Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fulda Gap: The Battle of Obergeis AAR PART TWO

As promised, here is the second segment of my AAR from yesterday's battle.  It seems all over the wargame blogosphere, NATO forces are giving ground grudgingly but the war is far from decided yet!

From where we left off yesterday, Soviet Armor on their left burst through the woods along the E45 Autobahn, and on their right, against Unteregeis.  US 155mm Artillery did some great work suppressing the Soviet Armor coming towards Obergeis and almost half of the Battalion was knocked out by gunnery by the end of the second turn.  Unfortunately on the US left, the Artillery had no such luck and the Soviets bounded from tree-line to tree-line until they were formed and ready to pounce on the TF 1-5 Battle Positions.

The Soviet advance on Obergeis was a lesson in tank gunnery.  By turn 2-3 the entire Soviet left tank battalion would be KO'd.

A BRM burns in the background as part of the Division anti-tank element lines up.  These AT-5s were really, really nasty and I lost count of how much armor they took out.  Eventually this bugger would have an entire battery's worth of 155mm falling on him.

on the right, Soviets mass to seize Unteregeis and allow their motor rifle troops to move into Obergeis.

Battle position 1 is easily over-run.  My dragon missiles failed to stop a single Soviet tank and the infantry melted away.

Battle position 2 can just sit and watch.  Their TOW launcher failed its cohesion roll (no opportunity firing for him!) as well as the Dragon missile teams.  They watched their buddies over run and killed.

The view from the "reserve" armor position, which was closer to Unteregeis.  The M60 platoon on the edge of town is KO'd.

Armor moving out of the reserve position to engage the Soviet tanks.  A small American counter attack shapes up on the American right flank as the threat is neutralized there.

meanwhile Soviet infantry moves into BP 1 around the burning M113s.  They would later be forced out by artillery and moved back to their start line until the coast was clear to charge at Obergeis.

The American counter attack begins.  US Armor on the right moves up the hill to get some flank and rear-deck shots at the T72s.  Those yellow and black beads are suppression and disorganization respectively.

Unteregeis is brimming with Soviet armor now and American infantry still has a toe-hold on the town.  As the Russians begin to engage the US Armor position, the American infantry in the town will eventually try and close-assault the Soviet tanks to pin them down.

Soviets firing at American Armor from the Unteregeis.

I had higher expectations from my TOW launcher platforms, and from my Dragon missiles, both of which failed to knock out a single Soviet tank yesterday - leading to a crucial lesson I'll talk about later.

Anyways, the US Commander made a fateful decision to move a reserve company of infantry over to Obergeis as the Soviet units were too close and it looked like they were close to being over run..
Hindsight is always 20/20 and in retrospect it seems I should have kept the infantry in position to defend Unteregeis as the extra stands close assaulting would have kept additional Soviet Armour and Infantry teams away from the town.

So the Soviets over-ran Unteregeis and the Soviet #2 Tank Battalion on their left still made slow progress towards Obergeis, even in the face of good American gunnery.

Meanwhile, 3 US Infantry Platoons in Unteregeis attempt a close assault at Russian Armor in the town.  I also found out that it would take approximately an entire US Company to knock out a Russian tank platoon by close combat, and my force was spread too thin.  Anyways, that ends in disaster as well for the US forces, who would keep at it, pinning down 3 Russian tank platoons for almost the rest of the game but not really accomplishing much more.

By now, Artillery is falling everywhere.  The US Player uses his Final Protective Fires to try and block the Soviets from moving anywhere, and the Soviet player is using his artillery to suppress or neutralize the Americans wherever they offer any resistance.

The American counter attack on the Soviet left is doing well, and I use the M60s great mobility to circle around behind the Russians and start taking flank shots.  The Russians had to divert a tank platoon or 2 from the drive on Obergeis but it was pretty much too late.  I could barely afford to take any American losses at this point so it's good bye
Soviet infantry moves back up into Unteregeis.  They are firing  on the US M113s in the town.  It occurs to me that the Soviet player should have brought his infantry along to protect them from the swarming US infantry.

Soviet Armor in Unteregeis.  You can make out the US Armor still hanging on in that reserve position.

I had to start using red beads to track who fired

Soviet armor forms for the final assault against Obergeis.

eliminating the US Armor finally.

US counter attack is cut short...

Infantry counter from the MechWar '77 Game.  My infantry is all up in storage.  They are attempting to close assault the Russian armor.  You need at least a 3:1 ratio to make any dent in these tanks.

American infantry swarming the Russian tanks in Unteregeis.

forming for the assault on Obergeis.

American Armor counter attacking.  This attack would bear some fruit, knocking out 2 more Russian armor platoons.

Russian armor engaging the Americans on the hilltop

US M113 in Obergeis.  

Final dispositions.  3 Russian Armor Platoons and 6 BTR70 platoons entering Obergeis with Dismounts.  1 US Infantry Company attempted close assault on the Lead Russian tank platoon entering the town.  Of course the US Armor platoon has an opportunity to knock out the Russian platoon with a flank shot and it fails its cohesion test!!!

Well there isn't much I can say that you haven't garnered already.  Those 4 key lessons I bulleted in yesterday's post (AAR Part 1) really ring true.  This is not WWII and the tanks are much more armored, more heavily armed, and are not as easy to kill with frontal shots.  In GHQ, units only retain 50% of their armor values from the flank.  With the lethality of the systems, flank shots are much more promising so with that in mind:

MAKE YOUR SHOTS FLANK SHOTS:  Your man-portable ATGM systems have an Anti-Tank value of roughly 14 in 1978.  The T72's frontal armor is 15 meaning you make an attack on the "-1" column.  If you are able to get a flank shot in, your odds increase greatly.  The defensive value halved and rounded up is 8.  14 - 8 = 6 meaning your dragon attack launches now in the "+6" column on the combat results table.

USE ARTILLERY IN CONJUNCTION WITH GUNNERY: Your fires must reach out and touch the enemy, if possible even before tank gunnery starts.  You saw how easily the US M60 Battalion took out the lead Pact Armor Battalion in the first 2 to 3 turns.  That was due in no small part to the Artillery and its helpfulness in suppressing the armor before the shooting really got started.

INFANTRY CLOSE ASSAULTS NEED AT LEAST 3 OR 4:1 LOCAL ODDS TO SUCCEED AGAINST ARMOR: While it was great slowing the Russians down in Unteregeis, it made little difference in the long run as they were still able to extricate some armor to attack Obergeis.  Infantry kept back for counterattacks need to have good odds of surviving.  Close assaulting enemy armor is always a tricky proposition, and if the armor survives, you're gonna lose those M113's (your transport) before the day is done, but you've accomplished the mission.  In this case, I assaulted a tank platoon with only 2 infantry platoons and the defender fires first...which brings me to the next point:

USE ARTILLERY FIRES IN CONJUNCTION WITH CLOSE ASSAULTS: Had the Russian armor in Unteregeis been suppressed or disorganized already, the infantry would have made short work of them, however my artillery was being wasted elsewhere trying to kill stuff that was harder to kill.  Granted, there is a risk to your own infantry with danger-close, but going in "cold" without prepping the objective is just begging to fail your close assault.

Finally - I was really taken aback at how ineffective my own ATGMs were in this game, especially versus the Pact ATGMs (AT-5 launched from a BRDM2 platform).  If you can manage it, knock out those little suckers ASAP.  They have more reach than the T72s and are much faster.

In hindsight, I should have placed the infantry Battalion in the town with some Armor supporting them in company teams.  (2 tanks and 2 M113s?).  Infantry dug-in in towns is much harder to hit than infantry dug in in woods.  Not to mention the Armor could have counterattacked easily after the Pact Battalion was dispatched and their infantry in BTRs destroyed.  It was an expensive lesson to learn and while the Red offensive grinds on towards Frankfurt, I'm hoping NATO can recover....

It's Day 4 and the war continues...

Next up will be the Disposable Heroes: Seek Out, Close With, and Destroy Supplement scenario with British Reserve Forces and German Armor counter-attacking at Hameln to capture a key river crossing from Soviet Airborne Forces.  This is a skirmish battle using the DH: SOCWAD system.  The Scenario comes from Ralph Peters' "Red Army" and is laid out in the excellent World War III Scenario Book "The Bear Marches West."  British and German Forces will need to capture the Bridge from the Soviets and their Battalion headquarters.  World War III Urban Fighting at its ugliest!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fulda Gap: The Battle of Obergeis AAR PART ONE

Things continue to go badly for NATO.  It's day 3 of the war and Obergeis has fallen to the 79th Guards Tank Division.  The good news...if there can be any, is that intelligence confirms that the 79th has been pulled off of the line due to losses.  They are down to 1 effective infantry battalion and less than 1 tank battalion.  American losses from the battle have been grave.  Task Force 1-32 Armor is being rolled into 1-5 Mech for the time being.  1-5 Mech will be pulled off the line and the Germans will assume blocking positions west of Obergeis.  The battle of the Fulda Gap is over - the Soviets won the first round...
Obergeis, Germany.  You can see the E45  the Soviet Forces took towards Obergeis.  Also, roughly in the pictures where the US Armor and Mech infantry were.  TF 1-32 AR and TF 1-5 IN split the battlefield in 2, with the Infantry defending Untergeis and the Armor defending Obergeis.  Soviet Armor penetrated the woods to the East at their thinnest point and moved quickly against Untergeis.   The picture is a little deceiving as the right-most Soviet formations actually moved through the gap immediately to their front, bounded through a series of woods, and then turned west but you get the idea...
I finally played a game of GHQ's Modern Micro Armour Rules.  For my first game, the rules played a little choppier than their WWII cousin, but all in all, it wasn't bad.  Being a modern set, there is an awful lot to manage, however, and the immense capabilities that each unit brings to the table makes the game alot longer than the WWII one as well.  Which is odd as modern war is alot faster.  That brings up an interesting philosophical point about the nature of modern warfare and the ability to manage information and data....alas, that's for another blog.

This battle was so big that I will have to break up the posts.  Today you will read about the American and Soviet positions, and the initial shots that were fired.  Tomorrow I'll try and post the rest along with my lessons learned.  I literally can't wait to play this scenario using the Cold War Commander rules, as I have played numerous modern battles with them before, and, in my opinion, they play alot faster.

Scouts Out...TF 1-5 Mech Battalion Scouts.  They would enter a protracted firefight with the Soviet Recon Scouts, and eventually be destroyed by tank fire

to the North of the Scout position - Task Force 1-5 Infantry Battle Position 1, or BP 1 for short.  

TF 1-5 BP #2 - they would have the ITV and have the best field of fire down through one corridor of the Soviet advance. The ITV really disappointed this time and didn't knock out a single Soviet tank.

TF 1-32 tanks in their positions in the town of Obergeis.  The town didn't afford the cover I had hoped it would.  All buildings were light.  Instead of making this "fortress obergeis" you could call it "speed bump Obergeis"

The Armor Battle position on the US Right flank.  They were staring straight the AutoBahn E4-A7.  The cobblestone is where the "causeway" into the town starts.

like i just said...

Here is the Obergeis Battlefield.  Upper left is the town, upper right is the Infantry BP.  I think the reason the US lost was not putting infantry into Obergeis and putting the Armor there.  I really, REALLY overestimated the effectiveness of the US Dragon missile as well as the TOW missile...  The Armor Battalion could have easily dealt with the attack on the right and could have counterattacked into Obergeis.  The Infantry holding the town do receive a very high bonus even in light buildings.  The Soviets attacked in 2 columns - an Armor heavy column on the left going up the Autobahn (improved road) and a tank-infantry column up the right side (T72 and BTR70)

Soviet lead elements following the scout platoon.  Beyond the next treeline they would make contact with the US Scouts

Soviet Armor on the left.  Traffic management became a real concern as the Soviet columns got tangled up.  Thankfully, back in the Ural factory, they over-enthusiastically dry brushed one battalion much lighter to distinguish it from the others...
Soviet lead elements make contact with the US scouts on the Soviet right.  On the Soviet left, they move very quickly up my small dining room table to the crest of hill 442 and are met by a wall of US Artillery fire.  It is at this point they move into the forest and deploy on-line to wait for their sister battalion to advance with them.  That proved to be a good decision as the unfortunate left battalion soaked up all the tank fire and the second battalion on the right was able to continue to advance and fire.
The Obergeis battlefield with all the combatants.  You can see the large Soviet mobile detachments on both left and right.  

Soviets enter the map.  After pushing through Fulda rather quickly, they assemble for a push at Obergeis, hoping to drive a wedge between the US V Corps and the West German Corps.

Soviet tank columns advancing up the Autobahn - Hill 442 is visible to their immediate front. There SHOULD have been a US Scout Platoon there...

Soviet Command Group with the Division Anti Tank Platoon.  I really, REALLY underestimated the AT-5 missile's effectiveness also...

Soviet tanks on the right wait to move through a wooded area and begin the attack

Soviet traffic jam.  You can make out the red template, which is my artillery impact template for microarmor.  You can also see Obergeis in the distance.  

Soviet tanks line up and wait for their sister battalion to get online.

Soviet tanks burst from the woods.  The yellow beads are SUPPRESSION results from driving through artillery fire.  THey would be easier to knock out and this aided the US Armor Battalion greatly.

view from the US side.
Once the Soviet attack commences, US Armor has a field day and within the first 2 turns after contact, the Soviet Armor battalion on the extreme Soviet left is virtually annihilated.  This is due in no small part to the Artillery.  Unfortunately for the Americans, they would never mass their artillery quite so effectively again.  The US force found out a few things in the opening stages of the battle:

  • Flank shots are the best and quickest way to knock out a Russian tank.
  • It's 1978 brother, your Dragon and TOW missiles suck.
  • Artillery in conjunction with tank gun fire is the best way to guarantee a KO.
  • This is modern war.  These tanks shoot.  And then move!  

Hard lessons for the yanks to learn and it cost them an entire M60 Battalion and most of an Infantry Battalion.  Tune in tomorrow as I go down to the blow-by-blow and the lessons learned from the rules and gaming perspective.

Once again, I think I need to play this using Cold War Commander.  Decisive results much faster.  Or maybe I just need to play this with more people - that would help keep track of resources, rules, and other stuff I ended up forgetting here.

Tune in tomorrow!  Lots more pictures.  Huzzah!