In between working on scenery for the last couple of months, I’ve actually had a wargame! More than that, a WW2 Eastern Front game that I organised and it’s been years since that happened! With wanting to get my scenery posts written up, the post for this game is somewhat delayed, to the extent that I’ve probably forgotten stuff that happened (spoiler alert – I lost! Oh, wait a minute, that’s not really news)!
The game was set in Hungary in Autumn 1944. German and Hungarian forces are frantically trying to slow down the Soviet Russian advance and have cobbled together a force to secure a river crossing abandoned when Hungarian forces withdrew prematurely! The Russians have been building up forces in this area and were just in the process of resuming their advance when the Axis counterattack began.
In the picture above, Axis forces are at the left-hand end of the table and the Russians are on the right. Although I normally use a 1:20 figure:soldier ratio I’ll describe this game in terms of infantry squads and individual guns/tanks/vehicles, since I know a few people reading this will be familiar with the Bolt Action WW2 rules (although I use my own).
The Axis forces want to secure the river bridge in the centre and have managed to get a German infantry squad forward into the building to the left of the bridge (shown top centre in the above view – in this picture the Russians are somewhere off the top of the picture). The overall force commander (German) is in the building in the upper left with another infantry squad, plus a German PaK 40 anti-tank gun, crew and half-track off the road behind the building. Another German infantry squad is in a truck on the small lane opposite the building the CO is in, supported by an SdKfz 251 half-track with a weapons squad (centre right in the picture above). Waiting off board is a Grille 150mm self-propelled infantry gun. Despite the bulk of the Axis force being German, the most potent elements are two Hungarian StuG III assault guns, which have just entered the board on the road.
At the other end of the board, the Russians have been mustering their forces (shown above – the Axis forces are off the top of the picture as well), also in preparation for seizing the bridge! The Russian CO is in the large wooden barn at the right of the picture, along with a weapons squad (their GAZ jeep and truck are parked up outside). Two infantry squads are in cover, one either side of the road down which they need to advance, with a 120mm mortar supporting them (top centre). The infantry are also supported by an SU-76 self-propelled gun (off-road next to the milk cart!) and a further infantry squad wait in a truck off board (I think that’s right – we’ll know if they appear in pictures later on)! The main punch for the Russians lies in the three T-34 tanks advancing on the road, each carrying a small squad of tank riders (only one figure is shown on each tank for convenience though).
The Russians were quick off the mark launching their attack and the T-34s advanced up the road, with the flanking infantry squads moving up as fast as they could (see picture above – the lead T-34 got an extra move bonus so reached the bridge straight away, much to the concern of the Axis forces). One of the Hungarian StuGs moved up to engage the leading T-34, but failed to cause any damage and as the two vehicles traded shots the tank riders on the T-34 dived for cover in the building next to the bridge (see picture below).
While the other StuG tried to move up in support, the German Pak 40 crew had got their gun set up to cover the bridge and managed to destroy the T-34 next to the bridge (see the picture below – the tank riders must have counted their blessings, having not long dismounted from the tank! I realised that I’d forgotten to get the coloured small animal bedding out to represent smoke from a burning vehicle, so the T-34 has had its turret tipped askance to denote its destroyed status)!
The other T-34s had now closed up on the bridge and managed to damage the leading StuG, while the supporting Russian infantry moved forward to the river. At this point, the German infantry waiting in the truck further back were ordered to join the CO, but decided that they were safer moving on foot over the road to cover (see picture below).
After this a lot started to go wrong for the Germans and Hungarians, to the extent that I forgot to take pictures (you can tell I was on the losing side)! The Russians brought up the SU-76 and the remaining infantry whilst bringing down 120mm mortar fire on the German-held building covering the river (the T-34s were keeping clear of this building and the risk of German Panzerfaust teams until their support fire had done its job). The T-34s managed to further damage the forward StuG and force it to withdraw, whilst another round destroyed the other StuG moving up in support (see picture below – the destroyed StuG is top left).
The PaK 40 crew failed to cause any more damage and were mown down by heavy machine gun fire from the Russian support squad, the latter now deployed around the bridge and destroyed T-34. The SdKfz 251 half-track had moved up and temporarily halted the Russian infantry advancing on the right flank, but it was then destroyed by one of the T-34s that had now forded the river, the German infantry in the nearby building having been eliminated. The Grille had finally moved up to support the SdKfz 251 but was destroyed by the supporting Russian SU-76 (the SdKfz 251 and Grille are shown destroyed/flipped over at the bottom left of the picture above, but also see the picture below).
In the end, the Russians managed to move across the river and secure their objective, supported very adeptly by heavy mortar fire (see below).
Right at the start of the game I set up both forces and we diced to see who controlled Russian and Axis troops, my mate John getting the Russians and me getting the Germans and Hungarians! The forces were reasonably balanced and set up, the Russians managing to make a fast start and keep up the pressure all through the game! On the Axis side the two StuGs should have been able to deal with the T-34s but their shooting was pretty poor and the Russian tanks, even with less effective gunners, managed to deal with both assault guns.
It was good to get in an Eastern Front game with my own stuff, even if I did lose! Quite a few “new” vehicles got into action, the Axis ones getting knocked out while the Russian ones survived. It turns out that the Hungarian StuG that had to withdraw with damage (it took it five penetrating hits, so surviving damaged was not a bad result) was one of the first vehicles I featured on this blog back in 2016 (see it here) and this was the first game I’d used it in! Mustn’t leave it so long between Eastern Front games next time!