Sunday, 18 March 2012

Battle report - You shall not pass! or The Road to Berlin April 45

A couple of weeks ago we, the Scandinavian Lardies, had another battle. This time it was it was set on the road to Berlin, in the last days of the Third Reich. Daniel was umpire this time, and he had prepared a very interesting scenario.
It is based on an actual battle, and he had visited the battle-site on a vacation, walked the terrain and even spoken to some people who had seen the aftermath (like where most Soviet knocked-out tanks where). That is a dedicated umpire! 
Daniel had prepared aerial photographs, and a map of the battlefield, and informed all involved on what was about to come and a bit about the troops they had several days in advance.
Daniel came to my place the day before our game, and we spent the evening setting up the battlefield, mainly using Daniels stuff. My family was away on a skiing holiday (and I’m totally worthless on skis) so the house was empty. Unfortunately my camera was in Norway skiing, but I have permission to use Daniel’s photos.

The combatants arrived on the morning of Saturday the 3:rd, and was given more information on troops and the situation.
The German side comprised of:
Kampfgruppe Jochen commanded by me, remnants of 11. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision Nordland, and I had a HQ, a StuG IIIG, a StuH 42 and some panzer grenadiers coming in as reinforcements to play with. I also had some artillery, essentially one round of HE.
Kampfgruppe Friedrich – the heavy hitters. s.SS-Pz.Abt 503 comprising of three King Tigers, a Wirbelwind and a maintainance unit with a heavy SdKfz 9 FAMO halftrack
Kampfgruppe Michael – remnants of 9. Fallschirmjägerdivision made up off mostly infantry (with panzerfaust), panzershreck-units, an odd AT-gun and a Hetzer. They had to set up dispersed, with at least on unit in every quarter of the forward three quarters of the gaming board. 

Our situation was confused. We were under strict orders not to communicate with each other before the battle, as our troops essentially deployed just before or during the battle, each force not knowing what the others were doing, and not knowing of each other’s plans and victory conditions.
The three commanders trying to sort out the mess.
As supreme commander of the SS-troops I had a limited opportunity to make some ad-hoc plans with Kampfgruppe Friedrich. To make things more confused we found both Hitler Jugend and Volkssturm soldiers already deployed here and there, but not under our control, but we saw only those in close proximity to our own units – in I Aint Been Shot Mum, IABSM, hidden deployment is used. As the battle unfolded, and we started to have contact with each other, and saw that one side of our lines were essentially undefended, but on the other flank, in the southern village there was units from all our Kampfgruppen and also Volkssturm. It was crowded.

The Russian side comprised of one supreme commander and three sub-commanders, and they had a lot of tanks and troops and were also somewhat confused, as their maps didn’t fully agree with reality.

We user Daniels gorgeous models, bolstered by infantry and some vehicles from Laffe and Thomas. Everything is in 20mm scale.

It started with some BA-64 recce cars trying to get a hang of things. They immediately fell into trouble, as we really didn’t want them to start doing their job and spotting our hidden units. After that came the hordes, and they were met by the first line of defence, panzerfausts and –schrecks. It was not a good day for the Russians after that.

Some highlights (from a German perspective):
Set-up – it helps to have a real panzer grenadier in your team, even if he was hung-over and promised he would never drink beer again (I vividly remember the same man with the same affliction and the same promise the last time we gamed)
Stategy and tactics – the few Fallshirmjäger in the village in the first quarter of the board held a lot of enemy troops. The commies mistake was that they didn’t commit a smaller troop to mop up that village and let their main force attack our main lines. As it were the Soviet units attacked our lines a few at a time and became locked in long-range fire-fights. Locked and knocked out.
Panzerfausts – deadly even in the hands of Hitler Jugend
Panzershrecks – killed a lot of armour. The team in the wind-mill was unshakable.
Anti-tank gun – We thought it would knock out a tank or two and then be obliterated, but it held out and was a constant pain in the lower back for the Reds.
Russians assaulting said AT-gun – they thought it would be a walk-over. Hidden deployment is unforgiving, especially if you charge into a unit of crack Fallshirmjäger when you thought it would only be a measly crew. Hehehe…
Hetzer – the shells just bounced off it
StuG IIIG – it was surprised by a T-34/85 coming in from the flank (actually appearing on our board from the unseen battles at the side of us. Let’s just say that they were probably more successful) at point blank range. The StuG was temporarily immobilized pointing in the wrong direction, and I thought my little tank was gone. Against all odds it survived several hits. Even knocked out the T-34. Hooray! (See below on dice-rolling)
Königs Tiger – They are brutal, and Daniel’s models just amazing.
Wirbelwind – deadly against infantry. Just when they thought they had reached the safety of the woods. Poor sods.
Artillery – my one and only salvo hit right where it was supposed to.
Hitler Jugend – they stayed in their trenches when the crack Fallshirmjäger retreated. Unfortunately the kids decided to retreat and leave their trenches just moments before the Russian artillery landed over them… Ouch…
Russian tanks – 15 were left smoking at the battlefield.
German losses – a handful of men and a truck
Our random events list – hilarious when we rolled 57 a third time, and another poor veteran had an old wound opening and had to seek medical help.
FAMO halftrack – our mechanics hauled the damaged Hetzer out of harm’s way and made hasty field-repairs to let the panzerjäger come back into action.
“Nope” – the answer the Russian supreme leader got from the artillery division who he thought was going to support him, when he requested artillery strikes. Thomas looked really pissed when he exclaimed “What!!!?” I won’t go into detail on what he said after that, this being a more or less family friendly site, but my ears shrivelled… The shells came later, though.
88! – we were all surprised when the umpire told the Russian side that they had spotted a dread 88mm AT/AA gun. Some furious fire commenced, on what turned out to be an already knocked out gun. I believe the Reds used up all their good rolls. And a lot of bad language...
Dice rolling – we saw some of the most abyssal dice rolling at the Russian side and at the same time the most amazing German rolls. The dice were jinxed that day, for sure. (That is the Russian take of it, we said it was our superior motivation and especially leadership that made the day)

The game started about noon, and we played through the day, into the evening and well into the night. We called it a day at 01:30, when the last persons went home or borrowed beds and slept over.
At that time the battlefield was littered with burning Russian armour and dead troops. The German side had even started a counter-attack, and The Russian supreme commander had ordered a general retreat (which one sub-commander ignored, his troops paid for his mistake (see Wirbelwind and Königs Tiger above)).

All in all I had had a blast, even if my units didn’t see that much action.

The morning after we dismantled the battle-field and put everything away. It was really nice not having to do that alone!
Lessons learned:
The confused deployment was great fun and gave a very realistic feeling of fog of war. Not even knowing what your compatriots were up to and what troops they had and where, gave an extra dimension to the battle.
Set-up takes far too long time, the poor attackers sat idle for too long.
The unit sheets that Daniel supplied us with could have speeded up deployment, if we had known how to use them. A learning curve I guess, we’ll be better next time.
We’re getting better at the rules (IABSM v3) but still have to be more comfortable with them. I guess everyone has to get their copies and read up (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)
In a game of this size we would ideally need two full-time umpires, as there are so many hidden troops, rules to interpret and stuff to remember.
We have to think hard about weapons with back-blast, and how to limit them in buildings and enclosed spaces.
More Russian artillery, they said… We were rather comfortable with the amount landing on our heads.
IABSM is such good rules, I can’t recommend them enough.


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  2. Nice to see the FAMO getting out, it was only two and a half years ago I painted it :-)

  3. it was longer - more like 3 or 4 that i painted the T34's and the SU76's