AP42 - Frontiers and Pioneers

For my next PBEM I have an old favourite from the ‘East Front’ Action Pack. In this scenario decent German forces with a smattering of early German tanks (and two flamethrowers) have to seize a village from an almost equal sized Russian force who have an equal smattering of tanks including an (almost) impregnable KV-1. The Russians have to spread thinly to cover the two objective points so the Germans can concentrate fast. The Germans also arrive on motorcycles so can get close fast if not blocked on entry. I have played this twice before as Russian and lost heavily in both games. Therefore this is my try three. As often happens my setup has now morphed according to the pain I received in both those games. The key section in each was the road between the two victory points that tended to contain a victory parade of German tanks that is still horrifically seared onto my memory. Therefore my light BT tanks and the AA gun are both situated off the road but in position to support within. Elsewhere the KV and a lone squad protect my right flank with my biggest defensive force in the central factory/village. I also have taken a valiant Commissar and rather hope he does not spend his time joyously executing my rallying troops as he did last time.
German Setup
Was interesting, all !! The German tanks lined up by the mid South road and the infantry was then split around 2/3 east most South road and 1/3 Eastern Road. This makes my squad plus light machine gun very well placed to lay down some painful residual fire and potentially hurt all that risky bike movement. I may consider a fire lane for extra amusement as well which if the SE infantry move first would give a 6 +1 along with a 1fp lane with 1 down 2 after that on anyone else. Plus a 4 down 2 on Easterly troops. If the East approach is taken then 8 down 2 followed by the fire lane for everyone else This potentially makes the German infantry less dangerous but the tank placement might be a master stroke as I don’t have a lot that can break that many tanks in that direction that quickly.
Svetlanna shrugged as she picked up the sack. She staggered slightly as she rested it on her shoulders and then tottering slightly forced herself to shuffle to the farm. In the distance the Commissar could be seen directing a huge tank reversing into one of the barns. She avoided him, probably best and moved to the front room. Here Lieutenant Pavlov was positioning a machine gun. She dropped the sack unceremoniously and peered through one of the windows. Everything looked so peaceful and normal but it was anything but. The Nazis were coming and no-one seemed able to stop them.
At the opposite end of the village another tank was taking position. This was equally huge – a symbol of the strength of the Soviet Union and its young crew leader had total faith in its capabilities. The Nazis would not know what hit them. He patted the muzzle like a favoured pet unselfconsciously before hauling himself up to check the sight lines. There were three routes into their defensive position and he had almost sole responsibility for defending the west most road. His crew were attempting to camouflage the tank and no succeeding particularly well not helped by a couple of his crew being ordered to assist in building the central defences. Sergei was uncertain whether it was absolutely necessary for his attractive female gunner to be quite so important when a full company of infantry was available but who was he to challenge the political imperatives?  Svetlanna could certainly look after herself as she had proved several times in the campaign so far. Some miserable peasants trudged past – no doubt annoyed by the destruction of their homes. Well if the defence failed then they could expect worse…
The Game
As is usually the case in ASL my expectations of what to expect proved drastically off of the mark. The tanks piled in but kept well off the road and seemed to be attempting to sweep up the west road (they will bump into both the KV and the AT Gun hopefully so I am fine with this). The Easterly infantry force swished in and cut behind the Eastmost wood to disembark. This was also unexpected as it will leave them with a long ground slog to get where they need to go.
German infantry in a bit of bother due to that Russians quad to the right
The first couple of turns were the standard swings and roundabouts of an ASL game. My single squad plus light machine gun managed to hold up all the enemy infantry bar 1 squad whereas on the other flank the German tanks rapidly made a nuisance of themselves. I took a chancy AF shot with my T35 at a stationary Panzer and missed, took one with the starboard 45L and critted! Typically the shot was a dud and bounced (shoddy Russian ammunition). Equally typically the return shot made the T35 a burning wreck (in my calculations I had forgotten it was a large target). At this point though the more standing and prepping the German does the happier I would be…
My little light machine gun squad in the woods started attracting in an inordinate amount of attention in the German movement with loads of units swarming such that I don’t expect to survive the advance fire let alone the combat phase. I held fire though as it was the juicy motorcycle riding troops on the road that I wanted to delay. The first one attempted to dismount and was broken for their troubles with a shot down the road. The fire lane was then laid breaking a further dismounting squad who could not avoid it, the rest of the Germans set off East! Into the grain to try and get away. The key thing though was that at the end of German turn 2 they were still scattered around that entrance road (and could have been well on their way to assaulting the village..). The end of the turn did not bring any succor. I managed to Defensive First Fire and pin the flamethrower squad and then survived the two advanced fires that came my way. Two squads then advanced into combat and my heroic single squad managed to ambush the Germans! Happily I withdrew a hex to carry on being a thorn in the sides of the German Army, for a squad I was expecting to generate half a turns worth of delay it is currently at two turns blocking of the entire German infantry force! Not bad for a squad with a light machine gun..
The lone Russian squad is still fighting by turn 3. Though it has shifted somewhat to the left of its start location helped by a helpful ambush withdrawal.
The Germans needed to do something to bring it back so aggression levels increased dramatically and several tanks moved very close to the village whilst a further tank moved to potentially support the infantry.  I lumbered my KV over to threaten one of these (a 50) – after all if they did hit then it would need a three to destroy with the range.
Naturally the 50 spun its turret rolled an eight hitting the turret then managed a three to blow it up. Typical.
KV has gone at W0 (sob)
Continuing lucky German shooting the flamethrower ‘of infinite ammo’ casualty reduced one of my squads with the remainder deciding going Berserk and charging the said flamethrower would be a winning move. It wasn’t. A barbecue move perhaps but not so much ‘winning’. Things carried on getting worse, the escaped KV crew (hoorah!) was broken by the co-axial machine gun (boooo) and then the Panzer IV managed another three on my concealed 9-2 and heavy machine gun squad. Naturally the officer broke and squad pinned. Things were starting to look very arse shaped. To make matters even worse the Russian sniper refused to wake up over four sniper activation rolls.
Birds must be deaf. The valiant Commissar plans a heroic death
I was now starting (turn three) to have to make the important decision as to whether to aim for the bug hunt win. Here I would move to the East of the Map to try and draw German forces to that side and keep the Anti-tank gun HIP. That way it would reduce the search chances. I don’t particularly want to win this way though so we will have to see how the BT tanks can hold off the enemy but to keep it in mind.
German 3 movement was reasonable for me I  casualty reduced (and broke and ELR’ed both the remaining half squad and accompanying officer) the flamethrower squad, broke another and in a rare moment of luck the Russian squad in the West in the hex with the German tank managed to remember they were carrying Molotovs and destroyed the 50 that had so luckily destroyed my KV. Beyond reminding my opponent how dangerous the Russian infantry can be it also provided handy smoke to shield my boys from another German tank that had moved next door and increased my victory points total to 12 (two tanks plus crews, one half squad and one officer neg one dropped). The scenario does have a hard cvp cap of 25 so another couple of tanks and a squad and I could have another victory type to aim for.
The CC covers the 50 with a Russian Molotov squad,  you can also see the mess the Panzer made of my best defences around T0 and S1
Bye, Bye Panzer. Burning beautifully and protecting me from the supporting German tank
The German advance fire phase was worryingly competent with three successive threes. Only one did any damage and that broke a unit that I would have self-broke to pull out anyway. That final shot also finally woke up my sniper who satisfyingly landed on a stack and drilled the German 9-1 through the head with the accompanying squad failing its leader loss morale check and elr’ing as well as breaking. Two more casualty victory points brought my total up to 14. As the Russian turn four ended I shifted the two BT tanks next to the front wood. They are not expected to last very long but to prevent some of the Germans moving up by making them prep to kill. That would hopefully gain another turn of defence.
The BT move was a partial fail as one of them was brewed up fairly quickly by one of the German tanks and though the Commissar proved useful at cycling back broken squads the Germans applied enormous pressure on the wood charging masses of troops forward and in the center swinging two tanks round to threaten the middle bastion.  My defence was reasonable managing to casualty reduce two squads,breaking two (one with a flamethrower and its accompanying officer) but in return losing the forward squad to a final protective fire shot failure. The Germans, in that area, were left with a full squad to enter the wood and two half squads who could advance into combat with the other squad plus Commissar. My defensive fire might have proved decisive though. First up my other BT attempted to blow up another Panzer III who had shifted to two hexes away and stopped. I took one standard then an intensive before hitting and then failed the kill roll with the shot ricocheting of the front armour. In the center my Anti-tank rifle took a shot at one of the tanks in the road, hit and also saw the shot fail to penetrate.
the right flank is getting a little hectic. Keep note of the just stopped German tank in R0
I now had to decide whether to go for it with the AA gun. If I kept it hidden I was fairly certain it would not be found in time allowing a sneak victory but did not think that would be a particularly ‘fun’ way to win or lose.
The position prior to the AA gun reveal, would you go for it?. The gun is in Y5 bore sighted to X4
So I revealed and took a shot at the rear bypassed tank (the Panzer IV). First shot was a snake eyes so I rated with multiple-hits. The two ‘to kills’ were both above 8 and below 12 so the tank was destroyed with the crew not surviving.
I then took a shot straight down the road at the other tank and missed with the first shot and no rate. Using intensive fire I risked a third and hit in the hull with the to-kill being enough to brew it up.
Two more German tanks down and things look much harder now for the Germans..
This brings me very near to cvp victory with 4 tanks gone (20 points) a negative one office (2 points) and three half squads (3 points) I was exactly on the cusp. The Germans had not lost yet though they would have to be very careful of more casualties (the key being my BT tank was  2 hexes from a stopped German tank with -2 acquire so ‘should’ be able to get another and even if the Germans attacked my commissar squad in combat I could target a half squad in return at 2:1 odds fora  good chance to steal another cvp. My opponent conceded.
The decider here was the setup. If the infantry had had a tank then that tank could have ‘dealt’ with my lone squad allowing a combined arms attack earlier against the target. As it stood the delay forced the German armour to need to attack on its own which in the end was indeed too risky. Enjoyed the game!


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