"And that covers my first week's leave in Dresden. Are there any questions?"
Despite himself Major von Kummerbund raised his hand.
"Are we going to cover our current assignment?" he asked more in hope than expectation.
"What's to cover?" shrugged von Kattelrussler. "Poles, villages, guns, tanks nothing we haven't seen a thousand times already. We can do the briefing after the attack." He turned to such of his staff as hadn't already been evacuated with self inflicted wounds. "All right, dismissed. I want a full evaluation of how I can squeeze a cycling tour of Saxony into my next three day furlough on my desk by 03.00." His staff fled with a speed born of desperation and von Kattelrussler waved his subordinate to a chair. Von Kummerbund sat a little nervously and tried not to notice the series of tics that periodically transformed his chief's face into a chaotic wreck.
"Well, Junior Officer has left us," said von Kattelrussler squatting on a wrecked 75mm gun. "I believe he requested a transfer to the SS."
To von Kummerbund's certain knowledge Junior Officer had requested transfers to the SS, the artillery, the panzerwaffe, the Luftwaffe, the Kreigsmarine, the Todt Organisation and the League of German Maidens. The SS were simply the first ones to say "yes".
"I believe that's true sir, and he's Junior Officer no longer. The SS must be short of junior leaders, they promoted him to Obersturmfuhrer immediately on his arrival."
"Obersturmfuhrer? What the hell is wrong with leutnant for god's sake. Posturing twats."
Privately von Kummerbund agreed with his chief but was afraid of making a habit of it.
"Indeed sir, he is now SS Obersturmfuhrer Michael Wittmann."
"Michael Wittmann? What sort of a stupid name is that. Mark my words von Kummerbund, nobody will ever hear of him again." There was an edge of malice in von Kattelrussler's chuckle.
"Speaking of the SS, that's our latest assignment. They charged into some village or other and have got themselves completely surrounded by Poles. Naturally it's up to us in the army to get them out."
"May god help them," muttered von Kummerbund. "Do we have any support?"
"Well the SS want to show they're contributing so they've attached a couple of armoured cars to us commanded by," von Kattelrussler scrabbled for a piece of paper, "commanded by, oh SS Obersturmfuhrer Michael Wittmann. How nice, I wonder if he knows."
Faintly, over the noise of battle came the sound of a newly promoted SS officer sobbing hysterically in an armoured car.
"I think that would be a "yes" sir," replied von Kummerbund.
Our latest Poland in Flames foray is BFP 123, Asphalt Soldiers. I shall command the Germans consisting of a bunch of cut off and increasingly desperate SS troopers and von Kattelrussler's boys riding to the rescue. I'm not expecting too much from this one, I replaced my computer the weekend before we started playing and studied the scenario for about thirty seconds before set up. Essentially my SS troops have to flee to the west (left) side of the board through the scary Poles in their way while simultaneously holding off another bunch of Poles charging towards them from the east side of the board. Ivan, as the Poles, has to crush the SS between two fires while simultaneously holding off von Kattelrussler's ill led hordes pounding towards them from the west.
The SS set up in a village which has a plethora of stone buildings (good for defence) unfortunately their objective crosses a fair bit of open ground inconveniently riddled with Poles. Lest the SS simply go for the exit like a bat out of hell the Poles in the east are ready to charge after them. I'm also handicapped by the fact that four of my sixteen SS squads are "walking wounded" or, as I have designated them, "expendable speedbumps". I plan to hold the eastern side of the village with the wounded (supported by a mortar and a bunch of concealment counters) while the rest of my force sets up to the left of the village to probe the Polish positions and hopefully find a way through. Lest my plan of trapping the left handed Poles between two fires seems a little easy the Poles get a bunch of reinforcements that come on the top and bottom edges of the board to take the Germans in the flank. Bluntly, everybody is attacking everybody else and getting in each others way.
|SS in the village, Poles all around and on the left von Kattelrussler deploying his troops with his usual skill.|
I set my SS up strongly in the north with a largely theoretical defence in the south. I had determined that my relieving troops (Von Kattelrussler's Own) would come in along the northern edge. On the right hand side Ivan had a powerful force in the centre looking to push towards the big factory while flanking troops towards the bottom looked to push through my non existent defences down there. For the most part his left hand troops cowered under concealment counters.
|After the first turn, my sole achievement is to get my rooftop mortar pinned.|
A couple of turns in and things aren't looking good for the bad guys (ie me). Despite apparently being the Nazi elite my SS troopers have proved incapable of hitting a barn from the inside and only the breaking of the Polish heavy machine gun has spared me from heavy casualties. I'm still holding the factory which is good as it delays the right hand Poles but is also means those guys aren't heading towards safety. Up in the north I tested Ivan's concealment counters by pushing a squad along the northern edge. Ivan had a better way of dealing with it, I had forgotten his reinforcements came on in the north. He advanced two concealed squads into CC with my lone squad, ambushed it and killed it. The remainder of my SS force is making only small progress towards the left although one mortar crew did walk into a 4-4FP shot and deservedly died.
Just for the record I set up my other mortar on the roof of the large factory to support the defenders there. Despite a target rich environment all the crew has been able to is first get pinned and then get broken. So much for the mortar I don't expect to get any more mileage out of it and frankly I'm glad the worthless thing is gone.
|His reinforcements have got to the woods before my trucks, grr!|
Over on the left I've trucked a bunch of squads along the northern edge just too late to stop his reinforcements from taking position in the woods between them and my beleaguered SS. In the centre I've dragged a 75mm gun up on to a hill which has so far led Ivan to reveal his own 75 to grab some acquisition in case I manage to get any further. To the south I have a smaller force pushing through the woods and trying to look mean. My armoured cars rolled up to try and help dispatch the green squads Ivan has pushed into the woods. That worked well, they haven't achieved anything but at least only one of them got stunned. Nevertheless by using the SS armoured cars as a diversion I managed to unload a powerful infantry force from their trucks with impunity (who said von Kattelrussler is dumb?). Freed from their infantry burden the trucks are trundling forward towards the enemy, did anyone say "truck overrun?" Hells yeah!
In the south my troops have pretty much emerged from the forest and will have to think of something to do quite soon. I also have a 37mm still hooked up to a truck that I'm going to have to find something to do with quite soon.
Well I found something to do with the 37mm. I drove it in front of one of his mortars and truck, gun and crew have been blown to hell. The CVP count is starting to look a little awkward. It wasn't helped when a truck thundering towards his troops got set on fire and a second truck was immobilised before either could do the vaunted truck overruns.
Still it isn't all bad news, my SS troops in the village are slowly easing themselves leftward and a decent number of them made it to the edge of the open ground and are eyeing the area with distinct suspicion. My 75mm started to make its presence felt breaking a squad and leader and generally making every one in the vicinity nervous.
|The truck and armoured car overruns in the north haven't gone exactly to plan|
It has to be admitted that the reliability of the support weapons on both sides has been a little bit suspect. Ivan and I seem to be in a race to see who can break the most support weapons first, at present I think Ivan is leading, just.
With the initial shock over (and having Ivan kindly remind me of the victory conditions) I took stock. Things didn't seem to be going too badly. Despite my idiocy with the antitank gun I had the southern flank covered by a pair of atr toting squads and a 81mm mortar. In the north my troops were slowly using numbers and the threat of flanking manoeuvres to push back his green troops defending the forest while in the centre a decent chunk of my SS troops were positioning themselves for the mad dash to safety.
Then Ivan's second batch of reinforcements arrived. Four (very) little tanks, an armoured car, a bunch of elite cavalry squads and something called a taczanka which was apparently a horse drawn cart carrying a medium machine gun.
|Suddenly the south is infested with Poles. In the north his troops are slowly being squeezed between two fires|
With his green squads hanging tough in the north and my SS apparently about to break free into open country in the south Ivan brought the bulk of his forces on in the south. Three of his tanks rolled up and took up positions in the wheatfield in the centre. His horsemen galloped madly towards the factory and assumed blocking positions to prevent any southerly break out and his taczanka, well it trotted up a street and stopped. Neither of us quite knew what to do with this thing. In the centre his 9-2 cavalry leader wound up opposite my 9-2 SS leader (with a crew and hmg) each occupying a building whose defensive potential was largely negated by the leadership modifier of each combatant.
Naturally my atr toting squads had attempted to take out his tanks as they passed by and naturally they failed. I assembled my 81mm mortar and failed to gain a hit with it as well. The south seemed blocked. Up in the north things took an unexpected turn for the better.
To menace my 75mm gun, which was starting to get the range on his green infantry, Ivan had brought his a tank and an armoured car on deep in my rear. Despite failing to have APCR my 75 killed them both with two quick shots which was a relief as his green troops were still hanging tough and breaking my first liners all over the place. Things were made less pleasant when I forewent the truck overruns and brought up my armoured cars. Ivan's green troops promptly stunned one for the second time and it fled for the exit, the only consolation being that it didn't count for victory points. I was so frustrated at my inability to hurt these losers that I actually charged into close combat with one of his units who had been standing in the street ignoring morale checks.
Despite the heroics of his green troops Ivan's position in the north was fragile. His troops were hiding behind hedges and cowering in brush and the more northerly of my SS troopers were closing up effectively surrounding them. I started to push my SS troopers forward through the brush and brought up the remainder of my forces in the woods. In the centre a mmg team and officer ploughed through the grain looking to cut his forces in half.
After several turns of failure the breakthrough came quite quickly. My 75mm managed to pound some guys and my SS some more. Suddenly he had a bunch of broken squads and absolutely no rout paths. In return he fired on a sacrificial SS squad trotting towards a building and they went berserk charging into the building and breaking the occupants in advancing fire. Ivan lost about six squads to surrender in one phase and in desperation charged one of his remaining squads into CC with some of my troops in the forest. I reinforced that melee and actually killed something in close combat.
|Suddenly the north looks much better. In the next turn I would capture all of these broken squads.|
In the centre Ivan broke his 75mm gun, repaired it and broke it again. In return I dropped an 81mm mortar round on the hex which killed a tank and pinned his gun crew. Attempting to reposition his remaining tanks Ivan managed to get one stunned by an lmg team (and stun is a recall for these little pests) and the other broke its MA attempting to fire on my 9-2. I had attempted to reposition this and had missed a clear line of sight which resulted in a 4-3 shot which my hmg crew passed and caused my 9-2 leader became heroic. Much cursing by Ivan. The next turn, guided by their newly heroic commander the hmg team took a shot and broke their weapon. Much cursing by Neil. In a silly piece of drawing fire I moved a squad out into the road, the broken half squad is currently weeping in a building. Some of Ivan's cavalry were forced to dismount directly in my line of sight so I killed them, much cursing by Ivan. Ivan moved three squads in the open against a wounded SS squad in a building. Defensive fire achieved only one pin result and another close combat rages, much cursing by Neil. Fire from my (newly repaired) hmg on Ivan's 9-2 led stack resulted in a snake eyes which killed a squad and broke the remainder, much cursing by Ivan. Ivan moved his taczanka out of harm's way, so he thought, but I cranked my big mortar around and blew it apart, bits of droshky flew in all directions. Hopefully that isn't the difference between success and failure as neither of us has any idea of how many VP it's worth.
|I pretty much have the north. Ivan rules the south.|
At the end of this rather frenetic seesaw I pretty much control the north. A single green squad with an mmg is all that stands between my SS and their rescuers. My sole surviving armoured car I plan to keep out of harms way for the rest of the scenario so I don't lose the CVP from it's destruction. Ivan has augmented a centre position around the wheatfield and no doubt hopes to punish escape attempts.
With the final turns upon us, Ivan made his move in the south. He finally killed my wounded squad in CC and his forces on the right, having disposed of all those heavy support weapons, moved unencumbered into the factory. It wasn't really his fault that a sniper broke the squad acting as point unit. Far to the south Ivan had a 37mm AT gun that neither of us could see a reason for him possessing. Grimly, over the course of three turns, he pushed it down the road until it could fire at a concealed stack in the factory. They were dummies, much cursing from Ivan. It was obvious that none of my troops were going to get away in the south. In fact they were being squeezed between Ivan's onboard forces and his newly arrived cavalry and barely controlled the ground they stood on. I had hopes of filtering some troops through to the north but Ivan's move into the factory stymied that.
I had a broken SS squad that was in a good position however and a nine to rally gave me hopes they could escape. I rolled a boxcars, much cursing by Neil. Up in the forest to the north a pair of my squads had been trembling under DM counters for a couple of turns despite the encouraging presence of a 9-1leader. Again I attempted to rally them; I rolled a boxcars, much cursing by Neil. Matters were made worse by the crew of Ivan's wrecked armoured car who had survived and had now personally outflanked my entire force. Fortunately a nearby squad managed to hit them with a MC. Ivan rolled a boxcars, much cursing etc etc. Ivan attempted to repair the MA on his remaining tank and rolled a six. I also subsequently stunned it. These guys were determined to leave.
Despite all of the above things were looking good for me. I had assembled my hmg in the north the previous turn but Ivan had promptly broken the manning crew. Despite this minor set back my forces in the north wouldn't be denied and the breaking (and subsequent death due to failure to rout) of his one remaining squad up there allowed about half of my SS force to escape to relative safety. To my astonishment the pair of close combats up there were decided in my favour as well. Denied nearby targets my berserk squad charged south towards the wheatfield and a stunned AFV with no MA and a broken squad. The squad, running out of fleeing options died but the berserkers managed to immobilise the tank in CC, no sneaking off the board for these guys.
I rolled my own armoured car around to cover the road that Ivan was covering and preventing my southern troops from escaping. Perhaps I could free them after all. I rolled an eleven and broke the MA. There was something seriously wrong with our weapons in this scenario. With the north clear (even a wounded SS squad managed to escape) I began filtering troops south and at that point Ivan conceded. The slaughter of his green troops had given me a lead of 60 odd CVP to about twenty at that point. He would have had to wipe out virtually my entire OB to have a chance of victory. All I needed to do was survive.
|The point at which Ivan surrendered|
This was certainly a game of swings of fortune. In the first few turns I couldn't buy an average roll much less a decent one however when it counted it was Ivan's luck which deserted him. A series of failed morale checks when there was nowhere to run doomed his forces. This is before you count the fact that at one point we both managed to break virtually every support weapon we possessed.
Major von Kummerbund looked around with satisfaction. Since oberst von Kattelrussler had gone missing at the start of the action he had taken over command and the results were impressive. A gefreiter (yes, it's the same one) marched up and saluted.
"Ah, gefreiter. Any word on the oberst?" asked the major hoping for tragic news.
"I'm afraid not Herr Major, he was last seen in a truck towing a 37mm gun towards the enemy screaming "truck overrun!" at the top of his voice,". The gefreiter produced a twisted steering wheel, "This is the most we've been able to find so far."
A desperate hope began to form in von Kummerbund's chest. A hope which promptly died as a depressingly familiar voice rang across the battlefield.
"Oh there you are von Kummerbund," von Kattelrussler strolled up brushing bits of 37mm gun off his uniform, "Is it over?"
Reluctantly von Kummerbund saluted, "Yes sir, it's over."
"Ooh look at the cute little tanks the Poles have, aren't they gorgeous?"
"Indeed sir; you know if you wanted to join the Polish army it probably isn't too late."
"Don't be silly von Kummerbund, where would the Reich be without my leadership?"
"Probably Moscow by now."
"Where are the Polish prisoners?"
"I think the SS are getting ready to massacre them."
"Well tell them to stop, I want some of them to renovate my house."
"You do realise that joke won't be funny for seventy years sir?"
"You know me von Kummerbund, ahead of the curve. Tell me, did Oberwhatsit Wittman survive?"
"Surprisingly sir he did. Apparently he spent most of the battle hiding on the floor of his armoured car."
Von Kattelrussler beamed, "I taught him everything he knows. He will go far."
"At least as far as Normandy."
Von Kattelrussler raised an eyebrow, "now who's making anachronistic jokes?"
"Very sorry sir."
"Yes, well sweep up the body parts and bits of armoured vehicle, we're heading for Warsaw."
Von Kattelrussler strode off jumping occasionally as imaginary dangers leapt out at him from behind wrecked tanks.
"He's going to get another medal for this isn't he sir?" asked the gefreiter.
"Welcome to the German army," muttered von Kummerbund. "Warsaw, dear Christ!"
"He's going to get another medal for this isn't he sir?" asked the gefreiter.
"Welcome to the German army," muttered von Kummerbund. "Warsaw, dear Christ!"