The fifth game of the Vyazma or Bust campaign was played today. The fourth game (attack to Yelna) ended in a deadlock, but we finally arrived to a compromise to play a second day in the city with the Germans starting now deployed in a narrow bridgehead in the west on the city.
The OOBs were modified to take into consideration the casualties of the first day and the scarcity of reinforcements available to both sides. I also added a new feature: the inclusion of movement through the sewage network... unfortunately the Russian unit assigned with the mission to make a surprise attack in the German rearguard got lost in the underground maze.
The following map provides the starting line for both armies:
The Germans were offered the possibility of diverting some troops offboard to reappear south; the idea was to simulate a successful German breakthrough in other areas of Yelna, enabling them to caught the Soviets by the flank. However the players decided to concentrate all the available forces in the bridgehead.
The map below shows the initial deployment of forces:
After the initial moves, being at short range, the first units quickly deployed from blinds, despite the cover supplied by urban terrain.
The first phase of the battle saw much exchange of fire between both sides although with little effect as the level of protection was high and the units were most of the time taking cover ("prone").
The effect of armour was also limited in the game due to the narrow streets filled with barricades and the cautious stance of the panzer commanders ...
....more than justified as the Soviets were experts ambushers!.
The accumulation of shocks and the higher firepower of the Germans started to take its toll on the green Soviet forces who gradually moved back. The map below illustrates the situation by the middle of the game.
The situation changed dramatically when a German pioneer supported with with a flammenwerfer launch an all-or-nothing assault into a key house in the defensive line of the Red Army...
... making massive casualties on the defenders, who run broken to the edge of the table; but it was a victory at a high cost for the Germans in terms of shocks and casualties, including the commnading officer among the fallen (note: a bucket was needed to throw the massive 54 attack dice accumulated for this attack because of being engineers and using a flamethrower!!).
The fact is that the Engineer platoon could not play another feat in the rest of the game as the company commander was too far to reduce the shock level and launch them into the offensive again.
Another assault in the right flank of the German line allowed the attackers to gain more territory from the Russians...
... who started to look in an increasingly exposed position. At 1.30PM, the table and the forces were as illustrated in the map below.
The Russians still had one fresh unit (lost in the sewers but about to emerge nearby the building occupied by the engineers) and the German had 2 infantry platoons in good shape and the AFVs. We agreed to stop the game and give a marginal victory to the Germans, who managed to move forward their lines substantially since the beginning of the game.
Changes to OOBs
The forces involved in this game were a modified version of the first day battle but adjusted by the casualties taken. In the case of the Germans all infantry squads were reduced to 7 men, the engineers lost their hanomags and 1 squad but received a flamethrower, and 2 MMGs, 1 Stug and SiG33 were eliminated too.
The Germans had the option to detach some units offboard and re-enter the table from the south. Unknown to both players, this would have triggered the release of reinforcements to both sides. As the Germans decided to reject this option, I could not test how it would have worked in the game.
In the case of the Russians, they lose one infantry platoon, 2 MMGs, 1 T-26 and Level I Big Man. They were allowed to move through the sewers to give them some advantage in the defence.... unfortunately they lose their way and found and exit too late.
Comment from the Soviet commander:
Yesterday was a sad day for the Rodina's defense.
The scenario was very hard, and very hard to succeed. We had almost no troops or support teams. All troops were green with only two action dice.
From the beginning, our strategy was to hold the position with the infantry around the square. We deploy AT guns to make ambushes, and T-26 to try and hunt German tanks from behind. Leave a platoon in reserve near the sewers to try to surprise the Germans. Reality was that the German suicide charges (Banzai style) we were pulling out of the game. Mortars and SiG 33 caused us many shocks. Our support teams were two or three men: with 3 or 4 shock we retreated 4" per shock.
In the last turn we did not have many casualties but had many shocks. We had the three platoons of infantry, one was lost, another with many casualties and shock. Only one platoon without MMG support hold a square but with the Germans nearby. Our tank had run out of fuel far from the action.