Friday 30 December 2022

Barbarossa to Berlin, game 2 with BG Stalingrad - Encounter near the Don.

This would be our second game from a series of six planned, set in 1942 during the German advance along the Don. Another meeting engagement, this time the random scenario was Flank Attack. The terrain was randomly generated, with a few small hills (hillocks), two copses, an area of marshy ground and a single farm. That was pretty much it, so open steppes for another Panzer Division vs Tank Corps clash.

Part of the point of these ‘pick-up’ games is to use models that see little action, so I went with all my T-70s, six of them, which rarely get tabletop time and then built from there, with another six T-34s and tank riders, a battery of on-table 120mm mortars and, for recce, a BA-10 and the PO-2 (very useful mortar spotter). They would face panzer forces of a Pz-II platoon, a Pz-IV platoon and 1 extra Pz-III (lang) with a kradschutzen platoon as infantry and other bits a pieces, including off-table mortars, a StuG (same one that had been a pain in the last game) and a 20mm AA half-track (unlucky for the PO-2).

We got going, with my basic plan being to throw my T-70s forwards in a reckless attack, to cause damage, confusion and attraction attention, and quickly grab any available objectives for easy counters. Behind them, the T-34s, tank riders and mortars (once set-up), would follow in the main attack, going fast and hard at where ever seemed weak and had some cover from incoming anti-tank guns (those copses). Time to go.

As per ‘the plan’, the T-70 all arrived first and sped across the steps, getting to 4 objectives (woo-hoo) and running over and machine gunning a German recce command team, that was to be his main mortar spotter, but were now dead… excellent start as the Germans were slow to arrive and found their first tanks, Pz -IIs, not much of a match for my T-70s in the light tank duel, as 20mm cannon rounds kept glancing off.

The T-34s, each with a tank riding squad arrived and waited for the T-70 to complete their work, as the mortars then got set-up and started to pound away at the farm, where the Germans were still arriving. Long ranged fire proved mostly ineffective and the AA half-track was pinned by mortar fire, so the PO-2 could swoop about and fire the mortars at anything without being shot at every turn. The Germans meanwhile couldn’t get their mortars going, comms issues.

After the initial engagement it was time for the T-34s to move up and join the fight. I had lost 2 T-70s to anti-tank fire, but the others were still fighting, but low on ammo (no ammo truck) or down to a single MG. My T-34s would push right, using the copses as some cover and they dismounted their infantry here, only to encounter dismounted kradschutzen in what became an extended infantry fight, both sides pinning the other in turn and unable to move into or through the woods to assault the other. The German StuG, at it again, recaptured one objectives when the T-70 holding it was destroyed and then the BA-10 raced up to try to hold it was pinned, then destroyed. The Germans had started a fight back, and their AA, unpinned, hit and damaged the PO-2. I needed to unpin it and withdraw it, but didn’t due to lack of orders and next turn, it was shot down in hail of 20mm flak fire… 2 counters as it crashed and burned. Two poor orders rolls on the trot meant the Russian’s advance had ground to halt. A timed IL-2 airstrike helped out though, scoring 4 pins with its bombs... flak missed it... phew!

The tank fight was heating up, but remained at longer ranges, the T-34s banging away to little effect (I hit and failed to penetrate German steel on 6 consecutive attempts!). The 120mm mortars were still doing good work though, although my FHQ was doing the spotting work now (always worth having back-up spotter or two).

The Germans were struggling too, low on ammo, the Pz-IIs unable to do much and reduced to trying to pin T-34s (not much luck). Short on big anti-tank guns to take on my armour, the loss of his Pz-III lang hurt even more. The Russians were getting the upper hand and so, the Germans, fearing the loss of their infantry at the copse (now 2 squads and 2 MG teams, mostly pinned), if I could ever get my inexperienced infantry to close assault when ordered (failed 3 times), sent his last reserve, veteran panzer grenadiers in a 251 on reserve move, it raced up and dismounted the men, who then tore into the Russian infantry, assaulting one rifle squad and wiping it out. His Panzerjaeger-I scored hit and kill on a T-70 and my counter stack was building worryingly. But the bold counter-attack was at a cost. A T-34 shell destroyed the exposed 251 and more machine guns wiped out his MG team. When more mortar fire destroyed his AA half-track, back the farm, that was the Germans done. The Russians had won, with 7 BR still left, so 2-3 counters in the tank. I’ll take that. So, 1-all in games in the series so far.

The next game, we decided, would be a change, off to Stalingrad itself for a game that wasn’t a tank duel. Make for a nice change before moving on to 1943 and Kursk.

Photos of the action. 

T-70s lead the way, scattering towards objectives (the crater, KO'd BA-10, rocks on hillock) before the Germans could get moving.

They encounter a skulking German recce spotter team, and give him some MG fire...

Don steppe, Russians from lower left, Germans at the farm, top right.

PO-2 circles above... waiting the 120mm battery to deploy.

T-34s and tank riders arrive and wait a few turns.

Panzer IIs lead the way for the Germans, under watchful eye of big brother, Pz-IV lang...

FHQ watches from hillock as the 120mm mortars arrive.

More T-34s, the main punch, the smoking one is a wreck marking an objective.

Busy at the farm, but hemmed in by the marsh.

Resupply truck needed already.

AA cover, very handy.

Timed strike, well placed, but the bombing is all pinning, but effective pinning...

T-34s move up on the right towards the hotly contested copse.

... and in the centre.

StuG moves to take the objective back, wrecking the T-70 holding it.

BA-10 moves in, hits and... pins, again! That StuG will not die!

Infantry at close quarters at the copse, and all rapidly pinned. Who can get an assault off? Neither side it turned out.

BA-10 is caught in the 75mm crossfire.

Urrah! More infantry to support the battle at the copse.

T-70 (no ammo now) vs Pz-II, bouncing 20mm shells...

20mm Flak gets its target, down in flames for the PO-2... should have withdrawn it once damaged.

Friday 2 December 2022

Barbarossa to Berlin, Game 1 – The Bridge at Borozyna

The meeting engagement scenario randomly rolled for our Barbarossa game was a Bridgehead Breakout, with the Russians at the bridge and the advancing panzer vanguard, (sometime in the first week of Operation Barbarossa, somewhere in the Ukraine), trying to take the bridge over and area of wetland marshes and ponds.

First we needed some terrain, so we used the Kursk book to randomly generate some. It threw up, as well as the bridge and marshes, a small wood, a farm, a large hill, on which was placed a large building, a monastery ‘Borozyna Monastery’, a village (the monastery’s community), several cornfields, and small hillock ‘kurgan’ burial mound topped by rocks (fallen dolmen, etc) and another small hill. There were also 5 (max) objectives. One at the bridge, both small hillocks, the wood and the road junction up by the village, so well spread across the tabletop. Here is the table after terrain set-up. The Germans would enter from the far end and have the village, the Russians would have to cross the bridge or the marsh. 

The tabletop, village, road junction, farm complex,  small hillock, large hill with monastery on top on the left (German right). Russian end is the marshy ground and bridge.


Next for the army’s deployment. First, note down timed strikes, any PRTP and ammo up are armoured vehicles The Germans would place just 2 units, both their recce vehicles. The Russian 6 (max), so 3 armoured cars and, just to get them on the board early, the 3 82mm mortar battery. Once that was done it was time to get going, turn 1, with the Germans wining the roll off to go first.

The first turn, with just the recce stuff on, were quick, units getting onto ambush fire to await the main event. Time for the troops to arrive, with the panzer marsch seeing 8 German units move on on turn 2. In return, the Russians rolled a 1, ah, so that was the FHQ, to lurk and try to stop that happening again (he did). Here they come…the panzers rolling up through the village and along the road to the bridge, claiming the road junction objective as they came.

The Russians started by getting some infantry on, too often its too easy to leave these behind, but it seemed obvious there would be a fight for the monastery on its dominant hill, so the trucks moved on and the troops loaded. The pan was get those trucks back off again, but in the end, tight on orders meant it did not happen. The first turns saw little actual shooting, a few long range suppressing HE rounds, until the spotters were in place and the German field artillery opened up, targeting, not unreasonable, the bridge. The first salvo saw a BA-10 take a direct hit and be flipped through the air, so first blood to the Germans. On turn 3, the Russians responded, the timed Katyusha barrage shrieking down onto the road junction, returning the favour by KO a 222 armoured car holding the objective and pinning various trucks and tows, including the radio half track. Job done.

The Germans moved on through the village and towards the monastery, panzer grenadiers riding on Pz IIIs, until one was pinned by a 37mm HE shot from the BA-27. The StuG arrived along with a riding squad and FO team moved to the farm on their left. The Germans claimed the next objective, the small hillock, that was also the Russian PRTP and soon found heavy incoming mortar fire all around them. One bomb KO’d a Pz-II, then a BA-10 on ambush fire in the wood’s edge hit and KO’d a Panzer III… and with 3 objectives held as well, the Russians had a significant lead on counters. The early turns had gone their way. 

Mortar battery, ready for a busy day.

Sukharlov arrives to observe the field and get his units moving. The Germans are coming.

First German panzers arrive, claiming the road junction objective.

Lurking BA-10 is pinned by early artillery fire around the bridge.

The other is blown sky-high.

Russian Katyusha strike back harder. 222 is KO'd and trucks on the edge of the edge the village are pinned. Useful harassing bombardment.

Russian motor rifles deploy and head for the cornfield.

Another squad unloads and takes the burial mound objective.

Turn 4 and, thanks to a re-roll from Sukharlov, a full BT-7 platoon arrived and crashed through the marshes, past the copse and moved at speed (and what speed) towards the weaker German flank, HE suppressing fire flying. A Panzerjaeger I was waiting and its ambush fire missed, only for incoming mortar rounds to hit it and KO it, suddenly that flank looked very weak. The Germans turned to their 105mm guns and called in urgent fire, only for it go wild and miss everything. The German artillery support would have a poor day, firing wildly three times, the BA-10 would be it’s only kill all game, and not much was pinned either. The Russians charged on, assisted a few turns later by the arrival of the second tank platoon, which moved up the other flank, but ran into waiting Panzer IIs (even 20mm cannon fire hurts BTs) and Panzer IIIs, which scored a first kill and then a mine-strike scored a second, then a breakdown a third - yep, that charge was rapidly ineffective and costly in counters. A timed Stuka attack on the bridge added another two counters when its bombs blew up an idling truck (no orders spare to get them off the table was an issue, easy counters waiting to happen).

The battle around the monastery had started, the German panzer grenadiers occupying it in force, getting their medium and a heavy MGs set-up, even as Russian mortars and the two infantry guns began to hammer at the building, causing some pinning. Small arms fire was traded, and mostly the Germans were pinned down, forcing them to take 2 counters to unpin everything.

Next, a break for lunch and over a cup of tea it seemed bleak for the Germans, they had lost more vehicles and taken more counters, the tide was behind the Russians. 

Panzerjaeger one is KO'd by a mortar bomb.

The Panzer-IIs reach the monastery hill on the German far left.

Dive-bomber incoming... target, the bridge! That truck did not survive the Stuka air strike.

BT-7s (and reserve rifle squad) arrive, altogether, to launch the counter-attack.

Germans claim the hillock objective, and get blastered in mortar fire.

Sta! Stal! Stal! BT platoon moves up on the right.

The StuG and tank riders makes for the farm complex, in harry with lots the BT already incoming.

The full table as the battle heats up.

So to it remained, the BT-7s charging on and claimed the hillock objective, a 4th out of the five. The ambushing StuG did good work in destroying on BT-7 as it approached the farm complex, but the German FO team, calling in the inaccurate 105 fire was lost, a HE shell killing one man and the other, pinned, running for it. The German commander now took over those duties, but didn’t have much of a line of sight from way back in the village. Another blow. How long could the Germans hold on for? Not much longer, I thought. 

The finale of the battle, and the BT-7s raced on, on reaching the rear objective at the road junction and claiming it. No unpinned Germans within 10” and the lone BT-7 had the last objective. Meanwhile, the others were taking a hammering, Pz-III fire destroyed another, then 20mm Pz-II flanking fire scored a kill. The light tanks were costing me. The German infantry, now unpinned in the monastery, started firing those machine guns and in a blaze of good dice, first one rifle squad in the cornfield was wiped out, then the SU-12 was riddled with MG-34 fire from the HMG team and left smoking, ouch, five counters taken this turn and suddenly the Russian force was close to breaking, the Germans had fought back.

But it would be for nought, because the Russian had 5 of 5 objectives. That BT-7 would win the day unless he could kill it and claim the objective back. All efforts were now expended, first a Pz-II turned it turret and opened fire, missing. Then the 20mm flank half-track, waiting in ambush fire, abandoned that task and moved round to open fire on the BT. It hit, but the 20mm shells glanced off the armour, phew! Only 1 chance left, the StuG at the farm, with just 1 AP round remaining, turned through 180 to get a single shot up the BT’s jacksy. It needed a 5+ to-hit… tension… tumbling die….

BT-7 reachs the hillock objective and claims it, as the German infantry are pinned by mortar fire.

Infantry guns deploy and open fire on the monastery with repeated suppressing HE shots.

Nazi panzers lurk behind the monastery hill, the Russians are coming to them.

Next BT platoon rushes forwards and rapid loses all three of these tanks.

The other platoon, joined by the BA-10 (hell, why not, all in!), have little to stop them.

Except the ambushing StuG at the farm, claiming a close range kill as one BT drive past.

Crazy Ivan's tank rush almost reaches the village, bit of panic back there now. 

… and rolled a 6! Boom, the BT detonated in flames and smoke and the Germans send a truck and staff car to claim the objective. I drew the counter, a 4, and that broke the Russians. The counter-attack was spent.

The Germans were on 44 lost BR against a break point of 46, 1 more BR counter away (probably). So, so, close, I had almost won it on counters and ‘all objectives secured’. Damn that StuG…

Brilliant game, such fun with the Germans badly on the ropes for much of the game, but fighting back to scrape the closest of close wins.

OK, so in our short 5 game series, it is 1 marginal win to the Germans, let’s see if I can get that back in 1942, somewhere in the Don bend, in a few weeks time. 

BT takes the last objective, if it can survive the German turn, it is all over! That truck is 12" away. Turret turned as it fired to suppress the StuG behind, failing that would come back to bite it in the ass, almost literally.

End game, the destruction along the Borozyna road.