Vodka & Steel
Yet another Barbarossa game this week. A valley in a heavily forrested area was home to a small Russian village. This was to be the scene of our battle.
The storming advance of the German armour breaking past enemy formations to link up with other friendly formations behind the enemy lines – one part of the blitzkrieg – had a mixed success in the opening weeks of the Russian campaign. Of course the German steamroller was nigh on unstoppable but some have described the it as utterly chaotic. Some Germans that is.
Our scenario was inspired by the story of a German commander's recollection of the opening describing how he returned from the ”front”. After inspecting newly conquered positions he headed back west only to find out that the areas they'd just left, had been occupied by the enemy once again. No time to rethink their plans they headed straight past the bewildered Russians and made it through.
So in our scenario the Russians were to stop our fictitious German commander Ernst Bimmelman and his company from making it through the village and its surroundings. Quite easy.
The German forces were identical to the ones in the last battle I played except that the panzer II ausführung C's were out and a Pz. III ausf 50L60 was in. The Pz II wasn't that uncommon in the start of the campaign, but the models were normally ausf F's – not C's. But unfortunately my Pz. III had been absent for some time now. Found it in a closet safely hidden away today though.
The Russian force was also identical expect the addition of an Austin Putilov armoured car! The Russians had a lot of strange vehicles involved in the fighting in the beginning. And this one I just couldn't miss out.
We set up 12'' from each short table edge and deployed 12 Blinds each.
The first couple of turns were undramatic. Moving to get into position. As the Tea Break card was turned for the 4th time with no units on the table we were almost at knife point. Or so it felt.
Finally I managed to spot the German recce unit going along the road. A couple of more turns went by and the recce unit moved up and during the next two turns almost every unit in both armies were put on table.
I had my three companies of poor Russian infantry walking behind each their own T34. It looked really impressive. That I gotta give. But knowing that they were only 2 dice worth, I knew the psychological impression was their only real worth and that the T34's had to support their advance and hopefully a forthcoming Uhraaa!
The Germans had advanced really cleverly and taken a good hilltop and set up MG34's on it. Nice. From there they would be able to make Swiss cheese of anything in the village. I tried to get my 76.4's to sit on the opposite hill. They were still on a Blind but not that eager to get forward. One of my platoons was also stuck in the woods behind the 76's.
Platoon Green with SMG's advanced behind the T34 to a farmhouse and some shrubberies were they ducked. The T34 shelled the Germans in the centre of the table a bit to no effect. Platoon Red with rifles advanced behind their T34 to attack the German 2nd platoon in center.
Four Opel Blitz trucks together with the company CO moved up and unloaded 3rd German platoon and a PaK behind cover from the 2nd platoon. The SMG squad from 3rd was quickly despatched to aide 2nd against the onstorming Russians. At the Tea Break card blood and guts spilled everywhere as the Red Rifles and the 2nd German platoon fought it out. An entire section was wiped from each side but the Russians had taken even more casualties and a retreat would have made sense.
Unfortunately that was not how it was to be. The StuG III turned potted away at the T34. It was forced to withdraw. Unfortunately it was unable to retaliate as the ammo shortage card had been drawn for it twice! Meaning that neither HE nor AP shells were available!!!
The red rifles finally got to act as the Big Mans card was turned. He ordered them to fall back and ran ahead himself leaving them in the open with their measly 2 or 1 dice/die.
The Austins short struggle on the battlefield was ended by a PaK
The recce unit fell back into cover and patiently awaited the enemy advance with their LMG's ready.
Ernst Bimmelman was sitting in his Pz III unable to do anything as his card just didn't turn up. Luckily a Russian tank killer team was heading for him. They advanced behind a cover of smoke that they had created. Managing to get halfway to his tank. In retrospect, and looking at the pictures, it was quite a cloud of smoke they made!
The tankkillers made it to the tank through some lucky dice rolling and a nice draw of cards. They managed to ruin the main gun and halt Ernst Bimmelman for yet another turn before the German recce unit rolled up and painted the Pz III red with the blood of the tank killer team.
My 76.4 immobilised a Pz II... twice! The T34 that had run low on ammo started heading back behind the lines. No reason in being blown up for no...reason.
The focus of the fighting shifted from the centre to that of the sides. 1st German platoon was having a ball with the Green SMG's in their cover. Being just outside 18'' and failing to advance more than 1'' for consecutive turns (extremely bad rolling on Steen's behalf) made it into somewhat of a pillow fight. But finally one section made it some 10'' and got down two of the SMGs. Unfortunately the next card turned was UhRAAAAAAA! And obviously my SMG's had to slam the lone (well it was backed by three Pz. II's but hey!) German section. My close combat was a success and I managed to throw back the Germans 8''. Of course it left my SMGs in a horrible position and they were finished of by the combined effort of pz. II's and 1st platoon. Oh well!
Meanwhile my Austin Putilov armoured car had emerged from the depths and was ready to pick up were the red rifles had run away. With its two turreted LMG's it was sure to cause well... something! Right?
Anyway the one turret opened up on the German SMG section in the centre and the other harassed another element of 3rd platoon. It was quite successful. At least it caught the attention of a redeployed PaK. The Putilov had a mere 2 in armour value. Not much of a contest against the 10 weapons factor of the PaK. Ouch! There were spare parts in 30m radius when the PaK silenced.
The dead car saw 2nd and 3rd German platoons changing focus to the south and the 76.4's deployed there. The Germans managed to get close and in collaboration with the MG34's on the other hill both antitank guns were destroyed. The blue rifles next to them did manage to give the Germans a beating too though.
It was quite evident how things were going by now. Most of the Russian forces were wiped or beaten. My tanks had been the focus of less attention than I had thought they'd be. One without ammo, one had caught fire (and extinguished it!) and last one hardly got to move.
The recce unit thought the Russians were beaten and started heading up the road to scout forward. The Big Man of the shoot up red rifles thought that a genuine possibility to show some guts and glory in front of his men when the ”heroic leader” card came up. He jump on to the road in front of the motorcycles trying to stop them him alone. We decided he needed an 8 to make a mess of the first vehicle and halt the advance. He got a demoralising 5 and was run over flat but the roaring bikes. The battle was over.
Phew! That was some exciting 5 hours! I've probably forgotten half of what's worth mentioning and messed up the other half good.. But hey – that's part of the charm of writing down war memories. Just ask Churchill!
The games of IABSM are really just getting better and better, as the rules stick tighter and tighter to the spine. Steen is doing some Americans of his own and I'm looking forward to playing with or against those one day soon too.