  A squad on the left moves out towards the orchard!

Men of action!  Allows the squad to move and shoot.  The opportunity fire pins them however.

so close but yet so far!
 11.35 Hours
Stahler's men continue to trade fire with the Soviets but at some point they'll have to move out.  The positions to their front-left are cleared of enemy but they themselves have reached their morale breakpoint and all squads must test.  The Soviets are in a similar position.  Miraculously, ALL of the squads testing pass their morale checks!

White bead means OPPORTUNITY FIRE however the squad in the  hamlet is still operational.
 11.41 Hours Random events!  Soviet Minefield / German Minefield
Stahler looks at his watch.  The assault is not going as planned.  While a squad has managed to close on the orchard on the left, casualties have been excessively high.  One of his Landsers crawls to the tree-line and notes mines in front of their position!  "Drat!  This will slow us down even further!"
Meanwhile the Soviets have realized they placed mines too close to their own position without properly marking them!

Accordingly they will not be able to safely move between positions!  Which idiot laid these mines?!?!?!

More fire is traded with the Soviets in an attempt to get them to break.  Both sides' morale is at "0" and any knocked out squad will force all elements to take a morale check.

mines - all too common on the Kursk battlefields.
 11.51 Hours ENDGAME
The Soviets have knocked out the German squad in the orchard!  Stahler curses under his breath, aghast at his failure to secure the objectives in time, and the inordinate loss of many of his veterans.  "We are calling off the attack for now.  Battalion and Regiment will not be pleased."

Soviets reloading after an opportunity fire.

Stahler's men on the right, still in the treeline.

Both Soviet HMGs are out of action!  If only this had happened sooner.

Post Battle Thoughts
This was a clear Soviet victory.  The Germans could not get their fire to achieve the effects they needed to advance, and, if I'm honest, I probably should have advanced the Germans much sooner.  The one thing I've noticed though is that when things start to go wrong for you, they can go very wrong.  The Germans probably should have made better use of smoke to preserve their combat power.

I ended up playing a second game with almost 180 degree results as bad luck befell the Soviets at each turn.  Random events, along with equipment breakages and German good rolling enabled the Germans to pretty much win the game even before 11.30 hours.

I have really enjoyed all of the Tigers at Minsk games I've played and I believe they capture the ebb and flow of combat very well with an appropriate amount of tension.

Norm has done a great job of keeping an exciting, action-packed battle in a small package.  If you like games such as CROSSFIRE, Lock & Load, and Squad Leader, you will most certainly enjoy Tigers at Minsk.  I am keen on playing his Western Front module "Tigers at Caen" in the near future.

  Next up on the Table is one of Norm's scenarios from the rules entitled "Kampfgruppe Sivers" which is a nail-biting defense against Soviet all-arms attack including lots of tanks and even artillery.  Stay tuned!

Speaking of the KG Sivers scenario, a few questions for Norm if you're reading this:

When an AFV containing Tank Riders is knocked out and its passengers bail from the tank, can the enemy Opportunity Fire on them?