Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sort this lot out!

Having neglected my WW2 stuff for so long - in fact hardly looked at them at all since the big earthquakes of a few years ago, I thought it high time I had a look to see what was what. I began with my Red Army.  It took two or three days of fossicking to find all my Russian infantry in particular. They are badly in need of reorganising and buffing up, as you can see from the picture above.
The preceding picture shows the most organised bits.   The fact is that an army organised per Command Decision (CD)  rule sets is not easily adapted to Panzer Marsch! (PM). What you see above is the bulk of the infantry of one Tank, one Mechanised and three Rifle Brigades under CD, They barely make a single rifle company with its attached machine-gun company for PM.

The lead row comprises the rifle battalion of my Tank Brigade, less some of the heavier equipment. The medium Tank battalions comprise T34 (I) and  Shermans (II), and KVs heavy (III: KV1 and 2s, or KV85s - more on these another time).  

The following block of three rows are the rifle battalions of my Mechanised Brigade.  This was the first formation I built up for this army, and is the only one that has seen real CD action.  It never lost a battle, though in all honesty it probably won fewer battles than it drew!  In about 1992 I entered a rather truncated version of this Brigade (its Tank Regiment reduced to 7xT34/76 tanks) into a Club competition.  It fought all of its battles to a draw.   That was not a bad achievement when you consider no opponent had fewer than seven tanks, and of the only one that had that number, three were King Tigers.  I couldn't hurt those, but his PzIVs were all gone by the end of the action!

It was also the only army on the day whose quality was classed as 'Experienced'.  Everyone else turned up with 'Veterans', and one (British) even had 'Elite' paratroops.  Of course, as this was a competition, my guys encountered that outfit (must have been June 1945), and fought it to a standstill, too - the only army that managed it (that army won the competition).  Challengers and Comets will succumb to a surprise flank attack by T34/76s, even if they are lurking behind a hill crest! If there is one thing I like about CD, it is that you can, without too much difficulty, pull off an on-table surprise.

That is so even with Russians, whose command structure in this rule set is far less flexible than those of the German or Western Allies.  I've never been quite convinced of the fairness or accuracy of this, but it does make for an interesting challenge. If 'pointing up' an army as we did with the competition mentioned earlier, I should think a fairish 'points' premium should attach to command and command/infantry (etc) stands.  At any rate, owing to its war record so far, this Mechanised Brigade has been, deservedly, awarded 'Guard' status.

Be that as it may, the three distinct blocks behind them are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Rifle Brigades. These have never seen action so constituted, and the Brigade numbering will change (probably to 23rd, 24th and 25th in the service of the Pan-Andean People's Republic).  The troops have been up at the sharp end as part of a rifle company in PM battles (see e.g. here). On the other board are a whole mess of machine-gun companies (2 stands each), anti-tank rifle companies (also 2 stands apiece), SMG platoons, SMG recon patrols and command stands, radio operators, and draught horses and mules.  In addition a couple of GAZ (Zis?) trucks (one resin, one scratch built from balsa and cardboard), anti-tank and field guns, and a Chinese kit SU85 that I built back in December.  Paul 'Jacko' gave me that some time ago, with the story that, judging by the external packaging (as you do) he understood he was buying a Sherman tank.  It also seems to be missing at least one of its tracks, so I've used plastic strapping for the time being.  Otherwise it was quite a nice little kit, I thought.
The picture below gives a closer look at my three 76.2mm (3-inch) field guns, all scratch built from card, balsa and plastic cotton-bud tubing.  In addition to other bits and pieces are the 4 SG-43 air-cooled MMG stands, each representing a platoon.  These are metal figures and models.  Most of my Maksim MMGs are ESCI, with half a dozen Airfix, and I think 8 metal ones.
Below is a close up of 76.2mm field gun completed long ago, but which hasn't yet received a paint job.  Even the wheels are cardboard - 3 thicknesses cut out and glued together, with a paper thickness with a centre cut out glued to the outside.  Mine are based on the M1939 Divisional Model field piece.  I would quite like to find a basis for building or buying older artillery models for my less well-equipped Rifle Brigades. 
These field guns were quite big guns, considering.  The Germans thought highly enough of them to reissue captured examples as PaK 36(r) anti-tank guns.  Finding over the years that such scratch-built ordnance is less than ideally robust, free standing, I have glued them on to beer-mat bases.  The crew figures you see here aren't yet based themselves, but will be placed on a separate stand.  
In the picture below is the 5th Rifle Brigade as work in progress.  Unlike the Airfix, ESCI and Hong Kong knock-offs that make up the other brigades, this has metal figures.  These have been eked out by using flag bearers in the middle companies of each battalion.  
Included in the picture below is a pair of 45L66 anti-tank guns picked up from I think the sale of someone's surplus gear several years ago.  They are simple modifications of I think ESCI PaK35/36s with an extra-long gun barrel.  All my Russian 45mm AT guns are in fact ESCI 1:72 scale German PaKs modified simply by painting them green.  The 1:76 scale examples remain as Wehrmacht 'door-knockers'.

You might be getting an inkling from that pictures (above) what is (sort of) wrong with much of this army: over-large and inconsistent base/stand sizing.  The stands for the 45L66 ATGs are (necessarily, to protect the gun barrels) huge, and the figures are permanently attached, too (though I'd rather they weren't).  My own view is that it doesn't actually matter very much, but I am aware that others take a less .. erm ... liberal view.  The base for the 45L46 ATG in the picture has the figures fastened, but the gun itself not.  That still makes for an over-large stand.

In my view, the slight advantage in drawing line of sight from over-sized gun stands could easily be neutralised by a local rule drawing the line of sight (LOS) from the line of the axles including the wheel hubs.  Or one might suggest, gently, that the outgoing LOS is matched by the incoming.  The large bases make the weapons more vulnerable to incoming artillery fire, something to which one's opponent could scarcely object.  I agree, though, it is not fully satisfactory, but I see no solution.  My mechanised brigade infantry I based without  having possession of the rule set at the time.  I simply guessed, and my guess was well off.  Their bases are also too large.  I have not had the heart to modify them.

I have repeated this 'mistake' with the 5th Brigade.  Frankly, for the minor convenience of being able to place a stand in a vehicle (to determine whether loaded or not), I find the tiny 2-figure 7/8-inch x 5/8-inch stands inconvenient for several reasons.  These I will go into another time.