Friday, 10 February 2017

Konigsberg - Day Two - Rearguard Action at Friedrichswald

Today, 548th Volksgrenadier’s task would be to delay the Russian advance for as long as they could. This time the action would take place on the northern edge of Juditten, a small hamlet called Friedrichswald. The Germans had their defence lines, trenches and dug-in anti-tank guns across the water-soaked, muddy, ploughed fields, with the Russian attacking south passed the Waldgarten Farm, formerly a regimental command post for the division but abandoned yesterday.

The scenario would be a Delaying Action, giving my Russians just 9 turns to break the defenders. A tough ask, but I could pick a force for the job. No more finesse, this nut would require a Russian sledgehammer to crack. I went for a full T-34 company, a full infantry company, my commander in a T-34 (no arty to spot for), 3 snipers and a timed 152mm artillery strike. That’s 9 (!) officers.

The defenders had their infantry platoon dug-in, with an 88, Pak-40 and a captured Zis3 as anti-tank defence, and a little 75mm infantry gun as well. Behind they had a mortar and a sIG33 150mm dug-in, with the FHQ spotting for that big gun. His reinforcements were his recce infantry (on bicycles), a Marder, recce platoon HQ and another infantry squad. No tanks! Oh well, but everything had positions with 4+ or 3+ covers aves, off course that reduced their overall BR, but with the infantry it was still a reasonable 35. The Red’s scored a massive 55. I’d need it.

I decided to just go for it. After the German deployment, pick a flank to hit hard, very hard, and over load it. No point in attacking up the centre and getting his full firepower. The opposite flank just needed a holding force, enough to keep the Germans from re-deploying to meet the main attack (2 tanks and infantry would do it). After surveying the enemy positions (my snipers jobs), I’d go over the open ground on my right (enemy left), directly at the orchard. that looked weakest. If that didn’t break the enemy, then the position of objectives would give me a chance at getting all three.

Time to go, go, go!

After my 152mm barrage (did zippo!), first onto the table was my FHQ’s T-34, mainly because I wanted the reinforcement re-roll to get my troops here faster. No holding back. The first T-34s and tank riding infantry began to roll south, flinging HE into the orchard and scoring some pins. Coming back was mortar fire and 150mm infantry gun, scoring some pins too, that would slow me down.

Turn 2, and more T34s rolled on my table edge, with more tank riders, and the lead tanks (those not pinned) hammered the orchard again and their infantry jumped down and began to close in on foot. With most of the defenders pinned, some close range 75mm infantry gun fire caused more pinning, which had now reached 8 units. To get my attack moving and  because I had BR to burn I took 2 counters and got everything back in action for next turn. The Germans were feeling the pressure, they didn’t have the firepower to stop the hammer blow. Too many tanks and riflemen were coming. So it proved , the red riflemen closed into short range and opened fire, the German MG team was wiped out and the Zis3 pinned… vital results with multiple targets to engage. A single Panzerfaust caused the loss of my first T-34, but the infantry gun fired and limbered up to its horse tow. Trying to get away the horse tow was destroyed by tank MG fire and gun crew fled under more small arms fire. The orchard position collapsed, the Zis 3 crew wiped out by tank MG fore and the infantry squad cut down to a man, not a German lived in the orchard. But the turns were counting down. Still, it looked bad for the Germans.

My infantry swarmed forwards (Ura!), under cover of more tank HE fire, they reached the building behind the orchard and assaulted it, heavy losses on both sides, but worth it, capture that house would but me on a second objective. The German PaK-40, dug-in on the road had, so far, had a bad day, pinned, then missing 3 shots (loader team) at short range. Now they were in hand to hand combat with assaulting enemy infantry, but they held out (3+ covers save) and fought the Russians off, before getting back on the gun. The Germans were desperate for their reserves, the Reds were flooding into the breach. And, with luck, he got them, a maximum 6 units, and on came the extra infantry, the Marder and a recon HQ to call in the mortar fire (the spotter for his mortars - platoon HQ had died to a man in the building). The Marder raced up the road and got its first shot off, smashing my second T-34. The fusiliers on their bicycles raced for the buildings, now the centre of this battle. My infantry kept coming, but long range MG fire was whittling them down, one platoon was now gutted, the second was heavily engaged, the third was moving up (Ura!), to press the attack onto the objectives. My leading T-34s switched to AP shells and then failed to hit the Marder, which scored a second kill (but then ran out of ammo and had to withdraw as well, but with a job well done). My suppressing fire (which had been really good in the early turns) now failed me, and the Germans were back in the building again, and my riflemen were trying to assault it - again. Under a hail of fire, they failed, and were cut down to the man. What had been a sweeping assault was bogging down in a desperate scrambled defence by the German reinforcements. Their 88 swung round to get a few long range shots, but then ran out of ammo on a ‘low ammo’ counter. The PaK-40 was still fighting, my assaulting infantry pinned down and refusing to resume the fight. The PaK scored another tank kill at point blank range. It was now turn 7, the counter stacks looked big, mine bigger, but I could take it. Just 2 turns left to win it.

Then it went wrong. My inexperience infantry, once unpinned again, refused to press the assaults, and the PaK scored another tank kill, this time my FHQ, who, out of HE ammo, had charged the gun with MGs, failed to score the kills and caught a 75mm AP shell back in reply. 2 more chits. One was an aircraft, but the VVS didn’t show to aid me.

It was the last turn, and it was close. Could I force the Germans over their break point? Short answer was - no, not quite, their cover saves continued to thwart my fire… it all petered out. When another T-34 (my 6th) was lost to a Panzerfaust, it saw my counter total reach 56… broken in turn 9. Noooo!

The Germans had also been close 31 from 35, so 1 or 2 more chits would have done it. It had been brutal, I can’t recall a game with so many infantry close assaults (or at least attempts). Smoking T-34s littered the fields and orchard all the way into Friedrichswalde, but the shell shock Volksgrenadiers had somehow hung-on to win it.

2 campaign victory points to the Germans see them take a 5-3 lead in the campaign and earn 5th Panzer time for a second counter-attack game. That’s coming next… Konigsberg is proving tough.

Here are some photos of the action… camera batteries working this time.

German trenches and dug-out, formidable second line of defences outside Konigsberg. 
I tried to go around these.

Rearward positions, including the sIG33.

In Friedrichswalde, the last Germans.

The orchard position, about to face the overwhelming onrush of tanks and men.

 Here they come, first wave of tanks and tank riders deploy.

 Crossing the quagmire, the plowed fields were very wet, but tracked vehicles were unaffected in the scenario, good job too!

 Holding force on my right, enough to keep the Germans pinned in place.

 First tank lost as the assault on the walled orchard starts.

 Pak pinned in its dug-out, once unpinned it became the lynchpin of the defence. It just would not die!

 Overrun, the orchard about to fall.

 The orhcard is cleared and the attack can move on, next, that Pak and the house. 

 Third platoon arrive on foot, and start to run...

 The Pak get its first victim. The house about to be assaulted by riflemen, a bitter to-fro melee that cost the Russians dear.

 Last reserve moving up the road.

Friday, 3 February 2017


The second game of my Konigsberg campaign was fought out this week, with my Russians pressing on towards the city. Having cleared the fortress in the first game, I faced elements of 5th Panzer Division as they conducted their afternoon counter-attack to hold the westwards corridor from Konigsberg to Pillau port open. I have some good period maps of the area (and Google maps, less useful, but it gives some information), and went searching for a suitable actually location for our armoured clash. I chose an area around the Freidrichsburg Farm, and the Landgraben (canal, stream or man-made drainage ditch I’m not sure).

Well, one hiccup was the camera batteries, after 3 pics they died. No problem, I carry reserves, except they were flat too… err… no more photos then. So, I’ll keep this short(ish).

The Germans were choosing a force from the 1944 Panzer Division lists (from Overlord), as 5th Panzer were still a recognisable, organised force (if very depleted). It would also be one of the few chances for my opponent to use his armour in anything like any numbers. His panzers were 2 Pz IVs and a StuG (we allowed him to combine them into an ersatz platoon) supported by a Jagdpanzer IV (L70 of course, but 5th Panzer still had 12 of these in April 1945) for serious anti-tank defence. With them was an armoured panzer grenadier platoon (first outing for these models in years, which is part of the point of playing the campaign), a bit of other sundry support (Pak38, Forward HQ, recce sniper and armoured recce squad) and 120mm off-table arty support.

My red tide was led by my long unused ISU-122s (hell yeah!), both mighty weapons in the open ground I’d have to cross. With them came a platoon of T34/85s, all with tank riding SMG-armed squads (with captured Panzerfausts, how novel!!). A platoon of cheap riflemen (cannon fodder), 2 recce T34/76s (awesome recce power), and a BA-64 armoured car to spot for off-table (obligatory) 120mm mortars.

The scenario was ‘Flanking Attack’, after set-up, it was 'Game On!'

The early turns were cagey, exchanges of mortar fire resulting in some pinning, and the lost of the lead Panzer IV (officer too) to lucky direct mortar hit. First blood the Russians. I was husbanding my forces awaiting them all before launching an all-out assault, infantry and tanks together. The Germans sent forwards some half tracks and grenadiers to take a central barn (an objective), but T-34 HE fire had them pinned down in open ground and halted. The rest of the Germans loitered around the farm on his table edge

The ISU-122 and Jgpanzer IV traded first shot as maximum range, and missed a lot, then withdrew to rearm from newly arrived supply trucks. More mortar fire was landing on the Friedrichsburg Farm and one accurate shell knocked out the German CO in his half track, a lucky bonus for me… the Germans had lost 2 officers are were down to just 1. I still had all 5… (FHQ, Platoon HQ, T34 Platoon HQ, ISU-122 Battery HQ and VVS Officer). No shortage of orders for me.

As my main armour and tank riders arrived, so it was time to go. With a good orders roll I pushed boldly forwards as ambush fire from the Pz IV and StuG fizzed passed. An ISU-122’s returning fire annihilated the StuG, outclassed on this battlefield. Mortar rounds pinged of my ISU’s side armour and one even took a 75mmL70 hit to the front glacis and rolled on unscathed… not many survive a hit from those guns. It was going well, except that my chit pulls had been bad, mostly 4s, and not an aircraft in sight (I brought a VVS officer along, feeling lucky!). My timed air strike PE-2 dived in and bombed the farm, and scored a few pins… cursed by the Germans, whose 20mm flak truck hadn’t got on the table yet… arriving a turn too late to do its job.

The crucible of this battle would be the very centre, a barn and its small fields around it. My infantry was running towards it at full speed and my tanks had debussed their SMG squads, whilst the Germans were still pinned down in their half tracks. My infantry reached the barn and took the objective as tank fire was still being traded, and my T34-85s were a match for the Panzer IV (if they could hit), which was now pulling back to re-arm with more AP shells. On my left I send my T34/76s recce units into another advance, hoping the mounting pressure would be too much for the Germans dwindling number of orders. The red tide was coming in fast. Here, things started to turn for the worse, I’d had far the better of the early turns… but then my leading T34/76 took a hit from the PaK38, which glanced off, but pinned it. Then, the 37mm door-knocker (SdKfz 251/10) opened fire, scored 2 more hits, both bounced off too, but the rattled crew abandoned the tank and ran. First Russian tank lost. Next, the German player's unpinning chit turned up a Air Attack. On his next turn, he rolled a 6… the Luftwaffe arrived (what?) in the form of a Ju-87G, 37mm cannon-armed and piloted by some little Hans Rudel wanna-be… his first strafing run destroyed the second T34/76 in a blaze of 37mm cannon shells. 2 more counters (both big numbers again).

In the centre the panzergrenadiers finally got going. Unpinned, these veteran assaulted the barn, but only after their MG had pinned the squad inside (the right way to do it). Their attack, potato mashers first, wiped out my pinned SMG squad who couldn't fight back. More MG fire from their half tracks pinned my following infantry squads in the fields, he was seizing back the objective. The JgPanzer IV also reappear, fully armed up, and its first shot hit an ISU-122, which brewed up this time… drat, one of my big-beasts was gone and the chit was another 4!

The battle would be decided at the farm, my tank’s MG’d up the enemy infantry and fired at the half tracks behind (easy counters), missing about 5 times (on 4+, frustrating-yep!)… my attack was coming apart. In desperation I tactically co-ordinated to get an SMG squad back in the fight, and they were ordered to assault the barn (they excel at this work)… and promptly refused (and went back pinned again, grr!). Incoming MG fire was just too much for them, obviously. Argh! That was another counter taken (a 4), for nothing, and I was close to breaking.

The fight of the barn sucked up the few German orders (low rolls for 2 turns making things tricky and cut his mortar fire to nothing). But his grenadiers moved into the field and used its covers to unleash a Panzerfaust. My lead T34/85 took the hit and, Kaboom! was a-goner… another counter. I was at 34 from 38 so should be just OK. No. A 5, and my Russians had broken.

The fight at the barn had been a German win, those veteran grenadiers had shown how it should be done, keeping a lot of Russian at bay with their MGs. My thrust had been halted and it was time to pullback, and shell this area flat for a later attack. 5th Panzer’s counter had stalled my advance.

The Germans gained the campaign points for the win (and a solid one, having 12 BR still left). So, after 1 win apiece, the Germans have 3 campaign VPs, and the Russians have 3 campaign VPs.

Here are the three photos I got… Game 3 is already set for first week in Feb. 548th Volksgrenadiers will be fighting a rearguard delaying action in an outlying village. If I can win that game, my troops will be into Konigsberg's suburbs. If I lose, 5th Panzer get another counter-attack chance. The AAR will follow.

 Germans move into the Friedrichsburg Fram, under incoming mortar fire... hence the pinning.

 My recon, two T34/76s, await on ambush fire at the cart bridge (crossing it had a chance to collapse it). BA-64 behind calls in the mortar fire.

 ISU-122s trade fire at long range with the Jg Panzer IV, whilst incoming mortar shells do nothing. Crossing the Landgraben stream (ditch) was very hard going, dangerous ground and a obstacle as well.