Tuesday 28 May 2013



Battlegroup Overlord is finally complete and on sale, so I can finally relax and enjoy it, maybe play some more games...

In the end, come production time, the book was very tight on space and I had to take the hard decisions about what should stay and what should go, because otherwise it would have been over 300 pages long, cost £40+ and been almost beyond sending through the post for a price people might be willing to pay. I think 240 pages will be Battlegroup’s maximum, other supplements should be considerably less than this.

Part of the problem was the subject matter, which just got huge. I really wanted to cover D-Day itself, to make it the complete package, and cover amphibious assaults in detail, because, for one, I have collected some of the stuff and years ago had my own Omaha beach boards and a wrote a historical scenario in some detail to play with it. It hadn’t seen the light of day for over 10 years, but I knew that an amphibious assault, well done, could be a great game. All that previous work and gaming fed into this project. The beachhead scenario is not a one you’d want to play every day, but a very different gaming experience from the usual tank battles inland. Also, I’d had the idea from the start to make a very odd army list for the Germans, one with no tanks at all. This might represent the ‘static’ infantry units. This list wouldn’t include much beyond poor infantry and lots of different bunkers. Mobile warfare it isn’t, but using such a force is all in the planning, when selecting the forces and when placing them (because let’s face it, get it wrong and you aren’t going to be correcting it). This list was originally going to be a fortress defence force, maybe for the West Wall, but it morphed in the Atlantic Wall Resistance Nest. It could also be used for the inland strongpoints like Hillman or the Merville battery, although the infantry division lists can do this as well.

When paired up against an amphibious assault force, the two lists make for a new form of battle, not covered in BGK, a set-piece assault over open ground against very heavily emplaced guns and machineguns. I could see no reason why this game couldn’t be staple of Normandy gaming just as tank battles in the hedgerows are. If you have the models, or are willing to collect them, then why not be able to re-use them again and again, just like the other models. The lists and scenario should provide almost infinite re-usability for the collections. My German collection includes a motley selection of about 8-9 bunkers and pillboxes for this purpose, and added to this I bought the old Airfix gun battery and tarted it up a bit. This was a pure act of nostalgia, because I had one in the 70s and loved it. Now I can play with it again.

Airborne lists had to be included. Although the game is primarily about tank battles, lots of people already play the airborne troops, and they have such a vaunted reputation I can understand why. The heart of these lists are the veteran (and elite) infantry. Due to the way the BR system works, it is actually not so hard to make an infantry-based force match up against a tank heavy one in Battlegroup. Now, it won’t be easy, but the airborne units, with a bit of tank support, should hold their own. They did in play-testing, in fact they did rather well (mainly because of their high BR values, meaning they take a beating and keep fighting). Now I didn’t include the airborne landings and glider themselves. I just can’t see any sort of historical game where paratroops are landing with enemy tanks underneath them. That’s not a game, it’s a massacre, and it never happened anyway. Gliders do make excellent characterful terrain pieces though...

Most of the special rules cover the amphibious assaults, because of all the strange equipment. The basic rules have most of it covered though. One contentious issue during testing was the position of the British Bren gun. It start in its own small team, ala German Mgs, but this proved a hindrance in Orders and BR lost, well beyond its value as a unit with very little RoF. So they were soon back in the squads, and then finally, an optional special rule. So, the die-hards who what to do it right and set up the Bren base of fire can ( and might find the imaginative leap to assume this is in fact what is happening without literally recreating it with the models on the table a step too far*). This I like, the games doesn’t force it on you, it leaves it as tactical decision. Also, from this game the Bren team (from a recce patrol) attempting to call in mortar fire. How a lance corporal with no radio can do this I don’t know... perhaps he has a pigeon! So it was banned.

Other special rules saw the US get a bump in command and control and artillery support, because this is their strongest suit. If you play the Americans a lot (and I do), you’ll come to appreciate this, because your equipment and AFVs really struggle, and your infantry are now inexperienced. On the good side, they are cheap too.

So, stuff that was supposed to get in the book and in the end had to go? First were the painting guides. Well reviewed from BGK, there was to be at least four more in the book, but, even as the painters where poised with brushes in hand, I had to yank them. Hopefully they will still happen, but it saved me 12 pages without even thinking about it. They should be back in future books. Next to go was the campaign section. I had it about half complete, a whole mini-campaign system with map movement etc, to replay a few days of fighting around the village of Norrey-en-Bessin, a small salient held by 3rd Canadian Division against 12th SS Panzer. It was a classic match-up, and with the right reference books the entire battle is now very well detailed with the correct forces (down to Panther tank turret numbers in some cases). I shall try to revive it at a later date, perhaps as a standalone mini-supplement, or for Dispatches (although Piers already has so much planned for it, it might be a while).

Next to go was the Fallschirmjäger battlegroup lists. I know, it’s in, mainly because Piers cried foul, but it was touch and go for a few days. I knew I wanted it in (I have a considerable force myself), but it seemed too close to the infantry list, and I could always make it a PDF download at a later date. Also, I admit, that by this stage I had just laid out 12 army lists and it was the last one. Flagging, I buckled and thought I could save the space. In the end, wiser heads prevailed and it returned.

Other things that were supposed to be in but didn’t make the cut? Designer’s notes for one – never got written.  Adverts, including Will’s PSC spread, which had to be axed. And at least two other historical refight scenarios, one rather nifty one for the village of Sully, north of Bayeux, on D-Day+1, which will one day be revived.

* and this something of bugbear with me, literal interpretation by players of what is an abstraction. As the whole game is one (an abstraction) by its nature, not a blow by blow simulation of actual events. Battles are fought by individuals making individual decisions, on the ground, in the face of their own personal situation. A game with models cannot simulate this. Battlefields change too rapidly, important events can take place in seconds, not minutes. The time frame required to detail this would be so small as to make even small games last ages, and most of the time units wouldn’t do anything. I’m no soldier, but my guess is that most battles involve a lot more hunkering down and hiding that any wargames rules could comfortable recreate. Spending an hour behind a sturdy wall would be pretty normal, but in a game they effectively do nothing. Instead, we can assume this stuff is happening. We can assume a lot, without literally recreating. Maybe some of the casualties are just guys that hunkered down by a wall and never got up again for the duration. Nobody was hit, the firing just sent them to ground for long enough we can forget about them.

Smoke is another BG ‘literal’ bugbear. Why represent something that makes fighting a game so difficult and so negative. Smoke is in BG, it is assumed into the spotting rules, a reason why you might fail an otherwise easy spotting test. There is smoke, there is a lot of it, and dust, and noise, and confusion, and generally too much shooting to represent all of it (only the most important bits are actually rolled for). At close range (as all WW2 wargames are), battle are fought crawling and kneeling... and very little is actually seen. Also, the terrain is not literal, all wargames tables are far too clear an uncluttered for the real world, and far too flat too, every ditch and dip, hump of grass of patch of ferns isn’t literally on the tabletop, but we can assume they are still there, represent by the randomness of the dice, a luckily passed cover save, or failed spotting test. The table size isn’t literal either, otherwise we can only really recreate a section in action on an area the size of a football pitch. It is also abstracted, to make the game work on something other than a board the size of a real football pitch. The infantry models also aren’t literal, they are mostly stood up looking like they walking to shops rather than fighting; down, crawling, crouching, cowering (AB range excepted here). So why would the rules be so literal? One ingredient a player brings to a game is his imagination. Use it to tell the story of the battle, beyond what happens with the toy soldiers.

There is no such thing a simulation in WW2 wargaming, unless as battlegroup commander you run the battle via crackly radios, on maps, and don’t worry about the models on a tabletop... but that’s not the wargaming hobby is it? My hobby is collecting, painting and playing games with WW2 toy soldiers, I don’t believe it will help me understand the experiences of those that fought in (or commanded in) the war, in any way at all. But it does entertain me on Sunday afternoons better than the TV, video games or Facebook.

Thursday 23 May 2013


This is our demo-game from Triples on Saturday 18th. Unfortunately I could only make the Saturday, but it was a fun day, a great game and garnered lots of interest from passers-by, as well a few questions from those already playing Battlegroup, who needed some issues clarifying (all part of the service). Thanks to all who stopped by for a brief look-in, or in a few cases, a far longer watch.

The layout from the US deployment corner

The game was set during Operation Cobra, during the American breakout, as a US cavalry group raced south to try and snatch some useful bridges over the river Sée. Also moving into the area to shore-up the German position was 116th Panzer, and their recon battalion was also seeking to grab and hold those same bridges. It was a 600pts platoon game, US Armour vs Panzer division.

The German force was:
From recon battalion 116 Pz Div:
Forward HQ in 250/3                                                      
Forward Observer Team in Kubelwagen                               
2 x 120mm mortars (off table)                                   
234/1 Armoured Car
234/2 Armoured Car
234/3 Armoured car
222 Armoured car           
Armoured Pz Grenadier Platoon in SdKfz251/1s
3 squads with 1 Panzerfaust each
3 MMG teams with MG-42s
80mm mortar team                        
StuH42 assault howitzer                                                                                               
2 x Pz IV Gs
Supply Truck                                                                     
Totals 34 BR        2 officers             4 scouts

The US force was:
Task Force from 2nd Arm Div:
Forward HQ in M20 armoured  car           
Forward Observer team in jeep                               
4 x 2nd priority art requests                         
Light Tank Platoon - 3 x M5 Stuarts
2 x Recce jeeps with HMGs                        
M8 Armoured car                                           
Armoured Infantry Platoon                        
upgraded to regulars
4 x M3 half tracks
57mm AT gun with loader team, Beep tow          
M21 mortar carrier                                         
Combat Medic                                                 
2 x M10 Wolverines                                       
Supply Truck                                                     
Totals:   41 BR     4 officers             3 scouts

The two objectives

 The flying column of M5s en-route

We deployed within 20” of opposite table quarters and first turns quickly passed with little combat, as first the panzer grenadiers in their half tracks, and supported by the 222 armoured car raced over the girder bridge and deployed into the farm and building at either side of the bridge. In two turns they were in place, as behind them the rest of the Germans readied their 80mm mortar, and got into position on the southern bank. 

First Germans cross the river

Meanwhile, the US forces rushed the stone bridge, leading with its fastest units, the three M5s, which fanned out around the southern bridge end and would have to hang on as the armoured infantry moved up behind to support. The main US attack would be against the girder bridge and the bulk of the armoured infantry made its way passed the village and their awaited the arrival of their armoured support.

As the M5s do likewise

 The rest of the stone bridge defence force attempting to catch up

 Germans secure the end of the girder bridge

 Panzers arrive behind the recce troops

First turns complete, shots began to be traded in turn 3. German 80mm and 120mm mortar fire began to harass the stone bridge, and the first casualty was an M3 half track, blown off the road by a direct hit, sending the surviving infantry scampering for cover in the hedges and leaving them pinned. A recce jeep crew was also pinned, exposed right in the middle of the stone bridge.

 The approach to the girder bridge

US return fire was from their own mortar halftrack, which harassed the girder bridge, but to little real effect. He second recce jeep, lurking towards the rear, began to flay the German held building with .50 cal fire, and would continue to use area fire from their position all game. My plan here was to hold the stone bridge with minimal forces and fence with the Germans to keep them at bay long enough for the main attack on the girder bridge to capture it, and win the game. To this end, and given the slim hope of knocking out their targets, the M5s loaded up HE into their breaches and started using it for area fire, and managed to suppress the StuH42 as the manoeuvred into position at the edge of a woods.  A result!

 Puma on Ambush fire, awaiting should an M5 stick its nose out.

 The M5s take mortar fire and duel with the StuH42

There was something of a Mexican stand-off at the stone bridge, still under mortar fire, as both sides jousted at range to little effect. German infantry moved up through the buildings and got into Panzerfaust range, but missed with their one shot and an M5 lived to fight on.  Behind both sides their reinforcements arrived - two Panzer IV Gs for the Germans (dated, but still a big danger on this table) and 2 M10s (and ammo truck) for the US. The Panzer IVs headed out cross country for the stone bridge, whilst the M10s split up, one to each bridge, only for one to suffer an engine failure and breakdown on the edge of town before it could reinforce the M5s - who would now face the approaching German armour alone (oh dear!).

 One M5 heads off to harass the Panzers' approach, it soon came back

 M10 covers the main street. It then broke down and was immobilised here

The battle had basically split into two smaller battles, one at each bridge. With both sides seeking to hold with a smaller force and attack with the stronger one. The German attack had become somewhat distracted, as the two Panzer IVs chased a single M5 cross country, it fired HE to harass them then used its speed to run for cover, and the bigger tanks rumbled on, one being pinned by the HE fire (another result!). Meanwhile, fire from the StuH’s 105mm howitzer failed to damage the Stuarts, and their return HE fire failed to pin it, in an ineffective exchange of fire. As the ‘tanks’ duelled, so the US infantry which had survived the destruction of their half track got back in the game and rushed the bridge, through falling mortar fire and strafing MG fire they made the headlong dash, and by a small miracle got through unpinned, although three more GIs had to be left for dead on the bridge, now joined by a burning jeep, also hit by mortar fire and destroyed. The 120mm bombardment was incessant and most awkward. So far both my requests for divisional fire had been turned down (to my discuss and chuntering  of ‘do you want these bridges or not?’).  My poor M21 81mm mortar halftrack was struggling to do much in return, and starting to run low on ammo too. 

 The end of the girder bridge, before the US attack began

 US recce jeep laying down .50 cal area fire

Mortar fire hits the bridge and destroys the M3 on its way to support the M5s

The infantry rush the bridge on foot, past the wrecked recce jeep which didn't make it

At the girder bridge things started to get hot. My still mobile M10 moved passed the church and, braving plunging MG fire at its open turret, plugged a 251 with its first shot. My M8 armoured car swung out into the road to open fire, only for waiting 20mm fire from a 222 to pin it. The main attack was about to go in, but had to hold another turn, with M3s waiting on reserve move ready to make their move in the German’s turn.

M3 moves up into positon, from where its troops would attack and capture the farm

 Panzer IVs still on the way. This one is pinned by HE fire, marked by the wounded crewmen

 More wild mortar fire, as the M5s hang tough

The order to go came next turn, as finally some 105mm artillery opened fire on the bridge and farm. Shells shrieking in, and the Germans where heavily pinned, most running for the cellars no doubt. More .50 cal fire added to the barrages, as a second 251 took a direct hit from the arty and was smashed to bits in the farm courtyard. With the Germans struggling against fierce US firepower, the M3s moved up. The first rifle squad raced for the orchard, disembarked and ran for the far wall to take cover, within striking distance of the farm. Their supporting MGs and 60mm mortars moved into the church graveyard and started hitting the Germans with even more area fire. The enemy were entirely pinned, except a single 234/3 which came across the bridge, but unluckily hit an old mine and was destroyed. The end of the bridge was starting to look like a German scrap yard.

 Pinned by 20mm fire, the M8 looks down the road to the girder bridge

 The second M10 lays fire into the defenders of the girder bridge, and scored two 251/1 kills

With the girder bridge under so much pressure, and unable to return fire, the German mortar fire switch to help the defenders. Spotted for by the forward HQ (in his 250/3 across the river), 120mm mortar shells soon had my attacking infantry cowering for cover as well.  It was hell out there!

At the stone bridge I made the decision to risk my 57mm AT gun in rush to support the M5s, those Panzers IV were closing in, and had now opened fire, but missed. The guns tow hooked up the gun and raced over the bridge. Next turn it was deployed and on ambush fire, only for an unseen lurking MG-42 to spot it and open fire, wiping out the exposed crew in a blaze of fire. Drat! My M5s were still alone, but remarkable, all still fighting.

The end of the bridge begins to look like a scrapyard

The endgame was upon us. Now the German attack on the stone bridge began, with both the Panzer IVs closing up to the M5s, and one was hit and destroyed. The StuH42, now re-armed, also joined the advance on the stone bridge. Their problem was lack of infantry support. The grenadier squad close by was pinned, and then assaulted by four bold GIs who passed their experience test, and smashed through the door, grenades flying and M1s and Thompsons rattling. The German squad broke, and suddenly there was no more German infantry around.

The US attack was also going in, I used tactical co-ordination to get my pinned assault squad moving, and they leapt the orchard wall and assaulted the farm, overruning the defenders who quickly surrendered to the GIs. The farm was in US hands, whilst the opposite building was being plastered in heavy .50 cal fire, .30 cal fire, 60mm mortars and 76mm HE from the last M10. 

After all the fierce fighting, my Americans were close to breaking at 34 from 41 BR. The Germans had a similar number of counters, it was close. The German armoured attack pressed on again, and another brave M5 was destroyed desperately holding the bridge. The Puma, which had spent the entire came waiting on ambush fire, now broke cover and raced pell-mell for the bridge. It was on the bridge and there was nothing to stop it ahead except my immobile M10  but the Puma’s 50mm gun destroyed it with a clean hit. The Germans were breaking through!

But so where the US, their continued assault was presaged by another 105mm barrage (at last), which smashed into the bridge area and left a lot of its defenders pinned. Those US guns were doing the business now. My assault squad was pinned again and this time refused to come out of the cellar back into the maelstrom, whilst my M8 AC was back in the fight but only managed to glance its 37mm AP shells off the 222 (are these guns any good for anything?).  More .50 cal fire, this time direct, spotted the last pinned German MG team and cut them down from the half track’s pulpit. The last act of my turn was for my last infantry at the stone bridge (4 men), having just cleared the building, to rush back out to the bridge with their bazooka. The rear of the Puma on the bridge made a choice target. He took aim, kept his nerve (despite a StuH 42 coming up the road merely yards away) and sent the Bazooka rocket up the Puma’s exhaust, destroying the armoured car. With that loss the Germans broke, and the US had won the bridges.

 The 222 pinned, but still in the thick of the fight

A Panzer IV about to catch an M5 at short range in the flank

The StuH42 presses towards the bridge through the smoke and flames. 57mm AT gun knocked out by MG fire, its Beep tow then fled the table to save itself - and me a counter.

 The Puma rushes the bridge and makes it

 Then knocks out the still re-arming M10 with a great shot

 But it's caught from the rear by a bazooka shot - God bless the infantry. 
They saved the day and won the battle.

It was hard fought and very, very close. My battlegroup had just 3 BR left, one more counter would have finished me (probably). The Germans had taken less counters, but their slightly lower BR had cost them.  The bridges over the Sée were in US hands, and the following Shermans could roll up and exploit my recce group’s hard-won gains.

Special mention needs to go to M5s, which although (probably fairly) are much maligned, they put up a great fight, using mainly HE shells for area fire, and MG fire against those harassing grenadiers. One survived its duel with a Panzer IV, which had probable delayed too long in their attack, and should have pressed hard a turn or two earlier, because the stone bridge had been so weakly held, and once over it, I had nothing to stop those Panzers rolling all over me.

Monday 13 May 2013


This was a large 1,800 pt battalion-level game, recreating an attack on the Seelow Heights defences at Lietzen during the Soviet Berlin offensive. The Steinstellung was manned by rooky troops of 156th Infantry Division (mosylu Volkssturm), supported by reserve troops of the Kurmark Panzergrenadier Division and 502nd SS heavy tanks (the fire brigades behind the line to counter-attack any threatened penetration of the defences).

The Russian forces, sweeping towards Berlin from the Oder bridgeheads were of 88th Rifle Division, with their tank brigade in support, and led by ‘Seydlitz’ troops (anti-Nazi POWs who ‘volunteered’ to fight).

Here is the table, looking west to east, from the German deployment zone.

and the opposite way...

The Germans started the game dug-in into two strong points, one around the Kunkelsee Farm (on the right above), the other was further down the road, covering the approach to Lietzen itself (the Lietzen strongpoint, below the trees on the left, above). The troops in the trenches were Volkssturm, with an auxiliary platoon (of local forestry workers conscripted to fight). In support they had 2 80mm mortars, a PaK-40, an 88, and a single 105mm howitzer (with an FAO in a bunker), a quad 20mm FlaK and a single off-table 380mm railway gun shot! In reserve were four Panzer IVs, three Panthers, a King Tiger and veteran armoured panzer grenadiers, tooled up with extra MG-42s, covered by a Wirbelwind.

The red tide consisted of: two ‘Seydlitz’ rifle platoons and a rifle company of another three Russian platoons, a T-34 company (on which one rifle platoon was riding), with a further two T-34/85s and a PT-34 mineroller  tank to clear the road of any minefields. There was also three SU-76s and 2 SU-85s for support fire. Artillery was considerable. A battery of 76.2mm guns, a battery of 122 howitzers, a battery of 152mm howitzers (off-table) and a first priority request, plus a battery of three 82mm mortars, also, a timed PE-2 airstrike for turn 5. Plus logistical support in 3 ammo trucks, signals units, senior officer, dispatch rider, etc. We also had 5 counter-battery fire missions, and they had one timed off-table timed  artillery barrage...drat!

The game started with Germans setting up and moaning about our 108 BR to their 84 (which had a D6 added for their ‘Backs to Berlin’ fighting spirit, which was a 6 - oh here we go!). Our 14 officers to their 8, we had more infantry, more tanks, more artillery and an aircraft. The pressure of the red horde was already being felt.

Our Russian plan (if you’d call it that)  was to start with a human wave infantry attack, using the Ura! special rule to get 4 infantry platoons moving fast, as we cut loose with ever artillery gun and mortar we had. Our main attack would come on the left, with a diversionary 'demonstration' attack on the Kunkelsee strongpoint, which the following tanks would quickly bypass to press on west for the Lietzen strongpoint.

Our artillery opened fire on the farm, causing some pinning, and wiping out a 50mm mortar team with a direct hit (whoopee!). Small beer to start with. As our infantry ran west across the patchwork of open fields, the Germans held their fire and went onto ambush fire orders all along the lines. Their 80mm mortars launched a few rounds down range to harass our advance with some unwelcome pinning. The 380mm rail gun shot whistled in to pin two more infantry squads and kill a man, not so great, but big artillery like that really needs a direct hit, then something really dies... and in the confusion of battle we forgot to counter-battery it as well... drat!

Next turn the human wave advance continued, as a little YaK fighter buzzed in overhead and swooped down on the German’s rear signals van. Unfortunately an ambushing quad 20mm raked it with fire, pinning the fighter and serious damaging it. Next turn it would take another hit and be shot down in flames... oh dear.

On the ground the red infantry rolled on and the German MGs around the Kunkelsee Farm, even crewed by mere forestry workers, opened up a raking area fire, sending most of a rifle platoon to the ground, even as their 76mm infantry gun set up and returned an effective fire. 82mm mortars rained down on the German trenches, but their cover kept them safe enough, and the Russian attack on the trenches stalled (not a major worry as it was a diversion, to attract fire away from the centre, which it wad doing well). More soviet artillery thundered in, and the farm was now swathed in smoke and dust, but few casualties resulted (the PaK 40 surviving a direct hit by very good luck).

Germans kept to the plan, held their fire except for MGs sweeping the ground with area fire, and keeping the Russian's heads down. Our two Maxims were returning  fire at the trench line, blazing away like bilio, but again to no effect. The main problem the forestry workers had was their auxiliary ability to pin themselves.

Turn 3 and the loss had so far been low, a few infantry each side (mostly from cover saves rolls of 1). Now the Russian tanks rolled in. These we would mass on the eastern table edge before being released forwards in the main attack. On the left the SU-76 battery rolled up to bring the Kunkelsee Farm strongpoint under direct HE fire, as the artillery switched targets to the Lietzen strongpoint.  Over the next turns the SU-76s kept up a heavy fire, and were soon out of ammo... and needing a supply wagon, which was coming - slowly!

The Germans first armour arrived, Panzer IVs leading their counter attack down the road, Panthers joining  their left in the open ground, supported by the mighty King Tiger.

Turn 4, and the Russians ominously massed more armour, SU-85s, and more T-34s with tank riders, next turn it would be time to go. All our artillery hammered the Lietzen strongpoint, with similarly disappointing results as earlier. Meanwhile, the German’s reserves raced up, panzer grenadiers in 251s moving to support the Kunkelsee Farm, where Russian infantry were now very close. Their proximity caused the Germans to open up, and area ambush fire had most Russian squads hugging the ground or diving into bushes pinned.  There was a lot of pinned Russian infantry, and the returning Maxim MG fire was doing very little to help.

Turn 5, and the great tank charge could begin, helped by a big command and control roll for 36 (get in), every T-34 hit the accelerator and began to advance in a long line. This provoked some very long range ambush fire from the distant 88 and King Tiger, which missed at 68” range. Also, a Sturmovik arrived (our VVS officer was having a good day so far), and raced in to drop its 4 bombs, only for a quad 20mm FlaK to open fire again and pin it, driving it off, but it would be back...

Our PE-2 also arrived, its timed strike would be on the road, almost on top of where the Panzer IVs were deploying off the road to meet the closing T-34s. Excellent timing and location, but foiled by the waiting Wirbelwind, which drove off the PE-2 before it could unload its 8 bombs. Drat-again!

Now, with the T-34 charge on, the tides of war shifted. The Germans anti-tank opened fire with a vengeance, a PaK-40 side shot from the farm killed the first Russian tank, then a Panther hit and killed another, tank riders bailing from the flame wreck. Miraculously a third T-34 survived an 88 hit, but a fourth was left in smoking ruin by a Pz-IV. The tank battle was on. The T-34s pressed onwards, one hit and destroyed a Pz-IV with an AP shell. The SU-85s, halting to give covering fire at long range, hit and destroyed another Pz-IV. The King Tiger took aim, fired, missed and jammed its main gun. Unable to fix it, it was reduced to a heavily armoured pair of machine guns (and much German moaning followed).

The Russians, tactical co-ordinating to unpin a mere rifle squad, saw a chance to close assault pinned Volkssturm in the Kunkelsee trenches, only for the inexperienced red infantry to refuse to fix bayonets. They would  have been shot for such disobedience, but the German MGs soon did the job instead. And many more followed, as the MGs ripped through our cowering infantry at short ranges. The centre was pinned down and being whittled away fast, the diversionary attack hadn’t worked and the infantry in the centre had been drawn into attacking the trenches instead of pressing on with the tanks. Meanwhile, the Seydlitz troops did press on on the left, through the woods, making for their objective, the Lietzen strongpoint. The first T-34s reached the anti-tank obstacles on the road, the (PT-34 now wrecked by a Panzer IV hit), and diverted through the woods to get around, the tank charge was still on,(rash but fun).

To aid it, our senior officer finally sent his dispatch rider with a message to call up army level artillery. Four 203mm howitzers crashed down on the Lietzen strongpoint, a direct hit destroying another Pz-IV, and the German artillery observer’s bunker, killing him too. The heavy guns had done their job (for once this game).
Finally, some Russian infantry summoned up the courage to assault the Kunkelsee Farm trenches, but their close assault failed, and more MG fire, now from the tooled-up panzer grenadiers in the woods behind, sweep the trenches clear of the enemy again. The SU-76s had now re-armed and rejoined the battle with more long range HE, causing some pinning and wiping out a Volkssturm MG team. The Sturmovik returned, only to be shot down by both quad 20mms in another accurate blaze of fire. Another 2 counters for that aircraft lost.

The tank battle swung decisively to the Germans, a Panther’s gun barked and cut another T-34 into scrap metal, and a Panzerfaust from a Volkksturm infantryman in a trench destroyed another. Both the SU-85s emptied their ammo bins in response, and scored 4 hits on the last Panzer IV, destroying it in an uncharacteristic display of good gunnery.

It was time for the last Russian gamble, the chits were mounting fast (too fast), but if the Lietzen strongpoint was ever to fall then the Seydlitz troops would have to do it, the main tank attack has shot it bolts and failed. The traitor Germans burst from the woods with a great Ura! , and the loyalist German MGs opened their ambush fire. It was a massacre, like the Somme, the waiting MGs just cut swathes through the platoon. 2 squads broke and ran, the others were reduced to half strength. Then it was the German's turn! And the smoking MGs finished the job, 36 men gone in tyhe blink of an eye. Heads in hands, and with that final doomed charged, the Russians agreed they were beaten. Only a few BR remained from our 108, and it was 5 o’clock. Time to pack up, and reflect on a gruesome day.

The Steinstellung was still intact. The Germans BR loss amounted to just 50 from their 90, so still  in healthy fighting shape. The Russian force was in tatters. Over a 100 dead infantry (to just 20 odd Germans), 11 of 13 T-34s were burning hulks, both SU-85s survived the inferno, but were out of ammo, and all three SU-76s, although their long range HE fire had seen them at far less risk. As the smoke cleared, Lietzen was still safe, and this route to Berlin at least was still holding its ground.

The Russian’s brutal frontal  ‘assault ‘plan had failed dismally. Our artillery, queen of the battlefield, had failed to do much, the 3+ cover saves of the trenches had been so good. Even Volkssturm and armed civilians had but up a heroic fight from them.

The information and background for the game we took from Berlin Dance of Death by Helmut Altner and Zhukov at the Oder by Tony Le Tissier. It went to historical results anyway, the Steinstellung did hold out on April 19th, and the Seydlitz troops got massacred and ran away. 

Here are the snaps from the game.


 The Russian human wave, field grey of the Seydlitz troops in the foreground.

 Germans deploying into the Lietzen strongpoint, 88 behind.

 Plucky forestry workers in trenchs at Kunkelsee ( we used partisan figures mixed with a few field grey guys). Although the trench models are raised we agree that they do not block line of sight as really they would be at ground level (and below).

German senior office, camping in his tent. 

 The sole German artillery gun, its work cut out. 

The Yak fighter arrives, heads for the radio van, and gets shot down...

 First 152 and 122 artillery impacts on Kunkelsee. 

More 152 strikes on the trenches, the auxiliary troops weathered the storm and it passed on.

 Oh dear, crazy Ivan, the Vodka soaked pilot of the Yak crash lands... 
the German players did this to rub it in.

 The red infantry under harassing mortar fire in the centre are thinned out.

 SU-76Ms fling HE at Kunkelsee from long range. 
The infantry gun next to them tried to help out too...some hope.This was the diversionary attack.

 Kurmark grenadiers arriving at top speed

Panzer IVs on the road from Lietzen to counter-attack

 Panthers arrive as well... lordy!

The parade ground advance of T-34s in the main tank charge. 

Seydlitz troops advance through the woods, target the Lietzen strongpoint beyond.

 More Seydlitz troops hold the road junction and claim an objective.

Here they come... long fields of fire wouldn;t help the Panthers, whose crews seemed pretty inept. 2 kills for 3 tanks today, but no losses.The Konigs Tiger is in need of some field workshop assistance.

 The tank attack develops.

 First T-34 goes up in smoke, from a side-shot from the unpinned Pak-40 at Kunkelsee.

 The offending gun, damn lucky to be in the game... it claimed 3 T-34s by game end.

Russian infantry perilously close to the Kunkelsee strongpoint. Even pinned civilians were too much for inexperienced red infantry to assault, apparently and much to their real commander's discuss and shouts of "Just get stuck in!!"

 T-34s bypass the anti-tank obstacles via the woods. 
The two SU-85s halted here to give fire, to good effect whilst the ammo lasted.

 Packed trenches of the Lietzen strongpoint, Panzer IVs in close support but taking losses. 
White puffs of smoke mark units on covering fire (most of them).

 The bold leading T-34s brew up, victims of Panzerfausts. 
The 88 just behind had run out of ammo on a special counter. It didn't help much. 
The field in foreground would shortly be the scene of the slaughter of a Seydlitz platoon to the man.

Small victory, a Panzer IV is destroyed by a 203mm howitzer direct hit. I stopped taking pictures after this...too depressed, I just wanted to go home...