A4 - The Commissars House - Part Two


So managed to get the 2nd part up the next day…Originally this was posted late May 2014..


Natalia was cold, her shawl was threadbare and she had not washed or eaten well for months. She closed her eyes briefly at the thought of hot water and luxuriated in the memory of clean washrooms and hot steam.  Her thoughts moved effortlessly to Sergei and what he used to do with her after those baths but Sergei was probably dead now somewhere in the West.
 Depressed again she mentally emptied her head of the memories  and focused on surviving the night ahead. The city appeared quiet. It tended to be so at night unless her ‘comrades’ were launching a night attack and even then the unofficial grape vine tended to keep the civilians well informed and thus far away. In the distance a German machine gun started up spitting tracer into the night but soon fell silent again. Natalia was unconcerned, the Germans appeared less confident in the night and often appeared to fire just for the sake of it –  but she then stiffened at the sight of a fresh body propped dangling from a skeletal tree that had not been there the night before. A pilot, probably. She ran forward quickly until she reached the drooping figure. Quickly she started rifling his pockets smiling as she found some food stuffed in a pocket. The man groaned and startled she stepped back. No – he was in  no condition to stop her so she stepped back forward and stroked his head crooning  gently, “sleep, sleep mother is here” caring not whether the man even understood her or even if he was Russian or German. He soon quietened to carry on his final journey of dying and allowing her to finish robbing the soon to be corpse.
 These supplies could keep her and her family fed for a few more days. Now water and for this she needed to cross behind to the Kindergarten, neither occupied nor defended as it was dominated by larger surrounding buildings but still  priceless as it held a working tap. To her right the Administration building loomed and to her left the ruins of the Pharmacy. The night though was still dark. Move fast, move silently. She ran.
Analysis
So again for the first time since I played “the Guards Attack” in Squad Leader I am returning to Stalingrad. Not the campaigns which I hope (expect?) to do at some point but still. I have taken the Russian defenders against the 578th and Erwin Gast’s 50th Pioneer. My first was how many counters were involved – especially sky blue ones. The SSRs indicate the designer thought the Russians needed lots of help so the booby traps and high sniper number will help whittle down the enemy (and give a very authentic Stalingrad feel, nowhere is safe for the drunken Nazi stormtroopers!). This is needed as the Germans start so close to their objectives and have a huge nine turns to gain them.
I have also resolved to run a forward defence using the concealment counters to protect units in row seven from Germans starting next to them. Since I am so forward I will use my HIP choices as last ditch attempts to prevent defeat. One squad will be hiding in rubble near to the Chemist house. Trenches placed close by will hopefully help to subtlety funnel German troops away from its location. The next is at the rear of the Commissar’s House itself. These will be hopefully reveal and force an entering German back out allowing a surprise attack and the final will be hiding well away from the stairwell on the first floor of the Commissar’s House. I will try and put down lots of fire and fall back gradually. It would be nice if I could get some units into the sewers and popping up behind the Germans as well.
Both sides starting setup setup
German & Russian Turn 1
The Germans did a lot of prepping – which pleased me as it meant less pressure on my front line. I had to show the dummy on the right of the board but lost little else. In the movement phase lots of smoke appeared(my oppo made all rolls bar one even on the lesser smoke exponent of three). he then took some extreme risks including moving a 4-6-7 over a 6 residual square (survived) and a flamethrower 838 next to a concealed 628 (flamethrower broken). The biggest risk was two 467′s and an officer moving as a stack over the smoke next door to another concealed 6-2-8. They luckily survived. The German heavy machine gun then went on a tear versus the corner of the Commissar’s House but my troops resisted all attacks. In the west the same pattern repeated but here a squad tried to force the issue by advancing next to my machine gun post and was broken and casualty reduced for its trouble. A 9-1 officer with a demolition charge then tried to repeat the feat, survived the residual but then lost out to a ‘final protective fire’ shot with a K result . His wound roll failed and he was down. The enemy carried on pressurising and another fpf shot by the same stack caused all of my boys to break.
In the advance fire phase my sniper woke up and managed to land on top of the 9-2 officer, 467, 467 stack in the road and when doing random selection my oppo rolled a 6 for the officer and a squad. The squad pinned and the officer failed his wound roll and was killed! To increase the Soviet joy the broken half squad in the west was then eliminated for failure to rout.
The final German action was to advance into combat against a pinned unit in the west ambush didn’t happen and combat inconclusive on both sides.
On my turn there occurred much skulking. My heavy machine gun went on a rate tear of its own and broke the German heavy machine gun and officer squad (the officer wounding after box caring his morale check) which took that problem out of the way. A German medium machine gun was then lost in when he rolled a six in the repair phase. I moved another squad into the ongoing melee and killed the German for the loss of a squad.
So far so good. My front line will only be able to hold on another turn and though I have hurt him somewhat his troops have high morale and will recover quickly. My biggest advantage is in taking out two of his officers –  on the other hand he started with ten!  so I doubt he will miss them that much.
End of first turn – American Concealment counters are being used to remind me of the HIP unit locations (and in later game shots as this is a skype counter game). The Germans made little progress in their first turn.
German Turn Two to German turn three
The Germans attacked building cc7 aggressively and spread out from the W9 building killing a squad for failure to rout. A demolition charge attack was noticeably not effective but they did manage to eventually break the squad holding them up in Z7 and seize the northern part of cc7. Flankers starting to appear in the East with the chemists house essentially shut off from rest of the Russian defence. Another 3-3-8 advanced into combat with the concealed squad on the ground floor and was ambushed and eliminated immediately. On the next Russian turn I moved slowly back. The biggest stories were the very effective heavy machine gun which destroyed two squads in AA9 reducing them to one half squad and then casualty reduced an 8-3-8 which had moved into x8. Next a German Officer moved into cc8 and set of a booby trap Random selection knocked out a 8-3-8 with flamethrower (this squad then fired the flamethrower point blank (running out of fuel) and pinned the opposing squad and then that advanced into combat – reduced it to a 3-3-8 ) My Sniper initially was not effective but following the second Russian turn he became a superstar. First up he essentially annihilated the broken squad plus officer in the X2 building on the other board casualty reducing the squad twice (to destruction) and then executing the officer who had just rallied and moved back to pick up the abandoned heavy machine gun. That threat being neutralised a handy two roll then allowed him to relocate to the other board and AA3 ready to assist with the defence of the building.
We stopped here for the night and I plan now to pull the medium machine gun back to the ee3 trench ready to create a fire lane with my sewer guys trying to move around ready to pop up and cause havoc in rear areas. The Central defensive force and chemist house will remain strong and fight to the death. It looks like my HIP unit in r4 might be tripped by the German  flanking force.
End of Russian Turn 3. The forward Russian positions have been pushed back or broken
Sergeant Harmut peered myopically over the road, hunched over he endeavoured to show as little of his body as was humanely possible – Russian snipers were everywhere it seemed. The road in front was clear of everything except intermittent rubble. No useful cover.. The building over the road loomed dark and ominous. As he watched a line of tracer spat out from the ground floor. Behind him was what remained of his platoon. They huddled in cover quietly, some were taking advantage of the presence of Muller with his flamethrower to light a cigarette. Against regulations but no one would stop it before an attack – at least Harmut would not. Not when the enemy knew exactly where they are.
 Signalling briefly the squad rose and together flung several smoke grenades out into the road. Instantly a light screen appeared and Harmut grunted happily at the sight. He thumped his fist up and down rapidly to get the squad moving and they ran out into the road. He noted, with some irritation, that the new Lieutenant was joining them. Better for all if he let this to the experts. As they crossed the road and approached the building the Lieutenant suddenly bent over and picked up a Soviet machine pistol. Harmut reached out his hand to stop him but was too late. A sudden explosion ripped through his squads ranks and when the dust settled half his men were down. Cursing  he stood up and brushed himself off and then cursed even more at the sight of the officer apparently unharmed cowering inside a shell hole. Curse the man.
 “Get that bloody thing in action”, he shouted at the flamethrower operator – no point keeping quiet now – they might as well have a neon sign above their heads saying ‘shoot me here!’ and from the amount of Russian fire splattering around them this might as well have been true. Muller braced himself and sent a stream of flame into the building and then the flame gutted and stopped. “Out of fuel!” he shouted.
 Schmidt  for an instant wondered if he needed to expand his dictionary of swear words but he did not have the time. The smoke was starting to thin and they needed to get off the road.
  “In, take them out – follow me!”, he drew his own Browning pistol – taken from a British officer in Belgium only two years ago, though it seemed a lifetime now. He ran forward to scramble up some rubble leading to a first floor window. It made no sense to enter at the ground floor. Rushing through the empty floor he threw a potato masher down the stairs and after the crump of the explosion  jumped over the landing railing down the stairs. He landed badly on the floor below but behind several Russians who were stumbling coughing towards the stairs. With a fluid motion he yanked his field spade from its position on his back into the face of the first and sprayed fire with the Browning into the others. At this range it was difficult to miss. You mustn’t panic and must aim calmly. As the Russians spun to face this new threat the remains of his squad started to move down the stairs and a couple more ran up to the ground floor window and started shooting in.
Russian Turn 3-Russian Turn 4
Over the next few turns the Germans took full advantage of their penetration of the Russian lines and swung around their entire central force to hit the Chemists Shop. This just left a relatively weaker force to continue pushing the Russian left wing backwards. Initially my luck appeared to fail though the reality of it was that the German assault engineers mutually supported can do great damage even in the assault fire phase especially if close enough and my remaining forces essentially disintegrated under the pressure.
The defence of the Chemists Shop scored another break and re-demoralised existing broken Germans but only after the only defending officer was killed after a boxcars on a morale check followed by a failing wound roll. 75% of the units were broken by German fire and ran upstairs. The last remaining Russian unit advanced unto combat with a combat engineer locking it in melee. Luckily perhaps the most southerly German troops missed entering my HIP unit hex by 1 square and though these were then pinned next door providing a tempting target I resolved to stay hidden. The Germans will need another turn to completely take the building and another turn to get moving again towards the Commissars House so the defence has done its job.
On the left flank another couple of box cars broke and reduced squads in the perimeter of the main building which was unfortunate but I did manage to break an officer and another squad. The hero of the left was the previously moved Russian Sniper who was apathetic in turn three but woke up in Russian Turn four landing right next to a broken German officer and executing him. Then a couple of enemy rolls after struck again with another ’1′ to kill another broken German officer… The Germans had started with ten officers and were now down to four at the half way point with three on their left flank and one in the central rear.  Two had been killed by K results and box caring morale checks but the other four had all been taken out by the Sniper. This could badly impact the Germans later on –  at least I hope it will. We now stopped again. I have lots of troops in the Commissars House but the perimeter defences are quite weak – though I would expect them to delay the Germans a turn further at least (most notably the two machine gun positions ability to lay down a fire lane along the roads surrounding the house). The Germans still have a full five turns to go and plenty of firepower to do the job.
The Chemists shop about to fall and the Hitlerists are starting to pressurise the Commissar’s House. To the far left the concealed medium machine guns is about to lay a successful firelane down the road that delays the German assault by another turn.
 Sergei Lavrov shifted his toes slightly and attempted to will away the itching of what appeared to be several hundred hungry lice. To his right he could see his team mate Anna’s bum wiggling as she slowly crawled forward to take a flanking position on the heavy machine gun ahead. The sight of the bum took his mind of the itching but not for long. He cursed silently all lice. Suddenly a shot rang out and a scream could be heard – at this all localised thoughts disappeared and his focus increased. He relaxed his body and sighted his rifle at the spot he had selected at the entrance to a door. A single German soldier scurried through nervously and he did not shoot – common soldiers were not what they were hunting today and anyway the man had allowed him to perfect his aim point – he would live for the moment. The sounds of shouting and running could be heard from Anna’s position and he waited. Sudden movement and an officer ran through. Mentally Sergei just had two rapid thoughts  – iron cross, officer – kill and  reflexively fired drilling the  German officer  straight through the forehead. The man was flung backwards spraying the men behind him with blood and brain matter. Those men promptly went to ground and did not start shooting – “no threat”, Sergei muttered to himself. Still he started to wriggle backwards. Time to relocate – never stay in the same place after making a kill. Anna came round the corner running low and they ran off to an earlier pre-prepared position where they had expected the Hitlerists to move through. It had been a busy day and the targets were plentiful. 
German Turn 5 to German Turn 6
Over the next two turns the Germans crushed the remaining resistance in the Chemists house and dealt efficiently with my remaining perimeter forces  with all being broken or killed  at the end of the sixth turn. A Fire lane from EE3 delayed them a  turn but as I was unable to protect the machine gun squad with another unit it caused a huge movement by German forces who crushed the squad and the officer in close combat and then salvaged the machine gun the following turn. I was less bothered by this as without an officer close by this would slow down the 8-3-8 a lot and reduce the amount of units hitting me at close range in the building. At this point anything that persuades the Germans to shoot and not assault is fine by me. Indeed my next objective is to avoid shooting at anything that would be attractive to prep fire…..On my turn I started moving the sewer boys towards the abandoned heavy machine gun (hoping to sneak to it and use in last turn or two) but got lost and moved in the wrong direction with the plan then collapsing entirely as the German officer in the central rear finally rallied his half squad and then moved there to grab it themselves but failed to pick it up (will no doubt succeed next turn) perhaps not realising the weapon is cursed.. Again this was fine by me as it takes 25% of the remaining German officers miles from the main action.
At the crux building the Germans did manage to get a 3-3-8 with a demolition charge next to the fortified building but I manged to pin it and after it proved remarkably resilient to repeated point blank shots I then took the risk of advancing into combat with a concealed 6-2-8. I won the ambush but then rolled a 10 and did not kill them. That combat then continued in the next German turn with neither unit seemingly capable of killing the other. Still this is good for me as I did not want that demolition charge in play and the melee does a good job of keeping it tied up plus potentially dragging other Germans into the same. My biggest fears are the demolition charges and flamethrowers (one of the last was broken as it moved into range of the heavy machine gun). If I can force the German to use prep fire and assault fire to try and break into and around the building then he will be too slow and will be unable to seize the building in his last three turns..
We stopped again here for the week.
End of German 6. On the right you can see my lonely hip squad in R4 bravely waiting whilst all the Germans move away. Last Russian turn I will now be able to move back into the Chemists house and retake the building thus denying victory even if the Germans manage to take the Commissars house….
To the last Russian turn..
Once the flanking forces were down it was only a matter of time and the Germans rapidly pushed forward towards the Commissar’s House. My sniper again woke up and executed the German officer carrying the heavy machine gun south plus half the squad he was with, a couple of rolls later and he repeated the feat with the other half squad leaving the gun on the floor – as I said that Gun was cursed losing two full squads and two officers only to be used for two turns. Around the Commissar’s House to the left one of the assault engineers threw smoke and missed but decided to assault move anyway. After the resultant fire finished the squad managed to generate a hero and was unbroken. The sea of continuous 32+3′s eventually broke the ground floor squad and the Germans gained their first foot hold in their target building. On the other side I held my fire to only target flamethrowers and squads with demolition charges and proved unfortunately successful in that I managed to break the 10-2 officer who went back to V6 to rally – close enough to intervene with my sneaky ploy to retake the Chemists shop. The masses of troops who managed to get close due to this then proceeded to encircle my heavy machine gun (who failed to rate at this key time) and successively wounded the officer, pinned the squad , jammed the machine gun, then had the leader battle harden to a 9-2 then broke. Since the stairwell was now occupied by the Nazi’s they were all destroyed for failure to rout. An equally unfortunate tale occurred to the East of the building. By my last turn I only had two hexes occupied.
I managed to bugger my own plan up in the last Russian turn. My HIP squad revealed and sneaked back into the Chemist’s shop and I also decided to reveal and leave the HIP squad on the ground floor in the Commissar’s House with another unit. This was stupid. With every location fortified I would have been better running the non-concealed boys upstairs (avoiding fire) and leaving the HIP squad  – the Germans might have advanced in and bounced and again that would have saved me several fire attempts. Finally I also remembered my sewer boys and advanced them around – too far away to do anything useful. My last machine gun squad ran into the south easterly victory hex to try and prop up the defence.
You can see the enormous stack of Germans in the woods (including a rallied 10-2) who were just in range of my concealed squad who just recaptured it. Great…
Last German Turn
So it all came down to this turn. In the chemists shop the 10-2 and 3 squads plus another 8-0 officer ran over to the building and moved next to my concealed squad. A quick advance fire and my concealment was stripped. In the Commissar’s House the two squads in the bottom left were frazzled alive by the flamethrower with a flame starting in the hex. My other obvious hex took so much fire that the remaining unit was pinned leaving the officer alone. A demolition charge blew a hole in the wall allowing all close units to swarm forward into close combat.
The last desperate fighting turned out all right as my opponent proved that his bad die rolls were no fluke. First up in the Chemist’s House an 8-3-8 and two 4-6-7′s plus a 10-2 and an 8-0 moved into the hex with my single 4-4-7. For the ambush roll I rolled a 1. With the 10-2 present there was only one roll which would save me and my oppo made it with a 6. Naturally I refused combat and withdrew to another square in the building.
Outside the Commissar’s House in the road the ‘melee of eternity’ had been merrily carrying on over the last three turns and here the Germans finally fed two more half squads in. This rather appeared to wake the Russians up and they casualty reduced one for no loss.
Now finally the Commissar’s House I rolled a 2… Now there was only one roll that could save me and by strange co-incidence my opponent rolled another 6. Rather than withdraw (as I had won already) I did not bother to withdraw and fought. I did no damage and my opponent only casualty reduced my squad. So ended the game. My HIP unit on the middle floor had not been troubled so I had not been at much risk but even with my opponents die rolls from hell (an impressive fairly common 6-10 over 4 weeks of playing using different dice and a dice tower is an unusual achievement) had not stopped my opponent from getting close to winning. Both buildings combats should have been easy wins for the Germans and with an extra turn that last HIP unit could have been found by furious running squads through. In the end the German forces lost 70% of their officers (and over half those kills were to the Sniper) and around 65% of the engineers and 70% of the Grenadiers. The Russians lost 80% of their officers and 80% of its troops.
The end. The Russians managed to hold both buildings – just.

Closer to the factories Natalia was no longer cold. Terrified yes, panicking perhaps, frantic certainly. She needed to get to somewhere safe and fast but every route taken was filled with death. She shivered from fear as she peered slowly over a broken wall. Close by a large squad of Germans was blasting the administration building with fire. The sound was horrific and something like a band of enormous cuckoos going berserk on a metal tree with the intermittent thump of grenades. She pressed her hands over her ears and lay back whimpering. No point remaining here better to go while everyone was distracted killing each other. The Volga was right behind so the only safe area would be behind the German attack. With a plan in mind she calmed and sprinted off.
 Sergei sucked his bleeding thumb and glared at the inanimate broken glass as if it had personally offended him by being both broken and sharp. A low thumping sound moved his attention back out again, Anna was signalling – what and where. Glancing through the scope he smiled at the sight of a small group of Germans along with an officer carrying a large machine gun towards the front. A shot rang out as Anna took out the Officer with a head shot. Sergei followed it with a couple of fast shots himself. The remaining Germans dropped the gun and tried to run. Sergei hummed as he and Anna dealt with them as they rather stupidly ran directly away from the snipers up an open street. ‘Duck shoot’ he mumbled. Suddenly another figure appeared from the German front line zigzagging towards the gun. “Persistent, drunk fools”, he thought and almost casually shot this one over open sights. The figure crashed down and was still. Sergei reloaded and prepared to move…again.
 Natailia was cold again. Lying close to a German machine gun surrounded by corpses she pressed her hand over the enormous wound to her stomach that had so casually punched her to the ground. Strange really  that she could not feel any pain. She rolled over on her back and looked up at the sky. Pretty she thought. Shame about.."

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