Hauptmann Gerhard von Glockenspiel wiped the sweat from his brow and watched as elements of the division settled into clutches of houses. Beside him the crew of a 105mm artillery piece prepared a hasty emplacement. The last few days had been a whirlwind of fighting, advancing and more fighting. Von Glockenspiel was exhausted and things weren't helped by the presence of Leutnant Schrecklich who seemed to spend every waking moment giving a running commentary on the shortcomings of the Soviet Union and how worthless their army was. He was at it again now, his nasal voice whining through the air like a bullet gratuitously informing such soldiers who had been unable to escape of the ineptitude of their opponent. Suddenly the irritating voice took on a note of triumph which only served to make it more unbearable.
"See what did I tell you?" crowed Schrecklich. "Look at those clowns, they're retreating in completely the wrong direction."
Von Glockenspiel turned to the gun crew.
"Got any armour piercing for that piece?"
"A few crates arrived yesterday."
"Dust them off."
Reluctantly he joined Schrecklich at his vantage point on the hill. The leutnant was chortling at the waves of infantry and armour rushing towards them.
"What idiots, they can't know we're here."
"Well when they arrive be sure to give them directions."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm just going for tinkle," replied von Glockenspiel.
Given my somewhat dubious tank skills I wanted to play an armour heavy scenario and came up with this one WO22 - The Cost of Non-Compliance. Here a rather powerful force of Soviets are counterattacking the 11th Panzer in the early days of Operation Barbarossa. Dave took command of the Soviets attacking against their better judgment on the "suggestion" of their political commissars. I would lead elements of the 11th Panzer unexpectedly on the defensive. ROAR has this one as somewhat pro-German so we gave the Soviets the balance (an extra T34-M41) and I set about preparing a defense.
To win the Soviets have to control at least five stone buildings on board 76 while having more mobile AFV with functioning main armament than the Germans. Each extra stone building above five counts as one such AFV for the victory conditions. It has to be admitted that I misread the victory conditions completely overlooking that second sentence. Apparently thirty years experience playing this game has done nothing for my attention to detail.
Barrelling forward on the attack Dave has thirteen tanks (two KV-1s, three T-34s and a collection of lesser vehicles) plus fourteen first line infantry squads equipped with five lmgs and led by three officers. Standing somewhat incompetently on the defence I have eight first line squads also led by three officers with an mmg, three light machine guns a pair of antitank rifles and a 50mm mortar. To take on the tanks I have two 37mm antitank guns (handy against the light Soviet armour but virtually useless against the KV-1s and T-34s) and a single 105mm artillery piece. Additionally I have a PzIIIF and a PzIIF both of which have similar issues taking on the Soviet beasts. On turn three I get an additional four tanks as reinforcements; three more PzIIIs and an early model PzIV.
Above is the at start set up. The 105 is of course on the hill on the left where it can cover the whole battlefield. The mortar is right behind it with a couple of squads with the mmg and my best leader in the buildings nearby. Over on the right I have set up the rest of my infantry based mainly around another clutch of buildings with a 37mm gun in one of the buildings and my PzIII hunkered down behind a hedge trying to look small. The other 37mm gun is hidden in the centre grainfield. Basically I have set up two strong points which are capable of taking the centre under fire should Dave choose to go that way. I intended to defend for a turn or two and then fall back to the victory locations. Things didn't really go to plan. Dave weighted virtually his entire force to the right and rushed forward to close with my guys who should really have run for their lives at the first sight of them.
Dave's force headed towards the right and centre while only token forces attacked on the left. My 105 gained a shock result on a KV-1 that was the backbone of these "token" forces while over on the right things went very rapidly from bad to worse. With T34s leading to shield his thinner skinned vehicles Dave armoured assaulted his infantry forward and was very rapidly threatening my forces in the buildings. Fire from antitank rifles and my PzIII didn't manage to achieve any results and soon I had a vast force of infantry and armour up in my face.
|End of Soviet turn 1|
Two platoons of tanks were threatening my right while a third platoon was rolling up through the centre. Over on the left I had things well in hand and I hoped I might be able to hang on for a while on the right. Technically I suppose I did. In my turn a combination of machine gun and mortar fire managed to carve up most of his infantry on the left and allowed me to pull back some of the troops there in the direction of the town. At least part of the fall back defence was working. In an act of staggering recklessness I rolled my PzII down off the hill and hoping and praying that the KV-1 wouldn't recover I started to menace (for a generous definition of the term) the rear of his forces on the left. On the right my PzIII went up in flames serving to effectively blind some of my defenders while my AT gun in the grain revealed himself but achieved nothing. His day was coming however.
|End of German turn 1. Believe it or not the PzII would survive until the end of the game|
Turn two saw a spectacular flurry of action. The shocked KV-1 on the left recovered but rather than reduce the reckless PzII to scrap it passed its independent movement die roll to join its companions a little further forward which was convenient as my 105 managed to destroy one of the T-26 tanks that had been lurking around taking potshots at it while my mmg team and mortar managed to break most of the accompanying infantry.
Over on the right saw a flurry of activity as well as Dave pushed forward using his tanks and the newly created smoke from a burning PzIII to provide him with some cover. In fact he didn't just push forward, he swung a platoon of tanks around to the right under the muzzle of my antitank gun which proved incapable of hitting anything before it was forced to concentrate on milling hordes of infantry. A moment of delight came when a T-34 rolled past a concealed squad and I managed to street fight it into immobility.
In the centre my other 37mm had its moment of glory when it went on a mini rate tear and took out two light tanks leaving the leading KV-1 alone. Undaunted that tank rolled on over my 37mm which would take no further part in proceedings. On the right though were the seeds of my undoing. He had managed to move a couple of tank platoons past my defences and in the next turns would slip some infantry past as well. The surviving defenders would acquit themselves well taking out a tank and a couple of squads in a melee that raged for several turns but the takeaway was that none of my troops on the right would escape back to defend the town. The path lay open for Dave and his remaining infantry.
|Dave has taken losses but the seeds of my defeat have been sown|
Although it wasn't immediately apparent I was well on the way to losing the scenario (I would say "spoiler alert" but you probably guessed that before you started reading). I must confess I was focussed on killing his armour and was also slightly insane. At least that is the best explanation I can come up with for what I did with my PzII. For reasons best explained by my therapist ("You're an imbecile") I rolled that inoffensive little tank up directly behind his leftmost platoon which, may I remind you included a KV-1 now returned to full operational status. I'm not sure what I was thinking and even if I did know I doubt it would help. To make matters (admittedly only slightly) worse the crew from one of his destroyed tanks attacked the PzII in close combat fortunately to no avail.
|A brief moment of glory for my 37mm crew before being crushed by a KV-1|
Fortunately for me the KV-1 was engaged in a duel with my 105mm which continued with a complete lack of harm on both sides until the KV-1 broke its MA. Over on the right Dave committed three squads and a tank to take out my gun crew in the building (now bolstered by my remaining squad and an 8-1 leader) while the rest skirted the fracas and headed for the town. My stay behinds were true heroes. Over the course of the next couple of turns they would destroy the tank and all three Soviet squads but by the time they were finished it was the back end of turn five and Dave's remaining infantry were swarming all over the town.
|The melee on the right would continue for the rest of the game.|
With the objective in sight Dave filtered his troops into the town. Since I only had a pair of squads to oppose him that wasn't terribly difficult. Bringing up his remaining armour in support cost him casualties including a KV-1 knocked out by a critical hit from the 105 but enabled him to hide the survivors behind buildings. I had comfortably won the armour duel (mainly by hiding my reinforcing tanks where he couldn't see them) but it availed for naught as Dave's remaining troops swiftly occupied much valuable real estate in the town and my skimpy infantry could do little to stop them. It isn't entirely true to say I lost the game due to my misreading of the victory conditions. I lost the game when half my infantry force was trapped and either killed or otherwise occupied on the right side of the battlefield meaning I couldn't adequately garrison the town. Facing only a pair of squads meant that Dave could sneak into buildings out of my line of sight. The only reason it took so long is because Dave misread the victory conditions as well and thought he needed far more buildings than he did.
|Endgame, Dave has three fully functional AFVs to my four but has a plethora of buildings|
Despite various rule reading cock ups both Dave and I enjoyed this game. It's supposed to be unbalanced on ROAR but giving the extra tank to the Soviets seems to even it up nicely although it probably helps if the Germans are commanded by an idiot. Many thanks to Dave for the game I shall try, and probably fail, to gain revenge in our next game.
Von Glockenspiel raised his eyes above the windowsill and looked around cautiously. Wrecked tanks dotted the landscape but the Soviet troops were busy cleaning out a few pockets of resistance in the town and had little time for bypassed survivors. Tragically leutnant Schrecklich had survived the battle as well although he didn't seem to be in great shape. Rocking back and forward he was muttering,
"But they were retreating," over and over again.
"Sure," replied von Glockenspiel. "If they retreat any further they'll find themselves in Berlin."