Wow! It's been a long time since my last post! The path has largely been cleared for me to share my miniature wargaming exploits, so let's get into it!
Our local group has been running a monthly Flames of War day, although we skipped June since it seems to be a popular month for birthdays and other family activities (Five parties in three weeks! What is it about September?). Hopefully we'll pick up in July again.
With that in mind, The last Flames of War day took place on May 21, 2011 at The Game Connection. I arrived a little ahead of time to start getting tables set up. I used my winter felt, trees, a mud road, and some buildings by JR Miniatures to create a snow-covered tract of Russia over which to fight. I brought my winter-themed mid-war Grenadierkompanie and hoped to use that, but I had my mid-war SS Panzergrens in tow as well in case I was in the mood.
After a while, Nolan showed up with his winter-themed Tankovy. It was so nicely painted that I couldn't resist taking it on. Unfortunately, it was LW and I had brought two MW lists. Fortunately, Nolan had the Cobra book on hand and I had a few extra tanks in my kit. I built my force from the list that was representative of ad-hoc SS panzer/panzergrenadier companies formed in the wake of Allied advances in France; the concept shouldn't be too far off for the remnants of a force in the wake of Bagration. If I recall correctly, this was my force:
Nick's SS-Panzerkompanie (Cobra)
HQ: 1 Panzer IVH (110)
SS-Panzer Platoon: 3 Panzer IVH (325)
Gepanzerte SS-Panzergrenadier Platoon + panzerfaust (330)
Schwere SS-Panzer Platoon: 1 Tiger IE (240)
Heavy AA-Gun Platoon: 2 8.8cm FlaK 36 (235)
SS-Artillery Battery: 4 105mm (255)
It is interesting to note that in the new Earth & Steel book this list cannot take a single Tiger in support, but the armored panzergren points have dropped from 320 to 260.
From the book and the photos, I am deducing that Nolan's force was:
Nolan's Tankovy Batalon (Fortress Europe)
HQ: 1 T-34/85, cupola (75)
Tankovy Company: 6 T-34, 2 T-34/85, cupolas (400)
Tankovy Company: 9 M4 Sherman (400)
Light Tankovy Company: 6 M3l Stuart (170)
Tank Killer Company: 3 SU-85 (165)
Air Support: Priority IL-2 Typ 3M (290)
It was over a month ago so I can't remember the blow-by blow or all the die rolls, but this is how the game basically played out. We went over the terrain quickly and decided to use the winter rules from the Flames of War hardback rule book (HRB). This meant the underlying terrain for the board was difficult going (heavy snow), requiring every vehicle on the board to roll to bog down every time it tried to move. The only exception to this was the road, which counted as good going. These rules were advantageous for Nolan's tanks since his T-34s have wide tracks and he'd be re-rolling any failed bogging tests. We cast the die for a mission and ended up with Free-For-All. If I recall correctly, I was the attacker.
Shermans staged in the woods and ready to advance.
When all was said and done, the map ended up like so:
It should be possible to figure out most of the terrain elements from the pics, but roughly the dark brown shapes are woods, the tan in the middle is the hill, the dark squares are buildings, and the brown lines are the roads. Soviet deployments are pink boxes and German deployments are yellow. The deployments were as follows:
S1: T-34 Company, including Battalion CO in a T-34/85
S2: Light Tank Company
S3: Emcha Company
S4: Tank Killer Company
G1: Panzer IVH Platoon
G2: 105mm Battery
G3: Company Command Panzer IVH
G4: FlaK 88 Battery
G6: Armored Panzergrenadiers
My plan in setting up was to cover my flanks with (hopefully) appropriate forces--panzergrenadiers assisted by the Tiger (denying the road) on my more terrain-heavy right and panzers on the hilly/open left, where the range of their guns could do some good. The Artillery went in an open are that would give them good fields of fire, and the remaining troops (88s, Panzer IVH HQ) covered some of the open center of the table around the artillery, lest Nolan's tanks advance that far. Also, I was hoping that by positioning my Tiger (with Wide Tracks) and HQ panzer nearer to the center of the table I would have some troops available for a lateral redeployment/counterattack if one end of the board started going south. The big idea was to generally let him come to me, use my decent AT and range capabilities as well as Veteran rating to inflict casualties from the halt and from cover, and then kick of a counterattack on whichever flank seemed to be doing better, possibly shifting the Panzer IV HQ or Tiger to promote a breakthrough or prevent an overrun. I also positioned my observer for the 105s on the hill in the middle.
Nolan also divided his forces, lining up his Emchas and SU-85s against my infantry, and facing off versus my three Panzer IVs with nine T-34s, including some /85s, and six Stuarts. Nolan's center was largely open, but that was OK because so was mine and there were no objectives in the center on either side. Oh, and I rolled "Schnell!" for my Tiger Ace skill. Yay. Let the games begin!
I had the first turn but largely held back to see an opportunity develop. I'm not sure if that is just a symptom of my general lack of a plan or the nature of a free-for-all game. I moved my Tiger up the road (figured that was pretty safe) and cut loose with the 105s on Nolan's T-34s. The furst salvo killed a T-34 and bailing out the company commander! First blood!
Nolan started with a general advance, pushing forward on both sides but being careful to keep the Shermans out of LOS from the Tiger. His first units to run into trouble were the T-34s on my left. They advanced in the open and opened fire, but caused minimal damage. One of my Panzer IVs may have been bailed out, but Fearless with protected ammo meant that didn't last long. As they advanced, I pushed my Company Commander up over the hill and caught the T-34s in a nasty crossfire. The 88 even contributed to the fray with a narrow line of fire between the hill, woods, the buildings. (I'm not sure how I ended up with one... must have been lost to Soviet fire early on.)
Come to Daddy!
Nolan kept the pressure up by pushing forward with his Stuarts, but his right was quickly collapsing. His left did not fare much better. The Il-2 Sturmoviks showed up almost every turn but were thoroughly unable to clear the Tiger off the road. Despite this, Nolan pressed his advance!
Emchas! Roll out!
On my right I sent my halftracks to the rear and dug in my panzergrens on the objective. I figured that was their best chance for holding off an armored assault. The remainder of the activity on that flank was a cat-and-mouse game between the Tiger and the Emchas/SU Tank Killers. Nolan had two companies maneuvering for position around my single Tiger. The SUs would push up my right through the woods and threaten some shots while the Shermans pushed around my left, trying to stay invisible in the woods and behind the destroyed buildings, hoping for a flank shot. This went on for a while with some very tense moments and close calls for the Tiger. The SUs stayed safe by keeping outside of the 10" range that the infantry needed to launch an assault. I didn't want to leave the objective open without the guaranteed opportunity to mix it up with my SS foot. Fortunately for me, Nolan was also having some trouble calling in his aircraft at this point. This right flank was locked in a long-lasting mobile battle with a Tiger that never missed a stormtrooper roll. Schnell, indeed!
The other flank, however, was wide open and I went for it with my Panzer platoon. They slid up the flank and onto the objective, with requisite attention to ensure that I didn't present my flanks to the Stuarts. Another tense moment came when I got my first tank onto the objective.
At the start of my next turn, I was poised to hold the objective and win, but in the intermediate Soviet turn, Nolan's T-34/85 commander found his spirit and clambered back in! There was the potential at this point that two shots would knock me off the objective and prolong the game, but also the slim chance that my platoon of 3 could break and run! Nolan fired and scored 0 hits, on par with the rest of his shooting that day. Since the Company CO is an independent team it could not contest the objective (thanks, Will, for pointing this out!), and the game ended at the start of my next turn. An SS-Victory!
What's this? The turret is turning! Fire!
Overall it was a very fun and interesting game. Nolan had a really bad run of the dice firing at my Panzers, and Veterans in the woods at long range didn't help! There were a couple of times where I thought he should have hit something but it just wasn't meant to be. I, on the other hand, need to develop some better tactics than "Wait and see what happens." I seem to rely on that old standby a lot, and this time I lucked out. Nolan was a great opponent, and I can't wait to be on the receiving end of his T-34s and Inomarochnikiy Emchas in the future!
The pictures here are just a small subset... See them all here!