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Taking advantage of the long weekend, my long-time opponent, Neil, and I decided to play-test another scenario from my forthcoming late war, eastern front scenario book for I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!: Bashnya or Bust!

The Germans had lost the first encounter, scenario 01, so the next in the campaign would be a Soviet follow-up in scenario 2A. Obviously if the Germans had won scenario one, then we would be playing scenario 2B...but they hadn't, so we weren't!

Again, I don't want to give away too much: suffice to say that the Russians were attacking one of the larger market towns in the Chera Valley, Osen, with a view to capturing a bridge before the Germans could lay charges, retreat across it, and then blow it to bits. It's a timed scenario, with the Turn card governing how long it takes the German engineers to lay their charges.

I played the Germans and, for most of the game, thought that an easy victory was mine. Neil, playing the Soviets, had other ideas, and despite the fact that I knocked out almost every tank he had (certainly all seven of his T34/85s) for the loss of just one panzerjaeger, and the fact that I killed half his infantry, still won the game in what I can only describe as in the ultimate Soviet fashion. Read on to find out how... 

Dawn over Osen, a delightful market town in the centre of the Chera Valley

Note the new church: built in the Lithuanian style!

This is the bridge the Germans will have to blow

The Germans began the game under Blinds, with more troops under Hidden Blinds

Playing across the table meant that although I had a very descent defensive force (two platoons of infantry with a couple of MMGs; two panzerjaegers; two assault guns and two PaK 40 anti-tanks guns), there was actually an awful lot of ground to cover if I didn't want to cede the initiative entirely to the Soviets.

On the far right of the town, the two StuGs were hiding in and behind a wooden hut that had been hit by soviet artillery. This was a good move on my part, as the first Russian probing attack of a platoon of T-34/85s carrying a platoon of SMG-armed tank-riders. The StuGs were able to take out two of the T-34/85s and send two of the infantry squads hurtling towards the relative safety of the church without loss.

Bad cards, dice and an annoying final squad of tank riders would keep the StuGs pinned in that area of the table for the rest of the game, but they had done their job. The other two squads of tank riders would end up being machine-gunned into non-existence as they moved towards the crossroads in the centre of the town, and the final T-34/85 would be taken out by one of the panzerjaegers as it probed forward down the main road.

All of the above and some decided shilly-shallying around by the Soviets as they adjusted their axis of advance meant that the German engineers had enough time to lay half the charges they needed to. At this stage, with half the job done, and no active Russians on the table, I was starting to think about breaking out the champagne...

Two StuGs successfully defend the right flank

The German engineers have completed half of what they need to in order to blow the bridge

The champagne, however, would not be required, as now the real Soviet steamroller hit the table at top speed. Blind after Blind appeared on the left hand side of the table, slamming down through the open ground to the west of the village, curling around towards the vital bridge.

Well I had plenty of stuff over there, so I spotted and fired, and fired and spotted, called in artillery (which never arrived, by the way), and generally rendered the barrel of every gun I had hotter than Sergeant Wolfgang's girlfriend...all to no avail!

Another four T-34/85s bit the dust, including the one carrying the Russian CinC. Lots of tank-riders were killed, but such was the speed and ferocity of the Soviet advance that Neil managed to get two squads of infantry into base-to-base contact with the vital bridge. They immediately began de-wiring all the explosives they could get their hands on.

Russian tank-riders dressed as Cossacks, manage to get under cover under the bridge. 

Note the abandoned T-34/85s in the background, with the tank crews standing next to them.

Foolishly I had assumed that a platoon of infantry and an anti-tank gun was enough to cover that flank, and that even if it wasn't, I would have time to move forces from the centre of the town out to the left when I needed them...I hadn't!

Before I knew it, a platoon of normal T-34s had also arrived. They disgorged their tank-riders and took up positions behind the abandoned or blown-up vehicles of their comrades.

 

Just how many Russians are there?

 

Looking at the forces left on the table, we now had just about equal amounts of infantry and tanks, although mine were better quality, and I had a couple of MMGs and anti-tanks guns and artillery versus his air support. I probably could have, eventually, cleared all the Russians from the table, but by then all the charges on the bridge would have been destroyed. There was nothing for it but to retreat off-table, desperately consulting the map for another place to cross the river.

It was, however, a great game. Both Neil and I couldn't believe that I had lost, and it was full marks to him for employing the Soviet steamroller so effectively...even if he had lost huge amounts of men and material in beating me.

As for the playtest, only a minor tweak to the victory conditions needed. Otherwise that's another scenario ticked off as ready to go. For those interested, BTW, I am currently writing scenario 5I, so only eight more to go. Publication, if all goes well, some time towards the end of May. Oh, and we're including a CoC-translator in there too, so you'll be able to play the scenarios with either a company or a platoon aside.

Robert Avery