Junior Officer, his own uniform adorned with the ribbon of the Iron Cross, 1st Class marched up and saluted.
"The armoured units are in position as the Oberst ordered," he reported. Von Kummerbund stopped contemplating the manifestly unfair nature of warfare and looked at the line of grim, squat armoured vehicles stretched out before him. Suddenly he frowned and peered closer at one of the vehicles.
"Is that a half track?" he asked pointing at a combination of wheels and caterpillar tracks that rather gave the game away. Junior Officer nodded eagerly,
"Yes sir, no armour to speak of but they've got a very sexy 37mm that can make a nasty mess of an infantry platoon."
"For god's sake hide them man. The CO hates halftracks, if he sees one he'll probably have a fit. Paint extra wheels on the side or something and be quick about it." von Kummerbund glanced around quickly but Oberst von Kattelrussler was still sitting happily on top of a PzIV tank sucking his Knight's Cross like a pacifier and staring vacantly into the middle distance. If one were charitable one could say he was examining the enemy positions. Spotting von Kummerbund before the latter had a chance to duck behind an armoured car von Kattelrussler beckoned him imperiously.
"Wqf dd you hckf weprf?" he asked
"Perhaps if you were to take the Knight's Cross out of your mouth sir," suggested von Kummerbund attempting to ignore the sniggers of the panzer troopers nearby.
"What do you have to report?" repeated von Kattelrussler wiping saliva off his new decoration.
"They have antitank guns sir, and heavy machine guns. Intelligence suggests that an armoured force may be coming to their assistance."
Von Kattelrussler grinned manically, "Leave the armour to me my dear von Kummerbund. I shall lead our tanks to triumph, ah why does that man have a bucket of paint?"
"I really couldn't say sir."
"Well tell him to do his interior decorating later, there's a war going on. I'll command the tanks. The infantry is yours von Kummerbund. Lead them to glory! It should be marked on the map."
Despite himself von Kummerbund glanced at the map his CO had produced. There was indeed a big X in marker pen with the word "GLORY" written beside it. Well this couldn't go badly wrong, could it?
So this is the latest Poland in Flames scenario BFP 119, Real Steel. Here Ivan Kent will attempt to seize a combination of buildings and high ground from my gallant Polish defenders. To assist him in this obviously futile endeavour Ivan will have fourteen squads of infantry (three elite the rest first line), a flame thrower, a demolition charge, six machine guns of various types and a small mortar. This force is led by five officers and backed by an impressive armoured force. A very impressive armoured force actually. He has a collection of eighteen vehicles ranging from PzIVs all the way down the panzer numbers plus armoured cars, a couple of armoured trucks and a pair of unarmoured halftracks.
To oppose this force I have eleven first line Polish squads, a pair of 37mm anti tank guns, a large mortar, two heavy machine guns and two antitank rifles. I also have four foxholes and four wire counters to help the defence. On the second turn I get armoured reinforcements of my own in the shape of ten 7TPjw tanks (with a nice 37mm gun) and a pair of trucks mounting heavy machine guns.
Victory points are allocated for capturing single hex buildings (1 point each), level 1 hill hexes (1 point each) and multihex buildings (15 points each). There are 87 points worth of locations at the start and Ivan has to capture 50 of them. In a practical sense this means Ivan has to capture at least one and preferably both of the multihex buildings both of which lurk at the very rear of the board.
|Initial set up
Aside from the multihex buildings there were two other VP rich locations; a cluster of single hex buildings on the left and a large hill mass on the right. To guard the right I set up an hmg team (commanded by a doughty 7-0) and an AT gun on the hill. I also wired the gap between the hill and the board edge in case he tried a flanking move that way. A pair of squads (and some dummies) went into the forward buildings near the orchards on the left and I wired the orchard to try and persuade him to either come down the road or cross open ground. My remaining 37mm I placed in a building to cover the open ground on the left, I didn't expect it to last long but hoped it could take out a tank or two before dying.
On the small hill in the centre of my set up I placed my mortar and my other hmg team where I hoped the could intervene on either flank and I put a couple of squads (one with an antitank rifle) covering the road through the grainfields. The remainder of my troops went into the village on the left. This was my delaying force, I intended my reinforcements to bolster my rear around the multihex buildings.
Ivan set his troops up for a strong push on the left with somewhat lesser forces going up the centre road. Over on the right he had a collection of AFVs apparently going for a flanking manoeuvre. His left hand push went without incident for a turn or so. Infantry accompanied by AFVs made it into the orchard and started menacing my forward positions. A pair of half squads that tried to scoot up the left side of the board got spanked but my AT gun didn't make an impression on his vehicles. It was a different story on the right where the AT gun managed to take out an armoured car and Ivan didn't help his cause by breaking the MA of a PzI rolling towards the centre.
Then in the second turn all hell broke loose. With Ivan pushing forward left and right my AT guns stood up like heroes and went on rate tears, slamming 37mm shells into everything coloured grey. An unfortunate sperm whale that just happened to be passing was caught up in the carnage but such are the fortunes of war. By the end of the second turn one of my gun crews had been broken but six AFVs had been destroyed. In the centre Ivan had sleazed my squad in the forward building with an armoured car but then rolled out into the next hex apparently forgetting I had an antitank rifle. I managed to shock the AFV and eventually it was lost to a UK result and now my own armoured reinforcements were rolling on.
|About the end of turn 3. My reinforcements are in place and Ivan's tank force is looking a little ratty
Despite his armour losses Ivan looked in reasonable shape. He had seized the buildings near the orchard and cleared the centre road. Things weren't helped when I pounded a squad in the wheatfield with an 81mm mortar and only succeeded in battle hardening them to elite status and generated a hero into the bargain. My mortar proved good at that, a little later in the game it would battle harden one of his elite squads to fanatic status as well. However then my AT gun crew self rallied like the heroes they were and Ivan's hope of shepherding his troops forward under tank cover melted away.
Mind you my tank force was doing a little melting as well. He took out a tank on the left with machine gun fire and his flanking PzIV killed one on the right.. Since my boys had to move by platoons that was a little awkward and it was made more awkward as Ivan's surviving PzIV rolled around to challenge the remaining tank on the right. The odds of my hitting him through a mass of grain were spectacularly low and we had a bit of a duel over there which to my astonishment I won (temporarily) with a shock result on the PzIV. Sadly it eventually recovered but it was out of action for a couple of turns.
On the far right hill I'd finally pushed my luck too far with the other AT gun, trying to hit one of his halftracks I broke the damn thing and destroyed it on the repair die roll. However the hmg was still hanging tough (although the officer broke under fire from the halftrack) and I eventually managed to immobilise and then kill the thing.
On the left Ivan made his move, trying to get his tanks forward to help his infantry do likewise but my newly recovered AT gun smashed up pretty much every vehicle he had left while my mortar was gaining useful acquisitions on the buildings he was occupying. Of course I had to push my luck too far and fire the AT gun at some infantry as well and I promptly broke that gun too.
|Ivan's tank force is pretty much gone but his infantry are still strong
With most of his vehicles out for the count Ivan could have been forgiven for cursing the fates (or at least the dice) but instead he settled down and grimly prepared an all infantry attack. In this he wasn't helped by his flamethrower squad which broke everytime somebody fired a weapon within a hundred yards of them and his only shelter was targeted by my tanks and mortar.
Still he managed to stun the tank carrying my armour leader and I didn't help by breaking the MA of another tank and then recalling it on the repair die roll. My ATG was also out of action. Ivan's newly created hero went on a one man flanking attack while his other units in the centre managed to break the mortar crew. I remanned the mortar with a surplus squad and managed to kill the hero but not before he had used a captured antitank rifle to destroy another of my tanks.
Having successfully rallied the bulk of his infantry (its amazing what a turn or two's respite from mortar fire can do) Ivan launched his final bid for victory on the left. Meanwhile on the far right his PzIV rolled forward, perhaps in the hope of killing a tank or two before the inevitable end. His squads in the centre veered left to help the main attack. Meanwhile my right flank gun crew (now without a gun) trotted unharmed across open ground and recaptured a building. As counterattacks go it wasn't stellar but it gave Ivan something else to think about.
On the left Ivan didn't charge forward across the road as I had hoped. Rather he pushed left out of the covered arc of my protecting tanks, captured my recently repaired AT gun and in subsequent turns provided himself with a covered approach by the simple expedient of advancing into close combat with tanks and tearing them apart with his bare hands. Naturally his flamethrower squad didn't take part in these heroics, they broke on the first piddling fire they received and spent the remainder of the game whimpering in back play.
|The end, Ivan is cheerfully ripping my tanks apart with his fingernails but it shall avail him naught
Finally though it wasn't enough, although Ivan took out a couple more of my tanks and captured a couple more buildings I was able to shuffle my village defenders around so that he couldn't capture enough to make a difference. This was a pretty fun game (for me) characterised by ridiculously low rolling on both sides. Sadly for Ivan the low rolling started a turn earlier for me when both my AT guns went on a rate tear and took out about five AFVs in one turn. From then on he was playing catch up.
Hauptmann von Kummerbund ran his hands frantically over Junior Officers body looking for the wound. He stared at his hands which were soaking wet and strangely grey.
"I got hit in the paint tin," explained Junior Officer with some embarrassment. "The paint got in my eyes and I fell off the tank I was riding."
Von Kummerbund threw up his hands in frustration, all around was the wreckage of a failed attack; burning vehicles, twisted chunks of armour plate and medical personnel attending to the wounded with an enthusiasm that bordered on ghoulish. He stared at the shattered wreck of the PzIV that Oberst von Kattelrussler had ridden into battle and a desperate hope rose in his breast. That hope was dashed a moment later when he saw his CO sitting on a fuel drum having his mouth and chin bandaged by an overly cheerful medical orderly.
"Is the Herr Oberst all right?" he asked the orderly praying for a negative answer.
"He'll be fine," replied the orderly. "Apparently he accidentally choked on his Knights Cross and cut his lip on the edges. I'm planning to plaster his head as a precaution."
"Carry on," von Kummerbund replied and turned back to the battlefield. Behind him Oberst von Kattelrustler did a surprisingly accurate charade of a half track being beaten with a stick by a senior officer.