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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bolt Action - The Hungarian Army Expands!

I have been collecting Hungarian forces for Bolt Action for over three years now and seem to be constantly adding new units. It's been two years since I last wrote about how this army project was going so prepare for a big update! The collection now covers both early and late war units.

The Royal Hungarian Army (Magyar Királyi Honvédség)

Given the size of her armies, the battles they fought and the casualties it sustained, Hungary's participation in the war remains obscure in the West. This could be in part due to the fact that her fighting was all on the Eastern Front and she never faced Western troops, yet the Royal Hungarian Army suffered approximately 300,000 deaths in combat - almost the same number as Italy, the UK or USA, and all from a much smaller population.

Hungary certainly feels like a "Forgotten Nation" of WW2. Yet her story is no less interesting in comparison to more well-known Axis allied nations like Finland or Italy, who at first fought alongside Germany and later sought to extricate themselves from the conflict with varying degrees of success. The development of Hungarian Armour is of particular note, as she was the only one of Germany's Eastern allies with a substantial industrial base to have armour development of her own.

During 2016, I managed to finish painting up all my resin vehicles I got through the Mad Bob Miniatures kickstarter. These Hungarian tanks are all now available to non-backers so I thought I would take you through some of the unique vehicles the Hungarians have. Lets start with my late war additions for 1944-45 gaming.

The Turán tank

This series of tanks would be the equivalent of other nations medium tank, but was the Hungarians heaviest. Basically the equivalent of a Panzer III, it was ordered in 1942 but didn't arrive on the battlefield until 1944, by then already obsolete.

The Hungarian crews drew on their traditional Hussar cavalry tradition and through bold maneuvering, they made up for the technically deficiencies and proved to be able to hold their own against the superior Soviet tanks.

The Turán tank series had 3 types, the main gun being the difference. There was the 40M with a 40mm gun, the 41M with an up gunned 75mm gun and the prototype 43M with a long barreled 75mm, the equivalent of a Panzer IV.

In Bolt Action terms it is a medium armoured (9+) tank with either a light or medium AT gun and two MMGs (hull mounted and co ax in the turret). The 43M does not feature in the list as not many were made or saw action, but you can easily use the Panzer IV rules to 'counts as' with it's heavy AT gun.

In itself it isn't a remarkable tank rules wise, but I just love the unique look of them covered in rivets. With the 2nd edition of the Bolt Action rules it is even more important to have some mobile AT, and the extra dice for MMGs make the Turan tank a decent threat to infantry. The models are all resin kits from Mad Bob Miniatures. Here is a quick guide on how I painted them.

For the crew I have used the metal Italian tank crew from Warlord Games, and simply added some mustaches and painted them the appropriate colour. The Hungarian crews wore the same leather helmet and overalls so it's an easy choice with no Hungarian models available.

You can get a fantastic set of 1/56th Hungarian vehicle decals also from Mad Bob Miniatures. These transfers really help give the vehicles their unique look and the set covers both early and late war markings.

Assault Pioneers

The Hungarian army featured an excellent Engineering core and it's Assault Pioneers were particularity tough fighting troops. It seems the Hungarians followed the German doctrine of using well trained infantry equipped with all manner of close assault weapons and explosives to lead attacks on enemy positions or to support tanks. Possibly due to their shared experiences in the First World War.

I have more info here on how to model up basic Hungarian infantry, so I started with that. To make them Pioneers I added plenty of extra equipment like mines, grenade bundles, shovels and backpacks full of more gear. I obtained all these metal parts from The Assault Group, and their range of loose equipment 'bits'. It's a fantastic resource for conversions!

Included in the unit is a flame thrower. The Hungarian Assault Pioneers carried 1-2 per platoon to help them in their grim task of storming enemy defenses. I have used the Warlord Games German one and given him a more Hungarian looking head.

Panzer 38(t) Hetzer 

The Hungarians recieved many German tanks and assault guns in the last stage of the war to help make up for losses they could not replace with their limited industrial capacity. The Hetzer was the second most common of these vehicles and featured in the Assault Gun Battalions they raised with their own Zrinyi (more on this later). I have two Hungarian Hetzers in the collection now thanks to Rubicon Models amazing plastic kit. Here is my full review of this great kit with more photos. The plain Dunkelgelb hull gives a nice variety to the normal dark green on the other tanks and assault guns.

81mm Mortar battery

Because I have chosen to make my Hungarians in an autumn/winter setting and use models wearing greatcoats, I didn't have much option for support weapons in this clothing until 2016. Warlord Games plastic winter Soviets have allowed me to convert up all manner of support weapons, including these medium mortars. To give them the Hungarian look I have added German heads in side caps or helmets and of course a few mustaches in the mix. The mortars themselves are metal and come from The Assault Group, these are actually US mortars.

Zrinyi Assault Gun Battery

Yes that's a full battery of 3 assault guns! I simply couldn't help myself as these are my favorite of Hungary's unique armoured fighting vehicles. The Zrinyi was a direct copy of the German Stug concept, meant to be organic AT support for Hungary's infantry divisions. This vehicle is closer to the German StuH 42, as it is armed with a 105mm howitzer. That thing is an infantry killer!

Again this vehicle has a very unique 'Hungarian' look. A very low silhouette and covered in rivets! The miniatures are resin kits by Mad Bob miniatures and are essentially one piece hull's with a separate gun and hatches. There is also the option for some mesh armour on the sides that functioned like the German 'Schürzen' side skirts.

During the final campaigns in Galicia and Hungary itself, the Assault Gun Battalions fielded by Hungary were perfect for the defensive nature of the fighting. Considered an elite arm, the artillerymen who crewed the vehicles were well trained and motivated. They used a mix of vehicles including the Zrinyi, Hetzer and StuG. This gives me a nicely themed force to represent with my models in Tank War games.

I recently played in a Tank War event here in Sydney, featuring 1500pt armies. I was able to field a full battery of 3 Zrinyis, 2 Hetzers and various support units. The Zrinyis were actually tricky to use against enemy tanks as their medium howitzers are only +3 penetration. Instead of taking the enemy tanks head on, I often used all three vehicles to lay down a thick smoke screen as they advanced, and let the Hetzers snipe the enemy tanks. Failing that, I would bombard the enemy tanks and fire indirectly onto their top armour. Your dice need to be hot to pull this off, but a lucky 6 can always come up and knock out a Panther (or two) which did happen!

Early war units

Although my Hungarian force is mainly representative of the 1944-45 campaigns, my infantry models are appropriate for the very early 1941-42 campaigns as well. By simply painting up a range of early vehicles in the correct markings I can change the army significantly.

This is the Toldi 1 light tank, complete with a distinctive 'hoop' aerial that appeared on some reconnaissance tanks. I made the aerial from some wire and used the early war Hungarian national markings from the Mad Bob Hungarian decal sheet. I love the early war national cross as it's a lot more colourful than the later black and white (and more of a target I guess, hence the change)
Although the bulk of my infantry was correct for the early campaigns, I did paint up a new command cadre for the platoon. These models are from The Assault Group, part of their German range. I simply swapped any German peaked caps for a Hungarian side cap, and added a few mustaches. 

Another unique Hungarian vehicle is the Csaba armoured car. This is one of my favourite vehicles and they were an absolute pleasure to paint up. They are resin models with a brass wire aerial (that 'rail' running around the back hull is in fact the radio aerial). This is one of the best Mad Bob kits in the whole range, with superb sculpting. For the crew member, I again use a Warlord Games Italian tank crew figure. I chose one reading a map to convey the recon role these vehicles had.

One of the most distinctive Hungarian AFVs is the Nimrod. This was a Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft vehicle (SPAA). Armed with a 40mm Bofors autocannon, it also found itself on the front line in an Anti-Tank role. In Bolt Action these are fantastic vehicles. Only 90pts and packing a heavy autocannon with 72" range, they can fire on most targets at close range. These are great for taking on enemy light vehicles and even veteran infantry with their HE ability and decent penetration of +3. They do compete against tanks in that slot of your platoon though.

The Hungarians even had their own truck design, the Botond. It looks really different to a German one with it's massive 6 wheel base. I have painted my infantry as part of the motorised arm (with blue collar tabs) so having 3 of these painted up allows me to run a fully transported platoon of infantry if I like. This Mad Bob model comes with a metal driver figure and the option to leave the canvas covers on or off.

One of the heaviest tanks the Hungarians had in 1942 was the Panzer 38(t), which they purchased from the Germans. I have a pair of them to give me a chance against the superior Soviet tanks of the time. The models themselves are actually plastic toys I found for very cheap on ebay! Simply search for 'New Millenium toys Panzer' on ebay and they will turn up. They are about 1:50 in scale, so slightly larger than 1:56 but not as big as 1:48. 

For a full step by step tutorial on how I painted the 'Panzer Grey' hulls, check this article out.

Next up is the humble Anti-Tank Rifle team. The Hungarians used the Solothurn s18-1000 throughout the entire war, and I have used a mix of Warlord Games and Crusader miniatures to make mine for Bolt Action. I will admit, it is not the correct AT Rifle on my model. I have used a combo of the German and Soviet ones to make mine look similar. You can get a Solothurn from the Warlord Games Italian range but I couldn't justify buying the whole team just for the gun!

Last but not least is my favourite early war Hungarian unit, the Hussar squadron. These guys are the iconic unit for the Hungarians. If the Hungarians have contributed one thing to world military culture, it was the Hussar concept. Flamboyant and bold light cavalry were born on the Hungarian plain in the 17th century and were copied by other European nations armies right up to WW2. Sadly, the Hussar was all but obsolete in the face of modern warfare, but the Royal Hungarian army continued to use their cavalry during WW2. In reality they fought on foot most of the time, but the 1st Hussar division did so bravely during Operation Bagration, where it helped hold the line near the Pripet marshes and was highly praised by their German allies.

The miniatures themselves are the German cavalry in side caps, from Crusader miniatures. These are really great sculpts and were easy to convert. Again I simply added mustaches and then cavalry sabres. The sabres I picked up from The Assault Group, in their renaissance range
So there you have it, some highlights of my ever expanding Royal Hungarian Army collection (it's gone way beyond an army now...). In 2017, I plan to add more units including an artillery battery, AT guns, a platoon of elite mountain troops and maybe even some Konflict 47 elements.

If you missed the earlier installments of this project you can check them out here;

Part 1: Infantry


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