3rd SS Panzer are advancing towards the Psel river, and remnants of 51st Guards Rifle Division throw-in a hasty counter-attack to delay them, as the SS moved through the small farm of Verkazyhi.
This is an AAR for a Sunday afternoon BGK game, played (as a novelty) just for our own entertainment. No testing, no rules debates, just a straight game with the rules as published between four friends. It was a standard Attack/Counter-Attack scenario with two 750 pt forces, Panzer Division vs Rifle Division. It was supposed to take place at Stafford Games, but due to a miscalculation by me it was shut for Warfare Reading...oops! So, it was quickly back to take-over my dining room for the afternoon instead. Always check ahead – doh!
My Rifle Division battlegroup consisted of; Forward HQ, NKVD Officer and a radio truck. Two infantry platoons, one with an AT Rifle team and an infantry gun (for supporting fire), and one tank riding with anti-tank grenades and all SMG armed (they would be leading the attack).Tanks consisted of 6 T-34s in two platoons of 3. Artillery was a battery of 2 x 76.2mm Zis3s and 2 x 122m howitzers (all on the table with loader teams but no tows, I planned to just push them on and then leave them) a forward observer team, 2 pre-registered targets points (both around the farm), 2 counter-battery fire missions, a timed PE-2 airstrike (for turn 5), and 4 Snipers (I was testing a plan with that selection).
The advancing SS were; Forward HQ in his Pz-IV, a dispatch rider, 2 panzer grenadiers platoons (one in trucks, the other walking), one with a tripod mounted MG42 in support (frightening them). Tanks were: 3 Pz-IV Hs, 3 Pz-IIILs and a Tiger (of course). Artillery was an off-table 120mm mortar battery, and a first priority off-table request. There might have been a few others bits and pieces I missed in the crucible of battle. Notable, no scouts at all, conceding the battlefield to the Russians from turn 1.
Having seeded the battlefield with our scattered snipers, all waiting on ambush fire, we took the first turn and started off by getting our artillery and OP team on the board. The Germans started with mass tanks, all eight of them, and two truck-borne grenadier squads, brutal but simple.
The build-up continued. Our walking infantry, HQ units and infantry gun moved up through the woods which almost filled our corner of the table, the springboard for the attack. We began by launching some 122mm and 76.2mm artillery across the table at our pre-registered targets, causing some pinning and not much else.
The Germans rolled on, the rest of trucks arriving to disembark their infantry squads into the village orchard, and claim their first objective. As yet most of the guns were out of range, or the Germans refused to waste ammo on distant targets. They did spot one of our snipers lurking in a crater and tank MGs quickly dispatched him (not really working this sniper-heavy plan so far).
On turn three, we brought on our tanks. The plan was for three to go wide right and race to take cover behind the low hill. The other three would swing wide left, each carrying a rifle squad with SMgs and anti-tank grenades, to attack the village - but only after the artillery had done its work for a few turns.
The German foot infantry arrived last (probably a mistake that), lagging well behind the rest. The Germans 120mm mortars opened fire, tree bursting in the centre of our wood, and wiped out a rifle platoon HQ, costing us an officer. The early turns had been mostly artillery and mortar fire, as it should be, the tanks were moving into position for the battle to come in the next turns. On the German left was the Tiger leading the 3 Pz-IIIs. On the right, the 4 Pz-IVs (although the one in the centre later moved left, which did leave the right looking a bit weak).
Russian artillery fire continued to harass the village, pinning a few infantry squads and scoring a direct hit on the Major’s Pz-IV, only for it to bounce off. The close shave caused the commander to be pinned though. So far our loader teams had added exactly 0 extra shots, lazy b******s. They would be having a ‘brief appraisal meeting’ with the NKVD officer after the battle if this tardiness continued! Still, the Russians were off to a good start, inflicting 5 counters and taking just 2. But, both side’s units were now deployed and battle was about to be joined in full.
Seeing our right flanking T-34s race behind the hillock, the Tiger and one Pz-III went on ambush fire, to prevent our tanks cresting the hill and having a free run into point blank range. On the right two Panzer IVs pulled up to the hedgerow across the field and found themselves under repeated heavy HE shelling from 3 T-34s in the hedgerow opposite, causing pinning and restricted their ability to return fire with any effect. The Russian artillery struck like thunder again, pinning another Pz-IV and wiping out a MG team with a direct hit - score another counter. With the Tiger on ambush, appearing over the hill was tantamount to suicide, so the T-34s waited, content with a Mexican stand-off with the Tiger, it wasn’t actually shooting at us (and for turns this remained the same, neither wishing to push forwards with the other waiting, but I feel we got the best of it, so just left it to continue!). Our little infantry gun made it his game’s mission to fire at the Tiger, launching Area Fire HE at it every turn. David vs Goliath-like, it was a mere gnat annoying an erm... Tiger? To not effect, but we enjoyed the German’s discomfort as we tried to roll a 6.
In turn 5 the battle suddenly took off, and it was not the only thing to. A Confusion counter, drawn by us, was played on the pinned senior officer’s Pz-IV. A roll of 1 and he abandoned his charge! 2 counters for the loss of the senior officer, no more re-roll and no tactical co-ordination for the Germans (gutted – not!). The German player’s heads dropped too, seeing their Major hightail for the rear, and the Russian players sensed blood! For all the previous defeats, it was now time to crush the Fascist Vipers!
Our PE-2 arrived, endured a storm of ambush fire MGs to dive onto the track from the farm and unleash its 8 bombs. This wiped out a grenadier squad and pinned two more before climbing away. Our artillery added to the pinning, seeing many of the grenadiers seek cover rather than face the barrages. The T-34 vs Tiger and Pz-III stand-off continued, each patiently waiting on either side of the hill. The other T-34s emptied their bins of HE into the two Pz-IVs opposite and pinned them too. The Germans line was looking heavily suppressed.
They couldn’t do much in return, a few infantry squads and MG teams advanced were they could, scurrying through the barrages. Their tanks fired some HE at infantry, with a few losses, but nothing too dramatic. Their heavy mortar fire was blocked by counter-battery fire, our second mission used up to good effect.
That triggered an immediate German response. With both our counter-battery missions gone they used their first priority request and dispatch rider to call up some 150mm Nebelwerfers, and aiming long, trying to reach our artillery (some on board counter-battery fire this). It worked. The subsequent impact saw 4 infantry squads pinned and a Zis3 blown sky-high, crew, loader team and all. Hard hitting artillery, but a one-off strike we had to endure! Sneaky that, to wait until we couldn’t try to stop the Nebelwerfers.
Typical shabby Nazi tricks aside, we were now pressing our advantage at the front. A T-34 on the right got a sneaky side shot at a Pz-III, hit it and it detonated. The three T-34s on the left revved-up and burst through the hedge (using their handy T-34 re-rolls), SMG infantry still clinging on, but with both the enemy tanks opposite pinned it was time to go! An AP shell dispatched one Pz-IV as we raced forwards. The others missed, but our armour was on the way to the farm, with no enemy anti-tank shots left to stop the assault next turn.
Unfortunately, the Germans still had plenty of small arms and MG fire, and this swept 22 out of 24 tanks riders from their steeds in a turn of bloody carnage. Ouch! Still, sacrifices must be made for the Motherland. The tanks were undamaged. In the centre, more MG fire cut down some infantry at long range, and caused pinning, but the Russian general advance had been signalled, all our infantry was surging across the fields in the centre. A 120mm mortar destroyed our infantry gun (boo!), no more annoying the Tiger. Two 75mmL48 AP shells bounced off the front T-34s this turn, a miracle, still no tank losses for us.
The Germans were looking glum, they had 16 counters, we had 7, and it was our turn. The assault continued. The T-34 on the left advanced, MGs blazing into the infantry ahead, whilst an AP shell at point-blank range into the side dispatched the last pinned Pz-IV, helpless to defend itself. One T-34 reached the central objective and claimed it, only dead or burning Germans within 10” meant they took another counter. This gave the ambushing Tiger a long-shot at it, which it duly took, and missing. Right, there was no more 88mm gun cover, so our right flank T-34s appeared over the hill, AP shells blazing. The Pz-III immediately opened fire and its 50mm shell glanced off. Return fire saw a Pz-IV immobilised, but the crew panicked and bailed out. Another counter - and with that the Germans capitulated. The T-34s were coming, so the SS Grenadiers began to fallback fast.
There could be no advance through Verkazhyi this afternoon.
In the end the Germans broke on 49 BR. From our total of 52 BR, we had reached just 23. A sizable victory for the Red Army. To be fair, the German’s dice rolls failed them badly at times, AP shots bouncing (needing 5+) and other dice (especially their HMG-42 team, who seemed to be cross-eyed, scoring 2 hits from 32 dice!). Still, you can’t always blame the dice. It was a superb game, no quarter asked or given, but friendly too and the German's bore their ill-luck with only a little muttering (and occasionally groans). It lasted under 4 hours, even with a lunch break, and the Red Army proved itself a match for Germany’s elite.