A new look at the Battle of Kursk.

A bit back Bill of Under Fire sent me this news article that he had found:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-48963295

I looked for the journal article that it mentioned, and at the time of writting, it is available for free here:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16161262.2019.1606545 (just click on the PDF tab) which is always nice to see as so much academic work is hidden behind rather expensive paywalls most of the time.

It is definately worth taking the time to download and read if you have the slightest interest in the Eastern Front of WW2. I will flag up a few quick points though…

Although the Germans are now believed to have lost signaficantly less tanks than previously, although I don’t think the attritional strategy suggested by the author would have worked in the slightest: the economic output of the Germans was dwarfed by that of the allies. Even for the duration of the summer I don’t think it could have forestalled the Soviet offensive, leaving aside the human cost the Soviet materiel losses were replaceable.*

The battle was still an operational defeat (the salient was not reduced) and a strategic defeat as the Nazi forces never regained the initiative on the eastern front for the rest of the war.

For those of us who like to play wargaming campaigns with our tanks it does seem that retaining possession of the battlefield at the end of an encounter, thus allowing you to recover/repair as many tanks as possible, mitigates the majority of losses as relatively few tanks that are knocked out in combat are reduced to flaming wrecks. That is definately something to factor into future games.

The strength of the SS divisions vis a vie the Whermacht ones, far stronger, nearly twice as big in some cases. Whilst the early SS formations suffered from a paucity of equipment by this stage it seems clear that that trend had been reversed.

I hope you have found that of interest and if you read the articles and have any comments I’d love to hear them.

Cheers,

Pete.

* Some rough numbers to argue my case. The Panze IV, Sherman and T34 are roughly comparable. Between 1939-45 the Nazis made 9000 Pz IVs, between 1940- 45 about 50,000 T34s were made, in slightly less time (1942-45) about 50,000 Shermans were made.

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Partizan Wargames Show.

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Yesterday (Sunday) Paul and I headed down the A1 to Newark Showground for the first of the Partizan shows of the year. We like to go to the local wargames shows to spread the word about Pennine Megagames and hopefully attract more players. Whilst Newark is not really part of the Pennines it is pretty close to Sheffield; hopefully we’ll get more gamers to the games we run there.

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The game we took with us was Stalingrad: Block by Block, a mini game born out of two previous games. Given I had a very nice 6 foot by 4 foot map of Stalingrad from my Case Blue game that didn’t get used I thought it would be a good excuse to use it. Paul is running a game in September, Hold the Line, based on the invasion of Poland; the mechanisms of which he used for last years Czech Mate game. I thought to myself it would be nice idea to run a game with his mechanisms based around the city fight.

Paul was kind enough to give me the polystyrene cubes and stickers needed so I got to work and knocked up what was needed. We ran the scenario as a participation game, so players could try out the mechanisms in advance to give them a taste of what to expect if they attend out events.

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The game proved very popular with the attendees of the show, lots of people were asking questions and taking photos, so much so that the two of us were hard pressed to run the game and chat to everyone at the same time at one point… We were the only none toy soldier based game there so we stood out as doing something a little different. Paul game design was described as ‘inspirational’ and I was pleased to see several people bring their friends over to show them saying ‘This is the game I was telling you about, I’ve played one and it was really good’.

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The game should get a few more run outs this years and there are a few tweaks I want to it, some of the rules need tightening and it would be nice to come up with a set of scenarios for the board that are suitable from anywhere from 2 to 6 players so we can be more flexible about the size of game we can run in the day. It would be nice to be able to give people a taste of the layers of command that the megagames have, one of their stand out features for me, but it is difficult to do in small scale for obvious reasons. I have some ideas of how to do it but it will need more work.

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I managed to do a little bit of shopping for myself (oddly no books) and managed to chat to some gaming friends I hadn’t seen in years. The newer venue for Partizan is much better than the stygian gloom of the old one too. All in all a great day and both Paul and I agreed it was the best reception Pennine Megagames has had at a show.

I’m quite looking forward to the next show for us which will be the Phalanx show at St. Helens in June.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

1944: Race to the Rhine- board game.

With three run throughs of the boardgame under my belt now I thought I’d offer up a few observations of the game.

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1944: Race to the Rhine  by Phalanx Gamesis a wargame who’s main focus is on logistics rather than the intricacies of combat. The game is set after the Normandy breakout and the fall of Paris in 1944. Three players (full disclosure time- all three games I’ve played have been three player I know that there are rules for playing solo or with 2 players but I don’t know what they are) take the roles of the Army commanders Montgomery, Bradley and Patton; each with their own ‘path’ to the Rhine.  Each player has three or four wooden blocks which represent their subordinate Corps, wooden counters are also used to indicate what supplies each Corps is carrying (fuel, ammo or food) as well as the path that the logistics trucks take to resupply the subordinate units. The winner is the first General who pushes a Corp block across the Rhine, if all the German units are deployed before that happens the winner is the General who has earned the most medals.

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When a player takes a turn, they can perform two actions: move a Corps, move supplies, take trucks or take supplies. Once all the trucks have been used the game pauses and the logistics trucks are reset.  Movement is point to point and a card is drawn for each point entered. One deck is used for ‘unoccupied’ areas and is unique for each player whilst a common deck is used for areas with a German presence. Cards may indicate a German formation, a historical event that is used to change the weather or interactions with the local populous. Combat is deterministic and is just a case of having the right resources to beat the Germans. The hard part of the game is ensuring that the right resources are there where they need to be at the right time. Once each player has finished their two actions they place a counter, starting with anywhere adjacent to Dusseldorf, and working outwards from there. Of course, the placement of these counters can be used to hinder the progress of your rivals.

Each of the Generals has their own special abilities, this combined with the different starting loads for Corps as well as the hazards along each available route makes for a different game strategy for each General. Some of the basic decision that you have to make are similar, do you push forward straight away, or do you load up with what you think you might need… Montgomery’s route has the channel ports to consider, clearing them is difficult but supplies can be brought in from them once they have been taken; If Antwerp and the Scheldt estuary is cleared it is an even bigger bonus. Similarly, Patton can draw on supplies from Allied forces advancing from the South (post Operation Dragoon) once he has advanced sufficiently far. Air power is simple but effective when it is used carefully. Likewise, the use of Airborne assets, needs careful handling. If used badly they might cost you the game but you can still try for your own Operation Market Garden.

Deciding when to push forward and when to consolidate and bring up supplies are the key decisions in the game, keeping and eye on how your rivals are doing means the pressure to keep going piles on. The game is a great blend of euro style mechanics married to a strong military theme. There are very few flaws in this game. The only one that is really apparent is the game-y way you can stich up your rivals by placing the German counters- rather ahistorical, I’d have preferred a random or semi- random guided placement bot.

 

Regardless, it is a minor quibble, I highly recommend this game.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

From the Shed: bits and pieces (WW2, Science Fiction and Terrain).

Some more from my shed- some assorted bits that I had lying around finally finished, all in 20mm too…

 

Firstly:

 

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A set of WW2 British Commandos, these are from Wartime Miniatures (seemingly defunct now). These ones are wearing the Denison camo jacket, a similar pattern to the airbourne one, making them emminently suitable for a game set on Walcheren Island as part of the operations to clear the Schelt esturary. Shame that it looks like more poses with different weapons won’t be forthcoming.

Sticking with WW2 we have these:

strelets hungarians

A small group of Honved (Hungarian Army) from this set of plastics. I did these as paint testers for a bigger Crossfire/ Megablitz project, more of which later. Not the best sculpts in the world but they paint up very nicely.

Staying with plastics I have done these:

stalker figures

A set of figures by Dark Alliance inspired by the popular S.T.A.L.K.E.R. PC games. I’ve got several of each pose in the box so for the first lot I picked out a few poses to do with a winter theme (I’ve a fondness for winter basing at the moment). Not sure what I’ll do with them but they make their way into a game some how.

 

Sticking with PC games I made this:

firing range targets

A set of firing range targets after seeing similar ones in the co-op shooter Insurgency that I played with friends a while back. Bits of foam, ground texture and scrap from the bits box went into making this. Should be good to suggest a camp or base somewhere in MENA.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

From the Shed- Ruined European house.

Evan was kind enough to gift me this Airfix ruin a good few years back… it had been sat in my shed for ages with me looking at it thinking I should reaaly gt round to doing something with it.

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I was a little put off by the very square looking blast hole but it is a lot less pronounced now it is painted.

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Detail was added with filler, cat litter and match sticks.

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I decided that the lower levels were too small for my fat fingers so filled them with rubble.

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Painting was done with acrylics as usual.

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It will be a nice addition to my NW Europe terrain set up.

 

Cheers,

Pete.

Film Review: Come and See. 1985. Directed by Elim Klimov.

Given I referenced Come and See in my last film review it makes sense to make it the subject of this next one.

When I heard that this film was the late J. G. Ballard’s favourite war film I knew I had to see it. Ballard has long been my favourite author and I knew that his recommendation would mean that this film would be something special… I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t expecting such a powerful visceral gut- punch reaction to a film like the one I got from Come and See….

 

 

The film opens with a young Byelorussian boy recovering a rifle from the site of an earlier battle, so he can take it to join the local Partisans who have a base in the forest. Leaving against his parents’ wishes he makes contact with the Partisans and their solemn but charismatic leader.

 

His age prevents them from taking him seriously as a fighter and much to his evident disappointment they decline to take him with them when they go on their next mission. As he is left alone in the camp he makes friends with a girl, also left behind, who is a few years older than him. They play in the forest, children having space within a respite from the horrors of the war to act as children.

 

This is cut short by the bombing of the camp by the Germans. With several near misses the boy is left disorientated and with a permanent ringing in his ears that renders the audio slightly garbled as the film is told from his perspective.

 

Making his way back to his village he arrives just as an SS unit is conducting a reprisal/ massacre of the village. For the next half hour or so the boy wanders through the scenes of near unimaginable horror as the SS men go about the atrocities that so characterised their behaviour throughout the war. Given that very little dialogue is said directly to camera and so no subtitles are present, and the audio is still distorted as a result of the effect of the bombing on the boy the part of the film has a hideous, near surreal tableaux that is more horrific than anything Bosch has come up with for the events and action perpetrated by the SS men and their locally raised auxiliaries are wholly representative of the reality of the time.

 

The senior SS Officer during the massacre is shown with a pet monkey, this is a very clear nod towards the SS men being from the infamous Dirlewanger Brigade led by Oskar Dirlewanger; it is with out hyperbole that he can be described as once of the nastiest and most abhorrent men in WW2. biography book link

 

The Partisans do return and ambush the SS men as they are leaving the destroyed village and take the boy with them, the boy is forever scarred and broken by what he has seen happen to himself, the young girl and the whole village. Finding a portrait of Hitler, the young boy shoots in repeatedly, the film at this point showing a montage of photos of Hitler’s life in reverse ending with him as a baby…

 

… the film concludes with the young boy, hardened and no doubt embittered as a fully-fledged Partisan.

 

Come and See is a difficult watch, it is hard to say you ‘enjoy’ the film in the same way you’d enjoy a normal film, but such is its power and vision you can’t help but engage with it on a deeper level. Well shot it draws you in to those terrible days and makes you confront the reality of it. A reality that is today being lost by it fading from living memory as people die, anodyne history books that fail to do justice to their subject matter and worst of all those deniers who try to say it never happened. It really deserves a wide audience in my opinion.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

From the Shed: Dug in E100.

The Entwicklung series of tanks was an attempted rationalisation of the German tank production towards the end of WW2. You can read more about it here and here.

The E100 was a heavy tank,  comparable to the better know Maus, armed with a 128mm gun and a coaxial 75mm L48 gun.

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I bought this 1/72nd Dragon kit many years ago to use the running gear for resin conversion (into an even sillier 150mm armed jagdpanzer version) as such I’ve had the spare hull and turret sitting around planning to do it as a dug in version. A group build on the Wargamers Forum link gave me the impetus.

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Next job is to come up with a scenario to use it in… I’m thinking Russian Engineers or Commandos sneaking up at night to blow it up….

Cheers,

 

Pete.