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

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?