June 2015 saw the annual Market Larden event in Evesham. Around fifty Lardies travelled deep into the heart of tractor country to play a variety of TooFatLardies' games. I was originally due to attend just as a player but, when one GM dropped out, stepped in to run the morning game of I Ain't Been Shot, Mum! Ralph Plowman and Noddy would play the Soviets, Jamie Burrell the Germans.
As I didn't have time to prepare something new, I delved into my library of scenario packs and decided to play one of the games from the Bashnya or Bust! book i.e. late war, eastern front. I settled on Scenario #4E: Holm but, worried that some of the players might be familiar with the pack, I swapped the German OB with that used in another of the Bashnya scenarios: something I hadn't thought of doing before but proves to me just how flexible the packs are.
The background is simple: it's Operation Bagration, the Kaunas offensive. The Soviets are attacking dug-in German forces around the small village of Holm. The Soviet force consists of a three-platoon company of infantry backed up by a collection of armour that includes three BA-10 armoured cars, three T-34/85s; two T-34/76s and a couple of SU-85s. The Soviets also have three MMGs, three mortars and potential air support.
The Germans, on the other hand, have a couple of two-squad zug of infantry, three MMGs, a couple of Panzerschrek teams, one Panther and, their secret weapon, two Jagdpanthers: very powerful, but accompanied by the dreaded Vehicle Breakdown card. In support, the Germans had a mobile artillery platoon of two Wespes and a couple of SdKfz 251/2 mortar-carriers.
The battlefield was typical Lithuanian village on the steppe: a collection of log houses with a more robust church surrounded by lush grass and crop fields. The terrain was largely flat, but there were a series of low hills that would prove very useful to both sides in terms of cover. Here are three views of the tabletop looking North; the Soviets will enter from the north-eastern corner (where the pile of Blinds is).
After their initial pre-game Stonks had gone in (unfortunately missing all the German positions) the Soviets advanced onto the table behind a screen of Dummy 'scout' Binds that were quickly spotted and removed from the table. The Germans were then able to spot and reveal the second wave of 'real' Soviet troops: a couple of T-34/85s that took up position hull-down behind the central hill; a reconnaissance force of three BA-10 armoured cars; all supported by two SU-85s.
The Soviets had done their own spotting, of course, but were hampered by the fact that their opponents were dug-in under cover. Nevertheless, they did manage to at least get some German Blinds onto the table. In the picture, below, the Blind in the middle by the hut is Dummy; the one front-right is the two Panzerschrek teams; the one back-left is the Jagdpanthers manoeuvring into hull-down positions of their own; and the one back-right is the Panther, also moving up into a hull-down position. The shell holes show where the Soviet Stonk landed.
The Jagdpanthers quickly opened fire on the T-34/85s in front of them, immediately brewing one up. The other quickly reversed back off the crest of the hill! The Panther also revealed itself, in order to get its card and Big Man card into the pack, but held its fire for the moment.
More Soviet Blinds arrived, one of them heading into the corn field in front of the church. The German Panzerschrek teams ignored this threat: moving under their Blind to the edge of the cornfield and then revealing themselves to shoot into the flank of the advancing Russian armour. One BA-10 was brewed, but that was all...and the bazooka teams were quickly annihilated by a wave of Russian infantry emerging from under their Blind.
Next turn, the Soviet infantry decided to advance further. Two squads headed for the church, one squad headed towards the nearest log house.
Unfortunately for the brave infantrymen, both buildings were occupied by enemy forces. The church itself had an MMG team dug-in behind the first floor window, with another two MMG teams dug-in at ground level, one either side. The log house (and its garden) contained a whole zug of German infantry.
The carnage was terrible. Dealing with the smaller combat first, the single Russian squad was wiped out by the entrenched German platoon. It did do a couple of casualties in return, but nothing significant. At the church, so many dice were being rolled for the close combat that it looked as if one bucket just wouldn't be enough (see pic right for the German roll). Suffice to say that when the smoke had cleared, and the screams died down, not a single Russian remained alive from the two squads, including the Big Man. More significantly, perhaps, two of the German MMG teams had also been wiped out, with only the one actually in the church surviving.
Noddy, responsible for the Soviets, was, however, very philosophical about his losses: believing that two squads of infantry was a worthwhile exchange for two MM42s. How very Stalinesque!
After all the excitement at the church, a brief pause occurred whilst the Soviets waited for more of their troops to arrive on the battlefield.
Two more infantry platoons arrived, both heading towards the cornfield containing the bodies of their fallen comrades. One would get hammered by the one remaining machine gun in the church and HE fire from the Germans Wespes and mortar carriers: it would effectively play no part in the battle except to soak up casualties! The other would eventually charge and annihilate the German infantry platoon in the house near the church, losing one squad in the process, and then staying there for the rest of the game as the Soviet attack stalled.
The remaining T-34/85 carefully backed off the hill and made its way, under the lee, round to where it could see the church. It then proceeded to blow the church tower to pieces, forcing the German MMG team to start packing up to move out of their nest on the first floor. Before they could make a move, however, another shot neatly entered the window and blew them to pieces too. All that is except the Big Man accompanying them, who survived the blast and made his way to the infantry platoon in the nearby house. When they were wiped out by the Soviet infantry charge, he ran down towards the road junction, seemingly intent on taking out an enemy armoured car that had managed to get there and was hiding behind the nearby house. Unfortunately before he could engage the armoured car (his blood was up!) he was shot down by the approaching Russian armour.
The objective for both sides was to get troops onto the road junction. The Soviets had managed this with their one remaining armoured car. As the end of the game approached (well, lunchtime), the Germans decided to do something about this. One of the Jagdpanthers (the other had broken down) moved from its hull down position behind the hill and approached the hut. An amazing die roll for movement meant that rather than stop behind the hut, it carried on round the building...neatly running into the armoured car in the process! Forty-five tonnes of tank killer vs five tonnes of armoured car: no contest. The BA-10 was pancaked!
The Soviets had, in the meantime, moved up two SU-76s and their last T-34/85. The T-34/85 attempted and lost a duel with the German Panther; the two SU-76s tried the same with the Jagdpanther by the hut, and although they scratched its paintwork a bit, a couple of shots blew them into little pieces.
At this point I called the game as a German win. Just about every Soviet vehicle was on fire, and they only had a few squads of infantry left. Worse, their MMG platoon had taken a couple of critical '17' hits, each of which removed one gun. There was no way they were going to win now.
It had been a great game, with the Soviets really stymied by the traffic jam that had developed just past the corner where they entered the table. Their armour had got jammed in here, and been unable to make any headway against the long range shooting of the German tank and tank-killers. The Russian infantry had been used incredibly boldly, but there wasn't enough of it available for such bold tactics.
But it was close. As Noddy said "if I'd have had just one more infantry platoon..." meaning that he would have been able to get that platoon onto the road junction from where the Germans would have been hard pushed to move them within the time limits allowed.
My thanks to the three players, Ralph, Noddy and Jamie, and to Ade and everyone else for putting on a great day's gaming.
To see the report from the afternoon game, click here.