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 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!


  1. Hi Steve, thanks very much for picking the TaM rules up again and demonstrating them here. I smiled at your drunken squad, persistent Out of Command units can be (deliciously) frustrating :-).

    Also the Schmidt sewer patrol gives a nice touch and a moment of anticipation as to where they will pop up - I like that.

    As you discovered, the scenario was played back-to-front, the intention being that Germans being the defender of the power station and the larger Soviets the attacker, so there is less prospect of the German hexes being target rich - but never-the-less, what I have found with these rules is that in such an environment where you have quite large numbers in a small space, there is so much fire going on that casualties quickly rack up and that Morale break point quickly plummets, almost alarmingly so and so I think there is a definite point with these rules in which you can have too many troops on the table - hopefully, this scenario just sits somewhere along the correct edge of that point.

    What was great fun is that the game gave some cracking play regardless of the intentions of the scenario.

    Steve Clay from Battlescale, who does some lovely resin terrain contacted me yesterday, he has just put a link up to the rules on his site because he is starting to sell hex tiles, another sign that hexes are becoming increasingly mainstream.

    Again, thanks for your continued support of the rules. More will come. Norm.

    1. Thank you Norm this was a blast to play. You already know my feelings but for everyone out there you have something very special and effective here.

      Looking forward to more scenarios :) also looking forward to refighting this battle with people starting in the proper place AND sober!

    2. Forgot to mention that from now on all of the sewer patrols will be commanded by oberfeldwebel schmidt! At least on my blog.

      I will be checking out the battlescale terrain today.

    3. The battlescale hex is 80mm across, the Kallistra is 100mm if that matters.

      We can expect Schmidt to be popping up all over the place :-)

  2. Lovely pictures, nice looking game!

  3. Excellent reports. I must get TaM on the damned table!

  4. Umm-hmmm, leave it to the officer to get lost and end up swapping starting lines ;) And your pictures keep reminding me that I need to get a water tower! It, and the rest of the table, looks great!

    What was the "...Soviet infantry wandering out of the building and into the street... only to be saved by Hans' humanity..."? I get the humanity part, the Pz III just missed, but why were the Red infantry wandering around? Did they get forced to fall back, out of the building? Reading Norm's comments, looks like it was because they were out of command you couldn't get them moving?

    In any case, a fun read, but damn, tough sledding for the Germans!


    1. Okay I deserve that. Remind me to tell you about the time I "missed my turn" in Baghdad.

      Thanks, Jack. I am not sure about the hex mat and my terrain on it, but I like the darker color better than the cigar box hexmat I have.

      So units can only do 1 "thing" per turn, provided they are "in command." There are only 2 ways to be in command - you are either within a 2-hex line from wherever you plop your officer marker down at the beginning of your turn (representing command emphasis) or you can roll a D6 to test and see if the elements in a hex are "in command."

      The Soviets were starting to feel froggy and I wanted them to cross "Red October Street" and start fighting the Germans across the street. Unfortunately for this squad, they made the first move out of the flats and then were stuck, almost the entire game, in the middle of the street. They would not pass a command roll to save their lives (quite literally). There was too much other activity going on to place the officer within range of them so I left it to chance and the roll failed about 4 out of 5 times. My panzer III on the right fired a few times at them until he was reminded of more pressing matters up the road (T-34s arriving). So I just marveled that they were drunk and staggered out into the street just laying there.

      Anyways it was a fun game and I'm keen to try Norm's "37th Guards" scenario next.

    2. Indeed, Lootenat, indeed!

      No issues with this mat, but I don't recollect the Cigar Box one you're talking about. I'll have to look back through.

      Gotcha on the whole 'out of command' thing, and how the rules work. I keep saying I'm going to try these, I just can't seem to find time (Alex's 'Up the Blue,' too!). I am a huge fan of rules where every unit doesn't get to move every turn.

      Looking forward to the 37th Guards action.


    3. Yeah, yeah. It only happened once! Check out some of my tigers at minsk games. Youll see it on the one where i played a TaM game using a one hour wargames scenario. The lines of the hexes are too thick.

      Not every unit moving every turn? Youll love TaM, then. If the units arent in command they dont move or do anything. It's variable each turn.

    4. Steve,

      Once, eh? Uh-huh... I looked back through and I agree, that hexes on that other mat are really prominent. I was reading back through the rules again last night, we'll see if I can get them out sometime.


  5. Methinks this whole scenario and the 'inverted' start lines simply illustrate the confusions associated with urban fighting. Reading Norm's original, the impression I got was that it was not no unbalanced as he was inclined to believe, given the elements of chance and uncertainty. It is probably a scenario that requires several playings to determine the balance.

    Mind you, I see nothing wrong with unbalanced scenarios anyhow, provided due credit is awarded to a well-performed defeat...

    1. Cheers, Archduke. Thank you for the vote of confidence, I promise it was not just bad map reading :) I do believe the Germans can pull off a win, but so as in real war, things have to come together in the right way. And also just as in real war, a little luck never hurts.