Category Archives: “Rules” Explanations

Explaining stuff that isn’t as obvious as I thought it was when I wrote it.

Dominating the Enemy

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Thinking back over the year just gone, it struck me that when players clash with the little lead chaps,  you often see a particular manoevre in close assaults. The attacking player will put his model half over the defender or the defences, to emphasise that he has broken into the position, and is about to overrun the enemy. He does this before a single die has been rolled, in the expectation that things will go his way.

2nd Tank Corps Break Into the Northern Advanced LineLook at the dancing Cossacks – things have gone their way!

This leaves the defender in somewhat of a quandry. Does one point out this ungentlemanly behaviour and seem peevish, or does one let it slide and invite the player to remove his overly-familiar troops when the attack fails?

KV1 of 16 Motor Rifle Corps Breaks inConfident KV-1 vs. a dug-in doorknocker

A good umpire will, of course, not allow this sort of untidy behaviour, and will invite the attacker to place his troops more decorously until he does actually win the firefight …. or not.

20th Panzer Grenadier Division is Attacked

An optimistic BA-10

As can be seen from the photographic evidence, I have not always been a good umpire, but to be fair to the players involved, I have had to illustrate this article with one or perhaps two Soviet-style propaganda shots!

Happy New Year!

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Midwinter Reflection

2 Guards Mechanised Form Upo For the Attack in three columns2 Guards Mechanised form up for the attack in three columns of march

The fall of MOSCOW airfield marked the end of Phil’s visit to the games table. He left his Boxfiles behind as he plans to come back before New Year’s Eve. Naturally, I took the opportunity to photograph some of the contents and slot pictures into the orbats in place of some of my dodgier place-markers. A bit of rounding off happened too, during which the northern thrust around Moscow finally broke through the exhausted defenders. A hasty counterattack took back the airfield and southern defences, though not the eastern side of the riverbank. Flying into MOSCOW was going to be a precarious enterprise from now on, as the eastern end of the field would be under fire from across the River MOSKVA.

Over the past 30 years, head-on armoured battles have been a bit of a rarity (as you might expect from rules titled Not Quite Mechanised). During the course of the day I had been reflecting on the last time that armoured forces clashed at GAZALA. The comment then had been that something more formal was needed to cover the gaps. Phil is developing NQMsquared (or Megablitzsquared) and I’m happy that he is troubling to do the work on a system of squares that I enjoy playing, but don’t want to develop myself.

1 Shock Army is about to run head on into 7 Panzer Division in a mini PROKHOROVKA, so the battle rules will run like this:

As the lead elements of mobile forces run into each other, there will be an initial point contact as one or more bases touch each other at the head or front rank of the column. Resolve each combat in the normal way for winning the firefight.

When mobile stands fight enemy stands of different armour value in this way, everyone at the point of contact may choose which stand to direct their fire onto.*

The winner may:

  • Advance in contact (if mobility = or better than enemy mobility).
  • Hold fast.
  • Break off combat (if mobility is better than enemy mobility, or the enemy does not wish to remain in combat) to make contact with a command or logistic stand, where they can reorganise pins away as long as they are out of contact with enemy bases and not under fire from artillery. This takes a whole move.
  • Reinforce the combat with any other troops that are mobile enough to enter the combat.

The loser may:

  • Fall back in contact with the winner, if the loser is mobile enough (otherwise the loser can be bypassed if the winner chooses, and be engaged by follow-on forces who so choose).
    • If the enemy does not wish to advance, the loser may remain in combat for another round, morale permitting.
    • If the enemy wishes to remain in contact with the loser, and is mobile enough, he may do so.
  • Break off contact (if loser’s mobility is better than enemy mobility).
  • Fall back behind unengaged friendly troops, who will halt the enemy and engage him.
  • Mobile logistic stands can fight, but must fall back to their maximum limit in the face of the enemy as they attempt to fight.
  • If logistic stands are in prepared defences, they can halt a mobile enemy and fight, but can only halt non-armoured troops.
    • This means that armoured troops can choose to pass through logistic units without fighting them.
    • If logistic troops lose a combat from a defensive position, they must fall back in the normal way.
    • If they are passed through as described they may remain in position.
  • Fall back out of combat, into contact with a command or logistic stand, where they can reorganise pins away as long as they are out of contact with enemy bases and not under fire from artillery. This takes a whole move.

Example 1:

  • A PzIII stand (M armour, M gun) contacts a T-70 (L armour, L gun). The PzIII puts a pin onto the T-70 which elects to fall back.
  • The PzIII is joined by a SdKfz stand (L armour, L gun) from the second rank of the advancing column, as it advances to maintain contact. On the second round of combat the T-70 takes two pins and chooses to fire at the (L) Sdkfz causing one pin.
  • The T-70 falls back again to find a logistic stand but the Fascists advance to keep it in contact and are joined in the front rank by a command stand. On the third round of combat the T-70 takes no pins and chooses to fire at the unarmoured command stand, treating it as a (M) gun firing at a (L) target** causing one pin.

It can be seen in the picture at the top of the page that 2 Guards Mechanised Division is formed up in three columns of attack. Each column has armour at the head, followed by supporting infantry, then support (S), command (C) and logistic (L) stands.

*British commanders in the Western Desert complained on occasion that their anti-tank gunners shot up softskins in preference to armour, as it was easier to ‘brew them up’

** Remember that all armour and gun values are relative to each other. We reason that 45mm guns firing armour piercing (AP) at medium tanks would have a light effect, but the same guns firing AP or HE at unarmoured targets would have a medium effect.

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The Battle of Bir Bar ‘el – Breaking into the Position

0600hrs – Crossing the Start Line

Bersagliari under Artillery Fire

  1. 14th Infantry  Brigade Artillery (14ARTY) laid a barrage onto the northernmost enemy strongpoint of 1 medium CU scoring 5 against the medium strongpoint, scoring 1 red pin or pip (1M=5>M=1). Bersagliari tested for morale for coming under fire for the first time, scoring 4, which was OK
  2. 1st Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (1BEDS&HERTS) advanced to contact with the enemy and each stand of 3 bases opened fire scoring 2 pins (2L=5+6>M=2).
  3. V Bersagliari Motorised Battalion (5BERGn) returned fire with 1 light die scoring 1 pin (1L=4>L=1)
  4. In the first move, 1BEDS&HERTS have inflicted three pins on 5BERGn and received only one in return, so in the next move they can close assault the strongpoint.

Winning the Firefight

0700hrs – Close Assaulting the Northern Strongpoint

  1.  There were no unwounded stands left in the northern strongpoint, so if 1BEDS&HERTS close assaulted, they would just walk over the position, capturing anyone who was in there.  5BERGn were veteran troops however, and passed a morale test for 50% or over casualties scoring a 6! so the Battalion Commander decided that a fighting withdrawal was in order. 1BEDS&HERTS occupied the position. Their supporting Valentine tanks from 4th Royal Tank Regiment (4RTR) declined to pursue the fleeing enemy until the infantry had reorganised, on the grounds that the enemy had probably covered his lines of retreat with anti-tank fire.
  2. The 1st Black Watch Regiment (1BW) advanced to contact in a co-ordinated brigade attack against the southernmost enemy strongpoint and began the firefight (2L=5+3>M=0).The attack stalled as the defenders returned fire (1L=6>L=2)
  3. 14ARTY laid a barrage  of 1 medium CU scoring 2 against the medium strongpoint to the south, to no effect. The attack remained stalled.
  4. The supporting Matilda battalion of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment (1RTR) began a duel with the DAK 50mm anti tank detachment to their north (DAK PaK). 1RTR (1L=3>M*=0). DAK PaK (1M=6>H=1).

 Black Watch Advance to Contact

0800hrs – Black Watch Continue the Firefight Against the Southern Strongpoint

  1. The tank/anti tank duel continued in the south with more sound and fury than actual damage: 1RTR (1L=3>M*=0). DAK PaK (1M=3>H=0), the PaK was now out of ammunition and could only withdraw next move, or sit tight awaiting a close assault.
  2. 14ARTY laid a barrage onto the southernmost enemy strongpoint (1M=4>M=1). 5BERGs had now received 50% casualties and failed a morale test on 2.
  3. 132ARTY fired on 1BW (1L=4>L=1). 1BW had received 50% casualties and failed a morale test on a 2, becoming disorganised.
  4. 1BW settled into a firefight with 5BERGs causing a permanent (black) casualty (2L=4+5>M*=1) and receiving . 5BERGs failed their 50% morale check on a 1, also becoming disorganised**

0900hrs – Black Watch Win the Firefight Against the Southern Strongpoint

  1. 14ARTY continued to bombard the southernmost enemy strongpoint to no effect (1M=3>M=0).
  2. 132ARTY switched fire onto 1BEDS&HERTS (1L4>L=1).
  3. 1BEDS&HERTS closed to effective fire range against the Southern Strongpoint (2L=3+5>M=1). At this stage the combined attack of two battalions had won the firefight and could advance to contact in the next move. [In the picture below, the 3 stands could have black pins stuck into the bases, or be depicted by casualty markers as shown here]

Black Watch Win the Firefight

1000hrs – Beds & Herts Follow Through to the Defenders Gun Line

  1. 14ARTY continued the barrage on the southernmost enemy strongpoint 5BERGs. The fall of shot was doing more damage now (1M=4>M=1).
  2. 132ARTY continued their barrage on 1BEDS&HERTS (1L=5>L=1).
  3. 1BW mounted a disorganised close assault with only one effective fighting base (F1) against the zero strength 5BERGs, which was automatically overrun. RHQ was unable to offer supporting fire to 5BERGs, as they were disorganised.
  4. The Valentines of 4RTR supporting 1BEDS&HERTS brought 132ARTY under direct fire (1L=6>M=1) causing 1 pin.

Valentines Charging the Guns!

1100hrs – The Enemy is Defeated

  1. In a bold move, the Matilda battalion 1RTR  passed through the Southern Strongpoint and broke into the RHQ position in fine style but caused no enemy casualties (1L=2>L=0) and received none in return*** (1L=4>H=0). The Tank Terror rule was not appropriate here as RHQ had organic anti tank assets. By doing this, 1RTR prevented RHQ from putting in a potentially devastating counter attack. [See picture below]
  2. 4RTR‘s Valentines closed with 132ARTY causing another pin (1L=6>M=1) and receiving no casualties in return (1L=4>M=0) – I really was not making these die rolls up!
  3. 1BEDS&HERTS mounted a well-coordinated close assault with two effective fighting bases (F2) against the single strength point remaining of  132ARTY (S1), which was  overrun as this strength point was defeated in close assault by the attacking infantry (F3= 6,5>S1=5). [See picture above]

Black Watch Close Assault

This battle would conclude with 14BDE consolidating on the positions that it had won and reorganising. The supporting tanks would reorganise, following British doctrine, behind the defending infantry. Logistic elements would move forward to resupply the infantry and tanks

It is worth noting that throughout, I have tried to describe as much of the ‘battle’ as possible using language that would be familiar to the commanders of the day. I find battles personally more satisfying doing this than if the language of wargaming is used, as I use games to try and understand the history of the period, as well as being an enjoyable pastime.

This worked example supercedes the earlier Battle of WASHBOARD RIDGE.

Footnotes:

The notation used here is a sort of Chess-style notation that allows me to record the salient points of solo games for future reference, and to keep track in campaigns. For this game I decided that the first people to come under fire would take a morale check, and everyone would at 50%.

* I count most Atk guns as Medium in defence when tanks are firing against them, to reflect the anti-tank guns’ low profile and camouflage, as here.

** disorganised units cannot take advantage of supporting fire, and are automatically overrun if close assaulted.

*** Tanks do not close assault. They drive into an enemy infantry position as they please, but if the infantry do not surrender or run away, then the tanks are treated as light targets in the next move when close assaulted by the defending infantry  if they are unwise enough to stay on the position. See Männer Gegen Panzer to get a feel for what is going on tactically.

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Battle of Bir Bar ‘el

Since explaining combat in the  Battle of WASHBOARD RIDGE, infantry stands have been reduced in strength by 3, reverting to the original version of NQM. See how this works with a combined infantry and tank brigade assault against  a defending battalion with anti-tank support.

 

Order of Battle – Allies

 Beds & Herts orbat at the Battle of Bir Bar 'el

 Black Watch Orbat at the Battle of Bir Bar 'el

 

Order of Battle – Axis

 

  • 8th Bersaglieri Regiment (Motorised) – 1 Comd car + 1 Mortar + 1 47mm Atk (CS3)
  • Attached from DAK1 50mm Atk (S2) +1 Limber (L2)
  • V Motorised Battalion 2 Trucks (L3)*, [ Bn Comd + MG + 45mm Mortar (CS3)], [ 3Rifles (F3)]
  • XII Motorised Bn detached to support Ariete

*(The Motorised Bn could equally be protrayed as two single truck stands  of strength CS3 and F3. If I do that , I usually put some infantry in the back to show they are not just Logistic trucks)

Italian Orbat for the Battle of Bir Bar el

 

 

 

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Clarifying Mechanised Orbats

When a motorised battalion of infantry with integral transport goes into battle, one of the bases (usually a Support (S) base)  can be an integral part of the transport base. In addition, the transport may carry other bases (usually  Fighting (F) bases) that ‘deploy’ when the stand attacks or defends.  The following scale should provide a rough guide but is not prescriptive :

No  extra bases per jeep or motorcycle combo

Up to 2 bases extra per light truck  or light halftrack (debusses up to 2 stands), e.g. Sd Kfz 250/251

Up to 3 bases extra per medium truck

Up to 4 bases extra per heavy truck

2 wheel trailers may carry 1 base

4 wheel trailers may carry up to 2 bases

If there are a mix of fighting and support bases in the stand, it can be given a hybrid designation, such as  FS, CF, CS, or even CFS.

This is different to the case of a marching infantry unit that happens to be transported in trucks that are not a normal part of their orbat. For marching infantry, the truck(s) can be accounted for separately as a Logistic (L) stand.

In retreat, all your troops will fit onto the trucks up to a maximum of double the usual extra stands, but no support weapons, so support stands become rifle stands.

Pz Gren Bn    1 Comd Sd Kfz w 37mm PAK + 81 or 50mm Mor (CS3)  which would normally travel with the Bn comd Sd Kfz, 2 x [Sd Kfz with MG + 2 Rifle bases @ (FS3)] (Rifle stands may have integral AT Rifle or Pz Faust  capability).

PzGrenBnGep

So a panzer grenadier battalion has 3 halftracks (each CS3 or FS3 light armour with an integral machine gun  or PaK 37). The 250 will always have an integral command base or may have an integral command/support base (MG or Pak), and probably also has a dismountable support base with it in the shape of a mortar. Each 251 has an integral support or gun base. Regimental gun support can be simulated by modelling the gun on the transport e.g. the Sd Kfz 250/10 or  Sd Kfz 251/10, or as a towed gun, as shown in the picture above.

In total up to 6  dismountable rifle or support bases could be carried by the 3 battalion transports with their integral non-dismountable bases. You could use as few as 3 or 4 dismountable bases to reflect the often-reduced fighting strength of these heavily used units. Of course, if you are asking yourself  “why bother with the dismounted bases at all?” then it is simple enough to just model a CS3 or FS3 vehicle with a few figures in the back. As long as everyone knows what is there, it doesn’t really matter.

Mot Rifle Bn  1 Comd Car + optional 81 or 50mm Mor (CS3)1-2 [Trucks or 1/2 tracks with integral mg support stand + optional 1-2 Rifle bases (FS2-3),  (Rifle stands may have integral AT Rifle or Pzfaust  capability). A total of 6-9 bases per battalion including the vehicle bases, in line with infantry battalions is about right, making a total of 3 stands, as shown below.

MotRflAbt

In total up to 6  dismountable rifle or support stands can be carried by the 3 battalion transports with their integral non-dismountable stands. Any regimental guns will be towed in this orbat. If a truck does not have an integral support or fighting base because you like to show all your infantry companies as dismountable, count it as (L1) and send it to the rear into a laager.

Please note that this does not in any way seek to replicate the actual carrying capacity of these vehicles; rather it simulates the functions of a battalion, whilst still allowing a modeller to produce signature equipment in his orbat. The orbat also gives flexibility without being too prescriptive. If you disagree, run your ideas past your opponent and reach an agreement for an enjoyable game.

Postcript, May 2017:

You can just stick a few infantry onto the same base as a truck (Tim Gow has been doing this for years in Megablitz), or you can make the bases small enough to fit into the back of the truck, as Command Decision does.

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The Battle of Washboard Ridge, an NQM Close Assault Example

Following a question of how big the unit of resolution for a close assault should be, the answer is “usually a battalion”. There are occasions when a regiment, brigade or even division may close assault, but these are rare: Brigadier Horror-Frackley, when asked during staff rides,  how many of his troops he wished to commit to the assault,  would answer

“All of them!”

Fortunately for us, the attack at WASHBOARD RIDGE is being conducted by Brigadier O.H. Tidbury (in command 30 October 1940–27 April 1941), who understands the value of reserves.

This 2012 example uses the old NQM method of giving an infantry base a strength of (S3) and has been superceded by taking NQM back to its roots and grouping three (S1) bases into a stand of (S3). See the more recent 2014  Battle of Bir Bar ‘el for the current way of conducting combat :

The Brigadier has ordered his anti tank rifles to be left behind as he is facing a reduced (regular) infantry battalion  (2nd) from 115th Infantry Regiment:

  •  1 Comd  (s1), 3 Rifle (s3), 1 81mm Mortars (s3), 1 MG42 (s3)

asslt01 The plan is for a silent attack on a frontage of two battalions (all regular). The picture shows ammo markers in three different ways. The Beds and Harts (2BH) nearest the camera have three group markers (one is taken off each move if the battalion fires).  The York and Lancaster Regiment (2YL) have individual ammo markers, and the Black Watch (2BW) in reserve have a single marker with three green pips on it to remove each move that the battalion fires. The marker to the right has a grid with numbers on it to stick pins into if you don’t like heaps of counters on the table. Brigade attack. Chris Kemp's NQM A Echelon for a brigade attack in the Western Desert. Chris Kemp's NQM Move 1 The battalion commander of the grenadiers elects to split his fire onto each of the attacking British battalions; (if a player declared otherwise, I would want to know if the leading companies in defence were cool enough to ignore the enemy bearing down on their position. I would probably allow the supports to concentrate fire but not the lead companies) 115th Infantry Regiment before Tobruck. Chris Kemp's NQM Because this is a brigade attack, the reserve battalion could lend the supporting fire of its MMG and mortar if it was ordered to. In this case it is not felt necessary, and on the first move, the 2YL wins its firefight, so can close assault in the next move. The Beds and Harts  do not fare as well, so their attack goes to ground and grinds to a halt until reinforcements arrive to unstick them (this does not mean that they cannot continue to shoot in the hope that they will win the firefight in the next move, BUT THEY CANNOT CLOSE ASSAULT WITHOUT BEING REINFORCED). Brigade attack in the Western Desert. Chris Kemp's NQM Close Assault in the North, move 2 Close Assault. Achtung Schweinhund!Chris Kemp's NQM Battalion Attack in front of heavily defended company positions. Chris Kemp's NQM 2YL win their close assault causing two pips of damage and receiving none. The two forward grenadier companies that received red pins are forced to vacate their position, being replaced by the two forward companies of 2YL. Battalion Attack breaks into heavily defended company positions. Chris Kemp's NQM Note the black heavy die rolled against the Brits to account for the effect of an uncleared minefield in front of the defensive position. In traditional fashion, the heavy die rolled a two! Firefight in the South, move 2 Battalion Attack goes to ground in front of heavily defended company positions. Chris Kemp's NQM 2BH initiate another round of fire with the two grenadier companies south of the ridge. This time they win the firefight and are reinforced by a Black Watch  company, so that they can close assault next move. Battalion Attack regains momentum in front of heavily defended company positions. Chris Kemp's NQM Close Assault in the North, move 3 2YL win their close assault causing two more pips of damage and receiving one. The two forward grenadier companies that received red pins are forced to vacate again, being replaced by the two forward companies of 2YL. Note that they can only carry one ammo marker out of the position with them as they each only have one strength point left. Battalion Attack finally clears heavily defended company positions. Chris Kemp's NQM Close Assault  in the South, move 3 2BH win their Close Assault narrowly, causing one pip of damage, and noting with relief that the minefield die was an equally miserable one! (Although it looks as if the black die is matched aganst the die below, it is not. It is acting as one heavy die of fire at contact). The grenadier company with 3 red pins on it has no fighting strength left. If it gets another hit before it reorganises, it will be destroyed. Battalion Attack fighting through heavily defended company positions. Chris Kemp's NQM At this point, 2nd/115th are forced to take a morale test, which they fail, withdrawing in good order to fight another day. Brigadier Tidbury is content that the position has been taken. He calls for his ‘A’ echelon to come forward and begins the task of reorganising and digging his brigade in before the inevitable counter attack. He will bring forward his transport with engineering stores, anti-tank guns and more ammunition. *Volltreffer (direct hit) – Often shouted on ski slopes when a novice skier has wiped out a snowboarder. **Achtung Schweinhund! Harry Pearson’s eponymous book is highly recommended.

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Have Fun Modelling Logistics

Or … “Sergeant Bilko goes to War”

Troops work frantically through the night somewhere east of TOBRUK to crossload fuel from army to corps transport

Combat mechanisms in most wargames are complex, yet Wargamers enjoy rolling dice to calculate them. There is no reason for much simpler logistics mechanisms to be dull or tedious. As long as they are an integral part of the game, they should not slow it down. If logistics slow a game down, they will not be played and if dull, players won’t play the game.  Simple really. So how does NQM do it?

Army Railhead somewhere east of TOBRUK with no rails in sight, but lots of trucks. Note the Junior General truck printed onto card in the foreground

Firstly, logistics are modelled. Figure gamers love modelling, and I’m no exception, even with my dodgy modelling skills. The previous post but one showed a logistic train from railhead to fighting unit.

The only complexity not previously discussed is that in pursuit, motorised units use 2 POLs (Divisional Fuel  Loads)  per day and no CUs (Divisional Ammo Load) or FUs (Artillery Load), as they are racing along in pursuit of a defeated enemy. In defence, up to 2 CUs (because the defenders will almost certainly have to fight off more than 3 attacks) and as many FUs  (usually one) as can be brought forward or have been stockpiled. Likewise in attack, up to 2 FUs of artillery will be fired off to soften up the defenders and 1 CU of ammo expended as the division goes in.

Sergeant Bilko's English cousin WO1 "Brummy" Stokes reads the Racing Times in his supply depot. "Want any jam mate?"

I have showed divisional and corps supply dumps being modelled. Most players will not want to bother with the calculations of how many  CUs, FUs, and POLs are in these dumps. If you want the full flavour of desert warfare however, then modelling the flow of supplies moving forward is very instructive, and helps to explain why battles were followed by long lulls of apparent inactivity as the logistic troops raced to build up supply dumps and repair damaged fighting vehicles.

Page 18 shows how this works … so how were the sums arrived at :

WARNING – SIMPLE MATHS START  😦

A division consumes somewhere between 200-400tons of supplies a day* split broadly into Ammo (CUs), Artillery Ammo (FUs) and Fuel (POL). If each NQM model represents 30 trucks, then a 3-tonner can lift 90 tons and a 5-tonner 150 tons, so say 1 model per 100 tons. Conveniently, most NQM divisions have 3 trucks to supply 1 each of CUs, FUs and POL.

RELAX – SIMPLE MATHS END 🙂

* The Allies planned for up to 650 tons/day at D-Day, but this was pessimistic. Simple sums derived from van Krefeld’s Supplying War.

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Where do all those Trucks fit into the Box?

One part of my last post raised Phil Steele’s normally inscrutable eyebrows a fraction :

Independent T-26 Brigade

145 T-26 (5), 56 Artillery/flame tanks (2), 28 Armoured cars (1), 480 trucks/cars (16)

A ratio of (8) armoured vehicles / (16) softskins may seem disproportionate although I didn’t think so. I checked the sums in Zaloga and could only find 311 on table 2.7 p.73. This is consistent, give or take a few trucks with later orbats (oops!) he’s apparently missing 6 trucks somewhere. The Soviets are free with Battalion/Regt/Brigade designations for essentially the same sized units. I don’t know if the normally reliable Zaloga has made an error, or whether I’ve just added up wrongly

Here is the breakdown:

Motorcycles Cars Trucks/tractors (NQM) Unit
9 7 15 (1) Bde HQ – 1car
27 1 (1) Recce Coy – 1 motorcycle
2 6 73 (3) Tank Regt – 3 trucks
3 2 57 (2) Infantry Bn – 3 trucks (incl 1 fm Tpt Coy)
1 29 (1) AA Bn – 1 truck mounting quad AA
2 25 (1) Maintenance Coy – 1 Workshop Truck
1 44 (1) Motor Tpt Coy (to inf Bn)
7 Medical Platoon (modelled at army level)
44 16 251 (10)
(1) (1) (8) (10)

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How Many Tanks?

The slippery elastic nature of orbat numbers on the Eastern Front has many readers confused when they try to understand just how big unit actions were (and I include myself in this catagory). The disjointed way that military historians pepper their texts with numbers that make meaningful comparisons impossible, is intensely frustrating for a Wargamer trying to recreate a particular action. The Red Army Handbook 1939-1945 by Steven Zaloga and Leland Ness (1998), and the World War II Databook by John Ellis (1993) are usually my first points of reference.

I usually start from tank strengths – since these are key indicators. Consider that at full strength, a Soviet tank corps, on its return to the orbat in April 1942, contained 20 KVs, 40 T-34s and 40 T-60s or T-70s.

A Zvezda 15mm T-26 and KV-1 with a Plastic Soldier Company T-34 make the tank element of a 1942 Soviet tank corps

With an NQM tank model representing 30 tanks, then a Soviet tank corps would be 100 tanks represented by 10 Strength points rounded down to 3 models of 3 strength points each. If more accuracy is wanted then the KV is 2 strength points (s2) and the medium and light tank models are (s4) each. Remember this is a full strength “corps” of 3 tank models. At this time a British tank battalion was fielding about 50 tanks represented by 5 strength points or 1 model. I normally round strengths down to allow for the inevitable non-runners scattered around workshops.

A cursory reading of Citadel The Battle of Kursk by Robin Cross (1993) gives the following strengths at the start of the battle on p151. NQM Models are given in (brackets) :

XLVIII Panzer Corps

Grossdeutschland Division: 163 tanks and 35 (1) assault guns, of which, 14 Tigers (1-) and 104 Panthers (3+) with the remaining 45 (1) being Pz IVs. 6 Panzer Grenadier Battalions.

11 Panzer Division : 80 tanks (3). 4 Panzer Grenadier Battalions.

3 Panzer Division : 80 Tanks (3). 4 Panzer Grenadier Battalions.

In total the corps had 300 tanks (10) and 60 Assault guns (2), but note that p205 gives “approximately 470”.

IISS Panzer Corps

Each of Liebstandarte, Das Reich and Totenkopf Divisions having 130 (4) tanks and 35 (1) assault guns, of which 13-15 Tigers (1) the remaining (3) being an even mix presumably of Pz IIIs and IVs,  6 Panzer Grenadier Battalions (or 8 for Das Reich, depending on source).

Anyone fielding Panthers at Kursk should note that by the end of the first day’s fighting 76 (2) had broken down due to mechanical failure leaving only 28 (1) in the field. By the end of the advance, Grossdeutschland was being referred to as a “battlegroup”.

It can be seen that at this stage of the war, A Soviet tank corps is broadly equivalent to a standard panzer division of about 3 tank models, and also a British brigade of 3 tank regiments (battalions in anyone else’s army).

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Table 12 – Worked Example

Thanks to Mike and others who have reminded me  that if you haven’t seen Table 12 in use, then it is not  immediately obvious how it works. So here goes :

An Italian 47mm Anti tank stand takes on a Soviet T-34

Example 1 – A 47mm Italian anti tank company takes on a tank company from 1st Guards Armoured Tank Corps near Stalingrad. First point – the Light medium or heavy value of the two sides are flexible, depending on the scenario that the Umpire sets. It seems reasonable to assume Light for the 47mm anti tank gun attack and MEDIUM for it’s defence (Horrid little low profile company dug in on a reverse slope ) MEDIUM attack and defence for the tank company (driving forward in the open with 75mm guns and  proper medium armour).  Each company rolls one die per stand, so one light die rolls a 5 for the Anti tank and one medium die rolls a 6 for the recce. On table 12 light 5 against medium scores one pip, so a red pin goes onto the tank company and medium 6 against light scores 2 pips, so 2 red pins go onto the 47mm.

Brave Bersagliari see off a Greyhound!

Example 2 – Three Light infantry companies attack a light armoured recce company. They roll 3 light dice scoring 1,4,6. The 4 scores 0ne pip and the 6 scores two pips so a total of 3 pips go onto the Greyhound. In return the Greyhound rolls a 6 scoring 2 pips. The Italian player allocates them evenly on his troops putting one on each of two stands of his choice. Next move, if the Greyhound does not retire, it will be assaulted by the Bersagliari, who have won the firefight. As it has no effective fighting strength left it will be overrun. Time to pull out and reorganise!

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