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I am currently about halfway through the Bashnya or Bust! late war eastern front scenario pack for IABSM, with fifteen out of the thirty-one scenarios completed i.e. stages one to four in the pyramid. This AAR is a report on the playtest game for the first scenario: #01: Near Osen. You'll be pleased to hear that all went well, and the only change needed was a minor adjustment to the number of Blinds each side can bring on to the table at any one time.

Bashnya or Bust! is set in late July/early August 1944 towards the end of Operation Bagration. The Soviets are heading for Kaunas, and one route there takes part of the Red Army through the Chera Valley. There, the newly-arrived-from-Normandy 30th Panzer Division and 1001st Infantry Regiment will try and not only stop them, but push them back out of the valley for good.

NB  those of you who have played any of the Blenneville or Bust! scenarios will have spotted that the Germans that fight in Bashnya or Bust! are the same ones that fight in Blenneville. Slightly different equipment and OBs, but same unit insignia, albeit updated by my newly acquired graphic designer person. Means you can use the same cards/chips!

Bashnya or Bust! is, as befits the Eastern Front, a bit more...shall we say 'extreme' than Blenneville. There are no half-measures: which is why the first scenario, Near Osen, involves a clash between two armoured columns with only one platoon of infantry apiece. I don't want to give too much away, so without giving any details about forces, objectives etc, here is the table:

 
 

So, onto the game.

Both sides advanced cautiously onto the table, using the small clusters of trees and rough uneven ground to keep as out of sight as possible. Dummy Blinds were of particular importance at this stage, with the Soviets using them very aggressively to keep the Germans back on their side of the road.

The action proper began with the spotting of a platoon of Soviet T-34/85s sheltering on the edge of a cluster of trees just over the road to the bridge. This was not good news for the Germans, who were fielding Panzer IVs:  although they had four Actions per turn to the Soviet three, the T-34/85s had much better armour and a slightly better gun. In practice this meant that the Germans needed 3-4 shots to take out a Russian tank, whereas the Russians tended to blow a Panzer IV to bits with the first shot that hit. More Actions versus Better Tanks would be the over-riding theme of the game!

As they had spotted the Russians first, the Germans de-cloaked a platoon of their own (just visible middle-right in the photo, above) and hoped to batter the Soviet tanks before they could get a shot off. Unfortunately, a multiplicity of shots from the Panzer IVs did almost nothing to the T-34/85s, and a volley of shots in return, plus fire from another Russian tank platoon (one of the Blinds with a dice on it in the photo, above) blew two of the three German tanks to smithereens! 

The Soviets, realising the superiority of their tanks, charged their forward platoon, er, forward: aiming to get to force as many enemy Blinds as possible into deploying onto the table. The last German tank in the wood was dispatched with ease and, for a moment, it looked as if the T-34/85s would just keep going all the way to Berlin!

 
 

Fortunately for the Germans, another platoon of Panzer IVs arrived (a platoon of Panthers are proxy-ing for them in this game) along with the Panzer HQ platoon, and the combination of large numbers of shots and some flank fire finally began to tell. All three of the advancing T-34/85s were eventually KO'd or abandonned, but not before the Puma you can see in the photos was also destroyed. 

The second German tank platoon moved into the wood containing the burning tanks of their comrades, along with a Blind that the Russians strongly suspected was infantry. For reasons to do with their objectives, they were determined to force this to deploy, so hurled a section of BA-64 armoured cars forward in what can only be described as spotting-by-suicide!

 
 

Whatever you call it, the Germans did deploy their Blind, and it was the infantry the Russian armoured cars had been seeking. In fact, the crews of the Russian armoured cars got a jolly good look at the German infantry as they moved forward to destroy them with grenades and sticky bombs!

Meanwhile, some Russian infantry had rushed forward and got onto the bridge at the end of the road. There they stayed, despite starting to suffer HE fire from the German tanks in the wood. More T-34/85s moved forward to protect them.

At the same time, the German CinC had managed to get his tank forward and round onto the flank of the Russian tanks. A lovely flank shot brewed up one Soviet tank, and things started to look up for the Panzers.

Unfortunately, and still trying not to give too much away, the Germans were then forced to retreat, and the game ended as a Soviet victory. My apologies for the deus ex machina ending to this report, but I am trying not to include any blatant spoilers for those who will eventually play the scenario!

It was a terrific game, with the situation and contrasting abilities of the German and Russian tanks really adding to the excitement. And, as I said, only a few tweaks needed to finally polish the scenario into its final version. I can't wait to playtest the next encounter!

Robert Avery