Thursday, 8 August 2019

Counter-Attack, The Power Station

The last post (link below in the Resource Section) showed a set-up for a city fight on the east front 1943, a game that unfortunately had to be set aside for a few days, but has now been played out and the flow of play recorded here.
A simple 8 x 6 grid



If you recall, Soviet assault troops were in position to counter-attack the Power Station complex that had fallen the previous day.


The rest of this post covers some of the highlights from the city fight, which includes sewer movement and the perils for armour operating in the confines of a city.


Please use the ‘read more’ table for the rest of this post.





The game begins at 0730 hours and will end as soon as the game clock moves beyond 0830 hours. Victory is solely dependent upon occupation of the Power Station (both hexes) or the (unlikely, but possible) total collapse and expulsion of the enemy force from the table. There is a downloadable version of the scenario available from the Resource Section at the foot of this post.
All contained on a pinboard



Setting the scene,
The Soviets open the attack with a pre-assault artillery bombardment against the Power station. The first strike hits the station, but without notable effect. The second is inaccurate and the German player gets control of where the strike will fall, pushing it out into the adjacent road, where it does no harm, but the heavy shells crater the road.
The shells crater the road



In readiness for the expected counter-attack, the Germans had heavy mortars on stand-by. Their fire was called in against the Department Store, as a spoiling attack against the most obvious jump off point for the assault. Though the fire was accurate, it did not disrupt the attack.


The Soviet SMG Company Commander, Sergey, briefing his sergeants in the Department Store, cursed the artillery spotters for not bringing fire onto what he believed was the more essential target, the pair of Panzer III’s that sat above the crossroad in front of the Department Store. The dangers of assaulting across the road in front of the tanks were all too obvious ...... but orders are orders and the attack must at least be attempted.


Below the city, amongst the labyrinth of the sewer network, Sergeant Schmidt and his under strength platoon were on a counter-measure patrol, looking for Soviet assault teams that were using the sewers to infiltrate German positions. Hearing artillery and small arms fire above and needing little excuse to leave the stench, he ordered his men to make for the nearest exit. They had lost their bearings, but Schmidt guessed they were somewhere close to the Power Station.


0800 hours (German Morale - 5), (Soviet Morale - 7).
Schmidt’s men ‘popped up’ at the east end of the Old School building (bottom left at row 6 / hex 2), right into the arms of a Soviet rifle section, who were quickly joined by another section that had been in the west wing. Disorientated, the German patrol quickly fell apart and the remnants were pushed out of the building and into the parkland opposite, where they were pinned and would later be rounded up.


The lurking SU76, sitting exposed on the road, got a shot off at the Pz III’s, but the young crew missed by some margin, their enthusiasm to stand and duel it out with armour now put them in imminent danger. Both Pz III’s opened up, hitting the self propelled gun, which appeared to fall silent (note - they got a Stun result, which in the game may recover!).


Along the high street itself, Soviet SMG sections threw out their limited supply of smoke grenades and then took to the street, taking cover from both the smoke and the newly created shell holes in the road.


Every German weapon that could see a target opened fire on targets of opportunity, but still the Soviet soldiers came on. The PAK 40 had been firing towards the craters in the road, but were forced to stop when they expended the last of their High Explosive shells.


(Note - the German HMG at the Pottery Kiln was marked ‘Opportunity Fired’ and then took a hit so was also marked pinned. It would now take the machine gun at least two Action Phases to lose those liabilities. The German defence was becoming stretched).


0736 Hours.
Two SMG sections got into the Power Station, overwhelming one of the German rifle sections. The third SMG team had become pinned outside, amongst the shell holes.
SMG teams get into the Power Station

The Pz III’s continued slam shells into the SU76 to be sure it was out of action, which was confirmed seconds later when it exploded and burned, producing thick black concealing smoke.


(Note - a special event is rolled, the Germans get ‘Men of Action’ which will allow one section to both fire and move in the next Action Phase. The Soviets get ‘Tank Fright’, on hearing reports of heavy enemy armour nearby, those units already in cover will not venture into the open in their next Action Phase - not the event an attacker wants to get).


0744 Hours.
The speed of events had brought some chaos to the Soviet command, with more than half of their units going ‘out of command’, but they now had three SMG sections in the Power Station and were fighting to control the other half of the building, though had taken losses. 


(Note - losses are partly represented by pins, 2 pins will remove a leg unit).


The fourth SMG section, armed with a demolition charge, decided rather than entering the Power Station, to instead attack the two Pz III tanks, that were without any accompanying infantry. The demolition charge knocked out one of the tanks, leaving it burning, causing the other tank to reverse at high speed out of danger.
Close assaulting tanks with a demolition charge

The SMG section went to ground, taking cover from the smoke of the burning tank hulk, but rifle fire from the adjacent Fan House pinned them and then ‘Men of Action’ from the other end of the Fan House, ran to join their comrades and their fire caused a further casualties, removing the SMG team.


While the Panzer III’s were distracted by this assault, two reinforcing T-34’s with tank riders arrived and drew level with the burning SU76.


(Note, the situation is perilous for the Germans. Their morale has dropped to just ‘1’ due to four losses and they missed their reinforcement this turn by just one minute, as those are scheduled to arrive at 0745 hours! - this matters as the reinforcement would have immediately boosted the morale level).


0751 Hours. German Morale 1. Soviet Morale 7.
The struggle for the Power Station had reached a critical moment. Two SMG sections in the east wing were pinned, but one was still fresh. The lone German rifle section in the west wing was also pinned. Though something of a gamble, the fresh SMG section assaulted and succeeded in removing the pinned German rifle section from play.
A fresh SMG section assaults the German
pinned rifle section.

This loss drove the German morale level to crash to zero, forcing everything to test for retreat. The PAK 40 limbered up and pulled back, the remaining Pz III left the board and the two rifle sections at the Fan House, ran out of the back door into the open ground beyond. Only the HMG at the Pottery Kiln stayed in place.


(Note - The timing could not have been worse, as at that very moment, a reinforcing German platoon arrived in the woods behind the Power Station and their arrival increases the German morale level by +2. This morale boost could have saved or at least delayed a morale crash for the German player).


(Note - a Random Event occurred again. The Germans got air support, which made an ineffective attack against the Power Station. The Soviets got a sniper attack, which pinned one of the new reinforcements in the woods).


0757 Hours 
This looked like the Germans last chance to take the Power Station and if they did, the Soviets might not have been able to organise another attack in the the time they had left. The three SMG sections were all pinned, reducing their fire dice from 4 to 1 and leaving them vulnerable to further loss, though they recovered one section back to good order.


Two of the reinforcing German sections (the other still pinned) attacked and removed the lone pinned SMG squad in the west wing, successfully re-establishing control in that half of the building, so now the building was contested.


Over near the Pottery Kiln, Lieutenant Popov, commanding a Soviet Rifle platoon, started to move his men out across the railway embankment to swarm the HMG position.
Assaulting the Pottery Kiln


0804 Hours
The Soviets suffered a real setback. They were largely in good positions to overwhelm their enemy, but there were conflicting orders, had the attack been called off?


(Note - every turn some units are automatically put into command and then the rest must test to also claim being in command, this turn, the dice were very unfriendly towards the Soviet player).


More than half of their force were now looking for some direction and leadership. The T-34’s and riders were still stuck back with the burning SU 76 SPG as confusion reigned. Desperate to get things going, one NCO ran out to the rifle section sheltering in the shell holes in front of the Power Station and told them to get up and into the station and help their comrades push the Germans back out of the station ..... which they did! 


(Note - here the Soviets used the ‘Advantage Chit’ to put one unit that failed its command test ((the one in the shell holes)), automatically into command. The chit is then handed over to the other player).


At the Power Station, the Germans suffered very heavy casualties and were ejected from the building. Retreating into the woods, morale plummeted and two more rifle sections broke and ran for the rear.
Two Soviet sections attack and eject the
Germans from the west wing.


(Note - German morale had crashed again, causing another round of retreat tests).


At the Kiln the Germans held off the Soviet assault - just! but it was now impossible for the German player to take the Power Station and they prepared to pull back their forces. The HMG got away in the half track and three other rifle sections escaped on foot. The game was a very clear Soviet victory.


Conclusion.
Well that was a rollercoaster of a game. There were so many nuances that cropped up that I could not write about them all as the post would simply have become too long / tedious to read. The scenario was set to last for an hour and it fell apart for the Germans after 34 game minutes. So did it work as a scenario?


Despite it looking a bit unbalanced, I would have to say yes at this point, that it did work, though further replays may give raise to tweaks. If it seems that the Germans are too disadvantaged, then the easiest and most gentle ‘fix’ is to upgrade the infantry to Panzer Grenadiers, this will give them an additional fire dice.


But for today's play, there were a collection of things that hampered a German win and they need further review before hard changes are made. We cannot ignore the misfortune of Schmidt’s sewer patrol. They randomly ‘popped up’ in an unfortunate location, fell victim to it being the Soviet turn, who were able to move an extra rifle section into the impending Close Combat and then suffered grievously with bad dice, it could easily have gone the other way and started a Soviet morale decline instead of a German one. They could also have popped up behind their own lines and been a useful reserve.


One of the Soviet artillery missions was inaccurate and was moved onto the roadway by the German player who was able to take control of the fire - that was just thoughtless, it should have been pushed rearwards into the woods as churning up the road (shell holes) just turned what was open terrain into protective terrain, which helped the SMG teams gain cover when assaulting.


The two Panzer III’s parked up so near marauding enemy infantry was a misjudgement, making one an easy loss and then the other, which fell back, was forced further back and off the board when the morale crashed, so yes, they could have had a better day (though we also have to acknowledge that the T-34’s and their riders had a complete command fluster and did not get into action). Likewise, the PAK 40 was badly sited and ran out of H.E. on its first use.


Their worst moment though came at the end of the 0736 hours turn, when the dice score to advance the Game Clock was not high enough, so they missed on getting their reinforcements by just 1 minute. The arrival of the reinforcements earlier would have lifted the German morale by +2 and so that first morale crash would have been avoided or at least delayed.


They did however come close to pulling it off when their reinforcements arrived and the three SMG units in the Power Station were all pinned, that could have so easily been a decisive moment for the Germans, but due to various nuances in the play it was not to be and the HMG that was to help the German pre-assault, itself became pinned by an active Soviet left wing and the randomly generated sniper attack pinned one of the reinforcing German sections.


So although this looks like a trouncing for the German side and a potentially unbalanced scenario, I think it is closer than first appears the case, through probably in the final analysis it will be shown to slightly favour the Russian player and need some help. As long as both sides feel tested, then it will be mostly alright. Only further testing will tell. A link to the latest version of the scenario is presented below. 

Edit -  Paulr - thanks for spotting the map mistake, updated now.


Resource Section.
The previous post showing the background notes to the game. LINK


Some notes on the 2016 version of the rules and links to the rules and other articles. LINK.


Downloadable version of the scenario. You can just click past the ‘join DropBox’ invitation. LINK


My sister webspace COMMANDERS is a bit more snippet based than here. LINK.

20 comments:

  1. This was great, Norm. Reading your blog and that of Jon is quickly convincing me that I'm a miniatures man at heart. For board games I'll keep collecting but will probably only regularly play Commands & Colours in its various forms - many other games are just too complex for me now.
    This scenario was fun to read and I pitied poor Schmidt's lads who definitely suffered a case of "out of the sewer into the ****". I sympathise completely with the PzIIIs being too close as every game of Bolt Action I played I always advanced my AFVs too far and lost them early.

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    1. Thanks Kev, a fun game that drew me in as it played out.

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  2. Norm, this was an exciting battle report with victory seemingly hanging on almost every die roll. The see/saw action was fascinating to read. Well done!

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  3. Thanks Jonathan, there was quite a lot going on under the bonnet. I don’t know why I keep getting surprised as to how much good play can fall out of an 8 x 6 grid.

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    1. Small games can carry a big punch! My last games of Fox Gap using TF-ON produced a similar "big thing in small package" result. Great fun in trying to solve and optimize the puzzle that a small game provides.

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  4. That was a great game with the action swinging one way, then the other! Certainly full of replability and I agree that it shows you don't need big game tables to have lots of fun/action.

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  5. Thanks Steve, Even at this size of table, there were different, unrelated things going on at the same time in different places, giving a lot of interest.

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  6. Bummer for Schmidt and Co! As you say, perhaps upgrade the reserve force to Pz.Grenadiers, allow for Schmidt to surface from the sewers in a more controlled fashion, or upgrade Schmidt's force to "raiders" (Pz.Grens). I agree that the Pzrs. seemed over-extended, however an active defense seems necessary to prevent an early loss of the power station.

    I'd be tempted to situate the PAK in the rubble behind the Pzrs, where it has a longer sight line and some cover and concealment. However, that doesn't solve the issue of non-existent infantry support for the Pzrs.

    Anyhow! Thanks for the write-up!

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  7. Thanks John, agree for the PAK 40, the best weapon that the Germans have for dealing with the T-34's that will be coming up that road.

    Schmidt 'pops up' on a D6 to select row and then another D6 to select how many hexes in from the left hand side - that gives a lot of scope for where is men might appear 0and it is a dice roll that both sides sort of hold their breath for, which I like and it gives a lot of opportunity to close down some Soviet early movement.

    The Panzer III's would be better to set up in separate hexes, until the Soviet artillery has been resolved. Also under the rules, an anti-tank gun always claims the benefit of cover, even if they are in an open hex! The terrain provides some limited scope to juggle units around.

    The danger of sitting on a baseline is if / when morale crashes, a failed retreat test, which causes retreat, will see the unit retreat off the board ..... never to come back!

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  8. An engrossing battle report to read as your narrative described the ebbs and flows of the game.

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  9. Thanks Peter, I think you know the play has been good when you are tempted to put some flesh on the bones of the narrative to give it some life.

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  10. I enjoyed reading your battle report.

    10mm Wargaming, Your number one destination for 10mm Wargaming News, Reviews.
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    Take care

    Andy

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  11. Thanks Andy. Fascinated by your 10mm Plastic Soldier Company news.

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  12. Hello Norm,

    Continuing to show how nail-biting games on a small scale can be! Enjoyed the report, especially as it is quite urban, something that you don't see too often.

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  13. Hi Shaun, it was worth the wait and gave a good game ..... I went into the storage before and got out a 1/72 Pak 40 !!!!!!! :-)

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  14. A game that for the Germans really shows that some stuff can go your way but there are always a few instances that *need* to go your way to ensure victory and in this game just didn’t happen. Good players can see these things in advance, I always see them in hindsight. 😀

    Excellent write up and well worth the wait. Kinda funny how a short game on a small board could produce such a big post. I love the pic of the smoking tank.

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  15. Thanks Stew, it was certainly an entertaining game and I should play it again soon just to see what the spread of results might be with the fickle finger of luck playing its part.

    I like those smoke markers, they are basically just pipe cleaners with clump foliage glued to them and then sprayed black.

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  16. Great fun game that didn't seem too unbalanced for the Germans, they just needed a bit more luck!
    Best Iain

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  17. Thanks Iain, I think in a face-to-face, I would be quite happy to play either side and would likely get a good game.

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