The Tale of Two Iron Crosses
Our gaming group staged a WWII participation game at Stockholm Spelkonvent this weekend. We used the IABSM-rules from Too Fat Lardies, and our game was loosely based on the free scenario Kicking in the Door available from the Lardies homepage.
The premises were (from the scenario):
It’s the 24th of June 1941, and after two days of Operation Barbarossa the Wehrmacht is advancing on all fronts. General Guderian’s Panzergruppe II are slicing their way through all resistance, and advanced elements are nearing their first major prize. But soviet determination should never be discounted. Isolated pockets of resistance are attempting to stand and fight, and on the road to Minsk a motley collection of Soviet troops from the 4th Army are about to throw a spanner into the wheels of the mighty German war machine.
Thomas was umpire, Daniel played the evil opposition (the Russians), Roos gave some sound tactical advice and I helped the German side get started. Terrain and troops by me, Laffe, Thomas and Daniel. Our idea was to let interested people play the German side, getting their own units when they joined the game. Our first participants were two young gentlemen (boys) who surprised us all with their learning the rules really quickly and their very enthusiastic approach to conquering Mother Russia. They stayed almost the whole time, and during the day we were joined by several more interested players.
The setup. Germans attack along the left board edge.
Their orders are: clear the villages and push through. The problem: there might be Russian troops here, and they are hidden.
Seen from the Russian board edge, the second village.
First units in are an armoured car unit and a motorcycle unit. They came in under blinds, that is the Russian side knows something is coming, but they don’t know what it is. All hell breaks loose when the first blind, comprising two armoured cars, tries to by-pass the first village. A Russian squad fires at the first armoured car, doing nothing much. Germans return fire and the motor-cycle troops drives past, but are stopped by more fire.
A few ill-equipped men stops the mighty German army. Notice the small armoured car, a PSW 223.
All goes well for the Russian side until the first tanks appear.
More reinforcements, this time infantry in trucks. Coming in was no problem, but backing the trucks off was worse. A major traffic jam, that proved to be trouble when a much needed AT-gun was needed later on.
A recce unit is supposed to recce, and off go the two armoured cars.
Ooops, more opposition. And now they are only one.
We had made a list of random events to spice up the game. One was an air-strike, a Stuka who made a mistaken identity check and dive-bombed his own side. Luckily he was hung-over and missed. Another happened to the PSW 223: Out of ammo, you need to re-supply. Fortunately the Pz III just behind used the same ammo! Unfortunately it was involved in a fire-fight with Russian armour…
Knock, knock. Ammunition Bitte!
Yes – they survived. More troops entered, both German and Russian, and we had a really exciting game. Well, let’s concentrate on a small slice of the battle, the one thing we will all remember. The small, under-armoured and ill-armed PSW 223.
Off they went again. A Russian T-26 tank started shooting at them, no problem shoot back with your machine-gun and drive them off! More shots, hide behind a knocked out friendly tank. Knock out an annoying machine gun. An anti-tank gun starts shooting from village number two – shoot the crew.
Oops, a shot against the car damages the turret, it can’t traverse. Who cares - Advance towards the village. Now a heavy T-28 tank appears, and another AT-gun joins in. Things are looking quite grim for our heroes in the PSW 223. IABSM is card-driven, and one card is Heroic Leader. It is was it says, one of your leaders can try to make a (foolishly) heroic act. It came up, in the PSW 223 sat a leader, and our young heroic players, blissfully unaware of odds, shouted “Forward!”.
The armoured car gunned its engine and charged the AT-gun. OK, that could, possibly, work. But Daniel, the evil opposition, smiled gleefully and said “Wait a minute, while I set up the 25 Russians that occupy the surrounding buildings” So, an AT-gun, some 25 Russians and a Maxim machinegun against one flimsy armoured car. And a heavy tank close by… Case closed, or is it? Well, our young players were lucky, and knocked out the AT-gun. Daniel smiled and started to roll his dice. In our inner eyes we saw it all happening. Thrown grenades, point-blank fire and machine-gun fire from the upper stories into the open-topped armoured car. Ooooh, this will be bloody. After the smoke cleared, there it was, the slightly scratched armoured car. Attack after attack after attack failed miserably. The odds against were staggering.
Amazing! But they will surely die next round….
Oink, oink! German (?) pigs flee in terror.
More luck, and they activate before every-one else, and the Russians are so surprised that they simply do not react at all that round. The same goes for the round after, and the PSW 223 exit the board, probably to try to single-handedly take Minsk. The cheer that went up from our table made most of the Con turn around.
We finished the game soon after this. All in all, a very fun game with the rules showing both the importance of leadership and how battlefield friction can make even the best laid plan go to waste. I hope the participants enjoyed themselves as much as we did, and I think two war-gamers were born this day.
Oh, and we were invited to stage a game in another Con in November.
Post script: The two crew-members of the PSW 223 were honoured with the Iron Cross. They spent the rest of the war as poster-boys, recruiting young boys and girls to join the army. The battered armoured car survived the war too, and is hidden in a barn to this day. It is lovingly cared for by the descendants of the heroes of June 24th 1941. If there ever is a need for it again, it will lead the attack!