The morning of the battle arrived and both sides revealed their forces and deployed for battle. The Germans were the defenders in a Delaying Action scenario, so had to randomly determine which forces would be on the table and which in reserve. Next, we placed 4 objectives, 2 each. The Germans placed one on the large factory’s main hall, and another on a building near their table edge. The Russians placed one in the ruined school (by the railway line) and, to tempt the Germans out of the city’s cover, one on the black and white cottage on our extreme right. This complete, the defender deployed his defences and any units in them, then deployed his other available forces. The Germans also had a free choice of table edge, so took the long edge (east) and the Russians got the western one.
We Russian commanders had a quick planning meeting, and decided on a single main trust (at the factory) with a supporting/diversionary action on the right, with little objective put to hold the Germans away from the town, and maybe draw their arriving reserves that way too. To this end the forces were split roughly 2/3rds to me, 1/3rd to my co-commander. He got an infantry platoon, the Sherman ‘Emcha’ platoon, and a couple of the JS-IIs when they arrived.
I got everything else, 2 infantry platoons, 2 well-equipped assault pioneer squads, both ISU-152s, the OT-34 flamethrower, 3 IS-IIs from reserve and our forward HQ as the artillery spotter. Our 152mm timed barrage would impact on the factory objective on turn 7. The mortar battery was on call for either player to use at need.
Red - Russian main advances. Blue - German moves.
My Russian assault was to be a ‘three wave’ attack (by the book). First would be the ‘infiltration wave’, just an infantry platoon, on foot, all with SMGs. These would get into the buildings and start getting some of the Germans pinned and drawing fire (making the defenders easier to spot for the second wave). Next would be the assault wave. In would be the second infantry platoon and both assault pioneer squads, riding on the ISU-152s and the OT-34. They would deliver the main strike against the factory objective. The third wave was the support wave, 3 JS-IIs to lend fire support and hunt down those German tanks, the supply trucks, dispatch rider etc and any non-combat elements. That’s how we agreed the reserves would arrive, as the dice rolls allowed.
Planning complete it was time to go. The attackers took first turn and the first Russian infantry moved on, heading into the city on our left. On the right a single Emcha crawled through the woods to tempt the Panther into a long range duel. Our lone forward scouting BA-64 called down a 82mm mortar barrage, and it deviated wildly, only to land on the Hetzer (which just survived a direct hit) and its supply truck (which didn’t). First blood as the ammo truck went off with a huge bang! The Hetzer now had a problem.
The Germans spent their first turns getting onto Ambush fire, and realising they had the deployed their dug-in 88, in its bunker position, so far back it couldn’t see anything! No early long range 88 shots then (in the end it did nothing all game).
The next turn saw my infiltration wave of SMG squads picking their way deeper into the town, but still encountering no enemy. Behind them the assault wave began to mass on my table edge, and the German commander defending the factory looked worried, his poor Auxiliary platoon of armed factory workers looked badly outclassed, still he had some lurking Pz-IVs, a dug-in PaK40 and a heavy machine gun bunker (with loaders) to help out.
On the right, the waiting Panther refused to open fire (needing 6s to hit), and the Germans discussed if they could move their 88 without a prime mover (technically as a medium gun it could move cross-country at 1” per turn, but even that seemed too much, so we agreed that good sense should rule and it was immobile – now they wish they had a towing vehicle!). They did however try a cheeky long range shot from their Wirbelwind at a (debatably visible) mortar team, and with a lucky spot roll saw it. A blaze of 20mm cannon fire saw 2 crew and the last crewman pinned, so he was removed. Scratch one mortar team.
In response the rest of the Emcha’s arrived from reserve, with one lining up the too bold Wirbelwind. It missed, and the Wirbelwind’s charmed game began (it would survive everything we threw at it and cause havoc later on during the factory fighting).
As an aside; I’m no fan of AA weaponry used in ground role, because its job is to defend you from air attacks. The games encourages this use (because an aircraft can turn up at anytime), but doesn’t dictate it, because I know they were often used against ground targets. It’s up to the player in the end (as it should be), but he would rue the day the Wirbelwind wasn’t on Ambush if our aircraft arrived (and we blew both rolls to get one in the game, so no VVS support today – ho-hum!).
As I moved my assault forces closer, through the buildings and occupied the bank, the Germans two timed 105mm strikes hit, despite our two counter battery fire missions. On the right it scored a single direct hit and destroyed our BA-64 scout car. On our left it left 4 infantry squads pinned, but did no casualties. The Germans hadn’t gone for much artillery support, instead hoping their tanks would do the business. In 1945 German artillery was really suffering.
The remaining tanks had now arrived from reserve, the King Tiger joined the defence of the factory and duelled with the JS-IIs (winning). But our repeated 152mm artillery strikes kept it pinned as often as not, and it didn’t dominate. But man, when it hits, it hurts.
The battle had now split into two distinct engagements, one with the Germans counter-attacking on our right with the Panther leading 3 Panzer IVs (and a few grenadiers scurrying on behind), and the second, with the Russia infantry fighting tooth and nail to get into the factory. This was the main event, as for four consecutive turns the Russian infantry roared Ura! and rushed across the main road. Each time withering fire from MGs and the bl***y Wirbelwind sent them falling back into the buildings, pinned (falling back is very useful in urban areas, lots of cover to get back too).
Inside the factory the defending auxiliaries lost a few men and fled, whilst the dug-in HMG-42 took two direct hits from an ISU-152 and was obliterated. I needed the JS-IIs to move up and engage the German armour (and King Tiger) to keep them busy so the infantry could get to grips in close assault, and the veteran assault pioneers debussed from their rides and moved into position to join the attack, flamethrowers ready (being assault troops they wouldn’t need to pass the unit experience check that was also holding up my inexperienced SMG squads). Desperate to hang on, the Germans directed some of their grenadier reinforcements into the factory, and they joined the meat grind, helping drive off the Russian infantry waves until a pioneer squad got close enough to unleash flaming death, with spectacular results. The grenadier platoon HQ was also wiped out by SMG wielding Reds as the burst into the office buildings.
My very useful ISU-IIs were now out of ammo and forced to pull back to re-arm, so it was time for the OT-34 to do its part in supporting the attack, from its hiding place the OT-34 rushed up into range and cut loose with more flaming death, and more grenadiers burned inside the factory, which was now a smoking inferno, as 152mm guns pounded down on it as well. Then, in an extraordinary sequence of events, the King Tiger hit and only immobile the OT-34, and the resulting morale test saw it get a Beyond the call Duty test. It pass and launched flames again into the factory at the last of the grenadiers, and killed all but 2. The last survivors inside also got a Beyond the call of Duty test, and still smoking, launched their Panzerfaust, knocking out the OT-034 which exploded in the street. Having had their last shot, the grenadiers were then cut down by SMG fire as the first Russian infantry burst into the factory hall. The factory was on the verge of falling...
On our right the German panzer counter-attack got off to a bad start, as a JS-II got a side shot into the Panther and destroyed it (hurrah). But the Panzer IVs returned fire and knocked out the JS-II, and the second heavy tank was out of ammo. It withdrew to rearm, leaving one Emcha vs 3 Panzer IVs. The Emcha scored a kill before being hit and destroyed itself, and our flank was sudden held by two just infantry squads with no anti-tank weaponry (must remember to give my Russians anti-tank grenades in the future). In desperation we moved our overwatching ZSU-37 SP AA gun to engage, and it pinned a Pz-IV with 37mm fire, before a return 75mm AP shot saw it destroyed too. The Russian armour was now clogging the lane into town, burning. To add insult to injury the Germans pulled the Endkampf counter and gained a bonus 2D6 BR to their total (rolling 10). Today, the Germans would fight to the last to hold Heilenberg.
Time was almost up, but so was the Russian BR. The factory was almost captured, but not quiet.
In the end it had been a great day’s gaming, and a close battle until the final two turns when it turned against the Russians badly. We had reached 62 BR from a total of 66. The Germans reached 45, from a total of 70 (which included an extra 4D6 from various special rules – so the Germans were really up for the fight today and refused to give up the town). I think our heavy tanks let us down a bit. The Emcha’s did well, but the JS-IIs were very disappointing in their first big tabletop outing. We lost all of them to German tank guns, so much for their better armour. They only scored 1 kill between them, the Panther. The ISU-152s played their part well, but their lack of ammunition meant they just couldn’t keep our assault supported for long. Still, they survive some PaK-40 hits in the process. That PaK-40 defending the factory had been fired in 6 consecutive turns, with a loader team, for 14 shots! It survived fire from the ISU-IIs, an out of ammo counter and a direct hit by 152mm artillery. The empty 75mm shells cases where really piling up! But it was still there at the end, still fighting - Iron Crosses to all the crew.
Another German town had been saved from the Bolshevik hordes – for now. ..
The infiltration wave of red infantry making their way cautiously into town.
The main street, patrolled by a Puma, which soon scarpered when faced by Russian heavy armour.
First blood, an ammo truck ignites under mortar fire.
Sherman Emcha line up the Wirbelwind, and miss... it ran off then.
Assault wave follow in the infiltration wave.
Lurking Pz-IV, disguised as a wreck in the rubble.
Dug-in Pak40 and loader team, a hero of the battle, and very busy men.
JS-II crest the railway embankment to join the assault wave before they head into town.
An ISU-152, carrying assault pioneers finds a route through towards the factory.
Occupying the bank. The Puma is now running off up the road, MG blazing at it left.
Incoming! Timed 105mm behind the bank causes much pinning.
Red infantry pinned in the buildings opposite the factory. The church became a common refuge for pinned, falling back Russians.
BA-64 caught by a 105 barrage.
Urra! Across the road, into the open, then fall back, pinned into cover!
Grenadiers in the backstreets, awaiting the call into the front line.
88 impact from the King Tiger, ouch!
The German counter-attack on their left, heading across the fields.
Russian armour probed up the lane into town, but pulled back due to lack of ammo and the German armour's approach from their right.
From here the JS-II awaited for a target, and when the Panther appeared - kaboom!
Still trying to assault the factory, SMG squad survivors in bitter close combat.
Supporting Russian armour around the church and bank.
Russian artillery impacts. 203mm and 152mm, only pinned the King Tiger (more's the pity).
JS-II victim (the only one thought)
At the back, the misplaced 88. Quiet day for its crew.
The Panzer roll on passed the burning Panther.
German armour up the main street, their defensive fire saved the factory for many turns.
More heavy artillery impacts, still only pinning (12 dice, no 6s)
The hordes approach. In the foreground are the pioneers, following the first wave in, to lethal effect.
Re-arming a JS-II behind the bank.
ZSU-37 gets involved in the tank fight... a last gasp measure.
It pinned a Pz-IV though... (woo-hoo)
Rusian armour engages the panzer attack, but the AP ammo ran out -again.
On the way back to find a supply truck (not the 2.30 from Moscow)
OT-34 makes its move, seconds later the factory was an inferno. More pioneers are on the engine deck.
Ammo for the ISU-152s
The last re-armed JS-II moves right to meet the Panzer IVs. A lucky hit and penetration knocked it out too. Good grief!