Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Forces Assemble . . . The Americans

While my painted up Soviet force is mostly compliant with the Red Thunder lists, the Americans are less so.  This is mostly because the force came from my son who purchased it from another person.  The first owner did a fantastic job on the vehicles and infantry (much better than my efforts) but the force doesn't quite meet the TO&E requirements of the Stripes book.  This might matter in tournaments, but not in the PanzerCDR fuhrer bunker!

The Americans can bring to the table the following units:

M1 Abrams Combat Team HQ (with 2 IPM1 tanks)                           18 pts.
M1 Abrams Tank platoon (with 3 IPM1 tanks)                                   27 pts.
M60A3 Tank platoon (with 4 tanks)                                                    16 pts.
M113 Mech Platoon                                                                              6 pts.
(with 4 M113s, 4 M249 stands and 3 Dragon teams)
M901 ITV platoon (with 2 M901s)                                                        3 pts.
M163 VADS AA platoon (with 2 M163s)                                              3 pts.
M109 Field Battery (with 3 M109s)                                                       7 pts.

That gives the Americans 80 points, so I may have to reduce their force by a platoon of tanks or probably the artillery battery.

A Khurasan (I think) M60A3 platoon.  In my teenage mindset, these are the real US tanks defending the Fulda Gap!

M1A1s are a lot tougher to handle.  I think these are modeled with the 120mm gun so they will have to be a proxy for the 105mm version.

 The M901 ITV and M163 VADS AA platoons.   

The full platoon with infantry and its mounts.  The M113s have various armament.  The Mechanized infantry has to ride something!

The platoon command stand calls in a fire mission.

A M249/M-16 stand advances to meet the invading Soviets.

Another view.  These are painted up very well.  

No guns across the Mainz River for the Americans.  A 3 gun battery will provide final protective fire for the defenders.

Fire for effect!

The Americans are well balanced.  Since neither side has any fixed or rotary wing assets (yet), AA units are not really necessary, no matter how good they look.  

The Forces Assemble . . . The Soviets

After some effort over the past three months I can finally put together a decent sized Soviet force/formation to strike south towards Wurzburg.  Using the formation cards of the Red Thunder book from the Team Yankee series, I can put the following on table:

T-64 Tank Battalion HQ                     6 pts.
T-64 Tank Company (w 4 tanks)      19 pts.
T-64 Tank Company (w 5 tanks)      25 pts.
BMP-2 Motor Rifle Company            8 pts.
(with 4 BMP-2s and associated infantry (4 AK-74 stands and 3 RPG-7 stands)
Recon Platoon (with 4 BRDM-2s)     2 pts.
BMP-1 Observation Post                    1pt.

I can use the OP to bring in a 6 2S1 Carnation Battery 10 pts. that I intend to use off board as I haven't painted them yet.  

This isn't exactly what the TO&E of the various FMs and Cold War websites suggests would be a good representative, but its a start.  This gives me 60-71 points depending on how I want to use the artillery.  I may just leave it out for the first try as I am just getting used to the rules.  

Any Soviet force requires a LOT of tanks.  It may not be a requirement, but it should be.

For some reason, the last 5 T-64s turned out a bit lighter than the first five.  Must have been a poor paint lot at the tank factory.  Or too much vodka that shift.  

The T-64s in full flood.  

The BMP-2s.  I need to get a better picture.  These look very neat to me.  A nice little model.

The Motorized Rifle Company commander in his BMP-2.  

At this level, all you get is a few AK-74 stands and RPG-7 stands.  Not a withering horde to be sure.  I think I painted up a Motorized Rifle Formation commander stand as well for future employment. 

The infantry turned out well.  I used summer foliage on the stands as WW3 is supposed to kick off in August.  

The rear view of the AK-74 stand.  The figures paint up well but require a LOT of prep to get all of the flash off of the castings.  Grrrrrrrrr . . . 

An RPG-7 stand.  It looks menacing.

The Company Commander stand.  Just a regular AK-74 stand but someone has to lead the hordes.

An aerial view of the Motorized Rifle platoon (eventually to be a company).

The Recon platoon with 4 BRDM-2s.  I expect these guys will not last long.

The Observation Post BMP-1.  In reality, this should be a variant, but it is close enough for my initial foray into the Fulda Gap.  

So far so good.  I will continue to build and paint BMPs and Soviet infantry because the 27th Guards Motor Rifle Division has a lot of them.  The infantry are relatively easy to paint but a real pain to prepare.  The BMP-2s are green so that helps.  Perhaps I can get a little better on my color consistency this time.  

Next up, the crafty Americans!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

8th Guards Combined Arms Army

If you look at the counter mix in the SPI Modern Battle Quadrigame, "Wurzburg," it doesn't take too much time to figure out that the unit mix represents the Soviet 8th Guards Combined Arms Army.  The units include the major elements of the 27th, 39th, and 57th Guards Motor Rifle Divisions (GMRD) as well as the 9th and 20th Tank Divisions.

There are a LOT of Soviet units here!

The 8th Guards Combined Army is the historical successor to the World War Two Red Army's 8th Guards Army, which itself was formed from the 62nd Army of Stalingrad fame.  Quite a lineage!  In Soviet doctrine, a Combined Arms Army was supposed to consist of four Motorized Rifle Divisions and one Tank Division, plus lots of interesting assets near and dear to wargamer's hearts. 

US Army manual order of battle of a "standard" Soviet Combined Arms Army.  Your may differ.

While the 8th Guards Combined Arms Army traded units over the course of the Cold War, around 1985 it had the 27th, 39th, and 57th Guards Motor Rifle Divisions (GMRD) and the 79th Tank Division, plus apparently the East German 8th Motor Rifle Division to round out the requisite number of Motor Rifle Divisions.  

I am using the 27th Guards Motor Rifle Division (GMRD) as my baseline unit as I build my Team Yankee Soviet force. A Motorized Rifle Division is a pretty powerful force in its own right, with a full tank regiment, three rifle regiments (one mounted in BMPs, the other in BTRs), an artillery regiment, another independent tank battalion, plus associated recon, engineering, air defense, etc. units.  

The "standard" Cold War Soviet Motorized Rifle Division around 1985.  Accept no substitutes!

In the game Wurzburg, the 27th GMRD has the following counters to represent it:

The tank regiment and other divisional assets are blended in with the normal motorized rifle battalions.  The 3-2-12 units have the added punch.  The 3-1-7 unit is the artillery units and the 4-0-8 is the divisional rocket launcher battalion with Bm-21s.

I think they just used the counters this way due to the 100 counter mix limit for the quadrigames.  Fulda Gap's representation of the 27th GMRD isn't much better.  Every Soviet Division had
three units, each of which was at unknown strength.  You flipped over the counter at the time of initial combat, often to great consternation or glee, depending on which side you were playing:  

Not surprisingly, the Central Front series does a better job at representing the standard Motorized Rifle Division:

All of the main units are evident here, with some added artillery to make it even more powerful/nasty. 

In The Next War the 27th GMRD is only a single counter, which makes sense in an operational level


Last but not least, "The Next War."

Within the 27th GMRD, I am using the BMP equipped regiment as my guide.  This regiment has three rifle battalions, a tank battalion, a self propelled artillery battalion and other ancillary units.
The BMP equipped units is almost a mini-division, though with a greater ratio of infantry to tanks.  

While the evidence is not conclusion, most sites I have found suggest the 27th GMRD BMP regiment (68th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment) had BMP-2s.  This is good because I like the looks of the BMP-2 more than the BMP-1, which is still pretty neat.  The self-propelled artillery has 2S1 122mm SPGs, which is also neat.  The tank regiment is another thing.  The Soviets were changing their tank park for the umpteenth time during this period, with T-80s replacing the venerable T-64s in many of the Western Group of Soviet Forces in East Germany and Czechoslovakia.  By 1989 or so, the 27th GMRD had a full compliment of T-80s.  In 1985, this is less clear.  They may have swapped them out by then, but maybe not.  No one swaps out thousands of tanks at a rapid pace in peacetime, even in the Cold War.  I am going to make an assumption that the 27th still had some of its T-64s because a.) I can't prove it one way or the other,  b.) there isn't a good T-80 model available (I don't like the QRF one that much), and c.) the Battlefront T-64 is very neat looking.  Very neat looking and accessible trumps probability of issue.  I am currently building a company of T-64s and a BMP-2 company to use as representative forces for the the 27th GMRD.  Battlefront's Team Yankee game system doesn't exactly use company level units as its formations, but it is pretty close and I can fudge it as required.  Since I don't play tournaments, the points system is of more academic interest than in trying to force the Main River crossings at Wurzburg. The map helps provide the terrain overall situation.  Hopefully this should be interesting, and at least amusing.  Stay tuned!

Things look grim for the US 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division as the 27th GMRD begins its attack.  

The Battle of Wurzburg

As noted in an earlier post, Wurzburg seems inconsequential in most of the 19702/1980s operational level wargames on the Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe.  It seems to be out of the way of the main axes of any Soviet thrust into West Germany.  Other than the quadrigame, Wurzburg looks like a place that could be easily isolated and left for secondary forces to mop up after the Warsaw Pact forces had reached the English Channel.  Put in wargame terms, no one gets a lot of victory points for holding or seizing the place.

Not so in the quadrigame.  In this game, the initial Soviet led invasion runs into some trouble in the Fulda and Hof Gaps.  As a way to disrupt the American defense in the Hof Gap, the Soviets send a full Combined Arms Army to attack American forces holding Wurzburg.   I am not sure this really makes sense geographically, but my knowledge of West Germany terrain and US Corps boundaries was not very deep in the mid 1970s.

Wurzburg sits between the two Soviet invasion routes into southern West Germany, which is probably not a good place to be.  

In the quadrigame, the description of the battle is included.  Wurzburg is initially defended by the US 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division.  This unit, with a few corps assets, has to hold off the entire Soviet thrust for a couple of days until the rest of the US First Corps (REFORGER perhaps?) shows up.  The initial attack takes high casualties, and the Soviets drop three tactical nuclear weapons on the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division.  Ouch!  This takes out three battalions and disrupts another four, permitting the Soviets to penetrate into Wurzburg proper despite the prompt American nuclear retaliation.  As additional American reinforcements arrive, they are able to counterattack and drive the Soviets out of the city, hopefully avoiding the nuclear contaminated areas.

The SPI "history" of the battle.  It sounded pretty bloody.

The specific scenarios provide additional information on the engagement.  In all but one of them, the Soviets have the initiative in the beginning.  By trading space for time, American reinforcements may come to save the day.  The game is balanced sufficiently to allow either side to win, which is good in a game.  Whether this is particularly accurate is up for debate.  If nothing else, the game will keep a couple of teenagers occupied for a few hours doing something nondestructive, which is a pretty good trade off.  

Elements of the Soviet 57th Guards Motorized Rifle Division contest the northern portion of Wurzburg with the US 3rd Infantry Division.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Teenage Memories of Wurzburg

I have never been to Wurzburg, so one might wonder just what memories I could possibly have regarding a place I have never been.  In fact, I don't think I have even looked at a single book or article about that city until recently, and certainly not in the halcyon days of the 1970s.  Yet, I have poured over any number of maps (in hexagon format) over the area from any number of SPI games.  Those are the memories that I have regarding this relatively minor location, where the citizens never dreamed that they would become the epicenter of some cardboard counter battle.

My first encounter with the city was in 1974 with SPI's Modern Battles Quadrigame.  I remember buying this game at a LGS and being quite impressed by the graphics and counters.  Color!  The map geography could have been completely fabricated for all I knew about southern Germany, but the chance to have a full Soviet Combined Arms Army fight a US Corps was pretty exciting.  If I recall correctly, the game was pretty well balanced, even without the use of nuclear weapons.  The units were battalion sized, with some Soviet ones plussed-up with the various divisional assets.

The "Wurzburg" map from SPI's Modern Battles Quadrigame.

 Wurzburg showed up in my next SPI game postulating a Warsaw Pact invasion of West Germany.  "Fulda Gap, The First Battle of the Next War" was a favorite from its publishing in 1977.  Here the units were unknown combat strength brigades, with a nasty habit of turning out poorly at the most inconvenient time.  Wurzburg, located at the southern map edge, didn't figure too importantly in the invasion.  The game was pretty good, though I think NATO had a bit of an edge, especially with the air assets available.

SPI's "Fulda Gap" map.  The rectangle in red is the approximate area of the quadrigame map.  North is the top of the map.

If some Cold War was good, more must have been better.  "The Next War," SPI's monster game of the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Western Europe had 3+ maps and thousands of counters.  Unit size was a division, with lots of naval and air available.  I think I played this only twice or three times, which was still a lot in that era as it took a LONG time to get through.  I think the use of nuclear weapons would have been a relief to all of the teenagers involved, just to get some resolution.  I don't think Wurzburg was ever important in the times I played, but since that was last millennium and my memory may be a bit rusty (especially since I lost both times if I recall correctly), I could be mistaken.

The center map for "The Next War."  Wurzburg is almost an afterthought here.  Once again, North is to the top of the map.

Both Wurzburg and I survived the 1970s and SPI's next incantation was the Central Front Series of Games (Hof Gap, Fifth Corps and BAOR) published in the early 1980s.  If the "Next War" was tough to get through, the Central Front series was even tougher when linked together.  You really NEEDED to use nukes just to free up the map to an acceptable counter density, otherwise there was too much to remember.  Wurzburg shows up in "Hof Gap."  Since I didn't really play these games to any result, I can't really say if it was an important location or not.  It doesn't look like it would ever be some sort of Bastogne or St. Vith in terms of the road networks anyway.  Units were battalions and regiments once again.
SPI's "Hof Gap" map.  North is toward the upper right hand corner.  Wurzburg's area is not that different from the first game. 

Looking at the road makeup today, I still don't get the feeling that Wurzburg is that important in any major Soviet thrust into southern Germany.  Admittedly, the road network is not the same as it was in 1985, but it's probably close enough.  
The graphics are not as colorful as 1977 in this current map of southern Germany.  

Anyway, as I continue to build up my Soviet tank horde to smite the running dogs of American Imperialism and their lackeys, I will use the first "Wurzburg" map and units as my touchstone.  Its the least I can do to keep memories true, even the losses.

Monday, February 19, 2018

On to Wurzburg!

Just to show that merely because I am no longer painting LW BOTB Germans, my level of insanity hasn't decreased, I have started a new project.  I am jumping on the Team Yankee bandwagon only a few years behind the times.  Yes, I know it is not as shiny as it was when it first came out, but it has an undeniable attraction.  Massed Russian tank waves have a charm all of their own.  Growing up in the 1970s, I played my fair share of the SPI wargames, many of which were devoted to the theme of a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe.  I remember getting the Modern Battles Quadrigame from the local hobby shop and playing it extensively over the years.  While all of the games were good, the one that I liked the best was Wurzburg, which examined the Soviet invasion of Western Germany.  In this game, a Soviet Combined Arms Army has to be fended off by one US Mechanized Infantry Division, later reinforced by an Armored Division.  Particularly stirring to me was the cover picture for the game, featuring a US M551 Sheridan tank in a threatening pose.

From the Modern Battles Quad, one of SPI's finest!
 Now, one can argue that a Sheridan was more a threat to its own crew than the enemy, but with that picture my fate was sealed.  In fact, when Battlefront came out with a Sheridan model for its Vietnam range, I felt compelled to buy it.  From Wurzburg it was only a hop, skip and a die roll to other addictive Cold War games, such as Fulda Gap, The Next War, Hof Gap, Seventh Corps, etc., all designed to play out the invasion.  While I am currently building a Soviet force, I am going to use the old Wurzburg game to set the stage and terrain for the ensuing skirmishes between the Soviet 27th Guards Motor Rifle Division (GMRD) and the US 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division, both units which were featured in the game.  It should be fun, and if nothing else, won't require any bizarre camouflage to paint on the vehicles.  The Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers are green.  Not expecting their vehicles to last that long, green is good enough.

As for my force, I am working on BMP-2s and T-64s as the backbone of the army.  It is difficult to tell just what Soviet Division had what tanks and when they got them.  The 27th GMRD may have actually had T-80s by the 1985 (the nominal start of WWIII).  Right now, Battlefront only makes T-64s and T-72s, and the QRF T-80 pales by comparison, so I will use T-64s.  It looks neater as well, and that is important.  I am also using BMP-2s, as I think they look better than the BMP-1, and are also more powerful.  I think the 27th GMRD did have this vehicle, so proxying the tanks should be acceptable.  If I used the 1970s as my starting point, the T-64 would probably have been more likely, but the BMP would have been the APC of choice.  So, this is a decent trade off, even though the US force won't have Sheridans in their Armored Cavalry Squadron.

Culmination in the Ardennes

     One of the many reasons that the German offensive in the Ardennes in 1944 failed is that they literally ran out of gas.  Panzers don't get great gas mileage, and Volksgrenadiers need bread and ammunition to fight.  With scare stockpiles to begin with, any interruption in the logistics chain would cause the Wacht am Rhein surprise to fall apart.  And it did.  Allied air power was pretty good at interdicting the German supply lines, and the Panzer Divisions culminated before the German objectives could be reached.

    I believe I have culminated as well painting Late War Battle of the Bulge (LW BOTB) Germans.  I certainly never planned this to be a major project.  I figured I would just paint one (1!) panzergrenadier platoon in winter camouflage and use the various tanks I had for my Normandy endeavors to flesh out a BOTB German force.  Ha!  The figures proved to be very enticing as they painted up nicely, and the winter motif was particularly enticing.  There were many very interesting actions in the Bulge as well, far beyond the standard Bastogne siege and relief.  The battle at St. Vith caught my interest and so the lone panzergrenadier platoon expanded into separate forces to represent the Fuhrer Escort Brigade (a Confident Veteran force) and the less confident 18th Volksgreandier Division, (a Reluctant Trained mob), both of which saw fierce action around the city.  Any way, after almost two years of painting LW BOTB Germans, I have decided to take a rest for a bit on this front.  Instead of the one (1!) envisioned panzergrenadier platoon, I painted up:

- Company HQ
- 2 panzergrenadier platoons each with a panzerschrek stand
- a heavy platoon for the panzergrenadiers with 4 HMGs and 4 81mm mortars, which could easily be broken down into separate HMG and mortar platoons.
- 3 volksgrenadier platoons (2 with assault rifles and one R/MG), each with an attached panzerschrek stand
- a 120mm mortar platoon
- a 4 gun 10.5 cm lefh 18/40 battery with 4 guns
- a hetzer platoon with 4 hetzers
- a stand alone 88mm flak gun for antitank purposes
- a lot of forward observers

A full storage container of LW BOTB Germans.  The top drawer has the HQ, panzergrenadiers and heavy platoon.  The Mobelwagons are from my son.

Drawer number two has the three volksgrenadier platoon and the 120mm mortar platoon.

Last but not least.  Drawer number three has heavy weapons for the Germans; the 10.5 cm battery, the hetzers and the 88.  Plus some supplies to fight over.  That's a lot of winter stuff.  

     That's a lot of Germans!  And there are a lot more to go.  One of the advantages of being ~2 years behind the latest "Oh shiney!" draw at Battlefront is that I picked most of these up at substantial savings (at least that's what I tell Frau PanzerCDR . . . ) so my lead pile is pretty big.  If I decided to go back to the Bulge I could easily pull out a pak 40 ATG platoon, or some pioneers, or maybe some LW Panthers, or something.  But these, and their American LW winter opponents will have to wait for a bit until I get motivated by the snow or Battlefront figures out just what Version 4.0 is supposed to be.  I am not sure which will come first, but either way I'll be ready!