Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Power Station: A Tigers at Minsk Game

*UPDATE*  Apparently I fought this battle incorrectly and placed the Germans where the Soviets were supposed to go and vice versa.  So my "analysis" below is written assuming the Germans started from the Soviet positions.  Oh boy...read on if you dare.


A cold, rainy Sunday here so I built a fire in the gaming bunker and settled in for some action-packed WWII small unit actions on the tabletop and wanted to refresh a little on Norm's outstanding "Tigers at Minsk" rules.  I rolled out the hexmat, grabbed some terrain and got to work.

Settle in and grab a cup of coffee.  This is going to be a bumpy ride!  By the way, you can read Norm's fight of his excellent scenario here.

You can download Norm's Power Plant scenario here.

It's 0729 hours.  German forces, expecting their own reinforcements, and priming weapons and passing out extra ammunition when the Soviet attack starts.
 The power station is the large red brick building in the upper-center of the picture above.  Soviet forces are massed along the "Red October Street" where the "Red October Power Plant" is located.

The rumble to the northeast signifies the start of the Soviet attack as multiple cannon batteries open fire.  The men know what comes next...

Splash!  Rounds impact all around the central square area and the party office, now taken over by new tenants, the Germans.  The building and surrounding areas hold a German section and heavy weapons team.  Nearby a Panzer III idles and an AT gun, a Pak40, watches the approach from the factory.
More Soviet shells fall however they miss their intended target and fall amongst the wooded park across from the power station.  There is another German squad in shell scrapes there as well. wishing they could crawl inside their helmets now.
 German artillery answers in kind and falls directly on the power station.

 0730 Hours.
The Soviets step off onto the attack.  2 x SMG platoons pour into the power station to help defend the main complex against further German attacks.  The Soviet assault gun watching over the approach and the central square fires on the Panzer III and misses.  They do, however, draw the attention of the gunner and tank commander in the Panzer III.

Soviet shooting is generally ineffective on their first move.  The Germans referred to it as "Ivan's wake up call" in order to ensure the Germans weren't sleeping.

Workers flats across the street from the power station.  For most of the battle the men here did not properly interpret the orders of their platoon commander or company commander yelling at them from across the street.  Note the black dots are "OUT OF COMMAND"
 The Germans know that time is not on their side.  They have to kill feverishly if they are to win this scenario.  The Panzer III deals with the SU76 quickly and it's another kill ring for Hans.

Good kill!  Panzer III knocks out the SU at the power plant at the intersection of Red October Street and Lenin Street.
 Meanwhile, Feldwebel Schmidt's sewer recon patrol emerges at the German baseline after getting lost.  There were worse places to emerge on this battlefield.  Being covered by the trees in the park, Schmidt's 2 sections make use of the cover and advance 2 hexes towards the sound of the fighting.  They emerge at the base of a large water tower along the "Red October Street".

Schmidt's sewer patrol comes out on the German baseline.

view of the powerplant along the railline.  Schmidt's patrol is now at the water tower area.
 A German Panzer III pumps rounds and MG fire into the nearby train station where they've taken fire from Soviet troops.


 0738 Hours.  Doubles. 
Both sides roll "SNIPER" on their random events table.  German counter-sniper marksmen are embedded in their squads to deal with the ever-present sniper threat.  Tough lessons learned from 4 years of constant warfare.  Guess what units both sides use their snipers on?

German HMG section is pinned down by a Soviet sniper.

*THWACK* Soviet HMG section pinned down by a sniper in the power plant office building.
Ouch!  Soviet shooting, 3 squads jammed into the power plant main building, pour fire down on Schmidt's patrol at the water tower.  Realizing they're in trouble, Schmidt tries to rally his men behind the steel beams of the tower.  Men are pinned down or shot all around him.  
 Soviets shoot at Schimdt's sections at the water tower and knock out a squad while pinning the other one.  The infantry squad at party headquarters supporting the HMG also is knocked out.  Germans attempt to shoot the Pak40 at the office building.  Not only is the fire ineffective, it goes out of AP ammo as well.  Panzer III pivots to shoot at infantry who have wandered into the streets.  "What the devil are those idiots doing?" marvels hands as the Russian squad waltzes out of the building.  Are they...drunk?  The panzer III shoots are the drunken infantry staggering out onto Red October street but misses wildly.  Hans was likely trying to force them back into cover in the interest of humanity.  This was to have interesting consequences the next turn as Soviet reinforcements, T-34s, enter the battle.  Remember- no good deed goes unpunished!

blue bead is out of AP ammo.  Note the Panzer III exposing its flank to Lenin Street where the T-34s will come on.
0743 Hours.
Soviet T-34s and tank riding SMG squads come onto Lenin Street but have difficulty maneuvering around teh burning SU carcass there.  THe lead T-34 fires and the men atop the steel beast curse.  The round goes wild and misses the Panzer III!  Soviets unpin the HMG and their infantry fire is brutally effective, cutting down the landsers in the park as well.  The German casualties are piling up and they're about to reach 5!  They're morale breakpoint for the game.

The German panzer III turns to face the T-34 down Lenin Street but misses.  They can feel their luck running out.  Hans curses those drunken bastards who are STILL out of command and STILL milling about Red October street as if there is no battle taking place!



Panzer III now facing T-34s.
 The AT gun redeploys!
 0749 Hours.
The Soviets knock out Hans and his Panzer III.  The troops on Red October Street are still drunk and milling about, out of command.  Meanwhile the Soviets, sensing victory in their grasp, pour out of the power plant in the form of SMG squads.  The Germans barely have managed to stay in the game with the arrival of 3 rifle squads back where Schmidt emerged from the sewers.

drunk Soviets on Red October Street milling about.  Still out of command!  
 The Germans cautiously make their way forward and are shocked to find Soviet SMG troops boiling through the wooded park area and fanning out.  More German casualties bring them almost to the brink of their casualty limit again.

Reinforcements are in trouble themselves!
The second Panzer III, unable to raise their wingman on the radio, decide to throw in the towel.  Actually the entire German force must make morale checks because they've reached their morale BP!
 0753 hours.
Intense Soviet rifle and MG fire forces more German casualties and the ensuring morale checks on the force are not kind.  Most of the German forces fall back, even before they could get up to the fight to make a difference.  They throw in the towel before 8am.  The men closest to Red October Street surrender.  The men along the line of departure are able to sneak back to friendly lines.

Germans trying to salvage the attack along the relatively "quiet" left flank


That was a pretty intense, albeit short, engagement.  20/20 hindsight it's obvious now to me that the German deployments are the key to victory in this brutal battle.  The Soviets get 2 x barrage fire missions in the beginning and it's probably wise to deploy your Germans out of sight of the Russian observers.  Additionally, even though there is much ground to cover, the Germans don't have the benefit of numbers and should deploy together to mutually support the advance.

The Armor is critical here, too and should be employed in direct support of capturing the objective.  The Soviet armor coming on can be dealt with using the Pak 40 (assuming you can keep it alive!).

What worries me the most about this battle is the fact that the Soviets have mega-numbers and can sit on the objective with overloaded, target-rich hexes.  Assaulting 3 squads in a hex is a daunting task, even if you can get some effects on the hex before assaulting it.

In this instance, i didn't have to worry about it because the Germans didn't even come close to reaching the power plant.  Speaking of which, Norm, if you're reading this, is the intent that the Soviets start within the power plant?  I assumed from reading the setup instructions that yes, that was the case.

I really enjoyed fighting this battle and I am really enjoying the Tigers at Minsk rules.  They are clean, well written and deliver a fun and satisfying game that is full of decisions, and excitement.

Norm - all I ask is that you keep developing these great urban scenarios!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019 Blog Updates & Latest WIP

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers out there!  Thought I'd post a quick update on what's been going on in and around the gaming bunker of late.  My lack of blog posting activity is not necessarily an indicator of lack of activity!


As you all know, the campaign is winding down as we're getting ready to move into the final, apocalyptic turn of the Battle of Ponyri Station, Turn 7 or July 11th.  Things have been moving along and you all know I'm a big fan of the "Firestorm" campaigns for their simplicity and success at generating battles.  I've got some big updates that hopefully you've seen already - including the Duc de Gobins' epic and successful defense of both Kastenwald (Kastenwald Crucible) and Ponyri Station (Ponyri Payback).  Jack will be fighting the 6th Battle of Shirokoye Bulotev soon and I will link to that as soon as he posts!*UPDATE*  Jack's forces have done the impossible yet again as elements of 292nd ID capture Shirokoye Bulotev and you can read the battle report at Jack's blog here.

German hard-fought victories at Berezovetskoye, Kastenwald, and Ponyri Station - the Germans will be set up to attack both 1 May and Hill 253 now, regardless of whether they seize Shirokoye.  Nail biting eastern front action at its finest!

In other hobby news, I've started the concept test for my singly-based Napoleonic units on my 10mm Seven Years War troops I've had literally laying around in their packaging since 2007.  This serves multiple purposes so while I'm preparing to start my Napoleonic troopers en-masse, I'm practicing by preparing my Seven Years War troops for the eventual publication of  the SYW variant of the Commands and Colors: Tricorne game.  This allows me to test out my concept of singly based units without actually delving into my Naps (of which there are many, many troops to paint!).

Austrian Dragoons - the reader will forgive the white trim around their tricorne hats - I just think they pop more on the table with the trim although these fellows had black hats without trim.  

2 x Dragoon Regiments based for grand-tactical games


And the Prussian infantry, the scourge of the SYW battlefield!
Infantry Regiment #3 Anhalt - my favorites!

Both of these colors are from the Anhalt Infantry Regiment, but these are actually 2 separate Regiments based for grand tactical games.

These guys are going to look great when the Tricorne Commands and Colors game comes out!

Also working on my US 15mm World War II Anti Tank Gun troopers but they will be the subject of another post.  Also for everyone's info, I'm starting work back up on my 6mm US Cold War and Soviet forces for Team Yankee, etc.  Perhaps a Fulda Gap firestorm coming up in the near future?

I hope all of my American readers had a great Thanksgiving.  I'm stuffed!





Saturday, November 23, 2019

FIRESTORM PONYRI STATION: TURN 6 ORDERS AND BATTLES!

Greetings Blog Fans - update on Turn 6 of the Ponyri Station campaign during the Kursk offensive.  It's now July 10th at dawn.  The Germans are intent on setting themselves up for more tough attacks on Turn 7, the final turn.  The Soviets are slicing into the German gains hoping to upset the German timetable.  Additionally, the Soviets have benefited from having the initiative this turn, which has greatly helped as they set the tempo for the turn.
Note the Soviet and German attacks for Turn 6.  Kastenwalds is over and was a German victory today.

Here is the report sent to the players from XXXXI Corps Headquarters:

ALL UNITS SHOULD PREPARE FOR LARGE SCALE SOVIET ATTACKS OCCURING AT DAWN ON JULY 10th.

Soviet columns have been detected by aerial reconaissance and confirmed by ground recce this morning.

XXXXI Corps is preparing to receive 18th Panzer as a reinforcing panzer division however the current Soviet attack will delay the move over to the offense.

Units should expect strong attacks with heavy artillery support in their assigned sectors.  Units shall make all necessary arrangements to consolidate and improve their positions in order to set conditions to successfully defend and transition over to the offense.

Soviet Attacks:
Armor has been detected in assembly areas in the vicinity of SHIROKOYE BULOTEV and is positioned to assault KASTENWALD at first light.

Soviet forces are massing on 1 MAY and are positioning to strike PONYRI STATION with large amounts of artillery in support at first light.

Soviet Defensive preparations have been detected in the vicinity of BUTYRKI and BEREZOVETSKOYE.

The Duc de Gobin has already completed the battle of Kastenwald (Kastenwald Crucible) with a massive armored meeting engagement this morning, as elements of the newly released 18th Panzer Regiment were moving south east to reinforce their Kamaraden in vicinity of Ponyri.  The ensuing clash ran headlong into Ken's attacking force of KV-1s and T-34s and the fight, using the Iron Cross rules, was something to see!

Still to fight is Jack's battle of Ponyri Station with the Soviet airborne troopers fighting to get their way into the town.  Tomorrow in the gaming bunker we will fight the battle of Berezovetskoye with the Germans attempting to outflank their critical objectives from the south instead of the north and also lock down a Soviet supply source.

The campaign is getting desperate now and not to mention VERY exciting as we wrap up the battles from turn 6 and get ready to head into the final turn, turn 7.

It should be obvious now that large-scale Soviet reinforcements are on the scene and their ability to launch attacks almost as big as the Germans is throwing a wrench in German planning.  But the Germans still have alot of combat power and if they can seize Berezevetskoye and hold Ponyri in turn 6, a victory is still within their grasp, potentially altering the history of the battle and Operation Zitadelle!

Some Thoughts on the Campaign at Turn 6:

I've admitted on the blog now that I've actually enjoyed organizing the campaign as much, if not more, than playing in the battles.  Not only did this inject new life into my wargaming hobby, it has also been a great excuse to get together with good friends both online and in person, and as a result, scores of battles have already been fought over the last 6 -8 weeks across the ocean and halfway across the United States!

Originally I was not sure how a "firestorm" campaign would have worked but it has actually worked out beyond my expectations.  There was no muddling with points or "branches and sequels" and coming up with a million different potential situations to cater to.  The use of the sectors has been super easy but also the design of the map lent itself to fierce battles over key pieces of terrain that were historically fought over by the Germans and the Russians.  I could not have planned that better.

I think if I could do things differently, I would have invited more folks to play in the campaign.  The original intent was to get my small gang here in southeastern Pennsylvania a way to play games.  
When Jack and Darren saw what we were doing and realized that we were throwing dice to determine the outcome of the battles we didn't fight on the table, they immediately volunteered to fight them out for us.  How many of you out there would like having battles complete with maps and OOBs delivered to your email inbox for you to fight on a weekend, no strings attached?  That's exactly what has happened with Darren and Jack participating almost weekly with us.  The outcomes of their battles are discussed while we are fighting ours, and they've been incredibly entertaining to read.  It's also been a great excuse to catch up with both of these guys and I hope to continue this trend into the next series of campaigns.  You didn't hear this from me, but we're thinking Fulda Gap next, and then back to World War II but over in Normandy in the British sector, somewhere near a town called Caen...

Anyways, I guess the whole point of this rant was to talk about what I've learned in the campaign so far.  I've learned that the Firestorm model is incredibly effective at generating battles with a purpose, that running an easy wargaming campaign is a great way to stay connected to friends, and that having battles linked to a strategic or operational goal makes their results more important than a simple pick up game.  For you "grognards" out there that's probably pretty obvious but for me it's been a joy to discover on my own.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

FIRESTORM PONYRI STATION: TURN 5 CAMPAIGN RESULTS!

It's been awhile since I posted any campaign results and we just concluded a crazy, dramatic turn 5 with reversals of fortune and gains on both sides!  I know everyone out there has been anxious to see where we are at after this roller coaster weekend so here goes!  The map has been uploaded below:


The Soviets successfully retook Berezovetskoye in a desperate attack featuring all of their heavy stuff including KV-1s, IL-2 dive bombers and troops.  Darren played a huge battle with the entire AO using Field of Battle and the game looked incredible!  At Jack's house, the Soviets attempted a heavy attack at Karpunevka (Snava) and were repulsed in a desperate holding action by the Germans!  (we both thought it was going to be a steamroller, too, but the Germans held on!)

You will also note that the supply situation for both sides has been stabilized somewhat, at least for now with the Soviets actually relieving Hill 253.1.  The Germans were able to resupply their forces in the vicinity of Ponyri and the other objectives as well.

Overlay at Soviet Army HQs - the intelligence officer has pinpointed German positions
Jack and his staff weren't the only ones drawing up plans at HQs.  Check out the maneuver overlay from the Duc de Gobin's HQs!  This is going to be awesome when we switch to World War III!



Soviets seizing Berezovetskoye - note the KV-1s charging in!


DISASTER AT SHIROKOYE BULOTEV
Here in my gaming bunker, the German push into Shirokoye Bulotev (the 4th battle of Shirokoye Bulotev) was repulsed with heavy losses, although no loss of firestorm troops.  In Darren's battle, the Ferdinands were lost which means all of the German heavy Firestorm Armor is gone!  Good thing for the Germans there are only 2 turns left in the campaign! 

At Shirokoye, German gunners pound Soviet positions

German platoons on the start line.  Note the Soviets in the woods.  The guns are to their rear, supporting the attack and the Stug platoon will come in behind the objective....if they show

Soviet Battalion Commander will also spot for the mortars

Soviets in the woods are dug in.  They'll have to be dug out!
Artillery pins and removes a stand but the lackluster performance of the artillery was apparent as direct fire accounted for way more casualties than it should have.

Soviets spotting for mortars!

German 1st Platoon - Panzers Los!

Naturally as luck would have it, the Soviets get their reinforcements on turn 1.  The T-34s quickly swarm on the board.  Each tank has 4 x MG dice!  Yikes!
 The German 1st Platoon is caught out in the open during their advance onto the copse of trees taking heavy casualties (20 dice!)

All that remains of 1st Platoon - amazingly they are able to unpin themselves and will assault the treeline

Gunner supporting the advance.  there is an entire other Soviet company out there somewhere...

Germans take the woodline barely.  Where the hell are the panzers at?!?!
 The other Soviet platoon moves out to close the door on the stricken German company.  Literally the only way the Germans can go now is forward to the "safety" of the objective.  There is an SMG company waiting for them there...



Soviets advancing on the rubble pile in Shirokoye
 Sensing an opportunity to slow down the Soviets, the German company commander orders his platoons forward to assault the woods, but stays behind to call in artillery fire onto the advancing human wave.  Unbelievably, he fails to get through to the guns, rolling a 1,2, and 1.  This is it for the German CO and his small staff.  They will be mowed down by T-34s next turn.


Note the mob of Soviets behind them...

The German CO goes out firing his Schmeisser at the T-34s before being cut down.

Soviets swarm over the rubble pile picking up German rations, helmets, and decorations left on the dead.

 The end comes swiftly as the German small platoon who were reduced to 3 stands loses another stand.  They fail their last stand test and are removed.  That leaves 1 unit left on the board, the 2nd Infantry platoon who surrender as they are surrounded in the woodline.

Soviets occupying former German positions.
Wow that was a rough battle.  The Germans had a really hard time and off the bat I can think of a few things I should have done differently.  First, the platoons should have been separated to deal with each Soviet company.  Additionally, relying on the artillery was a big mistake, especially without an observer.  This forced me to leave a leader stand stationary to callin artillery each turn.  This put my CO in way too much danger by being too far forward.

Playing a small FOW game, 54 points, was a big challenge especially against the Soviets who have lots of gear compared to the Germans who really have tough decisions to make when they can't bring everything they need to.

All in all, a fun but tough learning experience for me.  I'm ready to move onto the next turn in the campaign!  Speaking of campaign, total Firestorm German losses are as follows:

Tiger Platoon
Ferdinand Platoon
Mixed Panzer III/IV Platoon
Gepanzerte PanzerGrenadier platoon