WW2 Eastern Front - Winter Warfare

With this year seeing the 70th anniversary of the assault on Stalingrad, and the past winter that of the attack on Moscow, I decided that my new
project for 2012 was to be WW2 Winter Warfare on the Eastern Front.  The recent release of Too Fat Lardies "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum" has
reawaken my enthusiasm and interest not only in WW2 gaming but specifically the Eastern Front.  I have a large amount of WW2 figures and
vehicles suitable for gaming the war against Soviet Russia already in my collection, but this time I wanted to do something a bit different.  People
are always interested in the thought process behind new projects so for this one I intend to share it with you.  Almost everything shown below
was painted in December 2011 and January 2012.  I plan to add items and units through the rest of the year so keep scrolling to the bottom to
see my newest stuff.

My interest in the Eastern Front stems back to when I was a kid and initially received a present of (I think) Airfix's Stalingrad battlescape.  As I
recall you got a map of the city of Stalingrad and a leaflet detailing the battle.  There was a plastic vacuum formed street of ruins included, plus
you got an Airfix Panzer IV model along with an Me 109G, and a box of German and Soviet infantry.  I loved that set.  I also loved
'Panzer G-Man' a
comic series run in Battle Magazine of the 1970s featuring a Kurt Slinger, a disgraced Panzer gunner who becomes a Panzergrenadier in Hitler's
invasion of Russia.  Later I discovered
Sven Hassel's series of books, mostly set on the Eastern Front, along with those of the late Charles
Whiting, writing as Leo Kessler, and Heinz Konsalik's evocative novels.  The sheer epic scale and ferocity of the war waged in the east makes
the fighting elsewhere pale into insignificance.  

Now aesthetics are really important in wargaming to me.  Too many gamers in my opinion spend great effort in producing wonderfully painted
and researched figures and vehicles but apply very little thought into the look of the game.  I try to put a lot of thought into what look I want to go
for.  Often the results are very easily achievable with just a bit of thought.   When you think of the war in Russia during WW2, I bet one of the first
things you think of is the snow and ice of winter warfare.  I decided this time to go for a very wintry look.  Before I bought any new figures I had to
decide what sort of look to go for.  I didn't want a deep snow look but something more chilling/icy looking suitable for more November or March
games, rather than mid-winter.  Snow effects these days can be very effective, but can be very time consuming and to be honest a lot of hassle.  I
am too lazy and far too impatient for that.  

First there was the playing surface to consider.  I am a big fan of cloth playing surfaces, with formers for undulations and hills, as I think if done
properly it looks more realistic, more variable, and is certainly easier to store than sculpted boards.  A quick look on e-bay revealed a relatively
cheap source of white felt labelled as 'Antique White', or off-white.  OK cloth bought.  This was then lightly sprayed with a mid brown paint to
make it look 'dirty', then oversprayed with bright white to provide depth.

Next on the agenda trees.  You can never have enough trees as a wargamer.  I have got hundreds and I still seem to buy some every year.  I
again looked on e-bay and found a source of
Heki fir trees.  100 trees, size 4cm - 7cm for £21.38, or less than 22p per tree if you like.  These are
very simple trees but looked damned effective when you need a lot of them.  They were individually based on 2p coins, the base textured, with
cheap superglue and sand, and then painted in DecoArt Acrylic Cinnamon Brown colour and then heavily drybrushed white.  I decided to use
the same base scheme for all my vehicles and infantry too as it looked more icy and interesting than just snow.  Finally once dry I placed the
trees close together and sprayed from the top down with a white aerosol to look like ice/light snow.  I also decided at this point that I'd use Silflor
MiniNatur grass tufts on my bases.  I get mine in the UK from
Antenociti's Workshop.  I went for 6mm Late Autumn, and then heavily drybrushed
these white.   You can see the completed fir trees below.

OK fir trees sorted now for deciduous.  Obviously in winter the leaves will have fallen so only the trunks and branches are really required.  
Woodland Scenics make cheap plastic tree armatures which are ideal for this.  I bought a couple of the 3/4" - 2" sized packs as they have great
variety of shape and size.  The majority were based as with the fir trees on 2p coins with a few on a couple of old CD/DVDs for a bit of variety.  
These were all based and textured with the usual cheap Superglue and sand, and painted as with the fir trees.  Once the bases were dry I then
gave each armature a heavy drybrush with white to look frosty, and added some Silflor tufts and drybrushed them too.  I also added a few fallen
branches for a bit more variety.  Now, watching the old
Die Deutsch Wochenschau newsreels online one day at You Tube I was struck at how
many, of what are best described as 'thickets', featured.  These are really small deciduous tree 'hedges' which again will be leafless.  I cut off
some of the tree armatures trunks close to where the branches splayed from and stuck them on craft 'lolly sticks', and based and drybrushed
them as with the rest.  I made six feet's worth in less than an hour.  You can see the effect below.  These will break up the monotony of the table
providing a bit of cover and greatly adding to the icy aethetics.  Wochenschau is absolutely brilliant for getting you in the mood for Eastern Front
games by the way.  If you've not discovered the newsreels yet I highly recommend them.  As I don't understand much German any political
content is largely meaningless to me.  Ok trees done.  Building's next.

This was easy.  I have long admired
Kerr and King's Russian buildings for WW2.  These are expensive but lovely, lovely models.  I had decided
to get a selection and replace my
Peter Pig and Hovels ones.  There is nothing wrong with these just I prefer the Kerr and King ones.

Instead of selling them off, which is what I usually do I decided to simply give them a bit of a white drybrushing, mostly on the roofs and exposed
corners.  This saves a lot of hassle of trying to add snow effects that you need if you're going for the 'deep snow look' instead of the 'icy' look.  

I also bought some new Russian buildings however, from
Iron Clad Miniatures however, which are really nice and a damned sight more
affordable.  These are entirely free standing being cast without a base.  This allows me at a push to use them for either 'Winter' or 'Summer'

Russian villages and buildings always seem to be accompanied by fenced enclosures and yards.  Fencing is easy to make.  I based them on 6"
long craft sticks as with my 'thickets' and made the fences from plastic card and card that I had lying about.   I made 6 feet of fencing in a couple
of hours, its not exactly brain surgery.

I painted the constructions a chocolate brown, drybrushed with a light grey (weathered wood is grey, not brown) and finally drybrushed white.  I
made sure that some sections were broken down and that slats were missing here and there to give the fences a ramshackle/fought over look.  
Their bases were textured and Silflored to fit in with everything else.  You can see the completed result in the pics above and below.

OK next I wanted a few frozen ponds and water obstacles.  I bought some small ponds off
S and A Scenics at Warfare show so decided to
wintrify these.  I'd added some GW static grass and Silflor to these already before embarking upon the project so just slapped a bit of white paint
on them and then drybrushed the base.  The icy effect was achieved by thin watered down white paint lavishly sploshed on them and then gloss
varnished when dry.  Nothing too difficult and very effective looking.

 I did something similar to an old bit of marsh that I'd also bought at a show some time when.  Very chilly looking I think you'll agree?

A few last things to improve the aethetics were some Peter Pig telegraph poles.  These were based as with the trees and drybrushed white.   
Telegraph poles, even in Russia, make roads look more like roads.   Finally I decided to scratch build some shell holes and bomb craters.  I tend
to use these to indicate stonks in IABSM, but they are also useful for providing some cover in areas which can often be very open.

These are simply areas of card with railway ballast  stuck on to make a crater.  This is then covered with cheap Superglue and sand.  Again
chocolate brown paint drybrushed white then add some SIlflor and some fallen branches.   Again not exactly rocket science but very effective.  I
made about ten in less than an hour.   I also Winterified some of my Hovels OP/MG nests seen below guarded by Peter Pig sentries.

A quick word or roads.  For the time of year, and level of cold, I am thinking about gaming you can still see dirt roads.  Infact, even frozen dirt
roads turn to brown sludge with constant use.  I use S and A Scenics ones in my gaming set ups which as luck would have it are brown and
flecked/drybrushed with white.  I am a happy bunny that I don't need to replace my roads.   OK so I was happy with the look of the scenery.  All in
all it took about a week to sort out the scenery.  Now onto the vehicles, Germans first.

Confession, I've always hated making ruddy model kits.  I can do it quite well, I won prizes for it as a kid even.  I just can't be arsed with it
nowdays.  I don't have the patience for it any more.  Looking on the internet though I latched onto Zvezda 1/100th kits.  These are made from a
softer plastic than model kits, but are really easy to build and look as good as those available from more expensive high profile 15mm AFV
manufacturers.  I bought mine on e-bay where you can buy any number from one kit to an entire Company of tanks.  What sold them to me was
that they made a Panzer III G and a Panzer 38(t), which are my favourite German tanks of WW2, bar none.  I really prefer the Zvezda Panzer 38(t)
to other manufacturers not least because they cost about 50% but they actually look more how a Panzer 38(t) should look in my opinion.  I know
that might sound daft but if you see one in the flesh so to speak you will know what I mean.  German vehicles of 1941 to early 1943 were largely
dark grey.  I use Vallejo Dark Grey.  Once the tracks are painted gunmetal, the tank is then dirtied up with GW Graveyard Earth.  Once dried this is
then inkwashed.  Again, once dry I then give them a light drybrush with Vallejo Basalt Grey.  Rather than spend too much time applying
whitewash style camo to the vehicles I decided just to give them a heavy drybrush of white.  This way they can either be said to look frosty or
with light snow or with a whitewash that has worn a bit.  I always base my vehicles and used the same ground paint shceme and method then
added the odd bit of Silflor.  I just love SIlflor.  What the hell did we do before Silflor?

Those who know me well know I am a self confessed 'Tread Head' when it comes to WW2 gaming.  I like tanks, particularly early ones, and plenty
of them.  Sometimes I like to field a Company sized tank force for IABSM, for which the new version is great now, but more often than not its
usually a couple of Platoon's worth.  What I do like is having the variety of types available.  Zvezda make collecting that variety so much easier.  
As well as a Panzer 38(t) Platoon, I have a Panzer II C Platoon;

...and a Panzer III G Platoon.  You can keep your Panthers, Tigers and King Tigers Panzer IIIs are damned sexy.  I remember being at Bovington
Tank Museum when the Tiger tank ran for the first time.  I was the only person who was cheering when the Panzer III rumbled by the soon
broken down Tiger.

By adding Battlefront and Peter Pig stowage you can individualise the look of each vehicle.  I also added decals from
Dom's Decals to complete
the look, choosing mostly white edged red numerals to contrast with the icy vehicles.  Originally the plan was to stick to vehicles suitable for
Barbarossa 1941.  I bought  a couple of Zvezda Panzer IV D models which were just about still in use, with this in mind.  However I then decided
to buy a couple of Peter Pig Panzer IV F1s with short 7.5cm Kanone.  So I have a mix of D and F1 models in my Panzer IV Platoon.  You can see
how nicely Zvezda match up to Peter Pig in the photo below.  The Peter Pig Panzer IVs are in the foreground, with the turret storage bins of the
F1.  Later on even early surviving marks of Panzer IV were equipped with turret strorage bins so my Ausf Ds are really for Winter 1941.

I then decided to add a couple of StuG III Ds.  These were already in my collection I just added a white drybrush for them to fit in.  StuGs are
another favourite of mine.  I actually have more StuGs in my late war collection than Panzers.  Zvezda are planning to add early StuGs later in the
year, so I guess I'll get even more.

Originally the plan was to focus on the fighting during the push towards Moscow
Operation Typhoon (Taifun as the Germans called it.).  
However, I soon decided to expand my collection to include vehicles suitable for fighting at
Stalingrad and the third battle of Kharkov.  Now for
that I really needed some upgunned
Panzer IV F2s with the long 7.5cm Kanone.  Plastic Soldier Company make some lovely Panzer IVs and with
my new found trust in plastic tanks I ordered a platoon box.  Fan-bloody-tastic.  Ok so there are a few more parts than Zvezda, but there are more
options too, and all in one box.  They're also a harder plastic than Zvezda.  I added some spare figures to the side hatches and replaced the tank
commanders from PSC with some spare Peter Pig and Battlefront ones.   I decided to make a Company HQ Platoon and a Panzer Platoon.  The
Company HQ consists of a Panzer F1 and an F2, along with a Battlefront SdKfz 9 (18t) FAMO recovery vehicle.  This will see service in a special
scenario soon.  I seem to have a thing for recovery vehicles.

The Panzer Platoon consists of three Panzer IV F2s.  This should allow me to morph my 1941 force up to Spring 1943.  The more observant
amongst you will notice that my Ausf Fs are much whiter than the rest of my armour.  I don't know why, but after a light drybrush I reckoned they
might actually looked better being whiter.

I also added some Plastic Soldier Company StuG III F/8s.  Again a superb little kit.  The box allows you to make F/8, early or late G variants.  The
Ausf F/8 gradually replaced the Ausf D during 1942.  By mixing the two marks together perhaps a more historical realistic Platoon for Winter
1942/43 is achievable.  Stowage is Peter Pig and crew Skytrex ones from my bits box.

Thinking of the infantry component of my German force I decided to go for a Schutzen (later renamed Panzergrenadiers) Kompanie and decided
to buy some SdKfz 251 halftracks.  I know most Schutzen were truck mounted but nothing says Schutzen/Panzergrenadiers like 251s.  Again
Zvezda make a really nice model, though has no crew or gunshield, which was personalised by adding Peter Pig crew and Battlefront stowage.  I
also repainted an existing Peter Pig SdKfz 251/10 with 3.7cm AT mounting as the Platoon command vehicle.  These can be really useful if there
are any Soviet lighter tank types about, and good fun if there are T-34s if you're a tad masochistic like me.

The Kompanie HQ also consisted of another Peter Pig SdKfz 251/10 with an attached Battlefront SdKfz 10/5 2cm FlaK gun, plus a Kubelwagen.  
You gotta love Kubels.

My Schutzen form a HQ Platoon of an eight-man Gruppe, or section, with an AT rifle, and two Platoons each of four eight-man Gruppen, also plus
an AT rifle.    Generally my Schutzen have two MG34s per section.  I chose predominately greatcoat wearing figures from Peter Pig's WW2 range.  
To be honest I also mixed in a few figures wearing ankle boots and putees to allow me to use them for 1942-43.  Purists don't look too closely at
the pics below.  Peter Pig make such nice figures in their Late War range, such as ammo carriers really useful for tripod mounted MG34s, I
couldn't help myself by mixing in a few.  To make them look suitable for winter warfare the figures were painted wearing gloves and balaclavas.  
This is simply done by painting the appropriate areas with GW Shadow Grey, then highlighting with a washed out light blue.  Perhaps my ill
equipped Germans should really not have gloves or wooly headgear but it looks quite nice.   Helmets were highlighted with a drybrush of white
too to look as if they'd been chalked.  Early on, lacking proper helmet covers the Germans often chalked them.  Finally I gave a very light white
drybrush to the knees, elbows, greatcoat edges, bottoms and top surface to look like the figure was in action and not on some parade ground.   
Consider how quickly I painted the infantry (30+ figures a day for almost a week) I think I've just about got the look right without overdoing it.

During the Winter of 1941/42 the Germans, lacking white camo covers for their helmets, often utilised sheets or pillow cases in lieu.  I have
discovered a very easy way to simulate this on a 15mm figure.  As luck would have it the exact size required is that of a standard hole punch.  
First hole punch some suitable paper and retain the punched out bits.  Stick Superglue to the figures helmet.   Hold the punched piece on the top
of the helmet for a few seconds then crush the rest down onto the helmet.  Simple but very effective in 15mm.

My Big Men are always based in pairs on 2p coins as this makes them stand out on the tabletop.  I've made ten different Big Men for the
Germans, some clearly Officer types, some looking more like Veteran NCO's.  Otherwise, generally I used Flames of War small bases to mount
figures in pairs, though using the short side as the front edge, but also mounted two figures per section on 1p coins to allow casualty removal.  I
chose to make the HQ Platoon's section distinctive by including a medic and a sniper in the figure mix.

                                           In addition I added a Support Platoon of four tripod mounted MG34s and a pair of 81mm Mortars.  

I also decided to add a Platoon of Combat Pioneers to my force as I can see lots of uses for them in urban fighting and to attack Soviet defences.  
Again I used Peter Pig greatcoat wearing figures but also added their engineers with Teller mines, tank killers with magnetic mines and Tellers,
and grenade chucking figures to the figure mix for more variety.  Generally they look much more tooled up than the Schutzen though they only
have one MG34 per section.  To be honest there are numerous figures armed with MP38/40s, and captured Soviet PPSh sub machine guns to be
able to give them the bonus in IABSM3 for automatic weapons in close combat, or short range.  I have three eight-man sections, plus an AT rifle
and six flamethrowers, with four MG34's on tripod mounts.

The flamethrowers were mounted on medium Flames of War bases and Woodland Scenics clump foliage was painted to look like flames and
added.  This adds a dash of much needed colour to a wintry grey-looking bunch.  I also added a few frozen puddles to the bases, painted GW
German Uniform, washed with watery white paint and glossed varnished.

My six gun crews were based on medium sized Flames of War bases with two single figures mounted on 1p coins to allow some casualty
removal.  That said, I kept my 8.8cm and 2cm FlaK gun crews mounted individually as often I've found these guns are placed in some of my
round defences.  I routinely don't stick guns to bases which allows me to use my existing guns.  I have 3.7cm and 5cm AT Guns, 7.5cm and 15cm
Infantry Guns and 10.5cm Field Guns.  I bought some Peter Pig SS figures in camo gear, painted these as wearing snow camouflage suits and
helmet covers, to mix in with a few of the gun crews for scenarios later in '42 and early '43.

I also have a thing about 2cm FLaK guns.  On the Wochenschau newsreels of action on the Eastern Front one of the things that strikes you is
the number of these you see in action against ground targets.   I have loads of these in my collection already but I bought another pair from
Battlefront specifically for winter warfare.  As such, they got the white drybrush treatment.  I added some SdKfz 10s as prime movers and ensure
that the guns are not stuck to their bases allowing them to sit on their wheeled carriages or in a dug in position.  Flexibility of purpose = happy

Peter Pig also make a rather nice pack of German downed aircrew which will feature in a scenario very soon.  I'm sure they could also serve as
Soviet aircrew for that matter too.  I'm fairly sure mine will.

Another nice Peter Pig figure comes as part of pack 310, German greatcoat radios and linesmen.  The linesman or 'The Cable Guy' as I call him
will feature in a dedicated scenario of that name in the near future.

OK with the Germans all but finished lets take a look at the Soviet opposition.   Zvezda make a really nice early model of the famous T-34 tank
with the L-11 tank cannon, identified by the bulge, housing the recoil mechanism, above the barrel.  I bought ten, enough to make a Company
sized force.  The model is clean, detailed enough and cheap enough to make a Company worth getting.   I usually paint my early war Soviet
armour in Vallejo Russian Green, highlighted with a drybrush of German Camo Green.  I gave them a heavy drybrush of white, more heavier than
the German armour, to suggest that they have actually had the white paint out.  As Dom of Dom's Decals doesn't have Soviet tank markings yet I
opted for those from
Scotia Grendel Productions adding a slogan decal to the Company command tank.  I may well add one to each Platoon
Commander's tank too though as you don't usually have many Big Men Soviet tank commanders in IABSM, this is a moot point.

I think of all the Zvezda tank models the one I like the most is their KV-1.  This is spot on for the Battlefront ones in my summer collection but is
actually nicer as you even get the rear turret MG moulded on (though you can't see it in the pic below), and is a hell of a lot cheaper.  I bought two
initially, then added another five so that I have a enough for a, seven tank, heavy tank company.   There is very little in the German arsenal that
can cope with a KV-1 in 1941-42 but I habitually add a
Vehicle Breakdown card for IABSM, which makes them fun.  A whole Company of KV-1s is
going to frighten the hell out of my Germans.  My gaming mates better watch out!  I used Scotia decals on these two but they are 20mm, which
seems very suitable on such a large 15mm tank.

Moving on to the Soviet infantry again, I went for the Peter Pig Soviets.  Most of them are wearing greatcoats, though there are a fair amount
wearing padded winter uniforms, fur hats and felt boots.   I added some Soviet Scouts but made their tunics look like white camo uniforms.  I
must admit my Soviets have way too many SMGs but they do look so pukka with the PPSh.  The Soviets were given a white drybrush on their
helmets, but also on knees, greatcoat bottoms, elbows etc as with the Germans.

I based my force around a Soviet Motor Rifle Company of three Platoons each of three ten-man sections plus an optional AT rifle.   

The Soviet Support Platoon has two Maxim's and three 50mm mortars.  As you can see I've also bought some Battlefront log emplacements and
'winterified' them too, plus added some branches.

I've also made far too many Big Men, but I like a varied range of suitable Officer and NCO types plus I painted a base for Political Officers, (right
rear below).  My Soviets sport about eight different variations of tunic and greatcoat colour to give a greater variety.

Again as with the Germans my guns are not attached to their crews bases.  This allows me, as I've said, to use existing models in my collection
and also get more variety.  I've got 4 x 45mm, 6 x 75mm Infantry Guns, 4 x 76mm and 4 x 122mm Field Guns in my arsenal along with 4 x 3.7cm AA

I've also included some Soviet engineers and tank killers in my force with two flamethrowers.  Again these will come in useful for street fighting
and assaulting defences.    Flames are Woodland Scenics clump foliage, as with the Germans.  I've got a pair of mine dogs too which are always
good fun, unless you work for the RSPCA that is.

A few more new items for the collection.  I had a spare KV-1 hull knocking about from a few years back, where Battlefront (NZ) replaced a
damaged one for me.  Stuck to a base and then built up with sand and glue I added a KV-2 turret and bingo; one dug in KV-2.

My gaming mate Nigel bought Battlefront's Polizei and Partizans pack a couple of years back so I finally got round to finishing them for him.  He
decided he'd like them for our Winter games.  Good stuff mate.  Max and I also have partizan forces in the offing too.

I'm not entirely convinced by Battlefront's castings.  The truck is nice, the M/C combo isn't bad either and whereas I like the dog handlers the
Officer in particular looks like a young kid needing a good meal or two.

The partizans also have some weird looking figures too.  The AT rifle bloke in particular looks like he's actually dancing with it.  I'm intending to
use converted Peter Pig SCW Militia/WW2 French resistance/WWI Russians/WW2 Soviets for most of mine.

One of my recent scratch builds is a small Russian cemetary with its distinctive crosses.  This is based on 2mm MDF and is constructed from
plasticard.  It doesn't offer much cover but it should add a little more aesthetic appeal to the table.  I've added some of Nigel's partizans for size

Another addition was a little vignette of a hanging man, using the figure from Peter Pig's Western range.  This chap is sculpted with a sign
around his neck making him useful as an executed partizan/collaborator depending on who exactly is occupying his village.  He was given quite
a heavy drybrush to look quite frozen.  A chair, kicked from underneath his dangling legs, lies under the tree and is part of Peter Pig's HQ pack
from their scenery range.

    Another recent scenic acquisition has been a well manufactured by
Total Battle Miniatures.  This is a really nice piece which adds a bit more
flavour to the table top.  I actually bought two, and one has been painted for summer service too.

On the workbench are some civilians and more T-34s, this time the hard edged hexagonal turret of mid-1942 to fight against those Panzer IV F2s
and StuG F/8s.  As a Soviet WW2 gamer you can never really have enough T-34s.  I also have some more Zvezda T-26s and a Peter Pig
Kradschutzen (Motorcycle) Platoon.  My good gaming mate, Max Maxwell has even mentioned that he'll purchase some Finns as opponents for
my Soviets so watch this space.

                                                   More pics to follow real soon...