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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

…but Defeat is an Orphan

After two winning scenarios, I was feeling pretty good about my rifle company. With a loss rate for the unit running at about 32 percent, I was bumping up against my self-imposed ceiling of high casualty rates. If this were an American or British rifle company, those kinds of losses would be barbarous. Indeed, 25 percent losses over such a short period might be considered high for them. By 1941 Red Army standards however, the unit has two victories AND they have roughly a 1:1 loss ratio with the Germans that they have faced. It might sound harsh, but in the summer of 1941 a 1:1 loss ratio is a win for the Red Army. Clearly, the 537th Rifle Regiment is part of the broom that will sweep the Soviet Motherland clean of the Fascist invader:

The problem with a winning streak is that eventually it will end. The next mission that I rolled up was Scenario M, “A Hasty Defense.” The dice told me that I had only hours to prepare. Obviously, this would be the German counterattack to try and retake the village. Although I had rolled up 15 replacements after the attack, I decided that they probably would not have arrived in time so I would do without. Consequently, the map is the same as before, except that this time I was the one defending.




Light Woods

Village (with road)

Light Woods

Light Woods



Since Sr. Lt. Bartov got himself killed in the assault, and Politruk Vlasov was wounded, that left only Jr. Lt. Lobachevsky on the field. I decided that it was now time to bring in Captain Karpov, as he was the only other Big Man available to the company at this point. Interestingly enough, the pre-game event roll gave me High Morale, so maybe the Captain is not as unpopular as I thought he might be. Or, maybe the men were just a little more confident with a more experienced officer than Lobachevsky at the helm? With the reinforcements rolled up, my force was:

Platoons 1, 2, 3 (only 2 squads each due to losses)

Captain Karpov, Jr. Lt. Lobachevsky

2x 50mm mortars

3x MMG

2x 45mm ATG

3x T-26 (these would come in later, as reinforcements)

Since I knew the general direction the Germans would be coming from, I placed an ATG in the woods on either flank, and put the MMGs and men throughout the village and woods. My hope was that there wouldn’t be too many German vehicles, and that we could hold the attack at bay until my armor arrived. As it turned out, a defense plan with the word ‘hopefully’ is about as good as a financial plan that starts out, ‘When I win the lottery….’

The game started with two German stonks that killed some infantrymen and both of the limbers for my ATGs. Then, I watched in horror as a wave of German blinds rolled onto the board. One of my ATGs spotted tanks, and drew first blood, but it was mostly downhill after that. As the spotting rolls revealed the German force, it was very clear that they wanted this village back. I was facing:

3x infantry platoons (all at full strength)

2x HQ infantry squads

3x 50mm mortars

6x Leaders

1x MMG

1x ATR

4x Pz III

3x Pz IV

2x SiG 150mm Bison/Pz I SPGs

It was a large force, and a true combined arms assault. The tanks took on the ATGs, the light mortars smoked in the village huts so that the German infantry could advance, and the 2 SPGs fired on whatever the mortars couldn’t cover. While there were some small successes in the woods on the left, within minutes the Germans were in the village and a series of close combats broke out in the huts. Lobachevsky went down, and since his squad lost the assault, they didn’t stop to see if he was dead or wounded. Captain Karpov fought off one assault, but then was isolated, with Germans on his left and right. At this point, he decided to pull what was left of his command out of the village. At this point, things were so crazy that he and his squad were close assaulted in the street by another German squad. After he fought them off, the survivors streamed out of the village closely followed by the Germans. Things were so bad that the squad Karpov was attached to was machine-gunned, leaving him as the only survivor. At this point the T-26s arrived, only to be shot down by the Panzerwaffe. Two tanks were destroyed, and the other was abandoned due to damage. The game ended with the survivors running off the board, and the Germans re-establishing themselves in the village.

Soviet casualties were almost as bad as the combat results. 1 Platoon started with 19 men, and ended with 10. 2 Platoon started with 20 and ended with 7, although 5 of the 13 casualties were actually captured. 3 Platoon started with 20 men and ended with 11. Jr. Lt. Lobachevsky is MIA, presumed dead. That makes a total of 32 casualties out of 61 men in the company, and we haven’t even discussed the supporting units yet. Both of the ATGs were wiped out, as was one of the MMGs and both of the 50mm mortars. All 3 of the T-26s were lost, although only two were destroyed. German infantry casualties were light, only about 20-25 men. They did lose two Pz-IIIs and two Pz-IVs, and both of the SPGs were damaged, but there is no way this could be considered a Soviet victory, even a minor one.

The after game events were almost as bad as the battle. For the free-form event, I tried to get the survivors to improve to Good quality, but that was a spectacular failure. Obviously, the survivors knew they had been whipped. For fixed events, I got Manpower and Player Choice. The manpower result took away one of the MMG teams. For the player’s choice I took replacements. The die roll let me bring one platoon up to six men below book strength, and another die roll indicated that would be 2 Platoon. So, 17 replacements joined the company. That will boost the company roster from 28 men to 45. Of course, the company is so badly cut up right now that even if the designated platoon had been 1 or 3, the number of replacements would have been 14 and 13, respectively.

Right now, the campaign is on hold while I follow up some other projects. I am looking forward to getting back to Captain Karpov and his men. After all, it’s only early September 1941 in this campaign so there is still lots to do. Joe Legan has also said that he will be developing the “Middle of Nowhere” asymmetrical warfare expansion sometime in the future. That will be good, as I have some US miniatures eager for a campaign against Victor Charlie!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Opening Battles

Stalin is supposed to have said that it takes a brave man to be a coward in the Red Army. After the first three scenarios of my campaign, I would say that it takes an even braver man to be an officer in the Red Army. After three battles, my company is down to about platoon size, and only one of the original officers is left in action. Although I didn’t have my camera available for these actions, I’ll try and describe them.

The first action was a little one, to welcome Lobachevsky, the new Jr. Lt. It was a Raid scenario, which the dice decided would be a POW Snatch/Listening Post raid. The terrain was mostly open, with fields on the Soviet entry edge, and a ruined factory in the middle of the board to serve as a main objective. To make it even more interesting, I decided that this would be a night scenario. After all, even a brand new Lt. knows that you don’t try to snatch a prisoner in broad daylight. In practical terms, this meant that I never really knew what forces the Germans had arrayed against me, as I never spotted all of the German blinds. There were, however, 4 A type blinds and 2 B type blinds. The good Lieutenant had a force of two platoons, 2xMMGs for light support, and 2x82 mm mortars off board. The Soviets won the scenario by bringing back a prisoner, and inflicted 21 casualties on the Germans. However, 1st platoon took 18 casualties and 2nd platoon took three casualties, for a 1:1 exchange rate. After battle events gave me 2 replacement rolls, for a total of 16 men. Given their light losses, 2nd platoon did not get any replacements. I arbitrarily decided that the start date for this campaign would be August 1941, so the date of the first engagement was August 17. Using the time progression method from TFL’s Charlie Don’t Surf campaign rules, it would be about two weeks until my next battle.

The second action took place on September 3, 1941 and was a full-scale company attack on a German held village. This time, the terrain was moderately heavy and the board looked like this:




Light Woods

Village (with road)

Light Woods

Light Woods



The village only comprised about 6-7 huts, but higher command must have wanted it badly. I say this because every support roll for the Russian forces came up positive. The attacking force was:

Platoons 1,2,3 (1&2 have a 50mm mortar)

Commissar Vlasov, Sr. Lt. Bartov, Jr. Lt. Lobachevsky

4x82mm mortars for off board support

3x T-28 tanks for armor support

3xMMG for light support

1x Engineer platoon consisting of 3xSMG squads with an officer

2x 45mm ATG.

These went up against a defending German force composed of:

2x Infantry platoons,

3x leaders

3x MMG

Off-Board Artillery and an FO team


1x Pz III

The battle plan was tried and true 1941 RKKA. Engineers on the left in the woods, infantry and tanks spread out and making an assault across open ground to get into the village. It was truly a battle of extremes. Commissar Vlasov went down in the very first exchange of fire, and Lobachevsky led at least four successful close assaults with 3 Platoon to bring the right wing of the attack into the village itself. Bartov got his platoon to move into the village later in the attack, and the company pushed the Germans out of the village and won the scenario. In the last shot of the game however, the retreating Pz III fired into one of the buildings, got one kill, and that was Sr. Lt. Bartov. While losses among the officers were bad, the losses among the men were as severe. 1 Platoon had 11 casualties, 2 Platoon had 6, and 3 Platoon had 9 men down. The support units were hit heavily as well, with 2 T-28s and 1 MMG lost. We counted 31 German bodies, and 1 StG III killed.

Die roll results for after the battle proved to be interesting as well. One of the officers improved his skills, and a die roll determined that would be Commissar Vlasov, who was not dead but only wounded. One of the officers won notice from the Company CO, and once again the die roll determined that the lucky man would be Vlasov. Captain Karpov put him in for the Combat Service Medal, but that was turned down by battalion HQ. The company was scheduled to get 15 replacements, but events would negate that result, as I will explain later. Nevertheless, after two hard battles there were two victories, even with my poor quality troops. Clearly, On to Berlin! was our rallying cry. Unfortunately, reality was about to visit the 537th Rifle Regiment via our third battle, which I will describe in the next post.