The short answer has to be YES!!
First off, hats off to the guys at the Falkirk and District Wargames Club for a great show. I asked myself the question, what could they have done differently to make the experience better for me, and the simple answer was nothing! I arrived in good time, I was able to park close to the hall, I was quickly directed to my table, which was exactly as requested and perfectly set up. I had some help carrying everything in and was ready with over an hour to go. I can’t comment much more on the show as I was tied to the stand (not literally!!), but it seemed very busy.
And what of the games?
Game One, here’s the table from the German end
And from the Soviet end:
The scenario saw a German Panzer Grenadier platoon with a PaK 40 in support (played by Rob) defending a collective farm against 2 dismounted Soviet cavalry platoons (2 squads each and commanded respectively by Gerard and Roderick of the McHighland Brigade) with a T34/76 along for the ride. Things did not go the Soviets’ way from the start. As cavalry they had the chance of additional, free moves in the patrol phase but none of their 4 dice gave them anything. That did mean the Soviets would not be able to press the farm as closely as they might in the Patrol Phase. Anyway, the Patrol Phase gave the Germans JOPs on their left in the woods, and towards the rear of the village. The Soviets had theirs in dead ground and, crucially, in scrub well forward on their left. Here we see it all post Patrol Phase:
This left hand Soviet JOP was to be key for them and they progressively brought all four squads on from this JOP and pushed hard to break into the village, attacking the large, foremost building first. A sound plan as the German JOPs were too far back to allow them to deploy in this building. The Germans countered by bringing 2 squads on to cover both flanks of the farm. The right hand squad had both LMGs at the windows of one building and were able to bring the Soviet cavalry under fire. However, the Soviet use of tactical movement and the cover of the fences limited the impact of this.
Meanwhile, the German PaK came on on the left and positioned itself to cover the open approach. The T34 also appeared and was intended to come to the left, using the dead ground to avoid exposure to the PaK, and then bring the farm under fire to support and cover the advance of the cavalry. Clearly there was some decadence apparent in the crew as their advance was far from swift (2 on 2D6!!!). This left the cavalry exposed. The 3rd German squad came on on high ground behind the right flank of the farm, but was badly exposed and suffered from the fire of three Soviet squads and decided to move down the hill and into the cover of the farm. Various pictures of the Soviet attack:
And then the battle really swung. The Germans managed to bring some accurate and concentrated fire down on the cavalry squads – one was wiped out with the Junior Leader killed and a second Junior Leader had already been wounded. To hurry the games along, I had decided to add 1 to all ‘Bad things Happen’ rolls and this saw Soviet force morale collapse – a German victory!!
The Germans had lost a couple of men, but they got these back immediately as they had a sufficient difference in force morale. The Soviets lost 10 men, 1 Junior Leader and 1 Junior Leader wounded. This left them with 5 KIA, 3 missing for the next game and 2 back immediately. The wounded Junior Leader came back straight away, but Andrey Kuznetsov had to take over 2 Squad from the now dead Serzhant Yegor Popov. This left 1 and 2 Squads looking like this after all men came back:
A worker in a factory in Kiev producing much needed armaments. He volunteered for the Army when his factory was moved to the Urals to save it from the rapacious invader of Soviet soil. One day he will return a hero of the Soviet Union!
Age 27, an average sort, unremarkable.
|WIA POKHELBIN 5/12/42|
|RFN||Maxim Vinogradov||KIA POKHELBIN 5/12/42|
The son of a small shopkeeper in Eastern Russia, he fights for Holy Mother Russia in her hour of need.
Age 21, An intellectual looking man of average to short height.
|KIA POKHELBIN 5/12/42|
|RFN Acting Serzhant
(command radius 3″)
A musician in the State Orchestra from Bryansk. Your fingers are now scarred and dirty, but the work you
do now is of greater importance than music. You fight for the rights of the workers and
peasants of the world!
Age 24, As broad as he is tall. A barrel of a man.
|RFN||Ivan Golyubev||KIA POKHELBIN 5/12/42|
|RFN||Yuri Lebedev||KIA POKHELBIN 5/12/42|
|RFN||Segey Bogdanov||KIA POKHELBIN 5/12/42|
|RFN||Nikolai Vinogradov||KIA POKHELBIN 5/12/42|
Fortunately, neither squad was needed for the second game and Squads 3 and 4 were untouched.
And the post game discussion? Really it focused around 2 issues – the failure to gain extra Patrol Phase moves leaving the Soviets more open ground to cover and with the Germans further forward, and the failure of the T34 to shoot the cavalry in. Had this been able to take up a good position out of the PaK’s arcs, it could have used its guns to progressively reduce the defences and soften them up for the cavalry to move in and mop up.
Game Two. We now moved forward to cover the events of the afternoon of the 5th December 1942. The positions we had been dealing with in the morning were still held by the Germans, who were increasingly under pressure. Soviet forces had also bypassed them and moved to clash with German forces further south. Having been stopped, they were now regrouping on some low ground ready to push forward again. Meanwhile, the Germans were pushing North to re-establish contact with their surrounded comrades. Here’s the table from the German end and then the Soviet end:
So, we had Paul with a dismounted Soviet cavalry platoon (2 squads) with a Maxim, a 45mm ATG and a T34/76 in support against Stuart’s Panzer Grenadier platoon with a Marder III in support. Paul got an extra Patrol Phase move as dismounted cavalry (his 2 dice giving him the average result this time!). He pushed hard up on his right and we ended up with German JOPs pretty much on a line across the board in dead ground and scrub. The Soviets had one well back on their left centre behind the crest and they then ran forward in a diagonal line through some scrub (with a JOP) to a final JOP on the edge of the board but very far forward on their right. We spent a bit of time talking about this – using that Patrol Marker to place a JOP was a bold move and was to set the whole tone of the game. These show the end of the patrol phase – notice the Soviet JOP in the bottom left of the right hand photo – it’s the small circle on the table edge:
Paul brought a Squad on over on that extreme right and, in due course, brought his ATG on on his left on the crest to cover the road, with his Maxim deploying in the scrub right centre to cover the open ground and crest from that side, and his T34 coming on the road and moving forward as quickly as possible. However, back to the scene of the action and the Germans! Stuart was very clear that the Soviets had seized the initiative and that the deployment on his flank was a critical threat – if the Soviets got onto the crest they would dominate his whole deployment zone and have 2 of his JOPs in easy reach. Something had to be done! Whilst one Panzer Grenadier squad deployed in cover in the centre, a second was deployed to counter the first Soviet squad and the 2 LMGs ripped into the Squad. Men went down like flies, but Paul brought his second squad on – his JOP placement was bold and an all or nothing act – the combined fire cut down half the Panzer Grenadiers. This was a real close quarter affair at about 50 yards range! Even the Squad Leaders’ SMGs were involved it was so close. Stuart felt he had to bring on his final squad to win the firefight, which he duly did with the first Soviet Squad wiped out and the second reduced to 2 men and a wounded Junior Leader and they duly broke off the table. By this time the Marder had made it on to the table, but only just!! Some shots of the action. The first 2 show the Soviet depth positions with the 45mm ATG. The next 3 show the brutal firefight on the German flank.
By this point, Soviet Force Morale was pretty much broken and the Germans were very well placed to capture the forward JOP and complete the victory.
And what did we think of it all? Paul’s aggressive JOP placement made a significant portion of the battle irrelevant – it would all be determined by the fight for that insignificant and unnamed bump in the ground on the Don Steppe. The fire power of panzer grenadiers was key in winning this for the Germans, leg infantry would have been less robust in this respect. On reflection, I also wonder if the Soviets weren’t quite bold enough!! This really was an all or nothing gambit; perhaps the deployment of the MMG and 45mm to the same JOP with the senior leader would have beefed the Soviet force up. The additional firepower certainly would have tipped the balance back and Stuart would have been hard pushed to get more Germans on the ridge, although he would, perhaps, have been able to bring his 3rd Squad over to replace losses. Much to ponder!
The Germans had lost a five men, but they got these back immediately as they had a sufficient difference in force morale. The Soviets lost 12 men, 1 Junior Leader killed and 1 Junior Leader wounded. This left them with 6 KIA, 3 missing for the next game and 3 back immediately. The wounded Junior Leader came back straight away, but Yegor Petrov had to take over 3 Squad from the now dead Serzhant Nikolai Sokolov. This left 3 and 4 Squads looking like this after all men came back:
A mechanic from Minsk. He trained on engines and there is nothing about the internal combustion engine that he cannot fix.
Age 27, an average sort, unremarkable.
|KIA MAJORSKI 5/12/42|
3″ command radius
A former seminary student from Sosnovy Bor, you escaped from the Solovki Special Purpose Camp, thereby avoiding death. You now serve in the Army under an assumed identity. You fear exposure each day. Add +3 to your roll for age.
Age 27, An average sort. Unremarkable.
|RFN||Anatoly Semyonov||KIA MAJORSKI 5/12/42|
|RFN||Vladimir Sokolov||KIA MAJORSKI 5/12/42|
|RFN||Maxim Petrov||KIA MAJORSKI 5/12/42|
|RFN||Alexei Semyonov||KIA MAJORSKI 5/12/42|
A worker on a collective farm near Belgorod producing food for the Soviet people and their fraternal allies. The Army has been a harsh school, but he has survived and killed many fascists. His men look to him for leadership as they know he is one of them.
Age 23, A strapping six‐footer.
|WIA MAJORSKI 5/12/42|
|RFN||Segey Ivanov||KIA MAJORSKI 5/12/42|
|RFN||Alexsandr Golyubev||KIA MAJORSKI 5/12/42|
Overall, however, I am really grateful to Rob, Gerard, Roderick, Stuart and Paul for coming along and giving my games a go. It was a real pleasure to meet you all and it was a great atmosphere round the table. It was also great to meet old friends and new ones – thank you to everyone who took the time to stop and chat, when I was able to free myself up.
And as for my perspective? The key conclusion was that running participation games, fronting a stand to the public and trying to show case your business is just too much for one man, even with a rat in support! I was VERY lucky that a good friend covered the stand to allow me to get some lunch and then came back and helped me clear up – cheers, Jimmy, I owe you one. But it was a very hard day and I was left feeling that neither the players nor the public had had the attention they deserved. What to do about that? I have no idea as cloning is not an option!!! More thought required.
HOWEVER, next up is Durham on the 14th June (I will also be at Deep Fried Lard on the 7th but Durham is the next show). This is a new one for me but I am really excited. I know Durham well and it is a lovely place and I have heard only good things about the show. The campaign will now move on and we will see the start of Operation WINTER STORM proper now 6th Panzer Division’s buildup is complete. I’m sure some will be concerned that the Soviet forces have been badly written down already – but will the cavalry be back or will 6th Panzer be facing a new and fresh foe? Watch this space!!
Monty the Desert Rat.