Tuesday 29 June 2021

Zvezda T28

 Like the BTs, I've got a fair number of Russian T28s in 6mm but none in 15mm. These old clunkers were getting fairly rare in 1941, but there were still around 500 vehicles in the medium tank regiments where the Russians hadn't replaced them with T34s or substituted a horde of T26s instead.

What grand vehicles they are. Typical interwar medium tanks, all too many turrets, ludicrously angular and very, very big. If the T35 is a land battleship, these are land heavy cruisers. I only got two as they are surprisingly hard to source. One of these came from Hannants, the other from Bovingdon Tank Museum, which has an excellent online shop. 

These are on the more complex end of Zvezda but went together fine. The tracks are really, really thin so you need to be careful getting them off the sprue - I imagine this might have been a bit of a problem on the real thing in terms of ground pressure.To my huge relief the radio rails were moulded on in one piece, unlike the horrible Minitanks rubbery bits and pieces on their T35 which I ended up just throwing away.

The entire rear engine deck seems to be covered in air vents and pipework of various kinds. Just what you need if someone drops a Molotov Cocktail on it! Loads of nicely engraved detail which really stands out though.

Side view. It sits very like the real thing and reminds me of the Vickers Independant at Bovingdon. I really like the hang of the thin tracks over the return rollers. 

Like the BTs, I did this in a base coat of VJ 894 and then did a heavy drybrush of 894 mixed with ochre to turn it into faded Russian green. I topped it off a light drybrush of Iraqi Sand and mud around the running gear and on the tracks. I put the early war battalion/company colour bands on the turret, which was a bit of a challenge with the rails in the way but they make a nice contrast with the overall green. I just did a short run of colour instead of a full turret band (photos show both as options) as my hand isn't steady enough to paint a complete band. 

A very nice bonus is that you also get the long barrelled 76mm turret included as well, so you can pretend they are upgraded T28B/Cs and give the Germans a nasty surprise (60mm of armour!). I applaud all manufacturers who give you multiple turret options in the same box (like the PSC T34s). 

These are just lovely all over, and I'll have to sort out a 1941 scenario as an excuse to use them.

Saturday 26 June 2021

Froeschwiller 1870

Following on from our trip to the Alma, I wanted to try Belle Epoch out for some other nineteenth century conflicts. It is some time since I'd run Froeschwiller with Rifle and Kepi, so I dug out the scenario and lightly reworked it. There is actually a Froeschwiller scenario provided in the LesGens expansion for Belle Epoch, but it was far too big to run remotely. 

I like this battle as you get Prussians  fighting alongside their rather reluctant Bavarian and Wurttemburg pal up against one of the best Corps in the French army, albeit handicapped by the chaotic French mobilisation which left many regiments under strength. The whole thing is a bit of a mixed bag.

Battlefield from the west. MacMahon's reinforced  1st Corps is deployed along the Froeschwiller ridge above the town of Worth.  Five infantry divisions and two cavalry divisions, although 2nd Division has been mauled by an earlier encounter with the Prussians. 

Tim C was MacMahon, while John commanded the cavalry and the attached division from 7th Corps. 

The Prussian 10th Division observes the French from the heights above Worth. The Prussian Army was a bit polyglot in this battle, with two Prussian Corps, elements of two Bavarian Corps, the Wurttemburg Division plus a couple of brigades of cavalry. 

Tim G commanded the Prussians, Simon had one Bavarian Corps and a cavalry brigade, while Pete had the Wurttemburgers, the rest of the Bavarians and another cavalry brigade. 

The environs of Froeschwiller were strongly held, with 1st Cavalry Division in reserve. I put the figures on magnetic movement trays so they were easier to move around. I'd made these bases up a while ago, but I've realised the green I used is a bit dark to look good on the Hexon terrain. I'll need to do something about that.

2nd Reserve Cavalry Division behind the Eberbach stream. The figures are all Irregular 6mm.

The lengthy column of Prussian reinforcements. I put temporary coloured and numbered labels on the bases to distinguish the different commands and divisional IDs. The first few turns were mainly spent with Prussian units marching on, and a bit of long range cannonading, in which the Prussian 10th Div came off rather badly as half the entire French Army shelled it. In these rules, artillery is modelled as integral to the divisions (hence the little cannons on each base).

4th Bavarian Division marched on above Lagensaltzbach. It took some losses from French artillery fire, but just plunged into the valley and charged 1st Division on the heights above! We will see how that turned out later. The little coloured dice show if the unit has been activated - it is a chit based activation sequence, you put as many dice as units into a hat and draw them out, then choose which unit to activate. I was a bit dubious about this, but it actually worked very well as it made the turn interactive and the players had some decisions to make about when it was best to activate. The French 1st Div has already activated, which is why the Bavarians charged - no short range defensive fire as the French had already fired. 

Over in the south, one Prussian Corps is pushing over the stream, while the other is sorting itself out on the ridge above Worth. Long range French artillery fire has chipped a few hits off, but the French guns are rather worse than the Krupps breechloaders, luckily for the Prussians.

Back at Lagensaltzbach, the impetuous Bavarians find out the hard way that charging headlong into an undamaged division in cover, uphill, and armed with breech loading rifles and machineguns is a very bad idea. The entire division disintegrates in a hail of bullets, and the French are rather cheered.

The Germans had opted for Stosstaktik in this battle (close order) rather than Feuertaktik (open order), which improved their manouverability but left them quite vulnerable to fire. The muzzle loading rifles the players were used to from the Alma weren't quite as lethal as these Chassepots.

At Worth however, the Prussians showed how it was done. A massive artillery bombardment weakened the French, and then 9th Division crossed the bridge at Worth and assaulted the French 2nd Division.

The weakened French were routed and the Germans advanced onto the plateau, outflanking 3rd Div  and facing off against the French cavalry in Froeschwiller.

Back in the north, another Bavarian division appeared. This one was a bit more circumspect than its predecessor, and settled down in the woods lobbing shells across the valley.

Up on the ridge above Worth, Prussian Generals oversaw the action. I used the figures to keep track of how many command dice each side had (one dice per figure). The number of dice depended on the number of stands left in each army. Units had a base activation score, and extra command points could be added in to help. The Prussians and French had quite high activation scores, while the German allies were a bit more dilatory.

McMahon is suddenly looking a bit lonely in Froeschwiller!

Meanwhile in the centre of the ridge, the Prussians chipped away at 4th Div.

As the Wuertemburgers crossed the river, 2nd Reserve Cavalry Div moved up in support of 1/7th Div.

The Wuertemburgers were supported by an Uhlan brigade. 

The Bavarians managed to hit 1st Div with their Krupps guns. At a range of 2000m they were quite effective.

Things are starting to look a bit sticky for 3rd Div in Froeschwiller as Bavarian 1st Div joins the Prussians.

The fresh Bavarians push the French out of Froeschwiller with light casualties. This puts them adjacent to 1st Cavalry Div.

Over near Eberbach, 2nd Cavalry puts in a charge against the weakened Prussians in the valley and routs them.

McMahon leads the 1st Cavalry in a desperate charge against the Bavarians. Putting cavalry against infantry armed with breechloaders in a built up area goes as well as might be expected.

The French 2nd Cavalry come under close range rifle fire, and the Uhlans charge them in the flank, with predictable results. It is just like the Heavy Brigade at Waterloo.

By now there isn't much left of the French Army. Only 1st Div from 7th Corps is largely intact over near Eberbach. They lob a few long range shells at the Germans in the valley.

As two entire Prussian and Bavarian Corps cross the Eberbach stream, discretion is the better part of valour, and the remaining French units withdraw.

The Prussians are well on their way to Paris.

And Froeschwiller and Neerwiller are firmly in the hands of the Bavarians.

That was actually closer than it looked as the French had inflicted heavy losses on the Germans, but the Germans still had five unshaken divisions across the Eberbach at game end, when they only required four. A couple more hits would have pushed two of them over the edge, but it was not to be.

Despite my misgivings about the activation system, that actually worked very well, and the players said they enjoyed the extra decision making from allocating the activation attempts. With all the extra stuff to keep track of and extra choices to make, it naturally slowed things down - I think four turns per one hour fifteen minute game session would have been achievable.

There were a few things I'd tweak: making the combat modifiers more consistent, reducing the crap shoot aspects of assault, and possibly having some cavalry breakthrough combat; but by and large it all hung together well and produced a reasonable feeling result. One slightly wierd thing was that troop quality had no influence on assault, just numbers and tactical position. I think that is something I'd definitely change and is quite easy to fix.

I'll try another game of that at some point for another asymmetrical conflict - Northern Italy in 1859 or 1866. Magenta or Custoza, not sure which yet.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Dfs 230 Assault Gliders

 Having got my Fallschirmjagers a Ju 52 to jump out of, I thought they also needed some gliders, otherwise how is poor Major Witzig going to land his engineers on top of Eban Emael?

Given how little use these were going to get, I didn't waste any time looking for 1/144th scale ones and just went for 1/300th. 

A Heroics and Ros 1/300th scale Dfs 230. What a lovely little model, the legacy of the pre war Luftwaffe glider clubs is very obvious in the design, although this was a fair bit bigger than the two seater versions, even mounting an MG behind the cockpit. Did the Germans mount an MG on everything?

Being 1/300 th scale metal, it only had two parts - the fuselage and a seperate single piece wing. It hardly had any flash and the wing section fitted perfectly. As usual, once sticking it together I undercoated it grey. 

At first I thought these were far too small to look any good, but I was mislead by the size of the fuselage as the wings are enormous. I can't imagine how big a 1/144  scale one would be. 

These little planes were generally fairly plain, with just small crosses on the sides of fuselage and under the wings. They were often just plain green on the upper sides, but I found some photos of some with a basic splinter camouflage on the wings so I did that to make them a bit more interesting. They also sometimes had some disruptive patterns on the sides but that was a bit hard in 1/300th so I just left them plain sky blue.

I left the undersides quite plain, no point in highlighting the landing skid. I drilled a hole in the centre of gravity for a flight stand.

Here it has some friends, I am sure that will be plenty for whatever use I find for them.

That was fun, lovely little models and a joy to paint.

Sunday 20 June 2021


 John put on another eighteenth century game using Brown Bess, this time went off to the Battle of Lobowitz in 1756. Frederick the Great faced off against General von Browne and the reformed Austrian army on the Elbe.

We were a bit light on numbers for this one, so myself and Mark took the Austrians, while Tim and Tim took the Prussians.

The battle was fought on a foggy morning in the Elbe valley as Fredericks army debouched from a mountain pass. He wasn't sure what was ahead, but decided it was an Austrian rearguard and attacked. Little did he know that von Browne had laid a trap...

This is what things looked like from the Prussian pov (Blue units). In fact there are a ton more Austrian  (red units) units lurking in the mist in the marshes and along the sunken road. We kept track of those secretly. Hard to see in the screen shot, but there is a brigade of elite Grenzers in the hills on the top right.

This is what the Austrians actually had around Lobositz. Four additional infantry units and a pair of Cuirassier units, all hidden from the Prussians!

The battle opened with a cannonade. This was fine from my pov as it gave a chance to push the two Austrian brigades with their backs to the Elbe forward and support the Grenzers. The odd hit the Prussians inflicted I could just rally off. I was also able to move some units to garrison the BUAs, which proved to be crucial.

Eventually Frederick got bored with this as he realised it wasn't having much effect, and moved to contact. This revealed a few more Austrians, and their defensive fire wreaked havoc. The Austrian artillery was particularly effective at close range.

Contact was made on the Austrian left. One of the Prussian infantry was routed by point blank cannister fire, but the elite Prussian cavalry engaged our horsemen in melee.

The Prussians rolled forwards in dribs and drabs. One of the Austrian cavalry was defeated, which just exposed the French to close range musket fire from the village. Meanwhile the Grenzers had managed to tie up two entire Prussian brigades.

A bloody point blank firefight raged, but our chaps were supported by close range artillery and defending buildings. The Austrians had the edge and the Prussian infantry began to disintegrate.

After a few turns pounding, there wasn't much left of Fredericks army. The Prussian cavalry found out the hard way that defended villages flanked by swamps are really hard to take.

The Austrian reserves now appeared, and Prussian morale plummeted. The Grenzers also turned out to be really tough in the mountainous terrain and shattered the Prussian infantry stalking them.

The Austrians began to close in on the remains of the Prussians, and realising he was now outnumbered 2:1, Frederick decided it was time to withdraw. The Battle of Lobositz was over. Ah well, in real life it was a close run thing too, and Frederick was still learning his trade but managed to pull a victory out of an unpromising situation. 

As someone who has played with Austrians a lot, it was very pleasant playing with some Austrians who had a degree of professional competence. Well done von Browne for reforming the army so effectively.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Zvezda BT-5

 I've got quite a few BTs in 6mm, but none in 15mm, and I thought it was time to boost my early war Soviet armour holdings as there were roughly equal numbers of T26 and BT available in 1941 (around 9000 of each) . Zvezda do some lovely cheap BT-5s, so I picked up a few of those.

Here they are roaring across the tabletop. Never mind the paper thin armour, what super little tanks, and with a very scary gun for 1937.

The front hull gives a real impression of speed. It was set up like that to allow for trackless, steering, but is has the dual benefit of being sensible from a ballistic point of view too.

These were very easy to put together with few parts, one piece track assemblies and almost no flash. The track plates even bear a resemblance to the real ones, which is unusual in Zvezda kits.

Lots of nice detail on the hull and engine. Quite finely moulded but easily sufficient to pick up a drybrush.

They look very racy from the side, but somehow seem to be lacking a wheel. I'm too used to T34s. You can see the good track detail including the widely spaced guide teeth. 

Here they all are from the front. I did them in a base of Vallejo Russian Green 894, then went over them with a heavy drybrush of VJ894 mixed with about a third of VJ Middlestone to produce that sort of horrible green colour that Soviet tanks fade to in the sun. As these were quite long in the tooth by 1941, I thought faded paint was more appropriate and they've ended up surprisingly close to the colour in Zalogas 'Eastern Front Armour and Camouflage'. 

Otherwise it was the usual mud and ink over the running gear, and a light tan drybrush overall to pick out the highlights.

Ive got a couple scenarios in mind which will feature these, so coming to a tabletop near you at some point in the future.