Sunday, November 17, 2019

On the Northern Shoulder of Kursk with IABSM, Fight #4

All,

Soviet Counterattack on Karpunevka

It's 1800 on 9 July 1943 in western Russia, where the German 507th Infantry Regiment of the 292nd Infanterie Division is scraping out hasty defensive positions in preparation for a counterattack by the Soviet 1061st Rifle Regiment and armored elements of the 1442nd Heavy Breakthrough Artillery Regiment.  Cut-off, alone, outnumbered, and low on ammunition, this should prove to be tough sledding for the German infantrymen.

I am playing this game because I have the good fortune of being buddies with Steve of the "Sound Officer's Call" blog (https://soundofficerscall.blogspot.com/2019/10/firestorm-ponyri-station-campaign-first.html), and he is running a "Firestorm Ponyri" campaign. He is playing some games with his local buddies, but was unable to play all of the games himself; rather than simply 'dice off' for results of campaign fights they were unable to play on the table top, Steve asked if anyone in the blogosphere wanted to help, so here I am.

It's been a little bit of an issue that I literally just sold off a bunch of German late war gear, so I'm a bit understrength, but Steve is working with me to make sure the fights I get match up with the forces I have. This is the first fight I've played, and I hope it wasn't too much a pain for him, I certainly want to keep going! First, I love to play games; second, it's been way too long since I've played any Eastern Front games (maybe eight years or so?); and lastly, I'm a solo gamer that still craves some comradery, so whenever I can help another wargamer out, I'm always quick to jump at it.


Overview, north is up.  The objective is the village of Snava, a Soviet supply depot, at center left.  You can see hardball roads running all over the place, and a water treatment pond at left.  The forest called "Birnenwald" is at right/bottom right, and other than that it's a couple patches of wood (top center left, left, with a stand at bottom center and a strip just east of Snava) with cultivated fields throughout.  This is the third fight at Karpunevka; the first saw a desperate Soviet defense throw back the German attackers, before the Germans were able to rebound and throw the Soviets out on the second try.  The Soviets have attacked north, past Karpunevka (would be off camera to top), cutting the German forces here off from supply, and are now coming back to eliminate the pocket.  Technically speaking, all Soviet forces should enter the map from the northwest (top right), which is where the counterattack is coming from on the campaign map, but I'm allowing Soviet infantry to attack from right/bottom right as well, figuring they infiltrated via the Birnenwald which, off camera to right, actually extends further to the north/northwest.

This is a Soviet hasty assault vs a German hasty defense.  Here are the orders of battle:

Germans
3 x rifle platoon (each has a platoon commander, two have three rifle squads, one has two rifle squads)
1 x machine gun platoon (PC, only two MG-42s)
1 x mortar platoon (PC, only two 8.0cm mortar tubes)
1 x infantry gun platoon (PC, only two 7.5cm howitzers and two prime movers)
1 x anti-tank gun platoon (PC, three PaK-38 5.0cm guns and three prime movers)
1 x 'ersatz panzer' platoon (two Pz Mk III, one Stug III, and one Marder III)
*Being out of supply, the German OOB was knocked down by 20%, which is why they are missing one rifle squad, one MG team, one mortar team, and one Pz Mk III.

Soviets
1 x rifle company (three platoons of PC and three rifle squads)
1 x machine gun platoon (PC, three Maxim .30-cal MGs)
1 x mortar platoon (PC, three 82mm mortar tubes)
1 x infantry gun section (PC, two 76mm howitzers)
2 x T-34 platoons (3 T-34/76 each)
1 x Su-122 platoon (3 Su-122s; I used Su-122s because I don't have enough T-34s, but the vehicles were treated as T-34s on the tabletop)
1 x Su-76 platoon (3 Su-76s)
1 x 'Tank Rider' platoon (PC and three rifle squads riding the S-76s)
Off table support: 1 battery of four 120mm heavy mortars

Overview, this time with troops.  The Soviets are at right, the Germans at left.  At top right is the Soviet mechanized force, from top to bottom: Su-76s with tank riders, Su-122s, 2nd T-34 Platoon, 1st T-34 Platoon.  At bottom right is the Soviet infantry force, from bottom to top: 1st Platoon, 2nd Platoon, MG Platoon, Mortar Platoon, Infantry Gun Platoon, 3rd Platoon.  And, or course, the Soviets have the heavy mortars off table.

The Germans have their 1st Platoon in the woods at top center left, which we'll call 'the north wood.'  2nd Platoon is in the woods at left, which we'll call 'the west wood.'  The understrength 3rd Platoon is in the village of Nava, center.  At the 'T-intersection' at center bottom left we have the German Infantry Gun Platoon (just right of the pond), the MG Platoon (just below the bottom of the 'T'), and the Anti-Tank Gun Platoon (just right of the MG Platoon).  The Mortar Platoon is at bottom left, and the German armor is chilling at far left.

Let's try this out, see how ya like it.  Here's my scheme of maneuver overlay, showing the plan for both the Soviets and the Germans.  The Soviet plan is pretty simple, though they're splitting forces a bit more than is probably normal.  The plan is for the Soviet armor to jailbreak through the gap between Snava and the North Wood, while 3rd Rifle Platoon takes Snava and the other two rifle platoons flank Snava to the south, both pincers supported by their heavy weapons stationed in Birnenwald.  The Germans have a bit of an interesting concept going on: first, they're short on fuel and ammo.  Second, they're facing a serious disparity in firepower.  Third, they're facing a serious disparity in mobility.  So, they decide to emplace their direct-fire heavy hitters (the IGs, MGs, and ATGs) to interdict the Soviets most likely avenues of approach (the ATGs at bottom center to cover the entire arc between Snava and the Birnenwald, the MGs and IGs looking straight into the dark forest of the Birnenwald, where everyone is sure the Soviet infantry must emerge.  The German armor is in reserve, waiting to stem any Soviet breakthrough.  But the different piece is the three German rifle platoons: outnumbered and outmatched (very little organic anti-personnel capability beyond point-blank range, and no anti-tank capability beyond point-blank range), they are essentially conducing a 'reverse-slope' defense.

Yes, I know there is no slope, but what I mean is that they are looking to take advantage of restrictive terrain in order to maximize their capability against enemy armor and infantry by forcing engagements at point-blank range only.  They are doing this by occupying the North Wood, the West Wood, and the village of Snava, but by occupying only the west, i.e., trailing, edge of those terrain features.  So, by occupying the west edge, the Soviets will have to push into the east edge in order come to grips with the Germans, negating the Soviet firepower advantage.  Or at least that is the theory.  So spotting and 'recon by fire' will be a big part of this game because the Soviets are carrying out a hasty attack, so they didn't have time to conduct a thorough reconnaissance and thus they have to identify where the German defenders are emplaced.

I am playing this game in 10mm on a 6' x 4' table.  The toys are a mix of Pendraken, Minifigs UK, and Takara.  The matt is from The Wargames Company, with trees, hedges, and buildings from Crescent Root, the pond from Battlefront, and the fields from Hotz Mats.  I am using the Too Fat Lardies' "I Ain't Been Shot Mum" rules, modified a bit for simplicity.  I already mentioned spotting and recon by fire being a big part of this game; IABSM usually uses 'blinds' to depict hidden forces, but I am not going to do this as I'm playing solo and don't want to confuse myself any more than normal ;)  It's actually quite simple, no confusion involved, I just don't want to do it as I'm not going to be able to surprise myself anyway, so I'm putting the toys on the table and rolling to spot.

The Soviet baseline in the east, with their infantry at bottom and armor at top.  The objective, Snava, is at left, with the North Wood above it and the West Wood behind it.

The far Soviet left flank, where the Soviet 1st and 2nd Rifle Platoons are located.

You can see 2nd Platoon at bottom, with the Soviet MG Platoon above them, the IG Plt above them, and the Mortar Plt at top right).

Behind the IG Plt (bottom left) and above the Mortar Plt (bottom center) is the Soviet 3rd Rifle Platoon.  The Soviets believe that the heavy mortar barrage, the heavy weapons fire, the mass of armor pushing west from the north, and the mass of infantry pushing west from the south will hold the German defenders' attention, allowing the Soviet 3rd Platoon to basically sneak into Snava, straight up the middle.  You can see the Soviet CO at bottom left.

Look at all that heavy metal.  Their plan is to dash straight through the defenders, sowing chaos and unhinging the defense, even kick out some infantry (the tank riders on the Su-76s at top right) in the German rear.  The issue, as anyone familiar with IABSM can attest, is that 'dashing' anywhere can be quite problematic, as friction is the order of the day!

My Su-122s, from Takara, the PC with a crew figure from Pendraken.  I don't think I've ever actually had these on the wargaming table.

The Su-76s, carrying a platoon of infantry.  I'm so happy with those tank riders, they're awesome!

The German defense: 1st Plt in the North Wood (top center), 2nd Platoon in the West Wood (left center), 3rd Platoon in Snava (center), IGs, MGs, and ATGS at bottom center, mortars at bottom left, and armor in reserve at far left.

1st Platoon in the North Wood.  This is a hasty defense, so no one is dug in, just hasty scrapes making the best use of terrain.  You can see what I was talking about with the 'reveres-slope' defense concept; the Soviets will have to come through, or around the woods in order to get at the German infantry.  The big danger is that Soviet armor blows right past them, negating their cover and close-range firepower by getting in behind them, which will surely force the Germans to capitulate.

The German 3rd Platoon, in Snava, making use of the eastern buildings and string of trees to mask them.

The German 2nd Platoon, in the West Wood (far left, with Snava at far right).  You can also see the German Kampfgruppe Commander at bottom left.

At the bottom of the 'T,' you can see the German MG Plt (left) and the ATG Plt (right), with Prime Movers nearby in case they have to displace in a hurry.

Above the MG Plt (bottom center) is the IG Platoon (top center).

But the IG Platoon's (top right) vehicles are having to hold further back (left) in order to not give away their position.  The German Mortar Plt is at bottom left.

The German armored reserve, consisting of two Panzer IIIs (with long 5.0cm gun), a Marder III (with Soviet 76.2mm gun), and a Stug III (long 7.5cm gun), at far left, behind the West Wood (far right).

The game is afoot, time to fight!

Soviet 120mm mortar rounds arc high overhead and plow into Snava...

Shrapnel clatters off the building sides, clods of dirt rain back down to Earth, and the smoke clears to reveal new craters, but nobody is hurt!  The German Landser smile to themselves at the cleverness of their leaders, emplacing them on the back side of the village, knowing the Soviets were sure to hit it hard.  The Soviets are only going to shell the front half of the village, right?

On the Soviet far right, the Su-76 Platoon Commander pushes his vehicle forward, scouting ahead of the main body.  He scans both Snava (top center) and the West Wood (top right), but doesn't see any sign of enemy activity.

From the Birnenwald (bottom right), the Soviet Mortar Plt PC orders one of his tubes to range in on Snava (top left).  "Round out..."

The Soviet PC hears the round hit (top left, between the West Wood and Snava) but can't see it.  "No impact, no idea."

While on the Soviet far left, the 1st Platoon Commander leads his 1st Squad forward...

Just as the German Infantry Gun Platoon (bottom left) opens fire on the Birnenwald (top right, where you can see the PC and squad that just moved just below the explosion marker)...

The German 7.5cm High Explosive rounds wreak havoc, knocking out two rifle squads (one from 1st Plt and one from 2nd Plt) and suppress two others (red beads, one from each platoon)!

*Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the Soviets have very high morale this game, so they can get pinned and suppressed, but will have a very easy time shaking it off.

The Soviet IG Plt Commander (bottom right) immediately orders one of his guns to respond, trying to find the range on the German gun position (top center left).

But the round goes long.

The German mortars (bottom left) fire on the Birnenwald (top right)...

And it's ferocious!  One Soviet gun is knocked out, another is suppressed, a nearby MG team is suppressed, and the IG Plt PC is pinned!

*Wow, the German heavy weapons are off to quite the ass-kicking start!

And then the anti-tank guns (bottom left) get into action: the German PC taps gun #3 to engage the T-34 on the road (top right).  The gun roars and the crew holds its breath, watching the tracer go out... then fly right over the turret.  Verdammt!

"Sir, I think we've found the Fascist anti-tank guns!"  The Soviet MG Platoon (bottom center) opens fire on the German ATG position (top left), suppressing one gun crew.

The Soviet IG Plt PC and remaining gun crew (top center) rally, as does the 3rd Squad, 1st Plt (bottom center).

With 80mm, 76mm, 50mm, and 7.62mm rounds crisscrossing above their heads, the Soviet 1st Platoon Commander continues pushing his 1st Squad forward (bottom left).

Where they (bottom right) put some ineffectual fire into the German ATG position (top left).  Ineffectual, yes, but still threatening the lynchpin of the German defense's AT capability, a very unwelcome development.

And to make matters worse, the Soviet 2nd Platoon's two remaining squads push forward.

While in the center, the Soviet 3rd Platoon steps off (center) for Snava (top left), as the Soviet CO rallies the MG Plt (bottom center).

And then Turn 1 ends.  Kinda wild that, with all that Soviet armor on the table, the only one that moved was the Su-76 PC, while all the Soviet infantry got to go.  I'm sure the Soviet CO would have preferred the opposite.  There were a lot more cards that came out on the German side; various infantry, and even their armor, but I didn't mention it since none of them needed to go anywhere yet.

Staying on the German right, the IG Plt continues to work out (bottom left), now sighting in on the encroaching Soviet 1st Plt PC and his 1st Squad...

But the fire is a bit off and only manages to pin the rifle squad (you can see 2nd Platoon's two remaining squads at top right).

Again the Soviet IG Plt (bottom right) answers, firing on the German IG Plt (Top center)...

76mm HE rounds hit just short, suppressing both German gun crews.

While the German mortars (bottom left) open fire on the lead elements of the Soviet 1st Platoon (top right)...

The Soviet 1st Squad is suffocated by 80mm HE rounds, their PC suppressed (red bead)!

*Again, high morale means the Soviets are going for broke, no falling back for 1st Platoon, despite having only one squad left.

And then the German ATG Plt (bottom left) gets back into action: the PC orders Gun #3 to fire again while the tries to rally Gun #2.  Gun #3 misses, and Gun #2 only gets up to pinned...  He screams at all three crews to fire again!

*The ATG PC card came out, and then the ATG Plt card came out, back to back.

Gun #1 knocks out the Soviet 1st Plt commander's vehicle, while the other two fail to hit, but strike close enough to pin two tanks from 2nd Platoon (yellow beads)!

The Soviet Su-76 Platoon Commander continues to push ahead of the main body (bottom right), wondering when (if?) the main body is going to join him, and is happy when he sees the two remaining T-34s of 1st Platoon push ahead (center left), but none of them can see anything!

Unable to see anything, the T-34s pump HE into Snava, just for fun, to no effect.

The Soviet Su-122 PC pushes up (center, from bottom left), but can't see anything either, so he pumps a 122mm HE round into the West Wood (top right), to no effect.

*To be fair, I am rolling to see if the Soviet AFV crews 'accidentally' hit something with all that fire into Snava and the West Wood.

Just as 120mm mortars begin falling on Snava again!

And these are good for the Reds on two counts: first, the rounds hit deeper in Snava, suppressing both German rifle squads there (red beads).  Second, the rounds bring down one of the eastern building (top center), clearing some lines of sight to the German defensive positions.  We'll see if it ends up mattering.

On the Soviet left, his 1st Squad knocked out by German mortars (bottom left), the Soviet 1st Platoon PC falls back towards his last remining squad (top right).

And now more Soviet armor gets moving: 2nd Tank Platoon shakes off the pins and pushes up in the center (left, from bottom right, with 1st Plt below them and the Su-122 PC above them)...

They (bottom right) want retribution on those German anti-tank guns (top left), so they pull to a halt, pivot left, and fire...

But they haven't actually spotted the German ATGs (bottom left) and put their rounds into the wrong position (top right)!

In the center, the Soviet 3rd Platoon PC grabs his 1st Squad and pushes them (center, from bottom right) towards Snava (top left).

And that's how Turn 2 ends!

But while the Soviet tankers don't know exactly where the German ATGs (top left) are, the Soviet infantry does, and their mortars (bottom right) begin hanging and dropping 82mm rounds...

Suppressing Guns #1 and #3 (red beads, with Gun #2 still pinned, yellow bead).

As the Soviet 3rd Platoon's PC and 1st Squad creep up to the outskirts of Snava (bottom right), still unaware of the German presence there (two suppressed rifle squads in the buildings at top left).

The 2nd T-34 Platoon (center) and Su-122 Platoon (just behind them, except their PC, who is at far right) push west.

The T-34s pound the buildings of Snava as the Soviet 3rd Plt PC and squad (bottom left) look on...

The German 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, is shaken up and falls back into the leading edge of the West Wood (bottom left, from building at center, where the other squad is still suppressed in the building and the PC is standing outside, flabbergasted).

And the Su-122 PC continues to pound the West Wood, to no effect.

The German MG Plt (bottom center) finally gets in on the action, firing into the Birnenwald...

They catch the rear two squads of the Soviet 3rd Platoon (top right) in the open, suppressing both of them, as the Soviet MG Platoon (bottom center) returns fire but doesn't hit anything.

With his 1st Squad (bottom left) safe in the woods on the outskirts of Snava and his 2nd and 3rd Squads (far right) taking fire and suppressed, the Soviet 3rd Platoon PC begins sprinting back (center, from bottom left) to help get them forward.

Soviet 120mm mortars again pound Snava...

They're unlucky to not hit the Germans (top center left), but very lucky they don't hit their own men (bottom center)!

On the Soviet far left, the 1st Platoon PC brings up his last remaining squad, next to 2nd Platoon, which has been stalled there in the open for a few minutes now.

The German MG Plt (bottom left) opens fire again, keeping the Soviet 3rd Plt (top right) pinned down.

But the Soviet 76mm gun (far left) returns fire on the German MGs (top right)...

And suppresses both of them, though their Platoon Commander immediately rallies both of them.

The Soviet 2nd T-34 PC (right center, just below Snava) and their Su-76 PC both push forward...

The Su-76 keeps firing into the North Wood without effect.

But the 2nd T-34 Plt PC opens fire...

Which drives the 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon back (left, with 2nd Squad below them) to the West Wood, leaving the 3rd Platoon commander (right) as the only living German still in Snava…  They say, "if you can't beat'em, join'em," so the PC falls back and rallies his two squads.

The Soviet 3rd Plt PC reaches his rear two squads on the road, rallies them, and tells them they need to hustle to get into Snava, where their 1st Squad is waiting.

And while they're doing that (top right), the Soviet 2nd Platoon finally gets moving (center, from bottom right, where the last squad of 1st Platoon is kinda stalled).

2nd Platoon opens fire on the German ATG position, no effect.

While on the Soviet far right, the Tank Rider Platoon Commander and his 1st Squad dismount just outside the North Wood (you can see the German 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, at top left), so far unaware of the nearby German presence.  And since there is no immediate threat, the Su-76 PC vehicle...

Leaves the Tank Riders (far right bottom) and pushes left (center, next to the 2nd T-34 Plt PC), heading for the gap between Snava and the North Wood, looking to get into the German rear area (finally).  But he pulls to a halt and shells Snava again, just for good measure (he doesn't know there are no Germans in the village).

While on the Soviet far left, 1st Platoon PC leads his last squad up (bottom center right), even with 2nd Platoon, and they open fire on the German ATG position (top left), suppressing Gun #3.

The German CO comes right (bottom right, from far left) and rallies his flagging Infantry Gun Platoon.

The German armor continues to hold fast, partly to husband their limited fuel and ammo, but partly because, despite things not going exactly swimmingly, the Soviets have yet to really gash the German line.

From the Birnenwald, the Soviet mortars (bottom right) again pound the German ATG position (top left)...

The 82mm HE rounds are coming in hot and heavy and right on target, thick enough to cause the crews of Guns #2 and 3 to fall back ( bottom left, next to one of the MG teams, from top right, where I've marked the abandoned guns with white beads), leaving only Gun #1 still in the fight.

And while the ATGs (far right, with MGs below them) are being manhandled, the IGs (bottom left) finally get back in the fight.  They spot the Soviet 2nd Platoon on the road (top center, with 1st Platoon at top right) and open fire...

But it's not particularly effective, only managing to pin one squad.

The two remaining T-34s of 1st Platoon move up (center left, from right)...

And, not knowing that nobody's home, they (bottom center) pound Snava.  1st Squad, 3rd Platoon (center left) continues to stand by, waiting for their PC to return with the rest of the platoon.

But interesting machinations are occurring as we speak...

On the German far left, 2nd Squad, 1st Platoon (bottom left) watches as their Platoon Commander grabs 3rd Squad moves forward (center), stalking the Soviet Su-76 Platoon Commander (top right), taking advantage of the fact the Soviet Tank Riders (off camera to top center left) have not pushed into the North Wood and located the Germans there.

On the Soviet left, their Commanding Officer pushes up, between 1st and 2nd Platoons, rallying them, as his machine gunners (top right) slap fresh belts into their guns...

Charge them (bottom left), and open fire on the German Infantry Gun position (top left)...

The fire is devastating!  The CO looks on as .30-cal rounds mow down one of the IG gun crews and suppresses the other!

In the German ATG position, as much as he curses and cajoles, the Platoon Commander can't get the cowardly gun crews that ran to rally (bottom left), but Gun #1 hangs in there and keeps firing, sighting in on one of the T-34s from 1st Tank Platoon (top right)...

Notching their 2nd kill of the afternoon!

As the German mortars (bottom left) lock onto the Soviet infantry advance threatening the German ATG position (top right) and open up a horrendous barrage...

80mm mortar rounds fall directly on target and thrash the hell out of the Soviet CO and 1st and 2nd Platoons, suppressing the entire formation!

*Yeah, of course I didn't actually roll that many sixes, but it was particularly devastating and so I figured, 'why not?'

But just then, as the Soviet infantry are being ravaged (far left), the Soviet MGs (bottom center) again slap fresh belts in their guns and cut loose on the German Infantry Gun position (top center)...

And an astonished German Commander looks on as the Soviet machine gunners finish the job, killing the other gun crew and their platoon commander!

And with his compatriots from 1st Platoon doing some stalking (off camera to left top; dammit, I can't believe I didn't get them in the shot!), the German 3rd Platoon Commander decides to get in on the action, grabbing his 1st Squad and sneaking back across the street (center, from bottom center, where you can see his 2nd Squad).  The Soviet 2nd Tank Platoon PC and Su-76 Platoon PC (top left) are oblivious to the nearby German infantry.

The Soviet Infantry Gun (bottom center) fires on the German ATGs (top center left)…

But misses.  Shoulda let the Soviet MGs do it, they've been ferocious.

The German ATG Plt PC still can't rally his runaway gunners (bottom left), but Gun #1  (center bottom) shakes off the near miss and slams the breach home on another armor-piercing round and sends it after the last T-34 from 1st Tank Platoon (top right)...

Racking up kill number three on the day and ending Turn #3!

*We got through almost every single card that turn.

But just then the Soviet IG Plt (bottom left) fires on the German ATG position (top right) again...

The 76mm HE round crashes in, closer this time, suppressing the crew of Gun #1!  The German Platoon Commander flinches, and quickly does the calculus: I can try to rally those cowards that ran behind me again, or I can try to rally the heroes that have already knocked out three Communist tanks.  Hmmm...

Gun #1's crew is rallied.

The German mortars (bottom left) continue firing on the Soviet infantry threatening (or formerly threatening) the Anti-Tank position (top right)...

One Soviet rifle squad is knocked out, while the rest are kept suppressed.

But the Soviet Infantry Gun (bottom right) keeps firing on the German ATG position (top left), as the Soviet CO and 1st Platoon Commander, despite the suffocating German mortar fire, raise up and rally their comrades!

Another near miss suppresses Gun #1, but their Platoon Commander rallies them again, just as quickly...

Abd they (bottom left) send another armor-piercing round downrange, this time targeting a T-34 of 2nd Tank Platoon...

Ring'em up, fourth kill of the day!

Finally both runaway ATG crews (red beads) rally.  But there still remains the issue of getting them back on their guns...

On the Soviet right, their Su-122 pushes forward.  Feeling the heat from the German Anti-Tank Guns (off camera to top center) and knowing their coming from the left, but not from exactly where, the trailing two Su-122s move up and take shelter behind a burning T-34 from 2nd Platoon (center bottom), while their Platoon Commander tries to get out of the kill zone by pushing forward (far right), up to the 2nd Tank Platoon and Su-76 Platoon PCs...

And when he gets there (bottom center left, the middle vehicle, with T-34 on left and Su-76 on right), he spots the German 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon (top center) in the West Wood and fires...

Though it causes them (bottom left, with their PC and 1st squad at top right) no ill effect.

*Please note that the Soviets now have their three remaining armor platoon commanders bunched together in the gap between Snava and the North Wood, with German infantry skulking about in both.

Back in the center, the Soviet plan is working: the German defenders have been so involved with the left and right pincers that they haven't even managed to toss the odd, angry shot the Soviet 3rd Platoon's way.  The Soviet 3rd Platoon Commander begins ferrying his 2nd an 3rd Squads up (center, from far right) to join his 1st Squad (top left) in Snava.

The PC signals 1st Squad by hand...

And they push forward, up to the first line of buildings (left, from right), but still no sign of the Fascist invaders.

Just then then the thumb and scream of the Soviet 120mm mortars is heard again!

But the Soviets have shifted fire, and this time the heavy mortar shells fall on the German Anti-Tank Gun position!!!


The ATG Platoon Commander is suppressed and weeping as his precious Gun Crew #1 is obliterated by the enemy mortar barrage!!!  Looks like they'll receive those Iron Crosses posthumously...  The Germans now have ZERO anti-tank guns in action as Gun #1 is knocked out and 2 and 3, though the crews are rallied (off camera to left), are still abandoned.

The German Commander decides the time is right to commit his armored reserve!

But probably not where you expected: the two Panzer IIIs, the Stug, and the Marder move right, up to the lip of the pond (being careful to avoid bogging in soft ground nearby) and take up firing positions.

The German armor (bottom left) cuts loose with HE rounds from their main guns, as well as every machine gun they can bring to bear, laying into the Soviet infantry on their right flank (top right, just above the ATG position)...

The combined fire of the four German AFVs is devastating, definitively breaking the Soviet infantry assault on the right flank.  The Soviet Commander, the 1st Platoon Commander, and the 2nd Platoon's last rifle squad are all knocked out, leaving only the 2nd Platoon Commander and one squad from 1st Platoon, both of which are suppressed and falling back.

Completely devastated and demoralized, the last few ragged survivors of the Soviet infantry assault fall back on the Birnenwald.

Unaware of the debacle on the Soviet left flank, the Soviet 2nd Tank Platoon Commander and Su-76 Platoon Commander push west, through the Snava-North Wood gap (far left), as the Su-122 Platoon Commander looks on (left, with the Tank Rider Platoon Commander and 1st Squad at top center).

*It seems like ages ago that the Su-76 Platoon Commander dropped off the Tank Rider Platoon Commander and 1st Squad, but they haven't moved nary a foot since.  Just as bad, the other two Su-76s, carrying the Tank Riders' 2nd and 3rd Squads (top right), haven't come up yet, either.  Failure to push infantry into the North Wood (top center left) is about to have disastrous consequences for the Soviets.

Moving top to bottom, the Soviet T-34 and Su-76 Platoon Commanders know they are in constricted terrain and are absolutely, acutely aware of the threat.  Their heads are up and their eyes are scanning for threats, but they're so focused on the threat in front of them that neither scans to the side, or behind them, where the German 1st Platoon (far left) and 3rd Platoon (far right) both have their Commander and a rifle squad lying in wait.

*Still, there's nothing saying the card for either of those German units is going to come out next, or even soon...

But that's exactly what happened: the German 3rd Platoon Commander peers warily at the enemy tank, mentally measures the distance, looks at his men, swallows hard...

Then leaps to his feet and lets out a blood-curdling yell for his men to follow him!  The German infantrymen rush the ten meters to the massive Soviet armored beast, braving fire from its bow machine gun and its commander's pistol, firing into vision ports and clambering onto the sides of the vehicle with Molotov cocktails, grenade bundles, and Haftholladung...

The T-34's back deck catches fire and several internal explosions are heard as the turret slews left and smoke belches forth from its hatches!

Back on the Soviet left, their MG Platoon (bottom left) rakes the German MG Platoon's position (top left...

Putting one of the MG teams out of action.

In the center, the Soviet 3rd Platoon Commander leads his 2nd Squad up to the edge of Snava (left, from bottom right, with 1st Squad at top left), as his 3rd Squad looks on.

The German CO moves right, over to the MG Platoon's position, and threatens summary execution on any ATG gunner that does not immediately return to his gun...

Unsurprisingly, both crews sprint back to their guns (far right, from far left).

But back on the German left, the Soviet Su-76 Platoon Commander has processed what he just saw, which was the German 3rd Platoon Commander and his 1st Squad blow up his comrades in the T-34 next door.  He orders his driver to turn left and they charge into the gaggle of German soldiers milling about the burning T-34...

But the three-man crew in the open-topped Su-76 is no match for the hardened, veteran German infantry and is quickly belching flames and smoke of its own!

The German 3rd Platoon Commander gives a quick peek right...

Where he spots the Soviet Su-122 Platoon Commander (top left); doing some quick mental math, he determines there's no way the enemy commander currently staring at him did not see what they just did, and there's no way they can get to the enemy AFV in a sprint, he'll either gun them down or back away, THEN gun them down.  So, deciding that discretion is the better part of valor

But it's okay...

Because just then, the German 1st Platoon, in the North Wood (you can see the German 3rd Platoon Commander on the edge of Snava, top right, next to the burning T-34 and Su-76), gets in on the action.  First, their 1st and 2nd Squads charge forward, into close combat with the Soviet Tank Riders' Platoon Commander and 1st Squad (bottom left, from bottom right)...

Pistols, rifle butts, entrenching tools, hand grenades, submachine guns, trench knives, insults, you name it, they were used in this vicious, hand-to hand melee!  Ultimately, the Soviet platoon commander and rifle squad were eliminated, to the man, while the Germans lost their 2nd Squad.

And while the melee was occurring (top left), the German 1st Platoon Commander and his 3rd Squad broke cover and charged out into the flank of the Soviet Su-122 Platoon Commander (far right, from center)!

The German platoon commander took a bullet, but his men finished the job, knocking out the heavily armored beast!

The current situation from the Soviet perspective: infantry assault on the left flank broken, leaderless (the Soviet CO and every single armor platoon commander dead!), seven of their twelve armored fighting vehicles knocked out, most of their heavy weapons still in action, one complete rifle platoon kinda, sorta on the objective.

I know the Soviets are supposed to have incredibly high morale for this fight, but they've suffered approximately 65-70% losses, to include seven of nine officers (not including the MG, Mortar, and Infantry Gun platoon commanders), so it's time to go.  The remaining Soviet armor on the right falls back, which is going to be interesting.  As Uncle Joe Stalin is reported to have said: "It takes a brave man to not be a hero in the Red Army."

Realizing the infantry assault on the left (bottom right) was broken by Fascist mortars and tanks, and that their own tanks have abandoned them (off camera to top center), the 3rd Platoon Commander grabs his three squads and slinks away to the east, abandoning Snava (center, from bottom left).

*It could be interesting in terms of the campaign to play it out that he decided to hole up in Snava, and make the Germans, already short of men and ammunition, come dig them out.

The German Kampfgruppe Commander consoles his ATG Platoon Commander; "they were true heroes, and they, especially in these difficult times, will be missed.  I will ensure they receive their Iron Crosses, and I will do everything I can to ensure their families are looked after."

Not long after, he was made aware of the exploits of his 1st and 3rd Platoon Commanders on the left flank, which cost the 1st Platoon Commander his life.  But the 3rd Platoon Commander's feat of knocking out one Soviet armored beast, then standing his ground and knocking out a second when it charged him, is also the stuff of legends.

I've already outlined the Soviet casualties (though I forgot to mention, the Soviet heavy weapons units actually suffered a tiny bit of casualties, a single infantry gun was knocked out), guess I should do so for the Germans as well:
2 Platoon Commanders (1st Rifle Platoon and Infantry Gun Platoon)
1 Anti-Tank Gun
2 Infantry Guns
1 Machine Gun Team
1 Rifle Squad

Pretty lopsided in terms of casualties, but it had to be, I suppose, as the Soviets had a much larger force.  So, what happened?  Well, I'd sum it up by saying the Soviets experienced an inordinately large amount of battlefield friction.  Or plain bad luck, whichever you prefer ;)  The German anti-tank guns had a wonderful field of fire; it would have been unreasonable (in my estimation) for the Soviet off-table heavy mortars to have been zoned in on them from the get go.  Without reconnaissance, there's no way the Reds are putting supporting fires on that location, they're putting it on the objective at least 99 times out of a hundred.  Yes, the ATG position is a clear point of interest (that amazing field of fire is why they were emplaced there, after all), which is why I did allow the Soviets to commit two rifle platoons to its seizure (and only one to the objective itself), as well as allowing they and their heavy weapons to 'infiltrate' the Birnenwald in order to emplace right across the way.

The Soviet armor knew it had an issue right from the jump, in that it was going to have to cross a great, wide open expanse (what many folks would call 'good tank country,' so don't beat me up too bad), but that's kinda what you expect tanks to do.  Similarly, the German ATG's got off to a very weak start, not getting many shots in and then missing most of them when they did.  But the issue for the Soviets was just that the Soviets couldn't get to where they needed to be; I really thought the Soviet armor would have a good chance of punching through the Snava-North Wood gap in a relative hurry (at least fast enough to avoid getting shot to pieces by the German ATGs).  With that, I figured the Tank Riders would be in the North Wood in a hurry, tying down the German 1st Platoon, maybe even beating them with close support from their Su-76s and Su-122s.  I figured by that time the ATGs wouldn't be an issue, so the off-table mortars and on-table heavy weapons could shift fire to Snava and the West Wood, keeping the Germans there (3rd and 2nd Platoons, respectively) pinned down, and the deciding fight being the German armor being committed to stem the breakthrough by Soviet armor, which, by that point, should have enjoyed something like a 7 or 8-4 advantage.  And if their infantry on the left could flip a trick and somehow get into the German ATG position, thus forcing the German MGs and IGs to fall back, maybe they could have even tied up the German armor reserve some, too, maybe force it to be split to deal with two separate calamities.

Overall, the Soviets had a huge problem with Platoon Commander cards coming out, but Platoon cards not, which meant that Platoon Commanders were able to push forward very far, very fast, but with very limited capability as the rest of their units were still stuck back at the start line.  I'm sure some will say that my big mistake (as the Soviet commander) was not concentrating the Soviet force; personally, I'm always very aware of unit spacing, not wanting to get bunched up and pounded by supporting fires.   So that one doesn't bother me; what bothers me, what I worry my big mistake was, is when the Soviet 3rd Platoon got their Platoon Commander and one rifle squad into the eastern edge of Snava, I halted the rifle squad there and sent the PC back to get the rest of his platoon.  That worked, I suppose, but not until both flanks had collapsed.  I will always wonder what would have happened if I would have kept the 3rd Platoon Commander there in Snava, with his 1st Squad, and every time his card came out, led them further into Snava, moving forward cautiously, spotting the German forces there, then coordinating with armor for fire support in order to blast the Germans out systematically.  I could have done that, but it just didn't seem to feel like a very 'Soviet' way of doing things, so I did what I thought they would do, which was try to get the rest of the platoon forward.

And that shines a spotlight on the other big problem for the Soviets: they couldn't spot anything!  Their armor had countless chances to spot German positions.  Not good chances, but my goodness, lots of them!  You would figure they'd have accidentally spotted some of the German units they missed, but no, they didn't even when they were on top of them, and they had like a 90% chance of successfully doing it.

The last issue, or possible failure on my part, was not concentrating organic supporting fires on the German ATG position.  To a human player playing another human player, I have no doubt that I, or anyone else, would have said "ta hell wit da German MGs and Infantry Guns, I'm taking out dose Anti-Tank Guns!"  But, again, I try to play from the perspective of the force's commander, knowing only what he knows, and doing what I think he would have done given 1) his knowledge of the tactical situation and 2) his role on the tabletop.  The issue, then, was 1) the organic heavy weapons (machine guns, infantry guns, and 82mm mortars) belonged to the infantry company, not the tank company, and not, really, even the Task Force Commander.  So, 2) the job of the organic heavy weapons was to do whatever they could to keep their infantry comrades from getting shot to pieces, not to keep their tanker comrades from getting shot to pieces.  So they ended up splitting the baby and not doing either very well...

From the German perspective, really it came down to 1) having (I think) a solid plan, with the long reach weapon having long fields of fire and the rifle platoons playing reverse-slope defense to maximize their firepower, then 2) pure luck.  Like I said, the German ATGs got plenty of shots in on the Soviet tanks because they just took so damn long to get through the kill zone, the Soviets just couldn't get their Tank Riders into the fight, and they just couldn't spot a damn thing, with both of those factors allowing the German 1st and 3rd Platoons to creep riflemen into position to close assault their tanks.

So, a helluva fight that was a helluva lot of fun!  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

V/R,
Jack