Monday, February 25, 2013

Stablilizing the Iron Curtain

A Headless Body production.

Location: Showcase Comics, Granite Run Mall, Pennsylvania
Tournament: Whiteout!
Game: Flames of War Late War 1780 points
Mission: Breakthrough
Players: Phil Gardocki, Legkiy Samokhodno-Artillyeriyskiy Polk (attacker)
                 Robert Everson , 2nd Infantry Division(defender)

The Forces:
2nd Tank Army's 1st Battalion, 1441st SU Regiment, 1/307th Tank Company, 208th Flak Company, 5/1441 Reconnaissance Company (Confident, Trained), 89th Guards Mortar Battalion (Fearless Trained).

A total of 15 SU-122's in 4 Batteries, 10 T-34's (5 76's, 5 85's), 8 Katyushas, 2 DShk AA trucks in 1 battery, 3 ZSU 17's, and 5 Recon Rifle/MG teams.

American (Confident, Veteran) 2 Platoons of Infantry, nicknamed "Wood Elves" because of their high movement rate in the woods.  One Platoon of Sherman M4A3's, one recon unit,
Mission: Breakthrough. Each side places one objective.  Attacker wins if he takes either objective.  Defender starts with half their Platoons off board.  Attacker starts with at least 1, and up to half of his platoons on a flank march.

The Board:
4 by 6 feet. 
April 1945, West of Erfurt, Germany.  Snow is still on the ground, but muddy conditions exist.  All hills and fords are bog checks, all streams are skill checks. 

This mission has the Soviets set up on the right side of the board, and the Americans on both corners.  The Objective is in the unoccupied corner.

View from the left edge of the board.
The Americans deployed on the far left side of the board.  Soviets are off camera to the right.
Another Platoon of Wood Elves near the center of the board.  Shermans with 76's are behind the hill.
Soviet deployment on the right side of the board.  The 3/1441 and 4/1441st SU Batteries, the 89th Guards Mortar Battalion, and the 208th Flak Company.

Hefting himself out of his tank, Kapitan Petrov surveyed the terrain around him.    It was a cold April morning.  Icy snow was still prominent on the landscape.  Like some great baker had just dusted the ground with corn starch. But the ground was warming and the snow was treacherous and slippery with mud. Not the Rasputitsa currently afflicting Mother Russia, but bad enough.  The war was almost over, and his thoughts were no longer about killing the enemy, heroics and glory, but to just survive the damn thing. 

The stream ahead was running fast, providing little areas to cross.  He sent half his force on a sweep to look for better ground and to “liberate” as much of Germany as possible.  That was the game now.  The Westerners were out there, taking the Bosch from behind.  They had the easy job.  They sat on their damn island for 3 years while we bled in our millions.  Then 10 months ago, they land in the middle of summer and race across France chasing a defeated enemy.  Even then they took their time.  They stopped advancing in September.  What is this, a part time war?  But now that we are in Germany proper, they were back in the race again, occupying the Ruhr and northern Germany.  While we still bleed in our millions. 

Kommisar Ivan Inanovitch Ivanovsky assured him we will be fighting them soon.  The Germans have collapsed, and they will take us while we are weakest.  Petrov hoped not, but if so, then let them come!

Turn 1:
My main strategy is to rely on the flank march.  If the 1/307th Tank Company, with 9 T-34's show up on time, I can be sitting on the objective before the infantry can approach or dig in.  In addition, I intended to pin the Shermans in the center of the board in place to defend the other objective, but sending my two SU batteries at the stream.  I had no intention of getting close unless the Shermans depart.

I now get a lession on the Second Infantry, aka the Indian Head Division's special ability.  The infantry can doubletime in the woods.  Earning them the nickname, "Wood elves".  This will put them on the objectives two full turns earlier than I thought.  The Shermans in the center exposed themselves to one of my batteries, firing at both long range and stabilizers (-2)

2 Batteries of SU's posturing at the stream.  A road side attraction of the Worlds Largest Glue bottle is in the forefront.

Kapitan Petrov had sent the 4/1441st battery to check if the ford ahead was passable.  They should be reporting soon.  Then the concussion of guns hit him. 

“’Tchyo za ga ‘lima?” swore Kapitan Petrov.  He had good hearing, and he like to think he could distinguish between a German 75mm PaK from a Panther, and could certainly tell the difference between the sharp 5cm crack, and the boom of a 105.  This sound was different.  It was certainly in the 75mm range, but lacked crispness of German munitions.  There followed other explosions he knew too well.  The sound of hot 122 ammo brewing off.

He took the radio headset from his radioman. Not the one assigned to him, but the one he acquired late one night many months ago.  This radio was tuned to frequencies used by the Guards units.  Sometimes it was his only reliable source of information.

“Corporal Dryagin, report!” commanded Kapitan Poritonski. 
This was good, for Petrov knew from experience that Dryagin was one of the Guard’s spotters.  They tend to be on high ground, and have binoculars.

“Comrade Kapitan!  I am observing our SU Batteries at the stream taking fire and it looks like all of them are burning!  I see enemy tanks along the woods in the distance, passing the coordinates now."

Petrov handed the headset back to his radio man.  “Get me Kapitan Badinuff.” He ordered…

M4A3's take a long range shot, with stabilizers, and totally destroy the 3/1441 SU Battery.  One Platoon of Wood Elves already hold an objective.
Turn  2:
"No plan survives contact with the enemy."  That applies here as well.
With two batteries of SU's I could challenge the Shermans, but with only one, no.  I decide to pull back out of sight but in a position to challenge the center objective if an opportunity presents itself.  If my flank march arrives as soon as possible, I can still assault the far objective, then squeeze the Americans from front and back.  The Americans did a good job of keeping to cover, and I was unable to sight anyone from my spotter.  I have trouble with WYSIWYG terrain.  I can't image that a hill is not taller than the trees around it, and can't cant see over them.  So my spotter can't see over all the woods despite being on what I envision as higher ground.  So I move him to a better vantage point.
Americans roll reserves and takes the tank destroyer platoon.  Robert realizes my limitations, and knows I can't seriously challenge the middle objective with what is on the table, and pushes his Shermans to the other objective.  I get one break though, the left most infantry platoon, failed it's skill check to dig in.  If my tanks come on turn 3, I could kill on average 4 teams from MG fire, and a few more from the Kats.

Turn 2, and the Americans are already on the objective.  Tank Destroyers arrive in the upper right side of the picture.

Turn 3:
Sorry, no pictures.  I rolled my reserves, and both Robert and I saw the 5 up as the dice slided before hitting something, and it turned to a 2.  Easily the game hinged on that die roll.  The battle was still going to be on the left flank, and I started redeployment of my on table assets to support the left flank. 

Americans roll reserves.  A jeep recon platoon.  They drive up to my spotter, and hose him with 12 dice of .50 cal fire.  Ending the career of Corporal Dryagin, and effectively taking out my Katyushas.

Turn 4:
Soviets roll reserves. Kapitan Badinuff's 1/307th T-34 Tank Company arrives.  They line up for what will be the do-or-die assault for the objective.  But the Americans are prepared, and while my MG fire pins them, they are largely unhurt.  The assaulting tanks have one killed and 2 bailed, and so retreat.  
Off the bottom of the picture frame, I try to get the 208th Flak Company to engage the Jeeps, and kill one.

The on board Shermans destroy one of my on board SU's, then the Americans pop the Tank Destroyers, and between them, and 5 bazookas, take the 1/307 to its motivation level, which it fails, (for the first time ever) and flees.  At this point I resign. 

Turn 4, after the assault, but before the TD's pop, which they will, at the top of the hill.

Not much to see here.  All the targets are off the bottom of the picture.
"Cease Fire, Cease Fire", you idiots, shouted Kapitan Petrov.  Ignoring the rounds exploding around him, he bailed from his tank, running towards the "enemy".  As one, the green monsters rotated their turrets tracking the crazy man waving his hands.  But none of the fired.  He tore off his coat, waving it manically, as the field grew eerily silent...
Lessons learned:
Know your enemies capabilities.  Knowing the double timing infantry might have changed the plan.

Lead with the T-34's.  While this Battalion wins on the force of its SU's, this only works using the T-34's as a shield.  This plan was faulty in that I had most of my points off board, in delayed reserves.  Giving my opponent both the terrain, and local superiority. 

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