Early June means its time for the annual Operation Market Larden games day in Evesham. This year, 2016, I had volunteered to run a couple of games of I Ain't Been Shot, Mum! and had decided to run a couple of games from my Bashnya or Bust! late war, eastern front scenario pack.
As Bashnya or Bust is a five-level pyramid campaign, I decided to make life easy for myself by using the same setting for both games, but to use two of the different scenarios set there. The morning game would therefore use scenario 3D, the afternoon game would use scenario 4F (q.v.).
Scenario 3D: Zhena
Zhena is a small village that lies to the north of Devyat. The main feature of the village is the junction of the three roads leading to Zima, Devyat and Vcheva. The villagers are very proud of the 'avenue' of seven trees leading south from the junction: their neighbours considering it very French, very cosmopolitan!
Otherwise, Zhena is a collection of wooden huts and a burnt out church, surrounded by waist-high crop fields. Outside of that, the terrain is open grassland studded with clusters of trees. There is a large hill just to the north of the village.
For this version of the game, the Germans would start with a small force on table. A large Soviet force would then appear and launch an attack. After 2-3 appearances of the Turn Card (determined randomly), a hefty force of German reinforcements would join the fray.
The main German force consisted of a reduced tank company of five Panzer IV Js backed up by Schwerer Zug of a couple of Tiger IIs. In addition, the Germans fielded an infantry company of three platoons of assault-rifle-armed infantry, one of which would start the game on the table accompanied by a single Puma armoured car commanded by Big Man Siggi Spatzen.
The Russians fielded a tank company of four T-34/85s and two T-34/76s backed up by two SU-85 tank destroyers. They also had a company of infantry with them, armed with SMGs. The soviets also had access to off-table artillery (heavy mortars) and air support (a Sturmovik armed with rockets).
As the game began, the on-table Germans were positioned around the church: the infantry in scrapes in front, and the Puma hiding behind.
The Soviets advanced cautiously onto the table, with one set of Blinds inching their way down the road towards the village and another looping around to the north towards the hill.
Spotting revealed the road-bound Blinds as a platoon of T-34/76s followed by another of T-34/85s; with the Blinds heading towards the hill being infantry platoons.
Meanwhile, the slow Soviet advance had given time for the German relieving force to start appearing at the other end of the table: their first Blind being quickly revealed as a zug of Panzer IVs.
Fire from either Siggi's Puma or one of the Panzer IVs knocked out the main gun of the lead T-34/76, but despite this the lead Soviet infantry platoon swept down and cleared the German infantry from their scrapes in front of the church.
German Panzer IVs and infantry were now pouring onto the table, with long-range fire being exchanged between the Panzer IVs and the T-34/85s, the latter sweeping around north of the church to meet the Panzer IVs heading towards the northern side of the village.
The lead T-34/85, misjudging distances, charged through the northern edge of the village only to realise that he had exposed his flank to Siggi's Puma, still lurking behind the church. One cheeky shot later, and the T-34/85 exploded into flames.
Meanwhile, the Soviet tank destroyers had outpaced the remaining T-34/85s and, hiding at the edge of the light woods at the bottom of the hill, were swiftly shooting into the advancing Panzer IVs and a German infantry zug that was moving to occupy the line of the edge of the corn fields.
Now the German Tigers made an appearance: positioned on top of the hill near their baseline and therefore with a commanding view over the battlefield as a whole. They began shooting at whatever enemy they could see, with the Soviets taking some casualties before they could scatter into cover.
The Soviet commander had called in both artillery and air support, and although the heavy mortars never made an appearance, a lone Sturmovik was soon cruising above the battlefield looking for targets. Well, the biggest and best targets, the Tigers, were sitting right on top of a hill right out in the open, and for the rest of the game, although undamaged, the German heavy cats would have their fire disrupted by a fairly constant hail of misguided rockets.
Or maybe one Tiger had been destroyed or disabled: I'm afraid I can't quite remember!
Despite the distraction, the Tigers managed to take out one of the SU-85 tank destroyers. The other was destroyed by fire from infantry panzerschreks, although both teams were quickly cut down by a hail of SMG fire afterwards. The battle around the northern hill/stream/cornfield area then degenerated into an infantry-on-infantry stand-off that would last for the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, the Soviet tanks, fed up with being delayed in their advance, had decided to do something about the German Puma behind the church. Two Russian tanks (one a T-34/85, one a T-34/76) caught poor Siggi in a pincer movement, and although they managed to damage the '76, the Puma crew were forced to bail out as their armoured car disintegrated around them! They had, however, taken out at least two T-34s, and held up the Russian attack on the village itself.
As time was almost up for the morning session, both sides now charged all they had left towards the junction in the centre of the village. It was carnage...carnage that left very few tanks intact. Two infantry platoons were also blasting away at each other at close range.
In the end, as the session ended, I declared that the game was a draw: neither side having conclusively "taken" the junction.
All in all, an excellent game of IABSM, and one that showed how grinding the action could be on the eastern front. my thanks to Geoff and Andy for playing the game in such good spirits.
Geoff, playing the Soviets, adds:
I really enjoyed the game, cheers.
Siggi and his Puma from Mars was a pain in the proverbial indeed (I was playing the Soviets).
The Tiger 2 was hit but sadly no damage inflicted and the mortars did indeed turn up (eventually) brought down partly upon their own men - the greater good and all that.
Poor Andy was on the end of some rough dice and the game could have gone either way.
In hindsight I should have gone hell for leather from move 1 but not knowing the strength of the defenders in the village I opted for a more cautious route.
I suspect I was shot after the battle as a fascist sympathiser following my sniper Clarenceoffski the cross-eyed marksman.