Today Martin brings us a MW AAR from the Eastern Front featuring Panzer Regiment 11, based on when they took to the Steppes as part of 48th Panzer Korps attack during Operation Citadel.
As my Panzer list is based on a more historical theme, as opposed to a general gaming list, I set up a game to reflect a clash with elements of the Soviet 1st Tank Army (1TK Katukov on the map) as they fought against the flank of the German armoured thrust. These are pretty atypical lists but do serve to illustrate the key differences between German and Soviet tank Formations in Mid War.
The German list in one I have covered in my previous article on collecting an 11th Panzer force.
The Soviet 1st Tank Army is a regular Red Army formation meaning that it is numerous but tactically naïve at this point, only having come into existence in early 1943, and this is reflected in the unit’s profiles and costs. Overall the Soviets have a 3:2 advantage in tank numbers and platoon, as well as having plenty of integrated infantry.
Typically, a T-34 Battalion at this time comprised two companies equipped with T-34 76mm tanks and, if present, a third Company with T-70 or Lend-Lease Valentine tanks, so this is how I have set them up. The larger 7-tank unit will provide the Soviets with a single reserves roll. The infantry principally act to replenish minefields, man/repair the defensive trenches and deal with the crews of knocked out Panzers. Before the battle the infantry in the Soviet front line units received some anti-tank training and, to reflect their better motivation for fighting against tanks, I have given them the Molotov Cocktails Command Card. This also ensure they can have a proper role in the game rather than just being used as a speed bump.
For the game I essentially used the No Retreat scenario with the Soviet Force as the defender. This meant they would place the majority of their armour in Immediate Deep Reserve but, for the purposes of this game, the Soviet HQ would be additionally deployed on the table top at the start of the game.
The table was set up with areas of low scrub representing the taller areas of steppe grasslands and some low crop fields, broken up by narrow streams, a few small wooded areas toward the flanks, a small low hills and the soviet defensive trenches which all provide the defenders some cover. The wide open steppes are great tank fighting country with plenty of good visibility where the technically superior German tanks excelled when well commanded. What little little elevation there is makes for very strong positions, giving sight over enemy movement or can hide a counter attack, forming up safe from enemy observation.
Deployment was pretty straight forward with such small forces.
The key decision was which Soviet unit, if any, that would be put into ambush. After a bit of consideration, they chose the large T-34 unit to form the Soviet ambush. Interestingly the SMG’s were deployed in-front of the trench lines forming a large blob of concealed dug in infantry flanked by the mine fields and the woodland on their left through which I expected their reserve units to appear through; this would force the German tanks into assaulting the infantry to drive them back and make it possible to get close to objective 1.
I deployed the Panzers with the Flammpanzers on the right, the large mixed panzer unit in the central position and the smaller, Panzer III only, unit on the left. The basic strategy being to use the Flame tanks and large unit to assault the infantry and the smaller unit to hold off any flanking force. Well that was the plan!
The Germans begin their advance toward the objectives.
I elected to dash with all the units but one Panzer III bogged down in the wood, slowing my left flank.
The Soviet turn saw them receive no reserve and they immediately placed their ambushing unit of seven T-34’s; choosing to use the trenchlines to screen them from the German tanks. This was an interesting move and meant the T-34 would have to be engaged at long range, making them hard for the Panzer III 5cm tanks to knock out. The two Panzer IV’s and 7.5cm Panzer III were now going to have to do most of the anti armour work.
Everything started well with the Flammpanzers blitzing forward then advancing tactically to get into range of the closest of the SMG infantry in the wood. The Panzer III’s on the left also blitzed but, again, fail their cross checks and are slowed down, again being forced to move to get them into range. Shooting starts with the Flampanzers killing a pair of SMG teams and pinning them down, leaving just the one team in the wood in assault range. The Mixed Panzer unit open fire, bailing the Soviet HQ but inflicting no damage to the T-34’s. A lone Flampanzer attempts to assault the stand in the wood but fails its cross check.
The soviet turn starts with the HQ failing to remount, the SMG’s unpinned, but no reserves arrive. The T-34’s split their combined fire, killing a Flampanzer and a Panzer III from the small unit.
Knowing the Soviet reserves would start to arrive this turn, I redeployed the Flampanzers to fire on the SMG unit, again targeting their left flank, and advanced the platoon of mixed panzers. The platoon of two survving Panzer III’s redeployed into the cover of the rocky ground.
The Flampanzers kill just a single team despite scoring 13 hits! Whilst the massed fire of the remaining tanks kills a T-34 and bails two more, leaving none close enough to prevent the infantry getting assaulted.
The assault, however, is a fiasco. The flame tanks again fail to enter the wood and the mixed unit kill no teams. The soviet counter attack is equally ineffective but the panzers failed to motivate for a counter-attack and were forced back.
The Soviet turn sees the HQ remount, along with one of the two bailed tanks from the T-34 platoon. The second T-34 unit enters the fray on the soviet left, looking to use the wooded area to screen a flank assault.
Despite a cross rating of 2+, the soviets get bogged down failing cross checks at the stream and in the wood. Thanks to their huge dash move, a couple manage to get past the german front line but can’t fire this turn. The remaining fire from the T-34’s fails to inflict any casualties.
The lone SMG in the wood launches a surprise attack from a concealing position sneaking up on the bogged down Flammpanzer and forces it to break off away from the Soviet position.
The Flammpanzers redeploy to try again whilst the mixed panzer unit blitzes forward to put the T-34’s at short range.
Shooting starts with the flame tanks killing just one more team, leaving the team in the wood isolated and only protected by the HQ tank and a lone T-34 from the smaller flanking unit. The panzers open fire, killing the T-34 in the wood and bailing out two from the larger unit. But, despite twio hits from the Panzer IV, the soviet HQ escapes unscathed. I decide to launch the Flammpanzers again at the lone team blithely assuming that, as it needed 5’s to hi,t I should be OK from the HQ T-34!
It scored two hits, killing a tank and bailing the other! I now had only a single Flammpanzer functional.
The Soviets unpinned and remounted and the T-70 unit entered the battle again on the left flank. The smaller T-34 unit continued to advance, flanking my HQ Panzer IV.
Shooting sees the HQ Panzer IV destroyed but my commander swapped to the other Panzer IV. The remaining fire bails out the functioning Flammpanzer. Seeing a golden opportunity, the SMG infantry assault with a lone stand, capturing both remaining flame tanks and safely retreating to their foxholes!
With the flame tanks gone, and numbers starting to go against them, the Germans position all their units to assault the SMG platoon ,which is now just nine teams strong.
Shooting sees a couple more T-34’s from the flanking platoon destroyed reducing them to just two hulls and two are bailed out from the larger unit. I launch my assault with just the platoon of mixed panzer III’s as the HQ tank is too far away to join the assault. This results in another solitary casualty, the SMG’s counter assault for no damage, but again the Germans fail to motivate to counter assault and are driven back leaving just a panzer III within 4″ of the objective.
The Soviet armour on the left flank moves to position itself on the flank of the Panzer III short 7.5cm near the objective, the T-70 continue to advance around the woods getting behind the German right flank. The T-34’s open fire, bailing out the Panzer III but crucially failing to knock it out completely.
Thankfully the Panzer III remounts and the platoon advances again into assault range. This time the HQ moves up to be able to support them.
Shooting sees the Soviet HQ destroyed, but the commander survives, taking over a T-34 in the trench line. The reminder of the shooting fails to kill any of the infantry.
If I could either destroy or dislodge the SMG platoon, I could secure a German victory as I was within 4″ of the objective at the start of the turn.
I launched the assault with my four tanks killing just a single team. The Soviets, sensing danger and a chance to push the Germans back for good, elect to use their Molotov Cocktails assault bonus. With five teams in the assault, and needing on 3’s to hit, this was going to be a “do or die” attempt to drive the panzers off.
As the dice settle, one Panzer III is destroyed but, thanks to the presence of the HQ, the Panzers motivate and counter assault but only manage again to kill another team. Again the SMG’s motivate and again knock out a second German tank. This time even my HQ can’t stop the panzertruppen deciding they had had enough and they break off, being forced back away from the objective. The Soviet infantry consolidate back out of assault range range of the second panzer unit.
The Soviets infantry failed to unpin and the HQ doesn’t remount but on checking for victory conditions there are no Panzers within 8″ of the objective and it is a Soviet victory.
It was a tough game, with just the panzers and no supporting infantry and artillery, the T-34’s proved very tough to knock out, despite their reckless hit on 2+ rating. Placing the initial ambush to the rear of the infantry and screened by the trench line made the tanks harder to hit and AT9 vs FA6 at long range was never going to knock them out fast enough. My opponent effectively used their main tank strength as a unit of anti-tank guns, which was a clever move.
The main issue I found was that due to the very short range of the Flammpanzers they often killed everything in assault range and thus I couldn’t press the attack with any significant number of tanks at the same time. Overall it was a different and interesting game, with an outcome that reflected well on the history. Overall I lost three tanks to shooting but four to assault. Whilst the basic SMG troops might only have a 4+ save, their numbers were more than sufficient to absorb the losses and, after six turns, they still had 30% of their starting strength left despite all the hits they took.