Just finished a fantastic IABSM game from the Vyazma campaign.

Those who have been following the action will remember that Hans Hochte failed to dominate the road leading to Izdeshkovo in the first game, but redeemed himself in the second. The third game saw him attempting to take a vital bridge in order to cut off retreating Soviets.

Much like the campaign so far, the game swayed backwards and forwards in terms of who looked like winning.

The Germans suffered a nasty shock early on when their Panzer III's and truck bound infantry ran straight into a KV2 blocking their way forward. However, the Russian behemoth seemed to be carrying dodgy ammunition: one Panzer III took four hits before retreating with only a damaged engine. That's surviving gun 8 vs armour 3 four times in a row!

Then German air support dropped a bomb right on top of the Soviet tank, blowing it to smithereens. Hardly had Hochte finished celebrating, however, when a Russian artillery bombardment dropped twice on the column of trucks waiting for the Panzers to clear the road! Not nice.

The Schturmpioneers, however, were unscathed, being well away from the main column and in half-tracks (not stupid these engineers, you know). They had a terrific run of success: avoiding any casualties whilst clearing the first line of Russian houses with their flamethrowers. A whole platoon of Soviets was eliminated or crispified, with every house hit immediately going up in smoke. Must have been a dry summer!

Then, flushed with their success, they decided not to crisp the next house, but to close to melee instead. Complete disaster. They were rolling 32 dice, the Soviet peasants-with-pop-guns were rolling 15 dice. Result: Germans kill 7, Soviets kill 6. Yes, they won, but a lot of pioneers would never cuddle little Wolfgang again!

All this had taken far too long, and suddenly a line of Soviet tanks appeared on the German rear flank. And where were the Panzers? All but one were supporting the bloody engineers, and currently being close assaulted by peasants with Molotovs.

No matter: one Russian tank was almost immediately destroyed by another air strike (hurrah for the Luftwaffe for a change) and I managed to move a couple of 75mm infantry guns to block their path. The Panzer I that had been the PzIII's HQ vehicle was also doing stirring work: nipping in and out of the woods to harass the flanks and rear of the T-60's with its machine guns.

I continued clearing the village, house by house.

Suddenly the luck changed again. A Russian tank perfectly zeroed in its machine guns and cut down the crews of the 75's. Only the PzIII and PzI remained, but the luck changed again as I managed to contain the Russian tanks on the edge of the table.

More Russian reinforcements then arrived: three sections of Cossacks, with the varnish still drying! More time was spent dealing with this threat: moving some of my infantry to cover their approach.

Still, things were going well: time to strike for the bridge itself, my overall objective. It was then that I realised that I had somehow run out of men! All this house clearing, dealing with tanks, artillery bombardments, covering against cavalry charges etc, had effectively reduced the infantry I had left to take the bridge down to only a couple of men and a daschund named Zigi!

Well Zigi was keen, but the two chaps weren't, and I was forced to concede the battle as lost. I just didn't have the men to protect my flanks against the Russian reinforcements and continue the advance.

It is the first game of IABSM I've played where everything seemed to be going my way, and I was steadily progressing and seemed to be winning…and suddenly lost! Surely an excellent example of how the attrition caused by a steadfast defence (even if it's a defence that's steadily losing) can grind even the most powerful advance to a halt. Well, it was the Russian Front!

Onto Yelna now, where the troops that I failed to stop getting back to the Soviet lines are now available to try and kick my toehold out of the town. At least Hochte will be on the defensive for once!

Robert Avery