After the Don!

Martin back and having completed my Huszars project in the first part of 2023 I’ve turned my attention to what happened to the Hungarians after Stalingrad.

Hungarian units suffered tremendous losses during the Axis defeat at Stalingrad on the eastern front in the winter of 1942–1943. After the defeat, Hungarian Regent, Admiral Miklos Horthy and Prime Minister, Miklos Kallay recognized that Germany was likely to lose the war. In April 1943, the Hungarian Army initiated the Huba III program. This was an attempt to increase their shattered armored forces. For this reason, no armored units were used on the Eastern Front in 1943.

With Horthy’s tacit approval, Kallay tried to negotiate a separate armistice for Hungary with the western Allies in late 1943. To prevent these efforts from succeeding, German forces moved to occupy Hungary on March 19, 1944. Horthy was permitted to remain as Regent. Kallay was dismissed and the Germans installed General Dome Sztojay as prime minister. Sztojay had previously served as Hungarian minister to Berlin and was fanatically pro-German. He committed Hungary to continuing the war effort with the disasterous consequences that were to follow for the nation. The Soviets arrived at the Hungarian border in September 1944 following on from Operation Bagration and the defeat of Romania and it was now a matter of when not if Hungary would fall to the Red Army.

With defeat looming Romania switched sides in August 1944 and the Hungarians quickly moved to counter the new threat from their southern border, losses in the Hungarian armoured divisions and low production rates saw Germany again supply Hungary with additional armoured vehicles. Providing Panzer IIM and IVH tanks, some Panthers and even some Tiger Tanks as well as a large contingent of StuGs and finally in early 1945 Hetzer tank hunters. Hungary also started to maufacture 150mm rocket launchers based on the Nebelwerfer and its own infantry 44M Buzogányveto anti tank rocket launcher.

With the newly developed Hungarian tanks and this eclectic mix of German vehicles it means in FoW you can field your late war Hungarian tank companies with a wide mix of vehicles offering plenty of modelling opportunities. A Hungarian tank Force may not look the most cohesive on the tabletop with its mix of paint schemes but it can make for a well balanced Force in the game. This seemingly random mix offers quite abit of hobby opportunity and allows you to field a number of different Formations from Bagration Axis Allies – Hungary depending on how you combine the individual platoons of vehicles. Now I have the bulk of a Hungarian Assault Gun starter box from when it was released which contains a random looking mix of tanks and like all hobby enthusiast I have aquired a few extra kits here and there for my cupboard of opportunity since it arrived back in 2022. So after a bit of a rummage round I discovered I had rather a large and interesting collection of things. So rather than make a list and collect and paint that which is how I normally go about things I had to work the other way around build and paint things then see what lists I could make from it. Well lets be honest the first thing I did was make a list of the modes and then start making lists whilst I went through the tedium of the build phase.

So what have I got to choose from, below is a list of what I found I had to hand:

  • 7 Zyrini
  • 3 Hetzer/Marder III
  • 3 Panther (early)
  • 2 Tiger I
  • 7 StuG III of various plastic vintages
  • 6 Turan tanks with 40 and 75mm turrets
  • A 150mm Rocket Launcher Battery of 3 teams

After a careful look through the book what I happen to have is the core components of 2 Tank companies, A Zyrini Assault Gun Formation (i.e. the original box set) and a StuG Assault Gun Formation, if I spent a few more hobby dollars and got another 2 Turan tanks I could do a third Formation but that will have to wait (famous last words) for a while. Let’s take a closer look at how these can be arranged into two playable Forces.

I’ll start with the StuG Formation, it offers the least variation just consisting of the single vehicle type but does have the option to add a PaK40 anti-tank gun platoon in place of the final tank platoon reflecting the lack of vehicles Hungary had to fill out these regiments. As I already had such a gun platoon painted up that would speed things up, I only need to paint 7 plain coloured tanks to get it onto the table. I formed a Formation comprising an HQ tank, 2 platoons of 3 StuG’s and a 3 gun 75mm anti-tank gun platoon which comes in at exactly 50 points, half a standard gaming army. Overall it’s a small Formation with a lot of medium anti-tank capability. Its not going to assault much with small platoons and the assault gun assault penalties, it has reasonably good armour of FA7 combined with its Fearless Motivation and Cautious rating (is hit on 4+) making it ideal for playing a defensive battle.

The StuG Formation (with an extra gun team)

Adding in the 150mm Rocket Launcher Battery provides not only a smoke bombardment, which is just as handy when playing defencively as attacking plus a serious anti-infantry/counter battery capability where I can maximise the Salvo templates usefulness as I wont be advancing on the enemy too much I wont need to worry overly much about the increased Danger Close distance. This brings me to 58 points.

With a few BBQ skewers you can create some nice looking artillery emplacements

Now I will potentialy have Reserves for choosing a defensive style of play so what I want is as few platoons as possible for Reserves ideally with something that can come on and dish out a decisive strike. Now there are two ways to look at this I either want a big platoon that can wade into an assault and rely on numbers or something with lots of firepower to blast the enemy off the table (ideally both but that’s not really an option here). My 3 Panther tanks are great at the blasting stuff option but not really the assaulting option. Hold on a minute, the Turan kit comes with 2 turrets the seemingly unhelpful 40mm and the at first sight, more useful 75mm, but as luck would have it the 40mm gunned tank can be taken in platoons of 5 unlike its better armed version. Five medium tanks is a handy size for an assaulting platoon and its better motivated than the StuG’s, the AT7 gun is still some use against side armour 4 or less from close range and deadly vs most light tanks and armoured cars, and as luck would have it these two units together come to 41 points giving me just 2 Reserve platoons when needed (lets avoid the Defend stance where as Mark G kindly pointed out I could end up with Deep Reserves) which is the fewest I can get (without an Allied platoon). I can bring them on in either order depending on the situation at the time creating a lot of flexibility in my Force. Added to my Formation and Support units this leaves a handy 1pt for an always annoying Lucky Card.

That’s a pretty decent tank Force with 15 medium tanks, a solid bombardment and smoke. The Core Formation is a little fragile and will need to be carefully positioned to maximise the benefits of concealment to keep casualties down, but overall it should be more than capable of fighting a solid defensive battle against most opponents, only really lacking in ground holding infantry and a not so important Spearhead capable unit.

Turning to my other Formation option, the Zyrini Assault Gun Company, this offers more flexibility of playing style with the multi role Zyrini plus seveal options for the second and third platoons. I had 7 Zyrini models so I started with taking the HQ and both my black box units as Zyrini, whilst all 3 platoons could bombard I decided to upgrade my HQ tank to a Zyrini I 44M with a long 75mm gun providing a bit more anti-tank range and a modelling opportunity (one I may regret later but we shall see).

The flexible Zyrini Formation

The Zyrini is an interesting tank overall being relatively cheap compared to other similar tanks (notably the German Stuh) and benefits enormously from uniquely having a ROF2 gun that can effectively bombard, AT 10 isn’t great but having HEAT ammunition means it is just as effective as an AT11 tank at long range and Brutal is useful, costing the same as a StuG, overall for the loss of 1 point of Side & Rear armour and 8” (20cm) of range you gain an AT3 FP3+ bombardment capability which I recon is a decent trade off and certainly makes the Zyrini a more than useful tank than the StuG in my other build. The only real down side is you can never have more than 3 tanks in a platoon, so the Formation again lacks mass.

The final platoon option in the Company has plenty of choices and looking at the models I had left, a platoon of 3 Hetzer’s was the obvious choice afterall I want to use all my models if I can. With my Command Card I had spent 51 points. A note to self, buy 2 more Hetzer/Marder kits, why you ask? Because you can have a platoon of 5 which will make the Formation stronger overall. This Formation is highly flexible and would make a decent basis for an attacking or defending force as my StuG’s are built more around defensive strategy I’ll tailor these to principally attack for that I need something powerful to lead my Force forward or at least try and worry my opponent with.

For this role I can add the Tigers in here I only had 2 but these powerful weapons if well used can seriously alter the course of a battle coupled with my HQ I can make a decent enough attempt at an assault which will be hard to counter attack unless the enemy are set up for that. A Hungarian Tiger platoon isn’t as powerful as a German one but is still very good and costs a lot less at 21pts for my 2 tanks but after a bit of thinking the inevitable shopping occured and I picked up a third tank for the platoon.

Source: Magyar Pance

The other really useful Hungarian platoon in an attack are the Hungarian Pioneers which are another unit I have from the MW project build. These aren’t a LW option as such but can be built by upgrading a Rifle platoon with the Pioneer Command Card, now equipped with Panzerfausts, and with the addition of a Panzershrek team as well as 2 Flame Thrower teams these are a really flexible and big unit to have on the table top, I can even add a 7/31M HMG team for some extra defensive firepower – in all I can get a total of 12 teams into my platoon for 17 points giving them plenty of staying power to assault with. This brings me neatly to my target 100 point total. Alternatively I could reuse the 150mm rockets from my StuG Force and have fewer Riflemen (that would provide a helpful smoke bombardment).

There you have it despite having what looked like a random piles of models I have 2 new Forces designed making use of all but 1 of my cupboard of opportunity models. What is even better is the lists will fit for the Hungarian Armoured forces in their final defence of Budapest against the invading Soviet hordes, it makes for a great army to play games representing the Hungarians fighting against Romania & Soviet forces in 1944 (Battle of Turda) or the final counter offensive against the Soviets at Lake Balaton (Operation Spring Awakening) in March 1945.

Now I just need to get on with painting it all. That’s it from me for today but I hope this will inspire a few of you to look at your own cupboards of opportunity (aka piles of shame) and have a think about ways you can make use of all those random purchases sitting gathering dust.