Friday, July 6, 2007

Assault on Kiev GAME 3 AAR


Game 3 on Track 1 was a bloodbath for both sides. In the end, it all came down to moral. Combat photography was lost and/or never taken -- things became muddy in our defeat. Details are sketchy, but debriefings of surviving troops give some picture of what happened.

Available German Forces:
    A single SdKfz 250
    a panzerknacker for the 2iC
    a single 8.8 cm RW43 Puppchen

1st Zug
    Full strength Gepanzeret Panzergrenadier Platoon

2nd Zug
    Reduced strength Gepanzeret Panzergrenadier Platoon

Heavy Weapons Zug
    CMD Section, 1 x SdKfz 251/1
    2 x MG Sections, 2 x SdKfz 251/1s
    Gun Section, 2 x SdKfz 251/9s

Panzer Pioneer Zug
    Full strength
    1 x Pioneer Supply 3 Ton truck
    1 x Goliath

Motorized Anti-Tank Zug
    3 x 7.5 cm PaK 40s

Panzer Zug
    3 x Panzer IV Hs w/schurzen

Handicap: 200 points spent on unfielded halftracks

Never trust estemates of enemy strength as reported by fleeing troops. Still, indications are that the enemy showed up with two platoons of T-34s, a platoon of light T-70s, three Churchills (!!!), a scout group in armored cars, and a mortar platoon.

The Plan:
Being forced onto the defensive with an army suited for mobil battle, we were forced to get creative. This artistic drive saw expression in violent abuse of the Combat Attachment and Kamphgruppa rules, resulting in a big ass KG to hold the objectives, and the command elements of the PzG platoons serving as light tank hunters (7.5 cm 251/9s attached to each) with most of their rifle strength serving in the KG. These elements waited in reserve, along with my tanks. The KG, Pioneers, and ambushing PaK 40s were ordered to dig in, hold their fire (PaK 40s omit this order) and stay put. I was hopeing to take the auto-win on Turn 6, but it was not to be.

After Action Report:
This, the third consecutive battle for Lisowka, saw the town reduced from the charming hamlet we first tried to enter weeks ago to a smoldering heap of slag, rubble, and death. (Represented by all the building models being reduced to their most ruined state). The small river outside town continued to be a significant obstacle in one table quarter (far left from the German perspective). The remains of town occupied the right hand side of the table, with heavy woods between the river and town. I deployeed into these woods with the heaviest kamphgruppa I could muster (14 stands), the pioneers, and an ambushing zug of PaK 40s. It looked like the most open approach was the wide road through the woods in on my near left table quarter, so we mined it. That left only one way into my position from the near-left.

Weather was overcast. Airpower would play no part in this fight.

Random deployment on Turn 1 played well into my hands, forceing BreakDance to deploy his first platoon of T-34s and the armored cars into the woods on my near left. His mortars set up inside the town on my right. These troops were dangerously close to my pioneers. I deployed my PaK 40s from immediate ambush, covering the smaller road out of the forrest and forcing my enemy to make the uncomfortable choice between rolling into open 7.5 cm muzzels or rolling over a minefield in front of 7.5 cm muzzels. He chose the un-mined aproach, and quickly popped one of the PaK 40s. This did not unsettle the German unduely, as neither side's reserves were moving quickly (none showed up for either of us until, what, turn 5?). The PaK 40s quickly made short work of the T-34s, and soon the forrest in the near left table quarter looked like Smokey the Bear's worst nightmare. When my reserves finally started showing up, my Panzers rolled in behind the last two T-34s and destroyed same. Armored cars burned throughout the area.

Meanwhile, on my right, the dirty commie mortars were raining down ineffectual harassing fire on my exposed PaK 40, left in command but on the other side of a clump of trees to cover the expected aproach of his reserves. Sooner or later, they were going to get lucky, so before any more troops arived the Pioneers broke from The Plan. Raising from their holes, the first hit the mortar platoon with a goliath, taking it down to just three stands, before assaulting it. They never had a chance to swing back. However, while the Pioneers were on their way back to their optimal position, Russian reserve tanks started comming on to the far left quarter, forcing them to take what cover they could find where they were, just outside our peremiter. Could they hold long enough for the Panzer IVs to relieve them? Could the Panzers relieve them?

Somewhere around this time, I made Mistake #1 -- the kamphgruppa stuck too strictly to the plan. As soon as the fighting was resolved on the left side of the table, they should have been moving to counter all the damned commie tanks comming in on the right. What can I say, on a normal war-of-manouver day, we'd have been there. We took "dig in and hold on" too literally.

A slow war of attrition now began on the right side of the table, with his tanks unable to inflict significant casualties by fire, and my pioneers unable to do anything but sit and take it, or assault. One assault failed, the other produced some results, but eventually the pioneers were worn down. My last two reserve units showed up, and offered harassing fire, but they were used ineffectively. Unable to beat the clock, my attention now shifted to his T-70s -- I'd killed his company commander, so the loss of even this minor formation would have cost him the game. He knew it, too, and kept them moveing. In point of fact, his was not the only officer lost in the fighting -- to get the pioneers moveing one last time, my CiC joined the fray. We are sure his family will appreciate the posthumas decorations.

Second Mistake: I tried too hard with the light tank hunters (they are just halftracks, for god's sake). Seriously, we're talking about 5 Sd Kfz 251s, two of 'em with 7.5cms and two with 3.7cms, trying to hold off 5 T-34s, 5 T-70s, and 3 Churchills! What was I thinking? If either of these units had survived, even a token vehicle rolling, it would have made all the difference a few turns later. When one of them got down to one man, he should have been pulled back to a safe position. Alas, desperation and bravado cost these brave soldiers their lives.

My Panzer IVs had to take the long way around the table. By the time they got to the fighting, both commanders were looking at the same situation: platoons all over the table missing men, 50% of platoons already distroyed, and both CiCs dead. In other words, who ever lost the next platoon would loose the game to a company moral test they would automatically fail. My Panzers popped one more Churchill, forcing a platoon moral test, which Breakdance passed. (It would have been nice if that one bailed out Pz IV had remounted like his buddy...) He popped one more Pz IV, forcing my platoon to test. They failed. At the sight of the last tank burning, the infantry and remaining PaK 40 quit the field as well as they were able.

It was a damned close game. My whole plan had been to win on Turn 6. The game finally ended on Turn 14, and it all came down to two moral tests. He passed, I didn't.
But, did I mention that 200 point handicap? That's about what all the halftracks I didn't field would have cost. Oh, to have had just one tank more...

Final Score: 4/3, Soviet Victory in Game 3, Track 1
NEXT GAME: Germans defend Zhitomer in a Fighting Withdrawl.

CAMPAIGN NOTE: A German Defeat in Game 4, Track 1 will spell Slavic Victory!

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