Today Martin kicks off 2019 with the final instalment of his “Evolution” series.
This article concludes my series looking at the T-34 Battalion from it’s early form in Enemy at the Gates to a final evolution for the mid war period as a Hero T-34 Battalion in Red Banner (See Evolution of a Tank Brigade and Evolution in Action).
Game 2 – T-34 Hero Tank Battalion
The format for testing the list was the same as in Part 1, playing a generic all-comers structured German list, this time it was an Armoured Panzergrenadier formation. With my more flexible force I chose the “maneuver” battle stance to try and set up a scenario where my opponent had reserves which meant I could take on his high AT assets one at a time which would be easier to deal with. Bryan, my opponent, picked “maneuver” as well and we played the “Encounter” scenario, the table was set up roughly the same way as in Part 1.
My battle plan for the game was to use my small (for soviet) platoons greater positional flexibility to create multiple lines of attack, with the two T-34 units acting as a mobile counter attack bolstering the Motor Battalion, who would be doing most of the heavy lifting, as needed. With their high dash speed and 2+ cross rating I reasoned, this would be the best way to use them given the small platoon sizes and my experiences from Part 1.
My 120mm mortars primary aim is to neutralise the PaK 40’s and would form the base from which I would launch the Hero Rifle and SMG companies into the offensive. The 76mm AT guns would deter an armoured assault against the objective in the open and I could roll the guns forward if the opportunity was presented. This will leave the T-70 unit free to roam around the table to prevent the Germans massing their troops into a single thrust which I might struggle to stop.
Overall, I was fairly happy with this match up. I would need to be careful not to get my infantry HMG’d into oblivion, but if the Panzergrenadiers want to use their AT rifles on my T-70’s then they will get exposed to my infantry return fire and luckily DP MG teams are ROF 2 on the move.
Tactical comment: I generally find German forces hardest to defeat when they can mass on a narrow front where their overall lack of numbers is far less significant. If you can spread them out across the table somehow they can be much easier to deal with. The generally smaller platoon sizes and lower numbers of platoons will start to have a significant impact on the forces overall effectiveness in controlling the flow of the game.
Deployment proved interesting; Bryan won the roll to be the attacker and chose to place his target objectives on opposite sides of the table which suited me (see Tactical Tip). I chose to create a center of gravity on the rural side of the board so I could create a flanking attack through the town towards, toward the objective in the center, and also those troops would stop an armoured rush along the roads to threaten the objective on my side. The remainder of my force set up covering the objective among the crop fields facing the bulk of the Panzergrenadiers who were massed on this side of the table. My HQ T-34 was positioned to cover any advance through the wood against my mortar company.
I won the roll for the first turn and basically moved forward through the ruined town as fast as possible my troops in the rural half of the board simply went to ground. The Germans started by advancing the mounted Panzergrenadier toward the objective, but failed a “follow me” roll, leaving them caught in no mans land with no shooting. The mortar section dropped a smoke bombardment across three of the Zis-3s to protect them.
I could use my artillery this turn and the 120mm mortars prompty ranged in on the PaK 40 unit, destroying one gun.
The one Zis-3 managed to kill the HQ SdKfz 251, but the passangers safely dismounted.
My T-70s opened fire onto the ruins containing the HMG unit whilst my SMG and Motor Rifle company got in to position to launch assaults next turn on the HMG and mortar positions.
The turn started poorly for the Germans, with the PaK 40 failing to unpin despite a force commander re-roll. They elected to re-position, dashing out from under my bombardment. The Panzergrenadiers dismounted and advanced into assault range, supported by the remaining sdKfz 251s. Shooting pinned my AT and Hero Motor platoon. Electing to assault, the Panzergrenadiers charged bravely forward, only to discover the Hero Motor Rifles are ROF 2 when pinned! After the dust settled six teams were destroyed for no Soviet losses. The assault had failed completely.
With the start of turn 3 I rolled for reserves, but with no success. I didn’t move much only my T-34 Battalion HQ which promptly failed a cross check and was stuck on the edge of the wood.
The T-70s and SMG platoon opened fire on the HMG’s killing one. I could now assault the pinned team safely with the SMG unit and finished them off.
The remainder of my forces finished off the Armoured Panzergrenadier in a hail of bullets and AT gun fire.
My remaining Motor Rifle platoon continued to maneuver to assault the mortars next turn from behind their flank. I choose to maneuver this turn rather than assault as it enabled me to reduce the number of MG armed Panzergrenadiers that could support them with defensive fire or they would have to move which would help me.
The German turn started well as the Panzer IV platoon clanked on to the board but in probably the worst area for them, they had obviously got muddled moving up and the random roll put them into the ruined town. The Panzergrenadier unit in the left hand crop fields elected to advance to prevent me being able to flank the objective on my right next turn with my Motor Rifles, who had seen off the armoured unit.
Shooting started badly for the Germans, with the Panzer IVs only managing a single hit, and then only bailing a T-70. The mortars in what would surely be a last hurrah picked off a Zis-3 whilst the PaK 40’s, despite moving, managed to hit and kill my stranded HQ T-34!
Again no reserves for me.
I advanced my Motor Rifles and Zis-3 unit to create room ready for turn 5, when I was guaranteed to get at least one of my T-34 units into play, and also to stop any further forward push by the Panzergrenadier unit in the crop fields.
My SMG unit spread out to make maneuver difficult for the Panzer IVs in the ruins and my T-70’s withdrew away from the Panzer IVs leaving the bailed out tank blocking the road.
Shooting was pretty limited but I managed to range the mortar unit in to hit the Pak 40s, the remaining Panzergrenadier unit, as well as the German HQ unit in the center. The combined shooting pinned the infantry and destroyed a second Pak 40.
In the German turn, the infantry fail to unpin, the Pak 40 survived its last stand test, the Panzer IVs advance cautiously through the rubble but one tank bogged down. Despite this, the Panzer IVs kill the lone T-70 whilst everyone else digs in and goes to ground. The German assault has stalled for the present.
Reserves finally arrive in the town with one of my T-34 platoons coming in to the battle. Given the position of the Panzer IVs, I tried to occupy the treeline and cover my objective, assuming they will simply ignore my SMG unit. The Shooting was ineffective, doing no damage but pinning both the Panzergrenadier units again. I launched my assault, killing only one mortar team, luck was on my side again as the Panzergrenadiers failed to counter-attack and both units are forced to break off. This forced a few teams to move but they were still very well positioned to keep me off the objective in the centre of the board and my Rifles consolidated away.
The german infantry again unpinned, but the mortar and Pak40 fail their last stand tests. That brought the German losses to four platoons and meant they would pretty much have to capture an objective to have any chance of winning the game. The Panzer IVs had an aberration, failing all their cross checks and the leading two tanks got separated from the command; my SMG unit are beginning to look very well placed to sneak up on at least one pair of them if I get a chance!
Shooting saw the Panzer IVs knock out a T-34 and somehow pin my SMG unit (a great roll as they need five 5s or better on just eight dice). The Panzergrenadiers choose to dig in and went to ground.
For me, a critical turn; where my remaining T-34s arrived was going to be pivotal in setting up my assaults onto the objectives. The die came to a stop and… they were on the right flank, just where I wanted them! I now exploited their enhanced dash moves from earlier in the war and, after a successful follow me, they were within 4″ of the objective and could win me the game next turn.
I moved my Motor Rifles around the Panzergrenadiers, preventing them falling back to the objective without assaulting me, which would be a high risk move given the amount of dice this unit could muster even if pinned down.
Again I advanced the Zis-3s to make sure they could also provide defensive fire cover for my rifles if the Panzergrenadiers decided to attempt the assault. My shooting phase saw me pin both infantry units killing a team from the HQ platoon. The T-34s bailed the leading Panzer IV but my SMG unit had failed to un-pin so I was unable to finish them off with an assault.
It was make or break time for the Germans now, with the Panzer IVs unable to threaten my T-34s on the objective, the only option was to try and break both my formations. After another display of poor dice rolling the stalled Panzer IVs again failed their cross checks for the rubble and were stuck shooting my SMG platoon this time, my luck failed and three teams were destroyed, luckily leaving me three teams. The two remaining tanks, despite being out of command, managed to kill a T-34 and T-70, both platoons would be taking last stand test before I could claim a victory. Unleashing a hail of fire, the Panzergrenadiers shred my motor rifles on the edge of the ruins, whilst the ones caught in the center return fire on my other unit to little effect.
The T-34, T-70 and Motor Rifle units all fail their last stand tests and promptly leave the board. The benefit of having two formations and my decision to put the SMG unit into the T-34 Battalion now really paid off as even after these guys routed and my HQ was killed I still had the other T-34 unit and the SMGs left, keeping the formation fighting and giving me victory.
What I learnt?
This list worked really well in this game against another mixed force, and played really enjoyably, the game was close right up until the end which is just what you want for an enjoyable afternoon/evening of gaming. With better dice the Panzer IVs could really have caused me more problems; they failed no fewer than EIGHT cross checks in the game but, that’s the war goes sometimes.
Platoons of three soviet tanks are really, really fragile.
If you are going full Hero T-34. having two formations really helps counter balance the smaller platoon sizes and is probably a good idea compared to lots of support.
Observations on the T-34 Battalion evolution
In my opionion the T-34 is worth the extra points over the T-34 (early) the improved dash and cross rating really seem to be worth the extra point based on this game. I think on relfection despite the platoons being a bit smaller that the basic T-34 Battalion could be a really viable and enjoyable list to play with for most gamers.
The 120mm mortar battery was much more effective than the 82mm one only a couple of extra points overall but the 3+ FP really scared my opponent and made him move away from taking repeat bombardments, reducing his offensive fire. The extra range also helps with their ability to keep moving units under the template, these will definately be appearing in my lists more often than previously.
Hopefully this series has been an interesting read and given you some thoughts on your own forces.