So, the first campaign has been and gone, and what a cracker it was. Both Nick and I are really finding our feet with the new forces and “larger” terrain. As this is East Prussia I have tried to introduce more in the way of woodland and to leave fields larger than in Normandy.
By the time the game was ready to begin we had both selected our support options, but I’ll allow them to become apparent as the game progresses. The Patrol Phase was an interesting one, with both sides selecting just three Patrol Markers in favour of speed. The Germans focused on attempting to seize the Inn whilst the Soviets concentrated more on gaining the wood which could hide their movement. In fact the terrain “spun round” a bit, so the Soviets were all in the wood area, as can be seen with the Jump-off points here:
Whereas the Germans made a bit of a dog’s dinner with their deployment. One Patrol Marker sent to stop the Soviets penetrating too far into the wood was only partially successful but then ended up with a jump-off point on the table edge in the open – completely useless. The two other points were in the Inn yard, by the stables and along the hedge in the field.
At the start of the game my, Soviet, force morale was at 9 whereas Nick was at 8, so I had the first phase. I deployed two squads into the wood as close to the inn as possible along with the first of my supports, a flamethrower team. It is my belief that with the Soviet SMG squad you must keep pressure on the enemy, get into close range and try to seize and hold the initiative> If Nick could roll badly on his command dice at this early stage I was intending to capitalise on it.
In fact in Phase 2 Nick rolled three 6’s, ending the turn, a 3 and a 1. He deployed Gefreiter Ulrich Goltz’s squad into the Inn yard. He had been unfortunate that his patrols had failed to seize the Inn itself as a jump-off point, so getting into a firing position to shut down the wood must be his main priority.
In Turn 2 Nick got the first phase, rolling 64441, a truly terrible hand and precisely what I had been praying for. Undeterred he sent his MG42 team into the Inn to try to set up defences.
My roll in Phase 2 was a beaut, 63331. Okay a double 6 could have been nice, but this was a cracker as it allowed all three of my squads to activate and a support team. I deployed Uri Gribanov’s third squad on my far right with a view to working them round the German flank.
Then, with all guns blazing, Evgeny Olenev launched his charge on the Inn with the flamethrower moving up in support.
It was a fierce fight, but an inspection of the German figures showed that they had placed the MG42 at the back and couldn’t meet me with its full effect. I lost two men down and two points of shock including a light wound on Olenev himself. However, my SMGs caused four German dead and two shock, I advanced into the Inn to immediately enter close combat with the German riflemen in the yard. I lost one man and suffered one point of Shock but replied with four dead and three shock. as it was Gefreiter Goltz was wounded and knocked out in the yard while the remains of his squad routed away. At the end of the fight my Force Morale had fallen to 7 but the German morale was down to 5. At this point I had a wounded German NCO just yards away and a German Jump-Off Point just past him. With a bit of luck I could grab both and see my opponent’s morale spiral down. Uhraaah!
Nick now rolled 55321 and deployed Jurgen Plotz’s squad into the stable to the rear of the Inn. Richard Brecht’s squad arrived in the German support option, an SdKfz 251 halftrack which immediately opened up on the flamethrower team who were lurking in the road. One man went down.
Suddenly the circumstances had changed. In the bar a wounded Olenev had too few men to go forward against Plotz’s squad, and any retreat was cut off by the halftrack. On a roll of 63211 I vascilated. Varushkin’s second squad went tactical in the wood whilst the flamethrower team slipped over the hedge to work round behind the stable. Gribanov moved up rather too cautiously for my liking and my second support option, a Maxim gun team, deployed into the wood.
Now Nick used his 65332 to send the halftrack forward cautiously, brassing up Varushink’s position, while Plotz calmly placed his MG42 on overwatch and ran forward with two men to rescue the injured Gefreiter Goltz.
With a roll of 65543 I was limited in my actions, but Leytenant Azarov deployed onto the table and shouted orders to get Gribanov to outflank the Inn and the Maxim through the woods to face off the half-track.
Now Nick rolls 44322 and used the 3 to bring Goltz in to the stable. That’s all he wants to do as he is not deploying his Platoon leader forward. More on that later. Suffice to say at this point that I kept moving to outflank the Germans in the next turn and set up the Maxim to try to drive off the halftrack and that in his next Phase Nick opted to voluntarily deploy from the action to conserve his strength.
It was a very interesting game and one Nick said he felt he had lost early on. His patrols had been diverted from securing the Inn by my activity in the wood and that was a critical error. In retrospect he wished that he’d simply held the stable with his first squad and established a base of fire facing off any troops in the Inn itself. He could then have occupied the Inn orchard and dominated that flank and covered the front of the Inn with the fast moving flexible squad in the halftrack. In the end he didn’t deploy Feldtmann onto the table as he knew he was pulling off as soon as he had rescued Goltz. Which he did perfectly.
For me the effectiveness of the SMG platoon was proven, if you moved fast and hit hard you could take a few hard knocks but still batter your opponent at the end of it. However, it also showed me that the platoon is only good at what it is good at. It is inherently weak in manpower and losses mount fast. It has little in the way that it can do against AFVs, so you need to hide sometimes and press on with the battle elsewhere. This involves deploying so that you can shift the weight of your attack as required. At the end of the day this is a force which can exploit opportunities and punish errors. Double 6’s and Chain of Command dice will be really powerful with these guys. Interestingly I got no double 6’s and never got a Chain of Command dice!
So, what are the implications of this game? Well, the Soviets have lost one man dead and another is in a field hopsital being patched up, as such he will miss the next game. Both my battalion commander and my men have a high opinion of Azarov’s leadership whilst his outlook has become cheerful.
Nick’s Germans have lost three dead and three men in hospital miss the next game for them. The German battalion commander is rather unimpressed with Feldtmann’s performance. His own men are more forgiving, but morale isn’t high. He, however, remains cheerful. How bad can things get. The only high point is that Plotz has been recommended for an Iron Cross second class for his bravery in rescuing Goltz. Well deserved and a joy to see in our first game of the campaign! As jazz loving Plotz would say, “Nice”.
We had an interesting discussion on the TooFatLardies Yahoo Group in the last day or so where the concept of wargames rules as a “tool box” was the subject of debate. Two sets of our rules take what is, I think, quite a different approach to most tabletop gaming rules in that they draw on