Previously on Musings of a Hobby Hipster…
We looked at creating a Mid-War Hungarian list that could take on all comers, Case Blue, and the destruction of the Hungarian 2nd Army. This time we are going to look at the exact opposite; a Hungarian force ready to be squashed by the Soviet war machine at the gates of Stalingrad.
That is right we are deliberately going to hamstring ourselves and create a list that pays homage to the very forces that were so systematically targetted by Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov to encircle the beleaguered Wehrmacht combatants in the ruins of that great city on the Volga.
Keeping Uranus Quiet
All in all, Zhukov would have 11 armies to mount his offensive. Eleven!!!!
They would be augmented by several separate, independent mechanized, cavalry, and tank brigades and corps. Along with 13,500 artillery pieces and mortars, 115 rocket artillery detachments, 900 tanks, and more than 1,000 aircraft. It was a ludicrous amount of men and material and a tremendous logistics operation, but the Soviets were able to put all of these assets into position without the Germans becoming any the wiser.
As the brutal struggle in the rubble of what was once the city of Stalingrad, the buildup continued through the summer and into the autumn, and by mid-October, the final plans for Uranus were being committed. The clock was ticking and it was hoped that the operation could begin sometime in the first week of November.
The situation on the German side became more and more serious as November approached, 6th Army was facing critical shortfalls in both men and materiel and the conditions in the city were increasingly dire. The German high command was also becoming increasingly nervous about unconfirmed reports that the Soviets were massing on their flanks to the north and south of the city – Zhukov’s deception had worked for the most part, but even the Russians could not totally obfuscate the massing of such a huge force as it came within earshot of the Germans and their allies.
The Storm Breaks
In the autumn of 1942, the Hungarian Second Army was deployed to protect the Italian Eighth Army’s northern flank, between Novaya Pokrovka on the Don River and Rossosh, while German Sixth Army attacked Stalingrad. Generally, considered to be the best-equipped Hungarian formation it was still woefully short of anti-tank armaments and motorised transportation.
As the weather worsened, and with the German situation around Stalingrad becoming increasingly desperate, the Second Army’s transportation collapsed, leaving front-line units without basic necessities such as food, winter clothing, fuel, and building materials. The cold, hungry, and demoralized Second Army was assigned longer and longer stretches of the front line as more and more German units were sucked into the fighting in the city of Stalingrad.
On the 19th of November, the Soviets launched the massive offensive they had been planning for months. The hammer-blow of Soviet tanks did not arrive first, but wave after wave of Soviet infantry that was bloodily repulsed initially by the Romanians of the 3rd Army but the commitment of the totality of the 5th Tank Army swung the tide. The German inability to grasp the seriousness and ambition of the Soviet operation ultimately doomed their Axis allies and the whole of the 6th Army.
Uranus and the subsequent Little Saturn, operations tore a hole in the underbelly of Army Group South, and by January 1943 the Second Hungarian Army was virtually eliminated as an effective fighting unit after suffering a staggering 84% casualties.
Mustering the Troops
So, self-regulation coming in hard here. I know that the Axis units supporting the 6th Army’s flanks were desperately under-equipped with modern, serviceable anti-tank weaponry so I am going to restrict myself to a maximum of AT9 and even then to just a single, purpose-built unit. This is going to be rough.
What better place to start though than with a Hungarian Rifle formation? Thick and hardy it can absorb a terrifying amount of firepower and casualties so seemed an excellent core for creating a speed bump for the Soviets.
Green and Aggressive makes for some cheap units and accurately represents some of the lesser trained and equipped Hungarian forces in southern Russia. They have their benefits though – they are cheap, they are still reasonably motivated and they are big units when you add in the HMG, 50mm mortar, and the 20mm anti-tank rifle.
To aid their survivability we can use the Command Card Storm Over the Don. This improves their tactics roll to Dig In from 5+ to a 3+ which should help with weathering a hail of small-arms fire. With the full three platoons of Rifles included and not many points spent we can bulk out the formation with:
- 7/31M Machine-Gun Platoon
- 7/31M Machine-Gun Platoon
- 81mm Mortar Platoon
- 40mm Anti-Tank Platoon
- 80mm Regimental Gun Platoon
So that gives us a chunk of anti-personnel, small arms, and at least some anti-tank capabilities in the form of AT7 and AT8… Not much to give a T-34/76 sleepless nights but at least capable point-defense guns to ward off an overly ambitious assault if we are lucky.
Because we are so desperately short on anti-tank capabilities, and the points are available, I decided to splash out and buy three lots of Páncélvadász for each of the Rifle platoons. Again more of a pause-for-thought armoured deterrent this, does at least give your poor troops something to defend themselves with.
With only half our normal points committed in the main formation, I went looking for some awful support options, no that is not a typo, we are looking for sub-optimal choices that can highlight just how outgunned the Axis allied troops were.
First up is the good old 105mm howitzer; over-costed, over-estimated, and over-the-Don. This faithful workhorse of the Wehrmacht and Axis forces has struggled to find its place in V4 but I still love it. More expensive than the 100mm Skoda guns (which we will also include) this saple of artillery support makes it into the list as it is another source of mediocre anti-tank; both direct and indirect.
I mention the 100mm and they have a place on the list too. Tragically because everything is SO cheaper in points, I’ve also included some soft skin transports so that either the 100mm or the 105mm can be held off the table in reserve… I don’t think I’ve ever had to do that before. Finally, in the artillery support role with around 20% of your points invested in artillery, why wouldn’t you bring an OP to the battle – one point, well spent.
Next, we have some punching power… well punching might be a stretch but in the land of AT8, AT9 is king.
A wonderful coming together of the old and the not-quite-so-old 7.5 cm Pak 97/38. The violent recoil of this modified 75 mm Model 1897 gun gives the force some much-needed firepower. The use of HEAT because of the lack of muzzle velocity is actually a nice benefit making the short 75mm as effective at 24″ as it is at 16″. The Tactical of 4″ and a Cross of 3+ might seem insignificant but mobility might truly be this gun’s best form of defense.
The addition of a battery of two 40mm Bofors, small but perfectly serviceable support, round out the static support options and brings us to the might of the Hungarian armoured, mobile support.
Five T-38 (or 38t if you prefer) shows the doldrums that the Hungarian army was in and the wretched state that the lack of promised support German support has led to. In this list, it does provide a mobile element that will at least allow some responsiveness but it will struggle to take on some Soviet tanks head-on. A swirling knife-fight between T-34/76 and T-38 would be an interesting, if slightly comical, sight to behold.
The final addition, seeing as I STILL had points to burn, was the Mission Tactics Command Card. Extending the range of the Formation Commander’s re-roll bubble and the ability to, if absolutely desperate, pass a Last Stand check hopefully means that this force will keep swinging with its pillow-fists right up until the end.
Reserving the Right
The question of reserves is a sticky one; 40% in a list like this gives you no easy answers. The T-38 have to go into Reserve and the towed 105mm guns too but that barely gets us halfway. I think you can afford to include a Rifle platoon which leaves you six points to find. The two machine guns and the 81mm mortars would do the trick but that is a lot of platoons. The alternative is to include the 40mm guns but then I think you want the 3rd Rifle platoon back on the table. As I said… a sticky wicket.
Thoughts of Playing Uranus
Composing a force that is deliberately hamstrung and lacking is a new experience and an unsettling one at that. I really want to play something like this out to see just how effective the T-34/76 and the T-60 can be when the opposing force has little in the way to seriously threaten them. A scenario like Rearguard might suit this game as it would allow the bulk of the Axis forces to begin on the table and could represent the slow sapping of morale of their units as they begin to try and save themselves from the overwhelming strength of the Soviets.
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.