Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Painting Challenge Submission 16 - Pico Panzer Regiment Bäke

The Tiger Is of Schwere Panzer Regiment Bäke - 1/600 models from Pico Armor.
Hello everyone - my blogging pace dropped off suddenly towards the end of February.  I have been busy with work, and then a specific hobby project has been taking a fair bit of time as well.  But the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge continues, and I'm still making submissions - this one is a small (haha) project that I have been working on for the past couple of months and I thought this would be a good time to share and end my recent blogging drought.

These are 1/600 WW2 German figures in winter kit - and while figures at this scale they could represent almost anything, in this case they are meant to represent Schwere Panzer Regiment Bäke in games of "Spearhead", the classic division-level WW2 rules by Arty Contliffe.

The whole group.

Panzer Regiment Bäke

Heads up...here come the big cats...
As catastrophe overtook the German army on the Eastern Front in 1943, the overstretched German forces would make use of "fire brigade" type formations in order to stem the various crisis arising from the Red Army's overwhelming material and manpower superiority and countless breakthroughs along a huge front line.  Schwere Panzer Regiment Bäke was one of these "fire brigades", and a potent one at that, combining a battalion of Panthers, a battalion of Tigers, a battalion of combat engineers and a few other assets (artillery etc) which represented a terrifying concentration of fighting power.

Tiger Is in 1/600 scale and winter paint.
Under the command of Franz Bäke, a panzer commander of some renown, this formation was formed in late 1943, and fought through the winter into 1944, racing from crisis to crisis. Equipped to such a level, the formation is reported to have racked up fantastical kill totals in a number of armoured engagements. I am skeptical of these sorts of kill-total reports, but this formation certainly made a major impact wherever it was deployed on the front.  And yet the Eastern Front was enormous, and in the end formations such as this could not turn the tide or reverse the broader strategic circumstances that would see the Red Army triumphant in the east.

With each base representing a platoon, we have a Panther battalion in 1/600 scale.
As a wargamer I love tank battles, and I very much enjoy painting armour, and I'm drawn to the Eastern Front as a setting (and the middle east, and Team Yankee, etc. etc.).  It's a lot of fun to represent these "fire brigade" type formations in WW2 games.  The trouble is that many tactical-level games provide players on the German side with all of the benefits (veteran crews, amazing kit) while struggling to represent the downsides (ammo and fuel shortages, being massively outnumbered, dire strategic situation etc).  You can try to make allowances for these things of course, and many well-intentioned game designers look to assorted points systems to create some balance or handicapping in a game where Panthers and Tigers are present.  But this is hard to do...don't get me wrong, skirmish gaming with "big cats" is great fun, but I like to find games that give players on the German side the problems as well as the benefits when it comes to these sorts of units.

Play these rules! They are fantastic!
So that is where a magnificent game like "Spearhead" comes into play.  Yes, your Panther battalion is terrifying, and will blow up a lot of sh*t. But the Soviet player(s) will have infantry to slow it down, artillery to blast it, air strikes to hammer it, AND waves of T-34s to send towards it.  You might blow away clouds of T-34s and still end up trapped in a pocket, with half your Panthers out of action, and in no position to seal up the breach in the front lines. No rule system comes close to "Spearhead" for giving players on the German side these sort of up-ended "I-feel-like-I-won-but-I-still-lost" gaming moments.

The combat engineers...a "Stuka Zu Fuss" battery is at the front...
In "Spearhead" each base represents one platoon.  The round bases represent command elements - small ones for battalion commanders, larger ones for regiments etc.  The "Spearhead" scenario book "Where The Iron Crosses Grow" has a scenario featuring Regiment Bäke that we tried back in...2009! Wow, that was quite a long time ago!

Another view of the engineers - the armoured engineer platoons are at the front - they have their own Hanomags to ride around in.
For the scenario in question the Germans have a battalion of Panthers, a battalion of Tigers, and a battalion of combat engineers.  As units go in "Spearhead", these are all pretty scary...but in the scenario they will face a vast amount of Soviet armour, and they will have a difficult mission: escort the remnants of some shattered friendly units out of a pocket and back into the German lines.  The German players will have fun blowing up tanks with their elite panzers, but the command challenge in the scenario is a tough one...it will be played on a big table, and those panzers can't be everywhere...

Another view of the Panthers.
I had, at one time, a large 6mm collection of WW2 figures based for Spearhead. That is no longer with me...since I was starting from the ground up once again, I thought I would give these 1/600 models a try. I've been experimenting with them here and there for a long time (see example here), and have used them for the "Modern Spearhead" variant - they really are fun.

Regimental command - with a SdKfz flak unit on the left, and a 234 recon unit on the right.
These figures are all from Oddzial Ozmy, available in North American from the fine people at Pico Armor. I never thought I would enjoy 1/600 stuff...but the sculpting is incredible.  The infantry is still hard to do, and the bases will need labels so the players know what is what, but these paint up fast and are a lot of fun.  I also really need to up my game when it comes to ground work etc (check out Curt's 1/600 stuff to see what I mean).  But since I had all of the winter colours out during this edition of the Challenge, and Panzer Regiment Bäke was in action during the winter, it was no big deal to crank these out in winter colours "on the side" as I went along painting 28mm stuff.

Another view of the 234 - recon elements are critical in "Spearhead".
Some people who play 1/600 scale will take the opportunity to make their platoons 1-to-1 creations, putting a whole group of three or four tanks on each base.  I experimented with this, but decided against it in the end.  Crowded command bases look neat, but the tanks in the general combat platoons all look too crammed - you just end up with the same "hub-to-hub" look that ruins so many "Flames of War" games, but just at a different scope.  I kept it straight up, using the prescribed base size from the "Spearhead" rules, and used either one tank to represent a tank platoon, or one group of infantry to represent an infantry platoon.  The armoured engineer bases include a group of infantry and some 251 carriers on the same base - in "Spearhead" mechanized infantry is based together with their fighting vehicles.  

There are only a few weeks left in the tenth edition of Curt's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. I hope to have a few more submissions to share before it concludes for the year.

Thanks for looking, have a great weekend!


Dallas said...

Shake and Bake!! Looks great dude!

Wouter said...

And impressive sight, the tanks blend in nicely with the bases.
These last ones make a whole lot of a difference to the overal look of the company, especially the tracks.

L'Empereur Zoom 13 said...

Great work on these tanks!
6mm is very good for tanks games!

Scott Cooksey said...

These are amazing! Is there any way you could provide what colors you used to paint these. Or give a tutorial on how you painted them. How do you get that dark shading effect on the vehicles?!