Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Silly After Action Report - Part 1

The Polish village slumbered in the early Autumn sun.  Spread out before it was the pride of the Slovakian army ie that part of it that hadn't yet run away.  Soldiers made last minute preparations for the attack; cleaning weapons, writing wills, "accidentally" shooting themselves in the foot.  Major Tomas Tankenjin gazed on the scene with approval.  To his left the cavalry were fondling their horses while directly in front of him someone in a pair of overalls was hitting the engine of an armoured car with an adjustable spanner.  Maintenance it was called.  Major Tankenjin sighed and straightened his uniform (actually a cheap suit dyed green) and prepared to meet his German liaison officer.  Tankenjin couldn't help suspecting that the Germans hadn't exactly sent their best.

As the liaison officer approached Tankenjin ripped off his best salute and winced as Oberstleutnant von Kattelrussler screamed and looked around for an exit.  Once satisfied that danger wasn't immediately present von Kattelrussler calmed down slightly and touched a bandaged hand to his cap in return.  He looked as though he had a dreadful case of sunburn, the skin on his face was peeling so badly he resembled an inhabitant of a leper colony.

"Tell me Herr Oberstleutnant," said Tankenjin.  "How did you become our liaison officer?"

"I was recommended for it," replied von Kattelrussler proudly.  "In fact my commanding officer insisted.  My entire regiment wrote a letter of recommendation asking that I be transferred immediately."

"Good," replied Tankenjin untruthfully.  "What do you think of our preparations?"

"Dear god, what is that man doing to that horse?"

"We're not allowed to ask that question in our army," Tankenjin squirmed inwardly and guided the German a little further away from the cavalry bivouac.  Von Kattelrussler looked around nervously as if expecting assassins to leap out of every tree.  Leaning a lot closer than Tankenjin felt comfortable with he hissed,
"Do you have any flamethrowers?"

"I'm afraid not."

"What about halftracks?  Have you got any of those?"

Tankenjin sighed, "Look this is the Slovakian army all right?  We doubled our defence budget by having a whip round at the staff officers Christmas party.  We don't have any flamethrowers and we don't have any halftracks.  All we've got are a couple of second hand mortars and a  bunch of armoured cars we found in a military museum outside Bratislava.  The Poles have guns, mortars, foxholes and antitank rifles.  I'm afraid this could get a little bloody.  What do you suggest?"

"Suggest for what?"

"For the attack!"

"Oh yes, you should totally do that.  Excellent idea, couldn't have put it better myself.  You don't have any flamethrowers or halftracks so you're in with a fighting chance."

"Thanks for your input.  I can see why the German high command sent you here."

So this is BFP scenario BFP115, Turned Back at Tylicz.  At my own request I am commanding the heroic Slovakian army in its first real action of the Polish campaign.  No more mopping up isolated border guards.  Here they're going head to head against front line Polish troops.  I need to capture a bunch of buildings in the village of Tylicz.  To do so I have about fourteen first line squads with some light and medium machine guns and a pair of pretty impressive 81mm mortars.  Alternately rolling and trotting on as reinforcements are eight squads of cavalry complete with horses and four of the most decrepit armoured cars you will see in your life.  To defend Ivan has a dozen squads, a pair of 75mm artillery pieces and a couple of small (46mm) mortars.  He also gets some foxholes and can set up his entire force concealed.

Ivan set up the bulk of his force in the village with outposts on the hills either side.  His guns were hidden somewhere and the hills seemed most likely (correct for once).  I set up a mortar on the right hand hill where it could cover much of the board and the other down at ground level.  I planned to use the mortars to drop smoke where I thought it would do most good and seize some of that high ground myself while the bulk of my force would grind slowly forward in the centre.  Strangely that sort of worked.

Not perfectly of course but both mortars got smoke and dropped shells where it looked like they could obscure the enemy.  Then I sent a halfsquad on a concealment stripping mission.  Sadly Ivan didn't have any problems firing out of smoke and breaking it before it could do anything useful.  Still I suppose it was a diversion in a way.  Up on the hills flanking troops started their move and showed a surprisingly high survival rate.  My 9-1 officer led a couple of mmg toting squads forward to what looked like a good position and in the centre my troops eased nervously forward to capture a small hill that blocked me from the bulk of the village. 

Feeling that I hadn't got enough room to manouvre I delayed my cavalry reinforcements a turn but brought on the armoured cars two by two on the right and in the centre to see if they could help push me forward. I pushed a couple of machine gun squads through the wheatfield to the left of the small hill to challenge for the church, the nearest of the victory buildings.  Unfortunately on my right an armoured car got smashed and set on fire by a newly revealed 75mm up on a hill but apart from that things weren't going too badly.

End of turn one.  Could be worse

In the second turn I pushed forward steadily along the flanking hills, this cost me some casualties but also revealed some of his troops.  With smoke successfully placed my mortars started getting acquisitions and Ivan decided to leave the church before they resulted in casualties.  Sadly for him he moved into a graveyard which my mortar then pounded smashing an hmg squad.  With that unit fleeing my troops snatched the church and grabbed the hmg as well.  A somewhat disorganised flanking effort on the right managed to get some troops into position (others broke) and gave his men over there something to think about.  Meanwhile in the centre I brought on my cavalry jumping off the horses as soon as was decently possible and joined those squads to my centre push.

Coming soon, cavalry to a scenario near you

Ivan didn't help his cause by breaking his mortar on the right and, as vengeance in the form of a trio of first line squads, approached his smoke wreathed mortar on the left he abandoned it and fled for safety.  His other gun revealed itself but an intensive fire shot broke the thing completely and suddenly Ivan was short on firepower.  Meanwhile my forward push in the centre continued slowly.  This was partly caution and partly the fact that a captured Polish hmg was so heavy the squad with it could barely move at all..  Nevertheless I crawled forward and things didn't look too bad.

Then they got a lot better.  My mortars rock, one of them went on an extended rate tear and killed his remaining gun crew, then beat up on his remaining hmg squad wounding his 9-1 leader (full disclosure forces me to admit that the same morale checks generated a hero and battle hardened the squad but whatever).  On the minus side an attempt by my hill kill stack to wipe out a half squad with an atr only sent them berserk.  Still with the smoke dissipating (except for that from my merrily burning armoured car) my troops seemed well placed for a major drive forward.  I even pushed a squad towards his berserkers, daring them to charge (they did and killed a half squad in CC before I reinforced it and finally managed to kill the crazy bastards).

Over on the right I had swept Ivan from the hills and had a modest (one squad) flanking manouvre happening.  On the left the final act of his gun crew before suffering deserved mortar related death was to break two of my squads but the third leapt forward and grabbed the now unoccupied gun.  I don't expect them to do much with it but every time I fire it Ivan dies a little inside.

The flanks are mine, unfortunately the victory locations are all in the middle

Sadly in the centre things have got a little awkward.  Ivan didn't stay and fight for the central buildings but pulled back to defend the two in the rear, unfortunately one of my armoured cars got a little eager and was ripped to bits by his medium machine gun.  The resultant billows of smoke are blowing right where I should be setting up my firebase for the final assault.  His hmg team managed to shatter my kill stack on the hill.  All that's left of it is a wounded officer and a broken halfsquad but in revenge one of my mortars (have I mentioned how much I love my mortars) killed his hero and broke his squad so now he has lost his last hmg.

On the right Ivan voluntarily broke a pair of squads to rush them back to a victory building, trusting the officer there would be able to rally them before I arrived.  He was half right, he rallied one of them but my one surviving armoured car rolled up and is currently holding them in bypass while his broken squad slunk upstairs.  Ivan's strategy is simple.  He plans to hold that building as long as possible and the two rear ones for all time.  I need to get them all.  I have enough troops to take the building on the right but Ivan has concentrated a spectacular amount of firepower in the rear buildings and the damn smoke will make it hard for me to whittle it down.

The story so far

The above picture is where we left it.  I have three turns to drive Ivan out of three buildings.  I have a nasty feeling I might come up just a little bit short.

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