Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Where to go from here?

The battlefield, looking east along to autobahn towards Kustrin.
Just off the table to the left is the river Oder.
I've been thinking a lot lately about my WW2 inventories, and what to do with them all.  Although I have a fondness for Command Decision, especially in its second incarnation, there are too few accessible like-minded gamers in this town.  The other drawback is that you really want a biggish table to play the game.
A small town that is the immediate objective of the German
right hand column.
This set-up has been cluttering up my back room for over a month now - I've visited my daughter and son-in-law in Brisbane, Australia, since laying out this table.  This is not good.  I haven't begun to play the game on it.  The intention was by way of an experiment: re-scaling the ground from 1:1800 (1 inch to 50 yards) to 1cm to 50 yards, a scale of 1:4500.  Seems an unlikely conversion, but may be worth a try.  But I also need to find my rule sets and  ORBATS, and to download and print the CD3 stat sheets before beginning the action.
The main German objective: this large town.  Possibly it
is Kustrin.
The scenario laid out here is based by a dim memory of something from the computer game Steel Panthers: World At War.  Set very late in the War, March 1945 - in fact there ought to be patches of snow here and there about - this is a German counter-attack to recapture the sizeable town and railway station in the northeastern corner of the board.  The defenders comprise a Soviet Rifle Brigade, hastily dug in and  reinforced with small groups of T34/76 tanks.  However,apart from the organic field artillery and mortar battalions they are supported by powerful heavy artillery and rocket batteries off table, with pre-programmed fire missions.
The Soviet rear areas, just west of Kustrin.
The Germans are to make a three-pronged attack with armour and infantry - panzer-grenadiers - with some artillery support, mostly again off table.   On both flanks, the armour comprises a mixed company of Tiger II and Panthers; in the centre Jagdpanther and Jagdpanzer IV with a StuGIV  to arrive from off-table.   The whole rather polyglot battlegroup is supported by Quad 20mm AA, towed anti-tank guns and assorted oddments.   The centre column is led by armoured reconnaissance.
Looking along the line of the stream and the Soviet
defences.  The rather orphaned infantry gun wants a base
and a crew.
The pictures you see here depict the battlefield, with the Russian Rifle Brigade in situ, awaiting the worst.  The Germans are just crossing their start lines.

Russian infantry, armour and anti-tank
covering the autobahn.
But I am seriously looking in future to going the Not Quite Mechanised or possibly the Megablitz route.  Back in January I picked up some second-hand equipment - mostly German - and, after a rethink, grabbed a job lot of plastic Russian infantry.  I don't know the makers (observant readers might be able to tell me) but they are very nice figures.  Whoever had them before me picked out a few bits and pieces, and I got the rest.
Add caption
From them I was able to assemble 5 groups of 6 stands each comprising 3 'rifle' bases (one with LMG), 1 MMG base, 1 Mortar base and 1 Antitank Rifle (PTRS) base.  It seemed to me these groups would make fine battalions in the Not Quite Mechanised (NQM) style.  The complete sprues would have given me a sixth such group, but the absent support weapons can be supplies easily enough from my existing inventory.  You will observe that I haven't been over-consistent with the base sizes.  At that they will not fit on the 'standard' NQM 'stands' as I infer them. I'll probably go for stands 10cm wide by 5cm deep (ground 'footprint' 250m x 125m.  The temptation is to make them 12cm by 6cm, to match the 'real estate' of a battalion in defence, as per spec.  There remained some command and comms figures, and more SMG armed fellows that seemed to suggest SMG-armed fighting bases for Rifle Brigade SMG platoons/companies, or tank 'desantski'.
Grouped plastic infantry - see text.  The flagged command
stand is metal, the flag home made from paper.  The flag
was machine generated - I had to design the hammer and sickle
motif pixel by pixel.
Chris Kemp's own NQM ORBAT for Soviet Rifle divisions call for slightly smaller battalion groups, with 3 'fighting' rifle bases and 2 'support' bases, one of which is a command base. I think that my own battalion group 'fits' a rifle or mechanised brigade's battalions as well. I am very tempted to add a seventh 'base' as a separate 'command' ('C' with 1 strength point or possibly 0 SP) or maybe 'command/SMG platoon' (CF1).

A NQM  Rifle Battalion?  Figures undercoated black
and dry-brushed white over the top.  Up coming painting
My tentative Orbat for a Rifle or mechanised Brigade looks something like this:

Brigade Command*: 
  Commander, car/jeep or GAZ,
  Signals stand with appropriate comms vehicle
3 Rifle Battalions each with:
  1 command + support bases: 1 50mm or 82mm Mortar + 1 MMG + 1 PTRS/PTRD (SP=3)
  3 fighting bases (armed with rifles, SMG and LMG) (SP=3).
  Total battalion SP=6
1 Artillery Battalion:
  0-1 FO; 1x76.2 field artillery (SP=2, or SP=3 for Guards Brigade)
1 Mortar battalion:
  0-1 FO: 1x120mm or 82mm mortar (SP=2, or SP=3 for Guards)
1 Organic Anti-tank Guns
  1x37mm, 45L46, 45L66 or 57mm AT (SP=2, or SP=3 for Guards)
1 'Motorcycle/Recon' Battalion**
  1x recon Motorcycle (SP=2), 1x recon jeep with (opt) AAMG (SP=2), 1x armoured car (SP=2)
1 Tank Regiment (Mechanised Brigade only)***
  1xT34 or Sherman tank (SP=3); 1x command T34 or Sherman (SP=2)

* As I have more in the way of command and comms figures than vehicles for them, I'm as likely to filed them as personnel stands rather than vehicle stands, or, probably, both.

** The Motorcycle unit seems to have been a mixed bag, so much so that one can't really speak in terms of a 'typical' such unit.  Some even had tanks.  However, my own seems to be a reasonable example.  I suggest that one might whack in whatever takes your fancy up to a maximum SP of 6.  So the 76th M/C Battalion of 4th Guards Tank Corps might be depicted like this: 1 x m/c (SP=1), 1 x BA32 (SP=1), 1 x M3 halftrack (SP=1), 1 x light tank (SP=1), 1 x Anti-tank Gun (SP=1), 1 x Field gun (SP=1).  A rather special unit!

***In NQM terms the first tank would count as 'F3' the second as 'CS2', for the rest, I have left off the fighting, support and command designations for the time being.  I have not yet determined what the logistics (LOG) elements should be.
And NQM battalion in road column, marching past a
potential LOG element.
But in the picture above, I have offered some indication that infantry units might well include a pack horse stand with, say two horses, or a wagon or cart drawn by a single horse.

All of this is so far quite tentative, and something to think about in the cold winter months...


  1. Most of those new recruits look like Plastic Soldier Company Russians. :-)
    My WW2 collection has not been getting much use of late, in part because I find the rules I used previously too difficult to "pick up & play" after many months without a game. Simpler rules look like a better option. I think the best games are scenario driven anyway, & don't necessarily require a set of rules with "all the bells & whistles".

    1. Fair comment, Jack Sarge. And it has been a long time since my last CD game. But the set up on my table seems to mitigate against my trying NQM on it. That will have to wait.

      I think you're right about the provenance of my new Russians. I now have a very eclectic collection of PSC, metals, Airfix, ESCI and Hong Kong knock offs of something or other.

  2. Ion as you know I'm a CD fan though we have not used the WW2 option for a while- rather getting stuck into Combined Arms - the modern variant.. I've never found that you need a particularly big table to use the rules- all the observation and line of sight rules make sure of that. Our usual table in the pub is about 7 feet by five though we can go larger at a push. With lots of built up areas I'm not sure we would though. Some chaps view CD as complex and it can be but again in a scenario driven game you only use the bits the scenario calls for and the basic mechanisms are pretty simple the complication tends to be finding the precise marque of vehicle that you need at that moment....
    However I'm just beginning to think about doing another WW2 theatre- either Normandy 1944 or France 1940 using a version of Charles Grants "Battle" with added bits from Lionel Tarr- as printed in Featherstone. This should have a very different feel to CD- assuming I ever get it off the ground.
    For now I'm still stuck in the 15th century .....

    1. Thanks for your comment, Andy - as usual, you have given me something to think about. The table in the picture is 6ft by 4ft.

  3. Ion
    Understand your dilemmas. Personally (as you know) I'm a Spearhead fan and have sorted 40 years of 20mm WW2 collections for those rules (admittedly replicating my 6mm armies). I have to admit I've added significantly to the 20mm armies to be able to represent the OOBs more accurately (when we were 14 we didn't tend to buy/paint on the basis of OOBs if I recall correctly LOL). Big issue is simply getting the time to game. Principalship is demanding of one's time.

    1. Hi Robin. I was considering looking at the Spearhead option, but formed the impression no one in Christchurch was doing Spearhead in 1:76/1:72 or similar scales.

      It so happens, though, that I have some British and German kit in the 1:300 scale that I've occasionally considered doing up as Spearhead. But it so happens, the NQM game system can also accommodate that scale.

      The reason I haven't done much with them is that I have never really cottoned to the 1:300 scale.

    2. Ion
      There are 3 of us (to my knowledge) playing in 20mm, and a few more playing in 6mm. As I mentioned, biggest issue is just getting time to play.
      Ngā mihi

    3. Time is one thing I have plenty of. For now at any rate. :-D

  4. Some interesting discussion here, chaps. I've also recently been thinking about WW2 rules. In the past I've played mostly hyper-detailed sets with 1:1 figure/vehicle representation. With no opponent now I'm looking for something a lot quicker and simpler to motivate me into some solo play. So I've started thinking about tinkering with Rapid Fire again as an option, and I noticed there is a new version of RF on the way soon. I do struggle with the level of abstraction in CD and other games with representational scales like the brigade TOE above. In fact, although I happily refer to 18 or so figures as a battalion of Napoleonics, when it comes to WW2 a model tank feels like just one tank. Wrong thinking I know! :o(

    Cheers, Dave

    1. I have very occasionally played a 'hyper-detailed' set (I'm thinking of the WRG set published in about 1989), but prefer some simplification of the complexities of 20th century warfare. The other 1:1 figure/vehicle game I've tried is 'Panzer Marsch', not too simple; very playable. Yet there is something compelling about Division or Corps level games.

      I think I might do a posting about the question of scaling modern warfare for table games.

  5. Would be interested to hear more of your thoughts on scaling. Re ground scale, what we (nowadays just I !) have done in the past is set a maximum engagement range using roughly the length of the table - say 72in = 1500m. Not too unreasonable provided there is some terrain about (not 88s pinging off tanks at 3km in the desert!) and then slightly elongate the scale at shorter ranges eg 3in = 50m, 6in = 100m, 12in = 250m, etc. The distortion at shorter ranges can be increased for different types of game.

    Cheers, Dave

    1. Reminds me a of a logarithmic ground scale someone once came up with. I can see it working for WW1 Western Front, but for battles with wide manoeuvring, less sure. A few years ago I wrote a blog article about the relationship between time and ground scale, but haven't looked much at the ground scale with respect to the available board/table space.