Over the weekend I was running the BGK demonstration game at Derby World Wargames. Thanks to all those who came up to say hello and find out about the rules, it was good weekend, a fine battle (played in two parts over both days), and very encouraging to see something of a ground swell growing for the game.
This is an AAR in two parts, day one first, with day two to follow soon.
The scenario was a battle to take place over the small Penya river, on the western flank of 48th Panzer Corps’ advance towards Oboyan. Here 3rd Panzer Division, diverted from the drive north to act as the flank protection, found itself under repeated attacks from 6th Tank Corps. This would be a two day sustained attack in the vicinity of the village of Sytrveso.
Russian orders were to attack and drive the Germans from the village, as a staging post for further attacks to try and cut-off 48th Panzer Corps spearhead further north. The Germans had to hold the line.
The board, pre-deployment, looking across from the Russian bank to the German-held village.
First deployment, with the Russians on the western bank dug-in to their defences and the tanks behind, awaiting the order to go. They were support by an 82mm mortar battery and two Katyushas. The Germans were occupying the village, with a PaK 40, Marder and an 88 (on their left) out in the fields, watching the river. Their few tanks were behind the village, a squadron each of three Pz IVGs and Pz IIILs (note, no Tiger tanks!).
The German side, with the previous defences of the village now occupied by the Germans.
Russian deployment, first 105mm rounds of the day landing.
After a roll off for first turn, the Germans began, and set about getting onto Ambush Fire covering the river. With the Russian build-up recognised, an aerial artillery observer took off from the fields in his Storch and began to circle over the western bank, as the gunners of a 105mm howitzer battery stood too and prepared to begin their days work.
German truck-borne infantry on their way into the village, protected by a 251/17 FlaK
Gunners stand too in a small paddock behind the village!
The Russians wasted no time in preparation, first the Katyusha battery unleashed its first barrage at the village church, but inflicted little really damage beyond pinning a few infantry units and damaging the 88’s tow. Eleven T-34s and six T-70s headed for the shallow Penya, weaving through their own defence lines and barbed wire before splashing down into the river’s marshy banks, all of which slowed their advance. The SU-76 battery, hidden in the woods on the river line, opened fire with long range area fire into the river, and would continue to act as improvised artillery in this harassing role until their HE ammunition ran out.
Meanwhile, aware now that the attack was imminent, the Germans responded by sending forward their panzers. The Panzer IIIs swung out to the their left, into the open corn field, to support the 88 crew - now poised to open fire, and the Panzer IVs manoeuvred through the village in the centre (where one ran over an uncleared mine and was knocked out !). Their artillery opened fire on the advancing tanks and tank riders, pinning just one T-34.
Panzer IIIs on their start lines.
Russian recce, lurking in the woods and acting as mortar spotters throughout the attack.
SU-76s, avoided the main tank clash and were deployed as ad-hoc artillery support, harassing the village, a nice plan, but not very effective!
Russian 82mm mortar battery, supply wagon and rear defence line. One platoon of infantry sat out the fighting, holding the trenches. Lucky for them.
Here they come, the main assault approaches the river, under 105mm howitzer fire.
In the Russian turn the storm was ready to break, and the T-34s, liberally using their Stal! Stal! rule surged on at top speed, a heroic sight to warm to heart of any loyal party member! Then reality struck, the waiting 88 opened fire, and its first two shots hit and destroyed two T-34s! Eat-that! The tank battle had begun. The Russians, lacking any Katyusha fire as they reloaded, flung mortar shells into the crop field ahead of the tanks, and pinned the 88 crew. Then, using a 1st priority artillery request, the watching Russian OP, secure in his ‘river-view’ bunker called up to his Army command, gaining a battery of four 203mm howitzers. These huge guns let rip into the cornfield, but scored no direct hits, but 2 Pz IIIs were pinned, worrying for the Germans now facing the tank onslaught.
Panzer IVs responding to the Russian attack, they come forwrad to meet it - bold move!
The Marder survived the impact of 45mm shells from a T-70, as did the 88 (by a dire set of rolls for the Russians). Three T-70s burst through the centre, from the tree and scrub of the river line, intent of wreaking chaos and confusion in the village itself and drawing fire from the main attack.
The three T-70s head out on their doomed lone attack.
The German response was swift, and it needed to be if the left flank was not to be overrun. First up, a timed Stuka air strike plunged in, hitting the river crossing, causing more pinning, but again no direct hits with its bombs.
88 victims, from great shooting (double 6s to hit). Ouch!
The cause of the destruction, it would survive everything the Russians threw out, at one time passing 11 4+ Covers saves, from 11 dice! How can that be? Lucky, lucky, lucky...
Across the Penya and into the eastern bank marshes as a Stuka dives in. Already casualties are mounting.
The German’s senior officer, loitering in the rear, got on the phone to his 88 crew and used his Tactical Co-ordination special order to get them back in the fight. Loaded and aimed, they opened fire again, and another T-34 burst into smoke and flames. The unpinned Panzer III ground to a halt and smashed more accurate fire into the T-34s and its 50mm gun proved effective enough to knock out another. Four Russian tanks were now burning, their infantry riders leaping clear but being automatically pinned.
Much under-rated, the Pz IIIs duked it out with the T-34s, their 50mm guns prooving good enough in an anti-tank role. Here, incoming 203mm rounds impact all around them.
The Panzer IVs pushed forwards, fearless of the three T-70s just ahead of them, and began to do their work. The squadron officer (also upgraded to a panzer ace), took calm aim, and knocked out a T-70, then another was hit and destroyed by his wingman. The PaK-40, having just re-deployed via its tow to get some shots at the main tank attack, missed at long range.
In front of the village the two Panzer IVs and PaK40, plus tow (which was soon to be destroyed in a mortar blast). The panzer ace is the one behind. The 250/3 is the Luftwaffe officer.
Still, despite initial losses, the T-34s looked like they might do it, with overwhelming numbers. But this turn was not a good one for the Russians. Despite throwing a lot of fire at it, the 88 survived again, only pinned. The Russian senior officer in his T-34 took the lead, brave, but a little rash. The last T-70 in the centre missed, and the Russian mortar fire wasn’t effective. Suddenly, it was the Germans go again, and a lot of AT guns were ready to fire.
Forward HQ, his transport and signals van. His vital role was keeping the 88 firing.
The 88 was again unpinned by using tactical co-ordination, and with just 2 crew remaining, it turned the Russian Major’s tank into a fireball. The Panzer IIIs added to the carnage, as did the Panzer Ace commander, as his wingman bagged the last T-70 at close quarters. The tank rush was turning into smoking ruin (again). To add further injury, a 150mm howitzer barrage landed, deviate wildly right onto the following Russian infantry waves (now unpinned) and two direct hits saw two squads cut to ribbons, with more German 80mm mortar fire adding to the damage. By now only three T-34s and two T-70s were still rolling.
Turn Four, and the Russian looked to their Katyusha’s again, after reloading. They opened fire, destroyed the Marder with a direct hit and wiped out an infantry squad in the village, and the 88 and its tow were again pinned (the crew were having a very hard day at the office). Again though, it survived high-explosive fire from the T-34s, and one bold Russian tanker raced forwards to the edge of village, missed the Pak 40, and a German MG team on ambush fire annihilated all the tank riders still onboard in a ferocious blaze of MG34 fire at close range.
In the centre, a T-70 smokes from another penetrating hit.
One success was that the panzer ace officer’s tank was hit and knocked out, as was a Panzer III. The last Panzer IV was now reversing away and found itself rolling over another uncleared mine (sloppy work that by the engineers) and was immobilised as it track was torn off.
The 88 still in action, with multiple targets.
The ace officer's mount brews up.
High water mark of the attack, the only T-34 to make it to the village burns outside the barn. Its tank riders were swept away by MG fire.
Turn five, (the last of the day so we could do our shopping and see some of other demo-games for ourselves), saw the last three T-34s destroyed by the last Panzer III, the PaK 40 and (again unpinned) 88. We called it day, the Russians having lost all eleven T-34s and five T-70s, as well as half of both the attacking infantry platoons. The Germans losses included all three Panzer IVs (but we agreed the immobilised one would be back in the line tomorrow) and two of the three Panzer IIIs, as well as the Marder and a few infantry. By a miracle the 88 was still going, blackened, dented and with dead crew scattered about it.
Smoking tanks made it look like the Russian attack was a heavy defeat, but on counting up the all-important battle rating loss, both sides were exactly 35 points from breaking (the Russian had started at a higher total though). It was close. Tomorrow would see the matter decided.
(That evening, given their heavy tank losses, it was decided that even reinforced, the Russian could not be expected to attack again with any chance of victory. So, as the umpire, I decided that the Germans would have new orders. Overnight, they would be reinforced with new tanks and armoured panzer grenadiers and required to attack themselves, to drive the Russian out of the defences on the Penya river line, the boot would be on the other foot...)
That battle on Day Two to follow soon...
PS: An update on the book. It is now printed and on its way to the UK. ETA 17th October. Some online stores seem to claim that it is on stock, this is not true, unless they have access to a container ship on the Baltic sea! Best not to believe everything you read on the internet, certainly from those that just want your money!