I had a couple of great games of IABSM last night. Basic premise was a Soviet force attacking a smallish village held by Fallschirmjagers and StuGs.

On foot, the Soviets had a company of three platoons of good quality infantry (of which one platoon was partisan); a three-gun MMG platoon; with a sniper and a tank-killer team in the company HQ. Supporting these were a platoon of four SU-76 assault guns and a platoon of four T-34/85s.

The German defenders were dug in, and comprised two small platoons of infantry (only two squads each) supported by two MMGs. Each infantry platoon also had a two-man panzerschrecht team. Also dug in were two PaK38 anti-tank guns, and four StuG IIIGs. Both sides would have off-table artillery available: unlimited shoots from two heavy mortars.

Terrain consisted of a long slope covered in thick crops leading down into the village. A road ran down the slope on the left hand side of the battlefield, crossing to the right hand side before turning again to continue down and off table. There were more crops near the village, which itself consisted of four quite large, semi-bombed out buildings with a few outhouses. There were also two totally ruined buildings along the road leading down from the slope. Finally, a small stream ran down the slope besides the road.

The first game had me playing the Soviets. Luck was with me, and the Soviet Blinds card kept coming up again and again: it seems that the Fascists were asleep! The plan was to send the T-34/85's down the road to spring the trap that was presumably waiting for us somewhere around the village. The lightly armoured SU-76s would shelter behind a small wood on top of the hill to the left, emerging to give fire support as necessary. The MMGs and sniper would shoot from the edge of that small wood. One platoon would shadow the road to the left, the partisans would advance through the crops on the right, and the other line platoon would advance down the right hand side of the road under cover along the little stream bed. The tank killers would hang loose, waiting for sight of a tank to kill.

Finally the German Blinds card appeared, swiftly followed by two StuGs hiding either side of the little stream at the bottom of the road. The lead T-34/85 (the one with "Olga" written on its side in Russian) took a round straight into the engine compartment, starting a fire; and the third one back (the second T-34/85 was judged to be sheltered by the now-smoking lead tank) had a track blown off. Heavy casualties, but at least I now knew where the StuGs were!

Electing not to "shoot and scoot", the StuGs stayed put. This turned out to be a costly mistake, as one fell victim to the last T-34/85, firing from the crest of the hill; and another to a lucky shot from an SU-76 as it advanced forward into firing position. Two StuGs down, two to go!

Meanwhile the two German MMGs had spotted and opened fire on the partisans as they pushed their way through the crops on the right. The MMGs were on the top floor of two of the village's buildings, and each was accompanied by a Big Man. Casualties were, however, very light: Neil showing his usual dice-rolling skills!

The crew of Tank Olga were still trying to put the fire in their engine compartment out, so the two remaining T-34/85s manoeuvred past it and continued down the road, accompanied by one of the SU-76s, whose commander had onviosuly got the bit between his teeth! Meanwhile, the Soviet MMG platoon and other three SU-76s were shooting everything they had at the enemy MMGs, pinning or suppressing them each turn so that the damage they were doing the partisans continued to be minimal.

Two more StuGs appeared at the bottom of the road, one snapping a shot off at a T-34/85, but missing; the other slamming a shell straight into the lead SU-76. Armour three verses Strike 8 should have meant that the SU-76 was toast, but almost unbelievably, the shell deflected off the front armour with a thunderous "clang"! The StuGs then quickly reversed: one heading straight backwards, the other towards the village.

Unbeknownst to the Germans, however, the Soviet tank-killers had been sneaking forward, and with a Tank Killer bonus card immediately followed by the Company HQ card shot forward 6d6 inches to engage the side armour of the StuG to the right. Although the tank killer team was then obliterated by one of the German MMGs, the StuG had its main gun KO'd, and it withdrew to seek repairs. This left just one StuG left, quickly dispatched into a cloud of oily smoke by the T-34/85s, although it did manage to machine gun some of 1st Platoon.

Meanwhile, the German MMGs and their accompanying Big Men had been either shot or blown to pieces (there was huge amounts of fire going into the two buildings from T-34/85s, SU-76s and MMGs); and the partisans had got off an amazing round of fire at a fallschirmjager squad discovered dug-in behind a hedge, rendering that squad effectively ineffective. Tank Olga's crew had also finally managed to put out the fire in their engine compartment, meaning that three of the T-34/85s were now ready to rock and roll.

At that point, after only about ninety minutes of play, my opponent decided to resign the game, deciding that two anti-tank guns and three squads of infantry were no match for most of a company of Soviet infantry supported by seven armoured vehicles. A glorious victory for the Soviets!

The time being early, we decided to fight the battle the other way round i.e. with me taking the Germans. I decided to deploy two StuGs and the MMGs exactly where my opponent had, but add an anti-tank gun between the two StuGs firing up the slope of the road. My infantry would deploy one squad to the bottom floor of each building, my other two StuGs in the middle of the village concealed behind two of the buildings.

Likewise, my opponent largely copied my Soviet deployment, except for the fact that the MMG platoon would accompany the two platoons of infantry on the right of the road.

As we began the game again, the flow of cards was a bit more even: meaning that I was able to spot and force deployment of his troops much earlier than he had mine. The two StuGs opened fire as before, immobilising one T-34/85; but the MMGs began firing at the infantry moving through the crops: their 5d6 fire causing lots of casualties and pinning them down. As before, my two StuGs were quickly destroyed, but now begins a tale of heroism seldom matched in any game. The lone anti-tank gun, with Big Man Leutnant Freddi Feuerzangenbowle, that was dug in between the remains of the two StuGs' hull-down position began to fire. First off, it knocked out three SU-76s in their firing positions silhouetted against the crest of the hill in three turns. This incensed the Soviets, who began hammering Freddi's position with everything they had.

To no avail, however. The final SU-76 and another T-34/85 went up in smoke (and this is a PaK38 firing remember) before, unfortunately, Freddi succumbed to a sniper's bullet. The gun itself was then charged by a whole platoon of Soviet infantry, finally being destroyed but having accounted for four SU-76s and two T-34/85s!

Meanwhile the German MMGs had accounted for a squad's worth of Partisans, and quite a few other Russian infantry, before being fairly comprehensively taken out by the concentrated fire of all three Soviet MMGs, firing right up with the line of infantry, and two platoons of infantry.

Now, however, the two remaining StuGs opened fire, straddling the main Soviet infantry attack with HE, largely destroying the MMG platoon and forcing everyone else to ground. The lead German platoon of infantry had also revealed itself at the foot of the front two buildings, and was laying down fire.

The Soviet infantry platoon that had taken out the anti-tank gun now charged in to the Fallschirmjager squad in the first building. The Soviets were repulsed twice despite the fact that they outnumbered the Germans three to one, but managed to take the building on a third attempt, this time from the remaining two squads of partisans, allowed by the lucky appearance of the Heroic Leader card.

At this point the game had to end: my opponent was already late, and destined to come under heavy fire from his beloved on his return home, especially considering that he had actually been gaming constantly, except for a brief sleep, since seven o'clock the evening before! After much "good natured" arguing, we agreed that the Germans had achieved a winning draw…especially compared to the previous performance. Two great games, together taking somewhat less than four hours! The first, Soviet, victory was due to a large part of managing to get close to the enemy before they "woke up"; the second, German, winning draw, almost certainly down to the actions of the sadly deceased Leutnant Feuerzangenbowle. But wait…what's that?...oh, right: the sniper's bullet only creased his skull, knocking him out, and he managed to crawl away in the confusion of the final firefight. Well, that's okay then: an Iron Cross and back into action next game!

Robert Avery