Friday 13 October 2023

Convoy Ambush – Belorussia '44, with Battlegroup Bagration

 It is not often we play a smaller, squad-level, Battlegroup game,and for once, this would be an infantry fight, with partisan forces ambushing a supply convoy. Ambushes are tough scenarios to recreate, because the advantages stack up to the point were the side being attacked stand little real chance, and that doesn’t really make for a fun game. Anyway, maybe Battlegroup can do it a bit better and make a game of it – this was a test to find out.

My small partisan band consisted of a small inexperienced platoon, supported by a HMG team, light mortar and anti-tank gun, with support from two on-table 82mm mortars, a parachute rifle squad and long range scout team providing spotting and comms, oh, and a sniper (bit of a star) and the 3 man HQ, that was it.

Defending their convoy’s trucks and wagons, the Germans had a security platoon (auxiliaries) and a police platoon, along with an old captured T-26 employed as a convoy guard, a 20mm flak truck (got repeatedly pinned and never got a shot off) and a few support weapons, a light mortar and a dangerous HMG team. They also had their 3 man HQ in his little car. No artillery support except two low priority requests.

We set up, the Germans along the road in the centre and around the central farm, partisans on three sides, with lots of ambush fire ready, and we were ready to go…

First up, a rude shock on now few orders you get on a D6 (+2 for partisans, +4 for convoy guards). The Russian started by dropping mortars around the road, with some pinning but no direct hits, and settled for placing some more ambush fire, to wait the German response. It came as they moved away from the road, deploying their MG teams to the front and sides whilst the security troops moved into the woods on the left and right (and didn’t pin themselves). The T-26 clattered forwards, off road, only to take a direct 82mm mortar hit and be KO’d… so much for the armour in this game.

Now, after a cagey (slow, lack of orders start, the firefight began. Germans came under heavy suppressing fire from the DshK team (with lazy loaders) and rifles, and more mortars. Pinning mounted (and one security squad panicked and pinned themselves). So far the convoy trucks hadn’t moved to escape, but the exit was covered by my AT gun on ambush fire, if they made a dash for the board edge (rounding the felled tree road block), then it would use HE to pin them, leaving them easy prey for the small arms (that was the plan). The fire developed, my para’s moved into the large woods, but faced a lot of German coming the other way. They went solid onto ambush fire to wait, but the Germans were cautious too and held back, also on ambush, stalemate, and both left it at that, waiting the other to try to move and get hosed down. Meanwhile, his light mortar team was doing good (annoying) work pinning one of my mortars, which made life back on the road a bit easier. The partisan mortars had ‘direct lay’ rule, so they could spot for themselves, and this proved handy in saving an order. By the end of turn 4, the Germans had 9 units pinned and so took 2 counters to remove it, and rolled badly too. These security troops were shakey.  

With lost of small teams, I was trying to be careful about exposing them to German MG-34 fire (his police platoon had been upgraded to have these), but they were struggling to spot. Also, his commander couldn’t get his artillery cover to respond… he was left to fight it out with what he had. Still, one partisan squad had been wiped out by MG fire and my mortar’s loader teams had absorbed damage too. The trucks on the road finally started to move out, rounding the felled tree, but the lead one got a Breakdown counter played on and was KO’d… trashing it off-road. Another truck was pinned by long range DshK fire… meanwhile, my sniper scored a kill, and pinned his HMG team (set-up in the farm’s pig pen). German reinforcements had now arrive, an ‘alarm’ squad in their truck and they deployed, spotted my light mortar team lurking by the stream (and trying to hit their truck) and shot them dead. This left only my FHQ unit to stop them, so they took up their small arms and got into a firefight, which they lost, costing me 2 counters. Ouch! Still, stopped me using tactical-co-ordination… twice using it and failing (2 counters for nothing).

I was close to my 26 BR break point (25 in fact), the next counter would likely end it. But the German’s counter stack was a bit bigger, they must be close. They had done a lot of unpinning through the turns. So it turned out, when a police squad was shot down by my partisans and sniper (2nd kill) then a security squad, pinned, was shot up by another partisan squad and ran, those 2 counters were a 4 and 5… eek! That 9 BR sent the Germans over their 30 BR by 1, unlucky. The Germans fell back, saving what they could of the convoy, but it wouldn't be getting through today. A very narrow win for the ambushers, and really good, close, game… we played for 2.5 hours and with just infantry (and 1 tank) it was blast.

My mortars had done good work, and the DshK had too, raking along the road with fire (loader team needs to but in better effort though - probably drunk!). Interesting forces, with poor infantry fighting poor infantry. I can see us playing a partisan vs security forces narrative mini-campaign… a series of games behind the front lines, with parachuted in reinforcements, raids on depots and then a German sweep to clear those partisans out. Who needs loads of tank?

6 x 4 battlefield, Germans along the central road, Russian ahead and left and right.

Having felled a tree, the partisans wait for their prey.

Here they are,  a line of trucks and wagons, the security troops deploying left and right.

The 82mm mortars with direct line of sight to the road. Loaders team ready with the bombs... hammer them!

AT gun waits behind a hillock, covering the road exit, if a truck shows itself, they getting HE to pin it. Will they risk the gauntlet? On the end, no... so it did its job without firing a shot.

Mortaring gets the T-26 as the security troops at the rear run for the trees.

Parachute infantry creep through the woods towards the farm, but halt with Germans ahead.

The convoy's lead truck breaks down, leaving only 1 to risk the AT gun... 

The reserve Alarm squad deploy and take out the partisan's light mortar and their HQ... pushing the attackers to the brink of breaking.