"War is a drama, not a game of chess."
Gen Eisenhower

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Squadron Forward Game - Romanians v Soviets

Its been a while since I have gotten a game in so this report is overdue. I just got in an interesting game last night. My game group in Atlanta has been playing a Squadron Forward campaign. I drew up the first squadron but this was actually the first game I have been able to get in.

You can read the report here.

What I would like to bring up is what to do after the action has taken place. No rules or campaign system can deal with every possible situation. Once came up last night that should be extremely rare. It does not happen often when a friendly fire incident happens. Its rarer when it happens twice to the same pilot in the same mission. My Flight Leader managed to shoot friendly aircraft not once but twice. In the first case, he did not do any damage to the bomber he hit but that aircraft was later shot down by the enemy. In the second incident, he shot his wing man doing structural damage. All fighter aircraft returned to base (on both sides, no less) and two bombers were shot down and the other two sustained some damage.

So it was a complete bust for the Romanians. But what do you do to the pilot that had two such incidents in one action? In my after action report, I had the pilot dismissed from service and arrested. Has anyone had a similar incident? Or what would you have done with the offending pilot?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Great Book Alert

Sorry for the gap between posts. Have been in the US taking a course for "senior medical leaders".
It did give me time to read a great book on the challenge of leadership. I led a Military Police platoon briefly and have been on "G" series orders for the last 8 years for those of you who know what that means.

This book realy talks about the strain of command and the anguish of not always getting it right better than any I have ever read. It's lessions apply not only to Vietnam but to small unit leadership throughout time. It truely talks about "Platoon Forward". For the gamer it also makes for some great Vietnam scenarios. The Cross of Iron was the best war novel I had ever read but I think this one matches it and it is not a novel! {Honorable mention goes to Delilah, Soldier of the Great War and Bomber.}

On a second note--  We need some of you to post your stories here!   We haven't had a post since March!



Friday, March 16, 2012

Audet Ambushed: A Platoon Forward Game, Part Three

Normandy, June 8, 18:20 hours

The crack of grenades was still ringing in his ears as Audet took stock of the situation. Matthieu's rifle section began to secure the hedgerow, while Pte. Leblanc checked the two prone forms left on the ground after the brief fight. One was clearly dead, but the other German was holding up his uninjured arm in an indication of surrender. Audet noticed that both Germans wore camouflaged smocks and helmet covers, unlike the ones he had seen previously, who wore their plain fieldgray uniforms. "Watch that one", he said to Leblanc.

Climbing down from the hedgerow on to the road, Audet saw Padre Huard praying by the carrier that had contained Matthieu's Bren section. The crew stood nearby, their heads uncovered. Looking into the passenger compartment, Audet saw two bodies, both covered with gas capes.

His Sten gun held loosely, Audet headed for the front of the ruined convoy, passing the burning truck in the centre of the column. It's cab was fully engulfed in flame. The crew of the lead truck were standing back from the flames, smoking cigarettes with expressionless faces. Beyond them, where the lead carriers had been ambushed, he saw Doc Armand kneeling and working beside a prone figure. Close by, two more men sprawled nearby, their battledress dusty. Dark brown stains surrounded the torn serge fabric where the Spandaus had caught them.

Cpl. Legros and several of his riflemen watched the doctor working. Audet didn't like the way they had left the road and hedgerows uncovered. He grabbed Legros' shoulder to get his attention. "Report."

"My Bren team. Arsenault and Gagnon are dead. LaRoche got one in the chest. Looks bad."

"OK. Secure this site. You and your men make sure the doc is covered. I'll call in for help. Where's Sergeant Beaulieu?"

Legros shrugged. "Dunno."

Back in the center of the column, Audet found his platoon sergeant sitting beside the road, smoking a cigarette, his eyes unfocused. One side of Beaulieu's face was splashed with drying blood.

"Is that yours?"

No answer.

"I said, is that your blood, sergeant?"

Beaulieu shook his head, pointed to the carrier where the two bodies lay.

Padre Huard came up beside Audet. "I think he's in shock."

Audet pushed his helmet back and looked around. "Stay with him, Padre. Corporal Côté !"

Two section's leader trotted over to him. Audet was relieved to see that the man's eyes were alert behind his spectacles. "You're acting sergeant. Send two men with a stretcher up to help the Doc. Get the rest to secure this road until we get some help. I don't want to get hit again."

From there, Audet went over to his carrier to call his Company. He wasn't looking forward to speaking to the Major.


So the aftermath of the action is not great. For each soldier who got a killed result in TW&T, I rolled a 1d6, with the result of 1-2 lightly wounded, 3-4 seriously wounded, and 5-6 dead. The results are unkind. Two of Legros' One Section Bren team are dead, and the third is seriously wounded. Two of Matthieu's Three Section Bren team are also dead.

Since Sgt. Beaulieu's card only came up once at the end of the fight, my artistic license is that he was shocked into immobility during the fight. Having two men killed beside him evoked memories of the Great War, perhaps, hence his being incapacitated at the end.

For the Freeform Event at the end of the fight, Audet wants Sgt. Beaulieu removed from his platoon. That is a possible result on Platoon Forward's All Knowing Odds Table, but a "10" result means not now. That result isn't helped by Audet's abrasive personality and by his lack of success in the mission. Doc Armand thinks a day's rest is all the sergeant needs, and Major Charpentier agrees with the Doc. It looks as if Audet will be stuck with his crusty old sergeant for a while yet.

Now there are two rolls to be made on the Fixed Events table.

The first is a 5, Player Character. The subsequent roll is a 4, Character Noticed. A subsequent roll of 5 means that a squad leader has been noticed, and that squad leader turns out to be Legros. Legros has been noticed by his surviving section mates. His coarse personality does not help, but the roll is a "5" on a 1d6, so that is not a bad result. Turns out that what's left of his section thinks Legros has done a pretty good job of keeping them alive, and they blame Audet for their casualties.

The second Fixed Equipment roll is a 2, meaning Equipment. The result is a "5". meaning additional rounds of somethig. I decide that since Division has learned some lessons from its contact with 12th SS, extra PIAT anti-tank rounds will be issued. No 18 Platoon will get a case of three PIAT rounds to go with their PIAT and its six standard rounds. Someone will have to carry that gear.

Sadly, no replacements are available for No 18 Platoon for now.

Audet has limited opportunity to interact with Major Charpentier, but he senses that his Company Commander is acting cool to him. Audet knows thay Doc Armand and Padre Huard have spoken well of his conduct in the ambush, particularly during the melee in the hedgerow. However, he fears that Charpentier may have deflected any displeasure from the Colonel onto Audet's shoulders, rather than accept the blame for ordering a road move in an area that is still unsecured. Audet was hoping for some recognition for bringing back a prisoner from 21st Panzer Division, but Charpentier treated this as nothing very special.

Before he retires for the night, Audet draws up this roster for No. 18 Platoon.

Platoon Commander: Lt. Denis Audet with one soldier as a signaller with the platooon radio set.

Platoon Sergeant: Sgt. Beaulieu (ordered to rest for a day)

No 1 Section: Cpl. Legros and four soldiers, plus one soldier who is recovering from serious wounds. Audet has decided to use the section as a Bren team plus to have one soldier carry the platoon PIAT and others to carry the PIAT rounds.

No 2 section: Cpl. Côté and six men, plus one soldier recovering from serious wounds and two recovering from light wounds. Cote has the section organized as a two man Bren team and himself with four soldiers as the rifle team.

No 3 section: Cpl Matthieu and seven men. Matthieu has the section organized as a three man Bren team and himself with four soldiers as the rifle team

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Audet Ambushed: A Platoon Forward Action, Part Two

The ambush scenario in Platoon Forward requires the side being ambushed to traverse a table from one edge to another. Accordingly, I set up this Normandyish scene with a main road and some side roads. The blinds on the board indicate possible German ambush sites, which are rolled for randomly as per PF's mecnahism for determining the type and number of OPFOR. As per the ambush rules, the ambushing side has six turns to wreak havoc before relieving forces come to the rescue, at which point the game either ends or is continued with the ambushing side taking on the relievers. The ambushers are outnumbered by a factor of 1-3 or thereabouts.

As with other Denis Audet games, I am playing them solitaire, using Too Fat Lardies' Troops, Weapons and Tactics rules. Normally I would use 20mm or 1\72nd scale rules for these games, but given the number of vehicles needed for the convoy I am using my 15mm kit. All the infantry shown below are manufactured by Battlefront, as are the carriers. The trucks are from Old Glory. The buildings are from Paper Terrain by Scitt Washburn, which I highly recommend for affordable buildings.

Cpl Legros leads the way with three section as the convoy sets off.

"Is he going to be decorated?" Audet asked Dr. Armand as their carrier clattered along a narrow dirt road.

"He should be." The RMO was referring to Pte Roy*, from the regiment's antitank platoon. He had been found dead beside his 6 pdr gun, and everyone was saying that his actions were deserving of the Victoria Cross. "If it hadn't been for Roy and his gun, the Jerries would have overrun A Company. Hell of a way to spend our first night in France."

"A decoration would be good for us, for the Regiment" said Audet. He allowed himself a brief vision of being at Buckingham Palace and having the English king pin a medal on his dress uniform, maybe an MC. That would be good.

The Canadian convoy enters further on the board. The first blind in the village is a dummy blind. Phew! But wait a moment ... the second blind is the real deal, Gefreiter Letkeman and his panzer grenadiers.

In the back of the carrier, the Chaud's chaplain, Padre Huard,** was dozing, his head pillowed against a canvas satchel stuffed with medical equipment. He and the RMO were good friends, and often entertained their fellow officers with debates about science and religion. Audet, not much of a churchgoer, felt uncomfortable around the padre, but he acknowledged the good he did to the men. Huard's simple burial service for Cpl Yergeau two days ago had meant a lot to the men of 18 Platoon.

Looking ahead, from his place in the middle of the column, Audet saw Sgt. Beaulieu in the carrier ahead of him, along with the three man Bren gun team of Cpl. Matthieu's Three Section. Ahead of them was one of the three lumbering trucks they were escorting, and ahead of it was Matthieu with his rifle team. Leading the convoy was Legros with 1 section, in the lead two carriers, with the lead truck between him and Matthieu. Looking back, Audet saw the rear most truck, and behind that, he knew, Cpl Cote and two section brought up the rear. From what he could see of him, his men were enjoying the novelty of riding instead of marching, and the gradual cooling of the oncoming evening was pleasant.

Achtung! Gefreiter Letkeman watches and awaits his opportunity. Battlefront Miniatures painted by my friend James Manto.


Letkeman signalled his men to prepare to fire. He wished he had some panzerfausts to see off the little tracked carriers, but Leutnant Krauss had said they were reserved for the frontline boys and couldn't be wasted on raiders. At least he had four Spandaus to put to good use. Just a moment more, let the two lead carriers pass, then the first truck, let that get into his other LMGs' field of fire, now a second truck ... "FIRE!"

The situation at the moment the ambush is sprung. The middle truck and Beaulieu's carrier are right in front of Letkeman. The two lead carriers with Legros' section are passing one of Letkeman's two LMG teams.

The third LMG team is sited with a clear line of sight down the road, able to engage the head of the column. It opens fire head on at the two carriers with Legros' section on board.

Sgt Beaulieu was telling the boys how they were spoiled having these little carriers, and how in the Great War he had been lucky for a ride in a stinking boxcar on the occasional train. "Marched our feet to nubs, we did."

Private Cournoyer, the No 2 on the Bren, laughed obligingly, just as all hell broke loose. He pitched forward, and Beaulieu felt something hot splash across his face. Old instinct kicked in, and he threw himself down in the back of the carrier, then felt a heavy weight as someone fell on top of him.

Behind him, Audet's eyes widened as he saw two men in the carrier ahead of him topple over, then was thrown off balance as his own carrier braked hard. He could hear at least two MGs, the distinctive Jerry sound, like canvas being ripped hard, sending a chill down his spine. The fire all seemed directed forward of him, and he could see muzzle flashes from the hedge about twenty five metres ahead and to his left. Now he could see two men leaping from the back of the carrier ahead, Beaulieu and another soldier with a Bren gun, and crouch behind their vehicle. Ahead of them was a loud WHOOOMP as the middle truck exploded into a fireball. He didn't see anyone get out.

Doc Armand and the Padre looked around them, their faces alarmed. "Stay down!" Audet told them, his mind racing.


The first two turns don't go well for the Canadians. The MG fire from Letkeman and one of his half sections causes two casualties on the passengers in Beaulieu's carrier, both from Matthieu's Bren team. The carrier crew must take a morale check and fail resulting in the passengers bailing out and the carrier retreating. Beaulieu and the surviving Bren gunner bail out. They get a few ineffectual shots off before taking covef under a hail if German kead. Letkeman's other section opens up on the truck, causing many hits, killing the crew and destroying the vehicle. It explodes. At the head of the column, both carriers transporting Legros' section fail their morale checks. The one carrying Legros and his rifle team turns to flee, while the second, carrying his Bren team, gets a result of passengers dismount.

The German's opening fire ends the first of six turns. The first draw of the second turn is, incredibly, the Tea Break card. Not a bad way to simulate shock and fear among the ambushed. The Germans open fire again. Legros' Bren team suffers two casualties. Beaulieu and the remnant of Matthieu's Bren team take several shock points. German fire is less effective this turn. Canadians cower.

A truck burns while Beaulieu and another soldier have scrambled out of their carrier and try to take shelter.

Turn 3 and the Canadians start reacting. The lead truck halts, its crew scrambling for the ditches. The rearmost truck's driver panics, and tries to reverse on the narrow road. Unfortunately, he does this as Cote tries to push forward. One of his carriers rolls badly and collides with the reversing truck, jamming both vehicles and blocking most of the road.

The two lead carriers retreat towards the centre of the column, leaving Legros' hapless Bren gun team cowering on the road, where they are all shot down. When Legros' car finally comes up, he is able to dismount, and directs his rifle section at one of Letkeman's two half sections.

Legros in action. Canadians begin to fight back.

Cpl. Cote is activated, and while his Bren team scrambles dazed from the wreck of their carrier, Cote leads his rifle team through the hedge and begins to try and outflank Letkeman. They get a few shots off and the shock begins to mount on the Germans.

Cote begins to stalk Letkeman, who is feeling less than comfortable now.

Audet is now activated. Leaving the Padre and the Doc in the relative shelter of the carrier, he goes to join himself to Legros' rifle section. That's Audet on the left, pointing decisively.

More Canadian reactions. Cpl Matthieu leads his rifle section to shelter behind the burning truck, and opens fire on Letkeman, who is now taking fire from three sides.

The German LMG team posted at the far left has a clear shot down the road and takes out the lead Canadian truck. All three trucks are now immobilized or burning.

Gefreiter Letkeman, a veteran, knows that the Tommies are over their shock and outnumber him. One of his half sections has taken a casualty. Time they were going. Joining one half section, he directs the other to withdraw a bound, set up their LMG, and cover his withdrawal. That way they will leapfrog back and break contact, trusting his other LMG teams will do the same.

Every game with Audet includes one use per game of the Heroic Commander card. Audet is a jerk, but he's a brave glory hound and the Heroic Commander card allows him to do something incredibly brave and rash. The HC card comes up now, just after Letkeman begins to pull back. Sensing that the German fire is slackening, Audet grabs Legros' arm, and waves his Sten at the hedge with his other hand. "A l'assaut les boys!" The Canadians charge forward, and roll enough movement dice to push through the hedge and into Letkeman and his half section. The ensuring Close Combat is a near thing, but the result is that the Germans lose two men and take some shock. They lose the melee and fall back 12 inches. Letkeman survives and his men fade away into the Norman countryside.
The ambush is over.

That charge concluded the fighting. The two German LMG teams break contact. The Germans lost three men. The Canadians had suffered five casualties, and the severity of these casualties will be checked in the next installment. Audet's mission had failed. The convoy would not get through. Two trucks were destroyed, with two crew killed. A third was damaged, along with a carrier. Not the outcome Audet had hoped for, but at least he has survived and has a sharp little fight in the hedgerows to point to, witnessed by the RMO and Padre from the carrier.

In our next installment, perhaps tomorrow night, we'll see what the result is for Audet.

*Pte L.V. Roy did exist. He and his 6 pdr played a vital role in protecting the Chaudiere's A Coy on the night of June 6-7. when they were nearly overrun by halftracks and troops from 21st Panzer Division. Roy never received a posthumous decoration but is still remembered in the Regiment today.
**Padre Huard also existed. He was a Roman Catholic priest serving as the regiment's chaplain in Normandy, and by this account, he was a good one.

Audet Ambushed: A Platoon Forward Action, Part One

Readers of this blog from a while back will remember my WW2 character, Lt. Denis Audet, who came to light using Joe Legan's campaign and scenario generator, Platoon Forward. Audet is a young, brash and egotistical platoon commander leading No. 18 Platoon of Le Régiment de la Chaudière , a French Canadian infantry battalion taking part in the first days of the Normandy campaign.

Audet has survived two engagements. On D plus one he led a successful platoon attack on a hill, and on D+3 he took a village church that the Germans were preparing to use as an observation post. As a result of that second action he earned the notice of his Company Commander, Major Charpentier, which is great because Audet is as ambitious as Lucifer. Audet's platoon is relatively unscathed, having lost 1 man killed and one seriously wounded in the first action, and two lightly wounded in the second. The dead man, Cpl. Yergeau, led section one and was replaced by Cpl. Cote, who was promoted from within the section.

Audet's men respect his courage, but they also recognize that their platoon sergeant, Denis Beaulieu, is hostile to Audet. Beaulieu is a veteran of the Great War and wants to get through this war in one piece. Two of the section leaders, Legros and Matthieu, are part of his clique, whereas Cpl. Cote, who leads two section, is ambitious and educated, and wants to hitch his star to Audet's.

Here's a quick summary of the cast of characters:

Audet's boss is Major Michel Charpentier, OC D Coy. Not the best soldier in the army

Personality: Idealistic
Interest: Government
Combat Temperament: Even
Combat Leadership: Level 1
Background: Average family
Special Skills: Fluent Anglophone

Platoon Commander: Lt. Denis Audet Lvl 3 Big Man
Personality: Egotistical
Motivation: Position
Not fluent in English

Platoon warrant officer: Jean Beaulieu, Level 2 Big Man
Personality: Glum
Motivation: Hedonistic. He is a Level 2 Big Man. Beaulieu is a veteran of the Great War who reenlisted. He is emerging as Audet's nemesis. Audet wouldn't mind getting rid of him.

No 1 section (Cpl Jean Legros and seven men, - 1 wounded and 1 (Legros) promoted in first action)
Cpl Legros Personality: Coarse
Motivation and Interest: Position (wants to get ahead)
Combat Temperament: Bold
Combat Leadership: Level Two Big Man
Background: Son of a military family

No 2 section (Cpl and six men, minus one badly wounded in first engagement and two recovering from lit wounds from the second engagement)
Sgt. Pierre Cote
Motivation: Position.
He can speak English well - he learned it at seminary but when the the war came he left his studies to enlist. Now that he's seen the world, he would like to get ahead in it as something other than a priest. Level 2 Big Man.

No 3 Section: Cpl. Louis Matthieu and nine men
Motivation: Wealth.
He and Beaulieu are tight since he's a natural scrounger and trader and manages to get a lot of creature comforts for Beaulieu and his cronies. Francophone only. Is sure that there's a way to get rich out of the war. Level 2 Big Man.

Optimally the sections are divided into a six man rifle team and a three man Bren gun team. One and Two sections are under strength and Audet has not yet received any replacements.

Ok, enough recap, on with the story.

Normandy, June 8, 17:00 hours.
Denis Audet was pleased to be summoned to see his company commander. After he had delivered his report and prisoners to Charpentier that morning, he had sensed that the Major was pleased with his work and had been hoping for good things all day. No. 18 platoon had been relieved from the little village they had captured that morning and been allowed a rest in regimental lines that afternoon. Word around the lines was that their Division was being heavily engaged by German counterattacks and that it wasn't going well.

"Hello, Audet.". Salutes has been left behind in England, thanks to German sniping. Charpentier lit a briar pipe and Audet briefly considered whether the type a la pipe look would work for him, He didn't think it would. "The corporal you brought in as a prisoner told us about a German field hospital belonging to their 716th Division, about five kilometers from here." The major pointed to a map with his pipe stem. "As you know, things are still pretty unsettled between here and the sea. We're still getting stragglers and fellows wanting to surrender, and some who want to keep fighting. Too much work for the Provos to handle, which is why D Company has been tasked with rear area security for now. Captain Armand, the Regimental Medical Officer, is not too busy right now and wants to see this hospital. The Jerries are just waiting to surrender to someone, so it might as well be us. Is your platoon rested from this morning?"

Rested enough, Audet thought. "Yes, sir." When he had last seen them, he had thought they had been resting too much, and he had ordered Sgt. Beaulieu to get them busy cleaning kit and stripping weapons.

"Good. I want your platoon to escort the RMO to this Jerry hospital so he can assess the situation. Your men can provide security overnight until we can get Brigade to collect them tomorrow sometime. Hard to tell when that will be exactly with the Germans pushing back at us/"

"How's it going, sir?".

Charpentier looked thoughtful as he drew on his pipe. "Tough going. Brigade says we're up against their Hitler Youth Division. Crazy Nazi kids with good leaders. Well equipped. This could take a while. The sooner I have your platoon back tomorrow the better, as we'll likely be going into divisional reserve soon. I've assigned you transport from carrier platoon and some lorries the doc requested to move the seriously wounded. The walking wounded can march to the beach. So go report to the RMO and get over there before sunset. Secure the place tonight, and once the redcaps show up in the morning, help them get Jerry to the cages, and then get back here. Questions?"

"No sir." Charpentier nodded dismissal, and Audet left the little cottage serving as D Coy headquarters. It sounded simple enough, and there might be the chance of some loot, either a Luger for Papa or maybe something shiny for Yvette. And if what the Major said about those Hitler kids was true, there would be fighting to come, so an easy job and a bit of a rest would be good. Audet smiled as he remembered what the Major had said about him getting the job done. That was a sign of good things to come.

He began looking for Sergeant Beaulieu to give his warning order. The grizzled old guy would not be happy. He never was with any mission. Tant pis. Too bad. Another good job under his belt and Audet felt he could persuade Major Charpentier to take the old Sergeant off his hands and let him promote Côté in Beaulieu's place. Audet found Beaulieu's negative attitude annoying, and he was sure it was rubbing off on the boys. Maybe two wars were too many for Sgt. Beaulieu.


Gefreiter Willi Letkeman watched the Tommy jeep pass by in a cloud of dust, and was pleased that hits panzer grenadiers had remained calm. The section's two MG42s could easily have finished off the little vehicle, but he was after bigger game. The Tommy's motor had faded, the driver unaware that he had also passed Letkeman's two LMG teams three hundred metres further down the road. Those teams had also kept silent, under orders not to fire unless they heard him shoot first. Letkeman was satisifed with his men's fire discipline and concealment. He had orders to ambush supply or troop convoys, and to remain in position until sunset, at which time he was to pull back and return to battalion. Letkeman looked up at the sun and judged another two to three hours of light. This little road was quiet, but he was confident something good would come along. Until it did, they would wait.


So, as you can see by this sinister piece of foreshadowing, it might not go so well for our brash and rather shallow hero in his next fight. In the aftermath of the morning's church battle, the PF system generated a result that a non player character wanted to tag along with Audet on the next mission, and that led me to think of the RMO. Why would he want to tag along? Something of a medical nature, and given the fluid nature behind the front in the first few days, a German field hospital wanting to surrender seemed a good idea. In fact, I believe an incident like this is mentioned in one of Mark Zuelkhe's books on the Canadians in Normandy. The idea seems sound.

Now the bad news. The next mission rolled is an ambush. Normally in Platoon Forward, you play the ambusher, but with an idea already in mind for Audet's mission, it seemed to make sense that he would get bumped, either by cut off German dead enders or some of the 12th SS? Well, Audet's had a good few scraps. Let's see what happens when things don't quite go his way.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Soldiers of the Rearguard or, The Social(ist) Network

Only three weeks after Karpov’s return to grace comes another opportunity to distinguish himself and the First Company.  This time, the men would have to be the rearguard, and hold a route through the city open so that a truck convoy could escape.  With the close quarters of urban combat, there would be plenty of opportunities for heroism.  The problem with that is, heroism comes with a price.  This would be a wild ride, full of random events that no one could have predicted.

Even by rearguard standards, this was a bit of a scratch force.  Other than the rifle company with 54 men and three officers, there was only an MMG, a 45mm ATG, and a couple of 50mm mortars.  There was also an engineer/SMG platoon with an officer attached to the force.  The rifle company had high morale though, so there was an Allied Rally card in the deck.  The layout was urban, and for once the map and the board didn’t quite match up.  According to the map as rolled up, the layout should be:

2 buildings
2 buildings
Key building
2 buildings
2 buildings

Well, everyone knows how inaccurate Soviet maps can be, so the area wound up looking like this instead:

Basically the same, but with a bit more construction; maybe the map was from the Tsarist period.  The large gray ruin closest to the camera is the key building, and it would indeed play a key role in the coming battle.
          Not knowing where the Germans would mass their forces, Karpov tried to defend a little bit of everything.    The next picture gives an idea of the general setup for the defenders:

          Expecting the German assault to come up the center most of 2nd Platoon and its Jr. Lt. was dug in on the hill, with the engineers and ATG protecting the left flank.  1st Platoon was in the rear as a reserve, as was one squad of 2nd Platoon under command of the new replacement commissar from Regimental HQ.  The mortars were safely back to provide support where needed, and the MMG was anchoring the right of the position with a squad of engineers in the building next to them.  Overall, not a bad plan, at least not until the Germans started their attack.
          The German force consisted of 5 A, 2 B and 1 C type blind.  The expected attack in the center didn’t materialize; instead most of the German forces wound up at the river’s edge, with 2 blinds coming up the center and the C blind coming in as reserves on the Red Army left.  While they hit the least defended part of the position, it did at least have the advantage of putting the bulk of the attack on the opposite side of town from the truck convoy’s entrance.
          When the German force entered, it started what could only be described as “The Great Footrace.”    Karpov took the first platoon, Commissar Bodmachin (another replacement from Regimental HQ) took his squad from second platoon, and both commanders headed for the key building.  Obviously, they were hoping to cobble together some sort of defense that would last long enough for the trucks to get away.  They made it, but were undoubtedly helped by the fact that the Germans seemed to be fascinated by the river.  They were so fascinated that, for two turns, they didn’t move at all.  The truck drivers in the convoy realized what a reprieve they had been given, so were going hell for leather to get out of town.  There was a brief traffic jam, but the infantry managed to stay away from the fleeing trucks.

The Commissar and his squad took up a position in the back of the key building, ready to hold off whatever might come their way.  About this same time, the officer in charge of the engineers on the left flank decided it was time to strike a blow at the enemy.  Since everyone seemed to be headed for the other side of town, he decided to join in the fun.  By pulling his men out of position, he insured that the left flank was covered only by the 45mm ATG.  Meanwhile, Jr. Lt. Chernikov with the second platoon had spotted the blinds in the center, and they turned out to be fakes.  He decided to stay where he was though, since orders were orders and all that.  The left flank is dangling, the right is threatened, and the shooting hasn’t even started yet.  What fun!

Then, German reinforcements arrived on the left.  It turned out to be a platoon of Panzer Grenadiers, advancing slowly and cautiously in their half-tracks.  The lead track wasn’t quite cautious enough, and the ATG punished him for that, knocking him out of action and killing the crew.  Back on the right, Commissar Bodmachin and his squad were ready for anything except what they were confronted with:

While not all the German platoon could get in on the close combat, there were enough of them to send Badmachin and the remnants of the squad fleeing the building, and the edge of the board.  Now it was time for Karpov to enter the building.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of what happened next.  Karpov took one squad upstairs, while the other stayed in the front of the building.  The three German squads that assaulted the building consolidated their position.    One squad moved into the corridor in the center of the building while a second squad provided overwatch and the third squad got caught in the rubble, with almost no movement.  Then, Karpov and the squad on the second floor fired on the overwatch squad, distracting them into shooting back.  This gave the Russian squad on the first floor the chance to move into close combat with the German squad in the corridor.  After the combat, that German squad ran out of the back of the building and was useless for the rest of the game.

Now, the flare went up that signaled the trucks were away safely.  This switched the focus from being the rearguard to mere survival.  The second platoon under Chernikov left the trenches and headed towards the edge of town, with the engineers following them.  The ATG limbered up and left, just before the remaining German halftracks put on a burst of speed using their dead comrade as cover.  This carried them to the base of the hill, and they unloaded their troops behind the hill and prepared to storm the trenches.  Karpov and one squad got out of the building and onto the sidewalk, but one squad was trapped inside by German movements in the other rooms.  One squad of engineers in a building next to the key building was also cut off by the Germans, as they couldn’t move without being seen.  Having been under accurate close range rifle fire for some time, the MMG decided it was time to leave as well, and started heading downstairs.

Having contributed nothing to the proceedings up to now, Jr. Lt. Chernikov suddenly decided that the enemy was crumbling, and decided to launch 2nd platoon at the nearest German unit he could find.  It took about five Red Army KIA to convince him that he was wrong in his assessment, and he continued to retreat towards the edge of the board.  Karpov’s other squad managed to get out of the building, but the Germans inside raced to the windows and began to shoot them down like dogs, as they were moving in the open and at close range.  One of the German squads inside the building was close enough for Karpov and his squad to launch a close assault against them, trying to take some of the pressure off of their comrades in the street.  The close assault was a success, forcing the Germans back and costing only one Russian casualty.  Unfortunately, that casualty was Karpov himself.  His squad was still in good order though, so they picked up his body and began to retreat.  There was nothing else they could do to save the rest of First Platoon, and the other squad was killed to a man.

All these heroics must have impressed the commander of the engineers, as he suddenly decided he could not leave the one isolated squad of his unit to their fate.  Ordering the rest of the platoon to retreat, he headed into the building where his squad was located, intending to rally them and then cut their way out of the trap they were in.  A noble sentiment, but ultimately futile; he had just enough time to rally them before he was killed.  They were then close assaulted by a German unit, and the survivors were captured.  A similar fate awaited the MMG crew.  Although they were able to destroy one squad of Panzer Grenadiers, the combined fire of the other squads killed the last of the valiant Soviet defenders.  By now, everyone else had retreated off the board and the game was over.

Another victory, but another heavy butcher’s bill as well.  First Platoon started with 24 men, and ended with 12 (12/0).  Second Platoon started with 30 men, and ended up with only 18 (5/10/3).  Karpov was lightly wounded, so will only miss one engagement.  Overall, the units under Karpov’s command took almost 40 percent casualties.  They did achieve their objectives though, so that is good for something.   However, it is beginning to look as if the unit may have to be withdrawn for reorganization.  Before the post-game events are considered, there are barely enough men left in the company to make up one full-strength platoon.

Post-game events prove to be very interesting as well.  First, Karpov is recognized by the Battalion CO, Major Goryunov (Cheap/Arts/Military).  This proves to be another negative encounter for Karpov, even with a shared military background.  Looking at some numbers though, it’s easy to see why Goryunov might not like his subordinate.  Given Goryunov’s background, he wants maximum results for minimum expense.  Karpov has won 4 out of 5 battles.  However, two of the wins and the loss incurred heavy casualties.  Karpov might be the battalion’s ‘go-to officer,’ but don’t expect any elegant results, even by Soviet standards.  This almost certainly offends Goryunov’s cheap and artistic nature.  While recuperating, Karpov met Captain Lesovaya (Pleasant/Hedonist/Ranker), the battalion mortar company commander.  For some reason, they hit it off together.  Lesovaya isn’t really a friend in a high place, as he is a company commander just like Karpov.  However, being on good terms with a man that controls six 82mm mortars could be handy at some point in the future, particularly on the defensive….

Since Commissar Vlasov will be back for the next engagement, that means that Commissar Bodmachin (Glum/Hedonist/Military) will be going back to Regimental HQ.  Oddly enough, he has taken a shine to Captain Karpov.  Perhaps it is their shared Military background, maybe it is because Karpov didn’t say anything about Bodmachin’s running away from combat, or maybe it is something else.  For whatever reason, Karpov now has a friend at Regimental HQ, and that will undoubtedly help offset the negativity that Karpov somehow creates for himself.  

A new crop of replacements came in, and Karpov’s lack of friends is finally starting to show.  Because Goryunov and Klimkinov don’t like him, Karpov’s company got the lowest number of replacements it has ever received: only 12 men this time.  Now, some hard decisions have to be made about company organization, as this will give a total of only 42 men on the books, not counting officers.  That is barely one pre-war platoon.  In short, the unit is almost burned out.  I suspect that they probably have one good fight left in them before they are withdrawn for refitting.  This would keep them out of action for about 3 months.  There is something to be said for even surviving the summer of 1941 if you are in the Red Army, though.  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Captain Karpov Rides Again!

After taking a break over the summer (my game table is in the garage, and in Texas that means it is basically unusable during the summer months), it was time for the next installment in the adventures of Captain Karpov and the 1st Company of the 537th Rifle Regiment.
As you may remember, Captain Karpov had a regimental Commissar assigned to him, and was looking over his shoulder waiting for the NKVD squad to show up after he lost the last battle. This was not the case; in fact, Commissar Klimkinov thought that the two of them might actually hit it off together, since they both had a military background. Karpov, on the other hand, thought that he had to prove to this headquarters interloper that he was not a coward or traitor. It turns out that Karpov did prove something, just not what he set out to prove.

The company’s mission was to provide cover for a group of engineers doing some roadwork just off the table. The company is barely able to field two platoons right now, and so it was probably a good thing that the terrain turned out to be heavy. There was no artillery, no armor and no light support, so this would be a straight up infantry fight for the Red Army. The second platoon was looking for a fight though, and so would be rated as aggressive (pre-game event).

In August 1941, this was a full strength rifle company.
The terrain was heavy, as can be seen from the map below. While I thought that would be a good thing at first, it turned out not to be as helpful as I had envisioned.
Wooded Hill
Light Woods
Heavy Woods
Light Woods
As luck would have it, the company entered on area 7 (the open area at bottom left), and the German blinds entered between areas 1 and 2. The two forces advanced towards each other, but suddenly the Germans stopped in the woods at the edge of the hill and just waited. This was just fine for the Soviet force as the clock was still running, but Karpov was intent on showing that he wasn’t afraid of a fight. At this point, the Commissar was incapacitated for two turns on the random event card. The company pushed on without him, and as both platoon neared the base of the wooded hill, the Germans decided to move. This made them easier to spot, and the leading blind was quickly revealed to be the real force, consisting of 4 A blinds, 1 B blind and a C blind.
The B blind was spotted first, and turned out to be a tripod mounted MMG. Some amazing shooting from second platoon severely hurt the gunners, and first platoon wiped them out before they could respond. The other blinds turned out to be three squads of German infantry, and a 222 armored car. The German squads took up a firing line, and the fight was on. The German return fire caused only one casualty on second platoon, but unfortunately it was the brand new Jr. Sgt. Zinoviev who went down.
The flare went off saying that the engineers were finished, so now it was time to withdraw. This was not so easy though, as both platoons had taken enough shock to make moving difficult. One squad from second platoon had taken enough shock to lose its bottle and run off the board. The second squad retreated in good order carrying Zinoviev. First platoon was occupied with the German armored car that had moved down to the base of the hill and was trying to shoot them up with its 20mm cannon. Both squads from first platoon assaulted the A/C, with one of them getting two hits and knocking out the main gun. This was enough to convince the armored car that it needed to be away from the fighting, and rather quickly too.
The commissar had recovered by this point, and so he and Karpov were able to take enough shock off of the squads to let them move out of effective rifle range fairly quickly. The German infantry pursuit was half-hearted at best, and first platoon retreated off the board, ending the battle. By Soviet standards, the butcher’s bill was fairly light. First platoon took 6 casualties out of 22 engaged, and second platoon took 6 casualties out of 18, plus Jr. Sgt. Zinoviev. German casualties were estimated as 8, plus the damaged armored car.
Post-game events were almost as interesting as the battle. For the freeform event, first platoon attempted to go from poor troops to good troops and passed the roll! Finally, those months of being hammered on are paying off. Another roll determined that Jr. Sgt. Zinoviev was KIA, not just wounded. So much for being aggressive in your first command. For the first fixed event, the replacement commissar was transferred out of the unit. Apparently, Regimental HQ is convinced that Karpov is not a traitor. However, Commissar Klimkinov does NOT like Karpov; in fact, even with the modifiers for complimentary backgrounds the roll was a failure. Maybe Karpov made some sarcastic remark about Klimkinov “turning his ankle right before the battle started, and healing in time to leave.” Something like that would be consistent with Karpov’s character. At any rate, there is now one ‘enemy in high places’ for the company to deal with later on. The second permanent result was replacements, and enough were sent to bring one platoon up to 2 men over full strength. The die roll showed this to be second platoon, so that meant that 20 replacements joined the company. Now, that many replacements will get you an officer to shepherd them along so now Jr. Lt. Chernikov has joined the outfit. He is optimistic, with a religious motivation. He’s a Level II commander, so is either well trained or has some combat experience. He is of average background, and will be of Bold temperament for his first engagement.
Chernikov will take over the newly constituted second platoon. First platoon is down to 24 men (10/4/8), so second squad is broken up and the survivors divided between the other two squads. The two leftover new replacements are put into third squad, which gives first platoon two squads of 12 men each. At last, first company is finally starting to fill back out again. Who knows how long this will last though?