Saturday, January 9, 2021

BIG(ger) Tigers at Minsk Game: The Guards CounterAttack!

Feeling a little under the weather today (it's NOT COVID!!!) so I cancelled our scheduled Flames of War battle (Suburbs - I was kicked out of the city last week) and instead sat down for some bone-crunching solo-action using Norm's outstanding "Tigers at Minsk" rules and my basic "Squad Leader" boards and counters.  World War II month continues!

The 37th Guards are back!  

The reader will instantly recognize Board #1, and continuing on with the Stalingrad theme of late, I decided to try out some of the theories and concepts put forth in the last attempt at a "big" or "bigger" game of Tigers at Minsk.  While it's a board-game action, this is all in preparation for bigger (smaller?) things to come on the tabletop!  

The German units outside the boxes are not in the game.  I took them out!

This battle featured an almost full-strength Soviet company of 11 Squads and 2 x HMG sections, divided into 3 platoons, 1st Platoon, 2nd Platoon, and 3rd Platoon from right to left, fighting against a very depleted German "company" under our hero, Hauptmann Wetzelberger.  To denote the importance of this objective, General Chuikov personally instructed the Battalion Commander to put a seasoned officer in charge of the assault.  The Battalion Commander has place his Operations Officer, Major Kirov in charge of the assault.  It cannot fail!  

Total Soviet Morale is "7"  The "department store" in the middle of the board, is the lone Soviet objective, for which they are allotted 60 minutes to capture.  To represent the hardened veteran nature of the German forces, I tried out some rules today which made the game even more interesting.  German Forces featured extremely depleted "platoons" led by NCOs in some cases.  

The units on the German left, under SGT Hieken are "always in command" as long as the SGT Hieken marker remains alive in a hex or adjacent.  German Force Morale is "4 + 1D2".  The Soviets still suffer from "poor command" meaning they can only pick 1 adjacent hex in command, however command roll failures only occur on a "6" now (Norm's advice).   The Soviets have the first move.

Let's get to the action.

0600 Hours

Major Kirov travels with 1st Platoon initially.  The plan has them occupying the flats across the street from the Department Store.  1st Platoon is to be the maneuver element, with 2nd Platoon providing a base of fire, and 3rd Platoon a diversionary attack.  They move towards "Stalinskoye" Street - no Germans in sight.  The ? question mark marks out of command hexes.

German Opportunity fire marked by the Squad Leader Opportunity Fire marker, is ineffective against Second Platoon's advance into a building, however more opportunity fire pins the squad next to them.

However the HMG under SGT Hieken commanding German 3rd Platoon and the entire left flank sees the Soviets haphazardly moving through a bombed out building.  They open fire with devastating effect.  One of the Soviet squads was already pinned is knocked out and another is knocked out.  Major Kirov hears the familiar chattering of German machine gun firing and knows it cant be good!

Note the white X on the gun - SGT Hieken's HMG section runs out of ammo or breaks.  Damn!  You!  The Pomeranian!  Go run and find ammo.  NOW!  The runner dashes off, not even sure where there is more ammunition.  SGT Hieken wipes the sweat from his brow and curses the men.  Can't you see the attack is starting??!  The Germans remove opportunity fire markers on their turn.  SGT Hieken attempts to find ammo and comes up short.  I roll a "6" and the gun is out of action permanently (aside note - like basic Squad Leader, I allowed a single roll as an action to attempt a 1 or a 6.  6 Disables the gun permanently, and 1 returns it to action.

Meanwhile Hauptmann Wetzelberger attempts to take stock of his situation.  "Hieken can hold - he's a tough SOB.  These men here in the store, my HQs staff and the reserve I'm not so sure.  And where the hell is the reserve squad?"   Suddenly a runner shows up from Hieken's command looking for ammunition.  CPT Wetzelberger has none to give, and Hieken rolls a "6" to fix the gun.  It's permanently out of action!  The section grabs their MP40s and 98k rifles!  (I allowed the section to become a "half section" who can fire 1D6 using a "2-4-7" SL counter!)

Turn 1 both German reserve elements, a squad and an HMG, are out of command to the south.

Meanwhile on the left flank, the runner returns with no ammo.  Hieken rolls a 6!

Congratulations!  You men are riflemen now!

0607 Hours
MAJ Kirov is having command problems of his own.  Even with a "6" failure, Soviet 3rd Platoon on the left has 2 squads out of command!   To make matters worse, 1st Platoon has a squad and the HMG stuck on the road, out of command.  Soviet 2nd Platoon, in position per the plan, opens fire on the department store scoring 2 hits on CPT Wetzelberger's defenders in the store!  The Soviet HMG goes out of ammo now!

Sorry for the poor quality but cutting and pasting really degraded the pic resolution!

For the German turn, CPT W rallies a squad in the department store but the HMG in the northern quadrant fails to rally.

0613 Hours

Finally Major Kirov has all of his Soviet elements back in communications through runners.  3rd Platoon pushes up to the flats in front of SGT Hieken's position.  The reduced HMG section with no HMG immediately scores a PIN result through opportunity fire!  Nice shooting men!  

SGT Hieken's squads PIN a Soviet squad through opportunity fire!

Meanwhile MAJ Kirov focuses on the Germans in the department store.  He personally directs the fire of the men in second platoon and more German squads are re-pinned!  First platoon edges close to the eastern side of the Department Store where they are planning to assault!

The Germans remove their OPFIRE markers and Wetzelberger is running up and down the line ensuring the men are rallied - squads in the department store rally under constant fire from the north and the east.  The MG, however, fails to be fixed again!  It's still a liability from earlier shooting.

The reserve squads inch up to the north to be ready to fire down the boulevard or counterattack the department store.

0621 Hours
MAJ Kirov joins back up with 1st Platoon again to ensure they're getting into position to assault.  More 1st Platoon squads are out of command but the rest move under urging from MAJ Kirov with his drawn pistol.    Meanwhile the Soviet "diversionary" attack, 3rd Platoon, reaches their support-by-fire positions in the building across from SGT H's position on the German left.

Soviet 1st Platoon squads reach their planned assault positions across the boulevard from the Department Store while Soviet 2nd Platoon to the buildings north of the Department Store fire madly to suppress teh defenders.  It's a textbook assault!

All German squads this turn are in command.  CPT W orders the reserves to open fire but they don't have a clear line of fire to the buildings to the north.  The Reserve elements move a squad closer up to the Department Store.  They're now directly across the Street.  At the end of the 0621 turn, all of the Germans in the department store are unpinned.

0625 Hours

Soviets in 1st Platoon are ready to move across the street!  All of 2nd Platoon to the north goes Out of Command!

Meanwhile the Soviets are firing at SGT H's position with 3rd Platoon, pinning a squad!

MAJ Kirov notes the fire slackening from the German positions.  Now is the time!  Go Go Go!  First platoon's squads pop smoke on the boulevard, wait for it to develop (the Soviets are out, now) and make a mad dash across the street.  They charge in 2 groups, with the southern group taking opportunity fire from the HMG in the German reserve position at the south end of the boulevard.

Soviet squads move onto the boulevard to assault the department store!  This is it!

German HMGs to the south open up, pinning a single squad in the southern assault group.  Another German squad opens fire but fails to hit!  They're going to make it to the building!  Faster men, faster!

German OPFIRE is largely ineffective and the Soviets are poised to assault next turn.

Closer look at the action on the boulevard.  During the German 0625 hours CPT W moves a reserve squad over to the eastern side of the building to face the coming onslaught of Russians.  they'll go straight into action!  The men prime grenades, cock machine pistols, chamber rounds and adjust gear.  A cry goes up the line: "IIIIIVAN KOMMMTTTT!!!!"

CPT W moves the broken HMG out of the line of fire as the men prepare to be assaulted.

The Soviet smoke remains in the street.

To the North, MAJ Kirov leads the men in but the Germans throw grenades down onto them on the base floor.  While they charge the stairs, it's too much for the Germans who are cut down as they run.  MAJ Kirov's squad is pinned down but the Germans are eliminated.  The German morale reaches "4" but they roll their 1D2, adding "1" to the morale level.  

0634 Hours

After what seemed like an eternity, the Soviet assault commences.  All Soviet units are also in command this turn.  Soviet shooting on the German left, the diversionary assault, KO's a Squad under SGT Hieken.  He realizes the time has come to abandon this position and move to the department store.

Soviet 2nd Platoon fails to fix the HMG again, but they are able to pin the squad on the north side of the Department store in preparation for the assault.  The men can see MAJ Kirov clearly visible urging the men forward in the street.  The Soviets storm the department store's eastern side with Grenades, PPSH's, rifles, and DPs firing.  The assault is swift, violent, and clearly rehearsed.  The Soviets win the southern combat and gain a toe-hold in the department store!  CPT Wetzelberger, himself a veteran of the 1940 campaign, 1941 Barbarossa, and the push south, is killed in the combat!  No hits are scored on the the Soviets.

I grab the Corporal Uhl counter out.  The uninspiring German junior Non Commissioned Officer, a baker's son from Hesse, is in command of what remains of the 1st Company.  He commands a small HMG section with a broken HMG, but knows there is a large pocket of Germans to the south.  The reserves!  He hears the Soviets yelling to each other and is determined to hold out to the end in the Department Store.  "The men will come for us."  
Soviet Assault against the Department Store

Hieken's men are sprinting towards the Department Store, and the Reserve Elements are packing up/

The German counterattack into the building is successful.
Hieken' men reach the store before he does and a toe hold is created in teh building.

The German reserve element makes another desperate bid for the department store and moves up to counterattack the building.  Uhl's men finally roll a "6" to fix the HMG and magically become a 2-4-7 rifle half section.  They hear German voices to the south!  They move slowly, tactically, through the shattered store complex to reach their Kamaraden.  Soviet OPFIRE against the counterattacking Germans pins a single squad in the street.

0644 Hours
The fight is desperate now as the Soviets must clear out all these Germans by 0700 hours.  The Russians catch up to Uhl and swiftly cut him and his half-section down, wiping them out in close combat.  The Soviets move every available in-command unit up to reinforce the Department Store.  The German HMG in the reserve section fires its last belt of ammo, going out of ammo after cutting down a Soviet squad in the street on OPFIRE.  The German HMG in the reserve position south of the boulevard is now broken, and out of command!

The Soviets now have the SGT H's former building under control.  The Soviets move their HMG into the department store complex.  After constant combat, the Soviets need reinforcements quickly!  Their squads in the store are bleeding out!

Insult to injury?  The German reserve HMG in lower right starts its turn out of ammo, OPFIRE'd, and OUT OF COMMAND?  
The Germans counter attack into the department store with the reserve element squad and capture a toe hold in the southern end!  The tension is unbearable!  MAJ Kirov is busy coordinating reinforcements to get into the building, while the battered men in the building are holding their positions.

0647 Hours
The Soviets spend their turn moving elements forward, hoping the time won't run out.  Their units in the store are out of command!

The Germans Assault another pinned Soviet squad in the department store, going for broke.  They knock it out!  

MAJ Kirov is back in the store again and reinforcements from 2nd Platoon have arrived!  The entire northern sector of the store is in Soviet hands and the now-battered Germans hold the Southern half!

Germans assault the building and knock out another Soviet squad!  They expand their foothold in the store.

Will the clock run out now?

0655 Hours
Soviets consolidate their position and fortify the northern section, and assault the German squad in the SE quadrant and eliminate it!  Remarkably, the Germans pass all of their morale checks and hold in place.  

0701 Hours Endgame!  The battle was a draw.

So How Did This Play?
Wow if you stuck around this long then I applaud your tenacity!  This was a great fight and one where I'm not sure the Germans could have actually won, but rather, achieving a draw is probably the best they could have hoped for.  I was amazed at the lack of "random events" as well as the fact taht all of the HMGs went out of ammo this game.  The number of units on the table was a bit bigger, but the fact that they were spread out more in their organic platoons certainly helped.

More Units - More Killing?
I was concerned, initially, that the larger number of units would see the Germans gobbled up but it wasn't too bad in this game.  The Soviets have much ground to cover and with the buildings canalizing the fighting, it made for a really exciting and tense game, with small "personal" fights developing around the battlefield.  Perfect for the narrative of a desperate Soviet assault, coming in against hardened but threadbare German defenders.  I love this kind of stuff.

Command Rules - Too Generous?
The more generous command rules didn't take away from the game, either.  Rather, they probably sped play along, as both sides rolled many "5s" but I stuck to the "6" out of command rule this time.  So units only went OOC on a "6" roll.  This allowed me to develop attacks but in hindsight playing with another human might make the game even more tense if keeping the 4 or less?  Time will tell.  

Rifle "Half" Sections?
Keeping the HMGs around and turning them into crew stands was an idea to help keep the Germans in the fight a bit longer.  This had some fun results as SGT H's machine gun crew, without their machine gun, were able pin and eventually kill a Soviet squad, and I waited what seemed like an eternity to roll either a "1" repairing or resupplying the HMG in the Department Store, or a "6" finally coming to the realization there's no remaining ammo belts, or the thing is just dead, and creating a rifle stand.  

The rifle half-sections fired as if they were pinned, with only a single 1D6, and were knocked out after 1 hit.  

I didn't play the leaders exactly as if they were always on the table - i moved them around per the rules.  However if they happened to be in a hex that was overrun, I rolled for them.  They were killed on a roll of "6" and both CPL Uhl, and CPT W were killed in their combats.  Again, it added to the narrative.

I have to admit I enjoyed having the leaders remain in their hexes like Squad Leader, and CPT W and CPL Uhl being killed added to the excitement.  

There also was no indirect fire, armored vehicles, or assault engineers throwing satchel charges, but I thought about adding them in for next game.  

I hope you enjoyed this write up.  Think of it as more Tigers at Minsk practice!  As an interesting aside, I have been working on a small 3 x 2 foot board but cannot seem to get it right.  More on this in another post.  

On the painting front, I'm continuing on with the 10mm ACW guys (mostly GHQ and Cracker Line figures) for our Battle of Shiloh game coming up next month.  I found I was 4 Brigade short so I've ordered those and am awaiting their arrival via the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad!

Some other projects on the desk at the moment are finishing up the WWII Soviet Sapper Company, SYW Prussian Fusilier unit, and 2 x 10mm Units of Wurttemburg troops.  No rest for the weary!  Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

PS - Our PC is almost 10 years old now.  With many updates and upgrades, our version of MS Office is kaput so I tried to use the Google Slides to add lines, and dialogue to the photos.  Unfortunately cutting and pasting between them seriously degraded the pic quality.  I found a couple workarounds but it was WAY too much work!  I'll play around with this for future battle reports!  The world's best blog readers deserve world-class blog posts!


  1. Steve thanks for all of the time taken to get this post up and shared and once again for supporting the TaM rules. Their execution on this board worked very well, impressive.

    Did you stick with the 1 hex (or 2 if conditions allow) movement rates?

    Also very nice to see board 1 of SL in action.

    1. Thanks Norm it was tremendous fun. I stuck with 1 hex in this case. Next time will be 2 hexes on a more open board I think.

  2. Steve, this was the last scenario I played with Squad Leader about two years ago. I have fought over this board many times. What you do here is showing the versatility of both SL and TaM. I have not played TaM for awhile but isn't only one hex in auto command and two adjacent hexes? Were you rolling for other hexes not in auto command even when those hexes had a leader?

    Nice job!

    1. Cheers Jonathan! I was doing 1 adjacent hex in auto command and rolling for everyone else. ( CPT W had 2 adjacent hexes).

      Hexes that had a leader were in command.

  3. That was excellent, and answers a lot of the questions I had on the rules. I know you have used SL for it before, but it's a really powerful medium for the rules - perfectly aligned with Sl, I love it.

    1. Darren it ported over with no problems. If course, id rather play it with minis but you do what you gotta do sometimes sir!

  4. An excellent AAR Steve and it really had the feeling of a desperate BUA fight. I've never played either set of rules, but it looks like the TAM give a great game:)

    1. Thanks Steve! My 2 cents - You owe it to yourself to give TaM a try - it's one of my favorite WWII tactical games. It gives a very exciting game in a small space. Norm really has something special there with a very small barrier to entry.

  5. Inspired by your post, I took TaM and played The War Of The Rats scenario from ASL starter kit 1 and it all went rather well. The two sides start close together in a city situation and it is for the Germans to cross the road and capture 3 buildings.

    It all opened up with a couple of turns of mundane shooting, then the Germans got an ‘in’ and advanced using 2 smoke before they ran out. Anyway, that part of the attack gained a building.

    Then the Soviet HMG at critical moment went out of command. THe Germans had a flamethrower asset and two demo charges that they could use in close combat bonuses.

    There were two random events. On the last turn, both sides rolled 8, so their H.Q.’s were suppressed and the clock dice went to ...... 0959 hours, so just 1 minute of game left. The lack of HQ’s meant everything had to be diced for to gain command and typically the important places failed!

    Both sides had plummeted to 1 morale point left, but the Germans took a loss and in their retreat check, the entire right flank failed and were all pulled back. Result the Germans captured 1 building out of the three objectives, so lost. It became quite a good game as it opened up - enjoyed and will try more of this.

    I didn’t adjust anything for troops quality and leaders and should have done. The Soviets did get some SMG’s though and they were used as per TaM rules, as was the movement, which works quite well amongst city buildings, but would need revision for the more open maps.

    1. Norm, I'm glad one of my posts inspired some gaming on your part :)
      That sounds like a nail biter of a game. Dare I say, I preferred TaM to SL but that's just me!

      I love how when you absolutely NEED critical elements to pass a command check or shoot well they never seem to! TAM creates that narrative nicely for you and weaves in those desperate and memorable moments in the game.

      I find it incredibly interesting adding some "light touch" troop quality features (morale +1d2) or Sgt Hiekens men always in command, when lots of troops are on the table.

      Also should have tried sewer movement Norm! I forgot all about that, too.

      I'm going to try a game on a more open map and will use 2 hex movement then.

  6. A cool idea and a cool fight, but I don't care if you got the 'Rona, quit being lazy and get those minis out! ;)


    1. Yeah, yeah I probably deserve that. Feeling much better today!!
      I've been painting my a** off lately. Getting ready for the "big" Shiloh game next month and trying to knock out everything on my painting desk! It haunts me in my sleep!!!

    2. Glad you're feeling better, and yes, you do deserve that. I know what you mean, I've been painting like a madman...


    3. Keep it up, man. Your fans want more battles!

    4. I'm doing it so far, just posted my second Vietnam skirmish batrep, will post the second Battle of the Bulge batrep Wednesday or Thursday.

      Same goes for you!