Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Part 4 (final) OST east front mini campaign

This post covers the fourth and final Action in our mini campaign. Following the Lull Phase after the third battle, both sides responding to their dire lack of infantry, released the last of their reserves.
KV-1 from my 15mm miniatures collection


Needing a counter-attack force to re-take the village, the Soviets received a company of ten rifle sections. The Germans, wanting to both keep hold of the village and try to exploit their right flank and reach the church beyond, received an under strength company of five rifles sections and an assault section - it seems they will have much to do!

If there was writing on the wall, it would likely say ‘Quantity has a quality of its own’! We shall see.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab to see how the campaign is unfolding.




The below shot is a reminder of how we left the battlefield last time. The Germans had captured the village, but suffered so badly, that they barely had the men left to put up an adequate defence (map can be clicked for a closer view).
The third Action ended with the Germans pushing the
front line beyond the village (centre).


The Germans are stretched, with their reinforcements divided into two groups. The first are just arriving at the edge of the village, intending to support the remnants of the last attacking force and dig in. The second group are over on the right flank (top of the map), ready to attack from the woods, but with two sections being allocated to the Sd kfz 251 halftracks, with a view to them using the mobility to break out into the Soviet rear area and hopefully secure the church objective.

The Soviets have sent the bulk of their reinforcements to the village, but they have quite a bit of open ground to cover and their progress is slowed by accurate mortar fire.
The Germans are about to get caught by the counter-
attacking Soviets as they take up positions in the
village. The first close combat has already started. 


Soviet numbers begin to tell and they successfully fight their way in to the top end of the village. It’s a dangerous business, but the Soviets have the numbers to prevail and the Germans are limited to a tactic of holding out, rather than being able to counter-attack and reclaim lost buildings.

On the German right, an infantry platoon, supported by an assault team with a flamethrower, move out from the woods and attack the Soviet held farmsteads. The T-26 tank crew panic as they come under attack from the flamethrower.
The Farmsteads come under attack (melee), while the crew
of the T-26 are alarmed by the flamethrower. The 2nd
flamethrower to the left has been discarded following
the loss of the unit that carried it.

As the units become engaged and pinned, the first of the two halftracks speeds up along the road, making for a gap in the line. As they get to a narrow section that is flanked by a wall and a hedge, there is a Soviet rifle section waiting for them!
The halftrack and rifle section are using the gap
between the wall and hedge to breakthrough the
enemy line. Note the 57mm A/T gun top left.

At this point, I was really stuck on what to with the riflemen. Should they just fire on the occupants of the halftrack or should they assault the halftrack and melee? - a much more risky affair. I decided that despite the Soviets being thin on the ground and that firing would be safer, they really couldn’t afford to let this get through, so melee it was then!

At the same time, the 57mm anti-tank gun was manhandled to a new position to cover the road should the halftracks get through. After a sharp firefight, both halftracks were destroyed, but their rifle sections escaped and were now joining the assault on the farmsteads and that pesky anti - tank gun. With the halftracks gone, the Germans had lost their chance to break out towards the church, but they were winning the struggle for the position around the farmsteads.

What of that KV-1 that has been such a persistent feature in this campaign? As it crossed the battlefield to support the fight for the village, a panzer IIIJ and Pak 38 anti-tank gun pumped shells into the thick front armour of the tank, it stopped from time to time, no doubt with the nerves of the crew frayed, but it would quickly burst into life with return fire.
The KV heading towards the village was attacked from
behind by the flamethrower section. Note the Pak 38
A/T gun bottom left, defending the village.

Above - a rifle section with a flamethrower managed to get up behind the KV, but they hesitated and fired at the tank rather than close assaulting it, a mistake, as this drew fire against the assaulting team, who were then severely mauled. The KV held its ground in a rather typical pill box type fashion. On more than one occasion the German commander was heard to curse for “somebody give me 88’s”!

The fighting in the village was starting to die down, with the Soviets managing to retake the top half. Elsewhere the fighting was reaching a natural conclusion. 

The Soviet right was barely manned, but importantly, they had not lost the high ground and to their front, the position was devoid of a German presence. Had the Soviets had the capacity, they could have advanced here unhindered.

On their left flank, they had successfully blocked German efforts to reach the church landmark to the rear, but had lost the actual blocking position around the farmsteads. This would need to be retaken before the Germans could use it as a jump off point in the coming hours.
Positions at the close of the fourth Action (Soviet left,
German right)


Losses
Again, this has been an Action seeing high attrition, with both sides fighting to a standstill, exhausted. At this point, both sides would likely need to pull their troops out of the line and have a fresh regiment plus support rotated into position.

German losses, 6 rifle sections, 1 assault section,  2 half sections, two halftracks, a sniper, a Lieutenant, one Pak 38 anti-tank gun, one Panzer IVe.

Soviet losses, nine rifle sections, one half section, three Sergeants, one T-26 tank, a crew member lost from the 57mm anti-tank gun. 

Victory Points.
The rolling number of victory points gained for inflicting casualties after four Actions stands at 73 Victory Points for the Germans and 63 Victory Points for the Soviets.

Added to that are the end of campaign objective VP’s as follows;

The number of buildings captured by the Germans that were enemy owned at the start of the campaign = 6 (at 2 points each gives 12 VP’s).

The number of buildings captured by the Soviets that were enemy owned at the start of the campaign is zero.

The number of hills captured (worth 8 points each) that started the campaign under enemy control is zero

Did the Germans capture their prime objective, the church (worth 15 points) - No

The final Victory Points count is 85 to the Germans and 63 to the Soviets. So a German win, but not a significant one.

This seems about right when looking at the situation. The Germans only captured half the village, made limited gains on the right, but failed to get the primary objective. They also suffered a lot of casualties. A significant victory occurs if the winner scores 50% (round up) more than the other side.

Here, that would have meant the Germans getting just another 10 VP’s. They could have done this by capturing the rest of the village (6 VP’s) and then either inflicting more casualties or losing less. Gaining the almost vacant high ground on their left could have got them an extra 8 VP’s. Something that was potentially within their grasp.

Conclusions
The four game mini campaign has been a lot of fun. Over that big mapboard there is a lot going on at the same time. You can be pushing in one place and withdrawing in another and there is room to manoeuvre, including depth to reflect breakthrough. 

Having linked games and a buying phase between them that influences the direction of the next game certainly enriches play.

There are a couple of areas in the mini campaign document that have needed tweaking as a result of play and there are a couple of other things that need some thought, such as the question of whether the KV issue can become an imbalance through the lock down of potentially available kit to the other side that could more effectively deal with the problem, or whether it properly represents the reality of just having to manage with the resources you have at hand and getting on with it.

There were in fact opportunities here that could have seen the KV off, such as getting flanking shots in or even just causing damage to the tracks or gun and that flamethrower attack could have got a bit luckier!

However, rather than digging into that here, I will think about this for a couple more days and then do a more focused post, that can introduce the finalised mini campaign document, together with download links.

Thanks to all those who followed the four Actions, especially those that commented and encouraged this piece of work to move to a conclusion rather than stalling.

Resource Section.

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

To read the first instalment of this campaign that includes set up and victory requirements. LINK

The second instalment is here LINK

The third instalment is here LINK


8 comments:

  1. Another very enjoyable AAR and I enjoyed the campaign as a whole. Certainly a close run thing and although the Germans won, they are bleeding to death on the alter of Victory as it were. I think it reflects the costly nature of the early Eastern front battles very well.

    As for the KV-I, might I suggest an option to not have it in the campaign, or to give the Germans an 88, just to see what effect these options might have?

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  2. Great fun mini campaign, the Germans might have won but they can't afford many more victories like this!
    Best Iain

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Iain, nicely stated. You have me wondering what a 5th game would have looked like.

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  3. Thanks Steve, both sides fought themselves to exhaustion, which seems about right. I am starting to write up some KV thoughts. Since the campaign package is designed to be generic so that a wider number of people can use it with regardless of which modules they own, I imagine the ‘KV’ issue will crop up in several guises.

    The Germans when drawing their initial weapon allowance might easily have pulled two 88’s and that would have been that as they say. I am tempted to say you just have to get on with what you have and the KV is an expensive purchase that a player may choose not to make. The German Pz IVf2, could have done something about it, had it been luckier before it’s own demise :-)

    Still Pondering!

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  4. Very enjoyable action, Norm! Very bloody too. With the German Primary Objective seemingly so far out of reach, do you think it attainable within the scenario constraints? Is it an objective too far given the scenario? Playing a fifth game in this action might be interesting. Given the ending positions, I might call it a draw even though the Germans are ahead on points.

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  5. Hi Jonathan. If the Germans had pulled one or more 88’s at the start of play, it is unlikely that the KV would have been the problem that it became and the German armoured group of 5 tanks and 2 halftracks would no doubt have created havoc in the rear area and reached the prime objective, taking the whole course of the campaign in a different direction, as Soviet replacements would need to be concentrated on that left flank. That may have even been seen as things being skewed towards the attacker.

    Likewise, an early lucky shot from the PzIVf2 could have disabled the KV and had the early 38(t) that broke through to the rear of the KV been more successful, then again, I think the campaign would have taken a different route and tempo.

    In most respects, giving that due consideration leaves me feeling OK about the KV in this instance, as I think the campaign was more honest in having the sides having to deal with what they met, with what they had.

    I think Iain was right, it was not really the sort of victory one might hope for ..... but I suppose there were many local victories in reality that could be spoken of in the same way. Perhaps I might change the victory conditions that to win by less that 10 clear points is a draw, then put in the minor and significant victory levels.

    It will be interesting to see how the campaign plays out in the other modules. Looking at the Pacific module, there is a lot of cover, which would produce quite a different game.

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  6. Oh look, the salient got smaller... as is often the case with salients. 😀
    If you’re really gonna play test the balance you of course have to run the 4 game campaign a few more times...I’ll just sit here while you get the board set up.
    I think 4 turns makes a nice sized miniature campaign and is the sweet spot for an attack and defense set up. The buying phase becomes really interesting and helps set up the narrative of an area with sustained fighting. Nicely done. 😀

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  7. Thanks Stew, four games is probably the sweet spot where you can put some controls in that will balance things so that one player will not spend several games becoming increasingly disadvantaged and slowly losing (both the game and interest) and the games are short enough that they can be played over 2 - 4 sessions.

    I like the results enough to play this more, which will add to the 'living' play test process, but I think the fine tuning of a generic, catch-all type campaign is a different beast than fine tuning a historical campaign that has known strict parameters. Plus, there is enough robustness here, that players can confidently change things to suit their view.

    I might take the next campaign to the Pacific Theatre, just to see how it copes with a very different setting. So that might make an appearance here, bring your popcorn :-)


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