Friday, May 27, 2022

Building Cold War Commander Battlegroups

In a previous post I spoke about how new Cold War Commander players may struggle to know how to set up battlegroups for the game. So I thought I'd work through an example of how I go about it.

The first thing you need is a Table of Organisation and Equipment (TOE). Browsing through my collection of TOE-related material, I came across a folder on the Iranian army of the early twenty-first century. This seems like as good as anything to give us a starting point.

The file is full of bits and bobs I've saved over the years from websites and magazine articles as well as some of the superb army list cards produced by Mark "MicroMark" Bevis. These will give me the real world information from which I'll derive my CWC Battlegroup's list.

One of Mark's lists tells us that the Iranian Army (as opposed to the Pasdaran or Revolutionary Guard) had, in 2002, four armoured divisions and four mechanised divisions.  CWC players like to push tanks around so let's go with an armoured division as the parent formation of our battlegroup. Ideally we'd pick a specific division (e.g. the 92nd, headquartered at Kermanshah) as that might determine which particular models of tank and/or APCs we need to mode. However, on this occasion I'm just going to go generic.

I'm working in 6mm scale so I'm going to build a force based around two battalions; a tank battalion and a mechanised battalion. That should give us an interesting range of models to paint and play with. If you plan to play CWC in 10mm or even 15mm, you might want to go with a smaller base force; say a couple of mechanised companies with an attached tank company. 

The Micromark lists have an Iranian tank battalion consisting if three companies each of three platoons. The platoons are three tanks in strength and the company commander rides in a tenth tank. 

Here we have the first choice the CWC player needs to make. Each model in the game represents a platoon of 3-5 real life vehicles. We could, then, represent a company with three models. However, if the opposing force for this battle group has four- or even five-vehicle platoons the relative strength of the two armies would be misrepresented by using one-platoon-equals-one-model for both sides.

Practicality comes in here too. I'm building this Iranian force to use the models I have going spare. These include nine old Skytrex Chieftains. For this reason as much as anything my Iranian tank battalion will consist of eight Chieftain Mk.3/5 models, saving one for the HQ unit.

Speaking of which, the actual battalion HQ has two tanks and an armoured recovery vehicle. The ARV has no in-game function so my HQ unit will consist of a single Chieftain on a 30mm square base. I don't see any reason for the model battalion to have more than one HQ element (though I might well deploy two for a professional battalion organised along NATO lines).

Moving on to the mechanised battalion, the Micromark list tells us this has:
  • a headquarters with two APCs and two Jeeps
  • three infantry companies each of three four-squad platoons riding in APCs,
  • a support company with six heavy mortars, four Jeeps with TOW missiles, and four other 4x4s carrying recce troops.
Again, I see no reason to give our in-game battalion any more than a single HQ unit. BTR60PBs are a listed APC option and I have some of those going spare so let's put one on another HQ base. If I can find a spare Jeep I might include one along with some guys on foot. Each company has a single SA-14 man-portable AAGW. These will give us the justification for the HQ's anti-aircraft capability. We don't need to represent them as a separate AA unit.

The three infantry companies can each be represented by a three infantry units for a total of nine. They will have RPG-7 upgrades. We can regard the single 60mm mortar in each platoon as representing part of the unit's inherent firepower. Nine BTR-60PB models will provide the transport.

The six heavy mortars (either 4.2" M-30s or 120mm M43s) present another issue. The 3-5 rule suggests that we deploy two models but the alternative one-model-represents-a-battery approach would suggest one model. I think I'll go with the latter.

The four Jeep-mounted TOWs and four-squad recce platoon are dead easy to translate into a single unit each.

That, then, gives us the main fighting elements of our battlegroup. The next step is to decide on the identity of our CO. The battlegroup could be under the control of an armoured brigade or a mechanised brigade headquarters. For no other reason that that I'm out of suitable tank models, let's go with a Mechanised Brigade.

The Bevis lists give this two APCs, four trucks and fighting manpower equivalent to four squads of infantry. I use 40mm square bases for CO units. My CO base will have an M577 command vehicle, a spare EE-9 armoured car and a couple of infantry figures.

The Mechanised Brigade also has six real-world EE-9 Cascavel armoured cars in the recce troop. Bearing in mind that our battlegroup represents less than the whole brigade, I'm inclined to use one EE-9 model in the recce role.  

The brigade also has a an AA battery with four 23mm ZU-23-2 guns and four SA-7 teams. I'll probably use on of the latter (with a truck) as I have the model available.

The brigade's integral artillery battalion has three batteries each with six M109A1s and one M113. Because I have one suitable model, I'll give my battle group a single M109A1 model and a Forward Artillery Observer unit consisting of an M113. My FAOs are based on two pence pieces to distinguish them from fighting units of the same type. 

Finally the brigade also has an integral engineer company but I think I'll leave those until they're needed for a particular scenario.

I could go on and add additional support from divisional level but for now let's stick with the following as our 2002-vintage Iranian battlegroup:

Brigade headquarters                CO, FAO, 1x EE-9 recce, FAC
AA battery                                  1x SA-7, 1x truck 
Artillery battery                           1x M109A1

Armoured battalion                     HQ, 8x Chieftain Mk.3/5

Mechanised battalion                 HQ, 9x Infantry (w RPG-7 upgrades), 9x BTR60PB   
                                                   1x 120mm mortar, 1x Jeep+TOW, 1x Jeep recce

Update: I remembered that at some point in the past I painted up a spare MiG-29 in IRIAF colours (Iran acquired a number of these in the 1990s) so I've updated the organisation to include a Forward Air Controller. That's another 2p-based model I'll need to get around to building, probably with a Jeep to ride in.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Partizan 2022

I had a most enjoyable day at Newark Show Ground yesterday for the 2022 version of the Partizan show. It's the first time I've attended it at this venue. I think the last time I went was when the event was in a sweltering marquee in the grounds of Kelham Hall.

I was there with the Cold War Commanders group putting on a game to demonstrate the second edition of Cold War Commander, which was newly available from Pendraken on the day.

The rather marvellous terrain was the work of Richard Phillips and depicted the Kiel Canal and the Rendsburg railway viaduct.

The new rules, by Mark Fry, bring CWC into line with the latest edition of Blitzkrieg Commander (e.g. differentiating between anti-tank and anti-personnel firepower) and are built on Mark's experience of playing the rules at Cold War Commanders events and at the Berkeley Vale club.

I'm still to fully explore the subtleties but I like the idea that long-range ATGW units no longer suffer an activation penalty if at a long distance from their controlling HQ. This nicely reflects their tactical role and removes the incentive to move them unrealistically close to the line of contact.

Richard's terrain included some interesting vignettes. Yes, those are pumpkins...

The viaduct is a marvellous creation - scratchbuilt by Richard over the last several months.

Obviously I bought myself a copy of the new rules edition. I also picked up a pack of dismounted Confederate cavalry to complete my Sharp Practice force...

Also from the Perry lads I bought pack FN20 "Infantry 'hired help' for hauling guns, resting".

These guys are going to be painted up as Westphalian infantry, who will be encamped on the edge of the suburbs of besieged Riga.

Finally, I got these nice pieces...

... at least some of which will appear in the besiegers camp. Napoleonic soldiers were extremely skilled in "finding" items to help bring some home comforts into their encampments.

I took some pictures of other games and present them here. Unfortunately I didn't note down what's what.

Twas a good day. I'm not even too bothered that Liverpool didn't win the Premier League while I was on the way home! They did everything that could be expected of them and lost out only to a very talented Manchester City team.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Shopping trip

I managed to get down to Wargames Emporium on Saturday morning with the aim of picking up some more bits of "set dressing" for Riga.

There wasn't a lot that caught my eye from a terrain point of view but I did get some barrels from Renedra.

I do have some other barrels among my collection of rural clutter but these are interesting in that they appear to be older-style barrels held together with withies rather than metal bands. I've converted one into a floating barrel that may end up in one of the previous post's gullies.

The big win of the trip, though, was a Victrix command sprue. It came from their Bavarian infantry pack and because the officer's horse model was broken at the ankles, it was priced at just £2.

As you can see the horse has gone together nicely with the aid of a little Tamiya Extra Thin cement. 

There were some Bavarian troops among the units in Macdonald's X Corps and although I don't intend to build any Bavarian units as such, the occasional officer here and there may come in useful. I'm thinking, "Rescue the officer who's been observing the enemy lines and is now cut off in the church tower" and suchlike.

The sprue makes two officers (one mounted and one afoot), a standard bearer, an NCO, and a drummer. Even if I don't use the Standard bearer and the drummer, three Leaders for two quid has got to be good value!

Finally I also bought a second box of Perry ACW cavalry. This will give me a second Group for my Confederates and, somewhat frustratingly, leave me one model short of a third Group (because I needed to use one figure from the first box as a Leader).