Sunday, 25 November 2018

Barbarossa Bridgehead

During the rapid advance of Axis forces in the summer of 1941 a series of rivers formed formidable natural obstacles to be overcome. On of the primary objectives for the Panzers lunging deep into Soviet territory was to seize river crossings and hold a bridgehead on both banks until the slower moving infantry forces could catch up. The holding force could find themselves temporarily cut off and under attack from all sides a the Red Army attempted to retake the crossing point, usually in a frantic effort to break out of encirclement.

What follows is one such engagement...

Having not put brush to miniature for over two weeks, the blog still needs feeding, and so it’s time for a battle report. This time it’s Bolt Action, with Pete’s Panzers seeking to take a bridge from my Soviet grasp.

The scenario is taken from Warlord Games’ Ostfront campaign book, which, like pretty much everything else you see in this report, is available from The Outpost at a 20% discount from RRP.

We fought the game at 1250 points and both chose our armies using the Barbarossa army selectors, which put limitations on what was available to us - for example, the Soviets could not use any veteran troops.

In addition, the scenario itself placed further restrictions (which is a feature I like, as it prevents too much repetition). The Soviets has to include a Commissar and an NKVD squad as the bridge security detail, and the Germans could not use artillery and were required to provide transport for their infantry, as this would be the vanguard of a fast moving attack.

The Heroic Defenders of Mother Russia

Senior Officer + 1 Man (Inex)
Commissar (Inex)
Forward Artillery Observer (Reg)
2 x LMG Squad (Inex)
Rifle Squad (Inex)
NKVD Squad with SMGs and Flag (Reg)
2 x Anti-Tank Rifle Team (Reg)
Tank Hunter Squad (Reg)
MMG Team (Reg)
Light Anti-Tank Gun (Reg)
Medium Mortar Team with Spotter (Reg)
T-34/76 Tank (Reg)
BA-6 Armoured Car (Reg)
Truck (Reg)

The Wicked Invaders of the Wehrmacht 

Platoon 1 (all Reg)
Junior Officer + 1 Man
Heer Infantry Squad in Truck
Heer Infantry Squad in Truck
MMG Team in Kubelwagen
Panzer 38(t) Tank
SdKfz 231 Heavy Armoured Car (8 Rad)

Platoon 2 (all Reg)
Junior Officer + 1 Man
Heer Infantry Squad in SdKfz 7 Half-Track
Heer Infantry Squad in SdKfz 251/1 Half-Track
Panzerjager 1 Tank Destroyer

The scenario was due to last 10 turns, and so I’ll spare you a blow by blow account and go for edited highlights. Suffice to say, the winner would be the side that could occupy the bridge and ensure that no enemy units were within 6”. The Germans would attack in two waves and the Soviets deployed half their force dug in and awaited reinforcements to arrive from any of three table edges from turn three onwards.

The initial assault saw the German armour arrive and begin to spray the dug in Soviets with fire. A Heer unit gunned down half of a Rifle squad, the remainder of whom were ‘inspired’ by the Commissar (hiding in the building) into a suicidal assault. The remains of the Heer unit were wiped out by SMG fire from the NKVD in the bridge.

A well timed artillery barrage put pins on the German armour, and a series of failed order rolls saw Pete effectively lose his second turn and a transport FUBAR in front of its own guns.

The second bridge assault was more determined. The NKVD has retired to their fox holes where they subjected to what can only be described as a blitzkrieg attack. Defensive positions and the patriotic sight of the red flag kept them fighting.

The state of play shortly before the German MMG is wiped out by a Soviet mortar strike.

The German armour is outflanked by Soviet reinforcements. In a startling display of accuracy, the T-34 took out the Panzer 38(t), the BA-6 immobilised the 8-Rad and both of them sprayed the Kubelwagen with MG fire (we later worked out that this should have destroyed it, so it appears in a couple more pictures).

The battle in the bridge wore on. The Germans went to ground, protected from incoming fire on all sides by the stone sided bridge and the NKVD in their foxholes.

More Soviet reinforcements begin to pour in from the rear.

The Commissar, regretting his decision to take the comfortable lodgings on the wrong side of the bridge, cowers in the attic.

He was eventually found and murdered by a German officer.

Even though the Panzerjager managed to keep the T-34 out of the fight, engaged in a long range duel, it’s own effectiveness was severely hampered by continuous mortar fire raining down. Ultimately, the T-34 won the duel, but too late to have any more impact on the fight round the bridge.

Things get increasingly sticky for the Germans on the bridge, and the NKVD continue to old their ground.

The deadlock is finally broken when the last of the Germans are killed. Tank Hunters are ordered to the crest of the bridge and spray fire into yet another group of Heer troops heading towards their objective.

The final squad of German soldiers take shelter behind their own vehicles, readying he selves for another push towards the bridge.

However, they cannot shelter from the BA-6, which, free from fear of enemy anti-tank guns, advances rapidly into their rear, spraying the Germans mercilessly with LMG fire.

Only a handful of Germans remain, and, knowing that victory is beyond their grasp, vow to sell their lives dearly to prevent a Soviet victory.

What follows is a vicious display of tit-for-tat murder as assaults, counter assaults and a veritable storm of rifle fire. My inexperienced soldiers broke too easily, and Pete was subjected to a frankly awesome display of shooting as my big guns repeatedly missed the side of a building attempting to kill the officer lurking in there.

I mistakenly assaulted with the remnants of the NKVD when I should have fired a point blank range, and lost the squad in the process, leaving one German standing. Although he was finished off by the last Tank Hunter, the NCO of the last Heer unit was left stood at the foot of the bridge, preventing the Soviets claiming victory.

Despite decimating the German attack, the game ended in a draw.

It was a really enjoyable game. I really like restricted lists and specific objectives as it gives a more meaningful game than a regular ‘kill em all’ set up. 

The artillery barrage was critical to the outcome as it prevented Pete from pressing his advantage at the beginning of the game, and then the surprisingly effective flank attack by my T-34 and BA-6 probably put an end to any realistic chance of Pete winning as pushing my entrenched troops out of their positions with armoured vehicles advancing into their rear was a tough ask.

Our next scenario from Ostfront will see the Germans licking horns with both the Russian army and the Russian winter. Not sure when it will happen, but based on the fun we had with this game, it won’t be long.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

“The wolves of Isengard will return...”

Another group of miniatures ‘repossessed’ from my WFB armies, Wargs.

For the past dozen years or so, these five have been masquerading as Dire Wolves in my Vampire Counts army. Since the demise of WFB, they haven’t seen much action, so it was tom to bring them home.

In their former life, these Wargs were simply dark grey all over and then dry brushed with a light grey.

Rather than strip them, I worked up from that simple base, adding the brown on the hairier bits and going back to improve the detail on the mouth and face.

Obviously, there was also a base to do as well.

All in all it’s a job that didn’t take me long and I’m more than happy with the results. 

The only downside is that the models themselves have massive lines on one side where the joins are. I’ve tried to reduce this with green stuff, but they’re still very noticeable. However, it’s not so bad on models that, if things go well, won’t actually get on to the table.

As I’ve said before, cavalry in LotR need a separate dismounted model for the rider. However, in the case of Warg Riders, and one or two other cavalry types, there’s also a chance that the mount will stick around after the rider has gone.

Therefore, these five should be plenty cover for a box of six Warg Riders being dismounted. They can also operate independently if I decide to field an Angmar or Mordor army led by my Ringwraiths.

Unfortunately, Isengard cannot field Wargs on their own, and so I am going to need to get hold of some Warg Riders. I already have a dozen Orcs to use as dismounts that came in one of my eBay bundles, but for the Warg Riders, I shall be picking up a new box from Outpost in the not to distant future. At less than £15 for six cavalry models, I’d be hard pressed to find them cheaper elsewhere.

As ever, if you’re tempted to do the same, follow the link below:

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

“The eagles are coming!”

Today I present Tolkein’s deus ex machina and definitely not a metaphor of divine grace swooping in to save souls from the fires of hell, the eagles of the Misty Mountains.

The smaller of the eagles is one of the survivors of the regrettable cull of my LotR collection and was drafted into my Wood Elf army for WFB, where it performed stirling service redirecting, march-blocking and generally annoying my opponents.

In fact, during 7th edition, eagles were so good at frustrating enemy movement and buying time and space to set up devastating flank attacks, that I thought I’d get another.

Although this one has the same pose as the original Gwahir model, it’s not the same size. However, for now I’ll be using this one as the King of the Eagles.

After WFB 8th edition made positional play, terrain and Wood Elves in general totally irrelevant, the Eagles went into hibernation until Kings of War allowed them to take to the skies again under the guise of a unit of Dracon Riders.

Again, they have done excellent work and have functioned effectively as part of my probably somewhat bent army.

However, my return to Middle-Earth has called them home. For the original eagle this has meant the fourth base of its existence and a heavier dry-brush to bring out more detail from the feathers.

‘Gwahir’ was given similar treatment but I’m not overly pleased with the white feathers. However this is mainly due t the fact that I’ve never been happy with them and have retouched them so much that some of the detail has been lost.

In game, the Misty Mountains is a separate army, but I’m not sure if I’ll expand it. Importantly, the eagles can ally with the Fellowship with no penalties, and so I am likely to experiment with putting an eagle or two with Aragon, Legolas and Gimli, justfor research purposes, obviously.

The eagles aren’t the only creatures of the wild that are being recalled to Middle-Earth from other games, however, the others are less than likely to be as noble as Gwahir’s clan.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

“Death! Death take us all!”

Well, Let’s not follow Eomer’s pls and all die. To this end, I’ve given the model of Eomer I painted last week a shield.

It seems a wise decision as Eomer is the most expensive model in the Rohan army list, therefore, giving him a bit more protection it a bit of a no brainer.

The shield itself is one I had left over from a long time ago when I did my Saga Vikings. Actually, I had a couple left over, which was fortunate as it allowed me to also give the same shield to the dismounted version of Eomer I’ve just painted.

I followed exactly the same painting process as for the mounted model, but this time it felta lot quicker. I bought the model off eBay and had lost the blade of its sword in the post (it was in the same bundle as the horses whose ankles had snapped).

However, I’m fortunate that the mounted version of Eomer is ten a penny on eBay (due to being an early freebie with the LotR Battle Games magazine) and every Rohan eBay bundle I’ve bought has had at least one mounted Eomer in. Therefore, a hand swap was easy to organise.

That’s it for now. I hit a bit of a painting rut this week because I’d come to the end of a large batch of models and not got anything else underway whilst I was I was doing them. I always find starting a batch from scratch a bit daunting and so it’s easier to get the batch moving whilst I’m finishing off other stuff.

However, Eomer and the 80’s BBC radio play of Lord of the Rings came to my rescue and gave me something to focus on whilst undercoating and base coating all manner of birds, beasts and baddies for the coming weeks.

I’ll forego my usual shameless plug as I believe the character models for Lord of the Rings at currently only available direct from Games Workshop, and are not actually badly priced for the Evil Empire. However, the second hand market should allow you to track down a foot Eomer for significantly less than you’d pay new, and you’ll have a job to not find a mounted Eomer or five going for a song.

Happy hunting!