Saturday, 28 August 2021

Russian Front Notebook 1

I have decided to start keeping some proper notes on references for the Russian Front (Great Patriotic War if you prefer) so I can find them later on.

In this first installment, some references on useful but uncommon subjects.

Luftwaffe strategic bombing in Russia

Not a subject I am familiar with but a very interesting video from Bismarck (Military Aviation History channel).

Military Aviation channel

And one of the source documents he uses (the RAND Report on Luftwaffe strategic bombing).

German railway operations in Russia

Another subject that I must admit has not been on my radar since playing the Russian Campaign. A very useful article on The Influence of Railways on Military Operations in the Russo-German War 1941–1945.

Russian squad tactics

And a couple of useful references:

Soviet Squad Tactics in WW2

Russian/Soviet Rifle Squads 1935-2019

There are some points of accuracy to explore on these but nonetheless, very helpful. Possibly a clue about my current project.

More to come in due course!

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Quatre Bras run out!


A belated thank you to Mr Rapier and chums for giving my old Quatre Bras game a remote run out the other week. Glad to see people having a go and, I think, reasonably successfully. Nice to see and also to have some useful feedback. Feel free to have a go here. One day the whole 100 days!

Also very worthwhile having a look at Martin's latest OHW game, this time GD at Kursk. Really really good!

Monday, 26 July 2021

Something for the weekend sir?

No sooner than I post about Stalingrad than I come across another series of brilliant documentaries by Army University Press (US Army that is!). Their series of four videos on the battle for Stalingrad describe the fighting through the lens of current (US) army doctrine. Big boy stuff this with acronyms and very unusual use of English. Really excellent.

One thing to look out for is their staff ride for Stalingrad. There are some brilliant handouts for staff ride leaders and a complete three dimensional environment that, unfortunately, is only available to US Army personnel. 

One other excellent video series that I have come across is by The Operations Room. They specialise in top down animations. The one that blew me away was their first episode of Black Hawk Down. Check it out, it's great! 

Sunday, 30 May 2021

TIK History - Tick VG?


TIK History: I came across TIK History through one of Geordie's very helpful blog posts. If you Google TIK  you will see some interesting discussions about some of his views. To say that he has a particular perspective on economics is an understatement. He would fit in well with Trump supporters who view the NHS as the work of the communist devil.

Having said that, and make you own minds up if you wish to form an opinion, is it worth watching some of his output?

The short answer is yes. I have watched all 23 episodes so far of Battlestorm Stalingrad. I thought they were really good and educational:

  • TIK does pretty well at presenting and his style goes down OK with me.
  • The story is narrated through animated maps, these are detailed (look like US Army topographic maps), zoomable and show their scale.
  • Statements are supported by references.
  • The narrative really does create an insightful picture of what actually happened.
  • The main source for the series is Glantz's Stalingrad trilogy supplemented by the current wave of new histories and is well researched.
This series has done a few things for me:
  • It has reminded me I need to refresh my library and I have bought the latest edition of When Titans Clashed by Glantz and read it straight through. I have a few other updated books to get as well.
  • It has rekindled my interest in the Eastern Front which is a very nice change of scenery.
  • The visual representation of the campaign shows what I knew, but didn't always realise was so important. The Red Army contested the battle through endless desperate defences and multiple continuous counter attacks. This brings to life the granularity of the fighting which, to my mind, no other medium has managed to do.
  • There are great learning points for wargames.
So, I'm a happy customer but always careful if I think someone is dripping something in my ear!

STALDATA: This is a website and You Tube channel run by the French historian Anton Joly who has provided support to TIK on the Stalingrad series. Anton's Stalingrad Battle Atlas is excellent (all four volumes!). Very well worth watching his videos. As a non-French speaker, I was always impressed by Anton's presentation style. He has now got a Australian chap to do the voice overs which is great, but I became very fond of listening to Anton.

Tank Archive: This blog is excellent! I mention it in the context of the above sites because because I have been drawn to it by looking up things on the Red Army. This is a blog new to me bit not to others, there are some familiar names appearing in the comments. The best thing about this blog, apart from the very high level of technical knowledge shown by the blogger (I couldn't find his name, sorry) is that the material is from primary historical documents. Very very good stuff. 

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

PW Addendum


Hi all, just a quick addition to the PW post. 
Phil DutrĂ© has kindly provided a link to his excellent index of PW issues Thanks Phil!

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Daaarrgh mateys, here be treasure!


I'm afraid blogging has taken third place behind two things beginning with B. Neither of which I feel the need to bother you about as they are in the news everyday. However, a little time away from blogging is a useful exercise sometimes and I have just been tinkering a little with things when not working.

I have made an entirely accidental discovery of some old wargames magazines which have been in a box for the last twenty years or so. It has been very enjoyable leafing through them. 

As you will have guessed from the picture, the box contains possibly the complete set of Practical Wargamer plus some special wargames issues from Military Modelling. I am surprised by how many I am familiar with and delighted to find some I really treasure. 

I imagine anyone reading this blog will remember PW, edited by the legendary Stuart Asquith.. If I recall correctly, it was a spin off from Military Modelling. The first issue was in the autumn of 1987, pretty much the same time as the first issue of WI. I think the last issue must have been around 2000 as I had just moved house when it folded. I was much disappointed as I was just about to resubscribe..

So here is one of my favourite PW issues.....Winter 1989

This issue featured the work of Clive Lane, a man dedicated to Airfix plastics and hexes. What a great combination. Here are a couple of tasters...

Another treasured magazine is this Wargames Manual from MM in 1983. This featured a fantastic article by Charlie Wesencraft.........

Large scale Napoleonics with each stand a battalion but able to change formation by the positioning of its various elements. A work of genius not seen, to my knowledge, anywhere else.

A great trip down memory lane when magazines were about doing stuff yourself and exploring the boundaries rather than just buying product (which is not a hobby!).

A couple of other things have also cropped up which are great and FREE!

  • Crossfire: A booklet of 2' by 2' Crossfire mini-scenarios including a campaign (Volkhov, Russian Front). Hopefully the first of many. Give them a try here.
  • Punched Magazine: The e-magazine with a game in it. This time round it focuses on COIN games. Not something I'm a fan off but worth reading nonetheless. Take a look here. In my view, issue 1 was more interesting (Franco-Prussian War).
Hopefully blogging conditions will improve from here onwards!

Thursday, 31 December 2020

When did WWIII start?


Happy winter greetings from the SAM 2 crew!

Never, perhaps, in the post-war decades has the situation in the world been as explosive and, hence, more difficult and unfavourable as in the first half of the 1980's.

 Mikhail Gorbachev February 1986

It is perfectly feasible to play a WWIII wargame, of any type, predicated on any number of start dates. Which date would you choose?

According to GDW’s Team Yankee, it was 1987. Battlegroup NORTHAG says 1983. Seven Days to the Rhine aims simply at the 1980s. Interestingly, The Red Effect by Harvey Black says 1984. Are any of these dates more likely than others and does it actually matter?

For most people I imagine, it doesn’t actually matter. Pick the rules you like and use the kit you fancy. If you want to use Conquerors to blow T-10s to molten slag, the answer is to come up with a rules set that covers these vehicles and figure out as much of a narrative as you need to set the scene.

For me, I like to play a game in which both sides have a believable narrative as to why they are fighting. The “historical” start date then sets the conditions in terms of force strengths, equipment types etc. The date is key for me because I’m writing my own rules and need to have an envelope for the kit and the tactics. The rules will cover only what is necessary and I will only need to find the specific models for the game. That keeps it simple all round and stops me going off at unnecessary tangents.

Warsaw Pact hat competition, Hungary wins!

I think 1984 is probably the last date at which a genuine WWIII could have broken out in Europe, but also probably the most likely. Could it have occurred earlier? Yes, certainly. There were many periods of extreme tension, starting with the Berlin Blockade in 1948, which could have sparked a war in Europe.  However, 1984 represents the culmination of a number of developments which pushed the possibility of conflict right up the scale.

The drivers for a conflict in 1984 are, as I see them, as follows:

  • Nearly a decade of competitive developments in weaponry (attack helicopters, new generation tanks) and in operational thinking (air/land battle and operational manoeuvre groups);
  • Strategic pressures brought about by Reagan’s election in 1980 and the possibility that his Star Wars project might provide a defensive shield behind which the US could launch a first strike;
  • Increasingly large and realistic exercises by NATO and Warsaw Pact (WP) which, even if not deliberately provocative, served to give that impression;
  • Stress and instability within the Soviet leadership structure due to Brezhnev’s death in 1982 and his replacement by, first, Andropov, and second, Chernenko.

Effectively, Reagan started the war threat rolling in 1980 and cranked it up with Star Wars. Andropov, KGB Chairman in 1981, responded with a massive project to obtain early warning of a US first strike (Op. RYaN) and this response continued when he took over following Brezhnev’s demise.

Here we come, ready or not!

What pushed things to the brink of war was the 1983 NATO exercise season. Although often referred to as Able Archer 83, that exercise was only a small part of a series of exercises under Autumn Forge 83. These started in September and ran through to November 1983. Able Archer was the final component. Autumn Forge was a massive exercise involving a full test of the reinforcement plan for NATO (Reforger 83) and also extensive planning of B52 “strikes” including the transmission of nuclear codes.

From a Soviet point of view, this was a close to NATO war preparations as they had ever seen. There is the possibility. therefore, that a Soviet pre-emptive strike could have been put in place for 1984 for use if the threat of a US/NATO strike was detected. This would have a been a standing start attack into West Germany with a view to disrupting the attack on the WP but with the advantage that it would shift the Iron Curtain further west and make far more difficult for NATO in future.

All of this would, of course, totally ignore the possibility of nuclear and chemical exchanges, the scale of military and civilian casualties and the long term damage to the countries involved. Luckily for us, this did not happen, phew!

So, what does this all this hot air mean then? Deep thinking on WWIII tactical OHW (possibly called Red Effect: Tactical). More the meantime, Happy New Year!