Saturday, 1 December 2012

Vyazma or Bust Campaign # 4 - Yelna and Help Needed


Last Sunday we played the fourth scenario of the Vyzma or Bust campaign, the early WWII eastern theatre companion book to I Ain't Been Shot Mum. The game so far has seen different turns of fortune, with the Germans losing the initiative after failing in their first attack on  Izdeshkovo and being defeated again in their retreat from Belyj, but stopping the Red Army advance in the defensive battle around the river crossing near Pochinok.

On Sunday, a German counterattack took place aiming to control a key crossroad at the city of Yelna, that would open the gate to reconqueing Smolensk. The oucome of the battle was... well you can help to decide by casting your vote, leaving a comment at the end of this battle report.

The Yelna scenario was an urban combat battle and at least on paper promised to be as bloody as the epic Stalingrad struggle was, with armour shooting buildings at short range and the grenade and the spade being the favourite combat weapons of the rival enemies.

Russian Commanders looking concerned about the coming battle...


Forces and initial deployment
The Red Army forces comprised four weak infantry platoons supported by a generous supply of support weapons (MMGs, mortars and anti-tank rifles sections and AT guns) plus a couple of T-26s. The Russians deployed in blinds within the city

The defending Russians faced the attack of 2 regular infantry and 1 motorised (Hanomag) veteran engineer platoons, one weapons platoon reinforced with a Sig33 motorised gun platoon and  a Stug III platoon. The Germans entered the city east, also in blinds.

The chart shows the original scenario map;  the gaming table had a somewhat different layout (see the  photo... but who can trust Russian cartographers!!!) but I've tried to replicate the initial defensive positions of the Russians: infantry in first line, HMGs in the second line, tanks and AT guns located in the streets.

Red Army deployment
The victory conditions were similar for both sides: to have full control of the city (major victory) or to control the central square (minor victory), in other words, have your forces occupying  the square and no enemy units with line of fire into it.

Battle development
The battle plan was simple and (as expected) resulted in a blood bath in both sides. The German infantry entered the table through the houses at the edge and the AFVs though the streets (Sigs in the southern and Stugs in the northern street respectively).

First German moves
In fact the attack bogged down from the vey initial moment when the Germans occupied the first row of houses and engaged in a short range exchange of fire with the Russian units nearby...


 ... while the Sigs tried to move cautiously through the very narrow streets...


... only to be ambushed by a brave Russian  antitank gun...

 ... with the expected result:


Noiw we had a German blown-out tank and the street closed and forbidden to any futher motor traffic through it!!!

In the north side of the table, the hunters were the German Stugs catching a T-26 on the back...


... but ending up with a similar traffic problem when the poor T-26 clogged the street: no further advance possible for motor units!!!

And that was the game, really. Over the following turns  German and  Russian units kept on firing each other,  the Germans attempted to dash forward moving from house to house towards the main square, progressing at snail pace and continued suffering casualties and accumulating shocks.

By 1.30PM the situation was as represented in the chart below.


Basically  both sides were firmly holding their positions and both had the opportunity to occupy the square but with the enemy having a clear line of fire on any exposed unit in it. The battle had reached by then a deadlock and neither side was a clear winner... a tie then... or not?

The problem: the different scenarios are interlinked and take different paths depending on the side (German/Russian) winning each time; therefore a tie is not a solution.

And here is where some help will be appreciated. There two different readings to the outcome of the battle:

Russians winners: they were defending and by the end of the game they had enough forces on the field to claim control of a significant portion of the city. Furthermore, they could deny control of the central square to the Germans.

German winners: The German forces were superior in fire power. Because of the blocked streets they could not put in play their motorised units, But giving them enough time, they could regroup and attempt to come through a different flank and effectively erode the Red Army defending units.

Time now for readers to throw their dice

   





24 comments:

  1. I would say the Soviets have the upper hand here, as from what i've read on the initial German attacks was that they prefered to move around stiff defense. You could always play another game, with the Germans having regrouped and coming in from another angle?

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  2. The Soviets control the square as they deny access to the German forces.

    One question: why didn't the Stug (about 24 tons) push the smaller, lighter T-26 (about 10 tons) out of the way?

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    1. You are right, although there were two considerations: (1) the streets being full of rubble, the Stug could only push ot forward; (2) a house near by was full of soviets with the ability to close assault the stug on the flank (ouch!)

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  3. Soviet Win as the Germans couldn't use their real advantage, the armour, because it was stuck on the base line. 50% of that was due to Soviet antitank assets, 50% due to German bad luck.

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    1. The solution procided by Maximillian looks good to me too

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  4. Taken as an isolated event I'd say the Soviets won.

    It's a difficulty seen with small campaigns when the larger strategic situation is not considered.

    In your campaign so far it looks like the Germans are on the back foot.

    Charles

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  5. I'd have to agree, a Russian victory.

    of course, you could always fight the next round as two games, russian win and german win, to see where it went, it would be interesting to see if both ended with the same outcome.

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    1. In the same line to that suggested by Maximilian. Also Richard Clarke from TooFatLardies thinks it is worth refighting, in a message posted in the TFL Yahoo Group

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  6. Great game! By reading your AAR and looking at the tactical map it would seem that the Soviets have the Germans relatively contained. They also seem to have a reserve of three units that they could utilize whereas the Germans are fully committed.

    You could play it as a Soviet victory but with slight modification(s) to the Orders of Battle in the next game to reflect the close nature of this engagement.

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    1. Thanls Curt; the majority of the opinion is now in favour of a Russian victory although a second refight is gaining support too

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  7. The Soviets, the Soviets. They have the really important part of the square: the control of that space.

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  8. My vote would be for the Soviets......they were not dislodged in the the time frame of the scenario as defenders and I assume that their casualties were irrelevant.

    The Germans appear to have stalled in attack and lost equipment which will not be available for the next attack.

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    1. The loss of equipment is something that I'm now figuring it out how to handle for the next battle

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  9. Soviet Win

    Fritz has not pushed through in numbers despite the theoretical advantage in firepower

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    1. That's one of the arguments used. Thanks for the comment

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  10. I think a Soviet win. Even though the Germans were unlucky, the Soviets still held the ground at the end of the game. In a campaign, these things happen.

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  11. Великолепная победа для Родины! Град Сталин!

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    1. Not sure to have understood correctly...

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  12. Soviet win. Could the Germans use the remaining SIG in an indirect capacity perhaps? Lofting 150mm shells over the intervening houses and blasting the Russians out that way?

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    1. Unlikely, this an urban nightmare chaos with a lack of clear fighting lines. I'd only allow direct fire

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