On Friday I went to Scott’s place for a practice game ahead of Winterfest. Winterfest is a tournament in Upper Hutt in two weeks time, organised by Bede Bailey and hosted at the Hutt Miniature Wargames Club. It’s Late War Eastern Front themed, 1750pts (plus a free sniper) and all games are played in snow, two of them heavy snow. This means all movement is slow going, and no moving at the double! I’m taking a Soviet Strelkovy Batalon consisting of:
HQ with 5x Pioneer Rifle teams
2 Strelkovy Companies each with 2x Platoons (1 platoon in 1 company with SMG’s), an HMG and a Komissar
Scout Platoon with 1 section
4x 122mm Howitzers with observer
4x MK 4 (lend-lease Churchills)
4x ISU 122s with AA .50cal MGs
I figure this list gives me enough infantry to form a solid core to hold objectives or launch assaults, a decent template, the wide-tracks and protected ammo of the MK 4’s will keep them going in support of my infantry or taking on medium tanks or gun teams, and the ISU’s to threaten the heavies and blast dug-in strong points. The scouts can infiltrate or use recce eyes & ears in support of the ISUs.
We decided to play Free For All, with Scott proxying Panthers as Tigers to field:
CHQ – Tiger 1E, Bergepanther recovery vehicle
2 Platoons each with 2x Tiger 1E
2x Mobelwagens (proxied by 3.7cm armoured halftracks)
3 x Nebelwerfers
A 7-stand Gepanzerte Panzer Grenadier 'Scout' platoon (which oddly didn't count as Recce)
Sporadic Air Support - HS129B3
Von Saucken warrior
This force should prove tough in this mission and on the table which was a couple of hills, a few woods and a lot of open space! Objectives were on the flanks for both sides.
|German 1st turn. Tigers roll forward (In hindsight I should have left them in cover on the tree line) [Dice on the tigers indicated their Tiger Ace skills - I forgot to roll the additional one for the CO]|
Scott deployed the first platoon, and ended up with two Tigers and the Nebelwerfers on his left, everything else on the right.
|German HS129B3 (proxied by Stuka) turns up on first turn, bails an ISU, and flies back to Germany, they are never seen again...|
|6yr old Becky doing the cheerleader routine from the sidelines for dear old dad - it didnt help - I lost! [Dice on ISU indicate bailed tanks, can I get a Fire Power?]|
|Infantry adavnces from wood... to protect Tigers from any Soviet foot troops, or so that was the plan|
|Brett turned up to heckle and jeer, though once camera was waved about he studiously stuck his nose in Turning Tide. 9yr old Chris is indicating the size of his... 'Balls of Steel' he has when fielding US armoured rifles...|
|First Tiger dies to a lucky artillery hit... Damn! Rolling a 1 for a top armour save does not help the German cause...|
|One dead ISU, and a burning Churchill behind far wood... things are looking up...|
|Two dead ISUs, this was as good as it was going to get... the ISUs lived a charmed life, repeatedly passed armour saves or I failed German fire power tests, and those fearless russkies just jumped back in their tanks...|
|Even with long range flank shots the Tigers still couldnt finish the ISUs... The Soviets must have sacrified well to the dark Gods the previous night...|
|Paul patiently lines up his shots... the lone truck is a proxied bergepanther doing duty as a mobile MG to support infantry, von Sauken hussles the infantry from his halftrack.|
The next three turns were essentially a tank duel, Scott’s Tigers on the right taking on my ISU’s at range, and the two on his left angling in for some extreme long range shots onto my flanks. Given the slow movement and lack of cover, engaging the Tigers with the MK4’s would have ended badly for me as there’s no way I could get a flank shot and can’t destroy him from the front. My ISU’s did manage to pop another Tiger, but were now on half strength themselves thanks to the deadly 88’s of the big cats. The remaining two ISU’s used the wrecks of their comrades as cover, but with the flank shots coming in from the other Tiger platoon (one was bailed but I passed a platoon morale on a 3, it’s good to be Fearless!) something had to happen.
|The German infantry hussle to the cover of a small hill, waiting their chance for coordinated fire to smoke and pin the Soviets, it doesn't happen... they don't want to go yet as there's a Soviet HMG on other side of hill...|
Deciding it was now or never, I advanced both ISU’s straight at the one remaining Tiger on my left flank. This took them out of range of the other Tigers and put a wood in between us as well. The only problem was if I didn’t kill the Tiger in front of me I was toast! The ISU’s are only ROF 1, so even hitting Veterans in the open required a 5. One shot hit, AT15 was too much to stop, it was all on the Fire Power roll. Scott had failed several FP’s on a 3+, so was delighted when I rolled a 2. He was slightly less delighted when I informed him that the ISU 122 has a FP of 2+ and flames and smoke would be required instead of the bailed out marker he had in his hand.
|On the other flank the two Tigers chase the Churchills round the wood, finishing them off eventually and sitting by the objective, but the blob of Soviet infantry is unmoved.|
This opened up my left flank for the ISU’s to advance at their leisure. Scott’s infantry had meanwhile made their way across the table to the cover of a hill in front of my artillery and the end of my spread out infantry blob. With their armoured support gone however, assaulting was now a lot more difficult. A couple of valiant attempts to storm the hill were thrown back, and the ISU’s mopped up the remaining vehicles. With the German infantry hanging on (passing three sole-survivor checks to keep the Company above half-strength), Scott went for broke on the other side. In my excitement I’d forgotten to move my MK 4s out of the way of his Tigers and they all ended up melting snow as they burnt. I was confident my big infantry blob would take enough punishment to buy me time to win on the other flank. Scott’s right hand objective was wide open, but it would take three turns to get there through the snow, and with planes still a chance at wiping out the platoon (and with it my big advantage) I fell back on my old fail-safe plan – kill everything! I poured everything onto the German infantry platoon commander and von Saucken. Their demise took a third platoon out of five, and also the ability to take a company morale check as there was no 2ic in Scott’s company.
So, 5-2 to me, but could easily have gone the other way. A few successful firepower rolls from the Tigers and I would have been greatly neutered. I took my chance when it came though, and luck was on my side at the critical moment. This game highlighted the difficulties of advancing infantry at armour in the open. Even just two Tigers would be enough to cut down my 20+ stand of Trained infantry as they took four turns to get across the board, and then they would still have to deal with the Tigers if they got that far. The ISU’s have the gun to do the job, but when they have to fight a mobile battle they are at a disadvantage.
On Sunday afternoon I faced off against Brett’s American Armoured Rifles with the same Soviet force. I defended in a Breakthrough, again in the snow. Mercifully I forgot my camera so there are no pics of this one! My artillery was pinned in turn 1 and stayed that way for the entire game. Not being able to double, my big blob of infantry heading for the objectives got hammered by artillery. They had to shoot each other to unpin, and when that didn’t work they couldn’t even dig in. Needless to say, Brett’s three big armoured rifle platoons all arrived promptly from delayed reserve, while my mobile reserve MK 4s didn’t turn up until after the first American platoon! Brett’s dice were good (although not a major factor) and mine were terrible (a bit more of an impact).
In the end the Americans were on the objectives before me and despite some fierce shooting I was wiped off the board. The snow made movement tortuous, Brett wisely flank-marching his mobile units to avoid the slow going. I lost so badly I don’t think I can even claim to have come second, more like a distant third! Still, some good tactics to use when attacking and highlighted some issues when defending in this mission, which was the main aim of the game. Hopefully the painful lessons have been learned ahead of Winterfest.