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Spartan Challenge

Flames of War Cauldron Mission

9th Oct 2010 990 vs 440pts

Russia (Chris) v Germany (Justin)

Russian attack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About this battle

Today we swapped armies, with Justin taking command of Chris' half painted Germans and Chris pulling the tracks off Justin's SU76's. Justin hosted, Chris supplied German lager of which he consumed the vast majority.

Flames of War Table Flames of War Table Flames of War Table Flames of War Table

Background

Set in June 1944 during Operation BAGRATION, an isolated pocket from the 14 Grenadierdivision attempts to hold out against elements from the 1st Guards Rifle Division.

Before we started playing, Chris and I decided that the best scenario to reflect this type of situation was an adapted version of the Cauldron mission on page 207 of the hardback rule book. The Cauldron mission uses the Defensive Battle, Delayed Reserves, Immediate Ambush, Prepared Positions, Reserves and Random Deployment special rules.

As the German force was intentionally small, we did not play with the Delayed Reserves rules. As always in our games, the scenery was placed without real consideration of the scenarios parameters. We normally do this so that the table looks 'realistic' and there is no contrived advantage for either player. However, on this occasion, it resulted in some anomalies where the German player could not logically defend the entire village because of the deployment restriction imposed by the mission (doh!).

As usual we socialised too much and it took us a good hour and a half to take a couple of measurements and get on with it.

Still, all part of the day :).

Battlefront-Battlefield-Flames-of-War

Armies

We both restricted ourselves to the army lists in Stalin's Onslaught and Fortress Europe as these were Grenadiers and not 78th Sturm Division.

Russian

Udarny Strelkovy Company

HEADQUARTERS PLATOON Motivation Experience Command Points
Battalon HQ rifle team fearless trained 4" 35
OPTIONAL SECTIONS:
Kommissar fearless trained 4"  
COMBAT PLATOONS Motivation Experience Command Points
Udarny Strelkovy Company (1 SMG platoon) fearless trained 4" 235
Udarny Strelkovy Company (1 SMG platoon) fearless trained 4" 235
SUPPORT PLATOONS Motivation Experience Command Points
Udarny mortar company plus observer rifle team (3 tubes) fearless trained 4" 80
3 SU-76M confident trained 4" 115
1 flame-thrower section (1 stand attached to each Strelkovy) fearless trained 4" 90
Limited air support - IL-2 Shtumovik fearless trained n/a 200
Company Totals Platoons: 5 Points: 990

German

Grenadierkompanie

HEADQUARTERS PLATOON Motivation Experience Command Points
Company HQ SMG team, plus Panzerknacker SMG team confident veteran 6" 45
COMBAT PLATOONS Motivation Experience Command Points
Grenadier Platoon 3 squads Rifle/MG confident veteran 6" 155
SUPPORT PLATOONS Motivation Experience Command Points
MG42 HMG Platoon 2 sections, 1attached confident veteran 6" 140
Company Totals Platoons: 2 Points: 340

German additions: (1) Barbed wire obstacle 10 points x 5 = 50 points. (2) Minefield 50 points x 2 = 100 points (German revised total 440pts) .

Planning and Deployment

Battlefront-Battlefield-Flames-of-War

German

Planning

My deployment was based upon the placement of my fortifications. I wanted to deny easy routes into the kolkhoz, but was hampered by the restrictions imposed by the 16" deployment zone. I figured that the outlying buildings adjacent to the road on the northern edge of the village provided obvious entry points. I figured that I could limit their potential for exploitation by placing a minefield on the village side along covered by fire from The White House. Whilst I couldn't close the door, as it were, I could ensure that whoever stepped over the threshold would be guaranteed a warm welcome. The 2iC would gloriously sacrifice themselves outside of this perimeter, buying time by triggering a flame-throwing covered assault.

German-FOW-Deployment

Immediate ambush is a pain. Whilst it gave me much needed flexibility to respond to the direction of the Soviet attack, it meant giving away my position (and threat) very early on in the game. I ear-marked the copse outside of the defensive perimeter as a likely location for the ambush. It was well within the deployment area and gave good lines of site and interlocking fields of fire along the the edge of the village. If it all went belly up I have a covered displacement route along the river.

German-FOW-Deployment

I had no reserves to count on (this was 340+ points against a 990!), so thought I should keep at least a third of my force in a 'local' reserve in the centre of the village. As soon as the axis of attack was clear, this platoon was to relocate and engage the enemy directly. Hopefully, we might be able to hold on long enough to delay the Soviet advance towards Lepel.

Deployment.

After Chris had removed 1 of the objectives, we had 2 left: a burning IS-2 that had rolled to a halt the centre of the village and a knocked out T34 that had tried sneaking up the river from the east.

Considering the location and layout of the village from the centre of the board, I had some 'challenging' conditions within my 16" deployment area. With 2 platoons, 1 Rifle/MG and 1 HMG, Iopted to put the HMG platoon in immediate ambush, but 'attach' 2 stand to the Rifle/MG platoon in 'local reserve'.

The 'local reserve' was deployed in and around the platoon commander in The White House ready to move. The second platoon was placed in each of the buildings overlooking the ploughed field on the western edge of the kolkhoz. The 'Old Man' located himself in the Party's headquarters to cover the ground between the objective and woods with his trusty SMG and panzerknacker team. The 2iC located himself at the other end of the village outside of the defensive perimeter to keep watch. The minefields and barbed wire were positioned in a box within the deployment area and around 1 of the objectives to deny covered access between the copse and the nearest building, a rush over the bridge and infiltration between buildings and towards the objective at the other end of the village

German-FOW-Deployment

Russian

As I pondered the battlefield, Justin deployed his entire defence and fortifications. To his credit he had opted for only 2 minefield (see Model Dads Blog 5-10-2010) but the full 5 barbed wire, which did look problematic as it seemed to be absolutely everywhere. On the plus side he had so much deployed I wondered how he himself would manoeuvre at all.

After Justin was finished finalising defences, I rolled in my deployment and through luck and a little choice I was able to forget about the bridge, which I just simply didn't like the look of with so many machine guns around. Justin seemed very keen I was attacking from one side; and I took this as a further attempt to unsettle me.

Russian-Infantry-Woods

I could see almost (1) a clear passage through a field to the northwest houses and (2) from a small copse, which a couple of leaps to reach the southeastern buildings.

I wanted to hinge my attack around the most firepower available, and to use this firepower to cover a massed assault. I opted to use the SU76's as the premilinary to this grand assault by my two Udarny Strelkovy Companies which more or less flanked the armour, each with pioneer detachments in the shape of flamethrowers..

Russian-Infantry-Woods

I wanted to blast the defenders, pinning and killing, and to assault with hopefully two, but as a last resort, just one company (if the ambush caught me short), both led by led by flame teams, supported from the air and whatever the mortars could contribute (don't hold your breath).

I expected losses assaulting dug in positions and so I decided when I did decide to push, I would push very hard until either Justin broke or I did. I would throw in the tanks in an assault as a last resort. This way my resolve and apart from reacting to circumstances, I knew timing would be everything. When the big bang happened I wanted to be punching harder.

And with these cliched sentiments coming to the front of my mind, I drew up my plan for the record and resolved to fight until the death.

German-Plan-of-attack-breakthrough

As I came to these conclusions. Justin announced he would have taken an entirely different force than the one I had chosen, although omitted to say exactly what.

Now this was either an innocent passing thought, or more likely the encounter had just begun with this rapier like one liner - typical of our good natured encounters, there is always a competitive element hovering in the wings and one can never be sure if it has made yet another appearance.

However, no matter, by this point I had my plan and was confident he could not withstand close up high explosives and thousands of angry Soviets for long, because I was already eying up the infantry positions in the houses with my tracked assault guns.

In true Russian tradition I had a good drink and steeled myself for the coming hours of this emotional chess game.

Turn One

German

In the copse overlooking the fields Heuberger reached for the pair of stick grenades and placed them on the parapet of his firing position. He patted them reassuringly. It had been 24 hours since the last Soviet tanks had rolled past their position and he was getting nervous. Squinting into the early morning sunshine, Heuberger poked Weber with his boot. Weber was pretending to be asleep at the bottom of their foxhole,

'Here, get up. What do you reckon that is?'

Heuberger pointed at the rapidly moving dust cloud that could be seen behind the trees in front of their position.

'Trouble' sniffed Weber and reached for his binoculars.

German-FOW-Deployment

My lads watched Chris' army advance in a surprisingly orderly fashion from the cover of their fortified positions. I didn't have much to do. With the alarm sounded, the local reserve left the cover of the buildings on the southern side of the village and made their way towards the enclosed field on the eastern edge to go hunt Ivan in the fields.

Despite an opening salvo of fire from the SU-76s, everyone else kept their heads down and muttered about how unfair it all was that their ersatz coffee morning had been interrupted

Russian

I prepared for turn one but Justin informed me Germans started first. I couldn't remember what we had discussed earlier, but now it would really feel like an ambush as I was expecting the first move. I myself had stripped an entire platoon's of Justin's a few months ago with a cute mg42 ambush on turn one, and so I waited for the inevitable payback.

The ambush came but of course went, and there was no carnage. I pressed on into the woods to serve as cover, as quickly as possible to take assault positions, as the clock was ticking fast.

I found the Soviet Strelkovy cumbersome to move, their leviathan-like size increased by flame and Kommisar bases.

There simply wasn't enough cover for everyone, so the beginnings of huddles began to appear around fields and trees, looking like naughty school kids huddled around for a sly smoke.

The other lot peg it into the field.

Russian-Infantry-Woods

But after playing with the expensive Panzergrenadier, their cost resulting in a very few bases on the table, I wasnt going to bemoan the plethora of troops - far from it. I expected to take casualties and plenty of them with machine guns at every window and more spotted in the streets running into position, so this host would be the ideal vehicle to surround Justin's meagre forces.

I bought up the SU76's to prepare to soften up the flank, at whatever targets threatened my advance, and also a show of force. However,

  • the mortars didn't range in
  • the SU76's missed entirely
  • the planes didn't arrive

It obviously wasn't going to be my night.

Turn Two

German

As an entire company of Soviets take cover in the woods, my HMG platoon bides their time.

On the eastern side of the farm, the platoon in local reserve fall flat on their faces to avoid the appearance of the dreaded jabos.

Seeing the Su76's writing on the wall, the 2iC ducks away from the window, sneaks towards the backdoor and takes a shufty outside. Steeling himself, he makes a break for it across the minefield tip-toeing his way towards The White House.

German-FOW-Deployment

Russian

I advance in an orderly fashion into the field on one side and the wood on the other, and begin looking at the mutiplicitious German lines of sight which will come into play as soon as I emerge from the corn and copse respectively.

However at the moment I'm just grateful Justin can't spray indirectly as there are a lot of guns at windows just a few metres away from my position.

German-FOW-Deployment

I am confident my assault here will triumph due to speed and volume so it's down to the other flank to get moving now. The HMG is not pinned so moving out the woods is out of the question without sorting that out, and that now becomes the key issue.

However I am distracted by lush German targets running up to bolster the line on which the aircraft fail to range in on I regret not concentrating on the primary target, the HMG.

The tanks advance and fire a broadside. I'm not taking bases, but I am deciding when things happen which suits me.

Turn Three

German

Those damned jabos are back and swoop low over the copse strafing Weber and Heuberger who drop into their foxholes pinned. Suddenly, life at the bottom of a dugout doesn't seem too bad.

Denied their target, the Su76s advance around the western edge of the village as the 2ic bursts inside the White House to report contact to the northwest and northeast.

German-FOW-Deployment

Dusting themselves down, the local reserve makes it across the field and to the hedge line. As the MG42 sets-up, I engage Ivan with small arms fire. 1 stand down, first blood to me!

Russian

I lose men partly due to the cramped conditions and also my own carelessness. Fortunately there are plenty to spare. I adopt this attitude and in doing so deny Justin any premature celebrations.

I advance the tanks and blast the houses to keep jerry's heads down, and I manage to pin a Grenadier platoon. I assemble the Strelkovy in the field ready for the assault which I want to combine as one large attack.

Russian-Infantry-Woods

However currently I can only stand and stare from the woods until the HMG is suppressed, and the IL2 does just this with a bomb at the end of the turn, although no casualties are taken and the threat remains.

German-FOW-Deployment

Turn Four

German

Heuberger: "Weber, when was the last time you washed your socks?"

Weber: "Smolensk?"

Groan, the HMG platoon fails to unpin as the IL-2s come round again for another pass.This is going to get messy. As the 2nd Strelkovy emerges from the woods, Weber fires, but to no effect.

German-FOW-Deployment

On the other side of town, the Russian infantry are slipping into the building a team at a time. There's also some flamethrowers in there somewhere and my lads are getting edgy. We open fire and whilst another stand goes, it might be time to fall back or we'll be having toast for breaksfast earlier than expected.

Elsewhere, my other lads keep their heads down. The Su76 continue to Volley Fire into the buildings, but with little effect: Veterans, Concealed, Gone to Ground and in bullet-proof cover. Nice. The emerging enemy infantry may, however, be a different prospect.

Russian

The turn counter waits for no man. I must take my chance now. If the HMG unpins next round I might be slaughtered, but hopefully not enough to break my morale. This turn I will race from the woods and next round both companies will assault when the game will be decided.

German-FOW-Deployment

The planes continue pressure on the machine gun and the mortars join in but they remain intact, albeit  pinned.

German-FOW-Deployment

A small detachment from the company in the field runs to the building in preparation for the attack.

Turn Five

German

Heuberger: "Smolensk? Smolensk!

Enraged, Heuberger snatches the MG42 off Weber, unpins and pours angry fire into the densly packed Strelkovy. At the same time, rifle and machine gun fire ripples out from the buildings on the western side of the village. 4 stands go in the crossfire and the Soviet infantry scatter into cover.

On the Eastside, the local reserve pull back under fire and race across the field towards the buildings, flame licking at their heels. Ouch!...that's gotta hurt.

German-FOW-Deployment

Russian

Za Rodinu! Za Stalina!

The cry goes out and the charge goes in, a swarm I throw my men forward. As predicted, as I have had to face them several times now in previous games, my Russian flamethrowers clear two buildings entirely on both sides and the men prepare for entry. The fortifications do not yet pose a problem but movement beyond this point in future turns may prove problematic.

I am confident the sheer numbers of men will now overpower the German defenders; the next turn will now surely prove decisive.

German-FOW-Deployment

The field reveals a scarily very small angle of attack for me and there is a slight concern after losing a handful of bases from machine guns. However I was quite prepared to suffer a one shooting up, perhaps two.

The tanks advance over our new fortification scenery (not stopping to admire the view) to close quarters and get stuck, literally, with gun barrels pokng through windows.

The flame goes in and the devastating die roll extinguishes all the dwellers in an instant.

Turn Six

German

Despite Heuberger's enfilade fire, a squirt of fire from a Soviet flamethrower clears the nearest building and the Su76s plough their way through my carefully placed barbed wire.

In the centre of the village, SMG and rifle ricochets off the buildings as the local residents entertain their new neighbours across the street. This neighbourhood has really gone downhill in the last few minutes.

Elsewhere, German bodies lay strewn across the field. Breathless, the HMG team make it to a nearby barn. Fortunately, there's no sign of pursuit.

Russian

I press home the assault and bases disappear from both but the momentum continues. Germans run from the hedgleline for safety but a solitary Soviet smg base makes sure he does not reach the other side with a burst in the back.

These shots surely signify an impending rout and confidence remains high, as do my casualties as I try and fail to cross the minefields and barbed wire in the face of fire.

German-FOW-Deployment

I close the tanks on the objective to ensure victory is not stolen from me and consider an assault on the hmg's in my next move who pose a real threat with my troops still in the firing line. Also they present a nice target being the only German target outside a building.

Turn Seven

German

Weber taps the right-hand side of Heuberger's helmet to draw his attention to the SU76s who are pivoting on their axis to face their position,

'Time to go Ernst...' says Weber.

Back in town, the firing slackens. Encouraged, Ivan makes a break for it and tries to force the minefield and assault The White House. As an S-mine detonates, SMG erupts from the door of The White House. By the time the last cartidges hit the floor, it's all over for the Russians out in the open.

German-FOW-Deployment

Trouble is, there's plenty more where they came from as the Kommisar and Co move in across the road.

Russian

I make a final assault of this first grand effort and try to keep the pressure up. I could afford to risk a few bases to have a chance to grab victory from sheer momentum.

However with barrels poking from every orifice, I'm toasted approaching the white washed walls of the vipers nest.

German-FOW-Deployment

I prepare the tanks to overrun the HMG which looks up for it. I won't wait for infantry support, they look lightweight.

There is an aura of a inevitability appearing over the battlefield. And it is tinted red.

Turn Eight

German

Weber and Heuberger scramble out of their foxholes leaving their smoking MG42 behind. Minutes later, the nearest Su76 rolls over their fighting position as it ploughs into the treeline.

Glancing over his shoulder, Weber sees a line of Soviet infantry skirmishing towards them. Pulling Heuberger up by his shoulder straps, the 2 men crash through the trees and make for the nearby river embankment. With the scream of engines and chatter of small arms fire all around them, Weber and Heuberger hightail it as fast as their jackboots can carry them. ..

Iron Cross

As a SU76 backs up in front of the pair, Heuberger hurls an egg-grenade into the open fighting compartment.

German-FOW-Deployment

Suitably chastened, The Russians reinforce their positions in the village and trade fire across the street. Whilst there's alot of noise, bullet-proof cover ensures that only damage done is to the wattle and daub.

Russian

With bases now stacked up around the few buildings I hold, the HMG in the woods remains a constant threat with its massive 24" range

After closing more infantry on the objective, I send the SU76 into a direct assault on the machine gun position, with no infantry support as promised- which I seem to be doing a lot of recently:

I'm not really sure now this is a good idea with these open tops but a combination of copious amounts of beer, tanks vs infantry and the fact it has gone midnight have conspired to persuade me I am invincible.

A tank is spectaculary bailed, but the assault is ultimately victorious and the HMG is left scattered and dead; and every base I remove contributes to breaking that precious morale.

German-FOW-Deployment

The infantry in the hamlet continue to blast each other.

My legs are aching.

I need a futuristic wargaming sofa that hovers, overlooking the battlefield.

Turn Nine

German

Tripping over a tree root, Weber falls headfirst down the embankment and into the river only to emerge minutes later coughing and spluttering. Jumping down beside him, Heuberger grins at his friend,

'This isn't the time to be washing your socks.'

The Old Man drew heavily on his last cigarette and watched the SU76 emerge from the trees and turn towards him. With the HMG section gone, there wasn't alot of his platoon left. Tossing the photo of his wife and child into the fire place, he checks the magazine of his MP40.

But what's this?

German-FOW-Deployment

The 2 SU76 roll up over the barbed wire and stop outside their house, seemingly oblivious to their presence. Gott in Himmel, is this a gift from the Gods or too much vodka?

The Old Man, his adjutant and runner assault through the doorway throwing grenades and firing their machine pistols from the hip. Stunned, the Russian crew 'bail-out' of their vehicle. Curses...it could have been more.

Down the street stalemate ensues...

Russian

I spin around the remaining two SU76 and throw them immediately forward onto the objective to assert and dominate without further ado. I am confident and unhesitating in my action.

I roll up the armour and open a beer.

Then he is upon me and I gladly survive this ferocious short lived last ditch German assault with my tank crews looking desperate and lost outside their tanks yet again.

Hero of The Soviet Union

The SU76 never stopped firing or fighting and was involved in every assault, Finishing off the HMG was their finest hour, and even though one tank was bailed and one lost, they continued to the end.

The German resilience is impressive, they are depleted but holding and even assaulting in small numbers.

Wish I had a couple more flamethrowers to finish the job.

Turn Ten

German

While the Old Man and what's left of his platoon hunker down, the Russians probe around the edges. Ammunition is running short. Many of his men are wounded or dead. Hopefully, we can hold out until nighfall...I concede.

German-FOW-Deployment

Russian

I'm blasting at the buildings with my Su-76, the rifle/mgs are laying down as much fire as they can.

I'm tired, so tired, it went midnight some time ago and my hangover's starting prematurely.

Standing across the table from me, Justin is becoming blurry and even monosyllabic, he's holding 3 books,hes motioning me to roll again and calling out the number of die,

I'm not sure exactly who's firing at what anymore but I throw them across the table in front of me, another impressive line of bullet and shell holes but no end product, suddenly, mercifully, he concedes, as we both tire of the stand off I hold the advantage so I take the game.

Vodka runs freely and the town is liberated.

Well, what remains of it.

Summary

German

I love games where the odds are stacked against you.

Once again, the resilience of German infantry has been highlighted in this game. Digging out Concealed and Gone-to-Ground Veterans in bullet-proof cover with infantry and light SP guns is a challenge.

I'm also quite liking fortifications.

Minefields are a real humdinger.

Got to find a way of neutralising Soviet flamethrowers. If I can do that, we might get our first German win.

Good game.

Russian

The plan largely worked, although the German HMG team in the woods stalled my attack and tied up the light tanks. Even though the damage they inflicted did not change the game outcome, their long range made manoeuvre difficult and they knocked out some armour which was impressive.

Flames-of-War-Battle-Outcome

On the bright side, my strength in numbers really came through as I steamrollered through the western position largely as planned. The flames teams cleared the buildings, they were absolutely lethal and without them clearing the path quickly, I might have been chopped up badly.

The available cover approaching the buildings made advancing under cover largley possible, and defending buildings so close to cover difficult, the German defenders did not open up effectively until assaulted. The objective remained contested at the end, so even though Justin conceded and we agreed on a minor victory in my favour, there were still pesky mg42's on the objective at the end so it the victory was not entirely conclusive.

The mortars proved innefective in every way against troops in buildings. Not surprising I suppose.

But anyway, all good. I am not particularly looking forward to my turn as Germans here. I know Justin will try to make me pay for his retreat and he has already hinted at close up artillery coming my way.

I can't wait.

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