Monday 2 May 2022

They’re no Snow Angels……1939 Winter War game

 A bit of a challenge on Saturday, when I exposed the guys to something largely outside most of their comfort zones, the 1939 Winter War using Great Escape Games' excellent Iron Cross ruleset with some period specific amendments which I know worked fine last time I played. Ultimately there were seven of us; Paul, Shaun and Nigel were the Finns and Dave, Conrad, Neil and John were the Soviets. I tried to remember the rules and umpired/hosted. The figures are a mixture of 1/72 scale metal castings and Strelets plastics. Most of the vehicles and AFVs were 3D prints (several by me) or Early War Miniatures, Minirons or Pegasus. All the terrain is mine, much of the wooded and broken ground areas I made myself; the exception being some 'winter copses' I picked up off Andy at Last Valley. This game was a bit of a risk as, (a) I wasn't totally up to speed with the rules, (b) most players were not 'into' twentieth century wargaming so might have struggled a bit tactically and (c) with hindsight I hadn't prepared enough for the game beforehand. I knew what the troops represented but the players were confused. Ah well, I shall colour code them all for the next game, the troops that is, not the players, although.......?

Finns on the left. Their main line ran from the villages at each end of the table roughly following the long road that can be seen heading off into the distance. The other road running right to left (east-west) across the table was meant to be a 'decent' road, and is the main axis of advance for the Soviets. The Finns had a couple of bunkers, a few lengths of barbed wire and some anti-tank traps to deploy as well as three minefield markers (only one was real)

I will do the usual and run through some photos of the action with explanations as and when I feel necessary and/or can remember. I think they're all in the correct order.....and trust it all makes more sense to the readers than it did to me and some of the players!

In the centre the Soviets won the initiative and under Conrad brought on the best part of two platoons of infantry and a company of BT-7 fast tanks, followed by a T26 (twin mg version) and two OT-26 'chemical' tanks (flamethrowers to me and you). Over on the right a card played by the Soviets caused three hits on a random Finnish unit as they had been mauled earlier by Soviet cavalry patrols that had interfered with their supply situation. This random unit just happened to be the one holding the village of the Finnish left.

One of the Soviet objectives was to locate the Finnish airstrip and eliminate it. The strip is guarded by a venerable ex-Czarist Putilov howitzer

One of the other objectives of the game was to locate and recover a broken down Russian experimental tank. In reality the Soviets only had a single prototype of the SMK-1 (named for Sergey Mironovitch Kirov), tried it out in action and lost it when it broke down. The Finns tried to capture it but were unsuccessful. In the game the location of the tank was unknown to either side but was quickly found by a platoon of Soviet infantry.

The local church. No doubt being used as an OP.
Conrad's BT-7 company under fire from hidden anti-tank guns.

Behind the church the Finn secret weapon, their field kitchen!
Conrad's BTs took some damage from enemy AT guns but made it over the 'alleged' minefield on the crossroads without incident.

Dave's infantry survived a hopelessly off target Finnish airforce strafing run and fire from enemy riflemen and drove the already weakened Finnish defenders out of the village on the right wing and pushed on across the open fields.

The Soviets drew a card giving them air support in the shape of  an SB-2 bomber. The Finns had been holding a fighter support card so played it, and a Fokker XXI arrived and drove the enemy bomber off.

The Finns threw in their elite reserves to try and retake the bridge, but were to be foiled by shots from a company of T37 amphibious tanks that can just be seen on the bridge.

The  (empty?) Finnish left wing.

While the BT-7 company braved the minefield John's unit of OT-26 chemical tanks  and twin-turreted T-26's struggled. One chemical tank was blown up by a well-placed Finnish AT gun and the other got bogged down in deep snow. The other T-26 MG  never even made it onto the table.

Soviet T37 and T38 amphibious tanks advance through the minefield, which turned out to be another decoy.

Probably the final straw for the Finns as the last Soviet tanks arrive; a company of five T26 light tanks.

More action in the skies......just for show but why not?

The last of the Finns in the shape of a platoon of cyclists. Not much use in deep snow.....

A lone Finnish Vickers 6-ton tank holding their left almost alone.

At the end it was a clear Soviet victory. Finn losses were negligible but they had lost both villages, the   bridge and one of the main road exits, AND the Soviets had located the abandoned SMK-1 prototype tank (it was the precursor of the KV-1 and KV-2 tanks). Soviet losses amounted to two tanks and some infantry, but nothing compared to what I'd expected them to loose. The Finns were judged to have slipped away to fight another day, while the Soviets consolidated  their positions.     

I like these rules but am open to suggestions so long as no rebasing is required. I wasn't completely happy with the game if only because I made quite a number of mistakes with rules and the game didn't 'flow' as I'd hoped. Bouncing so many non-twentieth century wargamers with this scenario/period may not have been such a good idea but who knows? So long as everyone comes back!  We have an Ancient campaign game to fight!   


  1. A super looking game, as is only to be expected from your good self. Any news on Partizan as yet?