Rattenkrieg: Stalingrad Part One!

The mighty but slow KV tank vs a practical and lethal Panzer IV

“Do not count the days, do not count the miles. Count only the Germans you have killed. Kill the German – this is your old mother’s prayer. Kill the German – this is what your children beseech you to do. Kill the German – this is the cry of your Russian earth. Do not waver. Do not let up. Kill.”-IIya Ehrenburg, Soviet Poet.

Stalingrad. It is a name that resonates with many who have even a passing knowledge of history. The battle that took place there was one of no mercy, no pity, and appalling violence. It was a personal grudge match between two merciless dictators, but its importance in turning the tide of WW2 is without argument.

For many years I have wanted to refight the epic duel between Communism and Fascism on the Volga, but such a proposition was expensive. I knew two things; I wanted to do it in 28mm, probably Bolt Action. And that I wanted to do it right. Flames of War is an excellent system, but Stalingrad was a battle of inches, close in, barbaric fighting. Flames of War would be excellent for the later battles on the Russian Steppe, but Bolt Action with its focus on infantry combat would portray the ‘Rattenkrieg’ much better.

I got my chance a week ago. I was able to find both the German Winter Starter Army and Winter Soviet Starter Army for a great price in Canada. While both sets have some issues in respect to portraying the battle, they offer an amazing start; and for the price I paid, a relatively inexpensive one. The Soviet one in particular comes with so many infantry models that you cannot fit them all into one generic reinforced platoon! Both sets come with metal command and support options, allowing you to focus on building the infantry as fighting squads. While for the Germans I’ll need to find an MG34 team, I’m practically set for now.

Minus the anachronistic MG42, I will be able to make use of all the contents!
And the Soviets; never has ‘Quantity has Quality all its own” been so affordable!

There is a lot of stuff to build here. So I’ve broken it into manageable chunks. Yesterday and today I got the armour completed.

It was an interesting ‘compare and contrast’ moment. The KV-1/2 is an Italeri/Warlord joint kit, and has much more in common with traditional model kits then a wargaming kit. On the other hand, the Panzer IV is a Warlord ‘In House’ model, and is much more akin to putting together a wargaming kit.

I have to be honest with you; I prefer the Warlord kit. The Panzer IV went together rather well, and feels like it can take some tabletop abuse. The KV by Italeri feels delicate, almost as if it would shatter if handled poorly. Both however were easy builds, under an hour. Lets take a look at them!

The KV-1/2 is a beast, but the brittle plastic and fragile feel ruins that a little. Still, it cuts an imposing figure!
I lost the rear turret machinegun; it was such a small part that when I dropped it I could not find it again. Still, look at that turret! What an absolute unit!
I will hand one thing to Italeri here; having the option for both the KV-1 and KV-2 and being able to build both turrets was really, really nice. The KV-1 is a far more practical tank for actual Bolt Action, at least I think it will be!

Now the Panzer IV! I originally was going to build a short-barrel one, but a lot of the tanks I found pictures of from the battle had the longer F model barrel. So that is what I went with! The instructions were…vague. I had very little idea where exactly to put some of the stowage, so I winged it a little.

The Panzer IV is iconic. Few can argue its effectiveness in battle, especially in the Early-Mid war period.
This kit went together smoothly. I was particularly impressed by the tracks, which went together with almost no gaps.
While there is still some gaps to fill, there are fewer then I expected. This tank will be fun to use!

Now lets compare the two! The size difference is pretty amazing. The KV-1 really looks like the beast it was!

Whoa, now that is a tank! While I preferred building the Panzer IV, the KV is simply massive, and looks like it will be an absolute blast to use.
The length of the tanks isn’t as much of a difference as the width and height, but it is still obvious just how much bigger the KV is. I can see how the KV would shock the German Wehrmacht when they first encountered it!

Now, Stalingrad was at its heart an infantryman’s battle, not one of armoured might. So I won’t be adding too many tanks to this roster. Tomorrow, I will start on the Soviet 62nd Army. I will be running them closer to the history then just copying ‘Enemy at the Gates’, so hopefully I can keep the force ‘authentic’.

The Germans are a harder nut to crack. The sprue is filled with STG-44s, which I cannot use at all. I will have to really make the rifles work! The Early-Mid War selectors will keep both armies mostly armed with rifles, although I will field some Soviet and German squads with more SMGs.

I will be using the Stalingrad campaign book to refight this struggle, and as an added treat, it came with the famous Vasily Zaitsev! As far as snipers go, he is pretty crazy for Bolt Action. I will field him occasionally with his actual rules, but more often he will be just a generic sniper. However, the book does have rules for the fictional Major Konig from Enemy At the Gates, which despite my wish to fight this mostly historically, is too much of a tease to not attempt to kitbash him.

Hero of the Soviet Union, Zaitsev has an interesting career that Enemy at the Gates almost completely ignored. When I paint him, I’ll be sure to point that out when I write that article!

Now the good news; I have all the blown up city terrain I could possibly ever need to do most of the scenarios. I will get the Tractor Factory at some point, but fighting that battle I will need some factory workers and factory fresh T-34s, so that will be some ways off.

Anyways, that is all I have for today. I have written a lot of ‘Part Ones’ recently, and I will be chipping away to make those have ‘Part Twos’. What can I say, I like to have a lot of projects on the go! I have been laid off from work temporarily during Ontario’s third lockdown, so I have nothing but time…

Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and remember; Not one step back Comrades!

3 thoughts on “Rattenkrieg: Stalingrad Part One!

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