The Stuka ‘Gustav’ was incoming again, and our over-worked 37mm AA cannon missed him, so ‘Rudel’ as he was now nick-named, strafed the SU-76s, missing. He was becoming a pain in the backside. The Germans called for more artillery fire, 1st priority again, and this time the request was OK’d, only for the comms test to division to fail. No re-roll either, so no guns! The comms test to their off-table 120mm mortars also failed, this was getting comical (for us, there weren’t not many laughs from the other side of the table). No supporting fire for these panzers.
On the edge of Teploye, the grenadiers were well pinned down, but the Pz IIIs moved up to help out, trying to engaged the SU-76s up the slope. One managed the double-tap in a flurry of good dice - two spots, two hits, two kills… swift end of the Suka battery (which were out of ammo anyway and about to pull back to Yuri’s broken wagon). Teploye was now without any armour support or anti-tank shots, except for the 85mm AA way up on the ridge. The infantry would have to hold out as best they could - but they didn’t even have anti-tank grenades. Dicey!
With the Germans unpinning a lot again, I think they took 2 chits, it was our turn. One German draw was another Air Attack chit. That Luftwaffe forward control officer was right on his game today, as incoming came a Hs-129 - good grief, the specialist tank-killers aircraft were all here. My T-34 crews would be watching the skies as they idylled on the board edge.
First up for us, those reserves. The first T-34s rolled on behind the T-70s, on the far right, all carrying the tank rider squads. With only 7 out of 13 vehicles, I decided to wait for the others. It was also the turn of our timed Katyusha strike, it landed, rather neatly, ahead of the T-70s (almost like I’d planned it), causing mass pinning and destroying a Panzer III and a Panzer IV… smack on! The route for the armoured counter-attack was looking inviting. Our air support was inbound again, but again the single 20mm cannon drove off the PE-2 with a hail of shells. The bomb-less Sturmovik was sent after ‘Rudel’, chasing him with suppressing MG fire. It missed, but the dog-fight was on, we’d be on his tail every turn. More 152mm fire on the PRTP, more mortar fire, more pinning, but not the Tigers this time… but the Germans still looked worried.
It was the enemy go again, the turns were flying by (but all these players have played a lot of Battlegroup, so no rulebook was needed). In the tank-brawl on the right (their left), another T-70 went pop and the Tigers turned their attention to the Zis3 guns up on the ridge, the ones that had been firing HE at them all game. Like enraged beasts, they returned the favour, but as aimed fire. Both spotted and scored direct hits, the first smashing a gun to bits (so the gun crew run), the second massacring the crew to man with 88mm HE despite their cover save. Ouch! The Tigers had turned nasty. See what happens when they aren’t pinned. Air attacks came in, 2 bombs from the Hs-129 pinning two T-70s. The Gustav was driven off by our 37mm cannon (good lads), but a timed Stuka strike also arrived. Screaming in, with a free run, it bombed the windmill. Pinning the guns close to it and the spotter team inside (and their jeep), before climbing away. Could have been a lot worse, but the useful Zis3s were out of action next turn. Air congestion was becoming a problem, keeping track of aircraft over this table was a full time job. In Teploye, the last StuG was engaging the distant 85mm but couldn’t get it pinned, after firing it pulled back, heading the supply truck in the woods.
With the T-34s massing the Germans pulled back their vulnerable half-tracks (those not pinned by Katyusha rockets) into the woods. They still failed to get any off-table arty firing… and the air as turning blue at their comms-test dice rolls. After furious unpinning (they took 3 chits), it was our turn.
In came the next 6 T-34s, 3 joining my attack line, the other 3 detached and heading for Teploye to help the beleaguered infantry. Our forces were all here (turn 7 I think). With only 2 T-70s still rolling, they engaged the last Pz III and failed to do anything. Then the next aircraft arrived, our timed PE-2 strike, ahead of the T-34s. It bombed the woods, caused some more pinning and a direct hit on the Tiger… surely it would die now… no, I fluffed the penetration roll. Man, these things do not die! In all my BG Kursk games I have never destroyed a Tiger tank, not one, ever. It was pinned by the blast though. That was it - time to go with the steel. I asked for a second opinion from Colonel Masonov ‘F*** it. Go for it!” was his advice. I concurred, engines start…
The T-34s took 3 Stal! Stal!Stal! orders and gunned up to full speed, a swift 24”, and the attack line raced over our trench and headed straight for the German tanks… lots of tank riders somehow clinging on. The German defence looked a bit thin on the ground. 76.2mm HE shells barked until the second Tiger was pinned, then the last Pz IV was too. That left 1 Panzer III able to engage next turn - panic! It was a magnificent sight, Red Steel rolling. The skirmishing in Teploye continued, with neither side advancing, and mostly just getting pinned as MGs and Maxims and DPs traded fire. Nobody would risk a move or a close assault. Our aircraft did nothing, I think we might have even forgotten to spend any orders on them this time.
Amidst all this the German had drawn another (the last) aircraft chit - please stop! Deeply suspicious now that every other chit drawn seemed to be something other than a number, the Luftwaffe controller was at it again, directing in another Ju-87D. We just groaned, so bored of aircraft now… ho-hum.
(Note, in previous turns the Germans had now drawn, 2 beyond the call of duty counters, 2 breakdown counters, 2 confusion counters, 3 air attacks and a mine strike - this is not right! You can’t be that lucky!). We’d had 2 air attacks and all numbers.
Time was running short, we’d have a couple of more turns at most. Desperate times for the Germans, the last Pz III fired, killed a T-70 at point blank range and reversed into the woods. The new Stuka (the 4th to appear on the tabletop), bombed wild over Teploye, missed by 5D6” and his heavy bomb hit - Yuri’s broken down horse drawn wagon. To gales of laughter, the cart turned into matchsticks - poor Yuri. The air onslaught continued as the Hs-129 strafed and killed a first T-34, and the ‘Rudel’s’ cannons glanced off another T-34.
With so few AT shots, the Germans once again turned to their missing artillery. The request was accepted, but they needed big guns, or big ‘werfers, to pin or destroy those charging tanks. They when for it, boldly calling up for army-level fire support. 5+ roll failed, it was turned down! No guns again. What would they give for a funker-wagen?
Our go, the T-34s charge on, Stal! double moves and HE fire in all directions, they passed the lead Tiger at point blank range and failed to pin it, but it was already out of ammo, bonus! The first T-70s made it into the woods, where desperate ambush fire from MG teams pinned one (at under 10” small arms - more likely grenades etc, can do this). The other light tank failed to pin that Pz III with 45mm HE shells, its crew were putting up a hell of a fight on the end of the line.
back in Teploye, the trading went on, with little affect. Our 85mm gun finally scored a hit, at last, and blew a Pz III into scrap metal. The three T-34s I’d detached to help the village were racing across the ridge slope and almost there, passing the burning wreckage of the SU-76 battery en-route - a dire warning!
5 o’clock and into the finale. The Germans withdrew into the woods, or through it where they could, SdKfz 251s high-tailing it from the advancing red armour. The Pz-III heroical got another T-70 kill (only 2 left rolling now) and a lot of their infantry got back onto ambush fire, expecting the imminent arrival of our tank riders. An SdKfz 25/16 came forwards and turned a pinned dismounted rifle squad into human torches… nasty, we hadn’t seen it lurking, but it was exposed now and would feel T-34 wrath. The Tiger sat stranded, out of ammo and impotent, surrounded by the enemy. The German artillery still didn’t fire - it didn’t fire all game. Various vehicles were now resupplying from the trucks behind the woods. A rush by one grenadier squad with AT grenades at a T-34 passing Teploye, only resulted in it being cut-down by ambush fire from an infantry squad waiting them to try something… desperate effort. One T-34 was jumped by AT grenades from the woods, from a grenadier squad with a heroic action, and it was blown-up, spilling pinned tank riders into the trees.
In our final turn, with the tanks now at close quarters the Stal! orders ended and each tank did its own thing, mostly firing MGs and HE and dismounting their tankoviks. One T-34 hit the SdKfz 251/16 at PB range with AP, and it went up nicely, revenge! Another scored a kill on the SdKfz 251/10 firing from the wood line. The red-infantry then pushed for the woods. The Platoon HQ was cut down by MG ambush fire at point blank range, leading the attack from the front - hero that Lieutenant, but a dead one. One tank rider PPsH squad close assaulted an enemy rifle section, wiped it out, but was then wiped out in return.
My last T-70s were behind the woods and engaging the soft skins. The 20mm flak car was destroyed, then the Sturmovik swooped in to strafe a supply truck into flaming wreckage with its MGs… and that was about the last action of the game. Time had caught up with us. We called a halt to the carnage, had a last brew and counted up the BR chits.
Neither side had actually broken, but BG takes such eventualities into account, see ‘Tactical Victories’ in the rulebook. From 109 starting BR the Russians had lost 81 points, leaving us 28 from breaking. From 126 BR, the Germans had lost 98, leaving them erm, 28 from breaking. A tie! Noooo…
But there is a tie breaker. Who had the most objectives? Well we did, 3 held against 1. Russian win - just. We had also inflicted more BR loss than the Germans (and if they had not found almost every special counter in the pot they may well have been broken altogether). We agreed a few more turns and Germans would have been in ever deeper trouble, with 7 T-34s still rolling into their midst and all those vulnerable vehicles to target. Several had withdrawn off the table already, no doubt more would have followed.
It was one hell of a game. It had everything (except maybe building a bridge). It was the game rules in full effect… every rule was used: close assaults, AT grenades attacks (a fair few of them), Tactical co-ordinations (i think all 3 tried flunked), Fallback! rule well used, ever type of special counter, battlefield engineering stuff, loads and loads of aircraft, a flamethrower attack, even the tie-breaker rule… just everything. Epic. I love big games with lots of toys out (not too many to crowd the table though, you need to find the right balance). Nice to see two old armies, both of which we have been collecting 20+ years, back in action facing each other again. They are old foes from various earlier rules these two forces.
The panzers had borne the brunt of the German’s losses. 5 from 6 wrecked Pz IVs, 5 from 6 wrecked Pz IIIs, 3 wrecked StuGs. Both Tigers and the Elephant remained undamaged (somehow, but they always seem to). We’d lost 3 T-34s, 4 T-70s and 3 Su-76s. Our infantry casualties were low (all in good cover all game), except in the assaulting platoon and tank-riders. We’d also lost 5 from 8 anti-tank guns.
Our plan had worked, mostly… the harassing heavy artillery and twin PRTP had been great… saving orders and unreliable comms tests (why we took a comms truck I don’t know - just in case maybe). The dug-in infantry had played their part and held their ground well, using ambush fire. We didn’t use the counter-battery fire missions much, their off-table guns never opened fire. The tanks, well, they had done their thing too, and I think would have overwhelmed the Germans in the woods, if at a heavy price (when isn’t it?). For the Germans, well, a few disasters, notable the complete artillery failure. Not sure the Elephant was in the right place, I’d have wanted that gun against the tank-rush, not down the other end (although it did well from the tree line). The armoured grenadier attack had been mis-timed, driving into too much waiting ambush fire. Reserve move is the key here, move up in their turn, then out and close assault in yours. Not sure the assault pioneers shouldn’t have been used in Teploye itself, where their flamethrowers would have made short work of our infantry in buildings. But it’s the chaos of war, not everything goes to plan.
We’ll do this again, too much fun not to. Post-game talk was of repeating the big-bash but with Barbarossa next time, a meeting engagement, maybe a day two or three Russian Tank Corps’ counter-attack… the Germans need to paint more grey panzers first, because we have a horde of T-26s and BT-7s to face them, as well T-34s, KV-1s and T-35s.
I drove home tired but happy with a day's gaming. That was WW2 wargaming as it should be played, the way I imagined it way back when we started in 1995.
T-34s and tank-riders begin to arrive in the wake of the T-70s.
First panzer grenadier squads speed forwards, the other half tracks giving covering fire from the woods. A bold move, but perhaps too soon.
Two brave little T-70s push on for the woods, in a ferocious fight with the last Pz III.
It survived, but so did they!
Next Stuka off the rank incoming, plunging for the windmill, right over our 37mm flak in the orchard.
Bombs away! More pinning.
Gustav circles round for another run at Teploye.
The main trenches, holding firm, although rather depleted by MG fire.
Bit of payback, IL-16 bombing run against the tanks and StuGs outside Teploye.
Tiger wrath... both the former occupiers of these two dug-outs are gone...
no more Zis3 to pester the heavy tanks.
Stal! Stal! Stal! the red storm finally on the move.
PO-2s view of the armoured counter-attack in full swing.
Pinned StuG on the edge of Teploye, the barn would see many grenadiers hiding out inside, usually pinned ones.
'I'm on him!' Sturmovik goes after 'Rudel'. Didn't get him though.
He lived to inflate his kill-scores again, another day,
Back in action, off Olkhovatka Ridge.
Detached T-34 platoon on the way to help out the defence of Teploye,
and trying to avoid the Suka's fate.
The T-34s race past the ammo-less Tiger and HE it from PB range.
As German half tracks flee for the woods. In no other wargame (let alone WW2 wargame) does it make sense to make a swift tactical withdrawal (run-away!).
Sometimes you need to just save the BR chits.
Nasty (and hot) surprise for one tankovik squad, immolated.
Two T-70 make it into the woods, flanking the Pz III in their 'end-run'.
The detached T-34s face-off the German flank move on our extreme left, just in time.
Carnage in the woods, as German infantry with AT grenades extract their toll.
But it's not enough to stop the assault getting through the trees.
Two tanks breakthrough the woods and are behind the Germans. Beyond them the 20mm flak car is destroyed, whilst one Tiger and a StuG re-arm.
Death of the Paznerwaffe! The fields outside Teploye littered with burning German armour -
so pretty much like the actual day then.