"Look," he squealed, "a bridge!"
His companion sighed, "Yes, I see it. It isn't the first bridge I've seen."
"But its not on fire, and we've found it!"
The other soldier shook his head and pulled a book from his knapsack. He flipped to a particular page.
"What else do you see?" he asked.
The first soldier blinked, "What do you mean?"
"You see that big wooden looking building with the sign saying 'stone building'? Do you know what that is?"
"A youth hostel?"
"Close, its the Vardar Tactical Training College. Stuffed, no doubt, with the Yugoslav army's best and brightest."
The first soldier peered at the book in his comrade's hand, "Is that an intelligence pack?"
"No its a Lonely Planet guide. It tells me we can probably expect some pretty fierce resistance if we try to capture that bridge."
"I don't see anything."
"Well they're hardly likely to put out signs, apart from that one saying 'stone building' for some reason. OK, off you go."
"Back to the others. Tell them we've found a bridge. You might want to toss in a mention of the college as well." He got off his bike and settled down on a comfortable patch of grass.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to keep an eye on the bridge and make sure nobody steals it while you're gone."
So this is The Scenario Formerly Known As A28 - The Professionals which pitches a bunch of battle hungry Germans replete with tanks and half tracks against a collection of green Yugoslavs who aren't. I've wanted to play this scenario for ages largely because I like saying "Vardar Tactical Training College". I shall be commanding the Germans who are trying to capture a non burning bridge to keep their advance moving. Ivan has the Yugoslavs unreasonably obsessed with holding on to this particular bridge while the rest of their country falls apart.
Ivan gets ten green squads headed up by two quite capable officers (a 9-2 and an 8-1). These guys get a medium machine gun, a light machine gun and a pair of second hand Italian 47mm anti tank guns. They also have a lot of bottles of slivovitz and a plentiful supply of cigarette lighters. Ivan's entire force gets to set up HIP. I have eight first line squads with a couple of officers and four light machine guns. My armour consists of four PzIVEs and a pair of armoured halftracks. My job is to capture the bridge, symbolised by exiting an AFV and a squad off the end. If I do that at any point I win immediately, otherwise Ivan wins.
My entire force essentially enters down one road which at least reduces the number of tactical decisions I have to make at the outset. Below is the end of turn one where my forces have rolled onto a hill and are gazing down at a suspiciously unoccupied looking river valley. As per SSR the large building (the college) is stone. Somewhere down there are ten squads, a pair of AT guns and more molotov cocktails than you can shake a swizzle stick at.
|End of turn 1. Ivan is keeping a low profile|
My plan was to park a couple of PZIVs on the hill and attempt to dump some smoke on the college. While I did that the other two tanks would roll down the left and hopefully get into a position where they could inflict pain on Ivan's defenders, assuming they ever showed themselves. My infantry would also nose forward trying to find his defenders. The exception would be a pair of squads riding in the halftracks, these would be my exit force and I slid them down the left side of the map hoping to keep them out of trouble.
Well the smoke plan didn't exactly work. With a smoke number of nine it took effort to run both tanks on the hill out of smoke in the first turn but I managed it. Apparently there would be little cover for my approach. With smoke, briefly, out of the equation I eased my foot mounted infantry nervously forwards and rolled my hilltop tanks down for some more direct fire support. Over on the left I raced the other two tanks up near (but not onto) the bridge. I was certain there would be a 47mm gun sitting in the building covering the bridge entry hex (for once I was right). The two halftracks kept out of harms way.
|Turn 2, still no sign of the Yugoslavs|
Meanwhile closer to the rivers edge I dismounted a squad from a half track and started ploughing through the forest. I sent the halftrack to back up my two tanks who had so far met no resistance. The other halftrack (still with a squad on board) rolled as close to the river as it could get and started edging its way past the forest in bypass.
My luck with the smoke had been bad so far but that was about to change. My two tanks near the bridge dropped a pair of smoke rounds around the approaches (admittedly yet another tank ran out of smoke in the process) and one of the others found some vehicle smoke to help my surviving infantry get forward. With a pair of smoke hexes shrouding the way I took a chance and rolled my empty halftrack through the smoke and onto the bridge. It only got halfway when Ivan blew it to scrap with a 47mm round from the expected building location. The other two tanks I rolled forward towards his positions in the college. I knew what I was going to do now and all four PzIVs were expendable.
I trailed my coat shamelessly and Ivan couldn't resist cranking his 47mm around to take a shot at one of the tanks menacing the building. He missed it on the first shot but would kill it in his next prep fire phase. I wasn't concerned, his covered arc was now two hexsides away from the bridge. My other tank in the vicinity then broke its MA in the defensive fire phase. OK, maybe I was a little concerned at that point.
Turn five rolled around and I made my move. Refraining from repairing the broken MA I instead gunned the vehicle forward, dropped some smoke to annoy his mmg crew and then rolled around to challenge the gun. Ivan fired and missed. Then he intensive fired and hit but the round bounced. The AT gun was out of action. Somewhere there was another but I was just going to have to trust to smoke. Of my two tanks down near the water's edge one dropped another smoke round to further shroud the bridge and the other rolled forward to occupy the mind of any nearby AT gunners. Then the driver on my squad carrying halftrack stamped on the accelerator. Ivan howled in despair (poetic licence may have been used in that description) as it lurched out of bypass and towards the impromptu smokescreen. Desperately he revealed a hidden lmg team in my rear but the rounds failed to penetrate. A nearby squad fired on my boys as they charged past to no avail. Then with machine gun bullets bouncing off the rear armour and rifle fire spattering against the sides my halftrack rolled into the smoke, slewed right and roared off the bridge for the win.
|Yes, a win. How about that|
Major Teege looked about his recently victorious command. He had ordered that the two soldiers who had performed the initial reconnaissance be brought to him for personal congratulations. One rather shabby soldier with a Lonely Planet Guide to the Future Former Yugoslavia tucked under his arm stepped forward and saluted.
"Ah soldier, where's your comrade?"
"He wandered into a machine gun firelane. I have what's left of him in this matchbox if you'd like to see?"
"No thanks soldier, just post it to his family there's a good chap. Well done on the reconnaissance by the way. We'll have conquered Yugoslavia in no time."
"Indeed sir, and once we've done that we should probably leave immediately. It isn't the conquest that's hard. It's finding safe accommodation afterwards."