A Tankie’s Travels* – “From the Desert to the Dnieper” player AAR

*with apologies to Jock Watt

On Sunday the 25th October, Lee played in the Crawley Wargames Club/Breakthrough Assault
“from the Desert to the Dnieper” tournament.  Today we bring you his After Action Report

Well, this is novel.  I don’t think I’ve played in a tournament that I haven’t ran, in some capacity, since my 40K days!  The up-shot of this is that when I did play in a tournament I rarely enjoy it because I’m stressed, over-caffeinated and trying to balance adjudicating with playing.  

Duncan had, however, done a number of interesting things with his tournament that coaxed me out of my tournament exile.  Firstly he had placed a lot of emphasis on historical background for the forces, secondly he had emphasised that this was a more casual tornie than the ones of old, and finally he was using a “raffle” format for prize giving which meant everyone had a shot at a prize, battlefield success just meant an earlier dip in the prize pool.

So, I was in, but what to field?

The List

I had planned on running 10th Panzer in Tunisia using Iron Cross for the lists but Duncan needed allied players.  My Soviets were a long way from complete so it was time to dust off my tried and trusty brits!  I had last looked at these in the dawn of version four but had not really done much with them since.  Thankfully, the army had been stored so, save a few missing AA MG, it was in good nick.

My British force has been based on 3RTR in the desert since v1 (due to a family connection with the post war RTR) but, post a v3 era repaint of most the tank units, had shifted from post El-Alamein to a Gazala era 7th Armoured Div/4th Armoured Brigade scheme.  This was mostly to justify a Honey Squadron that could be used in both early war (Battleaxe) and the earlier stages of Mid War, and reflected my preference for the eccentric M3 Grant over the great but over-done M4 Sherman. 
Over the years I had done a decent amount of research on the force so I was well aware of the different units that made up the Brigade and Division and built this into my list.

My first v4 list – 100pts of British armour

The biggest issue was that I apparently had been using an illegal force!  My normal sub-100pt force was a Stuart Squadron with one Grant troop and three Honey troops supported by a Honey and Grant troop, plus 25pdr and recce.  What I hadn’t realised was that you can’t have formation support platoons if they were already in a formation! Doh!

Still, I could still field all the same tanks, just needing two, relatively brittle, formations to do it.  It did let me field 16 Stuarts and 6 Grants, with points for the near-essential 25pdr, some Stuka warding Bofors guns and some Universal Carriers from the Rifle Corp.  An infantry platoon would have been nice but the infantry had born the brunt of the punishment over the year;s and really needed to be repainted, if not scrapped and replaced.

A final agony was having a point left over.  I pondered soft skins for either the 25pdr or the Bofors.  I eventually decided on Lucky to reflect the fact that B squadron’s HQ ended up de-horsed four times over the course of the Gazala battles.  Lucky seemed appropriate!

On Arrival…

Somewhat sleepy from an early start courtesy of the youngest, plus a need to allow for train replacement buses, I pitched up at the Crawley Wargames Club (thanks to Leigh for the last leg lift!), a rather unassuming hut in the middle of a wood (okay, that’s making it sound sinister) that, when entered, revealed seven well terrained tables (plus an eighth as a TO station).

More important it revealed what looked like an endless supply of tea and chocolate digestives!  +5pts to morning morale!

Duncan was taking a relaxed approach to pairings, there being enough diversity of clubs to just let each axis player find an allied player on a suitable table.  Having spent considerable effort coming up with excel sheets to do this scientifically, I was quite miffed that it worked so well.

The use of one continuous board with a spanning narrative made for a nice visual centrepiece of the tornie.

Having a desert themed army I headed to the long table of three desert boards.  Duncan asked that the allies go one side to give the illusion of one big battle but everyone agreed that the terrain was suitably balanced that no-one was hard done by this approach.  It certainly did look impressive as Stuarts and Valentines surged forward (and then rapidly exploded)

Game One
Martin’s 90th Leichte Div

I found myself on the central table facing off versus Martin, who has since joined us on the Breakthrough Assault writing team, and his 90th Leicte Division.  I was quite impressed to see DAK infantry being taken as a formation given the normal complaints about small squads but the real stand out was a pair of Bison SP guns!  Martin was cleverly using a two-gun Lorraine Schlepper battery as a stand-in for the self-propelled infantry gun.  Its not a perfect match (the Bison having a touch more front armour and a hull MG in the v3 lists) but its good enough and great to see the models on the table.
The Bison were accompanied by the obligatory platoon of 7.62cm guns, an AA platoon, a platoon of Italian M14 tanks, three Dianas and a mixed platoon of PzIII (two short, one long up-armoured and one 7.5cm)  
Well, I say great…

I chose a manoeuvre stance, as did Martin and we rolled up Encounter; regular readers will know this is my least favourite mission ever since v2…

Here I ran into my first problem in so far as I had not really put much thought into what would be my 36pt reserve block.  I eventually elected to have the Grant HQ, two Stuart troops, a carrier patrol and the Bofors off.  That seemed like quite a lot of stuff!

Martin set up infantry on each objective, one accompanied by the 7.62mm guns and M14, the other by the Bisons and AA guns.  I used my carriers to get the extra couple inches of Spearhead ‘Encounter’ allows (every little helps the Bofors) and then loaded the flank I least wanted to attack to try and drag the Germans over before using my speed to move over to the right put.  The Grants and a Stuart platoon were set up on the right to deal with the bisons and try and get on the objective as quickly as possible.

I really needed the first turn to make this all work, so of course, I didn’t get it!  In hindsight, I should have used the Lucky card right there…  Martin moved the righthand infantry into the large blockhouse and moved his Italian tanks to try and prevent me rushing the gap in the rocky hills (so maybe the deception play did work?) whilst the AA guns moved to prevent my single Stuart platoon on the right doing likewise.

So far so good.  Then the Bisons opened up.

Spoilers – the Bisons were going to earn a  fearsome reputation over the tournie and that partly started here.

Boom!  155mm vs Stuart and the light tank loses!

The 7.62 guns were also able to bag another  Stuart from the same troop and the HQ ran at the start of the next turn

I couldn’t let the loss of a Stuart troop so early stop me so I continued with my plan, going hell for leather for the right-hand objective.  The Grants and Stuarts on the right advanced and tried to engage the infantry in the blockhouse to no great effect.  The 25pdr also failed to range in, forgoing a chance to dig in to bombard.

From there, my luck didn’t get any better.  The right flank Grant troop tried to dual the Bisons at range but, by the end of the game, only had claimed one Bison to show for it.  They did deal with the Dianas when they arrived but ended up chasing the AA halftracks back to my own objective.

The right troop of Stuarts made a valiant dash on the objective but their marksmanship against the AA halftracks and bison left a lot to be desired.  they eventually got mugged by the Dianas coming on from reserve.

The Stuarts making the push from left to right flank got chewed up by the M14 and Bison fire, eventually leaving just the CO who fell back to keep the formation in the game.

By this time the Panzers had arrived and Martin advanced them and the left flank DAK infantry towards my 25pdr.  The RHA did relatively well fending the infantry off but eventually succumbed to the pressure, thankfully just as my Grant HQ arrived.  They kept the Germans back for a couple more turns but I utterly failed the tank dual and Martin’s infantry tenaciously stuck around to take the objective.  

Martin wins, 8-1

There was some argument to be made that my dice were bad, my marksmanship being generally awful in the game, and that Martin led a charmed life on “last stand” checks with both the Bison and AA guns reduced to single tanks, but passing every last stand check asked of them.
Ultimately however, I was outplayed.  Martin exploited my inability to roll dice and first blunted my offensive before turning to his own.

Martin noted that I really should have gone “attack” as my stance, something I then adopted for the rest of the games.  Martin also felt that I should have just skipped the subterfuge and massed the forces on the right, using the Grants to lead in as they were relatively safe from most of the fire that the right flank and M14/41 had to offer.  Again, I can’t argue with that assessment.

There were some frustrations with the game as I kept tripping over the nuance changes between TY and v4 but Martin was patient with my rules incompetence and the first game largely helped get me settled for the rest of the tournie.

There is certainly no shame to being outplayed by the eventual (undefeated) winner of the tournament!

Game Two
Rex’s Italian Light Tanks 

Having dined on the best food that a dash to Pease Pottage M&S Food services could provide, it was time for game two.  Duncan directed me to the far right board of the long desert table to play Rex and his horde of L6 tanks and captured 25pdr!

The army was a tale of two halves.  On one hand, lots of L6 tanks that my Honey could convincingly take in a fight.  On the other hand, lots of captured 25pdr field gun (eight of them!), Lancia SP Guns (three of them) and static heavy AA gun (just one of those)!  I could at least be content that most of the guns were a waste of points versus a Stuart’s paper thin armour!

Taking Martin’s advice I chose Attack as stance whilst Rex, if I recall correctly, went manoeuvre. We rolled up one of my favourite missions “Dust Up!”  I always feel this gives a nice “swirling” desert tank battle.

Rex filled his deployment zone with anti-tank guns so “swirling” became less of an option!  On the face of it, I had two options:

  • Execute a right hook through the empty desert and rush the 90mm AA gun on the hill whilst my 25pdr suppressed/killed their opposing number.  Then hope I didn’t get an L6 platoon advancing into my rear.
  • Mass my forces for a frontal assault, using the terrain to hide me till it was time to rush the guns.  It certainly wouldn’t be a pretty victory…

I decided the right hook was the way to go and set up my Spearhead and HQ Stuart platoon to dummy the frontal assault before loading the flank up for the hook.

I really needed to go second, so of course, I won the roll.
I raced the Stuarts forward whilst dragging my dummy force back ready to form a second wave that would move up via the buildings and shrubs for cover.  I just needed the artillery to smoke the hill and…

Arrggghhh!  No artillery bombardment on the first turn!  Dumb! Dumb! Dumb! Not like that hasn’t always been the case in Dust Up.  Oh well, whats the worse that can happen.

Hey, one of the three survived!

Rex then ranged in on my artillery and killed a 25pdr.  Things suddenly didn’t look great.

Thankfully the lone Stuart stayed on and I decided to send him on a suicidal run on the 90mm to try and kill it.  The Universal Carriers moved up through the cover to try and reinforce the Stuart should it succeed.  Meanwhile I gave up on the right hook and pulled my forces back to start going back to the idea of rushing the 25pdr.

Lleeerrroooyyyy….

My own 25pdr unpinned and ranged in on the hill, though it took a couple attempts. No damage this turn but the following turn would see the guns do their thing no doubt.

Needless to say the loan Stuart didn’t achieve much, being vaporised next turn, but at least he would attract some fire off his intact brethren.

The turn was a cagey affair as I massed some reserves and sneaked the Carriers forward.  Rex couldn’t seem to score any hits with the artillery (or with the first of the arriving L6 platoons on my Carriers) so my forces were at least able to mass out of sight, although one of the Stuart platoons took a pasting from the Lancia.

The carriers, exploiting the suppression of the 90mm and 25pdr, were able to clear the hill by flanking, machine gun fire and a somewhat desperate assault.  But the L6 platoon at the foot of the hill would no doubt have a say on that.

On the other hand, the first attempt to rush the guns did not go so well.  I did get lucky that Rex couldn’t seem to hit me as much as he should have so I hadn’t actually lost a platoon in all the mess!

Rex’s reserves were trickling on, one platoon of L6 taking out my carriers, but I had a Grant and Stuart platoon to hold them back, plus my Bofors making slow progress to move the length of the table from reserves to reinforce them!

The Stuart platoon attached to the Grants braved four shots of 25pdr defensive fire to clear out one of the 25pdr on the objective but were reduced to a single tank in doing so!  But all I needed to do now was clear the L6 scout tank platoon from the compound to secure the objective.

Oh, and survive a turn of Lancia fire!  They had been smoked by my Grants (“wait, are you using actual tactics?” – Duncan)  but the extra +1 to hit wasn’t a great comfort!

Somehow, Rex’s dice got worse and the Lancia failed to find their mark.  I was starting my turn on the objective but needed to clear it by the end of turn to win.  My Stuart HQ finally remounted and rushed over and the Grants and Stuarts were able to kill off the L6 contesting the objective.

A very bloody 6-3 victory that probably owed far too much to either my luck or Rex’s lack of it.  

In hindsight I probably should have just stuck to rushing the 90mm hill, quitting that initial plan far too quickly.  But I was able to eek out a badly needed victory in the face of a very hard hitting gun line (for a Stuart.  I’ll admit its a low bar).

No matter what happened in the last game I could be at least happy I won one of my three games!

Game Three
Mike’s 15th Pz/131st Centauro Div

I had been looking forward to playing Mike as we had been discussing 3RTR vs 15th Panzer on the event page, so it was good that the draw worked out in our favour.

Mike was bringing an 88mm and a platoon of Marders to the fight, backed up by a M14/Semovente formation and a German Panzerspah formation, plus some Stuka overhead.  It certainly had all the makings of a great duel in the desert with 3RTR’s traditional opponents!

We rolled up “Dust Up”.  Obviously, a common complaint with Battle Stances is that there is a chance of mission repetition but I’ll happily play “Dust Up” all tournament.

I got Attacker so chose my quarter based on what I wanted Mike to have; one of the two quarters on his side was effectively bisected by a ridge line and palm grove.  This could potentially work in my favour as I may be able to use the Spearhead dummy to set up a faint to a frontal grab whilst actually going for the right hook.

I mean, this has to work sooner or later, right?

Right?

I placed the Carriers, then the Stuarts and 25pdr in the extended deployment zone.  The Grants went for a neutral supporting position and by this point the majority of Mike’s forces were set up to receive my supposed frontal charge, with just the Nebs on the objective the other side of the ridge.  I placed my HQ and last Stuart platoon down as far forward on the right hook as possible, the HQ had one tank up against the centre keep out zone limit.  If I moved 10″, passed a “follow me” (with “Lucky” standing by), I would be able to assault the Nebs with *one* tank.

I like to think the XO was taking the lead on that…

Go!  The Stuart platoon dashed to get around the hill and hopefully draw the 88’s fire.  The Grants switched to the right flank and lurked out of the 88’s line of sight whilst on the left flank the Stuarts dived behind the Desert Fort to try and mug the M14 should they make a run for the objective.
The Stuart HQ platoon moved forward, the 2iC moving only 10″ so as to assault.  I fluffed the command roll for “Follow me” so burnt the “Lucky” card, then moved into contact for the assault.  No shooting; I didn’t want to risk killing the Neb.

The 2iC passed his hit roll and killed the first Neb.  The Nebs passed their counter-attack roll (they would just die if they tried to break off) but I also passed mine and the cross check to enter the shrubs and the hit roll to kill the second Neb.  At this moment the third Neb’s resolve failed, the Stuart gunning the crew as they ran.

By some miracle, I was on the objective.  But the 2iC was the only one in the zone control so he just needed to survive the attention of the 88 and, presumably the Marders to win.

Needless to say I wasn’t expecting a turn two win!

Sure enough, Mike moved the Marders up the hill but he also drew the M14 back, presumably to race to the objective, leaving the SdKfz 222 to screen the withdrawal.  The Luftwaffe also turned up and dived on the HQ platoon.

The Marders bagged the 2iC tank whilst the 88 tried a long-range shot at the Stuarts by the hill.  The Luftwaffe landed a hit but my Stuart crew must have closed the hatch as it bounced off(!).

Well, I couldn’t win it in turn 2 but turn 3 was viable!  The Grants and the Stuart troop took up position by the objective, each getting two tanks within 4″.  The HQ troop withdrew out of the firing line to act as a reserve should I need to deal with the M14.  The Stuarts by the fort popped out to try and get some hits on the Marders.

I started the turn’s shooting by calling in a smoke bombardment between the ridge and the objective.  This would deny the 88 a shot and force the Marders to move to shoot.  It wasn’t impossible for the Marders to kill the four tanks on the objective, but it was improbable.  That done, the Stuarts were free to try and kill the Marders but failed to land any of their hits.

Mike wasn’t going to call the game; it was possible to turn it around with some good shooting and I had left my own objective wide open.  Additionally, the smoke wasn’t screening the HQ of the Stuart Troop from the 88 so there was more shooting than I expected.  Thankfully the Stuka didn’t turn up for what could have been a decisive 500lb bombing run.

The 88 bailed the Stuart and the Marders missed.  It was game over. 8-2 Win to me.

Ultimately Mike had been undone by his deployment.  The turn one assault was definitely me running the probability curve but I could easily have fluffed it up or not done it till turn two and still got the same result. The Nebs were too isolated to be an effective objective holder on their own.

With the game over so quickly we re-set and played another mission, rolling Counter Attack.  This was a far more satisfying game for both parties with my Brits gaining a 6-3 victory.

Conclusions

So I finish my first v4 tournie with two wins out of three games, with my loss versus the eventual winner.  Honestly, that’s a far better result than I expected given the army was relatively under-optimised and I was relatively inexperienced with  v4 compared to Team Yankee.

I had had three enjoyable games and feel like I have learned a few things about the v4 game and my own force.  The atmosphere of the tournie was exceptional and I can only compliment Duncan on the execution of it.  All players seem to have embraced the spirit of the event and I think everyone scored maximum soft points by bringing themed, painted, forces.

I don’t actually know where I came overall.  To be honest, I don’t really care too much as it didn’t feel important.  I won a set of unit cards for my army (ironic given I couldn’t get them ahead of the event!) and had had a set of excellent games.  Ultimately that felt more than enough.

So is this me finally into the Tournament circuit?  Maybe.  Ultimately I’m still limited to one-dayers due to family commitments but I’m certainly more open to the idea now.

Category: AARBattle ReportBreakthrough Assault TournamentBritishDesertFlames of WarGermansItaliansList DiscussionMid WarRamblingTournamentV4

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Article by: Lee

Wargaming since Rogue Trader in 1990; I made the move to Flames in 2006 and have been with it ever since! I play at the Brighton Warlords most weeks.