On 8th September 1939, German Gebirgsjaegers moving along the Carpathian mountain range bumped into a unit of Polish Border Protection Corps mountain troops near the Dukla Pass. After a short battle, the Poles withdrew, leaving the pass open for the Gebirgsjaeger to continue their advance.
That was the background to scenario #39: The Dukla Pass, taken from my just-published scenario booklet, The September War, Part 2: another thirty of so scenarios for IABSM covering the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.
The game would involve both sides wrestling for control of two objectives, with victory going to side that controlled both objectives on any appearance of the Tea Break card.
Each side would start with a certain number of troops on the table, with more due as time goes by. The Poles are outnumbered overall, but get their troops onto the table faster than the Germans, so must use that advantage to try and defeat their enemy in detail rather than facing them all at once.
The Poles have two understrength infantry platoons, a unit of mounted scouts, two medium machine guns and two mountain guns.
I call the Polish platoons understrength, as they only have two squads of infantry instead of the paper-strength three, but those Polish squads are 12-men strong each, making them hard to whittle down.
The Germans have two strong platoons of infantry: each having three eight-man squads, two MMGs and a light mortar. They also have a weaker platoon with only two infantry squads; a platoon of mounted scouts; and a couple of GB mountain guns. All in all, a very tidy force, provided they could get all their troops onto the table.
I would play the Poles in both games. In the first game, my plan was to storm the left hand objective with my mounted scouts, then hang on grimly whilst the main part of my force took the other.
Accordingly, my first moves were to get the scouts onto the table as fast as possible.
Unfortunately, it seems like my enemy has the same idea, with a Blind suddenly appearing from the hills to the left, followed up by other two Blinds coming up fast from his baseline.
The cards didn't fall my way either, allowing the Germans to occupy the house and barn next to the objective marker before my mounted scouts could even get there. Worse, the rapidly deploying Germans also managed to get a unit near enough to the other objective to count it as "taken", so unless I did something very drastic very fast, this was going to be a very short game indeed.
Fortunately, my scouts knew what was expected of them, so spurred their mounts forward into combat!
Hit in the flank, the first squad of German scouts were bounced out of the hut they had just occupied, losing three of their number in the process. Unfortunately I also lost two men, and was now facing the whole German scout platoon plus a squad of Gebirgsjaeger infantry that had now arrived.
The result was a foregone conclusion and, despite their valiant efforts, the first squad of Polish mounted scouts was soon bounced back and down to zero Actions.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, the Germans had managed to get a squad of infantry into the copse of trees holding the other objective marker. I sent in one of my two infantry squads (the other was still off table) to try and shift them, but quickly came under fire from more Germans in the village itself.
Although I could probably shift the German squad given time, time was what I did not have, as if the Tea Break card came up, that was it: game over with both objectives in enemy hands. Time for more drastic measures: back to the mounted scouts!
In went the second squad of scouts, desperate to shift the Nazis from the objective by the hut.
An epic charge, with my scouts outnumbered two to one and facing infantry in buildings. The first round of fighting was, unbelievably, a draw, but then numbers began to tell, and soon the second squad of scouts was also reeling backwards and out of any further fighting.
It was then only a matter of time before the Tea Break card appeared and the game declared over and a resounding Polish defeat.
Intermission and a Stewards Inquiry
As the above had only taken about ninety minutes to play, we had plenty of time for a second game. As we cleared all the figures from the table, we discussed the game, with me remarking how extraordinary it was that the Germans managed to get so many of their Blinds onto the table, given the fairly crippling rules about their deployment.
A pause and awkward silence from the other side.
A hastily convened Stewards Inquiry then discovered that the Germans had accidentally fielded at least one platoon too many at the start of the game, giving them the opportunity to take both objectives almost immediately with the plethora of troops therefore available to them.
Ah well, no harm done (can you hear my teeth grinding together?) and lucky we have time for another game!
In the second game, I decided to deploy my two infantry platoons first, with my scouts and MMGs the units that I would have to wait for. One platoon would head for each objective: surely enough to hold out until my reinforcements arrived, particularly as the Germans would only be dripped onto the table this time round.
Blind Six in the picture above is my infantry platoon, with two Dummy Blinds to try and scare the Germans off. Blind Seven is the other infantry platoon, Blind Three my mountain guns.
Unfortunately, the Germans had also come up with a cunning plan: they sent the one infantry platoon they had at their disposal (!) straight for the objective by the church as well.
Here I made a tactical error. Although my men got up to the objective first, I only sent one squad into the hut to hold it, keeping the other back to (presumably!) offer fire support.
All that this meant was that when the full platoon of Gebirgsjaeger arrived at the hut and stormed it, numbers were thirty German mountain troops versus twelve Polish Border troops.
So I had lost that objective already, and a squad of infantry I could ill afford to lose!
On the other side of the battlefield, however, I had my second platoon of infantry, my machine guns and my CinC (plus FOO) happily positioned in the wood surrounding the objective. Not much to shoot at, though, as the Germans (what little there were of them) were all on the other side of the village. If only I had some artillery...
The next phase of the game involved me dropping round after round onto his men by the objective, quite happy to wear him down.
In addition to the pin markers and growing number of empty German bases caused by my artillery, you can see in the picture above that the Germans have managed to get their mounted troops into the churchyard. This was starting to put some pressure on my squad at the top of the picture and, additionally, although I was quite enjoying the stalemate, I wasn't actually getting very far towards winning the game, and those German reinforcements would arrive eventually.
Fortunately, my Blinds card came up, giving me the opportunity to bring on my mounted scouts...and what an opportunity it was.
Thundering onto the table under a Blind, the scouts smashed straight into the rear of the German troops lining the hedge in the churchyard. These were annihilated for no loss to my scouts, and even when the other squad moved up to shield the flight of their comrades, I only lost two men.
However, moving his scouts into a position to shoot at my scouts meant that he exposed himself to fire from my squad in the house, and suddenly the Germans had lost their entire unit of mounted scouts for the loss of only two Polish horsemen. The rest of the scouts moved around the church, preparing to make a quick break for the nearby objective should the opportunity arise.
The Germans did then manage to get one platoon of reinforcements onto the table, but we had unfortunately run out of time. One objective was hedl by both sides, so we declared a draw, but the advantage was definitely to the Poles.
A couple of great games of IABSM and a very good testing of the Dukla Pass scenario. We called "honours even" on the day as a whole, which suited both of us nicely (can you still hear my teeth grinding!)
Also goes to show that you can have a great WW2 game without any vehicles and, in my case, giving me anything with a horse is bound to lead to a charge or three!