Today we have an AAR on a recent game played by Martin and Duncan to try out some of Duncan’s newly painted Hungarians (Hungry Hungarians Part 1 and Hungry Hungarians Part 2). Both preferring our gaming based on historical settings we set on using the Soviet Ostrogozhsk-Rossosh operation from the Soviet Voronezh-Kharkow offensive as the historical basis for the game. To simulate the battle we used the Fighting Withdrawl scenario as the basis with the Hungarians as the Defender.
This battle heralded the completion of the Soviet encirclement of von Paulus and the German 6th Army in Stalingrad and their eventual surrender a few weeks later. The actual battle took place between the 13th and 27th of January 1943 between the Soviet 3rd Tank Army and the Hungarian 2nd Army and elements of the Italian 8th Army resulting in the encirclement of the German positions and the defeat of the Hungarian Army in the field, which suffered a truly horrendous 84% casualty rate.
To keep as close to the historical protagonists as possible with just 100 points Duncan chose a list based on a Hungarian Rifle Company with their associated artillery and anti-tank support and a second Formation of Nimrod self-propelled AA tanks which were pressed into service to try and slow the Soviet advance and allow the battered Rifle Divisions time to escape the Soviet tank led onslaught. The Hungarians received no assistance from the Germans in the battle so Duncan did not take any allied units. Martin playing the Soviets fielded the 4th Tank Corps and had a Red Banner T-34 Formation supported by a battery of Guard Mortars aka Katyushas mimicking the Soviet forces committed to the battle
Duncan had a standard Hungarian Rifle Company with plenty of HMGs and mortars as well as some 40mm AT guns with Kerngranate, Force Support included a battery of both 80mm and 100mm howitzers and a pair of 7.5cm AT guns (his only unit with AT above 9) this was complemented by the Nimrod Formation with a lot of mobile AT7 gun platforms, as well as some Csaba armoured cars and a rare unit of Turan tanks. With such a high unit count the Strategic Withdrawl rule was unlikely to seriously hamper Duncan’s defence but would pose him choices if the smaller units started to take casualties. Units not in Good Spirits when withdrawn count as destroyed and Duncan has a lot of small 2 or 3-team platoons.
Martin’s Soviets were a simple blunt instrument of a Force, two six strong T-34 units were going to be a challenge to stop even being Reckless isn’t that much of an issue when you will save 60% of the frontal hits thanks to the generally low AT rating of the Hungarian guns (Duncan only has 2 teams with more than AT9 and most are AT7 where even a T-34’s SA5 is going to stop most hits). The third tank platoon was T-70 where mass makes up for other deficiencies and FA4 would give them a save against everything except the two Pak40s. This also refelted the composition of the Soviet Tank Corps at the time production was still accelerating and most units only had 2 units of T-34s. The Formation received a unit of 15 SMG armed infantry to follow the tanks being basic Soviet troops who save on a 4+ these are a little susceptible to the Hungarian HMG which Duncan had plenty of and their supporting 81mm mortars round out the Formation, leaving just enough points to add in a unit of Katyusha Rocket Artillery to soften up the defensive positions.
We set the table up as shown below, Duncan screened his left flank with the minefields and Martin deployed the objectives (marked 1 and 2) as far forward as possible, The Hungarian ranged in markers were deployed forward of the church, in the minefield and at the road junction by the standing crops, Martin had the Katyushas centred on Objective 1 and the mortars ranged in the flat fields near Objective 2.
The Forces were deployed roughly as shown below, Duncan kept his 40mm AT guns in Ambush.
Turn 1 started with a general Soviet advance, the T-70s got split up passing through the wooded area toward the church with several tanks failing cross-checks, the SMG platoon kept to the woods to avoid fire from the HMG unit in the church. The T-34s were reduced to tactical speed due to the HMG platoon in the central farm on the north side of the east-west running road stopping them from using their dash movement to advance further. Shooting saw the mortars fail to range in on the Pak 40s but the Katyushas ranged in covering the 80mm howitzers and the Pak 40s killing one of each gun. This left the powerful PaK 40 platoon on a last-stand turn for the Hungarian first turn! The T-34’s machine gunned the infantry killing a lone team near Objective 1.
The Hungarians remained pretty still, electing to fire as much as possible, just the Csaba armoured cars moved to get away from the advancing T-34s. The remaining 7.5cm gun and Turan tanks killed a couple of T-34s in the standing crop and the artillery 80mm ranged in against the mortars and the 100mm guns on the Katyusha battery, but the mortars failed to range in. The artillery fire failed to kill any teams but left both Soviet platoons pinned.
Turn 2 and the Katyushas unpin but the mortar platoon fails their motivation and remains pinned. T-70s regroup but fail more cross-checks and are held up by the churchyard fence, the T-34s advance to be able to assault the rifle teams between the two farms who are not within 8″ of their supporting armour and AT guns which gave Martin a chance to push this unit back away from the objective safe in the knowledge the HMG unit couldn’t assault him from the other farm.
The SMG unit advanced gambling unwisely on a follow-me order to cross the open ground! The Katyushas remained stationary to fire again, whilst the Mortars who weren’t ranged in moved out of the ranged-in artillery template area. Shooting saw a lone Turan tank get bailed and the rifles get pinned down. Assault saw the T-34s kill 1 rifle team who failed to counterassault and broke off, rather than stay where they were the T-34s dropped back into cover but they were not quite within 4″ of Objective 1.
The Katyushas executed a shoot-and-scoot move to get out of the artillery template area concluding MArtins actions. Duncan fails to rally the Rifles or to dig them in, he pops his ambush to stall the T-70 advance and moves 1 platoon of Nimrods on his far right to engage the SMG platoon caught in the open ground. He withdraws the HMG platoon who are effectively trapped by the T-34’s in the central farm. The HMGs in the church and the Nimrods manage to kill half the Soviet SMG platoons (7 teams) but vitally failed to kill the Kommissar. The 100mm artillery fails to range in whilst the mortar’s range in but score no hits. The 80mm and ambushing 40mm guns fire on the T-70’s killing a couple of tanks and bailing a couple more, the front armour 4 on these made all the difference against the AT8 from the 80mm guns which were still at long range whilst the FP 5+ of the Kerngranate reduced the effectiveness of the 40mm hits. The Turans failed to damage the T-34s with just a single bailed-out tank.
Turn 3 was eventful the SMGs rallied as did the Soviet mortars who then Martin dug in rather than shoot with this turn being under a barrage already. The T-70s manoeuvred to assault the 40mm guns from behind whilst the T-34s manoeuvred to assault the rifles again. Shooting saw the Katyushas range back in on the 80mm guns killing 1 more whilst the T-70 killed two 40mm guns and the T-34s killed 1 Turan and bailed the other 2. The T-34 assault again pushed the Rifles back now they were too far away to contest Objective 1. The T-70S’ ‘s wiped out the 40mm for the loss of 1 tank but had to consolidate away from the concealed Rifles whilst the SMGs managed a sneaky assault on the Niimrods killing 1 and forcing them back allowing them to occupy the wood flanking the Hungarian infantry.
The Soviets were now in a strong position to capture either objective. Turn 3 started for the Hungarians badly with the remaining Pak40 departing but the lone Nimrod motivated and the Rifles and 80mm guns all finally unpinned. The Turans failed to remount but remained on the battlefield! The other HMG platoon is withdrawn. The Nimrod HQ moved to contest Objective 1 but Duncan knew it was just a matter of time before the T-34s overwhelmed the middle of the table and secured a victory. Firing everything he had at the Soviet armour half the T-70 platoon was destroyed. The 100mm howitzers ranged in on the Katyusha battery killing 3 of the 4 teams but, this felt like too little too late at this point, the mortars continued their duel with their Soviet counterparts eliminating a couple of teams.
Turn 4 and the Katyushas leave the field, the mortars unpin and with Duncan moving more Nimrods around the wood the Soviet infantry are forced to fall back to safety whilst the lead T-34 unit moved round behind the Hungarian position to flank the 7.5cm and the bailed Turans in the wood and get both platoons inside Objective contesting range. The T70s advance across the open fields towards the remaining 80mm howitzers. Shooting sees the 80mm pinned by the remaining 5 T-70s whilst it takes all the fire from the T-34s to knock out the Turans, after assaulting the 7.5cm AT gun it left only the Nimrod HQ (a Toldi I) holding the objective but with no infantry on this side of the table the Hungarians would last 1 more turn at least.
Seeing the issues Duncan moved the last Nimrod platoon out to cover Objective 1, unfortunately, the infantry stayed pinned but did manage to dig in. The Csaba armoured cars were withdrawn. The 80mm howitzers rallied – the T-70’s were in front of them and being Reckless the Hungarian artillerymen couldn’t easily miss and 4 tanks were destroyed leaving just 1 lone tanker and a lot of burning tanks. The Nimrods continued to push back the Soviet SMG platoon which was now down from 15 to 3 teams and the Kommissar had finally been killed. The mortar duel continued with no further losses to the Soviets thanks to being dug in whilst despite all the fire Duncan could muster being thrown at them just 1 T-34 was bailed out (he needed Martin to roll lots of 1’s).
Turn 5 would see the game end with the T-34’s now behind the Hungarian flank in the centre. The remaining T-70 fled the field whilst the SMGs tried and failed to dig in. The mortars fail to rally and stay pinned. Martin concentrated all his fire to eliminate the remaining Hungarian Nimrods and their HQ team defending the objective, remaining stationary all the remaining T-34s opened fire and the Nimrods and their Toldi HQ were duly destroyed. The Soviets now held Objective 1 uncontested for a decisive Soviet victory.
Basing your gaming on history made this a fun game to play. The Soviet force was tactically very limited and not that good at shooting or assault being Overworked and Green but the mass of the Red Army armour was simply an irresistible force once it closed with the Hungarian positions and despite their on-paper superior troops they couldn’t hold back the tide of soviet steel.
The Hungarian artillery fought valiantly accounting for the vast majority of the Soviet losses and the 4+ save Soviet infantry died in droves, whilst the Hungarian losses were comparatively light overall at just 13 teams compared to the Soviets losing 41 teams it shows that what you lose is more critical than how much. The key to winning the game for the Soviets can be seen right back in Turn 1 when the Katyushas effectively knock out the critical Hungarian defence platoon, the 7.5cm anti-tank guns leaving them pinned and on a Last Stand test for the entire game.
The 40mm ambush was arguably wasted on the T-70 but if Duncan hadn’t taken that option then they would have been all over the Rifle platoon on Objective 2 with nothing much to stop them, the flanking Nimrods had gotten held up by the Soviet infantry trying to avoid getting picked off early in a fight by the superior AT vs Armour Save balance the little Soviet tanks enjoyed even if they are very easy to hit (AT7 vs FA4 compared to AT 7 vs FA1).