The President’s New Tank – An After Dinner Game

This game gets an airing every few years, and in keeping with anything to do with the arms industry, should be accompanied by fine wines and dining, outrageous flattery of the President and dodgy accounting. The umpire should be the purchaser if player numbers are limited but 2-6 players can be easily accommodated.

This outing of the game hit all the buttons, with Chris Agar’s suspect sums and Phil Steele’s Port and 30-year-old half bottle of Sauterne being deployed to great effect. I provided the chocolate buttons and Stilton.

Tanks can be drawn, built from cardboard, or simply described. It is up to the umpire to keep the game rolling along and the humour good. Players who sulk should be offered Port and/or chocolate buttons until their mood improves. My thanks go to Phil and Chris for both playing the game in the spirit it is intended!

The Internationally Successful MONGOOSE Tank
All you need is a pencil, paper and the following rules :
The President(s) decide how much they want to spend each year on Tanks (100 £, $,or Chocolate Buttons being a good start). The Arms Dealer(s) design a tank to the following costings :
Base cost of hull and armour (H) : 1 = Light, 2 = Medium, 3 = Heavy.
Then add Speed (S) to the base cost:  1 = Slow, 2 = Medium, 3 = Fast.
Then add a Gun (G) to the base cost:x1 = Light, 2 = Medium, 3 = Heavy.
Then add Gun range(R) to the base cost: 1 = Short, 2 = Medium, 3 = Long.

Examples :

A H1+S1+G1+R1 tank would cost 4 points and 25 could be bought for 100 Buttons.
A H3+S1+G3+R3 tank would cost 10 points and 10 could be bought for 100B
Note these exceptions :
The gun can only be 1 step heavier than the hull.
Light guns cannot be long range.
Heavy hulls can only be slow.
Note these advantages :
Each step that the gun outranges the enemy gives one free unopposed shot.
Each speed band that the tank is above the enemy negates one free unopposed shot.
The Dealer(s) then tender to the President(s) in a trial mock wargame. Use a simplified table 12 so that :
Light kills Light on 4-6, Medium on 5-6 and heavy on 6.
Medium kill Light on 3-6, Medium on 4-6 and Heavy on 5-6.
Heavy kills Light on 2-6, Medium on 3-6 and Heavy on 4-6.
The President(s) decide(s) how many tanks they can afford and fight with that many dice. Using real chocolate buttons  gives the game an incentive :O)

The Impressively More Expensive and Less Effective PEOPLE's Tank

In the Example above 25 dice would be rolled looking for 6s to kill, against 10 dice looking for 2-6, with 2 free rolls of 10 dice each, before any survivors closed to fight back. Clearly this favours heavy tanks

Our game used a slightly different scoring mechanism, which deliberately favoured light cheap slow tanks by multiplying the base hull score each time instead of adding each module. So the Light tank would cost 1x1x1x1 = 1 and the slow heavy tank would cost 3x1x3x3 = 9

In round one, the Panto Production Corporation (Phil) produced the BONOBO tank (H1S2G3R2) = 12B, immediately cheating on the gun and stating that although heavy, it only fired straight ahead with a stabilising trail.
The WhizzBang Co (Chris) Produced the MONGOOSE (H1S3G1R2) = 6B but claimed it only cost 3 Buttons.

Phil did not spot this so lost the first wargame, and Bombastia bought 32 MONGOOSE tanks in a heavily subsidised deal. It helped that the King was allowed to dip into the chocolate buttons

Round 2 saw the PEOPLE’s TANK (H2S2G2R2) = 16B narrowly defeating the BONOBO MkII in wargames against the MONGOOSE in the Paprikan People’s Republic, although the MONGOOSE defeated both rivals. The Committee also liked the name of the PEOPLE’s Tank and the impressive height that the cupola towered above the ground. The PPR bought  6 tanks.

In the final round Bombastia bought 100 SPIDER tanks (H1S1G1R) = 1B from Panto as the WhizzBang Co had gone with a revolutionary concept of concrete and steel fortifications that had (obviously) no speed at all. (H3S0(1)G3R3) = 9B


Men in Hats

Many wargamers are prone to collecting fetching military hats and striking poses in them, so in honour of the late Doctor Paddy Griffith submit your pictures here please, where they will be immortalised.
Become a member of the wargames glitterati :O)

Eisenbahntruppen – Railway troops

Railway models in most wargames are restricted to a role as objectives, or perhaps the appearance of an armoured train tortuously worked into the scenario because the owner bought one of those nice Peter Pig models. Strategically and operationally though, railways came into their own in the east over distances of 200 miles or so, where their ability to move tonnages of stores were in the order of :

1600 lorries were needed to equal the capacity of just one double tracked railway line“.
van Crefeld (1976) Supplying war – Chapter 5 - Russian Roulette p.143, (which chapter  is the source for most of the following post.)

Grosstransportraum, the German body of trucks operating between railheads and the rear echelons of the fighting formations’ own organic transport (Kleinkollonenraum), would allow the army groups to penetrate 300 miles into the Soviet Union. The Germans planned to advance 500 miles into the Soviet Union, bridging the gap with handkoffer, or containerised fuel carried by the army groups themselves. To make up for a shortfall in motor transport for the Kleinkollonen, captured French and Allied transport was used until it became unservicable.

The Wehrmacht’s problems were compounded by poor or absent roads and Soviet railways that were of lighter gauge and had trains that thrived on poorer coal than the German ones, so it was not just a simple matter of resetting the rails and using captured Russian coal. 

To add insult to injury, when the freezing weather came, the heavier German trains had exposed steam pipes that ruptured if left standing
So in NQM terms, every army group has at least one railhead with a Grosstransport column linking it to the rear area of the army group. Due to the usual space constraints these usually only ever appear in big multiplayer games. You can see one here behind Moscow :

The railhead can be seen at the far left end of the railway, on the table edge

The flow of ammunition (combat units, or CUs) and fuel (POL) between the railhead and fighting formations is usually only modelled in solo games or larger multiplayer games, where a willing participant can be found.

The logistic game either interests you, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t then there is no pleasure to be had from slogging through a book-keeping exercise that slows down the game and adds no enjoyment to the gaming experience. If you are prepared to foray into the black art of logistics, however, then it gives a deeper understanding of why so often armies appeared to stop when any fool could see that a few more miles would have given a victory.

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
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
25 (1) Maintenance Coy – 1 Workshop Truck
44 (1) Motor Tpt Coy (to inf Bn)

Medical Platoon (modelled at army level)
44 16 251 (10)
(1) (1) (8) (10)


Getting to Grips with Soviet Tank Formations.

Here is a quick trot-through of Soviet tank formations in NQM terms. Remember that these are the authorised strengths. Actual strengths were often much lower, as low as 40%. The main source for this post is Zaloga and Ness’ (1998) Red Army Handbook 1939-1945.

Pre War Tank Corps 

(Numbers of NQM models representing 30 tanks, mostly rounded down)

560-600 Tanks (20)
2 Light tank brigades each approx 270 (9)
1 Motor Rifle Machine Gun Brigade (About 3 trucks/cars )

Independent BT Brigade
240 BT (8), 56 Artillery/flame tanks (2), 28 Armoured cars (1), 480 trucks/cars (16)

Independent T-26 Brigade
145 T-26 (5), 56 Artillery/flame tanks (2), 28 Armoured cars (1), 480 trucks/cars (16)
Independent T-26 Brigades were expanded to the same size as BT Brigades as tanks became available

Independent Heavy Brigade
136 T-28 (4), 37 BT (1), 28 Armoured cars (1), 480 trucks/cars (16)

Independent 5th Tank Brigade (the only one with this orbat)
94 T-35 (3), 44 BT (1), 28 Armoured cars (1), 480 trucks/cars (16)

As the War Broke out, tank corps were disbanded. In June 1940 tank divisions were authorised, two in each of 20 mechanised corps. Tank brigades were authorised, to be formed by handing over surplus T-26s as newer tanks became available for the tank divisions. This never happened though, and more mechanised corps were formed with a larger orbat. Not enough tanks were being built to fill these formations and by June 1941 just over 23,000 tanks existed to fill an orbat of just under 30,000, with the balance being weighted towards light tanks, and a key shortage of nearly 11,000 T-34s and 2,000 KVs. The new mechanised corps were equally unmanageable and badly maintained, the new tank divisions proving not fit for purpose, so by August-September 1941 tank brigades were authorised once more :

Tank Brigade September 1941

7 KVs, (0 – I abstract this to army or front level), 22 T-34s (1), 38 light tanks (1)

By December 1941 this was reduced to 46 tanks (1)

Connaisseurs will have no trouble spotting the origins of the film-style KV mock-ups on the left of the picture below from the real thing on the right. “Not even close” would be high praise indeed, but at least the Cromwell in the centre has two circular vents on its rear deck and a shortened gun!

More Suspicious Substitutes - this time KVs

By March 1942, four tank corps returned to the orbat, each of 2 tank brigades (although it was commoner to find only one brigade in reality) and a motor rifle brigade but no corps artillery, engineers, recce or logistic support. These defects were rapidly remedied , but actual strengths were still lagging behind plans :

Tank Brigade March 1942
20 KVs, (1), 40 T-34s (1), 40 T-60/70 (1)
By the end of 1942 the KVs had been extracted to army level and there were now three tank brigades per corps leaving :

 Tank Brigade Late 1942
32 T-34s (1), 21 T-60/70 (1)

Tank Corps January 1943
98 T-34s (3), 70 T-60/70 (3)
1943 saw the introduction of new additions in the form of the SU-76 and SU-122/152 as a battalion/regiment of 12 vehicles (I extract these to army level) so by November 1943 the tank brigade looked like this:

Tank Brigade November 1943
65 T-34s (2)

Tank Corps January 1944
208 T-34s (6)

On reflection, the corps that I built with (9) T-34s is going to need reducing to (6) or even less. The NQM Eastern Front will only ever need three T-35 models. Bombastia will probably purchase any that are spare!

After much agonising over putting models into the tank corps that were present in quantities of less than 30 such as SP guns, I now just form independent groups of models at army/front level and allocate them to rifle, tank and mechanised corps as required. This works surprisingly well and reflects the Soviet practice of concentrating equipment from reserves when it was needed. It is worth noting that the more numerous mechanised corps had more tanks in them than the tank corps did.