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)

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.

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