Zvezda’s Art of Tactic games: A way forward for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project?

Over the past few weeks I have been doing a lot of thinking about how best to approach starting work on my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project. One possibility that I have been considering is to take a simple quick-start short-cut … and buy a copy of Zveda’s ‘Art of Tactic’ OPERATION BARBAROSSA game.

The game components are compatible with my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I know this because I previously owned a copy, but in what now strikes me as a fit of madness, I passed it on to another wargamer, along with a stack of unmade models that I had bought to go with it.

In terms of figures and vehicles, the basic game contains:

  • 1 x Pzkpfw II tank
  • 1 x Pzkpfw III tank
  • 1 x Opel Blitz truck
  • 3 x Bases of German infantry
  • 1 x Base of German assault engineers
  • 1 x German machine gun crew
  • 1 x Ju87 Stuka dive-bomber
  • 1 x 81mm mortar and crew
  • 1 x German HQ
  • 1 x T-34/76 tank
  • 1 x Zis-5 truck
  • 3 x Bases of Russian infantry
  • 1 x Russian machine gun and crew
  • 1 x Russian 82mm mortar and crew
  • 1 x 45mm anti-tank gun and crew
  • 1 x 37mm anti-aircraft gun and crew
  • 1 x Russian HQ

The terrain items in the box include:

  • 6 x double-sided six by four hexed terrain boards (they are actually five hexes plus two half hexes by four hexes)
  • 30 x double-sided single terrain hexes
  • 6 x hill hexes
  • 1 x Pillbox
  • 2 x Dragon’s teeth anti-tank obstacles
  • 4 x Sets of barbed wire
  • 1 x Pontoon bridge

In addition, I already have soome models I had bought some years ago during a visit to the Artillery Museum in St Petersburg. These include:

  • 1 x T-26 tank
  • 2 x T-34/76 (mod.43) tanks
  • 2 x 45mm anti-tank guns and crew
  • 2 x 76mm infantry guns and crew
  • 2 x 122mm M-30 howitzers and crew
  • 2 x 85mm anti-aircraft guns and crew

Since the first game came out, Zvezda have added several additional sets to the range including the ‘Art of Tactic’ TANK COMBAT game.

This set comprises:

  • 1 x Pzkpfw II tanks
  • 1 x Pzkpfw 38(t) tanks
  • 1 x Pzkpfw IV tanks
  • 1 x BT-5 tanks
  • 1 x T-26 tanks
  • 1 x T-34/76 (mod.40) tanks
  • 1 x double-sided four by three hexed terrain boards (they are actually four hexes by two hexes plus two half hexes)

The other two widely available games are Zveda’s ‘Art of Tactic’ BATTLE FOR MOSCOW …

and BATTLE OF STALINGRAD …

… games.

The former contains:

  • 1 x Pzkpfw III ausf.G tank
  • 1 x Pzkpfw IV ausf.D tank
  • 1 x StuG ausf.B assault gun
  • 3 x Bases of German infantry in winter uniform
  • 1 x German machine gun crew in winter uniform
  • 1 x 81mm mortar and crew in winter uniform
  • 1 x German motorcycle and sidecar
  • 1 x German HQ in winter uniform
  • 1 x T-35 tank
  • 1 x Base of Russian infantry in winter uniform
  • 2 x Bases of Russian militia infantry
  • 1 x Base of Russian ski infantry
  • 1 x Russian machine gun and crew in winter uniform
  • 1 x Russian 82mm mortar and crew in winter uniform
  • 1 x 85mm anti-aircraft gun and crew
  • 1 x Russian HQ in winter uniform
  • 6 x double-sided six by four hexed snowy terrain boards (they are actually five hexes plus two half hexes by four hexes)
  • 30 x double-sided single terrain snowy hexes
  • 6 x hill hexes
  • 1 x Pillbox
  • 2 x Dragon’s teeth anti-tank obstacles
  • 4 x Sets of barbed wire
  • 1 x Pontoon bridge
  • 8 x Smoke markers
  • 2 x Fire markers

The latter contains:

  • 1 x Pzkpfw IV tank
  • 1 x Base of German infantry in winter uniform
  • 1 x 75mm anti-tank gun and crew
  • 1 x 81mm mortar and crew in winter uniform
  • 1 x German HQ in winter uniform
  • 1 x T-34/76 tank
  • 1 x Base of Russian infantry in winter uniform
  • 1 x Russian anti-tank team
  • 1 x 76mm Zis-3 anti-tank gun and crew
  • 1 x Russian HQ in winter uniform
  • 3 x double-sided six by four hexed terrain boards, two of which are snowy (they are actually five hexes plus two half hexes by four hexes)
  • 1 x Pillbox
  • 2 x Dragon’s teeth anti-tank obstacles
  • 4 x Sets of barbed wire
  • 1 x Pontoon bridge
  • 6 x Smoke markers
  • 2 x Fire markers

By buying most or all of the above I could quickly ‘kick-start’ my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project into life … and it is certainly an option I need to think about some more.

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Mixing scales on the tabletop: heresy or not?

This is not the first time I have written about this topic … but something that I read elsewhere has made me return to it. What sparked my return was a discussion about the use of 1:700th-scale model aircraft with 1:2400th-scale model ships in a World War II wargame set in the Pacific. Most of the people who took part in the discussion expressed the opinion that it was perfectly in order to mix these two scales on the tabletop, although there was a minority who felt that such a suggestion was almost heretical.

This set me thinking. In the past I have quite happily mixed 1:87th, 1:76th, and 1:72nd-scale vehicles and figures on the tabletop … and yet I know of some wargamers who would blanche at the thought of using inconsistent scale vehicles and figures in the same game. At the same time Zvezda has been producing a World War II wargame – Operation Barbarossa – that mixes 20mm-scale figures and 1:100th-scale vehicles, and that seems to have been quite successful … although I suspect that most of the vehicles have been bought by wargamers who use 15mm-scale figures. In addition, Irregular Miniatures produce a range of Really Useful Guns which are described as suitable for use with both 15mm and 20mm-scale figures.

On reflection I cannot see why 20mm-scale figures cannot be used alongside 15mm/1:100th-scale vehicles … and I think that I will give this a tryout in my next wargame.


Warbases … and hexes

In answer to a query from David Crook as to what the various Warbase bases that I recently bought looked like on Hexon II hexes, I set up the following photograph.

Doing this made me wonder what the bases would look like on some of my other hexed terrain, so I set them up on one of my MEMOIR ’44 terrain boards …

… and then one from Zvezda’s ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARAROSSA game.

I then began thinking about how some of my 15mm-scale figures would look if they were placed on the Warbase bases …

… and I must admit that in many ways they looked better than their 20mm-scale ‘bigger brothers’.

This exercise has given me some things to think about.

Firstly it is obvious that the four and three-figure Warbase bases will not ‘work’ on the MEMOIR ’44 and ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARAROSSA terrain boards, although the two-figure base will.

Secondly the 15mm-scale figures seem to ‘look’ better on the Warbase bases than the 20mm-scale ones. This may be due to the fact that one expects World War II era infantry to be more spread out, and that 20mm-scale Colonial figures (which one expects to fight much close together) will look just as good on the bases. I don’t know yet if my thinking about this is correct or incorrect … but I hope to find out soon!


I must not do it … I must not do it … I must not do it …

I need another terrain system like a need another hole in my head … but looking at Ian Dury’s wonderful rendition of what a PORTABLE WARGAME setup could look like is very tempting. Every time I look at it, I keep repeating ‘I must not do it … I must not do it … I must not do it …‘ to myself … but the self-hypnosis is just not working!

I already have a large number of boxes of Hexon II hexed terrain, a huge amount of Heroscape™ hexed terrain, two 3′ x 2′ fully flocked and gridded terrain boards (the grid is made up of 2″ squares), several vinyl chessboards, a green felt cloth marked with a grid made up of 3″ squares, a folding wooden chessboard, a small wooded chessboard (the original board I used for my PORTABLE WARGAME), and all the hexed boards that come with MEMOIR ’44, BATTLE CRY!, and ART OF TACTIC: OPERATION BARBAROSSA.

I DO NOT NEED ANOTHER TERRAIN SYSTEM!
So why have I just had to stop myself cutting up some cardboard squares to see how many plain, wooded, road, river, and hill squares I might need if I am going to copy Ian Dury’s example?

I must not do it … I must not do it … I must not do it …

[Exit stage left, pursued by an attractive idea]


Zvezda vehicle and aircraft models: What I have so far acquired

After my recent purchase, I decided that it might be a good idea if I made an inventory of the Zvezda ART OF TACTIC 1:100th-scale vehicle and 1:144th-scale aircraft models that I have so far acquired:

German

2 x Bf109F Fighters
2 x Ju87 Stuka Dive Bombers
3 x Pzkpfw IIIG Tanks
3 x Pzkpfw II Tanks
2 x Pzkpfw IVD Tanks
3 x Pzkpfw 38(t) Tanks
3 x Opel Blitz Trucks
1 x SdKfz 251/1 Armoured Half track

Soviet

1 x LAGG-3 Fighter
2 x IL-2 Ground-attack Aircraft
2 x T-34/76 Tanks
3 x T-26M Tanks
4 x Zis-5 Trucks

It immediately strikes me that the Russians need some more tanks to even up the balance, and both sides are going to need more trucks.

I do have some 1:100th-scale vehicles from other manufacturers that I can use alongside the Zvezda models. These include:

HASBRO Axis & Allies Miniatures (All of these have soft plastic turrets and/or guns that may have to be replaced. Alternately some of them could be converted into self-propelled artillery.)

3 x Pzkpfw III Tanks
1 x Pzkpfw 38(t) Tank
1 x StuG III Assault Gun
1 x SdKfz 138 Marder III
3 x T34/76 Tanks
3 x Sherman Tanks

HASBRO Indiana Jones Titanium Series

5 x Mercedes-Benz LG3000 Trucks (These are approximately 1:100th-scale)

I am sure that I probably have other suitable vehicles and aircraft stored somewhere in my toy/wargames room or the garden shed. It is just a matter of finding them!


I have been to … Rochester Games & Models

During the latter part of this morning my wife announced that we needed to do some shopping … some serious (i.e. quite a lot) of shopping. It was time for our monthly ‘top up’ of all those domestic consumables that need to be replenished ever few months.

After some discussion we decided to go out for lunch first, and then go on to the large supermarket where the ‘serious’ shopping would take place. I suggested that we had lunch in an Italian restaurant in Chatham that we both like, and asked if it would be possible to stop off in Rochester on the way so that I could visit the model shop that was located there. As my wife quite likes Rochester, she agreed to this suggestion and I managed to make my first visit to ROCHESTER GAMES & MODELS.

I was very impressed by this small model shop. It had a reasonable range of different types of models on sale, and a very good selection of model paints. In the end I bought some 1:100th-scale Zvezda vehicles from their ART OF TACTIC range.

I bought:

  • A Pzkpfw II Tank.
  • A Pzkpfw III Tank.
  • An Opel Blitz Truck.

I found the owner very helpful and I will certainly pay further visits to the shop as and when I can.


The ‘new’ terrain boards

I decided to use a spare half hour today to put both the ‘new’ terrain boards I had ‘found’ onto my wargames table and then to ‘dress’ it with various items from my collection of trees, roads, and buildings to see what it looked like.

I then decided to add some figures and vehicles. In the first instance I used a mixture of 20mm-scale figures and 15mm-scale vehicles. (This is what Zvezda use in their ART OF TACTIC game, and I wanted to see if it ‘worked’ on a visual level.)

In the first three images, the German figures were all made by Raventhorpe (and are therefore large 20mm-scale figures), the Infantry Gun was made by Skytrex, and the Pzkpfw IV was made by Peter Pig. The Russian figures are a mixture of Britannia and Dixon Miniatures, and the T34s were made by Hasbro and are part of the AXIS & ALLIES range of miniatures. The trees were bought from various model railways shops, had additional flock added to them, and were then based by me. The building is from Hornby’s Lyddle End range of N gauge buildings, the barricades were supplied by Hovels, and the barbed wire was bought in a Games Workshop store.

I then replaced the figures and artillery with items from my MEGABLITZ collection.

Finally I replaced the 20mm-scale figures with 15mm-scale figures from my Colonial wargames collection and the Hornby building with small-scale buildings I have bought during my visits to Croatia.

Having undertaken this exercise I think that:

  • The boards look a lot better than my sheets of green felt with a grid drawn on them.
  • I can easily use my existing collection of trees, roads, and buildings with these boards, especially as the felt roads and the based trees (which have felt sheet underneath them) grip the flocked surface of the boards and are thus less likely to move during a wargame.
  • Small 20mm-scale figures do not look too out of place with 15mm-scale vehicles. (Perhaps Zvevda are on to something here? I tried a similar experiment myself some time ago, and this has reinforced my thoughts on the matter.)
  • The fact that I can get two bases of 15mm-scale figures into a grid square might have implications for any future developments of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

This was an interesting exercise, and it has left me with several things to think about.