Saturday, 9 March 2013

Grey Wolf and Red Bear in Late War Pincer

After quite some time since my last game against Paul, I managed to get back in the driving seat a little, having enjoyed several learning games with my wife in the meantime. I have to say she continues to do well in learning the game and her interest continues to grow...

During this time I had a little chance to think more about gaming with the Germans and the particular force I favour; mechanised infantry in armoured half tracks... This force has been an ongoing challenge to get it to perform adequately under a range of conditions; different list builds, missions and foes.

Also going back to the various tactical articles on the FoW website... a few key statements about this force, stand out; it is a brittle force... it must rely heavily on its support platoons... it must make use of its mobility, and use it to its advantage. It seems generally accepted that it is a tricky force to get the mastery of, and to get it to perform well consistently...

So it seems I am not the only one finding this force a challenge to use.

With these thoughts in mind and the realisation that with this force, most of the time its going to be a tough slog, I finally decided I should just enjoy the ride, and get out of it, and the game, whatever I can.

So I went back to the list and tried to come up with a balanced force that could have a chance in most circumstances.

I came up with the following:

Late War 1750pts, from Grey Wolf.

German Gepanzerte Panzergrenadiers.

HQ: 2 x P/faust SMGs and 1x P/Schrek, plus 3 x 251/1d
Combat platoon; Full GPG, with Cmd P/Faust SMG, and command halftrack with 37mm
Combat platoon; Full GPG, with Cmd P/Faust SMG, and command halftrack with 37mm
3 x Panthers                                             ('Medium' tank as long ranged tank killer)
3 x Panzer IV H                                       (Medium tank - infantry support)
2 x Half track Flamethrowers                    (Infantry Assault support)
1 x Recce; 1 x 250/1 + 2 x 250/9 (2cm)   (Reconnaisance)
3 x 15cm Nebelwerfers                            (Artillery to smoke and pin)

I asked Paul for a game to try this out, though didn't explain specifically what I was going to use, just asked him to come with a 'balanced' force, for 1750 LW.

The terrain was set up beforehand with the typical farmland and wooded environ.

Paul rocked on up and we chatted the usual stuff, and discussed the list I had come up with, and how I hoped it would work and play. Paul agreed with my thoughts and opened up his bag to pull out his Soviets...

Paul had brought:

Soviet 'Forward Detachment' 

HQ: CO in a T-34/85, 2iC and Battalion Komissar infantry teams
8 x Guards T-34/85
Tank Rider Company with 2 platoons and an HMG team
3 x ISU 122
4 x SU 122
6 x Mortars
Spetsnaz platoon with 1 squad. (recce scouts)

We then rolled off for the mission, and came up with "Pincer."

I have only played Pincer once before as a multi player game where the game was virtually over before the Pincer arrived, it was one of the more 'quirky' games we've played !

Pincer plays very much like the classic 'No Retreat' mission; with one Ambush, but with Delayed reserves. This delay is compensated for slightly in the fact that the reserves come on from the sides... so potentially behind the attacker as he is advancing on to your deployed forces...

Paul's Soviet Forward Detachment is an 'Always Attack' force, so that made me the defender...

Of my 7 platoons I would have 3 on with one ambushing and 4 off as delayed reserves. Predicting the objective placement, I knew I'd need infantry defending the frontal objective, and may as well have artillery on the back one. That left the ambush and it had to be the Panthers... So I was looking for open lines of fire for the Panthers and chose the wooded end of the table where the centre was dominated by a large cornfield.

I deployed as below, dismounted infantry in front left wood, just behind and contesting the objective. And nebs on edge of rear central wood.

Two German platoons defend the objectives
I thought long and hard about the infantry. The problem I faced was if Paul advanced and forced me back in the first assault, I'd be pushed back off the objective instantly. But to deploy forward in foxholes, would open me up to the devastation the breakthrough guns of the SU and ISU assault guns have brought on me, as in the past. The 'tandem team' of these beasts with the scouts revealing my gone to ground status has left bloody smears of the grenadiers all over Mother Russia... So I decided to simply stay out of sight, yet still contesting the objective. Anything is going to have to get within 6" of me before they can shoot me, and there was a large empty space through which infantry would have to move, or tanks would have to park themselves to fire.

So that was my plan, hold on and wait for the 'cavalry'....

Paul then deployed his Soviet behemoth... the number of Soviets and their resources always has a perplexing effect on me as I stared down this wall of death poised to surge against my two pitiful looking platoons.

Paul deployed his infantry horde opposite my grenadiers, his assault guns centrally, and the T34s poised to swarm round my flank to the rear objective...

Oh well I thought, at least its going to take his infantry about 4 turns to slog their way up my line, and with a little luck my Panthers may be able to hold out till some extra armoured help arrives with my PzIVs...

Deployment complete

Paul's Soviet Horde.
Of course, I had forgotten one of this Soviet forces special rules - infiltrate! This allows a platoon to make an infiltration move forward, before the start of the game! My only counter to this is that, Paul having made this move, I then get to roll a dice and if I get a 6, then this counts as Paul's first turn and I get to go next! I didn't roll a 6... so Paul's Soviet infantry were up close and it was their turn to advance...

Paul's first turn, he advanced the scouts up into the centre cornfield, the infantry continued their advance into the small farmlet opposite my Grenadiers, with the CO's tank following behind them. His mortars followed these forces up. The assault guns moved up the centre and T34s swung round to the flank of the woods. As all my stuff was out of sight or too far away and Gone To Ground, he had no fire...

Soviet first turn moves
Whilst I mulled over my plan, Paul spotted my army list and what I had written on the top... worthy of a photo he thought! I kinda groaned, looking at the horde fast approaching me...

Could it be???
So without further ado, I had tanks coming at me from all directions and scouts pushing forwards who could push back my ambush if I waited too long to use it. So I revealed the Panthers either side of the small farm building in my side of the battlefield.

The two Panthers on the left took aim on the Soviet CO tank, and got two hits! This forced the CO to join the SU's beside him, so one hit on the CO and one hit on an SU. Both were destroyed! The right side Panther took aim on one of the ISUs, and hit and destroyed it!

So quite an effective ambush, especially destroying the Soviet Commander...

In the meantime the Nebs ranged in on the huge infantry mass but only killed one team.

Panthers ambush

Soviet CO and an SU burn...

And an ISU is sniped as well
The arrival of the Panther ambush, stalled Paul's rapid tank advance. His remaining SUs moved laterally to hide behind a small central wood. The T34s moved into and through the woods to engage the Panthers in a tank duel. The 2 remaining ISUs also came over down the road to face the Panther threat...

At this point their fire only manged to bail out the right side panther. Paul's infantry decided to stay where they were in the farm, as I had also brought into the wood the supporting half tracks of the platoon, which would bring more defensive MG fire if the Soviets risked an assault or advance towards the grenadiers...

The tank duel starts

In my 2nd turn, I knew the harm those big ISUs can do, so I hit them with smoke from the nebs to try and minimise their effectiveness, whilst returned fire at the T34s with the Panthers. The bailed Panther had failed to remount. I think I knocked out a couple of T34s at this point...

This state of affairs continued over the next couple of turns, as I survived against the Soviet tank fire, whilst I continued to smoke ISUs and knock out a T34 per turn, slowly whittling him down. The infantry continued to stare at each other watching this tank duel to their side...

Finally I managed to get reserves, and three PzIVs turned up, moving behind the Soviet firing line and targetting the trailing tank that had previously bogged but freed itself. 3 shots for moving, needing 4's and I miss! The smoke hit the ISUs again but this time I missed the T34s if I recall correctly - a bad round of shooting... The PzIVs did managed to stormtrooper away further behind the Soviet wood. The Soviet T34 managed to crank his turret round and destroyed a panzer!...

Soviets knock out a PzIV

...and this time destroy the bailed out Panther..

Bailed Panther finally taken out by T34s
This turn, more German reserves show up... the flamethrower half tracks and 2nd full GPG. The Flame half tracks were in perfect striking distance, having come on the German left flank, to immediately go to work on the Soviet infantry hiding in the farm.
The GPGs I was in two mind about... I felt like charging against the Soviet infantry with them, but Paul counselled caution, and suggested a safer option would be to move to support the Nebs on rear objective, in case the Soviet tanks break through past the Panthers... so this I did moving them up behind the wood out of sight...
In the shooting phase the flame throwers let loose, with 12 skill checks needing 3's ... vwoosh! The smell of burnt flesh filled the air, as 6 stands of Soviet infantry got cremated...Paul sportingly placed his smoke and flame markers for his picture :-)

Mmmmmm... nice crispy Soviets...
This action now seriously dented the threat posed by the Soviet infantry against the front German objective.

This bold move by the Flame half tracks coaxed out the SU's who had been hidden behind the small middle wood all this time... They moved up and fired on the Flame half tracks but were unsuccessful. The Soviet mortars also tried to hit the half tacks but also were ineffective.

The tank duel continued on the other flank as the PzIVs moved back up to try and kill the lone Soviet T34 but only bailed it...

Next turn the final German reserve showed up... the 3 Recce armoured teams (250/1 and 2 x 250/9 2cm [250/9's proxied by 8Rads]). These, along with the still alive Flame half tracks moved up to fire on the Soviet mortars who had had the temerity to fire on the Reich's glorious flame throwers!

The mortars had been unable to dig in on the road, and had fired last turn, so were vulnerable to MG fire... The Flamethrowers still had their MGs to fire despite now being out of flame fuel, and the recce teams added their own MG fire... 15 MG shots later, and the Mortars were down 5 teams...

Red dots at top show where the nebs and Flame throwers had done their work, and at bottom where mortars used to be...
This shooting was followed up by the recce platoon assaulting the Soviet infantry! This resulted in more dead Soviets for the loss of the 250/1, and the Soviets broke off...

This German boldness was rewarded, by the SUs making up for their poor performance last turn and they destroyed the Flame half tracks. Despite mayhem, death and destruction thus far, the loss of the Flame half tracks was the first VP scored in the game!

Flame halftracks die to Soviet SUs
 The German recce pushed on, and assaulted and finished off the Soviet Mortars,  but this was now rewarded by the SUs turning their attention to the recce and blew these away too, the last one failing morale and fleeing...

German recce has killed the Soviet Mortars but is in turned destroyed by SUs

Meanwhile on the other flank, The PzIVs had finally taken out the lone Soviet T34, and other T34  burning wrecks blazed along the edge of the tree line where the Panthers had methodically been doing their work. The boldness of the PzIVs was to be rewarded by the remaining Soviet armour now turning to finish off this threat to their flank.

It was at about this point that I think Paul's tactic changed ... I think he realised hope of getting an objective was slipping from his grasp, but never one to wave the white flag and throw in the towel, Paul now looked to win by breaking me, and keeping his own forces alive... so the PzIVs could be an easy VP point...

This change in targets by the Soviet tanks, gave the Panthers the perfect opportunity to change their target, and they moved to engage the SUs, with long range shots over the cornfield...

At the same time, sensing a possible victory in the air, I started to look for a way to put the lights out on the Soviets...Their infantry platoon had took a mauling, and could possibly be finished off, and suddenly I spotted the 3 scout teams who had been sitting in the cornfield all this time. I decided to try and flush them out and started moving over the front GPGs, while the GPGs that had been covering the rear obective, advanced to support the front objective, now that the Soviet flanking move seemed to have been stymied.

The Panthers fired and destroyed two SUs! The remaining one failed morale and fled! Finally I score a point.

SUs destroyed by Panthers
The scouts pulled back out the reach of the GPGs, to be chased across and round the cornfield. To counter this threat, the remaining Soviet Armour, having finished the PzIVs, moved over to challenge the German half tracks and infantry. This allowed the Panthers to move into position on the flank of the Soviet armour... The other GPGs doubled timed forward round the left flank farm, and chased down the retreating Soviet infantry who were almost back to their start positions...

The Panthers fired taking out the lone T34 on the road. The GPGs machine gunned the scouts, in the small wood,  to death, then stormtroopered back into the cornfield away from the ISUs.

GPGs surround and kill the scouts
Paul swung the ISUs and remaining T34s round to go after the Panthers but failed to achieve anything...

The Germans retaliated by bailing (or killing?) an ISU and killing a T34 ( I think?) with the Panthers, but more tellingly, chasing down, shooting and then assaulting the fleeing infantry with the full GPG and the half tracks of the second. The Soviet infantry along with the Soviet 2iC, were destroyed.

With the Soviet CO and 2iC dead and 4 platoons destroyed out of 6, the Soviets automatically failed company morale and were defeated!

Final positions...

So the game ended in a 4-3 victory to the Germans.

It has been a long time since I have managed a definite victory, and it certainly brought a smile back to my face, and a sense that the 'mojo' has returned ;-)

Paul continued to be a sporting player to the end including offering snippets of advice here and there. But you certainly have to 'put him to bed' so to speak, because he never gives up, and the fat lady was a long time waiting to sing!

In post game chat, we discussed my boldness and how it cost me a couple of platoons, when really had this been a tournament game, I might have been better off, having used the flame throwers, to just pull everything back and wait it out as Paul at that point wasn't really in a position to attack and claim the objectives. By playing more defensively, I could have pulled out a bigger victory...

But I find it hard to pull back and sit it out, especially using their GPGs , and scenting 'blood in the air', the recce and flamethrowers were hurled forward... to their glory and doom!

A thoroughly enjoyable and exciting game, and very bloody end for the Soviets. As Paul mentioned afterwards just about all his forces were killed or driven off , with only a few tanks remaining! Though the Germans certainly took a hiding too...

And the sad part of history being, the Germans could ill afford such losses, whilst the Soviets could endlessly throw move troops into subsequent battles.

I am busy reading the Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sayer, and that story certainly gelled with this mission and the game play today. Perhaps it had got me 'all inspired!?"

Cracking stuff all round!


  1. Excellent report Scott, nicely sums up an action packed game. It was a fun game, and while I was basically on a downward slide from your first turn, I was still in with a (diminishing!) chance for most of the game, which kept things interesting. Credit to you for not overplaying your hand and waiting until the moment was right to counter-strike. It really took on a "pincer" shape too, it was a nice twist on No Retreat/Hold The Line.
    All our Eastern Front games seem to have a massive body count! I think you've found a good balance of force and tactics that suits your style. My Soviet experiment has advanced somewhat from this to. They always do a lot of damage, but attacking with Trained troops in LW I've found it hard to get over the finish line, lots of 3-4 losses! I shall return! :-)

  2. zum Wohl zu das Heer!

    [tsʊm ˈvoːl]

    zum Wohl
    1. cheers (toast when drinking)
    2. to your completeness; to your fulfilment

    1. "Deutschland Deutschland uber alles..." ;-)

  3. Just a final thought and something we may have missed in the heat of the excitement... this is one of those battles, where, if from turn 6 onwards there are no attacking troops within 16" of both objectives, then its automatically a win for the defender... I wonder when the scouts were forced out of the cornfield, this situation then occurred? Or even when the Soviet tanks failed(?) to get within 16" of the rear objective?
    I cant recall how many turns we actually played for...?

  4. Pincer actually only requires an attacking team in the defenders table half from the start of the defenders turn six. That was why I moved my ISU's forward after the scouts disappeared, and didn't back my scouts off to safety earlier. I was all over that one, hate to lose on a technicality!

  5. Very good! Yeah I had just had a quick re-read of that myself now... I got stung with the ' not within 16" ' once playing Brett in Cauldron, so I am aware these extra 'little traps' are there for the attacker!

    1. Looking back through the pics there is one where I MG'd the mortars with the recce and Flamers... to the right is the little triangle shaped marker I had placed to show the half way point... this lines up nicely more or less with the that building, which can be seen in the first full deployment shot, to be in line with the woods the tanks duel occured on the edge of... so all good, well done for keeping an eye on that... I would have missed it!