Terrain and Soviet deployment
The battle map shows a road crossing west to east across a wood and hilly area and intercepted by 2 water streams. The streams can be crossed by two wooden bridges but also two fords are present, although muddy, forcing any vehicle to throw dice for bogging down.
...and now from the Soviet side.
The Soviet player had two rifle squads, a flamethrower assault group, 3 x (flimsy) T 70s and a 45mm anti-tank gun (ATG). The scenario rules stated that after turn 3 a reinforcement would eventually arrive (controlled by the umpire) being either a 3 x T 34 section or a battle group made of a HMG plus another 45 mm ATG.
I was the commander of the Soviet side and considering the title of the scenario ("panzer strike") and the relatively weak forces under my control, I had no illusions of facing at all an easy game: we would probably going to be outnumbered and outgunned. After consulting with my game mates, we decided to go for an in depth defense, getting as much cover as possible from the terrain features; the possibilty of a conceald deployment was probably our key advantage, aiming to strike by surprise to as many enemy units as possible.
We decided the following deployment:
- A rifle squad and the flamethrower assault group hidden in the woody hill to the left of road;
- The other rifle squad in the marshy area on the right of the road;
- The 45mm ATG was deployed concealed in shell crater with an open sight to any enemy unit moving up the road;
- The T 70s were our last line of defence; due to its weak fire power we dediced to keep them in reserve and use them only as a last resource in surprise attacks, should the German forces crosssed the second stream. Being extremely vulnerable, once on the table they were going to last hardly a tow or (at best) three "tea-breaks".
Before the game started, we were informed by the umpire that our engineers were successful in destroyingp the bridge crossing the first stream, forcing the Germans to use the ford and therefore moving straight into our first line of defence.
The umpire informed that the game would either last 12 turns or be finished by 8.00PM (we started at around 5.30PM), whatever first. On the positive side, this would put some speed to the German Playes, otherwise they would jeopardising their victory. But, on the negative, the turn countdown would only start after the first unit would fire (that put some pressure on the Soviets, that could not be under concelament forever).
The first German activation saw a large number of blinds entering the table (my worst fears of being clearly outnumbered becoming real) through the main road.
The first move took the main column straight into the blown bridge, while 2 Pz IVs were detached to the hill overlooking it, probably with the idea of covering the crossing of the main force.
So reverse-gear and towards the ford. And from here things started to go wrong for the Germans. First, their most powerful tank (the Stug IV with 7 saving rolls to its front) got bogged down while attempting to cross the river and was lost for the rest of the game.
Then, the Pz IV detachment over the hill, while moving towards the ford presented a nice flank side to our 45 mm ATG that did not hesitate to grab the opportunity...
...brewing up after the first shot. Not a bad start for the Soviets!! Two panzers out of action even before crossing the first river.
Yet, the remaining German force was still powerful enough to put us in trouble and the German commander decided to go full steam ahead with the remaining forces (plus another Hanomag of reinforcement entering the table after the third turn).
But the situation started to really brighten for the Soviet player as we also received some unexpected help: a 3 x T 34 section reinforcement in turn 3. They were deployed in blinds in the woods at the edge of the table, next to the two T 70s under concealment.
From that moment the situation got our of control for the German commander. The Hanomag with the HQ sprearheading the attack was the first to fall to our T 34 guns, although the crew was saved (albeit with several shock points)...
... then the Pz III attempting to reach the second bridge...
...after that the turn was for another Pz IV...
... and finally a second Hanomag was prey to the T 34. With practically all the vehicles destroyed or engaged in battle with the Soviet rifle squads...
It was a GREAT (and to some extent, unexpected) victory to the Soviets. with no casualties, just a T 34 with a blown track and another tank with burned engine. In front of the Soviet line, the field was littered with the charred remains of the proud German panzers.
Nonetheless, I admitt that luck played a part in the victory: the powerful Stug IV that got bogged in the river; the arrival of the T 34s; but above all some very impressive dice results that I got each time my tanks were activated (the "Red Wittmann" I was called by my collegues after the game... funnily enough, in December I played Germans in a game, commanding 2 x Pz IV and destroyed half a dozen Shermans ...)
Very stressful for the Soviets I wonder what would have been the result if the T 34 squad wouldn't arrive... I think the scenario merit to be repeated but probably with different players that have no intelligence of the forces on the table.