How many figures do you have to paint to field a platoon in Chain of Command? 30? 40? 50?

Er, how about thirteen? Yes, this is my new Soviet force, and the core platoon has a grand total of thirteen miniatures. How? Read on…

The Machine Gun Platoon

I’ve chosen an oddball unit for my first Soviet platoon for Chain of Command: a “Fortified Region”. These were regiment-sized units that originally manned belts of concrete fortifications, but after those got overrun they morphed into mobile units designed to hold ground and allow the infantry and tanks to be pulled out of the line and used for offensive operations. The basic unit was a Machine Gun Artillery Battalion, which mixed machine gun platoons with field artillery and AT guns.

The idea is “many weapons, few men”, with a tiny platoon of 13 men manning several machine guns behind field defences and backed up by artillery and other heavy weapons deployed right in the front line. Definitely something a bit different from your normal CoC game. No Soviet swarm tactics here, that’s for sure.

There’s no official list for any of this, of course, so I wrote my own which you can find here: Soviet Machine Gun Platoon.

DP-28 teams

As you can see from the list above the platoon has four machine guns: two of the DP-28 LMGs and two of the big belt-fed Maxim dinosaurs. Since these guys need to be dug in the obvious place to start was with a box of plastics. I managed to pick up a cheap Warlord one a while back, and it comes with a bucketload of infantry sprues, but actually only three weapon sprues. Each one of those has only one DP-28 LMG on it, so I made two dug in ones and kept the third for some dug in infantry support I’ll be making next.

The technique here is similar to my dug in British and Germans. I start with a rectangle of artists’ mounting board (5x6cm for double foxholes, 5×5 for singles). I add a layer of foamcore, cut foxhole size holes in it and then shave back the edges to make a slope, then slap a good layer of acrylic textured gel over the top to cover all the rough bits and joins. That’s lovely stuff, so easy to work with. It’s not messy or smelly, it can be cut and painted, and dries with a rough texture. The revetting on the inside of the foxholes is just coffee stirrers, and besides looking nice and realistic it covers the cut edge of the foamcore.

It’s worth making the foxholes first. Then you can match up the figures to the holes and make sure you cut them off at the right level. I try to get them as low in their holes as possible (they’re being shot at, after all…) but the position of weapons and elbows will often dictate where you need to make the cut. I cut straight through with a razor saw to get a nice clean cut. Easy peasy, but does leave you with a gruesome pile of amputated legs…

These brave lads have put their bodies on the line to save the Motherland from the fascist invaders.

Anyway, into the bin with those!

Maxim Bunkers

The real teeth of the platoon though are the Maxim guns. Everybody is dug-in, but the Maxims have the option of upgrading to bunkers. Given the extreme lack of manpower this seems like a good idea to me, so I’ve built these log bunkers.

Twigs from the garden and matchsticks

There are lots of log bunkers out there on the internet you can buy, but these are often designed to place miniatures inside, so end up looking way too tall. Looking at pictures of real log bunkers they (quite sensibly) are as low to the ground as possible, firing out at knee height (ouch!). So I wanted something low-slung and mean-looking.

Mine are built from just a couple of layers of foamcore slathered in textured acrylic gel. You could use any sort of dense foam and get the same result though.

Some of the “logs” are sticks from my garden, stained with ink. Once the foamcore was roughly cut to shape I started adding sticks and gluing them in place with a generous dob of PVA. To build the roof I made a little “raft”. I used a real stick front and rear as I like the texture, but used cake pop sticks for the rest as it’s easier to work with them because they’re all straight and fit together snugly.

After adding all the logs I coated the whole thing in the acrylic gel to fill all the gaps and cover the foamcore texture. I added heaps of it to the roof to try to make it look buried, with just the ends of the “logs” poking out. When that was dry I coated it in PVA and dipped in my box of nice grotty sand and bits.

Painting was pretty straightforward, I just basecoated in a dark brown house paint then gave it a couple of drybrushes. The sticks got stained with the ink, and the cake pop sticks lightly painted so they sort of matched. The rear entrance to each bunker was left a little rough, as I always planned to cover these with cam nets (made from cheap medical gauze dyed green).

 

Maxim teams

The other option for the Maxim teams is to deploy them in gun pits, and there’s always the option to bring spare guns from the support list (good for ambushes or if there’s good natural cover already). The gun teams are from Black Tree Design, and each one comes with only two crew, so I needed to add a third crewman from the trusty box of Warlord plastics. Normally sustained-fire guns like the Maxim, Vickers and MG42 have a crew of four in CoC, but the machine gun platoons managed to get by with only three men per gun. I guess since they weren’t planning on moving the guns much?

I had some spare vac-formed scrapes from Early War Miniatures kicking around for a while, so I’ve painted these up and they’ll do as small gun pits for these gun teams. I originally intended to mount the guns on small bases that fit inside the scrapes so that they’d be removable, but half way through I realised that this leaves them sitting a bit too high above the parapet, so I ended up gluing one team straight into the scrape and the other is on a removable base. This means I’ve got one Maxim I can use for ambushes or if I want to have a gun move.

Leaders

Each leader has his own foxhole (RHIP!) and I’ve tried to differentiate them a bit with headgear. They probably should be wearing helmets, but hey ho. They’re made from the Warlord plastics as well, you get one officer head and a couple of guys in caps on each sprue, plus copious amounts of SMGs and pistols.

The JLs need to be in the same place as the squads they lead, but the senior leader made me think a bit. Since he might need to move around I wasn’t sure if I should model him in a foxhole or not. Rules-wise it doesn’t make any difference. In the end I went for a foxhole to keep him looking the same as the rest of the platoon.

Markers

As is the way of wargames, you need more than just the troops to play a game. For Chain of Command you also need patrol markers and Jump Off Points. Like many people I like to theme these so they match the platoon.

You can just use figures for the patrol phase. Scouts would be ideal but I haven’t got around to painting any yet, and to be honest I quite like using markers. I’ve done these double-sided, with a big bold Soviet hammer and sickle on one side, and some Soviet propaganda posters on the other side so I can flip them when they get locked. The communist-era propaganda art was always really striking, I’m really pleased with how these have come out.

JOPs left me pondering a bit. Previously I’ve tended to use miniatures on 40mm bases (British, German) and I’ve seen some great ones, but somehow having people standing up and wandering around didn’t quite seem right for a dug in unit. So I ended up going to something quite basic until I think of something better. I think among all the barbed wire and bunkers that’ll be on the table some shell holes should look right.

These shell holes come on a big vacuum-formed sheet from Early War Miniatures. You get 30 of them for £6.50. Like all vac-formed stuff I find the trick is to spray them with plastic primer before doing anything, if you don’t do that even PVA won’t stick to them and will pool.  Once primed you can add some coarse sand, paint and drybrush them a bit. That’s really all they need, although I also added a bit of gloss gel in the bottom of the holes to make them look wet.

The last thing I needed was some way of recording casualties on the bunkers. Each one has a three-man gun crew in it. No worries, Black Tree Designs do casualty figures, so I’ve painted up four of those. The poor buggers.

These figures are really tiny for supposedly 28mm, they only just hang over the edges of a 2p coin. But for something which is just a marker that doesn’t bother me too much. These are slightly on the gruesome side, they’re all missing bits like hands or feet so you’ll need to splash a bit of blood around. I tried to paint them looking a bit pale and dead, but it didn’t really come out very well.

Insert casualties here

What next?

Well, the platoon needs some infantry support to bulk it up a bit. I’m going to build two squads, one dug in and one mobile. They’ll also need loads of heavy weapons, a 45mm AT gun and a 76mm Zis-3 gun will be along shortly, as will a command bunker and  mortars. With a scout squad thrown in that should be about all they need. I’m not going to do any vehicles, and some of this stuff will do double-duty for the Partisans.