The setting for the second Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist game of 2010 was reasonable enough – somewhere in the Leningrad oblast during Spring 1942. The Germans had to cross a small stream and capture a major village, the Russians defend it.

As Peter and I had agreed via email prior to the game, this was to be an infantry clash. The force I chose weighed in at about 2300 PV, Peter’s force coming in at around 1500 PV.

My force was comprised of two companies; an infantry company and an infantry gun company. The infantry gun company allowed me to use the IG-18s that I worked on earlier this year on the table (onboard) while keeping a battery of 150mm FlaK 18/36s  offboard. It was a learning experience to select and account for it, as I realised in previous games I had purchased Forward Artillery Observers (FAOs) but no Battery Fire Control unit to actually follow their orders and make sure the shells were fired! This oversight was rectified and I learned something at the same time…as well as realising I have a lot of extra little modelling things to work on in the months to come, like bases to represent the Battery Fire Control staff, some more FAOs and the like.

I elected to give the gun company FAOs some wheels, so the three of them ended up in my two kubelwagens and solitary schwimmwagen. This has given me some impetus to paint up the remaining BMW R35 motorcycles and their accompanying figures from Italeri so that I can have FAOs on motorbikes, which is the cheapest motorised option for them. Anyway, hopefully the FAOs riding in cars would let them go forward and into good positions quickly so that my artillery could rain death and ensure success for my brave footsloggers.

The infantry company was the standard maximised option I’ve used before, except this time I elected to buy two FAOs on horseback to assist the 120mm mortars that I took as Support from the Battalion. The 120mm mortars were towed on the back of Opel Blitz 4X4 trucks – they had to be, they couldn’t be moved forward by hand like the IG-18s! The infantry company 81mm mortars could fire smoke shells as could my whole infantry gun company. My plan of attack was thus to use smoke where possible to blind the Russians and allow my infantry to get as far forward as possible before they might take serious losses. A rolling barrage of smoke shells with infantry advancing behind would be a textbook and perfectly historically accurate plan of attack.

All this looked great on paper. We set the board up and it looked great – see these three photos:

As Peter needed a little more time to decide how to deploy his forces, I opted to roll for the Weather.

I rolled a 3. This meant that the ground was muddy and the sky was overcast. Not great, but not terrible. I then rolled for Wind. Gale force winds heading South.

That was the end of my textbook attack. No smoke during gale force winds! Also, the mud was going to slow my kubelwagens and schwimmwagen down to the same speed as my infantry, so their benefit was nullified. They may as well have been on foot! Even my FAOs on horseback would move quicker.

Thus,the die was cast (pardon the pun). Here’s the ‘history book’ setting: after the heavy gale the previous day, a German force in the Leningrad oblast had to try to continue a somewhat stalled advance and take an important village. While the rain had stopped, the ground was still very muddy and gale-force winds continued to scour the battlefield.

Turn One – As the Germans entered from their own board edge, they immediately came under fire from 76mm artillery and from more devastating 122mm artillery. You can see this in this photo –  – that blue die of Peter’s is functioning as the centre for the 76mm artillery barrage; the radius projecting from it already chews into my ranks.

1st Platoon lost a section and it’s Platoon HQ, but I roll 10 for Morale and the rest of the infantry company are fine. All my troops do is advance. My 150mm artillery perform map fire but to no effect. As it is only firing for one round, I then have to wait three turns for it to fire on a new map reference.

Turn Two – I continue to advance. This time, the Soviet artillery causes no harm to my troops, some of whom have side-stepped out of the Beaten Zone Radius or simply kept low as they went forward  .

Turn Three –The Russians now try to call down artillery fire, shifting its position, but to no success.

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Turn Four – The Ivans successfully call down fire but only kill one German team. The Germans continue to advance, many now approaching copses which would provide some shelter  .

Turn Five – Everything happens at once!

Those in the front of the advancing German infantry forces sight onboard Russian artillery and infantry . His infantry includes some sections of PM M1910 (Пулемёт Максима на станке Соколова, Pulemyot Maxima na stanke Sokolova or “Maxim’s machine gun model 1910 on Sokolov’s mount”) which are classed as Medium Machine Guns (MMGs) in Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist. Lead sang and the Germans lost 6 teams to them, but the Germans gallantry replied with their own MG-34s (LMGs in Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist unless tripod-mounted) and manage to silence two guns . The Soviet onboard artillery tried to wipe out my 120mm mortar teams who were still setting up, but fail.

On the left, my IG-18s are still out of the battle so far but have not suffered any inbound fire . My 150mm map fire artillery have their order cancelled (otherwise I was going to hit my own troops) so they begin setting up to fire on map reference number 3.

Turn 6 – It was obvious I wasn’t going to reach either objective in time. This turned out to be both Peter & I’s fault – more about this in a moment.

Three of my four 120mm mortars are silenced by 122mm artillery. More Soviet infantry are revealed . There was small arms fire between the two infantry forces  and that resulted in the last surviving team from my 1st Platoon dying. I make a Morale test for the rest of the Company…and get a 3. Retreat.

This was pretty disappointing as the two previous Morale Tests I made were 12’s (the maximum) and I’d started off Morale Tests so well with that solid 10. Still, it was 11pm and it was logical to end the game – my IG-18s weren’t going to win the game for me, not against all that Soviet might.

What did I do wrongly?

Firstly, I purchased Smoke Grenades for each and every infantry team/base I fielded, adding some 206.25 PV to my force. Upon discovery of this (ie. when I told him that the Gale had ruined my ‘advance behind smoke’ plan), Peter pointed me to p. 13 of the rules, where it states that only assault engineers/pioneers may use smoke grenades. This was some PV that I had thought of using to instead buy some AA vehicles to add to the game…I was keen to use 20mm cannons to chew up his infantry. So, in a way I partially handicapped myself with this as I later realized didn’t really have a big enough force for the night. (I have just read that I should have 2-3 times what Peter fielded…I should have had 3000 to 4500 PV. What an addition to this PV handicap! I should have bought more offboard artillery and put troops in trucks or halftracks as well as field all 3 AA vehicles I have).

Secondly, I didn’t have a backup plan. I didn’t think I wouldn’t be able to have my smokescreen.

Thirdly, I once again deployed right into his artillery fire. However, you can never predict this, can you?

Fourthly, both Peter and I had neglected to check that the Objectives I set were reasonable. For an Attack/Defense scenario, objectives should be anywhere in the middle 40% of the board – I went and set them in the last 20% of the board. There was no way I could reach that in 10-12 turns on foot, even if not a single solitary Russian tried to stop me. A second handicap.

With all this in mind, I’m not so worried about this loss. It was effectively an impossible scenario.

Still, not having a backup plan was foolish.

On a different note, all that new scenery was displayed and garnered praise from viewers.

Here is a new thicket with an old thicket:  .

Here’s a new thicket with the river sections:  .

Here are the final two new thickets:  .

Hopefully the next game will be as soon as August, and will be an action from Kursk.

I’m over a third of the way done, but not halfway. The chassis and lower hull were all finished last weekend, the last couple of nights have been finishing off the fiddly detail on the upper hull. Here’s a pic:

The ‘fiddly detail’ is the photoetched brass parts. I enjoyed the challenge of the remote-controlled, roof-mounted machinegun shield and have previous experience with a previous UM tank-destroyer kit in  folding and shaping the ammo box so they were done in a minute each. The thin guards over the periscope were a bit frustrating but well worth the effort.  However, I have decided not to do the folding and glueing of the spare mudguard supports and the front mudguurd braces – they are too fiddly and I couldn’t get the brass to fold properly! I was careful but I still stuffed it! Like Paul over at ‘Plastic Warriors’, I’m not a rivet-counter…I like accuracy when I build something… but this is meant to be a fun hobby – getting worked up over two non-essential parts is not fun at all. Thus, they were ditched. I personally think the rear mudguard support could have been done in plastic…they have fine plastic moulding on other parts of the kit…

If you’re interested in which particular kit I’m working on, here’s a link to a very good vendor’s product description.

While waiting for glue to bond and/or dry, I’m working on more wargaming terrain. Here’s a pic: Thick, tall clumps of bushes and blackberry (or similar)…copses or thickets…tall enough to block vision (“lines of sight” to use the military term) for infantry and also most vehicles. I deliberately use the tallest lichen clumps I can. They will be used for the Leningrad region game coming up in July and also for Pripyat Marshes games.

While getting ready for the second Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist game of the year, my research led me to a blog with a number of sets of eyewitness photographs.

I was searching for photographs of the terrain surrounding Leningrad, hoping to recreate one of the many actions that occurred during the 900 day siege of Leningrad. Skoblin’s “On the Volkhov” blog has only three months of content on it, but the content is pure gold – it’s a collection of  (translated into English!) eyewitness recollections and eyewitness photographs from both sides of the conflict.

The two blog entries that I found very useful were these:

1942 German 291st Infantry Division – Photogallery II

and

1942 4th SS Police Division – Photogallery II

which have German soldier eyewitness photographs of the Thaw (Spring) around Leningrad in 1942.  The former is of fighting around Chudovo – Chudovo is 100km southeast of Leningrad. I’m going to use both of the sets of photos to try to come up with suitable terrain and a suitable map for an infantry game in 1942.

Following on from the previous post, once you’ve cut up your sheet styrene or whatever you will use for a base to put the caulk on, then prepare your work area and get everything ready.

step-1 Step 1:  I’ve prepared my work space. I’ve got the caulk and caulk gun ready, plus a lid to screw onto the caulk gun in between applications to stop the caulk drying in the tube.  I’ve also got ready a wooden ice cream stick to smear and smooth the caulk, plus a bamboo skewer as another tool, to make impressions in the caulk of things like tyre tracks (I tried yesterday using wheels left over from model kits, but the caulk adhered to them, resulting in the opposite of the desired effect!). My tools are resting on a plastic tub (needed for scraping unwanted caulk into).

step-2 Step 2: apply the caulk to the section of road. For Leningrad roads during “Operation Barbarossa”, you want a convex shape.

step-3 Step 3a: using the wooden ice cream stick (or whatever you use to spread and smear the caulk with), spread the caulk widthways.

step-4 Step 3b: make sure you spread it equally onto both sides.

step-5 Step 4: now smear and spread lengthways. This is where you’ll want to spend a good amount of time, making sure application is fairly even and still maintaining a convex shape. Your technique in spreading and smearing will improve with practice, too. Remember, everything is travelling lengthways along roads, so you can even begin to add detail like pot-holes, wash-outs and tyre tracks now if you wish.

step-6 Step 5: really work on any details you want to have. If you click on the thumbnail and open up the photo here, you’ll see a pair of tyre tracks that have swerved from one lane to another and have left deep ruts in the road. When it comes to the painting and flocking stage, I’ll be using inks in washes to really help bring that bit of detailing out.

end-of-steps Step 6: when you’ve finished, make sure you have a warm room so the caulk can begin curing/hardening/drying as soon as possible. The summer sun in this photo was keeping this room at a nice warm temperature (once I closed up the windows – watch out for fumes!) at the conclusion of today’s efforts.

You’ll note in Step 6 that you can see crossroads and T-intersections. I’ve put tyre tracks going through and also turning on these! Have variety in your pieces, though…you won’t want all your pieces to look like a whole Army or Division just went over them. Only three pieces ended up with pot-holes. I didn’t do any wash-outs…

Now to leave these for a week to fully harden.

So begins one of my summer terrain projects – making up lots of Russian roads for the Eastern Front.

This is following the techniques publicised by Mr Nikolas Lloyd, for whom I have great respect.

First of all, gather what’s needed: starting-tools

Sheet styrene; an Olfa cutting blade; measuring tape (not shown); caulk and caulk gun; some sprues of extra truck wheels, to inprint “realistic” tyre tracks in the surface.

Second, begin cutting the lengths and then the widths with the cutting blade: getting-road-widths-right-using-a-jagdpanther

I’ve used a Jagdpanther to get the widths correct. The roads around Leningrad during Operation Barbarossa seemed to be about 1.5 Tiger tanks wide, so making these roads about 1.5 Jagdpanthers wide should be fine.

Third, make sure what you want will fit in the carrying boxes – this is something you can easily forget about as it’s easy to get carried away while cutting/carving/shaping… can-it-fit

I’ve ensured the maximum length still has at least 1cm clearance for the smallest size box I use for carrying/storing terrain (pictured on left, with those unfinished Tigers living in them). I’ve also done three different length…while fixing up and shaping the sides later, I made a fourth length. Not everything will fit on the table.

I also made two different crossroads, two different t-intersections and two different curves/bends.

Now I need lots of caulk, so it’s time to put this aside for a day or two.