Jez and I decided that we would have a really tank orientated game set on the eastern front in 1943. I really wanted to see how effective 88mm guns would be in an IABSM scenario. I've read loads of accounts of how effective they were against the masses of Soviet armour.
I wanted to create a feeling of depth of defence in the scenario. The basic scenario was that a German force had been forced to retreat and were holding the high ground. Two 88mm were on table plus three Tiger Is, two Marder IIs and a reduced dug-in Infantry Company of FOrward Observer, Sniper and seven squads, four MG42's plus two 88mm off-table firing over open sights. We use our own IABSM house rules for this. I allowed Jez to deploy D4 1" x3" minefields and 24" of hastily constructed barbed wire.
The whole position was to be hit by a Katyusha pre-barrage. These are particularly nasty in IABSM. They suppress a unit initially until its unit card appears for the first time, after which it is pinned until its card appears for a second time. We decided to extend unit cards to mean the 'Blinds Move' card also.
Jez rolled DAv + 3 for his fakes. He then marked down all his units with numbered blinds shuffled them and handed them to me. I chose three blinds and removed them from his pack. Without an umpire this is an excellent way of adding the element of the unknown. As I own all the troops and write the orbats I have advanced knowledge of what I'm facing. I hate this and so we use the system to move the goalposts.
My force was a Company each of T34's, T70's, and KV1's with supporting Platoons of OT34 Flamethrower tanks, SU76s and SU122s. I was going to use an infantry company but Max suggested giving my cavalry squadron an airing. By using a dismounted troop of cavalry, or two, these would appear to be infantry to the Germans, only later would I reveal the mounted troops, hopefully striking terror into the enemy. I also had a Platoon of SMG armed troops who were riding into combat on the KV1s.
I decided upon a multiple wave attack. That way I could feed in the Soviet cards trying to keep the pack number down. As Soviet tanks mostly operated without radios a card is required for each tank. This makes the pack huge.
The Katyuska strike hit and my first wave roared into attack. I used my T70's on my right flank whilst my T34's advanced up the left flank and the OT34's up the centre.
An 88mm roared and a T70 was catapulted into space. The gun was hiding in the small copse on the northern hill, protected by barbed wire and dug-in. We diced for the gun and found that the Katyusha had killed a crew member. Sadly as the first move had been a quick one, and 'Tea Break' had turned up quickly, the gun had become pinned instead of suppressed. At such short range it had not mattered much.
The next turn was even quicker and this time a Tiger I was revealed behind the copse and another behind the small copse on the southern edge. This Tiger had been immobilised by the Katyusha strike. These opened fire claiming several T34's and T70s. My OT34's spotted the German Company HQ in the woods near the farm. An MG42 was deployed in the woods and another in a barn. One MG42 was broken, or out of ammo, as a result of the Katyusha strike.
Shots from my T70s and T34s were failing to hit, and then the off-table 88mms started! There was now a total of six tactical elements armed with 88mm guns. I failed to spot exactly where the off-table 88s were and so continued to advance hugging terrain features to provide cover. The first 88mm had by now knocked out nine T70's. This started to have a serious effect upon visibility though. Flaming tanks within 4" of each other were connected by smoke and only units at short range could fire through smoke.
I called a halt and revealed infantry moving up through the smoke along with my second wave of KV1's which emerged with tank riding SMG armed troops through the woods in the east. My T34's managed to penetrate the wood infront on the second Tiger but one hit mines and exploded! Verdamdt!
Two of my OT34s brewed up really quickly. We decided that as their hulls were full of fuel a hit of three or more would mean an instant explosion!
My third wave now appeared. Consisting of four Su122 and four Su76s these started to bombard the on table 88mm with smoke and HE further restricting visibility.
When Jez spotted a blind coming though the smoke near the farm he was horrified as it revealed itself as a Troop of Cavalry!
These managed to dismount and assault the dug-in German troops in the wood. These were killed to a man and their accompanying Big Man captured. The Soviets occupied the foxholes and awaited support.
I had managed to get a T34 past the Tiger which was still functioning behind the southern copse whilst another T34 and the Tiger engaged in gunnery at only 60 yards! For two turns the Tiger missed whilst the T34 hit the tracks and caused engine damage. I was also assaulting the Tiger with tank killers. The beast seemingly would not die. It could not last though and the crew eventually abandoned the vehicle after it had been damaged five times!
As my seemingly victorious armour rolled on, four StuGs arrived as German reinforcements on the baseline but, as we'd reached move 10, I had included a German 'Out of Ammo' card. this restricted a unit following it to close range fire only, Guess what it was the StuGs. Hastily rushed forward with little ammunition to plug the front.
Worse still a third Tiger appeared in the woods in the south western corner. There had also been a fourth 88mm but this had been destroyed by the Katyusha.
The on-table 88mm fell to an assault from dismounted cavalry and a Tiger was knocked out by an Su76! Waves of dismounted Soviet cavalrymen were pouring forward now occupying various buildings, copses and fields of crops.
The German FO was frantically trying to contact his batteries but due to the large pack size his cards just weren't happening. I would normally have allowed Jez some sort of pre-logged co-ordinates to fire on but I had decided that as the Germans had hastily arrived to block the Soviet advance they had not had time to survey the ground properly.
A Platoon of German infantry opened fire from fox holes near the Hamlet, another revealing themselves near the third Tiger.
My armour was for the most part out of LOS hiding amongst the smoking hulls of their comrades.
I advanced my Su122s through the farm buildings and began to engage the German infantry with HE. I attempted to engage the German assault guns with infantry in an effort to buy time for my SPGs, to no avail. Two were knocked out in quick succession by the StuGs.
The 'Ammo Shortage' turned up again. This time it was followed by the card for the third Tiger. Jez was infuriated. His StuGs were also blocking the LOS for his off-table 88s. As he advanced off the hill, I assaulted some German troops in the Hamlet and discovered two Marder IIs hiding in amongst the buildings.
My KVs and SU76s were advancing for the coup de grace with my remaining OT34, supported by Cavalry, both mounted and dismounted. The German's were grimly hanging on, their tenacious defenders refusing to retreat ,making the Soviets pay dearly for every yard gained in blood.
The game ended as a tactical draw. Unbeknown to Jez my objective had be to take the Hamlet and high ground. I had occupied the Hamlet but in the last move Jez had moved in some German infantry to contest it, thereby denying me the victory. At what cost though; I lost twenty-seven vehicles out of thirty-seven deployed. I had destroyed two Tigers and an 88mm gun a 9:1 kill ratio!
We decided that the Soviets would probably dig-in and have called in more Katyusha strikes. The writing was on the wall for the Germans but what an excellent game.