Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Assault on Chernobyl, 9th Panzer Division vs 304th Rifle Division

A Headless Body Production

Flames of War After Action Report: Leichte Panzerkompanie vs Strelkovy Batalon
Location: Phils Basement
Game: Flames of War, Early War 1600 points
Mission: Fighting Withdrawal
Players: Phil Gardocki, Leichte Panzerkompanie (
              Steve Turn, Soviet
Strelkovy (defender)

The Forces: The 3rd Leichte Panzerkompanie, 1st Abteilung, 33rd Panzer Regiment, 9th Panzer Division. 5 Zugs containing 3 Panzerbefehlswagens, a recovery vehicle, 4 Pz I’s, 10 Pz IIc’s, 4 Pz IIIe’s, 9 Kradschutzen teams with 6 R/MG’s, Mortar, Light AT, and Leader.  Morale and training level: Confident Veteran.

The 1/807 Strelkovy Batalon, 304th Rifle Division (formally the 109th Mechanized Division) 7 companies with a combined total of 59 Rifle teams, 10 T-26's, 10 45mm AT guns, 5 Komissars, 5 Maksim HMG teams, 3 Flame-throwers and a mortar. Morale and training level: Confident Conscript.

Scenario:  To cut off the major city of Kiev, 9th Panzer is attacking the newly formed Soviet 304th Rifle Division near the small town of Chernobyl.

The Board: Just south of the huge Pripyat marshes, Chernobyl is astride the Pripyat river, and is at one of the crossing points needed of to successfully surround Kiev, which is being defended by many Soviet Armies.  Chernobyl was a major town at one time, but the mass killings during Stalin's collectivization campaign, and in the Holodomor (famine) that followed has left it in ruins occupied by a small colony of Jews.

The board as viewed from the south.  Chernobyl is in the north, astride the head waters of the Pripyat River.

The board as viewed from the north. 

The mostly abandoned and ruined town of Chernobyl.
Apologies for the poor pictures.  My normal camera was off on another adventure, and I used my son's IPod for these.  It was OK for stills, but less forgiving if I was in a hurry.

Kapitän Klaus Krinkle pulled himself out of the hatch and surveyed the nearby town, and looked disgustedly at both his Herr issued map, and the captured map from a captured Soviet soldier.  Trying to compare the two was impossible.  The only thing he knew was that this was Chernobyl, and the headwaters of the Priypyat river.  Why cross here?  Kiev was 50 miles away.  This was too far away to support the encirclement of the Soviet forces there.  All high command would say was that the SEOO* ordered it.

He heard an oncoming motorcycle and waved.  The driver pulled alongside and shut off the engine.  The passenger got out of the sidecar and gave his legs a stretch.  "Herr Schultz, have we any sign of the enemy?" Klaus asked.

"Yes Herr Kapitän, it seems that we have beaten him to the Priypyat River.  They are now massing to the west of the town."

"That is good, they won't have a river line as an advantage.  It is amazing we beat them here, considering our maps of this area are not good, and..." He stopped to stare at the captured map in his hand, "Apparently their maps aren't either."  However this could explain much on how the Soviets were fighting, if they are using these maps, then they were as lost as we are in their own country.  So much for a home field advantage.  

"So who are we fighting today?"  Do we have a composition of the enemy?" queried Klaus. 

"The prisoners we have taken say they belong to the 304th Rifle Division.  The forces here seem to be composed of a battalion of infantry, but with an excessive amount of anti tank guns and half a company of light tanks." 

"Any T-34's or KV's?"

"No, Herr Kapitän"

"Any sign of the 109th Mechanized Division?"

"No, Herr Kapitän.  The 109 seems to have disappeared from the planet.  But the tanks may have belonged to them."

"That would be good, then they won't fight well together."  observed Klaus, then he ordered, "Inform the Zug commanders of your findings, I'll send orders shortly."

 "Ya vol, Herr Kapitän"

The motorcycle receded in the distance in the direction of a cluster of several more sidecar mounted motorcycles as Leutnant Schultz carried out his orders.  Klaus didn't like having to recross the the Priypyat again.  The bridge was not in good repair.  

Where is the 109th Mechanized?  They were chasing it, when they ran into the 304th Rifle.  Running into a Rifle Division was nothing new, His panzers were bound to overrun the foot troops, but the 109th couldn't have gone north, into the biggest swamp in the world, and he would have had reports if they went south.  It's almost as if they just renamed the thing, just to drive him nuts.  Just like the maps.

 Soviet setup.  Pretty much board edge to board edge, and up to 6 ranks deep.
Deployment view from the south.  The 9th Panzer is concentrated on the right.
From bottom to top, Leichte Panzer Platoon, Panzer II Platoon, Kradschutzen Platoon, Panzer III Platoon and furthest to the north, another Leichte Panzer Platoon.

Situation: What to do?  When I set up the board I expected to give Steve the river advantage, but he chose opposite side instead.  I guess with fighting withdrawal time is on his side, and I had to first cross the Pripyat River first.  It is only slow going in the north, then becomes a bog check in the middle, then a skill check where it widens.  The problem with crossing at the shallows is that it leads right into the town.  Between defending infantry and their 2" no go bubble, all that slow going and thin alleyways there is going to be some serious traffic problems.  

I decided that the middle objective would be where I would try to win the game.  But I set the deployment up to look like I was going for the northern objective.  I'll see what I can lure north, maybe even get the ambush to pop there

Recon Move:
 Not much of one, as soon as I cross the bridge, I am then within sight and 16".

Turn 1:
I am going to miss not having Stukas for this one.  It would be easy to get 6 under the template everywhere.  I pushed the 3 platoons into the town, and the other two crossed the river south of the town to trade shots with the 45mm guns on the hill.

The crossing of the Pripyat buys the Soviets time.  As my Panzer I's, Panzerbefehlswagens, and Kradschutzen all move 4" in slow going.  But my forces threw out a considerable amount of MG fire, hitting conscripts, gone to ground and concealed is a 4.  I managed to pin one of the Strelkovy companies and the 45mm guns, but nothing killed.

The Soviet response is measured.  The battery on the hill kills a Panzer II.  The larger 6 gun battery hasn't been revealed.

My original thought here was to run the Panzer III's into the buildings.  But I had second thoughts on the number of skill check rolls that would involve.  The Kradschutzen was going to spread out to prevent any ambushes.
Leichte Platoon crosses north of Chernobyl, heading towards the northern objective.

The Leichte and Panzer II Platoon crosses south of Chernobyl, heading towards the center objective.
The 45mm AT battery on the hill kills one Panzer II and bails another.
Turn 2:
The 9th Panzer aggressively pushes into the town.  I am hoping to double assault and possibly rout the defenders.  I should have looked at the numbers better.

That's about 27 dice of MG fire.  This pins the Soviets, but not a single stand is killed.
The Panzer II's knock off another AT gun on the hill, pinning the platoon.

The more expendable elements of a Leichte Panzer Platoon approach for the assault.  The combined MG fire is 17 shots, which fails to pin the Strelkovy, or cause a single casualty.
Leichte Panzers assault, followed closely by their Panzer II's.  They killed a couple of stands, but were beaten back in the counter assault.
The ambush is revealed, 6 45mm at guns north of the town.  Killing 3 tanks of a Leichte Panzer Platoon.  The surviving 2 panzers pass their motivation and will pull back.
While the Soviet tank company is moving down the road, flanking the other Leichte Panzer Platoon.

Turn 3:
The initial assault didn't go as expected.  There are too few panzers and too many of them.  Worse, the slow moving T-26's are now close enough to intervene.  Only their bunched formation and Hens and Chicks is keeping them from being a decisive factor right now.  The 9th Panzer liberally douses all the Strelkovy with MG fire, some 30 dice, but still fails to get a single kill. 

If it is worth doing once, it is worth doing again.  Shot them MG fire and assault.  The MG fire scores nothing, but the assault kills a few stands before the Strelkovy Platoon breaks off.
I know this is a very bad picture, but it shows the Panzer III's, which have only been placeholders so far, leaving town in a redeployment to the center of the board.  The Kradschutzen hunker down to keep the Strelkovy company from redeploying.
The Panzer III platoon leader and a follower double time it and get all the way to the center.  In the top of the frame, are the results of the 2nd assault.
The Soviet T-26 company, decided to spread out a bit but hiding behind the hill.
Turn 4:
There are a lot of dead Strelkovy on the board, but not enough to force a motivation check.  So the center panzers assault again, killing more, forcing another break off, but no motivation failure.  On the high note, the center objective is now contested.  On a low note, those T-26's are almost there as well.
Into the breach once more.

Down to two guns, the Strelkovy 45 AT guns are withdrawn per the Fighting Withdrawal mission parameters,  But they were within 8 inches of the 9th Panzer, and so had to pass a motivation check, which they failed.  The 9th Panzer has it's first point.  The Strelkovy underneath the hill are not dug in.
A single Panzer III joins in the fray.
The center objective is secured!
The Panzer II's assault the other Strelkovy platoon, but one panzer gets double bailed and destroyed.
The T-26's take up firing positions.  About half of them can shoot.
And they are very effective.  2 dead, 2 bailed.  A successful motivation check is the only thing that keeps the 2nd Leichte Platoon in play.

Turn 5:
Shots are traded back an forth.  The end result is the Strelkovy defending the south and center objectives fled the field, but considerable damage was done to the Panzer forces.

Two Panzer III's, under cover, kill one T-26, and bail another.  The combined fire with the Panzer II's on the hill is 2 dead, 2 bailed.

The T-26's fire back, destroying the 2nd Leichte Panzer Platoon.
And a Panzer III.
Turn 6:
More shots traded.  The Tankovy is taken to it's limits, but it survives to take out both a Leichte Panzer and Panzer III platoons.
A single Panzer I and a PanzerDammitVagon face half a T-26 company.

The score is 2 units dead on each side.  The only viable AT force the Germans have are 4 Panzer II's on the center objective.

The remaining Panzer II's triple fire the T-26's, killing 3 more.  The Soviet Tankovy failed it's motivation check, and fled the field.  The remaining Leichte Panzer Platoon, down to a single Panzer I and the command tank storm trooper to the southern objective.  The two remaining Soviet Strelkovy Platoons are buttoned up in the north.  Covered by the MG's of the Kradschutzen and the Company Commanders tank.  They could do nothing.  So either by company failure or by the 9th Panzer taking the final objective, the 304th lost this fight, 4-3.

End game.  The Tankovy Company is destroyed by the remaining Panzer II's.  Leaving the 9th Panzer in control of the both the center and southern objectives.  The center objective was removed according to the scenario parameters, but there is nothing the Soviets can do about the southern one.  The 9th Panzer wins, 4-3.
* SEOO: Search Engine Optimization Officer.