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|
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...
|Paul's Soviet Horde.|
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|
|Could it be???|
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.
|Soviet CO and an SU burn...|
|And an ISU is sniped as well|
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|
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 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 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|
|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 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|
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!
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!