“Bagration: German” & Florian Geyer
2021 see’s Duncan start an irregular series “Musings of a Hobby Hipster” where he reports on hobby progress and muses on army ideas that will no doubt distract him from such hobby progress…
2016; Portugal win the UEFA European Championships in France, Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States of America and most importantly of all I write an article for Breakthrough Assault discussing armies that I really wished I could do. The last point is important because, in that wish list, I mentioned the 8th SS but I never actually looked at creating a list for them… until now…
I’ve dubbed this series of articles The Hobby Hipster as I do find myself veering away from the wargaming mainstream sometimes and finding niche little areas that really interest me. Having said that let me caveat something early on – I’m not looking at this unit for to glorify or place it on a pedestal anyway. As you can imagine being part of the SS machinery it has some extremely dark episodes in its history – even more so in that it spent a large period of time conducting anti-partisan actions in the Soviet Union, Balkans and Yugoslavia. These soldiers were not supermen and they more often than not treated others as less than human.
But they form an integral part of the fighting in 1944 and 1945 in Hungary so remembering the words of George Santayana let’s look at that struggle for the last western Axis power.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
The Battle for Hungary 1944
The new Bagration; German book does mention the fighting in and for Hungary, although the target of Operation Bagration was Army Group Centre which had been left exposed by the defeats of Army Group South following the failed Kursk offensive into autumn and winter 1944, it does not cover all the units deployed in the defence of Hungary.
The summer of 1944 Bagration offensive that smashed Army Group Centre also saw the Soviet Ukrainian Fronts turn south and occupy Romania in August and September of that year. In October 1944 the Soviet 2nd, 3rd and 4th Ukrainian Fronts, more than 1,000,000 men, advanced into Hungary. Opposing them were the men of the German 6th and 8th Armies and the Hungarian 2nd and 3rd Armies but it was not enough men or material to stop the Soviet juggernaut and by Christmas 1944 the Red Army had encircled the Hungarian capital of Budapest trapping combatants and civilians alike.
While there are some new formations in the command cards for Bagration; German, and despite having the fighting for Hungary mentioned in the book alongside Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle the 8th and 22nd SS Cavalry miss out on having their own divisional command card… but when has that ever stopped us before!
So where to start with creating a force that could do justice to representing this unique force on the tabletop? Well, in the previous V3 source material in Grey Wolf gave the SS-Kavallerie formation the Fearless Trained rating – there is slightly more nuance to the ratings now in V4 but I think using this as a baseline is an excellent place to start.
There are some SS cards in the command cards for Bagration; Germany but the majority are more geared to recreating the 20th SS-Volunteer Grenadier Division of Estonia.
This card makes a normal Grenadier unit Fearless, Trained, Aggressive for the cost of -1 point per unit in the formation – and there are a lot of units in a Grenadier formation! So using this card and the new German Bagration book I came up with the following force to represent the defenders of Budapest:
This is not the most hard-hitting force you will ever see – it lacks any AT punch over 12 so will severely struggle if assaulted by the ominous IS-2 Tank Company that the Soviets would have deployed… which funnily enough they did! However, against something like a T-34 formation or infantry this force would, I think, give an excellent account of itself.
With virtually every point spent on troops that make up a formation, it is a hard nut to crack. Bemoaning the top end AT of 12 might be bad against true heavyweights but against any lesser tank that is a tonne of 75mm rounds heading downrange.
I love the machinegun nest card – giving you 4 independent teams, that take a disproportionally large amount of effort and resource to eliminate can really frustrate your opponent’s plans and in this list, they are essentially a one-point upgrade to the HMG platoon.
If I wanted to show the manoeuvrability of the cavalry on the tabletop I’d simply add the Kubelwagon command card to represent their increased Dash speeds and also their added vulnerability whilst on horseback.
Horsing Around with Models
Now I have a list in mind how am I going to make this themed force look more appropriate to what it is representing? In real terms in 1944, this would be just another Grenadier formation and we could simply model it using plastic Grenadier figures and incorporating them onto maybe the plastic ruined, rubble bases that Battlefront produces.
That would be a quick and simple way to bring some character to the force – however, I’ve got my eye on these bases for another project and I also think that there are some other interesting options that we could use. I think that doing something just prior to the Siege of Budapest – where the 8th SS were still fighting in the field might be more flexible for generic play rather than looking a bit out of place, not on an urban-themed board.
I think that the obvious choice is to include some of the fantastic mounted German cavalry models from Peter Pig into our infantry bases. I don’t think you need many – maybe one or two max per base and certainly not every base! There are also horse holder figures that could be added to artillery teams or used as customer objective markers.
Adding some variations like this to your army – as well as painting these in a ragtag assortment of autumn camo, Heer uniforms and bits of both will look gorgeous on the tabletop and give it tremendous flavour and variety.
For the Hetzers I think you can play around with combinations of camouflage as well as some vehicles in just plain dunkelgelb. The Colours of War book has some nice camo patterns that come in late 1944 that could give this force some distinctive paint schemes.
So that brings us to the end of looking at re-creating the 8th SS Florian Geyer from the new German; Bagration book – it’s not perfect but I think it could look wonderful as an army project for the new year. I’ll be back soon with a cup of single-origin, cold brew flat white artisan coffee with more thoughts from the hipster’s beard.
Until next time