Saturday, November 11, 2017

More on ORBATS, scaling and such...

Wow!  A fair bit of feedback on my last previous posting. All good and fair points, although what they had to say served not so much as a corrective in terms of direction, as to impose some discipline to my thinking!

If I have a talent, it does not lie in the realm of originality. It seems to go more in the direction of running with the ideas of others, and taking them places the originator perhaps never thought of. That has quite often led me to some very interesting (to me) and thought-stimulating realms. In my view, that is a useful talent to have, but... it does have a downside. I was running with Bob Cordery's HEXBLITZ, along with Chris Kemp's NQM and and Tim Gow's Megablitz, and something else that has slipped my mind for the moment, into several parallel threads, all of different scales.  That 352 Div ORBAT in my view would make a fine war games formation - but not in the scale I ought to have been looking at for 'Jacko's' and my Operation Uranus project.  Thanks, guys, for pulling me up on that.

What that leads me to is this posting, which was planned for farther down the track.  Here I'll post my proposed ORBATS for the Uranus Project.  It is not cast in stone - some refinements may be required - though some refinements have already been made just for this posting.  I have left off the GoC, staffs and sigs and LOG/POL elements from the lists simply for the sake of brevity.
Proposed Soviet formations for our 'Operation Uranus' project.
The group of pack horses I have rated at 1 LOG per pack animal.
A bit generous maybe?

Operation Uranus: Attack on III Romanian Army

Soviet Union:

The following is the ORBAT in rather compressed form:

1st Guards Army (part only)
     266, 197, 278, 203 Rifle Divisions each 6 stands, SP=6
     1st Guards Army Tank command: 1 x T34 @ SP=3, 1 x KV1 @ SP=3
     Reserve Artillery 1 x 152mm artillery stand, SP=3

First proposal for Soviet Tank Corps.  Of the three Tank
Corps, only two will receive KVs.

5th Tank Army

     1, 26 Tank Corps (as pictured, though 26th Tk Corps will get 3xT34 @ SP=3)
     8 Cavalry Corps (as pictured)
     14, 47 Guards Rifle Divisions each 6 stands, each SP=6
     228, 119, 210, 159, 124, 346 Rifle Divisions, each SP=5
     Reserve Artillery 2 x 152 each SP=3

Proposed Cavalry Corps:  Light tank, mounted
troops in a single group, field arty support.

21st Army

     4 Tank Corps (as pictured)
     3 Guards Cavalry Corps (as pictured but with the mounted group SP=5)
     346, 96, 63, 333, 293, 78, 277 Rifle Divisions each 5 stands, SP=5
     Reserve Artillery 2 x 152 each SP=3
Soviet (Guards) Rifle Division.  Although the 6 stands
here include a mortar and a MMG, for our purposes
they all count the same.

65th Army (part only)
     27 Guards Rifle Division, 6 stands, SP=6
     252, 258 Rifle Divisions, 5 stands SP=5
     65th Army Tank Command (1xT34 SP=3)
     Reserve Artillery 1x 122mm @ SP=2

Army Reserve Artillery : 1x122mm, 1x152mm.  Represents
Army level equipments: heavy stuff.  Both this pieces are
semi-scratch built.

That will still be quite a lot of stuff to field in the table, and I really don't have enough SP marker holders, so a lot of the information will have to be carried by the stands... probably.

The four formations...

The Romanian Army (for which I can not supply pictures) I can list a little more formally, though still omitting Command, HQ and logistics elements:

The Operation Uranus Project map.  I have had to make a couple of corrections
since a couple of postings back: removing the duplicate 293rd Rifle Division
and redrawing the 21st/65th Army boundary lines.

III Romanian Army:

I Corps:
7th, 11th Infantry Divisions, each 6 stands, SP=6
Reserve Artillery: 1 field gun 7.5cm or light howitzer 10.5cm SP=2

II Corps:
9th, 14th Infantry Divisions, each 6 stands, SP=6
Reserve Artillery:  SP=2
V Corps:
5th, 6th Infantry Divisions, each 6 stands, SP=6
Reserve Artillery: SP=2

IV Corps:
13th Infantry Division, 6 stands SP=6
1st Cavalry Division, 6 stands SP=6
Reserve Artillery: SP=2

Under III Army Command:
15th Infantry Division, 6 stands, SP=6
7th Cavalry Division, 6 stands, SP=6

1st Panzer Division,
          2 AFVs (Pz38(t) or PzIIIH) each SP=3
          Infantry: 2 infantry stands, SP=2 

Reserve Artillery: SP=2

XLVIII Panzer Corps (German)
    (22 Panzer Division)
         Pz Rgt 204: 2 AFVs (Pz38(t) or PzIIIH) @ SP=3
         Pz Gr Rgt 129: 2 infantry stands, SP=2
         Pz Artillery Rgt 140: 1x 10.5cm @ SP=1

Kampfgruppe Simons (German):
         1 Marder or towed PaK 38 or PaK40 @ SP=2
         2 Infantry stands, SP=2

As has been pointed out to me, this is quite a lot of kit to shovel onto one table - not a very big table, and all. With the German attachments the Romanians will be fielding 22 units (allowing for splitting the armoured units).  At that, they will be considerably outnumbered by the Russian hordes (Aaargh! 49 units!!)   Well apart from a slight reorganisation of Soviet tank corps to the following picture - and that will bring the units down to a mere 46 - we will have to bring in the 'board game' argument.  As the type of game we are looking at bears rather more similarity to board war games, I hope maybe we can 'get away' with these kind of numbers.

In these last pictures, I have formed the 'teeth' arms of a Tank Corps into constituent Tank brigades, each comprising one tank and one infantry stand.  Each brigade forms a single unit, that may not be separated, nor be stacked with anything else (there simply ain't the room). The infantry stand simply adds one to the SP value, and, I think, adds to the aesthetics of a tank brigade. These strike me as a good - possibly preferable - alternative to the earlier organisation shown.  The tanks of 1st Guards and 65th Armies will not be so augmented, however.  They simply represent the tank holdings of those armies, which don't appear to have been organised into Tank Corps as such. At that the 2 AFVs of 1st Guards Army represents just 2/3 of their actual inventory of over 160 tanks.

To change the subject a little to these last two pictures themselves, the hexagon shapes upon which the vehicles stand are intended as profiles for minor built-up areas for my hex-board. Such doodads aren't strictly necessary, but they go towards the look of the thing. The buildings forming the background of these pictures will do nicely as well. I began making these a zillion years ago at a time when I was vaguely considering (shudder) Volley & Bayonet*. Until recently I ignored them, but never quite threw them away.  The extra grey-walled buildings and the crazy paving I added a few days ago, and the pair have a nice little BUA effect.  They are permanent fixtures on their base, though. The profiles allow more temporary arrangements.

*  I don't really mean to disparage V&B.  That rule set is very popular among a certain set of local war gamers, and that argues considerable merit.  But for some reason, I simply could not get my head around its mechanics and conventions.  Strange.


  1. Archduke Piccolo,

    These ORBATs look as if they will work very well on a reasonably sized table.

    Long ago I accepted the fact that if I wanted to fight operational-level wargames I had to understand that I was - in effect - playing a boardgame with 3D counters. I was challenged by several people who wanted to know why I used 3D 'counters' (i.e. figures and vehicles on bases) rather than simple cardboard counters. I used to argue that it was for aesthetic reasons ... until CONNECTIONS UK 2016.

    I was having this same discussion with an American military officer, who felt that by having 3D 'counters' I was 'playing' a wargame and not fighting a tabletop battle. (I think that he was arguing from the point of view of credibility with his non-wargaming colleagues.) I picked up a counter from a traditional boardgame and asked him to tell me what sort of unit etc., was represented. He had to study it quite intensely to do so ... so I replaced it with one of my 3D 'counters'. He immediately identified it by arm of service (it was a model tank) and strength (it was indictaed by a SP marker on the back).

    To my mind this proved the fact that despite their apparent disadvantages, 3D 'counters' are not only more aesthetically pleasing to look at but also a more efficient way of displaying the information players need during a battle.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks Bob,
      I was always pretty certain that operation level games - especially the complex armies of the modern era, would involve a high degree of abstraction. It is the kit that has the visual appeal, and that evokes the sense of period.

  2. Ion,
    A point I didn't stress previously was that the 8-14 elements are not necessarily individual stands; rather what I would class as "manoeuvre elements" that is they consist of several individual elements or stands. This would be determined by the command and control level of your game.
    So if you use some form of activation rules, say rolling dice or drawing cards that allows the player to act with a given number of "units", then whatever you consider a "unit" to be is in effect determining the command and control.
    The C&C level can vary between armies.
    So your 40 odd Soviet "stands" could be grouped into 10 manoeuvre elements and thus still meet the "golden rule".
    The rider however is this only works if the base manoeuvre elements are used as the basis for all actions; hence they move and fire as a group. Your idea of grouping the SP per formation, rather than individual elements would tie into this concept.
    If you go down this road, you will need to decide if you allow splitting and if so what rules you have. The danger is you end up with lots of smaller units.
    Personally I would work top down and determine what the maximum range of manoeuvre elements would be allowed to act per turn; thus if a player decided to split his 8 "units" into 16, he would still only be able to act with say 4-6.
    This would represent the increased friction inherent in loss of control by fragmentation of your force.
    In my incomplete draft of operational rules, I also toyed with factoring fatigue into this. When a manoeuvre elements had lost a given number of SP, they became "fatigued" and if more SP were lost, "spent". This reduced the chance of them being able to act, and when they did it was with less effect.
    While it gives a "sense of realism" (with both sides becoming increasingly inactive, fresh troops can tip the balance) I'm less certain if the extra complexity was worth it.
    This is one of the important things to consider in a set of operational rules; that is how far you go on the abstraction to "realism" road. The more abstract the closer you get to a board game with figures. Personally I long ago realised that the holy grail of "realism" is probably unachievable, but it's a hard road to travel to get to abstraction or rather the level of abstraction you are comfortable with.
    Operational rules discussions always generate a lot of thoughts; I think there are many of us who are still searching for the perfect set!

    1. Just a quick response here, Neil -
      I did consider being able to split Infantry Divisions in two, but I have already started to resile from that idea. So they will remain indivisible. Army Corps of course, having 3 or 4 tactical units, are a bit more articulated. I put Panzer Divisions in the same category of having 3 tactical units (representing the 3 major arms).

      On the 'exhaustion' thing, the reason for my keeping unit and formation SPs fairly low is to permit SP=0 to represent the case of a unit reaching the point at which further pressure would cause its dissolution. I don't think I want tat this level to introduce something like the 'Fire & Fury' system (Actually it hadn't crossed my mind at all, so far. It could be something to consider further down the track).

      I am conscious of a much higher level of abstraction the higher the command level of our games. For instance, I haven't quite made up my mind yet whether to give each infantry Division an integral 1SP artillery or support weapons capability at 2-4 hex range. At this point I'm inclined to leave that sort of thing to the designated support artillery at Corps and Army level.

      The Operation Uranus game does not envisage any sophisticated tactics. This will be a massed charge, I rather think! Traffic control will probably be the biggest headache!

  3. I love seeing these kind of formations. Great opportunity to get out the old 1/72nd scale kit and see what you can do. Annoyingly I've been doing this in that scale along with 15mm so I can't put together much. My current hope is that the new Rommel rules will give me some inspiration.

  4. The "proof will be in the pudding" I guess. It is a lot of kit to be on one table but we can play it and see how it fares. I am simply exited at playing Uranus at a larger scale, I have no qualms about playing it twice if need be ;)