With the relatively recent publication of Vpered Na Berlin, I'd been promising myself an eastern front game of IABSM for some time. It would be a chance to get plenty of newly painted kit onto the tabletop for the first time, and to work myself up to starting a Blenneville-like scenario pack for the theatre.
It's 1944, and the Soviets, played by Dave, would attempt to punch through a German force, played by me, holding a ravine somewhere between Moscow and Berlin.
The action began on my right flank as a recon platoon of Soviet BA-64 armoured cars backed up by a couple of Blinds advanced towards where I had hidden a couple of Hetzer tank-hunters dug-in to a small wood. The picture below was taken just after the Hetzer at bottom-left has fired from ambush at the top BA-64, but only managed to slightly damage its steering. Fail!
The armoured cars, quite sensibly unwilling to trade shots with the Hetzer, scattered, with one of them rushing forward to a position on the tank-killer's flank:
The next turn saw the Hetzer finish off the damaged BA-64, but then come under close assault from one of the Soviet Blinds, now revealed as a platoon of infantry:
The Hetzer survived this attack, and the enemy infantry were badly shot up by the other Hetzer, reversing out of its gun pit to join the action. Another BA-64 then outflanked the second Hetzer, knocking bits off it with its machine gun, and the infantry renewed their assault for a second turn:
This battle-within-a-battle continued for the rest of the game, with honours being fairly even: more bits were knocked off the Hetzers, more Soviet infantry were killed...stalemate.
Meanwhile, on the main part of the battlefield, the Soviets had advanced rapidly forward, keeping their Blinds behind cover as much as possible. Only one was revealed by German spotting: a company of heavy tanks, five JS-IIs. These quickly spread out, and headed towards the substantial elevation in the centre of the ravine that seemed to form the heart of the German position.
The Germans revealed two Pak-35 anti-tank guns, dug-in on top of the elevation, and opened fire on the Soviet heavy tanks. Plenty of hits, but not a single penetration! From this point until the end of the game, the German ATGs scored about fifteen hits on the JS-IIs, but every single shot was bounced by their armour!
Now that the Soviets knew where the Germans were, they could start firing back. Below are the before and after shots of the German position after just one round of HE from the Soviet heavy tanks. Good armour and 122mm guns...these JS-IIs are mighty impressive!
The Soviets then brought up a platoon of infantry and attempted to close assault the German guns, but also concealed on the hilltop were a couple of MMGs. Fire from them, however, along with barrages from a couple of medium mortars behind the main German position, turned back the Soviet charge, and then effectively destroyed the platoon as it attempted to reform.
The Soviets had air superiority, but despite increasingly annoyed calls for intervention, the Shturmoviks just kept flying past without taking an interest:
The next Soviet thrust was towards the village at the bottom-left of the German position. A Soviet infantry platoon supported by a JS-II ejected the small two-squad German platoon from the village, forcing them back towards the elevation where the rest of the Germans were positioned:
The final German Blind then revealed itself as another two-squad platoon, with a quick exchange of fire leaving both the retreating German and advancing Soviet Platoons decidedly damaged:
Things looked bleak for the Germans, and I decided to start retreating off-table. The mortars got off okay, but the next card saw the final Soviet Blind revealed as two flamethrower-armed T-26 tanks, courtesy of the recently-released Zvezda kits!
One shot from the flamethrowers and one of the German anti-tank gun pits went up in smoke and, at that point, I called the game!
A most enjoyable game, even if I got thoroughly hammered! The fierce battle surrounding the Hetzers was tense, as was the moment the Soviets tried to overrun the anti-tank guns, but in the end, despite some local successes, the Soviet heavy tank steamroller would have just rolled over the German positions.
Finally, it was nice to get so many previously unused models onto the table...even if most of them were on the wrong side!