Monday, 29 January 2018

BG: Babarossa. Raseiniai Counter-Attack, Part 1

This AAR is for our weekend big Battlegroup: Barbarossa multi-player game, for part of the Russian tank counter-attack around the town of Raseiniai, June 24th 1941, so just a few days into Operation Barbarossa.

It was to be played out as meeting engagement, on a patch of open(ish) farm land north-west of the town, where Kampfgruppe Raus ran into a serious armoured attack by the forces of the Soviet 3rd Mechanised Corps. So a big tank brawl… and it was big so I’ve split this AAR into two halves.

Our game was set at 1,500 points, with three German players with 500 points each (but selected as 1 army, so no duplicating unique units, etc) and 2 Russian players (Colonel Masonov and myself) with 750 points each. That should keep us busy all day.

The fields of Raseiniai... from the 'home-team' end

An early Sunday morning start for set-up… and by 10am we were ready to rock and roll. All scouts deployed, with 2D6 extra units already in support. A mere 3 for us (all KVs to give the Germans a problem from the get-go) and 10 for them, so pretty even in numbers actually - damn, I thought we’d win out here.

Our Soviet plan, concocted in the pre-battle discussion, was for the screen of scout infantry and armoured cars to advance aggressively, along with the KV heavy tanks to draw fire and scare the hell outta the Nazis. They would be the first wave, to harass, disrupt and seize some objectives and mean the Germans couldn’t react well to the forces building up behind as our reserves rolled in. The first wave would be quickly followed by a second wave, our first pincer of T-26s with a lot of tank riding infantry, striking on our right. A Stal!-driven attack with orders to press forwards as fast as they could and not stop to engage the enemy, get past their tanks and into the squishy rear of guns and soft-skins. The third part of the attack would be mine, a lightning BT-7 assault on the left, coming slightly later but at full speed, so it would catch-up with the first pincer, again with tank riders in support, and again with orders to go! go! go!, don’t stop, get close and cause mayhem and give them no quarter.

The artillery fire support plan was simple… to keep a constant barrage of timed 76mm divisional artillery in a blanket of harassing fire missions across their end of the table. We both had 10 timed barrages (so 20 in all!), with two strikes falling from turn 3 onwards (until turn 13 then!) avoid any communications breakdown and no orders required. That would be demoralising (in shear length) and cause constant pinning. We also had 7 counter battery fire missions to silence their expected off-table heavy guns (bit over done that). With them we aimed to win the artillery duel.

2 T-26 platoons (5 tanks of various marks).
3 KV-1s
1 KV-2
2 Motor rifle platoons
2 AT rifle teams
1 OT-133 flame thrower tank
2 BA-10 armoured cars
10 x Timed 76.2mm barrages
Forward observer
2 82mm mortars (on table)
Armoured supply truck (thing).

FHQ - 3 men in staff car       
Motor Rifle Platoon           
AT Rifle Team               
Inf Gun + Komsomoyets tow           
Maxim MG               
DshK AA MG               
Reserve Motor Rifle Platoon (on foot)       
2 BT-7 Platoons (5 tanks each)   
10 x Timed 76.2mm Barrages   
4 x Infantry Foot Patrols
2 BA-10 armoured cars       
Supply Truck               
Repair Truck               
37mm AA + truck tow           
7 x Counter Battery Fire Missions

In all 1498 pts, 102 BR, 8 scouts and 0 officers (command chaos replaces officers).

I don’t have the full German lists, but it was basically;

2 Schutzen platoons (with AT grenades)
1 Kradschutzen platoon
1 37mm AT gun + tow
various 50mm mortar and AT rifle teams
1 80mm mortar

8 Pz IIIs
5 Pz 35(t)s
1 Pz IV
1 Pz II
1 Pzjaeger I

FHQ in Pz I command tank
Radio van
1 20mm Flak38 AA gun + tow

Recce kradschutzen squad

On table guns:
2 105mm lefH18 105mm guns (as big AT guns)
1 K18 100mm cannon + loader team (as big AT guns)

Off-table, etc
Battery of 2 105mm guns (off-table)
1 timed 150mm artillery strike
2 2nd priority artillery requests
2 counter battery fire missions

All 1,500 pts, 10 officers, 96 BR and 2 Scouts

So, not much off-table arty stuff then… drat. They had gone for on-table guns, to use in direct fire, mostly against our feared heavy tanks.

We out scouted them (a lot), so first chit to the Germans and the Russian had the first turn. Fight…!

Russian attack plan... 1. Scouts, armoured cars and KV-1s attack. 2. T-26 swarm to farm, with extra KV-1 and KV-2 support. 3. BT-7 charge into the German rear to mop-up trucks and guns etc. 

German moves (from their end). 1. Infantry platoon holding woods. 2. Pz III attack. 3. Pz 35(t)s on flank protection. 4. Infantry to hold farm. 5. Blocking force, anti-tank gun, Pz IV etc, supported by 105mm artillery behind (rear table).

The Russians started well, we moved up our scout infantry to the road, armoured cars alongside and got the KV’s into firing positions. The KV-2 fired the first shot of game, winging a 152mm naval mortar shell at the distant K-18 gun, missing, before putting the farm’s barn between itself and the return fire. As we grabbed early objectives, they took 2 more chits.

The Germans first turn saw the Kradschurzen scouts race into the farm and disembark into the barn. Their off-table 105s were under counter-battery fire and couldn’t help (get used to that), and it was all rather quiet. They held 2 objectives, so we took our first two chits, to get an aircraft, which immediately showed up, a I-153 bi-plane fighter came buzzing over. Excellent!

A well-to-do Lithuanian farm, and an objective for both sides.

Motorcycles on the way there. behind is the K-18 beast-killer, under the tree. On which are timed barrage is centred. We smiled at that!

The beast of Raseiniai... he so wanted to flatten the farm. 

...and his (not so) little friends, well spread out, so one Stuka strike can't kill them all! Lesson learnt.

Armoured cars and scouts about to push into the woods on our left.

Turn 2, first reserves arrive and on came the first T-26s and their tank riding squads, to crawl away across the fields heading right, led by the last KV. Our scouts pushed forwards again, and began to skirmish in the woods with German infantry. The armoured cars open fire with suppressing HE into the farm’s barn… and the KV-2 missed again and needed reloading. Armoured resupply truck was already on the way, at just above walking speed! The I-153 strafed the K-18 cannon crew, killed 2 men from the loader team and pinned it - good work Bigglesov!

I-153 on this way to hep out by attacking those German guns at the rear.

Armoured cars pinned by mortar fire... but the KV will lead then.

Scouts and their armour encounter their first Germans, and overwhelm them in a brief firefight. Few bad dice rolls for the Germans here, makes a change!

First attacks on the farm, ineffective fire. The farm is made of very stern stuff.

The German’s turn 2, and their first reserves, 10 units, a lot (all) of Pz IIIs just rolled in on their extreme left, so we could see a big clash was coming (in about 3-4 turns) with the T-26s and KVs… my money was solidly on the Reds. Bit of 80mm mortar fire, and a few scouts were cut down by long range MG-34s… still building towards the clash to come.

Turn 3, and incomes the first impacts of our timed barrage, causing more pinning, but not much damage, except their dispatch rider was blown-up on his Zundapp - some debate, but it’s a chit for that too (yeah, 1 man, but he had a important job). The rest of clown cars (T-26s) arrived and followed the leader’s as they rambled on. I had not realised they would be so slow, it was painful… no lightning war here.

My scout infantry did some more good fascist-hunting in the woods on the left, blasting 2 rifle squads into bits at short range.

The circus arrives... various T-26s led by the last KV.

Scout squads hunt-down the Hun and clear the woods.

Moving at glacial speeds...

Coming the other way for a head on clash, the Pz IIIs, before all those men jumped off.

Send forward the armoured ammo carrier... the Beast is in need of resupply already.

German’s go… if they must! The Pz IIIs moved up en masse, they were concentrating for a strong push on our right, and behind them also came the 35(t)s, avoiding our timed strike artillery beaten zone. A lurking anti-tank fire picked off my BA-10 with a side shot… and then the first 1 chit was played as a breakdown chit… on my KV-1. On a rolled 6 it broke down and the crew, daze and confused, climbed out and ran-off.. argh! Lost a precious heavy tank to dumb bad luck. Hmmm, still we were well ahead on the early chits, but things hadn’t got hot yet.

That didn’t stop a few German comments about the unfairness of the Stal! rule and how Command Chaos wasn’t much of a drawback really, 10 German officers compared to an average 7 command chaos orders (over a 17 turn game that is 51 extra orders on average!). Intimidated by the quality and quantity of our armour… the Germans just can’t win in 1941! And their machine guns take up an extra order (that one was a ironic joke!, they know the great advantages of separate MGs). And how many tanks can 1,500 pts of Russians get? … err 25 in this case! How may timed artillery barrages? The Germans are just rubbish! That is morale cracking in the face of the enemy.

Next turn, and the unfairly ‘large and over-powered’ Red Army rolled on, no BTs yet, just useful stuff like our AA cover and supply trucks (and the less useful foot-slogging auxiliary motor rifle platoon) and the repair truck, making for that conked-out KV at top speed. The fight around the farm heated up, the KV-2 scoring a first hit, but the remarkable cover of the thatched barn saving the squad from destruction (5 cover saves all passed - must have a very good cellar). Having previous band attacking buildings to destroy them in favour of the basic rules in such a big game, we now regret this, that KV-2 should just level the farm. It was filling-up with Germans, men and machine guns that had dismounted from the Pz IIIs and taken up positions on ambush fire. They had got there first with more.

One KV-1 went onto ambush fire, awaiting a Pz III to emerge around the barn, and the OT-133 began to sneak off through the woods, just another innocent T-26 making their slow crawl forwards to the Germans - oh no, things would be getting very hot very soon.

Our harassing barrages fell, more scattered pinning and the K-18 cannon took a direct hit, destroying it… phew, big AT gun gone. The I-153 targeted their 20mm Flak, which had just been arrived in the rear cornfield but then forgot to open fire… their bad. The I-153’s machine guns raked the flak crew, and the last pinned man called it a day and headed for Berlin… free skies!

Explosion where the K-18 once was... nice!

Last Germans pullback from the woods, their radio van also had to scarper, the Russians were 1 move away and soon to fill it with holes.

Spreading out a bit, for the coming battle. One panzer broke down, German engineering isn't infallible either. 

 Russian reserve infantry arriving through the cornfield... utter garbage. Mortar spotter trying to get into a better place to get his tubes in the action.

The Germans, fighting their ‘hopeless’ battle against the might of the Red Hordes, moved up, fired a 105mm barrage that didn’t get cancelled and pinned some stuff, fell back as fast as they could through the woods before more scouts, fired MGs for pinning and moved up a Pz III into the waiting KV’s line of sight without realising it. Boom, side shot… hit - dead. Scratch their first panzer. Not noticing what the enemy had put on ambush fire would be a constant feature in this game… multi-player games throw up such confusion, because you don’t see what all the players are doing (not if you’re trying to move the game along fast and avoid to much discussion and debate - get on with it!).

By now all the Germans had arrived, and their cunning timed 150mm barrage missed everything and caused 1 pin - boo-hoo, more black dog glum faces.

The T-26 ramble continued and my first 6 BTs rolled on, along the farm track in single column, tank riders on the back. The on-going fight for the farm was, inconclusive, the Germans still passing way too many cover saves to avoid being pinned and the Pz IIIs came under suppressing HE fire, one pin was the entire result… although one did also break down on a chit and become immobilised… revenge.

The Germans fought back (they do that) and got a Stuka chit, which turned up (no air spotter by a 6 will do it). It targeted the centre of the T-26/KV swarm, sirens screaming, without seeing our waiting flak on ambush fire. Our DshK HMG opened up and rolled, double 6… 2 hits, pinned, and both did damage too… the Stuka was peppered and pulled out. Then the 37mm cannon scored another hit and more damage, 3 hits from 4 shots… and the morale test was a rolled 1… the Luftwaffe pilot though better of continuing in an aircraft so full of holes and returned to base. Man, we almost shot it down. Some debate followed now over if the Russians had to take a chit, as no bomb had been dropped. The Germans though yes - just the presence of an aircraft is enough. We, no, obviously. We ruled no, ‘under air attack’… and nothing attacked us, plus we should get the benefit of awesome AA covering fire, we’d spent the orders to be ready after-all. The game should reward you for doing the right thing.

Still, things were tight, we had the slight advantage, but the Germans had that farm (more like a fortress) in numbers. They also had their Kradschutzen platoon on the board rear, on reserve move as the mobile reserve, if the farm looked like falling, they’d be their in a flash to counter-attack. My last 4 BT-7s arrived and the Russian were also all-in. Everything was on the table, the twin tank attacks could get going… so far the T-26s had produced much threat.

But that is for next time. Part 2, Stal! I’ll get that posted soon (ish).

 The BT-7 column speeding by... about to launch their Stal! charge.

 He's in big trouble, hands up Fritz! My scouts did swift work with some good spotting checks and thankful the Germans blew their suppressing fire.

More to come in part2.