"What the hell is that?" he muttered. He looked around but von Kummerbund was nowhere to be seen.
"Damn the man, honestly why can't I get decent subordinates?" He hastily signed off on a lice readiness report and handed it to the gefreiter.
"Where the hell is von Kummerbund and what is all the fuss about?"
"I believe a new Junior Officer has arrived sir," replied the gefreiter carefully tearing the report up and stuffing a cushion with it. "Major von Kummerbund is greeting him."
Greeting may have been technically what von Kummerbund was doing but he had abandoned most of it in favour of simply staring in disgust. In front of him was a short flabby man in an ill fitting uniform. The greasy rolls of fat around his collar were not enhanced by an apparent disinclination to shave and the eyes that peered at him with indifference were yellow where they weren't bloodshot.
"Dear god," muttered von Kummerbund as Junior Officer scratched at his choppily shaven head, dislodging a partially completed cigarette from behind his ear as he did so. "Where the hell did you come from?"
"Potsdam, I was in a mail sorting unit when the word went out that this regiment needed a Junior Officer. Sorry, I guess I should have saluted."
"Yes, and stood to attention, and got a clean uniform, and shaved, and washed!" Von Kummerbund was about to develop this promising line of communication further when something Junior Officer said caught his attention. "Wait a minute. Do you mean you volunteered?"
Junior Officer smiled revealed irregular, nicotine stained teeth.
"That's right Herr Major, eager for action that's me." He looked like any sort of action might give him a heart attack.
"I don't know whether to be appalled or, no actually appalled is my only option. Welcome aboard Junior Officer, I'm sure you'll fit right in. Here comes the chief."
Oberst von Kattelrussler made his way towards them chewing on his swagger stick as he dodged from bush to bush. Junior Officer brightened up and waved enthusiastically.
"Hi Uncle Heinrich!"
Von Kattelrussler gave a horrified smile and waved back weakly.
"Right," muttered von Kummerbund, "we are all definitely going to die."
So this is our latest Poland in Flames outing. BFP 131 - Zboiska Heights. Here I command a tough batch of gebirgsjager backed up with some impressive looking guns as they try and hold a hill against a mass of Poles who seem to be coming from all directions. To hold the hill I have eight elite squads, four first line squads and six crews. To back this lot up I have a 105mm gun, a 75mm gun and an 81mm mortar plus a pair of mmgs and an hmg. I also get fourteen foxholes and a bunch of concealment counters. Leadership, too, is good (von Kattelrussler must have had the day off) with four officers headed up by a 9-2 and a 9-1. I also get four more elite squads as reinforcements on turn four. Ivan gets a massive force, to the north facing a lot of open ground are eight first line and ten green squads with a 75mm artillery piece, a truck, an hmg, a mmg and three 46mm mortars. Entering from the south on turn one are ten elite squads with some very impressive leaders, four dinky little tankettes (one mounting a thoroughly respectable 47mm gun), a pair of machine gun armed trucks and a couple of normal trucks for reasons neither of us could determine. Oh yes, he also got some 100mm OBA. To win Ivan had to push me off the level 3 hill hexes.
|At set up. North is to the right
I must confess I didn't like my chances on this one. I could see myself being crushed between two fires. I decided that the west (top) would be my main defensive position thus hopefully covering my reinforcement route (they came in on the west edge). Down in the east I had a squad and a half with an lmg and a bunch of dummies to pretend I had a defence. In the west I had four elite squads, nestled in foxholes with a squad and lmg commanded by my 9-2 leading the defence. Facing north I had a crew with my hmg in the centre (guided by the 9-1) with a couple of other squads nearby. Behind my main line in the west I had a mmg crew and the 81mm mortar team sitting in foxholes with a clear line of sight to the open ground Ivan's northern troops would have to run over. The other two guns I placed facing south hoping I might be able to get some armour kills as his guys rolled on.
Things were pretty quiet in the north. Ivan inched his troops forward pretty much unseen by my boys while he brought his (perfectly accurate) artillery down on my hmg position. One of my squads nearby broke but my hmg team would sit cheerfully under the steel rain without consequences despite Ivan adding his 75mm to the firepower against them.
It was in the south that the action started at a frantic pace. Ivan brought on a pair of tanks and both gun trucks along the west edge supporting a trio of squads toting an mmg and led by a fearsome 9-2. I couldn't do much about the the tanks but small arms fire took out one of the trucks and the other parked to return fire while the tanks attempted a little flanking. One of them rolled up onto a hill in line of sight of my lmg team and was promptly set on fire. It's fair to say I was quite happy with the way the first turn went. His infantry eased slowly forward and a pair of tanks rolled on in the east as well.
|End turn 1. First blood to me while Ivan's northern troops are still slogging towards the battlefield
In the centre Ivan brought on two trucks laded (two squads apiece) with infantry. Unfortunately he brought them on directly in the line of sight of my 105mm gun which promptly vapourised a truck and two squads. Its fair to say this slowed Ivan's progress in the south centre as his other truck promptly stamped on the brakes and told the infantry to find their own way forward. In the west a probing squad by Ivan was broken but the remainder of his troops there bulked formidable. In the north he crawled forwards and the artillery continued to hammer me without much result. Aside from that there was little to report. In the east his green troops limped slowly towards what (had he but known it) was a very sketchy defence.
|Thanks to my 105mm Ivan's tanks in the east are looking a little lonely
In the face of a killer stack three squads strong I pulled back a squad in the west from its defensive position. My intention was to send it over the hill to take a reverse slope (from the south) position but Ivan followed me into the orchard. This allowed me to reveal my 75mm to take a shot at this massive kill stack. I gacked the shot and the kill stack lived up to its name by killing the 75s gun crew. One of my most potent weapons gone. I wept and cursed of course but in actual fact that moment was the worst in the game for me. After that it rapidly unravelled for Ivan. He spread his three squad kill stack in the east out to deal with my squad that was dancing around above him "protected" by orchards. These heroes then broke two of said squads and pinned his 9-2 leader. To add insult to injury he boxcarred one of the morale checks and an elite squad was suddenly a broken first line halfsquad. In the south centre he pushed forward against limited resistance but I managed to break another squad as it took the risk of dashing across a road.
|Ivan's northern force is getting killed
The remnants of that centre force managed to break the mmg team supposedly defending the 75 and captured that position but they didn't have anywhere to go where they wouldn't be exposed to fire from my remaining troops. His remaining tank in the west rolled up to my mmg post and the two of them spent the rest of the game firing on each other without effect. When he attempted to start up his remaining truck small arms fire took care of that as well.
Which just leaves the north. With a couple of squads, my 81mm mortar and my hmg all still operating I quite literally slaughtered Ivan's force trying to come across a hill bare of cover. The only unit that got close to me was one that went berserk on a morale check. Literally everything else broke and then died. Far down in the east his green troops had suffered their own casualties but had finally butted up against my less than magnificent defence. It didn't really matter, they had neither the movement or the numbers to break through. Ivan conceded on turn four before my reinforcements arrived. His southern infantry was chopped into two mutually unsupporting groups both under pressure, the bulk of his northern infantry were dead and he had lost a tank and two gun trucks in addition to shocking infantry losses. I held the west solidly and my reinforcements were due. There was no point beyond simple masochism in continuing.
|The end. Some gains in the east (bottom) can't compensate for Ivan's appalling casualties elsewhere
Strangely both Ivan and I approached this game with trepidation. I looked at the sheer number of Polish troops and the fact that they hit me from two sides and felt like the meat in a sandwich. Ivan looked at the vast amount of open ground to the north and the cluttered terrain in the south which restricted his tank options and felt under pressure as well. With this over we've decided to take a break from Poland in Flames for a while. We feel like we need a bit of a change. For some reason Ivan has decided to pander to my Italian fetish so for our next game I'm digging out the rather ancient Showdown at Tug Argan Pass.
Major von Kummerbund stared at the road where a yawning crater adorned with a single tire marked where a truck had briefly been. Junior Officer had produced a couple of cans of beer from somewhere and was drinking with the gefreiter in the shadow of a 105mm gun.
"Junior Officer," said von Kummerbund faintly, "where did you get the 105 from?"
Junior Officer belched, "Oh I won it in a game of skat from some artillery boys behind the line. It was nice of them to set it up for us though."
Von Kummerbund stared at Junior Officer with suspicion,
"You're the smart one in your family, aren't you?"
Junior Officer grinned, "My aunt engineered my transfer so that I could keep an eye on uncle Heinrich, he can get a little excitable."
"Believe me, we've noticed."