Eastern Front Action!

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!

38 comments

  1. This looks like such a “what if” type of game. I’ve been temped to pick-up Bolt Action several times, but without ready opponents it seems like an exercise in frustration! Glad you where able to put the scenery and models into play!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Justin! πŸ™‚ I should have tried to take more pictures, but the action centred mainly around the bridge. Even with the T-34 gunners penalised as not as well trained as the Germans they did quite well. Typically I knocked out the T-34/76 and not one of the more dangerous T-34/85s. It was the first game for both StuGs, the Grille and the SU-76!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent – I am currently working on an early war Eastern Front project myself currently. Probably for Chain of Command (or maybe Bolt Action though the rules seem bad to me having read through them they at least look easy to play). This is some nice inspiration to work on it anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great write-up, John, and good to see you getting a game in! With three T-34s I’m not too surprised that the Russians won this round πŸ™‚ The models and scenery are wonderfully painted and look amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Matt! πŸ™‚ I enjoyed the game, but really thought the StuGs would have done more. To be fair, the damaged StuG was lucky – it suffered five penetrating hits and lost all of its weapons but still managed to withdraw from the battlefield!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a fantastic looking report as always, John. It is cool seeing the Russians and Germans square off as well as I’d imagine that is less popular than some of the other fronts for WW2 gaming (though I could certainly be wrong!). I’m glad you got to give that vehicle a run out too. I’ve got a few Fallout minis that have waited at least a year or two to get used but I feel a bit better about that now πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice report John!
    Again on a nice board and with very beautifully painted minis.

    You wonder why the Axis lost? Because some General wasn’t following the tank-doctrin!
    (In fact Germans most often failed to utilize this in reality, which is also attributed as one of the main misstakes of the Wehrmacht.)
    Tanks and yes also StuGs to that degree work best in either of 2 scenarios: Staying behind hidden and firing from maximum range (and either retreat or move slowly forward after reconnaissance) or being used as a combined charge with infantry on a wide range. I digress, with those limited numbers of armor, a tank-attack would usually be disadvised, which would suggest for the first doctrin to be used if not retreat and regrouping. I guess, in this scenario you only could stay and fight though! Funny enough the Soviets used the German Tank-doctrin here.

    This is because German tanks are frontloaded and usually shit on either bottom, rear and of course tracks. Grille is infantry-support and more or less for breaking fortresses or shelling of trenches and not the best defensive-weapon. I’m not so sure if the 15cm gun would be able to penetrate t34, and with only 15 shells (!) in reality, you’d be under considerable stress, to decide the target-locations. The charge is either to cover those weaknesses and try to break through and the hidden max-ranged switches the tank-role to more of a mobile artillery.

    Well those are my 5cents from a non-gaming perspective lol. Though I think a bit of those tactics should work on the smaller scale, shouldn’t they?
    It’s a bit of a shame, that the pak 40 which should have been able to somewhat hold the line failed so spectacularily and like in reality, you should’ve gotten 2-3 of them. haha

    Thanks again for the report and keep ’em rolling!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Anthony! πŸ™‚ I was hoping to get the StuGs into good firing positions and pick off the T-34s, but the Russians were very quick off the mark, winning the initiative on the first move! Once the PaK 40 was set up that should have given me a good chance, but Axis shooting was bad! I suppose I could count myself lucky that the remaining StuG got to withdraw after taking five penetrating hits. The Grille was a last resort to use what was available – it’d probably be good enough at close range against a T-34 providing it got its shot in first (a 150mm HE round is pretty destructive at close range against a tank I think)!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fast soviet tank charge – like it really happened. :/ And if not enough: German tech striked when it was at the most dire. haha
        I’m rooting for you next time!
        Yeah I think the scenario, that was this town, might have been detrimental for your army composition. Had you won with that constellation before?
        The Grille in close combat as a auxillary tank is actually a fun idea, I can get behind it. Especially if you bascially ‘hide’ around the corner and strike when the T34 pass it. Speaking of T34, I haven’t looked 76 or 85version? 85 might have been harder for the Grille, but 76 should have been no problem.
        Btw. have you considered using the SdKfz251 with mortar or anti-tank-cannon upgrade? Mortar should be interesting as infantry-supression. Or even with rocket-thrower? xD Anti-tank would probably to weak.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t think I’d tried this particular composition of forces before, but it should have been reasonably balanced. One of the T34s (the one that the PaK 40 knocked out) was a late model T-34/76 and the other two were T34-85s – either way, a close range shot into the side from a Grille would do some damage. I do have an SdKfz 251/9 with the short 75mm for use as a support weapon, but not the SdKfz 251/22 with the PaK 40 – I’m conscious that the lightly armoured 251/22 could be incapacitated by armour-piercing ammunition, whereas the PaK 40 is relatively immune to that and a much smaller target (although HE and small arms fire then become more dangerous).

          Liked by 1 person

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