Sunday, June 3, 2018

TIGERS AT MINSK SOLO GAME: Follow the Elefants Redux

Leutnant Stahler grabbed the field glasses and surveyed the open ground in front of him.  Through the July heat, the haze boiled on the horizon.  All that could be heard was the rumbling of artillery fire in the distance, and sawing insects through the tall grass around them.  Directly in front of them, a small Russian farm hamlet stood abandoned, along with numerous outbuildings, a tidy orchard, and some copses of trees.  "Abandoned huh?" Stahler thought to himself.  

His company was to secure the breakthrough achieved by the Ferdinands this morning. All that stood in their way were these farmhouses which Regiment wanted cleared at once.  Stahler glanced at his watch.  1058am.  The assault would commence at 1100am, sharp.  

Around him, his men were quietly awaiting the signal to open fire.  They had played this scenario out too often over the last year....

I had a precious little bit of free time yesterday evening and thought a game or 2 of Norm Smith's outstanding "TIGERS AT MINSK" rules [download at bottom of Norm's page] would fill the time nicely.  I played the introductory, infantry-only "Follow the Elefants" scenario a couple times to see if I could crack the classic infantry assault across open ground problem.  Grab yourself a cup of coffee and settle in!  Also, this is the inaugural game of my German assault engineers...

One of Stahler's veteran NCOs prepares to give fire commands to his squad.

The orchard upper left.  Hamlets to the front and some scrub to the right.  Stahler's men will step off from the treelines.

Leutnant Stahler prepares the company for action! 

The game is 8 hexes by 6 hexes, marked by the ugly basswood rectangles, although I would like to open it up a little.

11.00 Hours
Stahler's men didn't have to wait long.  Ivan opened up with a fusilade from the outbuildings and orchard that cut into the left-most platoon with a vengeance.  Men went down fast as the accurate Russian fire found its targets.  "Multiple machine guns up there" Stahler said, not turning away from his field glasses.  "No wonder Regiment wanted a company to assault this."

The Germans lose a squad off the bat on the left, with another squad pinned.  The attack is not going in as planned and casualties are high.

Russians in the orchard open fire on the Germans at the line of departure.

Stahler sees an HMG team tucked into a destroyed cattle pen.
 11.11 Hours
The German squads rally and return fire as best they can but clearly the Russians have stolen the initiative from them.  Stahler notes the lack of effective return fire, leading him to troop the line and make sure his men are up and firing.

Stahler's men getting into position under fire.  The Russian squad in the orchard is pinned offering some respite from the storm of lead.

 11.15 Hours
The murderous Russian machine gun fire zig zags across the field but miraculously, it stops.  Stahler looks to see 3 Russian soldiers furiously smacking and banging the deadly device.  Jam!  Now is our time, gentlemen!

Soviet HMG rolls a "15" and is broken down for the game.  One of my  favorite features of the Tigers at Minsk rules!
We've rolled a "15" !!!

11.24 Hours  Random Events!  Soviet CP hit / German "Men of Action"
The Soviet officer leading the defense of the hamlet is killed by a stray bullet and the soldiers try to figure out what to do next.  The Soviet fire slackens again for a brief moment and Stahler's men take full advantage.  A squad on the left moves out towards the orchard!

Men of action!  Allows the squad to move and shoot.  The opportunity fire pins them however.

so close but yet so far!
 11.35 Hours
Stahler's men continue to trade fire with the Soviets but at some point they'll have to move out.  The positions to their front-left are cleared of enemy but they themselves have reached their morale breakpoint and all squads must test.  The Soviets are in a similar position.  Miraculously, ALL of the squads testing pass their morale checks!

White bead means OPPORTUNITY FIRE however the squad in the  hamlet is still operational.
 11.41 Hours Random events!  Soviet Minefield / German Minefield
Stahler looks at his watch.  The assault is not going as planned.  While a squad has managed to close on the orchard on the left, casualties have been excessively high.  One of his Landsers crawls to the tree-line and notes mines in front of their position!  "Drat!  This will slow us down even further!"
Meanwhile the Soviets have realized they placed mines too close to their own position without properly marking them!

Accordingly they will not be able to safely move between positions!  Which idiot laid these mines?!?!?!

More fire is traded with the Soviets in an attempt to get them to break.  Both sides' morale is at "0" and any knocked out squad will force all elements to take a morale check.

mines - all too common on the Kursk battlefields.
 11.51 Hours ENDGAME
The Soviets have knocked out the German squad in the orchard!  Stahler curses under his breath, aghast at his failure to secure the objectives in time, and the inordinate loss of many of his veterans.  "We are calling off the attack for now.  Battalion and Regiment will not be pleased."

Soviets reloading after an opportunity fire.

Stahler's men on the right, still in the treeline.

Both Soviet HMGs are out of action!  If only this had happened sooner.

Post Battle Thoughts
This was a clear Soviet victory.  The Germans could not get their fire to achieve the effects they needed to advance, and, if I'm honest, I probably should have advanced the Germans much sooner.  The one thing I've noticed though is that when things start to go wrong for you, they can go very wrong.  The Germans probably should have made better use of smoke to preserve their combat power.

I ended up playing a second game with almost 180 degree results as bad luck befell the Soviets at each turn.  Random events, along with equipment breakages and German good rolling enabled the Germans to pretty much win the game even before 11.30 hours.

I have really enjoyed all of the Tigers at Minsk games I've played and I believe they capture the ebb and flow of combat very well with an appropriate amount of tension.

Norm has done a great job of keeping an exciting, action-packed battle in a small package.  If you like games such as CROSSFIRE, Lock & Load, and Squad Leader, you will most certainly enjoy Tigers at Minsk.  I am keen on playing his Western Front module "Tigers at Caen" in the near future.

  Next up on the Table is one of Norm's scenarios from the rules entitled "Kampfgruppe Sivers" which is a nail-biting defense against Soviet all-arms attack including lots of tanks and even artillery.  Stay tuned!

Speaking of the KG Sivers scenario, a few questions for Norm if you're reading this:

When an AFV containing Tank Riders is knocked out and its passengers bail from the tank, can the enemy Opportunity Fire on them?


  1. Excellent report Steve. Sounds like a great set of rules and they are on the list. I can definitely get a sense of more playable squad leader style battles here.

    1. Thanks Darren,
      Tigers at Minsk is definitely one of my favorites! I want to expand the battles to slightly larger fields like 12 x 10 or so hexes.

  2. Thanks Steve, a very enjoyable presentation. I also like the broken HMG rule, especially as it typically happens after very effective fire, representing the chances of breakdown from sustained type firing. Glad that both sides got a chance at winning.

    For dismounting from a destroyed tank, I have not specifically covered that act, but taking the Tank Rider rule (page 15) together with the non-armoured transport being hit (page 10 2nd from bottom para), I would say that they are subject of opp fire upon actually entering the hex, but on any consequential forced dismounting in THAT hex, they are not an op. Fire target until they next move into another hex. Cheers Norm.

  3. Thank you, Norm. I appreciate the prompt reply.

    So those were roughly my thoughts, also. The tank was the subject of AT fire, which caused the infantry to "safely dismount" per the rules. I had a nice, juicy HMG in front of them watching them dismount and wondered if the dismount action could be a suitable target for OP Fire.

    Next question - since the tank riders are effectively give a movement of "2" hexes to close assault, I could, technically OP FIRE them when they're moving into the assault, right? That was actually when I did shoot at them during today's KG Sivers 1943 game.

    1. Steve, It would have been legitimate when the tank first moved into the adjacent hex to op fire with your HMG first and that NAF would include an attempt to hit the infantry while on the tank (counting as cover), whatever the outcome, you could then also immediately have fired A/T at the tank as the same opportunity fire moment.

      Once all op fire generated for the tank crossing the line into a hex has ceased, that's it as far as op fire is concerned. So when tank riders are forced to unload, think of that as actually an additional action happening after the tank has entered it's new hex, so is not subject to op fire i.e it is happening after op. fire is allowed.

      Units that enter Close Combat (i.e. the hex containing the enemy) cannot be op fired upon as they enter that close combat hex, I use the term 'locked down' in the close combat rules to describe this.

      So a sequence for tank riders would be, enter the hex adjacent to the target and upon crossing that hexside line take any and all opportunity fire. If the riders are still mounted after op fire they auto dismount. All unpinned dismounted tank riders (and the tank they were on, if it is still working) then get a bonus movement to move into the enemy hex for close combat and this move from the adjacent hex into the enemy hex is not subject to any opportunity fire. The close combat is then fought at the end of the action phase, giving chance for the close combat hex to be reinforced by the phasing player.

  4. Pretty cool, Steve, I need to give these a try. Very enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to the next fight. The new Germans look great, as does the table, so please forgive the thought that crossed my mind upon seeing the picture of the minefield: “Sir, someone has stacked cannonballs in our path!”

    I don’t have mine markers, either, that’s something I need to think about. I really enjoyed the various random events; somehow I’ve let them fall out of my games, lately. But the Russkies having the MG break, ouch!

    Take care man.