This is a great little scenario to kick off the campaign - not too long or complicated with only a couple of tank zugs/vzvods, a single infantry platoon and some recon on each side. We got through it in around three hours. The Soviets edge it a little with some air support and the T34/85s' superior stats over the Panzer IVs. Then again, the Germans benefited from better quality troops (more Actions) and slightly better Big Men/Commanders. All in all, a balanced pair of OOBs.
The finer details are in the Bashnya or Bust! supplement (and jolly good it is too, bravo Mr Avery). In brief, both sides needed to have infantry on the bridge (top-leftish in the photo above) by the end of the game. If no-one made the bridge, the force with more AFVs on the enemy's side of the table would win.
Below: the initial deployment of "Blinds." We adjusted the scenario to allow one blind from each force to move up the shorter side of the river - just for a bit of variety and to see buildings in action. The Germans got the jump. That's the Assault Rifle gruppe moving towards the bridge. The other two are a Panzer zug (centre) and a "dummy" Blind. The Russians led with a dummy, closely followed by tanks and a recon group on the far side. All Blinds are included in the supplement. They look great on the table.
German tank blinds move into a small wood (below) whilst the Soviet recon group try some spotting. They identified several trees and a bit of wildlife. But they remained stoically underwhelming at spotting Germans.
The first shots are exchanged (below). The Soviets went for a mad tank rush towards the bridge in Napoleonic style (Editor’s Note: too much Sharp Practice, methinks). They were easily spotted by the German infantry in the house by the bridge.
Panzer IVs deployed and brewed up a T-34/85 and immobilised another for the rest of the game (the one sitting on the red circle).
"Hans, this is so easy ..." The Panzer IVs use up all their favours with the dice gods to destroy another two T-34/85s and damage the turret of another (red circle with the dice behind it). Must get some markers for these things! At this point, the Soviets considered throwing in the towel as they only had two undamaged tanks left and their infantry had not yet entered the table. A pot of tea and maybe something a tad stronger settled the nerves.
The Germans don't have it all their own way (above and below). The heavier guns on the Soviet tanks punched through a Panzer's front armour. The Panzers returned fire but abysmal rolling (a score of 3 on 2D6 for every shot!!) led to the Soviet general needing a moment to wipe away the tears of laughter. It was a game played in good spirits, so everyone saw the funny side of it.
I mean, four consecutive rolls of 3 on 2D6? I think they only needed a 4 to hit.
Meanwhile the Soviet infantry arrives. The Big Man clearly forgot he was meant to be riding tanks. He was summarily shot and replaced with a new lead figure who obeyed orders blindly and was therefore promoted at the end of the battle.
Well there goes that plan...
Below, the Russian infantry is spotted loitering in a wood around a country mile from the bridge. It would take hours to get them moving again!
German infantry finally spotted (below.) The remaining Soviet tank in Zvzod 2 zoomed across the bridge and took up position by a demolished house. A couple of rounds of HE later and the German infantry was starting to wobble. The German cunning plan to seize the bridge was now in tatters.
Meanwhile, after their brilliant start, the German tanks took a pounding. The Soviet HQ tank obliterated the German HQ tank by tank. The HQ Panzer IV exploded in a rather dramatic fashion, spelling the doom of the chief Big Man. A foolish dash out into the open had left them hanging in a rather distasteful whirlwind of AP shells. The remaining Panzers in the wood were also destroyed in a single turn. The second and last remaining German Panzer zug sped into the trees and discovered some light Russian scout cars. They looked worried but the Germans had bigger fish to fry.
Below - Pop! The German Puma goes up in smoke (far side).
HE and MMG fire pounds the German infantry into oblivion.
The Russian infantry leg it for the bridge. As ever in a Lardy game, as the initiative swayed back and forth, it was that classic moment: whose chip would come out next? The Panzer chip would mean trouble for the Soviet footsloggers...
But the Russian infantry Big Man's chip emerged first. He deployed his rustic charm to holler at his lads and get them moving towards that blinking bridge. We ended it at that point - time was nearly up and the Germans could not really see a way of turning this around, although another couple of T-34/85s went up in smoke before the final Tea Break card appeared.
Soviet AAR: Kapitan Evgeny Dushkin [sipping on a molotov cocktail]
Never give up, that's my motto (actually, it's get ready to chuck in the towel and ask for a rematch because nearly all my tanks got exploded so quickly, then forget all that because all of my chips came out in the right order - less catchy but certainly accurate). You just never know with this random activation. That's the beauty of it.
My unsophisticated patriotic rush for the bridge worked perfectly-ish. The strategy was politically sound, based on the Soviet doctrine of stubborn sacrifice, and the tactical deployment of troops was first rate - at least it would appear so in the reports to HQ. But just between you and my un-tuned balalaika, I will confess I relied on a healthy does of Uncle Joe's luck.
We were carrying the Red Tsar's pipe into battle and after a vigorous session of rubbing it behind the trees, it finally poked the infantry into appearing and making a dash for the bridge. Luck was on my side. A lot of my chips came up and the German chips seemed to be MIA (ed - a couple actually were because they spent a turn in the box until we realised they were missing - must remember to add them when coming off Blinds!!)
Lessons learned? Those scout cars are abysmal. T-34/85s are not indestructible. Panzer IVs have a bigger punch than I expected. But T-34/85s are remarkably good at blowing up Panzer IVs in return. Oh, and read the bit in the scenario instructions that says the infantry can ride tanks into battle. We'd have been at the bridge about an hour earlier!
We win! On to Scenario #2A: Osen where we face the 101st Infantry.
German AAR: Leutnant Warsteiner, writing on behalf of Hauptmann Sauerbrauten, KIA
Kerput! Mein kampfgruppe, what a nasty series of unfortunate events. In the first couple of turns I was as smug as a smuggy thing. My tanks could not miss, Soviet tanks kept exploding, my infantry was ready to swoop onto the bridge and I had more AFVs in winning positions than the Russkis. Then the red chips just kept coming, aided and abetted by devilishly untimely Tea Breaks. I hate tea. I mean, any self-respecting general would be drinking schnapps at times like this. Then to have my HQ tank explode (seven - count 'em - seven unsaved hits on front armour: that's enough to kill it twice over) just rubbed salt into the wound.
Lessons learned? Infantry needs close support from AFVs (or other stuff). Don't commit the infantry too early in a game like this. I didn't make use of the Puma at all. Oh, and try to get to the side of the T-34/85s as that makes a kill very much more likely. I lost count of the number of times a good shot simply plinked off the Russian armour (lots of defence dice).
Ah well, the campaign needed a Soviet win to make it interesting. Let's see how Dushkin's tanks handle a face full of 'fausts and PaK 40s in the next one! Looking forward to seeing how the rules for FOOs work too.
For the Record
All units by Heroics and Ros: great value for money and they paint up really well.
All scenery: houses, roads, river, haystacks by Timecast (really impressed by these)
Trees by Scenics
Hills by Citadel of yore with annoying skulls covered with putty
Tea Break provided by the dauntless Mrs B