Saturday, 27 April 2013

Covering Force


 This was the first scenario of what will hopefully be a series of the scenarios set in my fictional 1981 Third World War. The operational situation on the is pretty much that postulated in SPIs 'Central Front' series of games. NATO has managed to bring significant reinforcements and are formed up around their main assembly areas, but the combat units have not yet moved to their war positions, so it is very much a race to form a solid front before the Warpac forces can forestall them. This produces quite an interesting and mobile operational situation. I'm mainly planning to focus on the area of operations of the BAOR, which in 1981 was still centered around four smallish Armoured Divisions each organised into Task Forces instead of brigades. The general scheme of operations was for 1st-3rd AD to occupy the  main battle zone in front of the Weser whilst lucky old 4th AD was tasked with 'aggressive delay' ie a headlong charge into tidal wave of oncoming Soviet armour. In front of 4th AD was the Inter-Allied Covering force, hard up on the border with the even more thankless task of delaying the Warpac juggernaut.

The first battle covers the opening hours of the Warpac attack, both sides had independant briefings, which works so much better than when each side knows what the other has got and what their objectives are.

Covering Force, 31st June 1981

General Briefing

The Soviet invasion of Iran a week earlier and subsequent exchanges of fire with US forces in the Gulf prompted the Soviet leadership to initiate an all out attack on NATO to preserve the integrity of the USSR. The BAOR barely had time to mobilise to war strength and form up in their assembly positions before Soviet tanks were rolling over the border and the sky was black with Warpac aircraft.

British briefing

British 1st Corps is moving to its war positions, 4th AD in the van tasked with aggressive delay, 1st, 2nd and 3rd AD to hold the main battle zone behind Hannover. The border is covered by the inter-allied covering force, in this sector BG 15/19 KRH from 2nd AD.  The BG is tasked with conducting a delaying action from the DDR border back to the Forward Line of Troops (FLOT). Divisional engineers have been conducting hasty obstacle preparation and the BG has been reinforced combat elements to provide a firm base. At this stage of the deployment, most of the divisional artillery remains out of range.

Conduct a delaying action back to the FLOT (baseline). Identify the enemy axes of advance, inflict losses, harry and delay the enemy.

Forces (D6, regular morale unless indicated otherwise)

2nd Div Armoured Recce BG (15/19 KRH)

BGHQ: 1 x Mech HQ

2 x medium recce squadrons: 2 x Scimitar troops ea

1 x Mech Infantry Combat Team (A/1 KORB)

1 x Swingfire battery

1 x (independant) Armoured engineer company. three dummy minefields, three (str 2) minefields and three road/bridge demolitions are available to deploy.

German Heimatschutzen platoons or companies in some BUAs (D12, morale poor).

2 x batteries of Abbot in Direct Support (immediate fire)

1 x section of Harriers and 1 x section of Lynx may be available for ground support but the air situation is currently dire. Helicopters have more chance of getting through.

Set up anywhere west of the border. Infantry may be entrenched and dispersed. All terrain features are pre-registered for fire.

Warpac briefing

3rd Shock Army is pushing out of Magdeburg like an uncoiling spring. 10th GTD is tasked with clearing the march routes and lateral communications along the Mittelland Canal while main forces push directly along the Autobahn to Braunschweig south of the canal. Once the route is clear, the way is open to the rolling plain leading to Hannover.Division and Front artillery are firing a massive programme in support, and our air attacks have achieved surprise.

Push forward rapidly, bypass centres of enemy resistance which can be left to second echelon forces and exit mechanised forces from the far side of the battle area.

Forces (D8, regular morale unless indicated otherwise)

61st and 62nd Tank Regiments, 10th Guards Tank Division, Cat I

each: RHQ: 1 x Mech HQ, 1 x recce Co, 1 x Engineer Co, 1 x AA Co

3 x Tank Bn (T64): 2 x tank Co ea

1 x BMP Inf Co

1 x SP Arty Bn (SP 122mm): 2 x SP 122, 1 x Btty HQ

1 x Hind and 1 x Su-17 may be available each turn.

1 x Air assault Bn (2 x para, 1 x Mi 8 helicopter)

Division and Front artillery are firing a huge artillery programme. The barrage is 4km deep, advancing at a rate of 2km per turn. All hills, woods, towns, and river crossings targetted.

Enter along roads leading in from the east in pre-combat formation, but don't need to be in road column. Separate road for each regiment.


Villages and towns provide concealment and cover (-1 to hit), woods provide concealment.

Hills are rolling and not an obstacle to movement, stationary units may find concealment on them. Marshes are a serious impediment to vehicular movement.


The weather is good.

Area of Operations

A vague representation of the area NE of Wolfsburg. Eagle eyed readers will notice that in the actual game the buildings are modelled using surplus Command and Colours blocks. The DDR is to the right and each hex is 1km in game terms (but 2km in map terms)..


The Soviet view has already been presented on Tim Gows blog, but briefly the Warpac forces assigned a regiment each to the northern and central roads, but the central regiment was tasked with crossing the canal NE of Wolfsburg and avoiding the BUA altogether.

15/19 KRH adopted a fairly up front defence with their mechanised infanty dug in at the southern crossroads covered by minefields and a company of Heimatschutzen in the northern village again covered by minefields, both positions were supported by troops of Scimitars with the FV438 Swingfire battery in the north. Critical road junctions were demolished in a number of places (indicated with blue counters).

A/1 KORB digs in.

A somewhat blurry photo of the forces defending the northern road junction.

The southern village is suppressed by artillery fire.

Desperate fighting in the north, one Russian tank battalion is disorganised in the minefields, but the Heimatschutzen are suppressed and sneaky Russian recce units are moving around their right flank.

Soviet heliborne assault against the left central crossroads.


There was heavy fighting in the north as one Tank regiment tried to batter through the defences, Swingfire in particular proving very effective against the massed armour. In the centre the second regiment bypassed the village to the south and captured the canal bridge intact while its regimental AA company drove off the only NATO airstrike which had penetrated the Warpac air umbrella.

The Soviet airforce was much in evidence with numerous airstrikes from SU-17s as well as attacks from Mi-24 Hinds while the massive artillery barrage succeeded in suppressing the entrenched defenders of the villages.

The critical event was probably the Soviet air assault shot in by Hinds against the crossroads north of Wolfsberg which landed right on top of the armoured engineer company as it attempted to demolish the road junction. This coincided with enough T-64s getting close enough to their lightly armoured opponents to knock out the FV438s and roughly half the Scimitars. At this point 15/19 KRH decided to fall back, while 10th Guards Tank Div bypassed Wolfsberg entirely, leaving the city to follow up formations.

The up front defence had been a costly exercise but it had succeeded in pinning many Soviet units in their deployment areas even if it hadn't inflicted many losses. The Soviets had also given up on Wolfsberg as an axis of advance, leaving one major road open the west north of the canal for the leading regiment of the division. They had succeeded in pushing back the recce screen and making a deep penetration into the operational area of the covering force.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Soviet sartorial elegance

I was rather pleased to (finally) acquire a budget Soviet M35 gymnasterka to add to my WW2 Soviet impression. M35s are generally available from US and Russian repro uniform suppliers, but at a somewhat steep price. I was just browsing eBay and noticed that my favourite budget supplier, HIKI based in Hong Kong, had some M35s available. I was a bit surprised as he's been running his WW2 Russian stocks down in recent years, but it turned up promptly as usual and at half the price of its rivals. The jacket itself came without insignia, so I ordered a job lot of M35, M40 and M41 (subdued) collar tabs plus rifle troops enamel badges from Trident Military in the USA.

It has been to a couple of events now, most recently our attempt to recreate 'Pavlovs House' in Stalingrad by creeping around a derelict department store in the middle of Manchester:)

M35 Gymasterka in summer weight cotton. This has a drop collar and breast pockets unlike the later M43 and is useful for the entire war.

The highly impractical raspberry collar tabs with rifle troops badges. Who needs camouflage.

Jacket is fastened with hidden buttons and a collar loop unlike the exposed buttons of the M43.

There was a slight mix up with my Trident order, so they very kindly sent me medals for the Defence of Leningrad and Defence of Moscow gratis. That will look good at the victory parade!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Countdown to War

In the run-up to my fictional Third World War scenarios, the players received regular daily broadcasts from the BBC over the preceding week. They are reproduced here for the delight of readers.  Feedback from John and Tim was quite positive, and they seemed an effective mechanism for setting the scene. The scenario is perhaps a little fanciful, but is based on that used in the 1984 BC TV drama 'Threads' albeit with a rapidly accelerated timescale. Those who have seen Threads will recall that things didn't turn out too well, particularly for Sheffield! I regularly run past 'Ruths parents' house, and it is all a bit sobering really. At least no-one tries to shoot me for stealing a packet of crisps.

1. Here is the news from the BBC at 6pm on Thursday June 25th 1981.

Soviet forces commenced an invasion of Iran in the early hours of this morning. The Kremlin declared that this was to safeguard their southern republics from the threat of Islamic extremism and complemented their internal security efforts in Afghanistan. It is believed that several mechanised divisions have been employed with massive air support and the Iranians report their their borders have been breached in several places with Soviet units already many miles inside the country.

From the White House President Reagan condemned the actions of the 'Evil Empire' and announced that the Carrier Battle Group operating in the Gulf had been placed on a state of alert, warning the USSR to avoid threatening vital US interests in the region. From Downing Street Mrs Thatcher said the West must no longer tolerate Soviet expansionism and should stand up to bullies.

2. Here is the news from the BBC at 6pm on Friday the 26th June 1981.

In the Middle East, Soviet forces continue to advance in Iran. Some reports place their spearheads as much as 75km into Iranian territory and it is also reported that an airborne division has seized the major airport outside Tehran with further reinforcements being flown in. There are unconfirmed reports that Sovet units have employed chemical weapons against centres of resistance.

President Reagen has declared that he is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect American interests in the region, while the Kremlin has responded that it is taking necessary steps to secure the integrity of the USSR and warned the USA against intervening in the conflict.

US Marines have landed in Kuwait to provide additional security for US airbases there.

3. Here is the news from the BBC at 6pm on Saturday 27th June 1981.

In a major escalation of the conflict in Iran, US aircraft have begun conducting airstrikes against the Soviet airhead outside Tehran. The Iranian government has announced 'it will not interfere with US aircraft in its airspace'.

The White House declared its actions were a reasonable response to Soviet aggression, reiterated its intention to protect US interests in the region and called on the USSR to stop its attack on Iran. The Kremlin warned of serious consequences if the US interfered with the internal security of the Soviet Union.

Observers in Tehran report that US aircraft appear to be carrier borne, although some high level bombers (possibly B-52s) have been observed. On the ground, the Soviet advance continues with further advances of over 50 miles in some areas as Iranian resistance continues to be patchy. The use of chemical weapons by the USSR has now been confirmed.

Major movements of military formations by road and rail have been detected in the USSR. The Soviet government stated that these were in preparation for summer exercises.

Leave for military personel in NATO has been cancelled.

4. Here is the  news from the BBC at 6pm on Sunday 28th June 1981.

For the first time since WW2, nuclear weapons a have been used in armed conflict.

A formation of B-52s attacking the Soviet airhead outside Tehran were engaged by a surface-air nuclear anti-aircraft missile and suffered heavy losses. US forces retaliated with a battlefield nuclear weapon against the Soviet held airfield.

The White House condemned the 'insane escalation of hostilities' by the USSR and called on the soviet forces to withdraw. The Kremlin defended its right to protect its internal security and accused the USA of plunging the world towards nuclear armageddon. Soviet forces in Iran announced an immediate halt on their current positions 'in the interests of world peace'.

Defence analysts noted that the nuclear exchange was limited in both scale and scope, and the fact the Soviet ground forces have halted gives some hope that a negotiated settlement may be reached. It is thought that the robust response of the White House to the Soviet attack has taken the Kremlin by surprise, however the use of nuclear weapons by the USSR is an indication of how seriously they regard the situation in Iran.

NATO forces were placed on a high state of alert and military movements in the USSR continue. CND supporters staged a large demonstration in Trafalger Square and there were a number of arrests. There are reports of panic buying in some shops and petrol stations.

5. Here is the news from the BBC at 6pm on Monday 29th June 1981.

Soviet forces in central europe have dispersed from their barracks. Moscow said this was just the usual summer exercises. There has been a large increase in Russian civilian air traffic over western Europe, and large scale military movements in the western USSR continue.

NATO forces are now on a high state of alert. The UK government has declared a state of emergency and taken control of all motorways, ferries and airports which have been closed to civilian traffic. Reservists have been called up and are en route for units in Germany. Civil defence advice has been issued to the civilian population.

In Iran hostilities appear to have stopped. The White House once again urged the USSR to withdraw, the Kremlin responded that it had a right to protect its internal security.

6. Here is the news from the BBC on Tuesday, 30th June 1981.

The border between east and west Germany has been closed. Huge Soviet troop movements have been detected in northern, central and southern Europe. The Kremlin still claims these are summer exercises.

Reservists and reinforcements have been moving across the Channel for the last 24 hours to bring the BAOR up to war strength. Reforger flights have  been ferrying US troops across the Atlantic. NATO troops all along the front are forming up in their wartime assembly areas.

The White House has once more called upon the USSR to withdraw from Iran,  but no response has been received.

The UK government has urged the population to remain calm and stay in their homes. Secondary roads are reported to be choked with traffic moving out of urban centres, and there are reports of looting and rioting in major cities. In a speech to the House of Commons, Mrs Thatcher said "Defeat? I do not recognise the meaning of the word".

7. 31st June 1981

Well, this is fiction after all. On the 31st June, tanks roll over the border and it is game on.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Memoir of Modern Battle

This game was played at SWC in Feb 2012 and was a tryout of Bob Cordey's 'Memoir of Modern Battle' rules. We used the Memoir '44 Jarama scenario from the Memoir 44 site. The real battle was a multi division engagement which went on for weeks, so this scenario is heavily bathtubbed! . The pictures are fairly lousy as I took them on my phone.

The combat system is reminiscent of Memoir 44, but unlike the original, all the units activate every turn, which made the whole thing fairly bloody. The toys are all from my 15mm SCW collection, mainly Peter Pig. Overall we are still working on Memoir 44 and its derivates to make something which feels a big more like WW2 as the current system is pretty abstract and not as well developed as the more modern Command and Colours games. Although there are numerous commercial add-ons for M44, they mainly seem to add more chrome and complexity without contributing much to period feel. Still a work in progress, but worth the effort I think as these games alway look good, don't take up much space and are just 'easier' somehow than the more traditonal ruler based things. Bobs MoMB is certainly worth a look as he has done a lot of work on it and it is available from his blog/website.

Republican positions on the left flank looking across the Jarama, Nationalists dimly visible in the distance. The unit with the flag in the foreground is one of the International Brigade units.

Republican right flank, more International Brigaders in the foreground, road to Madrid running off the table. Assault guards are visible on the far right.

Foreign Legion and Morrocans rush the bridge on the left, inflicting heavy casualties and pusing the defenders out of the village.

They also crash through the centre, supported by tanks.

Republican tanks occupy Telegraph Hill while the Nationalists wonder if it safe to cross the river.

Cavalry, infantry and tanks rush the railway bridge on the right (where the river was forced historically by a coup de main).

Nationalist cavalry batter the Assault Guards

The second unit of Assault Guards, suported by T26s pushes Nationalists back over the river.

The front stablises along the river on the left, with heavy losses to both sides. The Republican tanks in their hilltop positions are unassailable though.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Cold War goes hot, but only in a small way

Like many people who grew up in the 1960s, I have an abiding interest in the Cold War, yet somehow it is something I never got around to wargaming outside of board and computer games. I think I found all the techno-babble about the minor differences of thirteen models of T-64 a little offputting. I had a similar block with Marlboroughs exploits as I really couldn't face painting all the wierd and wonderful 'uniforms' of the period. In the latter case, 2mm figures came to the rescue as minor uniform differences really don't show  up in that scale.The success of my 2mm WSS project prompted me to rethink the Cold war, as in 2mm, all those minor technical differences would vanish.

So, a couple of shopping accidents with Irregular later, I had rather a lot of lead to paint.... I pitched the stuff at the 1970s and very early 80s as I felt that was proper cold war, when people went to war with SLRs and Chieftans and there weren't any namby pamby Abrams/Challenger super tanks to even the odds or abominations like the L85A1.

The toys are organised for Tim Gows 'Nato Brigade Commander' so essentially company sized bases, but with an eye to higher level games so there are enough higher level assets to do division/corps sized actions using Megablitz or similar.

Tank Battalion (T64) with attached BMP company. I  used a rough ratio of one model per five vehicles.

BTR mounted motor rifle battalion with attached T62 company.
BM21s, SAM, SP artillery battery and armoured engineers. The latter are converted T55s into a recovery vehicle and bridgelayer. You need to do a lot of conversions on the Irregular models to cover all the required vehicles.
More conversions. BRDM-1s (converted from Sdkfz 222s!) and Shilkas converted from Hummels.

British balanced battlegroup. Two Chieftan squadrons, two mech infantry companies in FV432, battlegroup HQ, infantry mortar battery and a troop of Scimitars from the close recce squadron. The Scimitars are converted from Warriors, that particular job is hard on your fingers.

A squadron of Chieftans compared to a penny. These models are tiny!

I wonder in retrospect if I should have gone with the more modern 3mm stuff as the ranges are more complete, but  have always tried to support Irregular as a local firm, and it is a done deal now. Future plans include expansion to cover the West Germans, and I'll maybe do a unit by unit feature like Tim has done for his 6mm stuff.

Eagle eyed readers may also notice the appearance of a 'downloads' page. I am moving a lot of the content off my web page, and it will mainly feature rules and things of historical interest. The actual files are PDFs shared via google docs, so please let me know if I've got the sharing options wrong... it will take me a while to convert everything I want to publish into PDFs, so bear with me.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Border Clash

In keeping with this months Eastern Front theme, this was a WW2 Airsoft game organised by Gunman Airsoft at their Norwich site in February 2011. It was quite cold! It covered the opening days of Operation Barbarossa, and I played as a Russian in this one (the first outing for my Soviet impression). I was surprised at how effective the Soviet khaki was in woodland, it seemed to acquire a greenish tint from the surrounding trees and blended in very well whereas under artificial light it can most charitably be described as 'poo brown' in shade. It also got rather wet at one point and the Soviet rain cape (the plash palatka) proved to be extremely waterproof indeed. The biggest sartorial disaster were the puttees which fell down constantly, but so did everyone elses. I have subsequently acquired some high boots.

Soviet infantry trudge up to the front dragging their Maxim and 45mm AT gun. The AT gun was a blank firing dummy (but very loud) and the Maxim was home-made.

Planning the defence and setting up obstacles. The Germans  had demolition charges to destroy the tank traps.

Time for a brew in the fuel dump! Not much concept of fire safety in the Red Army.

Sneaky Germans start to appear along the border.

Fighting breaks out in the forests. 'Action' shots are very hard to take in Airsoft games and often look rather under-whelming, but these two capture the sense of desperate urgency quite well, although it still looks like a few people hiding behind trees.

The Maxim Gun pinned down  under fire, another 'action' shot.

Things didn't really go the Russians way. Well, it is 1941...

The Soviets trudge off to the POW cage.

And an uncertain future.

Heroic defenders of the motherland.

Beastly Germans, looking very pleased with themselves.