J22 - Oh Joy

The lads were ready until dawn the following day..
For my next PBM (with a new opponent) I resolved to take leave of my senses with a confusing blood bath. It is set in Stalingrad in October 1942 over the bottom right of the Red Barricades map. The Russians have just ‘found’ three working tanks (one with a flamethrower) and to take pressure off the pocket throw these along with assorted staff officers and wounded from the 118th line at the German line at dawn. The Germans are an equally mixed force of the 79th Division with various defensive gear. Their biggest problem is potentially that there is so little area involved for the actual fight so there will be less maneuver than continuous action. I took the Germans and the initial start positions were as follows.
This is the entire battle area so it is a mite crowded. It looks as if it will be a counter rich massacre..
I have placed some mines in the front central house with the concealment counters doing their best to be a strong forward line and concentrated most of the defences around the trenchline to the rear. Due to lack of space most of my tanks (a Panzer III, two Stugs and a half track) are forward of the defences.
As expected the game kicked off right from the start. My SSR requiring automatic NMC’s for all squads (terrain counted as a negative modifier so most tests were -2 to -4) lost only 1 broken squad though another passed with snake eyes and promptly berserked. The Russians seemed to be playing coy with the tank attempting to long shot the half track and only a couple of squads moving forward. This was not helped by another snake eyes on defensive fire which merrily stripped concealment.
My superb dice start continued when I ambushed the advancing squads down south so was able to withdraw forward and break then eliminate the Russian squad in the following prep fire phase. The half track carried on peppering the opposing Russian tank and failing to break its armour and the berserk squad charged into the disrupted conscripts which generated an interesting rules discussion. It was decided in the end that the squad would rout out as they only surrender to troops in good order and as the berserkers have every intention of wiping them out it makes eminent sense as well. The Russians, on the other hand, did manage to get their deadly 10-3 into play with their kill stack and broke my opposing machine gun nest.
Thhe red square shows where my concealed stack has just ambushed and withrawn to the next square. The Russians
in AA44 would get wiped out next turn through fire. Early successes up North can be seen by Russian DM troops though
not all those stacks were DM’d (counter fail)
This game was rapidly descending into the expected bloodbath and the counter density was causing various things to get missed. The half truck was eventually blown up and a succession of German squads broke in the front trenches. The berserkers swung onto a 6-2-8 squad and lasted a round managing a casualty reduction on a four which woke the Russian sniper who broke a further german squad in the south where  a Russian walking wounded squad and neg one officer managed to ambush my defenders  but failed to kill anyone in hand to hand. Due to the opposite dis-advantage my own defenders only gained a Casualty reduction in return which hit the officer.
Up North the Flamethrower tank pushed forward and utterly erased a defending officer and squad (random selection on the casualty reduction hit both and the officer then box carred his following morale check after wounding and dying the second time). A concealed squad with ATR then tried to get next door but was hit with a three that wiped that out as well.
I needed that tank out of the way (as it appeared incapable of rolling greater than 10) and moved a squad into combat. Getting exactly on the highest value needed immobilized it which means it wont be going anywhere but equally is sitting 2 hexes from two trench locations. It is looking like I will have to defend the trenches from behind the trenches..
The melee in the south would end in the Germans losing and the Russian officer wounding, the
berserk squad in the north east would not last much last longer. Key interest here is the green square
where the damned FT tank is about to get immobilized after destroying all the advantages I
had managed to build up in the early rounds!
Some small luck when its fuel ran out for the flame thrower next turn but that was counterbalanced by a lucky shot with its main armament against my moving forward Stug which took it out in one shot. My other Stug tried valiantly to destroy the other BT tank but after running out of APCR, AP, Smoke and failing an smoke dispenser  roll they probably realised their tank loading was sub standard. Trying to start up and reverse up they were brewed up by yet another lucky shot (a three) that easily penetrated the armour.
The Russians were pushing hard now but I still had a concealed stack with hero and leader (so minus two on any roll) sitting behind the trenches they needed to reach and a Panzer IIIH plus minefield to the south. Here the Russians survived a round of shots but were hit with an ITT critical (of three) when next door causing a level two morale check. The Panzer did not survive but I did manage to place a demolition charge on the Russian infantry next door which just broke the infantry allowing my elites to advance into combat with the bogged tank blowing it up! Fires were now raging everywhere and it was settling up to be  a tense last round.
The key final engagements start. The green box shows where tanks, demolition charges and god knows what else were occurring
the purple square shows where the remaining Russians were furiously attempting to break into the North trenches covered by their
immobilized FT tank in BB40
The game was very much attack and riposte. In the West I lost my final Panzer to a rear shot from the bogged BT which was equally then wiped by my demolition squad who having destroyed the defenders moved in to destroy the bogged tank in combat!
Don’t mess with the lads. They are not in the mood.
That flank was in trouble though as the Russians were able to run up the now undefended flank to get to the trenches where my lone elite squad was looking a bit swamped by enemy squads. The other key side was the North where my hero and officer stack was hiding behind the trenches. The Russians moved their 10-3 and an officer in and a magnificent 1KIA destroyed the squad and broke that cursed officer a follow up shot (why not) managed a casualty reduction which just wounded him. The remaining Russian assault engineers in that corner decided caution was the better part of valor and decided to occupy the trench in the advance phase instead. as far as I make it the Russians are now on 26 cvps plus will have two trenches bringing them to 32 whereas I have only amassed 16 pts. Assuming in my last turn I can win back the Northern trench and hopefully kill the defending Russians then that drops them 3 to 29 and increased me to 18 so I still need my other squad to take out one more and not die! eek!! Getting the broken squad back and hopefully ‘winning’ any combat in the Russian last turn would help but I am obviously babbling now.
Anyway the game carried on and things took an unpleasant turn. The Russians stormed in on my elite squad (not unexpected) but having a stealthy squad, lax squad, concealed squad, -1 officer had a scary -3 on the ambush succeeded in that then had -3 on the hand-to-hand dice roll (one of the Russians was walking wounded so +1) they then rolled an 8 killing the defenders and then marched straight into another trench! I had not expected that as I just saw the blaze and forgot that was a wreck blaze which had not spread. I tried some last ditch rules-mongering when I realised the walking wounded could not increase their movement and to get in the trench would cost three (1 cot,+1 smoke +1 trench) but queried it on game squad which turned out to be sensible as I had missed rule A24.7 which restricts the smoke addition to movement and rout phases so they did not get exhausted for minimum move.
This left my large stack with a big job to come back. The just moved stack was scary but was standing in a smoke hex so any shot out would be +6 (+2 tem +1 dawn +3 smoke) so I was not worried about fire – the demolition charge in the next trench was a different matter. I took a prep shot 24-1 and did enough for a morale check which casaulty reduced and broke the squad. Good. Next up I advanced my stack into the middle trench. I was hoping for an ambush (after all factors considered I was on minus one) but naturally I did not (though the minus one prevented him from ambushing me which would have been embarrassing and probably just caused a liesurely withdrawal). So onto combat. Here the walking wounded again helped as did my hero. I had minus three on a 3:2 hand to hand roll so needed eight. My roll of ten (sorry for the numbers!) minus the three dropped it to seven and I killed everybody. If the walking wounded squad had not been present then a mere casualty reduction would have occurred. Now for the return shot. Rather than break the log I stated he would need to decide if he was going for everybody (1:2 needing a 6) or picking on one squad (2:1 needing a 9) or half squad (4:1 needing am 11). I then rolled the hit. It was a box cars! For one glorious moment I considered repeating the earlier Russian tactic and advancing into the Russian trench thus denying control but checked the rule book first and indeed it blocks withdrawel into hexes containing known enemy units so I instead withdrew a squad to the next trench along (just to ensure I took control as I couldn’t remember if you needed to re-occupy after the other side had it).
The three trench fights after the combat has ended.
So it was over. I scurried through a new count of losses and the Russians had 33 cvps plus three for their trench so were on 36. I was onnnnn 24 and had missed by 2. The killer was my tank losses compared to the Russians immoblising its flamethrower but what a fight it had been. If I was objective I would have to say that without the hero it would have been a much bigger loss and I had been fairly consistently outplayed. But I do love games like this where the fight goes on to the end. Glorious…
Stress? fighting Russians like these in Stalingrad..what stress??

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