Played another game of Sabre Squadron before work today.
This game was a little more complicated than previous games as I introduced helicopters and battlefield engineering. There was a considerable amount of page-flipping but a challenging and fun game none-the-less. (as an interesting aside, this solo game would have been much better with Ken playing one side or the other as I believe I screwed up some things on the infantry-firing side).
|Dutch Centurions in cover awaiting word of Ivan's advance.|
Also, instead of using the regular programmed artillery for just blasting the tree-line, I used a pre-programmed smoke screen since this battle takes place in the 70s, or possibly the very early 80s and before the more sophisticated imagers are in place amongst TA units and Soviet reservist or Cat II troops (which these all are, by the way)
|White puffs are the Soviet smoke screen. 18" x 4" it would do a commendable job of covering the advance for the tank company - but not enough!|
|Soviet T-55 Company moving forward. |
|BRDM 1 reconnoitering forward. The AOO is part of the recce crew|
|World War III Traffic Jam! The BTR open top is my engineering vehicle. Going to use him to punch through the mines.|
|Objective is a small canal crossing. There is another one, more like a ford, downstream that is another Soviet objective.|
|NATO spotting round - which I quickly removed from the table after realizing the spotter can't see the ground through the smoke!|
The other echelon of artillery continued to hammer NATO positions for this hasty assault and brought artillery screaming down on everybody. NATO did surprisingly well throughout and resulted in only a few squads becoming "SUPPRESSED" but no vehicle or infantry losses at this point...
|Dutch Squad in the town in a destroyed building. They are directly overlooking the bridge.|
|MILAN section occupying a pig sty|
|More Dutch troops at the farm complex overlooking the crossing. They're suppressed but so far ok. |
|"I can't see them but I can hear them moving!" T-55s approach the canal bank and crossing site. The Soviet Company Commander dispatches a platoon to support the motor rifle troops on his left.|
|My unfinished Soviet BTR 152s moving towards the town. Their armor support would be separated from them as they crossed the line of departure.|
|Meanwhile Dutch Centurions move forward.|
|Dutch Squad in reserve.|
|Soviet platoon commander radios the company commander "THIS IS THREE OH ONE - WE ARE ENTERING THE VILLAGE!"|
|BTRs race along to catch up. The Dutch have a nasty surprise waiting for them when they do, from the department store across the canal.|
|Soviet metal bears down on the village and enters the edge of the smoke screen|
So far the Soviet advance is slow - very slow to get started. The company commander opts to move them straight through the woods to minimize his company's footprint and artillery vulnerability. In hindsight that probably wasn't the best idea as it took about 3 turns or 4 turns for the company to get straightened out for the attack and the smoke covered them at the wood exit.
|Soviet hind skirts the smoke screen and tries to find some NATO armor|
|ONE THIS IS TWO WE HAVE REACHED THE BRIDGE NO TROOPS SPOTTED! SLOW UP THREE OH ONE THEY'RE OUT THERE!|
Meanwhile the infantry platoon has reached the village. "THREE OH ONE THIS IS VOROSHILOV [the company commander], WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE INFANTRY PLATOON? HAVE THEY REACHED THE VILLAGE?
"oh how the hell should I know?" the Third platoon leader thought to himself. I lost sight of them a few minutes back. The old man is not going to like this...."
|BTRs reach an the old church at the edge of the village|
THIS IS VOROSHILOV WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DONT KNOW THE STATUS OF THE INFANTRY? HAVE THEY REACHED THE TOWN OR NOT???
|Voroshilov's company fans out to reach the canal - their first landmark. Voroshilov, seen sticking up out of the turret, backs off. |
FIRST PLATOON MOVE TO THE RIGHT AND LINK UP WITH THE RECCE TROOPS. WE ARE LOSING THE SMOKE NOW AND HAVE TO CROSS THE CANAL. ENGINEERS WILL MOVE UP AND BREACH THE MINEFIELD AT THE CROSSING. The attack was not stepping off as smoothly as the old man anticipated and they hadn't even made contact yet.
The third platoon leader tries to order his men forward. THREE OH TWO, THIS IS OH ONE, MOVE FORWARD AND...One of the third platoon vehicles erupts into a fireball as a Dutch tank destroys the lead Soviet armor crossing the bridge.
|Vehicle 302 destroyed|
|The Soviet recce troops request smoke from a 122mm towed battery to cover the canal crossing as Soviet armor lurches to the right. The Dutch tanks creep to their left to cover the crossing|
The Dutch troops open fire on the BTRs to no avail - the Carl Gustav misses and their small arms fire barely chips the paint.
|Firing at the APCs in the village|
|MILAN section fires but the range is too close! Time to break contact!|
|The Soviet infantry platoon dismounts their APCs and runs into the village. With no radio however, the Platoon Commander is helpless to let Voroshilov know. That was supposed to be the Third platoon's job.|
|Advance! Assault! Attack!|
The Soviet Hind crew finally checks in with a target. They fire an AT-5 and miss. NATO tanks spotted in the treeline! The Soviet second (middle ) tank platoon lines up along the canal and blasts the Dutch infantry on the other side. The MILAN section and a fireteam are wiped out!
|Note the Soviet armor skirting the mine field. The engineers are still exiting the woodline! |
2 MANPADS shots against the Hind fail to hit their target...
|THe Soviet infantry start blasting away at the infantry firing from the other side of the canal, knocking out a fireteam in conjunction with the tanks. The Dutch luck goes even further south as all of the Heavy RPG fire misses its targets due to suppression and the MILAN is ineffective.|
|The Soviets have occupied the Gasthaus on the edge of town and are entering the church.|
THREE OH ONE, THIS IS VOROSHILOV, PASHA, LISTEN TO ME - I NEED YOU TO FIND OUT THE STATUS OF THE INFANTRY AND GET YOUR TANKS MOVING ACROSS THE BRIDGE! NOW! OUT! The old man's voice was getting nervous but third platoon had problems of its own as NATO artillery starts falling all around them...
|The third platoon leader's then got even worse as his next lead tank finds itself blanketed in 155mm HE. He loses radio contact with 304.|
|Voroshilov moves at speed over to the minefield and the breach site to find that the engineers haven't started work yet on the clearing. The second platoon in the background is firing coax and AAMGs at the infantry on the far bank.|
|IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE, YOU'VE GOT TO DO IT YOURSELF! Voroshilov decides to encourage the sappers.|
|A Hind finally knocks out a Centurion in the orchard.|
The Soviet hind finds one target and KOs a Centurion but as the Third platoon crosses the objective, it loses another tank to NATO tank fire.
|The Third platoon finally gets moving as fire erupts from the church on the Soviet side of the canal. The third platoon gets moving again - still under the watchful eyes of a Dutch Centurion!|
Voroshilov arrives at the breach site and urges the engineers forward. In SABRE SQUADRON you can perform an action of engineering as part of your action options. Engineers clear 1 Movement Segment of mines per turn so it's going to be a slow process and likely the Dutch AOO (FO) won't just let them do it.
This is the end of Turn 7 with 5 turns to go. At this point, the Soviets are gaining the upper hand in the village after an intense back-and-forth firefight. The Dutch are attempting to extricate themselves from the village but the Dutch infantry platoon morale is still holding despite the loss of the MILAN team and a fireteam from the second squad. They still have a mortar section and another infantry squad in reserve and the Dutch company commander thinks now is the time to put them in
|The Soviet infantry platoon fans out into the village to cover the bridge.|
|The Dutch tank platoon morale starts to waver as the Hind scores a hit!|
So this game took awhile to get started as I had to look up a few things. Namely Anti Aircraft fire from MANPADS (man portable air defense systems). SAM fire is actually in the air support section and firing at helicopters is in another so I had to look that up.
Engineering rules are quite nice as are the smoke rules. A pre-programmed smoke mission lasts until turn 4 - which is great because that's about how long it took my Soviets to get into position for the attack. The smoke was helpful since no one had thermals and the IR only sees about an inch into the smokescreen.
Going off my previous lessons learned, instead of "penny packeting" my tank platoons, I tried to use them more decisively and in conjunction with one another. After playing against Ken's deadly Chieftains, sending a platoon or 2 "up the middle" is not going to win any battles. So this time I tried using them in conjunction with the artillery smoke and the infantry. Unfortunately the timing didn't work out quite right for the first part of the battle but now that the engineers are clearing a lane through the canal crossing, the attack can start to shape up in earnest.
The Soviet tank company is using a platoon to cover the crossing while another platoon moves forward with the engineers. The third platoon, under the half-hearted command of "301" is tasked with supporting the infantry, but 301 probably isn't thinking about his foot-slogging comrades at this point.
The Soviet strategy to advance in line through the woodline was a bad one. Woods really slow down movement and the smoke screen was protecting the T-55s for 4 straight turns so in the interest of speed, they could have just as easily moved in column through the forest gap along the "hardball" or improved road surface.
The Dutch also had a tough mission for this battle. There is much constricting terrain and no great lanes of fire to set up a kill sac. Everything is close range or near close range. Better, probably, if they allowed the Soviets to capture the objectives and then launched violent counter attacks with artillery. If you're curious about that, you'll get to see it in the next installment, provided the Dutch squad in the department store, now suppressed, can get the hell out of Dodge...
That said, the mission was "hasty attack" and the Soviet objectives were the bridge in the village and the canal crossing. So there's no good reason to set up a defense in depth I suppose.
I can see Soviet weight of numbers winning the day here, especially if the MANPADS AA section continues to miss that bloody Hind and if the Dutch lose another tank.