Thursday, August 30, 2012

Monty's Pythons Meet The Russians

A Headless Body Production
Location: The Ice House, Newark Delaware.
Players:    Phil Gardocki, American Armored Company (attacker)
                 Marcus Abraitis, Soviet Mechanized Company (defender)

Game: Flames of War, Mid War, 1750 points
The Forces:
Monty’s Pythons: (Confident, Trained) "Monty’s Pythons", the 2nd Squadron, 12th "Three Rivers” Regiment, 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, Currently TAD, Temporarily Assigned Duty, to the American 4th Armored Division.
7 Sherman’s, 2 with command and 5 in a single Platoon. 1 Recon Platoon of 3 Stuarts, 1 section of 2 M-10 Tank Destroyers, one Recon Platoon of 4 teams. 2 Batteries of 3 Priests.   Led by Major General Harmon.

Soviet (Fearless, Trained) Mechanized Company  
5 T-34/76’s, 4 SU-85’s, 1 Motorized Heavy Mortar Company of 6 12cm mortars,  2 Razvedki Platoons, sporadic air support

Mission: Hasty Attack, Soviets are receiving.  3 objectives are placed, one is removed by the attacker after deployment.  Attacker wins if the objective is taken, defender wins after turn 6 if there are no attackers on the defensive side of the board.

The Board:
4 by 6 feet.    A large hill (slow going) dominates the "left" side of the board.  There is road running connecting the long edges of the board running along the hill, with several buildings along it.  While a long creek runs almost center line from right side for about 3.5 feet.  Woods are liberally scattered over the playing field.  In addition, the two main tree lines visible are also sitting on large hills and classified as slow going.  
From the perspective of the "Left" side of the board.  The bottom of the picture is one large hill that is all "slow going

The Deployment:
The Soviets start with half their forces on the board.  He placed the T-34 Platoon in a woods between two objectives.  A single Razvedki Platoon covered two objectives as well.  The Platoon of SU-85’s was on the reverse side of a ridge in immediate ambush awaiting orders to move out.   

The Americans started with one Battery of Priests, deployed reverse side of a ridge of a hill.  The Stuarts were set up to run along the large left side hill, while the Reconnaissance Platoon was deployed on the road.
American Deployment, 3 Stuarts followed by General Harmon.  Two staff tanks.  Priest battery in the upper frame.  The infantry teams are actually embarked on the jeeps and half-tracks obscured by the trees.
Soviet Razvedki Platoon deployed covering 2 objectives, one of which was removed.
While the T-34's hide in the woods near the other objective.  The SU-85's were in immediate ambush and haven't deployed yet.

Up to now, I have tried to have the Monty’s Python’s Battle Reports have a reasonably accurate historical reference to write against.  That is not going to happen here.  I could invent some contrivance of an accidental encounter in Mid-1945, or claiming some odd German unit with captured Soviet equipment.  But that would be boring and tedious.  We’ll go with the George Orwell concept of, the enemy is Russia, the enemy has always been Russia.  

Also, for this tournament I have opted to play the Americans vice the Canadians.  I have found that the main advantages of the Canadian armor, that of Semi Indirect Fire, is not conducive to tournament play.  It just takes too long.  While the Stabilizers of the American Army are conducive to tournament play.  So Monty’s Pythons have been temporarily assigned (TAD) to the American 4th Armored division.

Captain Palen began the briefing, "And now for something completely different.  Our scouts have just hit a Soviet blocking force, and we need to remove it before they get a chance at reinforcements."

 “Lieutenant Idle, you will take your Reconnaissance Platoon to the side of Hill 617, and take up enfilade firing positions by that copse of trees and throw their line out of joint.”

“Say no more.” replied Lieutenant Idle.

“Sergeant Gumby, you will run your Reconnaissance platoon up the road and not be seen.  Just salute your acknowledgement, BBC rules for extras state that if you speak, we have to pay you 200 pounds, but if you just salute, it’s only 50.”

Sergeant Gumby throws a proper salute and shouts, “Yes Sir. Understood Sir!”

The officers all groan, “Oh no, now we’re 150 pounds over budget!”

Reconnaissance Move:
My thought here was to go for a quick win.  Take advantage of the high speed of the Stuarts, and the jeeps on the road, and use General Harmon’s ability to push another 4 inches of movement, to take the left most objective, while bombarding the T-34’s with smoke to keep their shots at minimal effectiveness.

Part of the plan went bad immediately, as I realized that the General Harmon didn’t move during the Reconnaissance move and so was too far behind to lend aid to the Reconnaissance teams.  The other Reconnaissance team, moved at full speed up to the buildings.
Recon Teams pull out.

Turn 1:

And so it was, the Stuarts were about 2 inches short of the objective at the end of turn 1.  The other Reconnaissance team, dismounted, and entered the buildings.  General Harmon raced up the same road in case he was needed.

Lieutenant Jones, "Who's that then?"
Lieutenant Cleese, "Must be a General."
Lieutenant Jones, "Why?"
Lieutenant Cleese, "He hasn't got crap all over him."

This was where my plan fell apart.  The Soviet player was not coming out of the woods.  So could only be spotted from 6 inches away.  My platoon leaders were both within 6”, but both had moved, and so couldn’t spot for the artillery.  So much for smoking the T-34’s in.

What’s that buzzing noise?  Is it a bird? is it a plane?  Oh, it’s a plane.  A Soviet biplane, used mainly for night time harassment.  It didn’t so much as attack as hovered over the Priest Battery.  Moving so slow, that the AA gunners, used to leading the target, all missed.  The pilot drifted by, flipping both the bird and a Molotov cocktail out of the cockpit, setting fire to the Priest Gun #1.  
First Stuart flamed.  Sergeant Gumby's Recon team is dismounted in the buildings.
Priest Gun Number 1, killed by air strike.

Turn 2:

I successfully rolled reserves, and decided to bring in the other battery of priests.  When my Shemans charge up the road, I want plenty of support.  The only visible target for the artillery at this point is the Soviet Infantry, so I gave them a barrage and pinned them.
Command Shermans gingerly step out.  Soviet T-34's come to edge of the woods and destroy the recon Stuarts.
Once again, Lieutenant Idle is faced with the choice of death or dishonor, and chooses dishonor, taking General Harmon with him.
Turn 3:
 Americans rolled reserves and brought in the platoon of 5 Shermans.

Poorly photographed, but revealing the SU-85's have taken some artillery fire, killing one, bailing another, this was then followed up by direct fire smoke from the command team.
While the short Priest Battery smokes the T-34's.
Turn 4:
The Shermans roared up the road, firing with stabilizers and picked up the SU-85's.  The reserve Tank Destroyer Platoons also rolled in with their jeeps roaring 24 inches up the road.  In response the Soviets retreat their T-34's into the woods where they can't be seen.  This is novel, after fighting Tigers and Panthers, to have tanks actually retreating from my Shermans. 

"Karl Marx, you may know your proletariat from your bourgeoisie, but do you know who won the cup final in 1939?" screamed Lieutenant Gilliam.

Off in the distance, between the explosions of the guns, was heard a faint, "The workers' control of the means of production? The struggle of the urban proletariat?"

"No you stupid git, it was Portsmouth over Wembley 4-1!"

Fire Mrs Nesbeth!
Firing Mrs Nesbeth!
The Shermans could not be seen by the T-34's
Soviet reserves rolled on, near the objective I planned to take.  Its the Mortar Platoon.
Turn 5:
With the SU-85's gone, I am going to switch my Shermans to the left most objective.  To that end I gave the mortars a barrage, killing 2 teams.  I sneaked the Recon Platoon commander from one building to the one closest to the woods for a spotting effort.

Now what was I thinking?  To put the a single spotter 6 inches away from no less than 3 tanks that could shoot him.  21 dice later and all I could think of was he had a lucky cigarette case that could stop 7.6cm rounds, because every shot missed!
Command Teams charging on the left, 1st Tank Platoon on the right.
Turn 6:
The Shermans shift targets to the center objective, approach, shoot and charge, but are repulsed on the counterattack.  Next turn would be 4 tanks verses 2 infantry teams for the objective, but the game was called on time.  Making this a Soviet victory.

End Game called on time.  Shermans shift targets to the center objective, as I can move faster,  off the hills.  This should have been an easy fight against 3 infantry teams.  Tank Destroyers covering the T-34's should they show themselves.

Lessons learned:
Know your enemy.  This was the first time I faced a Soviet Army, and while I knew some of the restrictions on them I was not aware of them all.  Also, my play has been influenced by playing against Tigers and Panthers.  To have an opponent that was retreating before my Shermans was a novelty.

Don't use a high command to save a 1 element platoon unless there is an overriding imperative to do so.  It's not worth a 50/50 shot.  Had the last tank in the recon platoon been sitting on the objective, then it would have been worth while.

Plus, The Soviet Commander, Marcus wound up coming in second in the tournament,  so having a close loss against the next best player of the day isn't to bad.



  1. Enjoyable read, like all of your reports. I do like the Mission Briefing and storylines you create in your AARs.

  2. Thanks. Complements give a plus to writing motivation checks. One more is completed, and another is in the works. Stay tuned.