The fifth scenario from my September War scenario pack for I Ain't Been Shot, Mum! covers the German 5th Panzer Division's assault on the Polish 6th Infantry Division as it held the line near the town of Pszczyna. And, no, I can't pronounce it properly either!
It's a straight attacker/defender scenario, with the Poles beginning the game holding the town which, as I'm a bit short on Poland-specific terrain, I had built out of what buildings I happened to have available. So please excuse the French look to the place: all I would say is that typical of any beautiful village in the UK, the developers have plonked a brand new "eye-sore" housing estate right in the middle of the town!
As Dave had things to do later on, the Germans would, as the scenario suggests, be on a time limit. So although having what looked like overwhelming numbers, they would have to really get moving to winkle the Poles out of their positions. The German force consisted of a Schutzen infantry company (three platoons, with each squad having two LMGs) supported by a platoon of five Panzer Is and a platoon of three Panzer IIIs. The infantry also had an MMG platoon, an infantry gun platoon, and access to both off-table mortars and air support.
The Poles, although dug in, faced an assault from the Germans that could enter the table anywhere along two sides of the table i.e. they would have to make sure their defence covered a lot of ground. They had at their disposal a couple of platoons of infantry, each with two (huge!) twelve-man squads, supported by three anti-tank guns, a couple of medium mortars, a couple of tachanka-mounted MMGs, and two TKS tankettes borrowed from the division's recon assets. They also had access to off-table artillery.
The German plan was a little unorthodox (spelt r-u-b-b-i-s-h!) as it invovled not the traditional combined arms approach, but a three-pronged attack designed to keep the Poles permanently off-balance. My panzers would attack from one end of the table, sweeping in to the 'back' of the town; my dummy Blinds would simulate an assault on the other end of the town; and my infantry would come on half way between the two, aiming to capture the church as a good jump-off point for the rest of their attack.
The Poles, unfortunately, largely sussed what my intentions were (I must be getting predictable!). They created a strongpoint with one infantry platoon at one end of the town (the 'back', where my panzers were due to attack) and another strongpoint overlooking the village green and objective marker. The mortars were way out of town at the back, the machine guns split, one to each strongpoint.
The German Blinds swept onto the table as per the plan outlined above. The fake attack of the dummy Blinds was soon spotted as such, and thus had little effect, but the assault on the church took place almost entirely as planned: with the German 2nd Infantry Platoon not only taking the church (a very surprised Polish FOO was quickly captured at his position in the tower, to be quickly replaced by his German equivalent!) but investing the nearby wood as well.
One slight glitch was that one German squad got caught ambling towards the church by a Polish MMG firing from the new housing estate, and was effectively pinned down out in the open, and then gradually reduced to inefficiency over the course of the next few turns. No matter, I thought, I had the church, and the wood: everything was going to plan.
Meanwhile, the panzers, supported by the infantry guns, had swept on to the other end of the table. The Panzer IIIs were leading, and quickly dispatched a lone Polish anti-tank rifle team for the loss of a bit of paintwork.
The Panzers then failed to spot the Polish strongpoint in the house with the garden (well, it is hard to see out of a buttoned-up tank) and thus began to sweep past it only for one of them to come under a hail of fire from infantry entrenched behind the hedge. Far more dangerous, an MMG opened fire from the upper windows of the house with the blue shutters.
As mentioned above, the panzers had the infantry guns backing them up, and they immediately opened on the MMG's position: not so much damaging the gun or its crew, but causing the building itself to creak and groan and threaten to collapse at any moment. The MMG would have to vacate the property as soon as possible, or risk being crushed under rubble!
Now what I should have done at this point, was to concentrate my fire (the Panzer IIIs, Panzer Is and the infantry guns) on that single Polish section, quickly eliminating it before moving on. Unfortunately, the infantry guns were too busy congratulating themselves on knocking the blue-shuttered house down to do much for the next few turns; the Panzer Is swept past apparently intending to take the town on their own, and the Panzer IIIs got into a duel with the infantry that lasted most of the rest of the game, with machine gun fire killing a Polish infantryman every now and then: most of them safe within their trenches.
The clock was ticking, and the German medium tanks had let themselves get tied down!
Meanwhile, the Panzer Is had, as mentioned above, swept past the Panzer IIIs and headed into town. One broke off and headed for the mortars, which had just started ranging in on the German infantry force, and was immediately engaged by a Polish anti-tank gun. This Panzer I would spend a few turns recovering from being hit, and then go on to force the mortars to retreat off-table, leaving a few bodies behind.
The other Panzer Is attempted to pounce on the anti-tank gun they had now spotted, not realising that actually its position was one of a nest of three guns.
The first anti-tank gun was taken out fairly promptly, the German tanks getting the drop on the crew, but the next took out the German tank commander's vehicle before its crew were driven away from the gun by Shock. Note the Panzer I with all the damage to it bottom-left: that had taken fire from another Polish anti-tank rifle firing from the infantry strongpoint in the town.
Meanwhile, the German infantry had been consolidating their position around the church, the house by the church, and the barn by the side of the main road.
That was all well and good, but what now. The infantry in the church couldn't do much, as a charge across to the Polish infantry in their strongpoint would be suicidal without weakening the defenders first...and unfortunately there was no line of fire into their buildings (walls not windows!) for the German MMGs to ply their trade. Yes, they had taken out the final Polish anti-tank gun with a concentrated hail of fire, but they were now just covering the objective marker's position, just as the Poles were too...but the Poles still had possession of the position.
Worse, a thought about trying to work north from the barn had been stymied when the Polish tankettes appeared: happy to block that direction of advance.
So, yes, the Germans were winning, but appeared to have come to a bit of a grinding halt as they came up against the Polish strongpoint in the middle of the town.
To Break the Deadlock
Action was needed: dramatic action. The barn doors swung open and the German 3rd Infantry platoon charged the Polish tankettes! Surely two of the tin cans couldn't stop my platoon for very long?
No, they couldn't, but they weren't going down without a fight, and the German infantrymen found themselves embroiled in a nasty little fight that caused them far too many casualties. I was knocking bits off these tankettes like there was no tomorrow, but I just couldn't kill the damn things!
I was now running out of time. My plan needed updating, and fast.
I decided to bring up the Panzer IIIs and hammer the Polish strongpoint in the town. If I could break that, then the objective was mine and I would win the game. Everything else, I now realised, was both metaphorically and literally peripheral! I would blast the buildings until they fell down, then machine gun the Polish infantry as they fled the rubble.
[Those of you who know their German armour should be chuckling at this point: knowing that the 37mm anti-tank gun on a Panzer III is just about useless for knocking down buildings but, in the heat of battle, I had forgotten this and just fastened on what looked like my largest asset!]
Then disaster struck. With just about their last shot before being driven off by the Panzer I, the Polish mortars managed a direct hit on the building holding my machine guns, collapsing the house and forcing the machine gunners to abandon their positions before being buried under rubble.
Things looked a bit grim. Assuming my infantry drove off or destroyed the tankettes, now realising the un-power of the guns on my Panzer IIIs, how was I going to get the Polish infantry out of their strongpoint. I began to contemplate an all out assault. It would be painful, very painful, but might just work.
At that moment, the drone of aircraft engines was heard and, much to my delight, the Jericho horns began to sound and out of the sky dove a Stuka, finally responding to the request of my company commander for a bit of aerial intervention.
The Stuka scored a direct hit on the house, causing lots of casualties to the Poles entrenched inside.
This was it!
The game was mine!
Now was my moment!
My moment, unfortunately, to realise that I had run out of time!
The clock had ticked on to the point where Dave had to go.
We quickly examined the table, and agreed that I would eventually have succeeded in my objective...but eventually was not, according to the scenario conditions, good enough. I was, however, close enough that we both agreed to call the game a draw.
It had been a hard fought game which I should have won, had I not spent so much time shilly-shallying around and not getting properly stuck in. That said, Dave's reading of my intentions and then deployment to block my plans was superb. Without the intervention of the Stuka, I would have had to bring up my infantry guns to shift the Poles with, presumably, my casualties mounting all the time.
A great game.