Sunday, November 21, 2010

Video Report: Games Day on November 14th

A crushing Soviet victory, and what better way to celebrate than by giving the Soviet Union's top film directors a few days break from their residences in the Gulag Archipelago so that they can work on a suitable celebration of the nation's triumph?  Move over, Eisenstein.

With due acknowledgement and apologies to the 'Beeb...

After the big turnout last month, we expected that this time there would be a lot fewer attendees due to various commitments.  Still, five of us were able to turn up; more than enough to put together a late war, German vs. Soviet game using Blitzkrieg Commander II.   Both Giovanni and myself had managed to paint up some more models for our respective collections, so we were anxious to have them see their first action.

We had intended to run two WW2 games, but at the eleventh hour it turned out that Peter couldn't make it.  That also meant that we wouldn't have his magnificent collection of buildings to game over, so Giovanni gave me a call and implored me to bring over the trenchworks I had built for our first BKC game way back last January.  A nice terrain piece, but a pain in the posterior to have to carry back and forth from club games.

So this was a hurried scenario!  As his force had a lot of armour and vehicles, and my Popovs are still short on wheeled transport (sorely missed the last time my Soviets took the field), we decided to have the Germans try to take a Russian defensive position- an attempted counterattack against the Soviet juggernaut invading Brandenburg in early 1945. 

It was Giovanni, Marco and Matt as the Germans, with Darren and I playing the Soviets.  We used Scenario #4 (Deliberate Attack) from the BKC II rulebook, with the Soviet defenders (veterans) having 2410 points against a German force of about 3600 points, which included elite Fallshirmjagers and a Konigstiger as well as some evil SS.

This was to be a testosterone-fuelled game using the Steel Titans of the time, including the fearsome King Tiger.  Roll out the Ubertanks, and bring 'em on!  Giovanni introduced his latest finished masterpiece- a 1/72 Sturmtiger from Trumpeter Models.  He did an excellent job modelling and painting it- the chipping on the paintwork in particular was very well done.  But a fat lot of good it did for him in the game!

The German attack was launched with motorized infantry aiming to take the Soviet right and centre, and a whole bunch of well-armoured nastiness heading towards the Soviet left to outflank the line.

The Soviets responded to the initial German advance with immediate air support.  The attack had been preregistered, and it ended up being in the right place at the right time.  Luckily for the Reich, however, it turned in a most lacklustre performance- basically because I had read the rules incorrectly and failed to realize that I could attack all units within the attack zone.

Actually air support on both sides was less than impressive.  Having filled it up with all six litres of aviation fuel that were available to Nazi Germany at this stage of the war, Giovanni's lone Me-109 made several determined, but utterly useless, attacks on the Soviet trench line.  Once the pilot had been shaken awake from his slumbers by his orderly, that is;  Giovanni several times forgot to make his scheduled air attacks.

More fortunately, and rather unusually for me given my past record, I had correctly surmised the kind of devilment the panzers would get up to.  So it turned out that they went for a right hook, only to eventually run smack straight into my whole battalion of T34/85's.  I had even stationed a 45mm A/T gun on the flank for good measure; but as it turned out, the crew had nothing better to do for the whole game than to read "liberated" pornography while knocking back bottles of vodka and captured aftershave.

Early in the game, Russian support artillery and assault guns all took a toll on Marco's German advance on the left, and Darren managed to fortuitously knock out a ATG that had just deployed on a small hill overlooking the Soviet defences. This was a good move, as it could really have given us some headaches as the game progressed.

We soon learned that it is tough- really tough- to take out entrenched infantry.  This was Marco's first WW2 game, so he did the unexpected- he sent a Wirbelwind right up to the trench.  This is when the Soviets discovered to their horror that while they were well protected, they did not in fact have a lot of firepower to deal with any armour that got in close.  They would first had to leave the protection of the trench if they were to close assault with their flamethrowers, and given all the hate the Germans had at hand to throw against them during opportunity fire, life expectancy could have been measured in seconds.

Fortunately for the cause of International Socialism and the imminent Workers' & Peasants' Paradise, Giovanni had massed all his tanks on the flank, and the basically unsupported Wirbelwind was forced to fall back, while the slightly scathed Soviet flamethrower team raced thankfully back down the other side of the hill.  Suppressed, but alive, and  they would be able to come back and enter the fray again later.

On the Soviet's left, the Russki tank commander had many games ago learned the value of concentrated fire.  Having managed to avoid being seriously hit by the Stugs and the King Tiger, the Dice Gods- clearly fully paid-up Party members all-  smiled on the Reds and in a number of consecutive actions the Russian tanks tore the German armour to pieces.

This has been really one extremely lucky and experienced T-34 battalion; they did the same to a British force in the last game.  I am seriously thinking of promoting them to Guards status, and adding Guards insignia to the turrets.

While the T-34's were sending the German tankers to Valhalla, the infantry in the centre - elite Fallschirmjagers- debussed and advanced to the attack.  It turned out I couldn't hit the infantry behind the trucks they had just leapt out of.  Fair enough.  But Matt (being the clever Brummy he is) realized this and proceeded to try and advance his infantry safely behind the advancing softskins.

To be fair to Matt, this was also his first WW2 game; Napoleonics is his thing.  And he is certainly no rules lawyer.  But while there seemed nothing in the rules expressly forbidding it, this tactic had a good, strong whiff of rotting Gorgonzola about it, so I screamed foul.  No truck driver with one iota of sanity would have done such a thing, even assuming the transmission and suspension could take the trip uphill anyway.  While I have nothing against anyone extracting the best advantage from the rules, I  feel that actions should be within the bounds of plausibility.  This manoeuvre clearly wasn't, and it would have established a bad precedent. 

Everyone seemed to agree with me,  so I put away the hobnailed baseball bat and my can of pepper spray, and the game went merrily on. But I understood the dilemma- unprotected infantry assaulting the trench would have been (and as it turned out, was to be) decimated.  Had the infantry been advancing behind tanks or even half-tracks I could have lived with the consequences- which would have been nasty as I had so little A/T capability on the ridge itself.  Combined arms are always the way to go.

Once the Fallshirmjagers had been bloodily repulsed, the last act was one in true Gottendammerung style- the Waffen SS made a close assault on the trench.  Under the BKC II stats, these Baddest-of-Bad-B-tards are tough pretzels to chew on indeed, and can take a lot of punishment.  One stand did in fact almost make it into the trench, but in the end numbers told and they were thrown back.  Hopefully into a very well-used latrine hole.

As for the Sturmtiger, for most of the game it sat in the rear and managed only to lob off one ineffective round at the end of the game.  I was just so thankful it wasn't used to lead the attack on the trench line.  With a massive twelve-dice attack, and being as heavily armoured as it gets in the rules, I just couldn't have replied to it.  It would have ripped the Soviet defences apart, especially if it had been supported by advancing infantry and screened by smoke rounds.

So, lessons learnt:
  • Make better use of reconnaissance units.
  • Entrenched infantry are hard to winkle out.  Use combined arms and smoke to mask the advance, as well as scheduled artillery.  Neither side paid the points for that, and we both could have used it.
  • I should have kept troops behind the trench as a reserve, to shore up any breaches.  While tough to hit, entrenched infantry tend to get nailed when they do.  With no reserves, it was all-or-nothing at some points in the line.  The lack of any significant A/T weapons in the centre was also a real weakness, had it been exploited.
  • Heavy tanks are sexy, but the law of averages is even sexier.  Given any reasonable luck with the command rolls, I'll take quantity over quality any day.  I'd rather have six Pz-III's than one Tiger.  
  • As with the Elephant and other vehicles armed with the excellent long-ranged 88mm gun, the King Tiger should have been kept in the rear where it could snipe at the T-34's from a distance and take them out one at a time.  Either that, or launch it straight at the trenches where the Popovs would have found themselves suffering from sudden gastro-intestinal ailments the minute it appeared out of the gloom.
  • We need to be sure to check for air superiority at the beginning of the game, and to apply the rules correctly!
And last, but not least:
  • More terrain, especially woods, roads, and buildings! My project during the winter vacation is to get that Russian village finished.
Thanks, guys, a great game.  I'd like to do a rematch one day to see if the Germans could do better.  I really think they could win it, given better luck and a different deployment.

But be warned- by then I'll have made up barbed wire emplacements and minefields!



  1. Great video and a very in depth report...:-)

  2. the video was a lot of fun, and the game looked to be a great time. I look forward to the December games day!