Welcome to Cold War Gamer, a blog I am using to record my Cold War wargaming projects. These range from fictitious Cold War hot projects to historical conflicts that took place around the globe throughout the Cold War era, all modelled and gamed in 20mm. The blog includes links to various resources useful to the Cold War Gamer.

My current projects include: Central Front; British & Soviet. South African Border War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Review - Books, Colours and Markings of British Army Vehicles 1903 - 2003, Warpaint Volumes 1- 4

The Warpaint volumes are some of the most comprehensive guides to the appearance of British armoured vehicles in the 20th Centuary.  Whilst they cover the whole of the period covered I have focused my comments on their utility for the Cold War period and included links to other reviews if you want to understand how they do the rest. For those interested in the Cold War it provides within its 4 slim volumes, a wall to wall guide of how vehicles were painted and marked.  This includes such gems as the 1980's Call Sign cards which are included for:
  • Battle Group HQ, 
  • Armoured Squadrons 
  • Armoured Infantry Companies
  • BG Support 1 Recce, Millan and Morters 
  • BG Support 2, FOOs Aviation and Air Defence
  • Armoured Recce
  • Engineers
This volume also covers the post war geometric signs and colours.  This is really useful if you want to ensure you have the right call signs on the right wagons depending on how you represent your force i.e.: the number of vehicles represented by 1 model.

The various volumes in the series cover the following subjects:

  • Volume One
    • Chapter 1  - Colours and Sources
    • Chapter 2 – Paint and Camouflage up to 1939
    • Chapter 3 - Registrations, War Department numbers and Census marks
  • Volume Two
    • Chapter 1 – Paint and Camouflage in WW2
    • Chapter 2 - Sub Unit markings and call sign systems
  • Volume Three
    • Chapter  1 – Paint and Camouflage post WW2
    • Chapter 2 – Arm of Service markings
    • Formation Signs
  • Volume Four
    • Ground and Air Recognition Systems
    • Vehicle name
    • Miscellaneous marking Systems
All the volumes are well illustrated with a range of colour photos, plates, and tables illustrating the various subjects.  The sections in volume three and four on air recognition and ground recognition markings largely focus on those used on operational deployments across the gamut of post war conflicts.  Whilst these were not necessarily used under peace time soldiering conditions on the central front it gives you a clue as to how the army might behave once it knows its going to war, when sometimes morale beats security. 

All other miscellaneous markings are included from national flags to load classification and an explanation of the vehicle registration system.  I particularly liked the section on fire extinguisher colours.  Whilst I am fairly sure you could find better coverage on aspects of these books I know of no other set of books that covers this range of information.  Dick Taylor served as an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment so his knowledge on the back end of the period is extensive and derived from personal experience and the extensive nature of the research required to put the volumes together can be garnered from the comprehensive bibliography supplied.

If you Wargame British in multiple 20th Centuary periods these are a bit of a must have, if you cover only the Cold War it is a bit of a split decision, the organisation of the information means it is difficult to drop a volume and with each volume costing around £10 new that was a bit of a price these days with the early volumes increasingly difficult to source the price for some of these is getting a little silly in the £40-£60 bracket, the answer as always is to shop around.

Other Reviews of these Books:

The Books @ Amazon

Warpaint - Volume 1: Colours and Markings of British Army Vehicles 1903-2003
Warpaint - Volume 2: Colours and Markings of British Army Vehicles 1903-2003
Warpaint - Volume 3: Colours and Markings of British Army Vehicles 1903-2003
Warpaint - Volume 4: Colours and Markings of British Army Vehicles 1903-2003

Other Book Reviews:

Other Book Reviews:

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Review - Figures, Elhiem 20mm, Cold War British

Elhiem figures released their Cold War British Range last year. I think this is one of the more comprehensive figure ranges for Cold War British on the market. The figures are presented in 58 pattern webbing, with respirators cases and without large packs and Bergens. They carry SLR and GPMG and are warring well scrimed Combat Helmet Mark 4s.  They cover the British Infantry effectively from the 60's through to the 90s.  The introduction of the Mk 6 helmet, SA 80, LAW 80 and PLCE occured between 1987 - 1990.  This makes them ideal for NATO British Mechanised and Armoured Infantry but they will  also work for the Falklands and Northern Ireland.

The figures are reasonably chunky and can easily be mixed with the Britannia and Liberation ranges. Mine all arrived in fine shape being well cast with minimal flash so clean up is done in next to no time.  As usual Matts attention to detail on weapons, uniforms and equipment is excellent there is a degree of variety in the webbing and some really great figures as with all Matt's ranges the posing of the figures is always very life like.    As an added bonus Elhiem Figures service and turn around on orders is also first class.

As most of the figures I have finished have been diced up to man trenches Iain R from the Guild kindly gave me permission to use some of the pictures of figures from his collection to illustrate this post. His very talented interpretation of Matts lovely sculpts really illustrate what can be achieved with this range.  If you like Iains work he posts regularly on two blogs and he is well worth following for the quality of his work, his blogs are:

Having lived through this I really think that Matt has captured the look and feel for the period very well.  The Infantry platoon is well catered for with packs containing patrolling and skirmishing figures.  The patrolling figures provide a complete section within a single pack, whilst in the skirmishing set the rifle and gun groups are in separate packs.

The range includes Section and Platoon Weapons primarily from two packs one with a 3 man gun group with GPMG deployed in the light role and the other containing a Light Mortar, Carl Gustav, 66mm anti tank rocket and Blowpipe MANPAD. The inclusion of the light mortar and Blow Pipe with the 66mm and Carl Gustarv mean you will probably end up with a few spares.

The Platoon HQ pack contains a Medic with a day sack and SMG, a Signaller with a Clansman 351, an officer with a map and an SLR equipped figure with a CWS, which is one of my favourites.

An OP and special optics pack provides a Radio operator an Observation Officer and two SLR equipped soldiers with trilux sites useful for Northern Ireland. I think the Radio operator is also particularly well done a beautiful figure.

As well as a comprehensive representation of the Platoon and its support weapons Matt has also covered all the battalion support weapons with the exception of the Sniper Rifle.  The Support weapons all come with three man crews.

I really like what Matt has done with the Milan team in particular and have bought a large number for my army as I intend to represent a 24 or 6 Airmobile battalion at some stage.  The Milan is equipped with the MIRA thermal sight which I believe is post 1982, the weapon system is also available without MIRA in the NATO sets.

The other two figures are either involved in reloading or observing with Binoculars, no other weapons are carried so you can get away with using them post 1990, a head swap for a Mk 6 Helmet and some Green stuff around the webbing would be a fairly straight forward conversion.

The GPMG in the SF Set is a work of art as is the tripod although mine got somewhat butchered as I wanted to do it in the low mount for use from a trench.  The range is rounded out with an 81mm Mortar Team and the patrolling section in NBC kit.   As I said at the start a very comprehensive range,  one that provides just about everything you will need for a cold war British army and is very evocative of the period. 

Thanks to Iain for the use of his pictures and Matt for creating such a great range.

Related Posts of interest:
ORBAT 1980s British Battle Group, Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6

Saturday, 15 February 2014

ORBAT - Soviet Late 80's, Breakthrough Capability Part 1, Overview

I have really been struggling with this post primarily because it got way too big as I started working through the problem.  So I have decided to split it into a number of posts each addressing a different aspect of the capability deployed.  By the Cold War the Soviets didn't really refer to units or the operation as Breakthrough but effectively the units and more specifically the ammunition natures that will be covered in these posts would have been used to support attacks against entrenched and fortified positions.

Soviet Doctrine largely trys to avoid dealing with a formed defence through a series of disruptive operations, flanking movements and a pace of advance that should give the enemy little time to prepare.  I had never given much credence to the attack from the line of march theories against a prepared defence as we used to put a fair amount of effort into our defensive works.  If they did not deploy from the line of march, the next point of call for Soviet Doctrine would be a more considered assault launched from a position of close contact. So I decided to spend a bit of time investigating what they would do if forced to attack a formed defence.

A critical component of any Soviet attack would be the massive destructive power that they would want to bring to bear against developed defences before launching any form of ground strike. V G Rezniichenko, editor of Tactics, has a great diagram showing an attack from the line of March by a Soviet Motor Rifle Battalion against a company in defence, at H -12 minutes they drop a 10 Kiloton War Head on the reserve Platoon. Given that fire plan, I as well as the Soviets would have a degree of confidence in carrying that attack.

Because of the effective range of small arms fire it would be quite rare to site platoons much over 500m appart as UK defensive doctrine called for an interlock with rifles which had an effective range of 300m and an overlap of fire with SAWs (GPMG Light Role or LSW) which had an effective range of 600m.  As such a quick look at any of the numerous references on the blast effects of Nuclear weapons will give you an idea of the outcome. Wikipedia has some useful data points for a 1kt device air burst at 200m as follows:
  • Blast, 20 psi to 200m 5 psi to 600m
  • Heat, Firestorm to 500m, second degree burns to 800m
which will do a lot of damage to the defenders either through blast, burns or asphyxiation as the heat effects will remove most of the oxygen over the area covered by the firestorm.  a number of these effects will casually disregard the fact your in a trench.  So the reserve platoon has gone and I would imagine you have a number of problems in the forward platoons as well.

Throughout the 80's the Soviet doctrine shifted and become much more focused on conventional munitions rather than nuclear. Their aim being to keep the conflict non nuclear for as long as possible  in order to increase NATO decision making problems around nuclear release as the Soviet army became entangled with NATO armies and the German population. I have always struggled to believe how conventional weapons could achieve the same or similar effects to Nuclear Weapons.  Now having looked at it in some detail it is interesting to consider the array of assets they could have deployed to achieve this.  These included:
  • Massed conventional artillery fire.
  • Precision guided, Thermobaric munitions from large calibre mortars.
  • Thermobaric munitions from large calibre MRLs in the indirect fire roll.
  • Precision guided, Thermobaric bombs from Aircraft.
  • Direct Fire Thermobaric MRLs - the modern flame thrower.
  • Direct Fire Thermobaric man portable munitions from hand held rocket launchers and ATGWs.
  • Smoke Generators.
  • Thermobaric munitions deployed by ballistic missiles.

You can spot the general theme, the Soviets classified Thermobaric systems as WMD, but given the pervasive nature of the deployment of the munition it was fairly clear they intended to use it and viewed it as having a much lower release threshold than Nuclear weapons.  The effects of Thermobaric systems are fairly well documented and a not disimilar story to nuclear as the killers are destructive blast waves, over pressure, heat and a lack of oxygen.

Effects are however much reduced and dependent on size of device, distance from detonation and level of confinement.  The elements that make them more effective and more interesting here as a replacement for nuclear capability  are:
  • Deployment through MLRS systems which would start to extend the area covered fairly effectively. 
  • The direct fire aspects of the missiles and rocket launchers which puts the warhead in your trench.
  • Precision guidance which meant the devices could be sufficiently accurately placed to achieve the desired effects.

These systems would be deployed from a number of arms of service including:
  • Frontal Aviation.
  • Artillery at Divisional, Army, Front and Strategic Reserve level.
  • Chemical Troops primarily at Army and Front level.

a lot of this remained a relatively closely guarded secret and there is little evidence that I have been able to find that lays down the composition of the Chemical troops units, which were the principal providers of the direct fire support.  Evidence from both the Chechen Wars and from Afghanistan clearly outlines the capabilities, the equipment and there utility.  The assumption is similar capability if it existed would have been deployed in a European conflict.  

A reasonably significant amount of data exists on the weapons and when they were first fielded though a couple of assumptions need to be made in order to credibly employ some of the capabilities.
  • For economic reasons the later part of the cold war was marked by a shift in Soviet focus to a more defensive posture, what if this had not been the case.
  • The reasons and period over which the Soviets were transitioning to war could make a difference to the capabilities deployed particularly where these existed and were not necessarily required in large numbers.
The next few posts in this series will look at the various arms of service and the capability they could deploy in order to influence the Breakthrough battle and some concepts about what the organisations were that fielded the capability and how they might be represented on the Wargames table.  Some time this summer if all goes according to plan we may see it in action.


Jane's Armour & Artillery 2002/2003
Red God of War: Soviet Artillery and Rocket Forces , C Bellamy 1986
The Soviet Afghan War, How a super power fought and lost
Tactics, a Soviet view VG Reznichenko, 1984 DTIC PDF

A 'Crushing' Victory: Fuel-Air Explosives and Grozny 2000,
Technology and the Second Chechen Campaign: Not all new and not that much by Lester W. Grau
The highly-accurate mega-mortar
Soviet Air to Ground Missiles
Soviet Air to Ground Guided Bombs
SU 24
SU 17
Mig 27
ORBAT - 1980's Soviet MRR and TRR, Part 4 Artillery

Other Posts of interest