Reading List: Eastern Front

War on the Eastern Front by James Lucas.  This book is an aggregation of various interviews and first hand accounts from German soldiers fighting against the Soviets during WW2.  Rather than focus on history or battle narratives, the text describes the effects of cold, snow, mud and Partisans.  Several chapters detail the use of self propelled guns, Nebelwerfer and the tactics of encirclement.  While written mostly from a German point of view and with western sources (published in 1980), the book is an engaging read with a focus on the hardships of the common soldier.

Russia at War 1941-45 by Vladimir Karpov.  A photo journal written from a Russian perspective, the black and white pictures provide an insight into daily life of Soviet soldiers and civilians during WW2.

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Hail Caesar: Battle at the City Gates

Having played many games of Hail Caesar on a 8×4 table, a game on a 6 by 7.5 foot table added a whole new element to the game.  A rectangular table makes for a one dimensional game playing out in a line down the middle of the table.  A square makes for a two dimensional game as units are able to pass by each other without engaging.  Deployment in depth becomes important as divisions are not able to support each other.

To take advantage of the greater table size, Chris and I came up with a scenario where one army was attacking the city gates & the other was going after the invaders baggage train.  We each placed one division at mid table, with two more divisions 12 inches onto the board. The goal was to occupy the opponent’s home base placed in opposite corners of the table.  The game progressed with everything you’d expect to see from Hail Caesar:  my cavalry division did not start moving until the 4th turn, Chris’s pike held out against multiple draws in combat, the first successful ‘Follow Me’ very nearly decided the game.

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What makes for a good 40K terrain object?

How large should a 40K terrain item be for tournament play?  I’m working on a castable shipping container with assorted crates and barrels.  The item is 5 inches by 4 inches by 2.25.  For those of you still playing 40K, is this large/tall enough to impact the game?

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3D files downloaded from Thingiverse and printed at my local library.

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Rough Terrain

Rough Terrain for just about any system and any table.  Outcroppings are from a Woodland Scenics rock mold.   The large brown brushes are taken from a floor mat.  The various greens are static grass and clump foliage.

Is it bad that the bases and castings were pulled out of various boxes from the hobby stockpile from years old projects?

Scatter Terrain

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Reading List: Soviet Army

For Adepticon 2016, I’ve embarked on a new game system and a new period.  I will be participating in a Bolt Action version of the Battle of Kursk, taking on the part of the Soviet forces defending against the invading Germans.  I was about to say that the first step is to get educated on the time period, but like any good gamer I purchased a stack of figures then went about learning about the forces involved.

The Battle of Kursk is an iconic clash of armoured forces on the plains of Russia.  A thousand or more tanks from each side fought and burned as the attacking Germans were meet outside of Prochorovka by the counter attacking Soviet forces.  T-34 tanks raced across the Russian steppes to dire point blank at a hundred or more Tiger tanks.  Scores of Tigers burned that day, or so was the story told by General Rotmistrov of the Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army.

Blood, Steel and Myth by George Nipe.   The first book on my list reconstructs events during the Battle of Kursk using primary sources from German Divisional records to tell the story of a brutal, but not iconic, battle.   These records are used to track the location each German division in the southern front with operational updates & available tank numbers.  Units detailed include the SS Divisions TotenkopfLeibstandarte, Das Reich; the German army division Grossdeutschland & other infantry/Panzer divisions.  The author spends considerable time debunking the common story of the tank battle at Prochorovka, summarized as the three German Panzer divisions in the region started July 12th with 232 tanks (including 12 Tigers) and ended with approximately 62 lost tanks (pg437).  Soviet tank forces in the battle count 520 tanks, made up of T-34, T-70 and a handful of Churchill.

Scattered amongst the tedious details are a number of anecdotes, terrain descriptions and combat behaviors which would be valuable to the average wargamer.  Typical terrain in the Kursk region include swamps & wet lands big enough to immobilize tanks and paralyze unit movements.  The Soviets constructed elaborate defense belts & fortified hill tops.  These strong points were defended with land mines, anti-tank ditches, and camouflaged anti-tank guns.   Many small villages dot the landscape, these also were fortified by the Soviets, with guns gun into the stone buildings.  Notable terrain features include the old Soviet “Baracken” and the railroad line constructed on a 30 foot high berm.

Breaking through the Soviet defense lines occupied much of the German offensive.  Pioniere would advance under cover of machine gun fire to clear a path through the minefields, then assault the trench lines with flamethrowers and explosive packs.  If a Tiger was present, the line breaking tank could advance & clear the Soviet guns & emplacements.  Most of these giant tanks were lost to mine damage to the running gear, underscoring the need for Soldiers and Armour to work together.

The author was critical of the T-34 tank and the lack of command & control which could be exerted over the tank.  T-34s lacked a radio which prevented senior leadership from communicating with tank crews.  Also, the tank commander functioned as the tank gunner.  This restricted the commander to only seeing the small slice of the world shown through the gun site.  Together, these factors prevented Soviet tank forces from taking advantage of battle field opportunities.

The only negative feature about the book is the lack of quality maps.  Each day includes a grey scale map of the area of operations displaying unit locations and movements.  However, landmarks are hard to distinguish – was that line a river, a rail road, or a divisional boundary?  The book could have benefited from small scale, color maps of the daily battles.

Through the Maelstrom by Boris Gorbachevsky, translated by Stuart Britton.  This second book is the memoir of a junior political officer in the Soviet army, recording his life in a Rifle Division from the battle of Rzhev to the end of the war in Lower Silesia.  The author spends many pages chronically the life of the common rifleman in the Red army trenches, covering the lack of rations, the harsh disciple, the problem of desertion, the integration of non-ethnic Russians, and the burning hatred of the Germans.  While the author did not participate in the Battle for Kursk, he does note celebrating at the news of the attack.   His own division was dug in behind deep fortifications & no doubt felt that the attacking Germans were about to run into stiff defense at Kursk.

The author’s career began at Rzhev – known as the meat grinder for the constant stream of Soviet attacks made “at any cost”.  Which in practice meant poorly supported infantry attacks (lacking in artillery and tank support) on dug in German positions.  Casualties were extremely high, with the author quoting a number of 1.3 million Soviet soldiers killed in the 14 month long operation.  Having survived Rzhev, the author is part of the pursuit of the retreating Germans & maintains contact until the Germans reform their defensive lines.  During this period, the author participates in another Red army tactic – reconnaissance through combat. A group of soldiers (platoon, company or battalion) would advance towards the German lines with the objective of having the Germans revile all of their concealed firing positions.  While this might generate valuable intelligence on the German fortification, it often came at the cost of the attacking infantry men. Another slightly less suicidal mission was the hunt for a “tongue”.  A small group of scouts would quietly sneak into the German trench lines & abduct a soldier for interrogation.

The Soviet Soldier of World War Two by Philippe Rio, translated by Lawrence Brown.  This is a picture book of Soviet uniforms and equipment from through out the war period.  Reconstructions of uniforms along with period pieces are displayed in high quality photographs.  A very valuable book for anyone trying to get the right shade for a Soviet uniform, or needing to know the proper color for a shoulder board.

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Battle of Arsuf at Adepticon 2015

The Battle of Arsuf done with Hail Caesar rules at Adepticon 2015.  A glorious battle with a full table of 8 players.

The game was a close run affair taking up the full three hours.  After many lost units on both sides, the Hospitallers were lost & Saladin’s bodyguards were driven from the field, ending the battle in a draw.

Arsuf Adepticon 2015
Arsuf Adepticon 2015
Arsuf Adepticon 2015 Arsuf Adepticon 2015

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Crusader Leaders

A pair of Crusader leaders.  On the left is a Perry Brothers 1st Crusade figure from the command set.  On the right is a Trent Miniatures figure (listed as King John (Bareheaded), painted in Hospitaller black and white.

The green & red shield is painted using Foundry paints.  I picked up a small number of bottles off of Ebay and rather like the very opaque coverage the line provides.

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FireForge Foot Sergants

A full box of FireForge infantry assembled as 1 unit (24) of Hospitaller Spearmen and 1 unit (24) of Crossbowmen. A variety of colors were used in the painting of these units, I wanted to avoid any strict pattern to support the dirty and mercenary background of these troops.

Fire Forge Spearmen

Fire Forge Crossbowmen

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Arab Heavy Cavalry 2

Mostly Old Glory with a few Perry to round out the unit to 12.

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3D Printing

3D printing has found it’s way to my local library.   I found these three objects online at Thingiverse – the barrels are for a 40K terrain project.  The unicorn and cat are for my daughters.  The detail on each is pretty good with the most obvious print lines on the horizontal barrels.  The unicorn was delivered with a bit of flash – the plastic is stiff (just short of being brittle) but cleans up with knife and clippers.   Printing cost is minimal, running 10 cents per gram or about $1.50 per item.  Tinkercad is an online 3D object creator, although I may be hard pressed to come up with anything more than a simple set of geometric shapes.   Even with basic skill, 3D printing will have its uses for creating game tokens and terrain masters for resin casting.

Barrels Barrels 2 3D animals

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