Saturday, August 30, 2014

Maybe now I've got enough artillery?, Part 1

During the long holiday weekend, I'm adding to my East German artillery. Lord, I really need to get a bigger apartment for all of this stuff before Mrs. HistoryPhD has a coronary!

I'm working on a 152mm towed howitzer battery. In the early 80's, these were often seen in place of self-propelled 2S3 152mm guns, as tracked vehicles were in such short supply in all WarPac armies:
Given that it was a much heavier gun than the 122mm and had heavier ammunition, it was often towed by a 7.5 ton KrAZ-255B:
So that's what I'll use for my battery too (and there's that grey canvas cover again). If the battery was part of one of the two armored divisions, an MT-LB would often have been the prime mover:
The battery was rounded out with the usual 1V18 forward observer vehicle:
And a BTR-60PU for the battery commander:

And here's my progress of this weekend thus far. The guns have been glued to their bases, textured, and given the "mud" base coat:
As you can see, I've made a start on the tires.

Secondly, the KrAZ-255B's have been painted with East German green and their tires have also been done. The bases for them are finished, including flocking:
I've yet to start painting the tarpaulins.

The BTR-60PU has its base coat, but:
The 1V18 hasn't even been primed yet. It'll get done with a batch of other things arriving from Picoarmor in the first mail after the holiday. Priming just one thing is too wasteful, and I'm nearly out of primer again, dammit!! Another need which is clamoring for money. Sigh. 

Where has the long weekend gone!?!  Mrs. HistoryPhD has been very successful at keeping me buried under chores and household projects, so not nearly as much painting done as I wanted, at least not painting of minis! Stand by for Part 2 of this post, where I'll show you the finished battery. Hope you had a good holiday!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Danish Armored Reconnaissance Squadron

After the past weekend's break from my regular painting routine, it's back to the salt mine this week. East Germans and Danes. Danes and East Germans. 

This week, I'm finishing off a Danish armored reconnaissance squadron. In 1981, it would have consisted of two troops of light tanks; unmodernized M41 Walker Bulldogs:

Also three squads of infantry (some squadrons had four), each mounted in an M113A1:

And a platoon of six reconnaissance Land Rovers (likely to be 88's):
This particular photo is of a British Army reconnaissance 88, but the Danish ones would be configured more or less identically, but substituting MG3's for the L7 GPMG's:
As usual, O8 doesn't have armed Land Rovers, other than the 110 SOV, so I have to grit my teeth and use it. And they don't have 88's period.

The squadron commander would be mounted in a Danish home grown M113A1 command vehicle, as Denmark never bought M577's:
The only differences from a standard M113A1 were extra radios, a 1kw generator mounted on the top deck, and the internal bay was converted into a small "office". 

And everyone together for the obligatory group shot:
Officers in the rear. Isn't that always the way?

The upcoming three day weekend has me full of plans to get loads of painting done, while it has Mrs. HistoryPhD full of plans to prevent me from getting that accomplished. Need I say whose plans will win out?  See you next time!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

If I were a rich man....

Ok, this isn't "Fiddler On The Roof" and I'm not Zero Mostel (nor Topol either, for that matter), but my mind has drifted onto the topic of what periods I would game if I had all the money and spare-time I could want. 

I think all wargamers nurse desires to expand their interests into new time periods or theaters (theatres), and would eagerly do so, but for the constraints of limited funds and/or time. So, what are mine?  My hope here is that discussing them will have something of a cathartic affect, thus forestalling any attempt to throw money at them. 

Obviously, my first desire would be to reopen areas that I've shut down due to budgetary concerns: 1/2400 WWII naval, 6mm Napoleonics, and 3mm ACW. Apart from reviving old interests, let's look at wholly new things I'd love to do. 

I'm not sure why, but I'm really very taken with samurai and I often slaver (what a wonderful Scottish word) over Baccus' lovely 6mm sculpts and the fantastic resin buildings made by Mura Miniatures. The vibrant colors of the samurai armies really appeal quite strongly to me. I mean honestly, how can you not have heart palpitations when you see stuff like this?:

I already game the Cold War in 3mm, but I'd love to add the little known or noticed Mediterranean front; Bulgaria (and potentially Romania) v Greece & Turkey (with a significant contribution by Italy): 
I love the Bersaglieri! They run everywhere they go: area would've been something of a backwater and realistically a holding action on the part of the WarPac. Bulgaria was only expected to occupied the Greeks and draw in as many Turks as possible, allowing the Soviets more of a free hand along their eastern border with Turkey. 

I'm also quite interested in the Italian invasion of France in June of 1940. Although the campaign lasted only 11 days and the French were heavily outnumbered, they gave the Italians something of a mauling. Historically it was an infantry battle, given that the terrain is quite rugged:
Except along the coastal strip. Mountain troops versus mountain troops, so I'd have to tweak it a bit and add in armor, etc to make it a bit more interesting. 

I'd also quite like to expand my present interest in 3mm North Africa to include the Allied invasion of the Vichy French Levant. This one is actually quite affordably do-able, as almost all my desert terrain and British troops are usable. I'd just need to add in some suitably painted French:
Hmmmm, this one bears closer scrutiny.

The Boxer Rebellion really intrigues me: 
I probably watched "55 Days At Peking" too many times as a kid. However, this period seems to only be available in the larger scales, ie: 15mm +, which interest me not a whit. 6mm seems a perfect scale for it, but it's sadly lacking. There are only the wretched offerings by Irregular Miniatures in this scale. Sad. 

I must say that photos of Roman, Dark Age, and Medieval troops definitely appeal to me:
But only as a painting exercise. I don't really feel interested in gaming those periods. 

"If I were a rich, rich man...."

I'd love to hear your "I wish I could" list. More from me next time!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Painting Soviets for 1981

This weekend, I've decided to break out of my East German/Danish painting rut and do something different. Quite a few posts ago, I said I'd (try to) stop going off on tangents and stick to finishing units that I actually need. In an effort not to wander too far afield from that effort, I've chosen something that I will certainly need, though that need is somewhat in the future, as I've still got quite a few East Germans to finish, as well as some Poles. I'm doing Soviets this weekend!!

I've already talked about doing some VDV troops (Soviet airborne), but operations in the LANDJUT area would almost certainly have involved at least some Soviet ground troops. The seizure of the Kiel Canal was a priority that was reasonably high up the Soviet "to do" list and while the VDV would quite likely have been used in the initial operation, they couldn't have held out for long without heavier support. So, at least some armor and mechanized infantry would had to have been committed as a support/relief force.

So, how to paint Soviets? Firstly, like all my painting, this isn't the real Soviet Army. It's MY Soviet Army, so certain wargaming realities must be accounted for; primarily, easing tabletop identification at a distance. Soviet troops, like all armies, wore different uniforms at different times of the year and in different periods of the Cold War, as well as different types of Soviet troops wearing different uniforms. My scenario begins on March 30th, which in northern Europe is still quite cold. Snow in northern Germany in late March and into April is common. 

What I'm getting at is that I should be portraying winter uniforms. But those aren't the ones I like!  I like this:
The brown summer uniform! This photo would appear to have been taken in the late 1960's or possibly the very early 1970's. The right-hand figure carrying an RPK dates this to no earlier than 1961, but Soviet military color photography in the early to mid 1960's was relatively rare, so it's very likely to be a bit later. In any case, for mechanized infantry, I like the uniform and it helps me differentiate my Soviets from my other Warsaw Pact troops. To get close to that particular shade of darkish brown, I make a 50/50 mix of two Vallejo paints: Game Color Charred Brown (045) and Model Color US Field Drab (873). It looks pretty close to the correct shade to my eyes:
For the helmets, I use Vallejo Russian Uniform (924).

For VDV troops, I've already touched on the blue beret (see my post of May 4, 2014), but for the uniform, I like the look of this:
Again, it wasn't their only uniform, but it's the one I like. I use Vallejo Reflective Green (890) with tiny patches of Model Masters Sand: 
Let's be honest, at 3mm, there's only so much you can do to represent a camouflage uniform. That macro lens does come in handy from time to time, doesn't it?

For vehicles, the Soviets used a fairly dark green, which, like all paints, faded due to sun, wind, rain, etc, but I've chosen to go with the darker shade, again for purposes of differentiation. Vallejo 894 used to be called Russian Green, but the name has been changed to Camouflage Dark Olive Green. Whatever they call it, it's an extremely good match for recently painted Soviet vehicles: 
I then apply the usual wash of thinned black enamel and finish off by dry brushing with Russian Uniform, then paint any obvious details and add "bling". In this case, in addition to white dots for vehicle numbers and silver for searchlight lenses/headlights, there are dots of Vallejo Deep Red (926) to represent Soviet stars on the turret sides. 

And here's a company of T-64A's that I've finished:

You'll notice that I put one digit of the vehicle number on each of the left-side turret stowage boxes. When I was looking at T-64 images on the Internet, I was struck by these two:
On the right-hand side, the number is all on the single box, as it's larger:

I plan on doing a regiment with two battalions of T-64A's:
And one battalion of T-64B's:
(It's honestly not easy telling the real things apart!) As well as the requisite support units, ie: a motor rifle battalion (tracked), antiaircraft and reconnaissance companies, and a field artillery battalion. 

That's all for this post. More as projects progress (or as I think of other drivel to drone on about). 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

East German/Polish/Soviet organization (and my 100th post)!!!

First things first. This is my 100th post!! Yay!!!

Ok, let's get down to business. This weekend, I've spent my time texturing and flocking some bases (I try to stay ahead of my useage rate), which isn't terribly photogenic. That being the case, I thought I'd talk a bit about East German, Polish, and Soviet military structure as it pertained to the LANDJUT area of operations. 

East Germany was divided roughly in half into two military districts; District V in the north and District III in the south. Along with elements of the East German Army (the National Volksarmee - "NVA"), about 60% of all Soviet troops in East Germany (Group of Soviet Forces Germany - "GSFG") were also stationed in District V:
which itself was subdivided into northern and southern zones and, as my 1981 campaign deals with operations in LANDJUT, we'll concern ourselves only with District V's northern zone. (As an aside to the above maps, the 3rd Shock Army wasn't called that after the mid to late 1950's, when the name was changed to the 3rd Assault Army. In the late 1960's or early 1970's, the name was changed again to the 3rd Red Banner of the Soviet Union Combined Arms Army, which is what it remained until the unit was dissolved in 1991). 

The East German 5th Army was assigned to the thrust into LANDJUT and was made up of the 8th Motor Rifle Division and the 9th Armored Division (which didn't have "Heinz Hoffmann" appended to its name until after his death in 1985). In addition to its front-line divisions, East Germany had a further five motor rifle divisions that were kept in a reserve status, but which would've been called to active duty prior to the outbreak of any hostilities. The unit dedicated to the northern zone of District V (and to the 5th Army) was the 20th Motor Rifle Division. The 9th would've been equipped with T-55's, as well as about one battalion's worth of T-72's. The armored elements of the 8th would've had only T-55's and the 20th a mixture of T-54's and T-55's and probably even a few T-34/85M's. Reserve divisions would also have been more likely to use at least some obsolete APC's as well as some infantry that was motorized (ie, truck-transported), as opposed to mechanized. 

Supporting the East Germans (or vice-versa) would've been the "2nd Guards Red Banner of the Soviet Union Tank Army". You can see why it was always referred to by its short form: the 2nd Guards Tank Army. To be fair, the majority of these Soviet troops would have been committed to the seizure of Hamburg and the subsequent push on to the North Sea, but at least a few units would likely have been diverted into the advance up the Jutland Peninsula to seize the Kiel Canal, particularly the airborne (the VDV; likely elements of the 7th Guards Airborne Division based at Kaunas, Lithuania) and possibly a few naval infantry units, in addition to any ground troops. 

In the early 1980s, the 2nd Guards Tank Army consisted of the 16th Guards Armored Division, 21st Motor Rifle Division, 94th Guards Motor Rifle Division, and 207th Motor Rifle Division. In early 1981, all of the 16th and the armored elements of the 21st, 94th, and 207th would've been equipped with mostly T-64A's. In the 16th, there would've been a healthy minority of T-64B's and the three motor rifle units only would have been not quite half T-62's. 

Behind East Germany, in the second echelon, was the Polish People's Army (the "LWP"). It was the largest non-Soviet Warsaw Pact army, but a decade of weak economic conditions in Poland had left its army less modern than that of East Germany. A large portion of the Polish Army was stationed in the south of the country, earmarked to support the Soviet/Czech push into central and southern West Germany. Likewise, the bulk of the Soviet Northern Forces Group ("NFG") was in southern Poland. 

The force which would've been involved in LANDJUT, apart from the airborne and marines, was the Polish 1st Army, comprised of the 8th, 12th, and 15th Motor Rifle Divisions and the 16th and 20th Armored Divisions. The 16th and 20th would've been equipped with a majority of T-55's, with a few companies of T-72's. The armored elements of the motor rifle divisions would've had T-55's, with a few T-54's mixed in. Like the East Germans, some T-34/85M's would also have been seen. The majority of the 1st Army would've been thrown into the assault on Hamburg, but at least part, if not all of the 12th Motor Rifle Division in particular would likely have been diverted to bolster the forces pushing into LANDJUT, as it was to assume the far northern flank position during the advance of the 1st Army. 

And finally, behind Poland lay the Western Military Districts of the Soviet Union, which would have held major reinforcements for the ground offensive into Western Europe. For the purposes of LANDJUT, the northern portions of these districts would be present-day Kaliningrad, Lithuania, and northern Belarus. Large reserves were held just inside the Soviet Union to provide a strong third wave of units, generally equipped with quite modern matériel. This is where the vast bulk of Soviet T-72's and most of the then still fairly rare T-80's and T-80B's were held in readiness. 

This is all obviously the short and simplified version of an ORBAT that otherwise would be far too long and overly complex for a wargaming blog. In my wargaming, I strive for historical accuracy, until it begins to bog everything down with minutiae. At that point, I switch to "historical plausibility" and begin using a simplified version. 

I hope this has provided a coherent overview. More from me during the coming week!