Shortly after I joined the Battlefront team back in 2009, fellow Graphic Designer Casey was finishing off his Das Reich T-34s. I thought they were really interesting and I put it on a mental list of armies I would like to build one day. With the release of Ghost Panzers, and the command cards, now is the time.
As with most of my projects, the first step is research. Between quizzing colleagues, scanning books, and of course, Google, I collected all the images and info I could to see what conversions I’d need to do. J.C Von Winterbach’s article was also a good source…
I’m lucky to have access to spare sprues, but lots of the conversions can be done with spare parts you may already have if you’ve built other German tanks. For example, the Panzer III kit comes with both open and closed cupolas, so you’ll have spares of those. You may have also built some Panzer IIIs without the turret stowage bin, or Panthers without the side skirts, so you’ll have those to use for captured T-34s.
Next I made my V4 Flames Of War list using Ghost Panzers and the command cards.
Captured T-34 Company:
-2pts Captured T-34 Company Card 13pts Mixed Panzer Company HQ, 1x Panzer IV (late 7.5cm): 30pts Captured T-34 Platoon, 3x T-34 (76mm) 30pts Captured T-34 Platoon, 3x T-34 (76mm) 29pts Tiger Heavy Tank Platoon, 1x Tiger (8.8cm)
Total: 100 points
With the list planned out, I started gathering bits for the T-34s. Here’s a list of all the items I used.
– 6x Plastic T-34s
– 2x T-34 early turrets
– Plastic Panzer IIIs (turret stowage bins, cupolas, aerials, Notek lights)
– Panther side skirts
– Various bits of old metal stowage
– Tin foil
Stowage Bins From looking at photos it seemed quite common for the Germans to add extra stowage bins in various places on the T-34s.
The rear turret stowage bins from the Panzer IIIs fits quite easily onto the back of the T-34 turrets.
To create the angled bins on the sides, I used a section of Panther side skirt, glued it at an angle, and the filled the side with sculpting putty.
The Germans often upgraded their T-34s with Cupolas from Panzer IIIs. Simply remove the locator pin from the bottom of the cupola and glue in place.
Less common than some of the other modifications, but too cool to not include, was extra armour around the turret and side skirts.
The side skirts from the Panther kit glue nicely to the sides of the T-34 hull. You’ll just need to remove one section to make them the correct length.
For the turret armour I chose to use the late Panzer IV kit, but in the photos it looks to be custom made.
Aerials and Notek Lights
These were carefully sliced off the Panzer III kit and applied to each T-34. For the Notek lights I used some thin plasticard rod to create the stalk.
Spare Tracks and Jerry Cans
The Panzer III and IV kits come with spare cans which are great for any German AFV. I made holding brackets by cutting plasticard into strips about 1mm wide using a sharp blade and a steel rule. I then cut them down to the appropriate length and bent the ends with tweezers, before glueing them on with plastic glue.
Flags and Stowage
When using captured equipment there’s always the increased risk of friendly fire, especially from aircraft, so crews often used flags for easy identification.
I made my flags by cutting tin foil into rectangles, and then pressing them onto the tanks. I used superglue to fix them. The good thing about using tin foil is that it hold its shape and doesn’t spring back like paper can.
The finishing touch was to add some metal stowage from the special order range to make it look like the Germans had really made these tanks their own, and of course some German tank commanders.
With the core of the force built all that’s missing is my HQ tank and supporting Tiger which I’ll work on later.
Hopefully this has inspired you to work on some captured T-34s of your own. Remember you don’t have to use all of the conversion ideas here. You can get a convincing captured look with just paint and decals. Here’s an example using just German crosses, and also one of Casey’s with 3 colour camo.
Both Red Banner and Ghost Panzers contain stories of great battles on the Eastern Front. One such battle, famously one of the largest and fiercest tank battles of the Eastern Front, took place outside the small town of Prokhorovka.
Using Battlefield in a Box terrain, you can recreate any number of historic battlefields for your Ghost Panzers and Red Banner armies to fight over. Knowing that I had a Live Launch to orchestrate, which would inevitably require battles needing to be fought, it seemed a fair opportunity to whip out some of the studio Battlefield in a Box terrain and put together my own representation of the Prokhorovka battlefield.
As an aside, it is probably prudent to mention that on a 6 x 4 table it is unlikely that one will be able to represent a full scale battlefield such as the one shown in the image above. As such, I settled on a particular section of the battlefield to represent. This gave me the chance to cover the battlefield in enough detail to make it recognisably Prokhorovka, without trying to condense hundreds of miles into a few feet.
Perfectly illustrative of combat during the Battle of Kursk, fighting around Prokhorovka, especially in and around the October State Farm, took place place over expanses of Russian steppe punctuated by the occasional village and forest. Hill 252.2, captured by 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler on July 11 offered a commanding position over the field of battle.
To recreate the battlefield around the October State Farm, I had to focus on some key features. Using Battlefield in a Box 2019 Premium Terrain Sale Rolling Hills, I was able to recreate the two hills on either end of the battlefield.
Rural Farm Buildings gave me what I needed to put together both the October State Farm and the small town just outside it.
Rural Roads and Rural Road Expansions, as well as Train Tracks criss cross the board.
Escarpments and Streams sit in one of the corners to represent the rocky streams the Red Army had so much trouble crossing.
Finally, a few woods dotted about provide concealment as well as representing the heavily forested areas outside the farm.
You will have already seen the battlefield in Chris and Casey’s Battle Report, and while it’s potentially a little too sparse for tournament play, the intention was always to evoke something of an ope Eastern Front feel.
Facing off with Casey is always a fun game and this was going to be no exception. Usually, we find ourselves on the same side but this time things were different. Facing off a large number of Soviet T-34s against a smaller number of German versions would be a real test to see who could handle them the best – the Soviets that built them, or the Germans that captured them.
I deployed a line of tanks stretching across the table, confident I could manoeuvre as needed. Casey stuck to cover behind buildings and in forests. He knew I would be coming for him.
Rolling well (story of the first half of the game) I seized the initiative and surged forward. Over the next couple of turns I closed fast and hard, shooting where possible but focussing on position. Casey’s fire was inaccurate or just unlucky whilst mine accounted for some of his tanks with a string of lucky hits (or poor saves). This was especially lucky in the long term as it cut down the amount of incoming fire I would have to suffer.
Things started to change once we hit close range as Casey’s dice started to work their magic and his T-34s started hitting and killing their targets. The Tiger kept up a steady pace of fire knocking out 1 to 2 tanks a turn whilst his Company HQ Panzer IV proved to be deadly, constantly knocking targets off as they came into his sights.
However, my 3-1 tank advantage and outstanding luck with Valentine saves proved to be the difference. The almost untouched Valentine company overran the left-hand objective, whilst the right-hand T-34 company flanked Casey’s remaining tanks (ignoring the Tiger after their ramming effort failed on the first dice throw).
With the objective secured and Casey’s last T-34 running away the battlefield was mine.
When Chris and I were first talking about playing a big game I had the thought of taking a Tiger company to take on Chris’s Soviet T-34 horde, but thought that it probably wouldn’t be a fair match-up.
(I’m still planning on painting this army at some point as I love the Tiger and new Panzer III models)
Instead, I decided to brush off my Das Reich T-34s and give Chris a rematch from a version 2 game we had, where my T-34 tanks were overwhelmed by the sheer number of T-34s that Chris was fielding.
My Army is based off the Captured T-34 Command Card. I won’t go into too much detail about the command cards here as Victor is going to write an article about this later.
I have 10 T-34s painted, so I decided to split these into 2x platoons of 3 tanks and a platoon of 4 tanks. These are led by a Panzer IV and a Panzer III. I’m just going to use my Grey Panzer III & IV tanks for the moment, until I get a chance to paint some new ones.
To back up the T-34s I’ve added a single Tiger, again mainly because I love the model.
I figure the Tiger will anchor one flank and my T-34s will deploy en-mass, strength in numbers.
or: Using an Iron Cross formation with Ghost Panzers Support Units with Mike Haught
All four of the mid-war Eastern Front books were designed together. There was a lot of crossover between units in both books, so we wanted to make that cross support possible between books. For instance, in the German case, we wanted to make sure that you can take your Grenadier infantry forces from Iron Cross and back them up with Ferdinand and Brummbär heavy tanks from Ghost Panzers, just like what happened in Model’s 9th Army attack on the northern front of the operation. Of course the reverse is also true. You can field a Ghost Panzer formation with Iron Cross support, such as an Armoured Panzergrenadier Formation with your early panzers and StuGs to represent the half-track mounted troops involved in the 1942 summer offensive.
Let’s take my Grenadier company from Iron Cross as an example. Here’s the 100pt Grenadier Company I’ve been using:
Grenadier Formation 2pts Grenadier Company HQ 16pts Grenadier Platoon, 9x teams +2x MG34 HMGs 16pts Grenadier Platoon, 9x teams +2x MG34 HMGs 14pts Assault Pioneer Platoon
Support Units 14pts 10.5cm Artillery Battery (4x Guns) 2pts Panzer II OP 27pts StuG (early) Assault Gun Platoon (3x StuG long 7.5cm) 9pt Ju 87 Stuka Dive-bomber Flight
I originally modelled this force as an assault unit involved in the 1942 summer blitzkrieg attacks. It’s got some defensive power, but has an offensive footing with flame-throwers, submachine-guns, and Stukas.
I’m excited about the upcoming release of the Ferdinand, so I’m going to convert this force into a Citadel-themed one so that I can include them. However, I also want to retain as much of the tactical flexibility from Iron Cross as possible, such as artillery. I can achieve this by using my Iron Cross Formations with Ghost Panzer support units. I have to choose which book to draw support from, I can’t do both, so I need to drop my StuG assault guns because these early versions are not available as a Ghost Panzer support unit. On the other hand, my artillery and Stukas are both available in Ghost Panzers, which means I can bring them across.
Dropping the StuGs earns me back 27 points which goes a long way towards getting me a pair of Ferdinands. However, I still need to find another 7 points, which I can get from reducing my Grenadier platoons to 7 teams each and taking out an HMG somewhere. So in the end, my 99pt Citadel Grenadiers will look like this:
Grenadier Formation 2pts Grenadier Company HQ 13pts Grenadier Platoon, 7x teams +2x MG34 HMGs 11pts Grenadier Platoon, 7x teams +1x MG34 HMG 14pts Assault Pioneer Platoon
Support Units 14pts 10.5cm Artillery Battery (4x Guns) 2pts Panzer II OP 34pts Ferdinand Tank-hunter Platoon (2x Ferdinand) 9pt Ju 87 Stuka Dive-bomber Flight
So with just a few small modifications to my army I can field my tried and true Grenadier force in Operation Citadel battles using a pair of mighty Ferdinands.
A few years ago I painted up a T-34 Battalion for Late War, putting myself under a bit of pressure to knock out the 21 models over 28 day. You can find out more about the army here…
As a deadline painter, having a definite finish date helped me to focus and actually get the job done on time.
Five years later with the release of Red Banner I thought it might be fun to dust off the army and challenge Casey (my office nemesis) to a big game where I got to put the entire battalion, plus a few Mid War models borrowed from the work collection, on the table for a big tank smash.
Since we wanted to keep it “all about the tanks” I chose not to add any infantry or “pad out” the Force with any Formation Support options. I did however have a look through the Command Cards and found a few fun ones to add in.
Guards Tank Battalion (1 point) – this increases my chances of remounting to a 3+. Seemed like a great way to spend a point, especially since I need all the vehicles moving or firing.
Desperate Heroism (1 point) – I really don’t have a plan for this. I figured it was 1 point and it might be situationally useful to be able to guarantee that I passed a Follow Me Movement Order.
Ram Attack (2 points) – Once again, I don’t have a plan in mind here as the chances of pulling off a successful ram attack vs a Tiger is pretty darn low
T-34 Passing a Skill Test
Tiger Failing to Avoid
Chance of Winning the Dice Off*
Kill Chance (failure means a Bail Out)
*to win the Dice off I need to roll a 5 or 6 and the Tiger needs to roll a 1 (or a 2, if I roll a 6)
However, an almost 1% chance of killing or bailing a Tiger in the front is significantly more likely than the 0% chance of killing (or bailing) it through the front with the T-34’s 76mm gun. Seemed like an implausible but amusing way to spend 2 points.
The real question is, how am I going to use the army to beat Casey? I know he is bringing Tigers and Panzer III escort tanks so that means I’ll have a couple of different types of targets to destroy. Luckily for me the disparity in their armour means whilst I am closing to flank (and kill) the Tigers, I can shoot up the Panzer III tanks.
I suspect the match up will come down to terrain as much as anything else because Casey will be using it to protect the flanks of his Tigers, whilst trying to stop me from advancing up behind it and avoiding his fire.