Friday, September 22, 2023

The Quality of Quantity: 71st Army?


Enough here for 9 Rifle Divisions, plus the infantry of 
a Mechanised Brigade.  
Having organised 6th Shock Army - at least in terms of figure and kit allocation: accommodations are still wanting - I discovered I was a whole infantry Division over. But I had a fair few more figures yet to be assigned a role. Most of these were Airfix and knockoffs of Hong Kong origin that were not quite up to the quality of the metals, Plastic Soldier, and ESCI figures that made up most of the 6th Shock Army troops.  What could be made of them?

Turns out I had enough Rifle/SMG/LMG, plus ATR and MMG stands to make three more Rifle Divisions. Only the regimental mortars were wanting. OK: under-equipped Divisions. Gotta be another Army here!  So was brought into existence 71st Army - as fictitious as 6th Shock. During the Great Patriotic War, Soviet Army serials got as high as 70, plus a separate, apparently unnumbered Crimean army. 
There are several SMG stands over for tank desantski,
HQ protection and assault engineers.

Would four Rifle Divisions suffice for a Soviet Army?  Pretty small army - but so were the 70th and, at times, the 69th. So, although not quite the same as either, 71st Army drew from both the organisation I would settle on:

71st Army: General-Leytenant Semyon Ossipovitch Boroshchenko

97th Rifle Corps:*

  • 39th Guards Rifle Division,
  • 2nd Rifle Division
  • Corps Artillery etc
115th Rifle Corps:
  • 77th Rifle Division
  • 161st Rifle Division
  • Corps Artillery etc
43rd Tank Brigade:
  • Lend Lease: 3 x M4 Shermans (early on M3 Grants and M3 Stuarts) plus 3 SMG stands

609th Tank Destroyer Brigade:
  • 918th Destroyer Battalion (1 x Su76)
  • 1019th Destroyer Battalion (1 x Su85)
  • 72nd Destroyer Battalion (1 x ISU152)
44th Heavy Tank Regiment (attached):
  • IS2 (2 AFVs) 
Army Troops:
  • 377th Anti-Tank Artillery
  • 582nd Anti-Air Artillery
  • 137th Guards Mortar Battalion (BM13)
  • 149th Gun Artillery Brigade
  • 4th Sniper Battalion (one stand)
  • Army Engineers (2 stands, 2 wagons)
I may have to double up with 6th Shock Army for at least some of the Army troops. I was going to leave off the Corps HQs, but decided that they could be the repository of the heavy weapons, rather than the Divisions. This really is an under-equipped, understrength Army!  But I do have at least one more cardboard Zis-3 76.2mm field artillery that I have started (a zillion years ago) and never finished. The above pictures show the understrength regiments of 2nd, 77th and 161st Rifle Divisions. It also shows some finishing work-in-progress I've begun for these formations. 

The above picture is 39th Guards Division. The empty stand will accommodate the Division HQ.  Below are the AFVs of the 609th Tank Destroyer Brigade. A unit of AAMG seems to have attached itself. This formation will also include a SMG battalion (1 stand) for protection.

OK, now: 6th Shock and 71st Armies: enough for a Front, do you suppose? A small one...?
Should I call it the воображаемый фронт - Voobrazhayemii (Imaginary) Front?
Or maybe the призрак фронт - Prizrak (Ghost) Front?
What do you reckon?

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Sixth Shock Army

 For quite some time now, I have been hesitating (procrastinating, allowing myself to veer off onto other projects) from organising properly my World War Two Red Army into something coherent and useable. The ideas have been there, informed largely by fellow bloggers' ideas and methods. I was particularly taken with Bob Cordery's 66th Army, but wanted something a little more substantial by way of infantry units. Chris Kemp's NQM units seemed just about ideal, but in my army they stand for regiments. Single stand 'battalions' I have reserved for the Tank Brigades. At any rate, I have at last decided to lay out most - nearly, but not quite all - organised as Sixth Shock Army.

Now, in 'real life' there was no 'Sixth Shock Army'.  Their numbers went up to five.  But its was the Fifth, and its constituent formations that inspired this outfit.  Readers whose memories go back 6 years might recognise it.  The Army comprises:

8th Tank Corps:

  • HQ, staffs and signals; truck, scout car, jeep
  • Tank Brigades 399, 504, 511 (each with 3 tank plus 3 SMG stand)
  • Infantry Brigade 47
  • Field Artillery Battalion 77 (76.2 Zis3 field gun)
  • Heavy Mortar Battalion 410 (122mm Mortar)
  • Recon Group (jeep, T70, BA10, Su76)
  • Supply columns 144 (Ammunition), 493 (Victualling), 763 (POL)
Possible attachments include a Tank Destroyer Battalion (ISU122) and a Guards Mortar Battalion with BM13 'Katyusha' rocketry. The formation and unit numbers have been made up for the most part.  The formation numbers are simply that same as that of Fifth Shock Army, plus 1. The unit numbers were found mostly by rolling 3 D10 dice, the 3 digits going green/red/white. I used a different method for allocating the numbers of the Tank and Mechanised Corps supply columns.

4th Guards Cavalry Corps:

  • Guards Cavalry Regiment 7
  • Guards Cavalry Regiment 8
  • Light Tank Battalion 456 (T26 or T70)
  • Field Artillery Battalion 78 (76.2mm)
  • Tank Destroyer Battalion 569 (45mm AT gun)
  • Guards Tank Destroyer Battalion 533 (Su76)
  • Supply Columns 532 (Wagon), 616 (Pack animals), 855 (Pack Animals)   

    This formation is weaker than it ought to be.  The Divisions should comprise 6 elements, and a third regiment would not go amiss. I'm just short of Russian cavalry.

88th Rifle Division:
  • HQ: Command, staffs, signals: jeep, truck
  • 3 Rifle regiments (399, 445, 544)  each with 
    3 rifle/SMG/LMG stands
    1 MMG stand
    1 mortar or infantry gun stand
    1 anti-tank rifle (PTRD or PTRS) stand
  • Artillery Battalion 279 (76.2mm field gun)
  • Artillery Battalion 425 (122mm howitzer)
  • Tank Destroyer Regiment 649 (45mm AT gun)
  • Supply columns motorised and/or horse drawn
There are 3 other, similar, Rifle Divisions - 259th, 301st, 316th - variously supplied with motor vehicles.  Only the 88th and 301st have 122mm howitzers.


5th Mechanised Corps:
  • HQ: command, staffs signals
  • Tank Brigade 606 (3 Tank + 3 SMG tank desantski)
  • Mechanised Brigade 129 (6 infantry stands plus 2 trucks)
  • Mechanised Brigade 222 (6 infantry stands plus 2 trucks)
  • Mechanised Brigade 235 (6 infantry stands plus 2 trucks)
  • Field Artillery Battalion 277 (76.2mm)
  • Tank Destroyer Battalion 231 (Su76)
  • Guards Mortar Battalion 12 (BM13)
  • (attached) Guards tank Destroyer Battalion 866 (ISU152)
  • Recon Group 
  • Supply columns: 229 (Victualling), 113 (Ammo), 1615 (POL)

This is a formidable Army, but it has everything!  What I like is its balance of all arms.  The basic tank establishment is 18 AFVs.  As I don't have 18 T34s, one Mechanised and one Tank Brigade get Shermans instead - or maybe heavy tanks, depending on when in the war our battles take place.  The whole army probably won't 'go' on my small table, of course, unless I produce a 'pocket' version like the one used for the offensive against Apresski 6 years ago.  But it ought I think to 'fit' on my 6'x4' table.  More or less.

There are some 'Army Troops' to be added, mainly in the areas of heavy artillery (152mm) and heavy tanks (KV or IS tanks), plus an assault engineer column.

To be continued...

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Samurai Battles at the Club

Battle Three

Yesterday morning (Sunday), Andy rang unexpectedly inviting me to join him chez Woolston Club to try out the Richard Borg authored Samurai Battles. I'd never tried them before, though am aware that they bear strong similarities to the same author's Memoir '44, Command and Colours and other semi-board games. As it happens, Memoir '44 is the only game system of the type I have played. So the thing was something of an orientation introduction, as we played the first three scenarios.  

I ought to have taken photos of the first game - an introductory set piece depicting no actual battle. Reasonably close: I scored three banners whilst Andy achieved the five required to win. Getting the hang of the Dragon Cards took some doing, and I don't reckon even at the end of the day, I quite had them sussed. Mind you, not having seen the game before, I didn't know what all the Dragon cards could do!

Now, for all three battles, I had the RED side (versus the BLUE), so it was a litttle bit like playing a campaign. The second battle involved just four mounted samurai bowmen against a whole lot of enemy foot.  Going first, one of the first tactical cards I had drawn was 'Cavalry Charge'. Even though my horsemen were bow armed, this just had to be the opening move, right?  The picture shows the aftermath... 

Battle Two: after the mighty cavalry charge.

Some losses to deplore, but the enemy first line entirely overrun. In the distance, some naginata-armed ashigaru may be discerned, shaking in their boots.  Victory to RED.

The feature that sets Samurai Battles apart from other Command and Colours involves an interpretation (possibly stereotypically) of the bushido moral code that formed the samurai sense of honour. One picks up 'honour points' at the end of each turn, or after a combat. These one can 'spend' upon Dragon cards, which can enhance the effectiveness of one's own warriors, or diminish those of the enemy. Although it doesn't really mean you are sacrificing your honour in order to do something underhand, it sometimes feels that way! The expenditure can vary, depending upon what you want to achieve.  Playing a Dragon Card will more often than not require the expenditure of just one honour point, but some of the more effective might cost as many as four. Oh, yes: retreats forced by combat are likely to cost honour points as well. 

I do wish in that last battle I had remembered to try and suborn one of the enemy units onto my side...

The next battle was a lot more elaborate, and mainly owing to unhandy tactical cards being drawn by both sides, took a long time to play out. The REDs had the advantage of more tactical and Dragon cards, the first move, and the possibility of winning two banners if the enemy commander was eliminated. The downside, when I looked at the set-up, was that the RED army was split into three groups, two of which were split by the river. There were fords, of course, four of them, but they presented defiles easily blocked. Not very convenient. Interesting situation.

Opening situation Battle Three: from BLUE side. 
Well, we began all right, taking the fight to the enemy, and made some progress in the centre. But a BLUE attack against my left forced my withdrawal to the near bank, leaving a unit of samurai bowmen stranded and surrounded on the other side.  
Early moves: RED advancing slightly in the centre,
but pulling back on the left.
Eventually I managed to organise a counter-offensive on that wing that rescued the isolated samurai and pushed the enemy, with heavy losses to the far edge of the woods behind the line. By then something of an impasse - a battle of attrition - was being reached in the centre. A bold band of ashigaru spearmen punched a hole in the enemy line and pressed on as far as their rear reserves. But the rest of the RED line was proving hard to organise. My general led a mounted spear attack against the enemy commander's bodyguard and destroyed it. Given the chance to cleave the fellow from poll to chine, which would have won the battle, my guys flubbed it.  OK, the chance was five to one against, but one can hope, eh?

Boldly carrying the fight to the enemy.  Isolated 
samurai rescued, but a band of rash ashigaru 
have fetched up surrounded by enemies

Another chance they were never to get. The bold ashigaru who burst through the enemy line were surrounded at last and wiped out to a man. At this point, the BLUE army having won the six banners required for victory, the battle was decided. It had been a close run affair: for a long time the REDs had been sitting on 5 banners, but never quite able to secure that last one...

A chance missed: the enemy commander escapes the 
destruction of his personal bodyguard

Surrounded by hordes of samurai, the ashigaru 
die with their  boots firmly on...

The last stand...

Thanks to Andy for thoroughly enjoyable day. The battles were interrupted by a fine meat-lover's pizza.  It seems, too that Memoir '44 has become something of a 'thing' at Wooston. Three games were going at once. I notice that part of the fashion is to paint up the soldiery and equipment like any other war gamer's kit. That does enhance the appearance of the thing...