Stalin’s Europe Design Notes

Stalin's Europe

Stalin’s Europe Design Notes

Our very latest Late-war Eastern Front book for Flames Of War is Stalin’s Europe. It’s a project I’ve been working on over the last year and combines a whole bunch of my favourite World War II subjects. The book covers the Soviet invasion of Hungary in October 1944 and follows the campaign up to and through the Siege of Budapest until February 1945.

The name of the book came about out of the idea that this was the start of Soviet domination of eastern and central Europe, a domination that would not end until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Romania had been overrun in September 1944 and had joined the Soviets and the push westwards. The red tide was lapping at the very shores of Hitler’s Reich.

The battles that raged across Hungary are little known in the West, but involved a massive commitment from all four nations fighting there. The Romanians were the fourth biggest Allied nation in 1944, while the Hungarians were the third largest Axis nation. The Red Army pushed huge numbers of troops through Hungary, doggedly counterattacked at every move by German panzer forces, which Hitler had rushed to Hungary to halt the red tide.

The Germans

From these battles I’ve selected a representative cross-section of the forces involved. For the Germans I decided to take a look at the Panzergrenadierdivision Feldherrnhalle, which led me to 13. Panzerdivision Feldherrnhalle as well. These two German divisions were in the thick of the fighting early on when they were rushed into the battle to halt the Soviet onslaught. Later they were sucked into the fighting for Budapest, which soon devolved into savage cauldron of battle.

Introduction Pages
German Pages During the early part of the campaign both divisions received one of the newest tank innovations in the form of the Panzer IV/70 when they merged with two panzer brigades to bring them up to strength. This self-propelled gun was usually used alongside the Panther tanks of the divisions. Its powerful 7.5cm gun was used to great advantage against the hordes of Soviet tanks it faced in Hungary. The Panzer IV/70 tank was one of the very first tank models I ever painted back in the days of the very first Flames Of War testing, and I’ve always had a soft spot for it.
Inside the book you will find both versions of the Panzer IV/70 tank, the (A) built by the company Alkett and the (V) by Vomag. Though both are based on the same concept, producing a vehicle with the firepower of a Panther without the complex engineering needed to build it, they each have their own unique look, with the Panzer IV/70 (A) having slightly less front armour, but for less points.
Panzer Iv/70 (v)
Of course these two divisions also operated the mighty Panther, with the new Panther G model entering combat during the Hungarian campaign. The Panther will need no introduction to many; it is undoubtedly one of the best tanks of the war. It has a powerful gun, thick armour and good manoeuvrability. Both the Panzer IV/70 tanks and the Panthers can be fielded in a Panzerkampfgruppe along with armoured panzergrenadiers and other Panzerdivision support.
Field Fortifications

During the fighting in Budapest the panzergrenadiers of both divisions fought mainly on foot through the streets and suburbs of the Hungarian capital city. The Panzergrenadierkompanie can field fortifications to help in their defence of the city. Among the selection of Trenches, Gun Pits, Barbed Wire, Minefields and Anti-tank Obstacles we’ve added the new Street Barricade. The Street Barricade fills the niche between the Barbed Wire Entanglement and the Anti-tank Obstacle; it is very difficult for vehicles to cross. It provides Concealment and Bulletproof Cover to Infantry and Gun teams manning it, allowing them to defend against approaching Infantry and Gun teams. James is working on some lovely model Street Barricades to be released soon.

The German Feldherrnhalle divisions also get a new special rule to add to all the great German rules they already have. The Feldherrnhalle divisions have a strong core of Brown Shirt veterans. These Nazi street fighters learned their trade fighting the police and Communists on the streets of Germany during the 1920s and ‘30s, and have honed it to perfection during tough fighting on the Russian Front. The Street Brawlers special rule gives Infantry Command teams a 2+ to hit in Assaults against Infantry and Gun teams, as long as they are not distracted by nearby Tank teams.

The Hungarians

Fighting alongside the Germans were the Hungarians. They fielded three armies in 1944 and fought hard to defend their country from Stalin’s Red Army and their real enemy, the Romanians. The Hungarians are my favourite Axis nation in WWII, and I’m always keen to introduce more options for Axis players. The Eastern Front wasn’t just about Germans versus Russians; there were other nations with their own interests on the line. The Hungarians fielded a wide variety of formations in 1944, so I wanted to offer a good cross-section of these in the book.

Hungarian Pages
Turan II tanks take on Soviet M4 76mm Shermans

In the end I settled on the armour, assault guns and volunteer infantry that fought during the Siege of Budapest.

The Hungarians field two armoured divisions in 1944, both seeing action during the Soviet invasion. The Hungarians had their own arms industry and produced a number of their own armoured vehicles. The armoured division used three of these, the Turán and Toldi tanks, and the Nimrod anti-aircraft tank. Hungary also used a number of German vehicles, particularly in the 2nd Armoured Division. 

This division used Tigers, Panthers and Panzer IV H tanks at various times.

The Harckocsizó Század (armoured company, pronounced harks-koch-sheez-oh) allows you to field all of the above vehicle options as well as the divisions’ supporting infantry, artillery and German allies. There are a great variety of options inside this company.

Hungarian infantry and Panthers

You can field Ervin Tarczay’s five-Panther company (see below) who fought throughout the Hungarian campaign, the Tigers in the Ukraine or the more humble Turán and Panzer IV companies that made up the bulk of the two divisions’ tanks. 

Hungarian armoured forces can also take advantage of the Huszár national special rule which allows you to gain an extra 4”/10cm move instead of shooting, handy if you are flanking the enemy and taking advantage of terrain to hide your movement.

Hungarian Zrinyi assault howitzers supporting German Grenadiers I particularly like the Rohamágyús Üteg (assault gun battery, pronounced ro-ham-ar-goose ew-teg) as this was a new branch of the Hungarian Army and fought throughout the campaign all around Hungary.
It used the fourth of the Hungarian-produced vehicles, the Zrínyi assault howitzer. When the Hungarians set about creating their assault gun forces they designed the Zrínyi with what they had available. They paired an expanded medium tank hull with their own 105mm field howitzer, both produced within their own armaments industry. This created the Zrínyi II assault howitzer. It was issued to the first and third of the assault gun battalions created. Both these battalions went on to notch up a remarkable record with this homegrown weapon.

The US began bombing Hungarian factories in 1944 and not enough Zrínyi assault howitzers could be produced to fill the needs of all eight assault gun battalions. The Hungarians turned to the Germans and were supplied with StuG G assault guns and Hetzer tank-hunters to equip more battalions. In the end some units fought with a mix of vehicles and in Budapest the assault gun battalions were formed into a group, often fighting alongside each other in ad hoc battle groups.

A Rohamágyús Üteg can be fielded to represent almost all of the situations the Hungarian assault artillery fought in. You can field a force with all the same type of assault gun, or field a force with platoons of different types.

Zrinyi II
They are often supported by troops from the armoured and infantry divisions who they fought alongside. Support can include armour, anti-tank, infantry, reconnaissance, artillery, anti-aircraft and air support.
Street Fighting The third type of Hungarian company is based on the infantry forces fighting in defence of Budapest. Like the German Panzergrenadierkompanie, the Hungarian Önkéntes Puskás Század (volunteer rifle company, pronounced un-ken-tesh push-kars sar-zod) can use Field Fortifications, including the new Street Barricade. These forces can be regular troops such as riflemen from the two infantry divisions inside the city, the various police battalions, or other temporary formations of army troops.

These are rated Confident Trained. Alternatively they can be from the various volunteer battalions made up of workers, students or fascist militia who are rated Fearless Conscript.

These lightly equipped riflemen are supported in battle by a huge selection of options, from Hungarian assault guns and German panzers to pioneers, more volunteers and artillery. You can pretty much guarantee no two Önkéntes Puskás Század forces will look the same.

While the Hungarian infantry does not get to take advantage of the Huszár special rule, they do get full use of the two other Hungarian national special rules. With Preparing for the Coming Storm they get to re-roll to Dig In, very useful in battles where they may not be taking advantage of their fortifications, but find themselves on the defensive. They can also take advantage of Local Knowledge. During the battle for Budapest Hungarian forces would use the sewage and drainage systems to launch surprise attacks. With this rule you can place an Immediate Ambush with an infantry or gun platoon at the beginning of your first turn.

The Romanians

The Allies are not neglected in Stalin’s Europe and once again my desire to focus on more than the Soviets and Germans alone led me to include the Romanians. The Romanians had a long-standing animosity with the Hungarians over territory on their Transylvanian border. Their troops mobilised on the border played an important role delaying Hungarian thrusts towards the mountain passes in September 1944. They held them long enough for the Red Army to cross the mountains and mass on the Hungarian border.

Romanian Pages
The Romanians joined the Soviets when they invaded Hungary and fought south of the tank battles at Debrecen, concentrating on forcing their way across the Tisza River. Eventually they assaulted Budapest before being moved north to invade Czechoslovakia.
Romanian artillery is attacked by Hungarian Hetzers The bulk of their forces in Hungary were infantry, and that is what I’ve focused on in Stalin’s Europe. Like the forces in Eastern Front, the Romanian infantry fights in battalions in Flames Of War. This makes them a formidable force able to withstand some serious punishment. They are also backed up by the Soviets, from morale-boosting advisors to Red Army tanks and assault guns.
They also bring some of their own unique equipment to the table, including the powerful TAC 43 Resita 75mm gun. This gun was designed taking elements of all the gun designs encountered by the Romanians to produce one of the best 75mm anti-tank guns of the war.  It was put into mass production and shipped to as many divisions as possible.
Romanian TAC 43 Resita 75mm anti-tank gun
The Romanian national special rules include some familiar from Eastern Front, and one new rule. If you’re a keen follower of the Romanians (like Phil is) you will already be familiar with the Peasant Army rule. This rule means that the Motivation and Skill of each of your companies or platoons can vary. However, in Stalin’s Europe you will find the selection of options different from Mid-war. The Romanians have a chance to fight their enemy, the Hungarians, and regain lost parts of Transylvania. Therefore their Motivation has improved for the Regular and Elite troops. Romanians still re-roll Motivation tests in assaults, but we have changed the name of this rule to Hated Enemy to reflect their animosity towards the Hungarians. The Romanians retain French Doctrine, allowing them to fire over friendly teams while entrenched, but loose Central Fire Control because they now field whole Artillery Battalions rather than individual batteries.
Finally we have added a Soviet Battalion Komissar to reflect the Soviet practice of placing advisors or liaison officers with Romanian units to ensure they did what the Soviets wanted. The Soviets have often been accused of using the Romanians like cannon fodder, feeding them in to weaken the enemy before sending in Soviet troops to finish them off.
Romanian artillery hold off a Hungarian attack
The presence of a Soviet battalion Komissar gives a big Romanian company the chance to use the Soviet Quantity of Quality rule if taking sustained fire.
Soviet Pages

The Soviet Red Army

No book on the Eastern Front would be complete without the Soviet Red Army. We focus on two different Soviet formations in Stalin’s Europe, the 9th Guards Mechanised Corps and their lend-lease Sherman tanks and the assault groups of the rifle divisions assaulting Budapest.

Having read Dmitriy Loza’s excellent book (Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks) on his campaigns as a tank commander I was keen to include him and the 76mm M4A2 Sherman tanks of his corps.

The 76mm M4A2 Sherman offers an interesting alternative to the T-34/85 tank; they have similar guns and the same frontal armour. However, the Sherman has the advantage of Protected Ammo, which when combined with the Fearless guards troops means they are almost always guaranteed to recover from Bailed Out results. Loza himself is a skilled and experienced tank commander and we’ll take a look at his abilities below.

Supporting the 9th Guards Mechanised Corps were some of the first SU-100 tank killers to see action. 

M4 76mm (76mm M4A2 Sherman) 'Emcha'
SU-100 The SU-100 has the powerful 100mm anti-tank gun and in Flames Of War works like a finger of death. Its high anti-tank rating and good firepower means it pretty much destroys anything it hits. The Soviets mounted a 100mm gun on a T-34 chassis to create the SU-100. Additional armour was also added for better protection.

It was fitted with a cupola for improved commanders’ visibility. Its most important asset is the 100mm D-10S gun, whose only drawback was its huge shell, of which the vehicle only carried 34 rounds. However, it could penetrate the armour of almost every vehicle in the German arsenal.

To represent the Soviet forces assaulting Budapest we introduce the Shturmovye Batalon (Assault Battalion, pronounced Shturm-ov-ye Ba-ta-lon). 

By the time they are fighting in Budapest the Red Army has improved on its approach to urban warfare from the tactics developed during the Battle for Stalingrad in 1942. The Red Army rifle divisions formed Shturmovye Groups for the assault on Budapest. Formed from the best men and equipped with submachine-guns and a variety of heavy weapons, these groups can be tailored before each game to give you the right equipment for the job. Anything from heavy machine-guns to 122mm howitzers can be taken to aid the Shturmovye soldiers in their fighting.
Colour pages
The divisional support of either company reflects the massive arsenal at the disposal of the Soviet commanders. Assault guns, tanks, anti-tank, infantry, and artillery can all support your battalion.
Föhadnagy Ervin Tarczay

Föhadnagy Ervin Tarczay

In Stalin’s Europe we introduce our first Hungarian Warrior, Ervin Tarczay (pronounced, ehir-vin tarts-zay). Tarczay first commanded a Turán II tank in the Ukraine in 1944, before moving into a Tiger I E heavy tank when the 2nd Armoured Division received some as replacements in May 1944. He fought with great distinction during the withdrawal to Hungary. Once back in Hungary he was once again reequipped, this time with a Panther A tank. He commanded a company of five Panther A tanks during the fighting in Transylvania in September and continued to make a name for himself and his company in October as the 2nd Armoured Division fought to hold the Soviet advance on the Tisza River. By November he was fighting to hold back the Soviet encirclement of Budapest. He continued to fight in Panther and Panzer IV tanks until his death from wounds in March 1945.

Tarczay was a true fighting commander and his special rules reflect this. Due to his particular aggression the Around the Flanks rule allows him to make a German Stormtrooper move instead a Huszár move. This means he can still shoot since his extra move is now in the Assault Step. He can still use the Huszár rule instead. He can also use this rule with any platoon he joins. 

The As Straight as an Arrow reflects his crews’ amazing accuracy with their tank’s main gun. He can re-roll misses for his tank.

Finally the Destroy those Anti-tank Guns! rule covers Tarczay’s liking for assaulting guns. On many occasions he would lead assaults on enemy gun positions, crushing them under his tracks, seemingly unaffected by defensive fire. He can re-roll any failed saves when hit by gun teams in defensive fire.

Gvardeyskiy Kapitan Dmitriy Loza

Gvardeyskiy Kapitan Dmitriy Loza is the Soviet Warrior featured in Stalin’s Europe. He is a company commander in the 46th Guards Tank Brigade of the 9th Guards Mechanised Corps. He fought with the corps through the entire war, ending his campaigns in the Far East crushing the Japanese under his Emcha tracks in Manchuria.

During a Flames Of War game he has a number of abilities to aid his company and battalion. Very handy when attacking enemy in Missions with Prepared Positions is the Spetsnaz Loza special rule, which allows him to Infiltrate his company and an infantry company at the start of the game.

The Second in Command special rule is great if your enemy manages to snipe out your battalion commander and he doesn’t make a Warrior save. It means Loza can take over and make Company Morale Checks when required.

With the Battle Tested special rule Loza can go about his business moving, shooting and making himself useful without impacting the Hen and Chicks special rule that the rest of his company has to obey. They effectively ignore him when it comes to working out whether they can move and shoot.

Gvardeyskiy Kapitan Dmitriy Loza
Gvardeyskiy Kapitan Dmitriy Loza

When Battle Tested is combined with the Emcha Gunner special rule you will find Loza can make a real nuisance of himself to the enemy, giving him ROF 3 when stationary and ROF 2 while on the move.

Plus there is a lot more inside Stalin’s Europe! I hope you enjoy Stalin’s Europe as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you’d like to find out more pick yourself up a copy of Stalin’s Europe.


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