Looking for something a bit different in your WW2 games? How about these partisans fighting the forgotten war behind enemy lines?

These miniatures are a mix of Black Tree Designs and Warlord.  They’re similar in size and style, although I find the Warlord ones are slightly more varied and characterful, and a more consistent scale. As I mentioned in my first review of the Black Tree partisans, there are some pretty extreme size differences between figures in that range. But they’re supposed to look rag-tag, right?

I’ve now got two squads with rifles, plus troops with LMGs, SMGs and some supports such as AT rifles. I’ve got two senior leaders, a civilian and an army officer. Some of my regular army Soviets such as Maxim teams and AT guns can do double duty behind enemy lines. I’ve still got enough in the lead pile for two more rifle squads, I’ll get to those soon but this is enough to game with for now.

Who were the partisans?

The word “partisan” takes in a huge range of different groups. The classic partisan group was a Soviet paramilitary unit operating in occupied territory. But even amongst these there was a lot of variation. Troops could be drawn  from local volunteers, or in many cases were Red Army troops who had been cut off by the advancing Germans, or who escaped from poorly-guarded POW columns marching through the vast wilderness. Some were even deserters from German units, especially Ostruppen who may have been conscripted or only  joined the Wehrmacht to escape the appalling conditions in the POW camps.

As the war went on more and more regular troops and weapons were infiltrated through the front line, and partisan groups became increasingly well-organised and equipped. Their leaders held military rank, and the individual partisans were in theory soldiers in the Red Army and subject to military discipline. Indeed, once areas were liberated many partisans were absorbed into regular units. Areas under partisan control were often administered under Soviet law and were effectively enclaves of the USSR behind German lines. The civilians supported the partisans with food, and the partisans gave  medical assistance, provided news of the war the Germans suppressed, and administered (the Soviet version of) law and order.

The partisans operated from hidden bases deep in the forests, into which German units generally did not dare go unless in strength.

There were plenty of other partisan groups though, and not all of them were friendly with the communist units. Anti-communists, nationalists, Jews and local bandits all hit the Germans and sometimes fought the Moscow-backed partisans too. A return to being ruled by Moscow was not always seen as a more attractive option than being occupied by the Germans, especially early on before the realities of Nazi policy towards Slavs became obvious.

Partisans in Chain of Command

There have been a couple of other partisan lists bounced around, the most official one being the one in the Winter Storm scenario book. In that one you dice to see how many men you have, but apart from that it’s a fixed platoon. I don’t think that quite feels right for an irregular unit. Partisan units may have theoretically been organised along military lines, but in reality they were extremely variable in equipment and quality. So I wrote my own list that I think represents a more partisan “feeling” force.

Download the Partisan List

Basically the core platoon is tiny; only two squads with rifles and a small HQ. But the super-low force rating this gives you means you’ll always have plenty of support points to bolt on extra bits to suit your mission. You can get extra rifle squads, or you can upgrade squads by giving them machine guns. Or you can call in specialists such as close assault troops, regular army squads or support weapons.

All the core partisans are Green, but you’ve got the option to add in some regular troops, representing ex-army or veteran partisans, or specialist weapon crews who’ve been infiltrated to bolster the partisans. This means you could well have a mixed green/regular force.

Partisans are also going to be fighting a different type of war to what CoC normally represents. I’ve rolled up some ideas for scenarios and a sample campaign here:

Chain of Command partisan campaign

It’s not a ladder campaign like your standard Pint-Sized Campaign, it’s got a flow chart and is designed to be short and snappy (3-6 games maximum). The German force includes the Green security platoon listed here, with a regular platoon armed and equipped as standard line infantry coming to rescue their besieged outpost.

I’ve not play tested the campaign, so any feedback is gratefully received. I hope you enjoy a quick dip into a fascinating and little-wargamed side of the war!