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Earlier this week I hosted a second game of IABSM3. This time it was scenario 1 from Too Fat Lardies (TFL) Vyazma or Bust supplement, written by Rob Avery, which is a fictional mini campaign set in autumn/fall 1941 in Russia.

A fellow TFL Yahoo group member (Paul) came over and we used my 1941 Germans and Soviets for the purpose. I'd forgotten that they could really do with some sprucing up - this may happen soon if we return to Barbarossa.

The eclectic mix of forces involved meant there was a lot of learning for us to do as we worked out how various unit types worked as well as found out some of the new things in IABSM3.

The table set up for the game - the far long edge is North

An impediment to play!

I commanded the German motorised company which was part of a thrust that had penetrated Soviet defences and whose orders were to advance from the south edge of the table and to clear the road of any enemy and prevent any enemy from being able to fire on it. For this purpose I had a 3-section veteran platoon in halftracks and a 3-section truck mounted platoon. I also had a support platoon with 3 MMG and 2 8cm mortars as well as a flamethrower and a CHQ with a rifle section, all with trucks. In support I had a platoon of 4 Panzers, one IIIH with a 5cm Kwk and three IIIF with 3.7cm Kwk guns. Air support from the Luftwaffe in the form of a Stuka was available. There were five Big Men.

Paul's Soviets had a composite unit under a captain with a strong rifle platoon of 4 10-man sections with a support unit of a lone MMG and single 82mm mortar, with two other Big Men. There was also a sniper and a commissar. Remnants of a Soviet tank division contributed 4 45mm AT guns, a KV-1 and three T-26 tanks. Uncertain of where an attack would come from the Soviets were in scrapes allowing some cover.

The going was bad penalising off road movement for wheeled vehicles and all movement on the hills.

The German advance planned to put its armoured weight on the right (east) flank with least woods that might hide enemy infantry or guns, take the village by the stream and then swing west to eliminate enemy units from the flank while the 2nd platoon pinned the enemy on the left. I chose to dismount most of the lorry borne units before they arrived (even on blinds) as I felt they would do more harm than good.

On the basis that I needed to push forward quickly to reduce the chance of the Soviet's changing position I advanced under blinds rather further than I'd expected which meant a lot of my troops were spotted (and therefore deployed on the table) rather closer to the enemy than expected. This was particularly the case with 2nd platoon on the left which arrived on top of the hill and the lead section was promptly shot to pieces.

The lead section of German 2nd platoon is suppressed and falls back from shock having been shattered by two Soviet sections in the nearby woods

The lead section of German 2nd platoon is suppressed and falls back from shock having been shattered by two Soviet sections in the nearby woods

Meanwhile the advance on the centre right had been rudely awakened by AT guns firing on the half tracks and panzers. This caused the German mechanised infantry to veer right to get out of the line of fire.

A German 1st platoon half track is immobilised in the centre

A German 1st platoon half track is immobilised in the centre

The Germans then lost their lead (and best) tank to a Soviet AT gun - luckily Lt von Posen escaped and managed to take over another tank - this would prove important.

On the left after a stand off we decided to test the close assault rules by having the German 2nd platoon assault the Soviet sections in the woods. I knew this was likely to be disadvantageous (if we hadn't been testing various rules I'd have organised mortars etc to try to pin/suppress the Soviets first). The results were predictably painful for the Germans.

German 2nd platoon demonstrates why attacking Russians in woods is a bad idea - their left hand section has ceased to exist from close assault

German 2nd platoon demonstrates why attacking Russians in woods is a bad idea - their left hand section has ceased to exist from close assault

Later on Paul decided to test the Human Wave card and the remaining Soviets rushed the remaining German section effectively eliminating 2nd platoon as a fighting force. Thereafter the German MGs on halftracks were all that restrained these Soviets from intervening elsewhere.

Back on the right the Germans spotting over the ridge line realised there was an enemy section at the base and a brave Panzer III charged them, throwing them back to the houses before, in concert with infantry on the ridge, destroying them with MG fire. However its moment of triumph was shortlived as a KV-1 (accompanied by a T-26) emerged from the woods to the west and destroyed it with a flank shot. Two other T-26s emerged from the village and challenged the German right. The German response was to focus the panzers on these, hoping the KV didn't move too fast.

Soviet armour has paralysed the German advance (flanking fire hasn't helped) but one T-26 has already fallen to a Panzer III and an infantry section with accompanying AT rifle have crossed the stream to try to work to flank the remaining right hand T-26 - the destroyed tank markers are Paul's Litko markers.

Soviet armour has paralysed the German advance (flanking fire hasn't helped) but one T-26 has already fallen to a Panzer III and an infantry section with accompanying AT rifle have crossed the stream to try to work to flank the remaining right hand T-26 - the destroyed tank markers are Paul's Litko markers.

The superior German command skills (a Panzer Big Man commanding the remainder of the platoon, Armoured bonus card and Dynamic Leader card) enabled the panzers to outmanoeuvre the Soviet tankers with one Panzer III getting into the village (which was unaffected both by an attempt by a heroic Soviet officer on his own to disable it and by an AT gun a long way down the road). The T-26s were knocked out for no loss and the KV-1 flanked to damage it - finally the German flamethrower panicked the KV crew who bailed out, leaving the Germans with two functioning panzers and most of their forces absent 2nd platoon.

The final scene on the right

The final scene on the right

However there were still three Soviet AT guns in various places and some infantry so although Paul thought the Germans would eke out a minor (and Pyrrhic) victory in the end, I'm not so sure.

I forgot to mention the German air support. There's a good reason for this - it appeared once and its bombing run ended up dropping 10 inches off target in the woods. The Luftwaffe will be receiving a complaint. Mind you the German mortars only fired ranging shots when they had a target as they seemed to fall short a lot. Next game we'll hopefully test the indirect fire rules more fully.

In summary a good game, we learned a lot and had fun.

Edward Sturges