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Month: March 2013

Model Review: Zvezda KV-1e

During a thaw in Nazi-Soviet relations in the late 1930s, legend has it, a team of Soviet officers toured a German tank factory.  Their Nazi guides beamed with pride as the latest German tank, the Panzer mk. III, rolled off the assembly line.  The Soviets exchanged confused looks and then one asked, in broken German, “Don’t you have anything bigger?”  The fascist running-dogs would soon understand why the Soviets were unimpressed.
This is a review of the Zvevda 1/100 (15mm) KV-1e.  I picked up three of them a while back at Gamers’ World.  They run 4 euro a piece.

Assembly is easy, so much so that I had all three put together before I remembered to take any photographs.  The hull is two pieces that snap together.  Each track is a single piece that snaps into the hull, and the turret is two pieces.  Although the “snap-fit” kits ostensibly do not require any glue a little dab on a few of the contact points won’t hurt.  I painted them using the practical method I previously detailed in the decent looking tank tutorial.  

In short, this is a great kit.  It’s a good looking tank and it adds an iconic vehicle to your model collection.  In Flames of War it’s a good unit and you can easily make it the core of a competitive army.  Its high armor value makes it virtually immune to Shermans, StuGs, and Panzer IVs.  It has a better than 50/50 chance of bouncing shots off the ubiquitous PaK40 anti-tank guns too.  Although slow the combination of high top and side armor and a turret-rear MG make it one of the best assault tanks in the game.  Finally, as a guards unit they do not suffer from the horrible Soviet special rule Hens and Chicks.    I’ve got the following list in the painting queue after I finish my Canadians.  The KV-1e has the same armor values as a Tiger I, and this list has eleven of them!  The KV-1e has a weak gun so you’ll need something to help against heavy armor.  I added a unit of artillery and Il-2 air support.  

Preening Dandies (February 2013 Edition)

We’ve trudged through snow, ice, sleet and waves of nagging from Frogdog to bring you another batch of finished models. Gaze upon them disdainfully.

Paladins of the Wall (Warmachine)

There’s a lot to like here in Lowry’s entry. These are the stalwart good guys of the Warmachine setting and it shows in their oh-so-noble, pretentious poses. The white robes and rich reds all work well but it’s the little touches that make it. Only one is wearing their trademark flowing cape and the other has befriended the crow accessory from the Wracks set.

Romano-British Infantry (Hail Caesar)

My own contribution follows on last month’s entry. This is a small unit of Romano-British auxilary infantry. The colour scheme is unchanged but to reflect their scratch unit status, I’ve been painting a higher proportion of the models as old men, beardless boys and gingers. Soulless abominations.

Fallschirmjager Mortar Platoon (Flames of War)

Nosediver shows off two things, another completed platoon and his fancy new 4grounds buildings. There’s not a lot more to be said for his painting, it’s spot on. The Army Painter tufts continue to make his great work look even better. I think it’s in the nature of 15mm models to require good basing. You simply can’t just throw on some sand and assume that the paint job on the model will carry it.

Tiger (Flames of War)

Here’s an advertisment for airbrushing, check on the finish on this tank. Frogdog sends in a Tiger with what can only be described as very nicely blended camouflage. That quality is actually near-impossible to replicate with brushes and just makes a mockery of my efforts to produce something similar.

Gebirgsjager Squad (Flames of War)

Craftfeld sent in a few pictures this month, I went with this one to highlight the ultra-realistic basing. This just reinforces my earlier point that 15mm bases can be mini-vignettes and look their very best when people make good use of their basing materials. Craftfeld has been getting ever more ambitious in his use of household/garden materials of late and the tree is just spot-on.

Preening Dandies
Player Score
Lowry 11
Newbreed 11
Nosediver 7
Craftfeld 5
Quozl 5
Trget 5
Sycopat 4
Welshman 4
Frogdog 3
The Big BZ 2
Bristolscale7 1
Crazy Aido 1
Floody 1
Jiggy 1
Maynard 1

We’ll be doing another roundup in April so get your works into prd@onthestep.net before the end of March. As ever, our local tech adept states that photos above 5MB in size tend to bounce back so keep your entries below that size.

Rules Refresher
1) Each participant may only send in one entry for a given month. You can send in multiple photos of the entry but only one will be used.
2) The entry can be a single model or single unit. The smaller the unit, the more detail in the photo so aim low.
3) The model can be from any game system. If it’s particularly esoteric, we’d appreciate a covering note explaining what it is.
4) The entry must have been finished within that given month. You can’t submit completed pieces from your back catalogue.
5) If you want us to include a link back to more of your work, we’d be delighted to do that.

Bristolscale7’s History Corner: Blitzkrieg, by the book

Blitzkrieg–the word evokes images of charging panzers, Stuka dive bombers, and encircled French troops. The purpose of this article is to discuss the accuracy of this general impression and then meditate on the whether or not Flames of War captures this style of offensive warfare on the table top.  So what are we talking about when we use the term?  In practical terms blitzkrieg refers to the mobile warfare doctrine developed by a younger generation of German officers in the 1930s.  These officers argued that armoured forces should be concentrated along a narrow front to achieve a breakthrough in the enemy’s lines.  Many military forces in the 1930s saw armour as primarily a tool for infantry support and tanks were distributed among infantry formations rather than concentrated in armoured divisions.  According to the German model the concentrated mobile forces could exploit breakthroughs and plunge deep behind the enemy lines to destroy logistics and command structures.  At the same time large portions of the enemy would be encircled and eliminated.

Let’s take a look at an actual German operation.  The German strategic offensive for the summer of 1942, Case Blue, involved a huge drive into southern Russia.  Hitler committed a blunder in August when he split Army Group South into two groups.  One group continued to push south to the oil fields.  The other group headed to the Volga and Stalingrad.  As the Germans approached the Volga there was a major engagment west of the Russian village of Kalach.  The German military published a magazine called Signal for popular reading by the troops.  The following maps of the battle of Kalach are taken from it.

In this first map below we see the initial German penetration north of Kalach.  There is a major cut from the north and a broader application of pressure from the south.  Bear two things in mind as you look at this first map.  First, we’re in mid-1942 now and the Soviets and others are now implementing (or attempting) counters to blitzkrieg.  You see it in the two black arrows.  These represent Soviet forces attacking the flanks of the armoured spearhead.  If these attacks succeed then the German armoured forces become encircled, not the Soviets.  The attack failed in this circumstance–beaten off by German grenadiers following up the armoured forces.  The second thing to note is the bulge created by the German advance.  This illustrates the dual purpose of the blitzkrieg: exploit but also encircle.

In the second map below we see that the salient (bulge) is well established.  The Soviet forces attempt two counter-attacks at this point.  One strikes north from the salient while the other attempts to link up by attacking south through the new German lines.  These fail.
Now the Germans pinch off the salient to form the encirclement.  The main German attack cuts across the salient from the south.  Other German forces engage in the north to prevent a Soviet counter attack
In the final map below the salient is reduced and the graphic explains that over 35,000 infantry, 270 tanks, and 560 guns were captured.  Note that the front line to the east of the encirclement takes an offensive posture while the salient itself is captured.

Thus concluded another bloody chapter in the war on the Eastern Front.  This was the last major battle before the Germans arrived at Stalingrad.  We can grasp, even after this short exposition, why the Germans had trouble in Stalingrad–blitzkrieg clearly is more suited to open, mobile warfare than it is to urban warfare.
So does Flames of War capture this?  The first thing to point out is that Flames of War is a company level game.  A German infantry company was just over 100 men, give or take.  In terms of armour, roughly, a company level battle represents a portion of an armoured regiment, one of a couple forming an armoured brigade.  In essence, two 1780 point forces fighting it out represent each player controlling a couple different types of companies–a good chunk of a bigger battle.  In terms of game play, the Flames of War system does an excellent job of capturing mobile warfare.  Concentration of armour is locally powerful, but without support it can be isolated.  The exploitation nature of mobile warfare is also well-represented.  Tanks that punch through defences can wipe out artillery parks and kill command teams.  The 15mm scale helps capture the flavour of this type of warfare.  Flames of War strikes an excellent balance between flavour, playability, and veracity.

Bristolscale7’s History Corner: D-Day

With interest in Flames of War increasing I thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the “fluff.”  Here’s a thing.  It’s the first message sent from General Eisenhower to General Marshall on the morning of 6 June 1944.  I obtained it from the National Archives and Records Administration.  Digital history FTW.   Have a read:


 First we note that it’s from SHAEF–Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force.  This was the allied command for all U.S., U.K., Canadian, and French forces.  It called the shots and Eisenhower was in charge.  The ability of the allies to coordinate grand strategy was a real strength of the alliance.

The next thing we see is that the telegram is for General Marshall.  He was the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff– the #1 military man in the U.S.  He was Eisenhower’s boss and reported directly to Roosevelt.  Marshall developed U.S. strategy and Roosevelt signed off on it.  Marshall was a nice guy.  He bombed the shite out of Europe and then helped rebuild it after the war with the plan that bore his name.  “Eyes Only” means Marshall is the only one who was supposed to read this.
O.k., let’s get get to the content of the telegram.  Eisenhower says it’s 8:00 a.m. local time.  The airborne operations were about seven hours old at this point, but the first troops to hit the beaches had only been on the ground for ninety minutes.  Eisenhower explains, “I have as yet no information concerning the actual landings nor our progress through beach obstacles.”  In other words, he doesn’t know what the situation is.  Eisenhower was a chain smoker–four packs a day!  Who can blame him?  He was responsible for the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.  The next line is, however, quite chilling:  “Communique will not be issued until we have word that leading ground troops are actually ashore.”  What does this mean?  It means that the entire operation–an invasion of 160,00 troops–is going to be kept secret if it fails.  Back in August 1942 five thousand Canadians invaded Dieppe.  Fifteen hundred died and the Germans captured over two thousand.  It was a disaster.  Yet according to Allied news reports the plucky Canadians accomplished their objectives and returned to England for some well-deserved R&R.  A nice way to describe an operation that failed utterly and resulted in over 60% casualties.  Eisenhower is leaving open the possibility of failure on D-Day: June 7 newspaper headlines of a few thousand casualties from a training exercise.  What would have happened if D-Day failed?  To Eisenhower on the morning of June 6 it’s a real possibility.  Stick that in your counter-factual pipe and smoke it.
The middle paragraph contains some good information.  It informs us that 1250 aircraft were involved in airborne operations and that the losses, as far as he knows, were very light.  Mine-sweeping operations and preliminary bombardments appear to have went off without a hitch.  
The last paragraph of the telegram is also noteworthy.  We’ve all seen this photo:
Now you know what Eisenhower was thinking.  In his diary on June 3, 1944, Eisenhower wrote, “Probably no one who does not have to bear the specific and direct responsibility of making the final decision as to what to do can understand the intensity of these burdens.”

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