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!|
|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!|
|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|
|Getting greedy - pushing the assault into the woods|
|Still the undisputed masters of the forest behind the farm|
|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!