Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Gates of Stalingrad - The Suburbs Battles

 Ken and I played a quick 65 point Flames of War battle today using pre-made lists from the "Iron Cross" (German played by yours truly) and "Enemy at the Gates" (Soviet played by Ken).  Using the battles guidance from the book, we played a drive on the city and the first battle was the "outskirts".  There is a neat mission guidance in the books that stipulates the attacker must first win the "outskirts" battle, then can battle into the city center.  If Ken wins the next game, I'll find myself back in the suburbs again! 

The outskirts of the city - a small town with a train station to take you into the city.  A nice looking table I think!

The FOW rulebook has pretty cool guidance on mission selection and we used the matrix to determine what battle we would ultimately play.  The mission selected at random was "strategic withdrawal" which is a mission I absolutely dread as the defender, but seemed to fit in historically.  Basically the defender must buy time as the army pulls back and defending units will slowly exit the battlefield.

The Force Composition

I like tanks and I like playing the Germans.  I'm also sensible enough to realize that you need a balanced Kampfgruppe to take on whatever fate throws your way.  I guessed, incorrectly, that Ken was going to be taking tanks since this was a battle on the outskirts and not inside the city.  This is an intelligence failure of the highest order.  Once again, the Abwehr was wrong!!!

Ken took a full strength infantry rifle battalion of 56 infantry teams along with maxim machine guns and 2 x Batteries of 122mm Howitzers in support.  THATS IT!  That's all!  Ken's logic was that the infantry fighting is more interesting, challenging, and I think unexpected.  Boy was he right about that!

One of Ken's massive infantry companies (this one is Ken's painted by him) - the building behind them is the train station and one of the main objectives for the game

Ken's OTHER rifle company - these are mine and dug in around the farmstead objective

My force was very balanced. looking for infantry to take buildings, and tanks to make rapid thrusts and kill enemy tanks, I selected a Panzer III company of 2 Panzer III Up Armored platoons, a command panzer III, and in support I brought a Panzer Grenadier platoon, a mortar platoon, and an MG34 platoon.  My jaw dropped.  Ken had so much infantry he borrowed a company's worth of mine!

Not too many Germans there...I'll have to capture one objective.  Should I go after the farmstead or the town?  Guess where I ultimately attacked!

I thought my bringing an 88mm gun along would "surprise" Ken, who, as a Soviet commander, wasn't bothered much by it considering he had zero tanks or aircraft!  Anyways, my tanks and war-weary Landers will have to get to work.  I'm going to focus on the forest objective and try to kill enough stands to push Ken back.  That's the plan, anyways...

As we get into the first turn, my Panzers start earning their pay knocking out Soviet teams dug-in in the wood-line with HE fire and machine gun fire.  The mortars start coughing out rounds, spotted for by the Company Commander, and the Landsers start to move up through the cornfield - then disaster strikes.  Ken has his HMGs - Maxims to be precise and 2 in each company - trained on the open ground in the center of the battlefield.  His shooting takes out stand after stand after stand of Schmidt's platoon!!  My stomach turns as my only infantry platoon is cut to ribbons!

HERR LEUTNANT!!!  WHAT ARE YOUR ORDERS!!  Schmidt's men in the cornfield are chopped up by no less than 4 Maxim HMGs!

The HMG stand gunner in the center of this picture would go on to receive the Order of Lenin, posthumously, for holding up an entire German company single handedly!

Soviet infantrymen rush to the edge of town to see what all of the firing is about to the west

My infantry platoon in the cornfield fall back to the hill and will go on to fail their "last stand" test with only 2 of 7 teams remaining.  The Panzers will have to do the heavy lifting.  I push them closer to the infantry and start pumping HE and machine gun rounds into the woods.  It's like whack-a-mole - one team is taken out, and another takes its place.  The Soviets have an endless supply of them on the table!  Still - the work continues!

An armor platoon leader directing the firing of his tanks into the woods!  Clear them out, boys!

Situation around turn 3 or 4.  Armor tightens up into "proper" flames of war tank park formation!

Ken's shells start raining down on the Panzer IIIs and the Machine Gun platoon who are in the house.  Ken would go on to make good use of the REPEAT order for the guns.  This is especially helpful for the Soviets and bad for me, who needs a good support-by-fire position for my machine guns!  Drat!  he pins my machine gun platoon.

I get a lucky break when 3 of Ken's teams fail their save and miraculously, I roll 3 "6s" in my firepower tests.  The HMG crew is left in the front wood copse along with the company commander directing his fire.

I start to think about overrunning the HMG section with my tanks and using them as a sort of giant "fruit squishing" machine atop the Soviet infantry, pivot-steering over the foxholes.  It's effective enough.  I easily pass the skill check and the best Ken's infantry can do - he does not have anti tank rifles - is bail me and hope I fail my counterattack check.   If I fall back from assault combat with a bailed tank, it's destroyed.

A single Panzer III fails its cross check and cant enter the woods.  Note the "official" dug in marker!

This MG crew was hit by MG and HE fire more times than any other element on the table and they continuously survived and, as their citation will read, held up an entire German tank company.  note the Panzer III charging in!
After clearing out the woods, I maneuver the tanks next turn to contest the objective.  It's tough work but I have the movement to do it and I charge in with all of my tanks to clear out Ken's infantry.  I find that I can assault his more exposed elements, and the supporting teams are then pushed back.  If I can win this round, I might be able to capture the objective - the ruined farmstead - and win the game!

Ken decides to leave half of his infantry company in the town "out of command" and guarding the train station objective there, and maneuver them into my flank.  It's a really good move and I train more guns, MGs, and my mortars on the advancing Ivans.  It's a turkey shoot on them as they are not in bulletproof cover but they did their job effectively by taking more of the shooting away from their comrades.  If Ken would have maneuvered them 2 turns earlier, the game would have been lost for sure!

The infantry company from the town surges forward amidst falling shells and MG bullets ripping through their ranks.  The Kommissar is literally killed by an 88mm shell.

Gratuitous photo of my tanks

and antoher!

The assaulting panzer III company does get a little greedy and I push into the woods to push Ken's infantry back even furhter - although this time one of my skill checks fails and leaves Ken with a viable infantry team to counter-attack which he does.  While the attack fails, I end up failing my morale check to counter-counter attack Ken!  The panzer IIIs fall back out of the woods - but the damage is done?

Getting greedy - pushing the assault into the woods 

Still the undisputed masters of the forest behind the farm

While all that was happening, the other battle on the left of the farmstead is what won the game for the Germans - isolating the objective - they win the game on turn 6 or 7.  Worth mentioning that Ken had to withdraw his Battalion HQs and an Artillery Battery due to the strategic withdrawal rule.

Ken's infantry company suffered greatly on the way into their attack.  If this attack would have been launched 2 turns earlier.

WOW this was a great fight - and no shortage of tension, excitement and action.  When I lost my infantry platoon, I thought the game was up - but when I overran the HMG section, I realized there was another aspect I was forgetting about - overrun combat and it worked well.  I do think I could have used my troops a little bit smarter and kept my infantry more secure before - losing a platoon like that is pretty inexcusable but I definitely learned for next time!  Speaking of next time, now I will push into the city and we'll fight one of the really cool urban battles that are in the Army books (the factory, the boulevard, the house, you get the idea!).

Another "controversial" rules choice in so many days, but again, these rules are great fun and present an opportunity to get all of my toys out onto the table and play to completion in a modest amount of time and that's pretty cool.  Going to finish my German assault Pioniere platoon for the city battles coming up!  Flamethrowers and demo charges!!!  

More gaming and blogging coming up, so stay tuned!


  1. Steve, you are certainly seeing the year out with a flurry of interesting actions.

    Very interesting to see the two different army compositions meet and as you say, a nice table.

    1. Thank you Norm. It occurred to me that I am very close to a tied score with my blog posts from last year (56 total) and if I can achieve a tie it will be the first year since 2014 that the posts have not continued to drop. I took a few more days off this week in the hope of getting some games on the table and so you are seeing the mad rush to get some blog posts out, and a mad rush for some holiday gaming!

  2. Superb pictures, in the heart of the action!

  3. I loved the Enemy At The Gates Soviet infantry assault. Obviously, they had patriotic encouragement from the rear...

    1. Great point Jeffers- the Soviets pass their motivation on 1 better if the commissar is alive! I was tempted to link to the obligatory Enemy at the Gates scene with the Soviet human wave assault!

  4. That's a great looking game Steve and certainly full of action. I loved the wildly different force compositions too. FoW are one of the Marmite rulesets, but love 'em or loathe them, they really re-invigorated WWII wargaming in 15mm. They got me back into WWII wargaming but in the end I moved onto playing BKC which suited my gaming style.

    1. Thanks Steve, FoW is a hot button topic with historical gamers and I do understand that like Black Powder it's not everyone's cup of tea. One of the strengths of them is ease of play. Another I'd say is planning a game is fairly straightforward. Battlegroup Kursk/Overlord etc are probably my favorite WW2 rules and have a more "serious" bent to them.

      I played a ton of BKC when it came out with microarmor and I loved it! Haven't played it in awhile- maybe 2014!!

  5. Great action and commentary. i love the pics where you can see the approaches, and where it's down and dirty with the infantry.
    Rules seem to work really well for the infantry battles here - and those maxims are horrible !!!

    1. Cheers Darren - while you were commenting, I posted ANOTHER blog post with Norm's Tigers at Minsk action and an attempt at scenario creation for TaM. Check it out!

  6. Nice setup! It immediately took me back a few years when I was playing FOW. I had an opponent who always played with an enormous group of Soviet infantry - boy oh boy that's frustrating!

    1. Thanks Ski! Yes you can't kill enough of them fast enough! The Soviet infantry are incredibly stubborn! Imagine my horror when I realized I had to face 56 stands of them (!) with 7 infantry stands and 7 tank stands and 2 x mortars! :) Lots of fun though. We'll play FOW again.

  7. looking good - I love mini campaigns, and the progressive scenario system is also quite realistic, IMHO.

    1. Cheers Alex, the suggestion came from the army book and it gives the game a bit more importance or texture!

  8. A great looking and sounding game. They are really exceptional photos and help to make for a great report.
    Regards, James

    1. Thank you James! A hobby within the hobby! Photographing miniatures!