With our second edition Armies Of Germany now shipping, and some fantastic new winter troops arriving for the German (and soon for the Soviet) forces, it’s a good time to consider the theatre book – ‘Ostfront’. Here we sit down with our resident Italian impresario – Alessio Cavatore – to walk us through the content of the book to serve as a primer for those of you preparing to take to the battlefields of the Eastern Front!
Image courtesy of Osprey Publishing
Alessio: The initial series of supplements for Bolt Action (i.e. the “Armies of…” books) that ended with the Italy and the Axis book is now complete with the revised 2nd Edition of Armies of Germany, more about this one soon. After the unique and self-contained Tank War supplement, we started a new series – which we refer to as “Theatre books”. The first one was the Battleground Europe supplement and since then we’ve added Germany Strikes, Empire in Flames, Duel in the Sun and of course what we’re here to talk about – Ostfront, Barbarossa to Berlin. In this article I’m going to explain in a little more detail what you’re going to find in each section of this expansive book.
The first section of the book concentrates on the battles between the Soviets and the Japanese at the border between Manchuria and Mongolia in early 1939. The scenarios representing these battles use very unique forces, which are captured by their own theatre selectors. These have a decidedly old-fashioned flavour for War World Two, as they are populated with a high percentage of cavalry (on both sides!), and come with rules for things like standard bearers, which you’ll agree feel out of place in modern warfare, but both the Soviets and the Japanese had them – and now you have rules for those models which were purely decorative until now!
The Winter War
The second section of the book presents a very popular conflict for wargamers, the invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union in 1939. What makes this war so epic is its ‘Samson and Goliath’ tone. The section includes rules for SIMO HÄYHÄ – ‘THE WHITE DEATH’, the most successful sniper in history, and a new selector for Soviet ‘Winter War’-themed forces, together with more scenarios and additional units… including another flame-throwing tank… the OT-130, as well as rules for the multi-turreted ‘landship’ tanks that the Soviet Union was experimenting with tat the time.
The largest invasion in history: “3.2 million German and around 500,000 Axis troops, 600,000 vehicles, over 4,000 aircraft and three quarters of a million horses ranged along a 2500km front.” This section of the book tends to consolidate rules that we have published earlier (like Otto Skorzeny and his Brandenburgers commandos) and gives you more information about their involvement on the Eastern Front, where they achieved some monumental ‘special operations’. The scenarios here recreate some of the most typical battles of Barbarossa, using forces from the Soviet and German supplements, but introducing their own ‘Ostfront’ twist in the form of scenario special rules, like, for example, the rules for frostbite…
Stalingrad – a name that evokes the bitterest street-to-street combat. The scenarios presented here make use of the City Fighting set of special rules, which are presented at the end of the book in the appendixes. They recreate some of the most well-known episodes of this titanic battle, and the Soviet players get reinforcements to see off the fascist invaders, in the shape of Vasily Zaitsev to take on the German officers and the mighty M-30 heavy rocket launcher to pound enemy troops concentrations to dust. Of course the temptation is going to be set up a ‘what if’ duel between Zaitsev and the White Death… who’s the toughest sniper!?
Kursk – the archetypical tank battle. The scenarios for this clash of armoured beasts allow the players to pack in so many tanks, artillery and off-map firepower that the resulting games will be a veritable cauldron of dust, flame and twisted metal. The German player can finally use a lot of his best toys – Tigers, Panthers, Ferdinands, Brummbaers, escorted by their own version of tank-riders to protect them and even sacrificial penal battalions to take the brunt of the Red Army fire, against a very well dug in and determined Soviet defender, backed with masses of artillery and katyushas, and hordes of T-34s ready to counter-attack.
Bagration to Berlin
These grim last scenarios capture the desperate feel of the futile yet protracted resistance of the German troops that were defending their fatherland from the avenging Red Army. Both sides receive reinforcements – from the Bielski partisans to the SS-Charlemagne division, from German units equipped with futuristic night-vision equipment and shoulder-mounted ‘luftfaust’ anti-aircraft rocket launchers to the unstoppable might and awesome firepower of the IS-3 tanks and heavy katyusha – anything goes!
New Scenario Rules
This appendix closes the book with a collection of all of the special rules used throughout the various scenarios. Here you will find rules for:
- Digging-in (foxholes, trenches, gun pits…)
- Night Fighting
- City Fighting
Some of these rules have been published before, and are collected here for your convenience, and some are entirely new. The largest and most important addition is without a doubt the aforementioned City Fighting special rules, which are presented here for the Stalingrad and Berlin scenarios, but certainly can be used for any other game set in a bombed-out city, on any front.
And to conclude, here’s a message from the book’s author (none other than renowned games developer and fan of all things Soviet) :
Greetings comrades! Alessio has been kind enough to give me a paragraph or two to share some thoughts about the Ostfront book. I was really excited to be able to follow up on Armies of the Soviet Union with a longer tome about battles fought by the Red Army.
For a die-hard Eastern Front junky like me it was a real treat to have a chance to dig deeper into the pre-war clashes with Japan and Finland. These two very different theatres had very different outcomes with deep and abiding effects on the Great Patriotic War. My favourite factoid was that the Red Army had no ski troops of its own until after the Winter War with Finland! Can you even imagine that? I certainly couldn’t.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Paul Sawyer, Ryan Miller and Bill Bird for their help with Ostfront as well, of course, as Alessio, Rick and all the other lovely people at Warlord for making it possible. I hope you’ll enjoy reading Ostfront as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
Thanks Andy, and thank you guys for reading – enjoy your battles on the Ostfront – for the motherland! Or is it the fatherland?