As you can see by the pictures, our WW2 skirmish project continues to come along nicely. Yes, we play with 28mm figs along with 1/48th vehicles (the “one true” scale for skirmish gaming!). We feel that the 1/56th stuff just doesn’t look right with the 28mm figs, so we’re going the extra mile as 1/48th vehicles aren’t cheap or easy to find!

This scenario is set in fall 1941 with the German offensive resuming all along the front. A Russian force is defending a vital bridge and has been ordered to delay the Germans at all costs. The force consisted of a platoon of Russian infantry (three squads), a platoon of T-34s, two 45mm AT guns, two MMGs, two light mortars, and one SMG squad attached to the T-34s. The Russians also had one commissar who would actually play a role late in the battle.

The German force was a mechanized battle group who was trying to force a crossing over a river behind the Russian position. The Germans had a four-vehicle platoon of PZIVDs; a light armour platoon of two PZ38s and two PZIIs; a panzergrenadier platoon (three squads) in halftracks; and an understrength infantry platoon of two squads.

When we play IABSM3 we do use the “blinds” system and you can see some of the oval shaped markers on the board in the pictures. These ovals represent either dummies or real units that have not been spotted yet. In some games it definitely adds to the uncertainty, but in this one, which was a basic attack against a defence, the blinds helped to hide some initial placements, but didn’t radically affect either side.

The T-34s deployed in the middle of the board were going to be a major problem for the Germans as they outgunned and out-armoured anything on the board.

This at first brought the German attack to a standstill as the PZIVDs tried to slug it out with the Russian tanks. This turned out to be a bad idea as after a turn or two, half of the platoon was burning. Time for new ideas on the German side!

The German light armour platoon then split, with the two PZIIs breaking off and continuing to circle around the Russian flank. This would present some command and control issues, but tackling the T-34s head on was suicide. They ran into two squads of Russian infantry which escalated into a series of assaults. Both squads several times tried to knock out the German armour in close assault, but were driven back with massive casualties.

In fact, we were playing with the Hesitant Troops and Commissar cards, which were pulled in order. This is one of those rare gaming events that will go down in club history. For one thing, it fit the narrative perfectly. Two squads just tried to close assault some armour and suffered around 60% casualties for their efforts. Pulling those cards in sequence means that the commissar can take over the platoon. Sure enough, the commissar shot the Big Man in charge and took over the platoon. Obviously the failed attack proved that he was a traitor to the cause! The commissar then led the troops forward again against the tanks which resulted in both squads being wiped out.

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Meanwhile, the two Russian 45mm AT guns were finally silenced by combined fire from German infantry and the PZIVDs. This, however, led to a firefight between some German infantry and two Russian MMGs next to the church. The PZ38s put up a brave fight against the T- 34s, finally knocking one out, but they lost a tank with heavy damage themselves.

By this time it was doubtful that the Germans could win the game unless a miracle occurred. The German panzergrenadier platoon was still mysteriously intact and not committed, but it was the T-34s that were causing the problems.

The Russians had one SMG squad in the graveyard, two MMGs, two mortars, and one regular infantry squad plus the remaining two T-34s still left. Not a very potent force without the T-34s, but since they dominated the central position the Germans were going to have a tough time getting past them. At this point the Germans recognized that while they might take the church and clear out some more of the Russian infantry, they weren’t getting over the bridge.

Overall, it was a fun and fairly intense game representing a situation that probably occurred hundreds of times in 1941 on the Eastern Front. The Germans had difficulty dealing with the heavier Russian tanks as was the case here. The German players to their credit didn’t shy away from taking the T-34s on and almost won the game.

I think the IABSM rules are pretty good, but we still had a few issues. The rules are written in a “friendly” manner, similar to TSATF where there needs to be a lot of interpretation by the players. The armour battles work out very well and are a lot of fun, but there still appears to be something we’re doing wrong with machine guns in terms of their rate of fire and damage. Anyway, it was still a great game that played fast and we got a lot of stuff on the table for a few hours.

Republished from Warning Order #35

with kind permission of the Wasatch Front Historical Gaming Society