Saturday, June 10, 2017

LW BOTB Hetzers!

     One problem in creating a less than elite force in Version 3 is that the various options really don't fill up the point spread very fast.  Or even well.  So, if you rally want to create a force based on the 18th Volksgrenadier Division in the Battle of the Bulge, you area going to have some challenges.  As a RT force, getting up to 1500 points is not easy.  One way to do this is to take every single high priced support unit you can, making up for the fact that even taking every infantry force and add on in the Combat Platoons is a mere 610 points.  I am trying to make this an artillery heavy force, as the worse your infantry is, the more artillery you need, and the volksgrenadiers need as much indirect fire as they can get.  A tank-hunter platoon is another way to add on points, as even a RT Hetzer platoon is 235 points.  I picked these up in a sale at a hobby shop and was not immediately taken in by them.  The Hetzer is not my favorite LW German armored vehicle.  It is small, underpowered, under armored, and not very exciting compared to other LW staples such as Tigers and Panthers, and my workhorse Panzer Mk IVs.  None the less, they do seem to be the tank hunter of record for the VGs in the Bulge, so I pulled out the box and had a crack at them.  I also got to use my air brush for the first time, and attempt the German camouflage that is so enticing.  Everyone says that there is a steep learning curve on airbrush use.  I have not approached the asymptote yet . . .   Otherwise, they turned out well enough, and should be able to help root out the frozen defenders of St. Vith or Bastogne when called to the next game.

A Volksgrenadier Sturm platoon and a Hetzer Tank-Hunter platoon move up to attack the American defenders.  

The Hetzer camouflage is supposed to be green back drop areas with brown inner core circles.  I did the opposite.  Oops!  Don't tell the unteroffizier!

I really don't expect any RT platoons to last very long.
The jabos view before they bomb them to pieces.

The Hetzers are small and pretty easy to paint.  Not too much junk on the hulls.

The platoon commanders exchange ideas on how to eliminate the FV Paratroopers from the objective.  Neither appear optimistic.  

Perhaps discretion IS the better part of valor.  The Hetzer rear view.

Not a great AFV, or even a good one.  A cheap one to be sure.  

On to the Meuse River!
     I am now working on a 10.5 cm artillery battery for the Bulge.  I have prepped and primed the crew but I am still (!) waiting on the special order guns.  I think someone had to refine the metal . . .   After that the 2nd LW BOTB VG Sturm platoon awaits!  This should give me close to 1200 points and with a little help from the Fuhrer Escort Brigade, will be enough.  Stay tuned.


I love military acronyms!  Just writing LW BOTB 88 mm ATG is a joy, much more so than actually having to type "Late War Battle of the Bulge 88 mm Anti-Tank Gun."  Since I send pictures to a few willing acolytes who are always ready to pump up my self esteem with accolades, I have had more than a few opportunities to write this.  LW BOTB!  It brings joy to my heart.

In other news, I finally finished the LW BOTB 88 mm ATG (there, I wrote it again!) after more than a few months.  I wanted to do it to look like the piece that is banging away at the FV in Easy Company at Foy in the "Band of Brothers" miniseries.  I couldn't get a good view of the markings/color/camouflage despite numerous viewings on YouTube.  So, I went through the collection of books I have only to be disappointed.  Not to be deterred, I searched on the internet and eventually came up with this picture:

A REAL LW BOTB 88mm ATG.  The camouflage looks unique.  The gunners look cold and hungry.  

The camouflage is a bit unique, but good enough.  I used the standard Battlefront GE550 blister for the gun and used most of the crew, though I added/altered a couple of the crew and used a few of the LW Winter artillery crew to round off the stand.  Version 4 came out in the middle of this, but I based the gun using Version 3 criteria.  I placed a rare earth magnet in the stand so I can rotate the gun (a little) until the figures get in the way.  The base of the gun sank a little lower in the flock than usual, but I will just say the snow was a little deep in that position.  

An eight man crew for an 88 mm flak piece.  

I used arid grass and snow flock for the base.  I think it looks better than just deep snow.

The gun crew looks a little scruffier than the elite Panzergrenadiers.  Unfortunately you can't get 88s as support forces in V3 for a Volksgrenadier force.  Nuts!

The haystacks are from a Miniature Building Authority sale that took place as I was painting the gun.  

I can rotate and elevate the gun (a little).  Since I envision it more as an antitank gun than an antiaircraft gun, this is OK.  
OK, so now that the LW BOTB 88 mm ATG is done, I can showcase the hetzers.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

More Late War Battle of the Bulge (LW BOTB) Germans

I finished off a couple of units for my current Ardennes Offensive fling.  I had painted up two platoons of Panzergrenadiers and wanted to have an assault rifle platoon to mix and match if I wanted to run a Volksgrenadier force instead.  So, I started off with the 4 assault rifle stands and the platoon commander, eventually following it up with the two other MG stands to make a complete platoon.  These turned out pretty nice and made me wonder if I should instead shift to a Volksgrenadier force instead of a Panzergrenadier themed one.  Since my ability to focus and stay on target is limited in the early stages of senility, I decided not to decide.  The Battlefront LW winter German infantry are very nice.  I use mostly Vallejo paints for these stands.  The new Battlefront paint is OK but I have a lot of Vallejo and don't see a need to change these out (though the new Battlefront black is a better mixture as it flows better in my opinion).

A new VG assault rifle platoon!  The trees need work though . . .

Assault rifles and panzerfausts!  It doesn't get much better than this.

I use a diluted GW Devlin Mud ink wash on the uniforms.  I try not to do the white helmets as I like them to stick out.

The platoon commander motivates his RT VGs.

MG 42 adds some long range firepower to the platoon.

The full platoon. 

A panzerschrek team adds longer range antitank capability. 

I used tufts of flock and some arid grass for the bases, and after that dried I added the snow flock.  I think it turned out well, perhaps even better than the full snow drifts that the Panzergrenadiers have.  Note the one white helmet that DID get ink washed.  Live and learn . . .

In the meantime I also finished up a LW BOTB 12 cm heavy mortar platoon to provide support for either force.  I really like this weapon as it looks really neat and was pretty effective.  Since my platoons are usually fighting Fearless Veterans and the Volksgrenadiers may be Reluctant Trained, I wanted as much fire support as possible.  However, the current Battlefront 12 cm mortar blister for the normal Wehrmacht was sculpted and cast in the less than halcyon days of old and the figures and sculpts are not very good (this is a kind way to say I think they are horrible).  Subsequent attempts for the SS and Falschrimjagers are much better.  So, having acquired an extra SS blister, I used one of the SS figures (the one holding the mortar bomb) and used other LW winter artillery and antitank gun crew members to round out the mortar team.  Since the SS guy was painted in winter camouflage, you have to look carefully to see he really isn't wearing the "normal" LW German winter gear.  This is tolerable to my poor eyes. 

I really haven't seen a 12 cm heavy mortar platoon used in various battle reports so this might be a first.  Probably not though.

The casting with the binoculars is an SS figure but he looks OK in winter camouflage.

The regular observer team.

Every platoon needs a commander.

The other side of the stand.

These are pretty big mortars.  I used winter grass for these bases with the light snow flocking. 

The snow is there but not in blizzard strength yet.

Ready to fire on the Americans!

Various views . . .

The figure holding the mortar bomb is the SS casting.  He looks OK in winter camouflage.

The full platoon.

I also finished up a couple of BOTB objectives that had been languishing on the painting table for awhile.  As always, a simple paint job, a small amount of dry brushing, some ink washing and a lot of flock make for a compelling objective.  Or a flaming roadblock. 

The fuel depot got the arid flock.  POL kills grass.

K-rations or ammo?

The ammo boxes got the winter flock. 

I think this is the first thing I have painted Olive Drab in years!
What's next?  I am working on a LW BOTB 88 mm gun for antitank purposes.  I have the crew done (almost) but the gun needs a lot of additional attention.  Then, I could do the last Panzergrenadier platoon for a full company, or finish off the hetzers I started (I need to learn how to use my air brush!) or a 10.5 cm towed howitzer battery, or maybe some pioneers . . . 

Ready to defend Foy!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Beginning of the End: The 107th Panzer Brigade attack at Vegel

OK, so the Ardennes can get a tad bleary, snow blindness and all.  So, we shifted back to Holland in September (1944 of course!) for another chance to use the recently painted Late War kit.  We have a bunch of Panthers, Mobelwagons, 3.7 inch AA guns and even a horde of sdkfz 251/21Ds to use.  We adapted a scenario out of the Command Decision, Test of Battle, Operation Market Garden Book by Jake Strangeway (Scenario 8: "The Beginning of the End." 107th Panzer Brigade cuts Hell's Highway).  The forces were scaled down to FOW equivalent so where the Germans might have a battalion, they get a weak platoon.  The Americans get HUGE Fearless Veteran US Paratrooper platoons which are hard to break.  The Germans get a fair amount of armor, which even if it is only Confident Trained, it still is pretty good.  Especially when all the Allies initially have are 57mm AT Guns and bazookas.  It looked like a good scenario and one of us has been valiantly painting away on sdkfz 251/21Ds, so we decided to give it a try and let Bastogne rest for a bit.  

The Map from Operation Market-Garden, by Jake Radey.  The terrain is mostly open fields with the built up areas in Vegel.  The canal is impassable except at the two bridges.   

Our interpretation of the scenario map.  Since out table is a bit shorter and wider than the scenario map, we squished some things in and elongated some other distances.

Another view of the terrain setup.  There are a lot of Germans and they all come in on turn one.  This is not good for the Allies.  

The Germans are somewhat a haphazard collection of units.  Command Decision's morale rules are more variable than Flames of War, so most Germans were Confident Trained with the exception of the SS Panzergrenadiers from SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 22 who were Fearless Veterans.  

There are a LOT of FV US Paratroopers but only one platoon is on the board on turn one.  This is bad for the Allies.  
Initial setup for the Germans.  There are a bunch of sdkfz 251/21Ds, though not seven as the scenario calls for.  We only had six.  Even our insanity has bounds . . .

Kampfgruppe Walther masses near Vegel.

The 2nd Battalion, 501st sets up in Vegel and is mostly hidden in the houses.  This is wise as they will need all of the bullet proof cover they can get.

A British 3.7 inch AA gun and a Bofors 40mm gun are limbered on the road approaching Vegel.

Another view of the 3.7 inch gun.  It looks really neat but didn't accomplish anything in the game.

The 40mm Bofors at least killed a few SS stands later in the game.  

Looking across the canal into Vegel.

The other bridge.  

The SS Panzergrenadiers set up in the fields near the US positions in Vegel.  These poses are also nice and are probably my best painted Germans.

More Germans from Kampfgruppe Walther prepare to attack.
The Germans move out and towards the US Paratroopers in Vegel.  This takes time as there are a lot of Germans and only so much space.  

Kampfgruppe Walther moves through Erp.  

The tail end of the German column.

Other Germans skirt the outskirts of Erp and head through the fields.

This attracts the attention of the Americans who promptly lay down a 75mm pack howitzer barrage on the platoon representing elements of the 16th Grenadier Regiment, 180th Infantry Division.  They did not achieve much in the game other than to absorb incoming fire and produce casualties.

They unpin and move out.  For now . . .

SS Panzergrenadiders and Wehrmacht engineers move into Vegel screened by armor.

The rest of the Germans avoid the position of the last US barrage.

German 120mm mortars bombard the Americans but cause few casualties.  These stands are Peter Pig figures as I liked these better than the Battlefront offering a few years ago.  
German armor nose its way into Vegel.

Another view.  They cause little damage but are essentially invulnerable to any US weapon. 

SS Panzergrenadiers assault a key position in the US defenses.  Only two stands were able to get close enough to the house to assault, but the Americans had been pinned by all of the fire coming from the 120 mm mortars, panzergrenadiers and panzers, so I rolled the dice and assaulted.  

Amazingly enough defensive fire fails to shred the SS Panzergrenadiers.  The assault goes in and one US stand is killed.  The Paratrooper fail their morale and route across the street to the green house.  

The SS Panzergrenadiers carry the position and consolidate.  This is probably the key event in the game as the Germans captured this house and used it to slowly whittle down the Americans with superior fire power and numbers.

With a key position next to the bridge, the rest of the Germans move up to rain down fire on the dug in Americans.

The 16th Grenadiers get pinned again.  

There are 5 Panthers, 2 Jagdpanzer IV/L70s and a Jagdpanzer IV/L48 pounding away on the Americans.  The two sdkfz 261/16D flamethrower halftracks get ready to dose the green corner house with fire after which the German engineers will close assault.

Most of the Americans are in the houses but some are dug in behind the stone fence.  

Turn Three: US reinforcements from the 2nd battalion, 506th Regiment start  down the road.  

Bofors 40 mm AA gun bangs away at the SS Panzergrenadiers and actually kills a stand.

The 3.7 inch AA gun fires at the massed German armor across the canal and hits nothing.  Ever.  They must have thought the tanks were not the Luftwaffe and it was unsporting to shoot against them.  Or the Americans just rolled horribly.

German engineers prepare to assault.  This is a small platoon but the SS Panzergrenadiers took a long time to rally after their successful assault so the engineers with the halftracks were sent in.

Bazooka fire was generally rotten as well.
SIX sdkfz 251/21Ds mass to make sure no American reinforcements can get across the bridge.

German shooting gallery against US Paratroopers keeps them pinned and kills a stand here and there.

Meanwhile, a German Panzergrenadier platoon is sent to Marienheide to take that objective.

Everybody takes a turn shooting at the Americans.  I have taken my fair share of gammon bombs and decline to assault for now.

German 120 mm mortars at Erp fire but with only a two gun battery don't cause much damage.

Finally!  After getting pinned down for a turn, the German engineers rally and move up to close assault the Paratroopers in the green cafe.  The sdkfz 251/16D is deadly, killing three US stands before it runs out of fuel.

Another view.  This is a newly painted unit which should have been destroyed by now, but they did great here.  

Turn 4: US reinforcements from the 3rd Battalion, 327th Glider Infantry Regiment show up near Uden.

They move down the road to attack the Germans near Marienheide.

Meanwhile the 2nd Battalion of the 506th approaches the scene of the German attack.

The surviving Paratroopers in the green cafe repulse the German engineers and even destroy the offending sdkfz 251/16D halftrack.  But there aren't many Americans left.  
The glider infantry move up to attack the Germans at Marienheide.

Meanwhile another German Panzergrenadier company moves up to close assault the Americans in the green cafe.

The surviving German engineer command stand is very brave, but the platoon is about to route.

Germans take position in the Marienheide Railroad station.

A Mobelwagon moves up to support the Panzergrenadiers.

Another view of a new unit on the field of battle.  

Colonel Frost would be proud of the American defense at Vegel.  

The German engineers route off of the table.

British Armour from the 44th Royal Tank Regiment arrive but are not excited about sallying over the bridge to encounter the Panthers.

The Brits join the queue waiting to get over the bridge.

The glider infantry continue their advance helped by a smoke screen that obstructs the Mobelwagon line of sight.
And then there were only five . . . Germans lose a sdkfz 251/21D halftrack to bazooka fire.  

American artillery fire pins the Panzergrenadiers near the RR station at Marienheide.

With more Allied reinforcements arriving and the number of fearless veteran Paratrooper stands in Vegel decreasing, the Germans launch an all out assault on the Paratrooper positions.

The Americans, perhaps 5 stands left out the initial 17, route off the board leaving the Germans in control of Vegel.

The Germans consolidate and the surviving sdkfz 251/16Ds get out of the way before the British Shermans can destroy them.

Another view of the German success.

It is getting late in the day but perhaps the glider infantry can salvage the Allied defense.  They move up to Marienheide under fire from the Panzergrenadiers, their halftracks and the Moblewagon.

Paratroopers from the 506th try to attack over the bridge.  Finally.  

Another US Paratrooper platoon representing the 3rd Battalion of the 506th moves toward the RR bridge over the canal.

There are no Germans here.  Yet . . .

Mobelwagon fire near Marienheide takes out a Paratrooper stand.
A glider 37 mm AT gun moves up to shoot at the Mobelwagon.  This is another new unit fresh on the table.

British tanks, artillery and AA guns plaster the Germans but not enough to pin them all.  

Another British Sherman platoon shoots up the sdkfz 251/21Ds but only manage to bail out three.  They later rally and run away.

With the US force in Vegel defeated, the Germans redeploy to defend the RR bridge and send more troops down to Marienheide.

Even Easy Company can't get across the bridge.  The US Paratroopers lose three stands and get pinned.  There are too many Germans with too high rates of fire.

The sdfkz 251/21Ds get away!  

Panthers head to the RR bridge.

This is perhaps the second time the Panthers have made an appearance and they did pretty well.

Allied forces on the wrong side of the canal have few options, and none of them are good.

The glider infantry have a chance . . .

Against all odds the 37 mm AT gun hits and destroys the Mobelwagon!   The crew rejoices!
The Mobelwagon burns.

Everyone is amazed the 37 mm AT gun did anything in a Late War scenario.
This was the last shot of the game as the Allied player decided that the Germans were in a strong position and could not be really dislodged.  The scenario was not really unbalanced.  German initial attacks were successful and the Americans really couldn't match the firepower of the German panzer brigade.  I think the morale in Command Decision would have dulled some of the German initiative as they German units weren't that good at this point in the war.  American die rolling was atrocious.  I think we will play this one again, though it may be awhile.