Friday 9 November 2012

Vyazma or Bust Campaign # 3 - Pochinok

The third game of the Vyazma or Bust WWII east front IABSM campaign was played today in our club. After two consecutive victories, a reversal of fortune for the Russians who lost in their attempt to control the road towards Pochinok, the gate to regain control of Smolensk. Should the Russians have won this game, the campaign would have concluded today... the battle continues!

Forces, objectives and initial deployment
Following the initial success at Izdeshkovo and Belyj, the Red Army launched a strong offensive to try recapturing the city of Smolensk. The German troops are forced to go into the defensive, building a series of reinforced strongpoints around key locations, gathering any available forces in each place.

The scenario recreates the attack of a powerful Russian combat group to one of these strongpoints, located in the road near Pochinok. The Russian commander has amassed three infantry platoons, an assault SMG platoon, a weapons support platoon with 3 HMGS and 3 light mortars, reinforced with  2 AFV platoons (a  4 x T-34 platoon and a 4 x T-26 respectively).

The Russian units entre the table in blinds though the east side of the map and the objective is to take the 2 hamlets in German hands (minor victory) while avoiding losing any of the precious T-34 tanks (major victory).    

On the other side, the Germans start the game dug-in along the main road running north-south, including the houses of the two villages in the map. They also deploy in blinds. The German forces comprised 2 infantry platoons, 1 support weapons platoon (3 x MMG), an engineer platoon and 2 AT guns, in addition to some surviving AFVs of the 5th Pz Division (2 x Panzerjagers guns and 2 x Stug III).

They win if at the end of the game  both hamlets remain under German control  (minor victory) and no Russian units are on or west of the road (major victory).

The initial deployment is shown in the following map. The Germans decided to split the forces in three groups, entrenched around the hamlets along the road. From south to north, the AFVs, and infantry platoon and  the remaining units (infantry platoons, support weapons and AT guns) around the hamlet in the north.

The Russians decided to concetrate the attack in the north-east corner of the table. They could put 4 blinds each time the Russian Blinds card came out of the deck. The initial forces entering the table included two infantry platoons, a recon platoon and the T-34 platoon.

Game table from the north side
Russian activity detected!
Battle development
The Russian units were spotted in the first few turns as they were moving in the open in full sight of the entrenched German units. The Russian commander deployed the T -34 tanks and most of the infantry in depth formation and towards the hamlet on the north...

The feared T 34 attacking
... but soon the attack bogged  despite the superiority in numbers, as casualties and shocks accumulated in the Russian units, caught with in the open with no cover...

Hesitant Russians under a rain of lead and fire
... by the fire of the German MMGs, infantry...

...and soon the AT guns.

In the central part of the table, an attempt by the Russian T-26 platoon to make a flanking move was parried by the the Panzerjager and the Stug III units moving along the road from their initial positions in the hamlet at the south edge of the table...

... forcing the small Russian tanks unit to retire due to accumulation of shocks.

Situation at the end of the battle

Failing to make any signficant harm to the the well entrenched German units and with both attack pincers satlling, the Russian commander ordered to disengage and to return to their own lines. The victory was for the German players.

After action comments
This is the third game with IABSM. Despite fewer players today (2 Germans and 1 Russian) and a larger number of troops on both sides, the game was played at a very fast pace and concluded in just 3 hours.

The players now seems to have a good mastery of the rules and in most cases could resolve attacks, spotting attempts and other situations without the umpire support. In general, very few time was lost looking at the book or arguing about the rules, which really helped to provide a faster momentum to the game.

Some complaints came from the Russian about the scenario, specially because he had to move in the open most of the time, being quickly spotted and fired. It was difficult for him to spot the Germns in their positions without being forced to move too close to them for his comfort.

However the rules were not a matter of argument and now I can confidently say that IABSM is officially adopted in our gaming group as the preferred IIWW set.


  1. Couldn't the russians have put down smoke?

    1. Hi Leif
      This is something that has been discussed in my group before and it seems that smoke ordnance (specially among the Russians) was limited.

      The Russians had 4 artillery support missions availabe and they could have eventually laid a smoke curtain, but calling artiller is really difficult for the Russians.

    2. A good thing about IABSM is that interested players are enticed to think historically; the questions about smoke were one of those duscussions. Moré Interesting in Any case than discussion about the rules themselves

  2. Have the attackers won a game yet?

    I'm really struggling on how to carry out a competent attack in any wargame.

  3. Seems to me that approaching from the SE corner, through the wood. would have been a better idea, with some use of dummy blinds from the NE to draw German fire (spotting bonus!).

    1. No dummy blinds were indicated in the scenario instructions.

    2. Heh. Maybe just a light recce force from the NE then, playing hide and seek along the hedges?

    3. The Russians had a recce elite platoon. The hedges in this area are not Normandy-type bocake but low brush offering no cover except if hunker down and inmediately behind the bush. It is a very tricky scenario for the Russian player, believe me

    4. I think going in over the hill from SE also would be the best approach. Set up a firebase in the small woods with mortars and machine guns and take the southern village first, then try to roll up the german lines from north to south.

    5. I like that approach. In will try to refight as a single scenario and see what happens

  4. Great looking game ! We played this a few months ago. I remember my Germans had a tough time. My flame thrower engineer teams failed miserably but we did stem the Russian attack on the German left - good luck with the rest of the campaign.

    1. Thanks Stephen. I thought early today that we were going to have the shrotest campaign in my gaming life, but the Germans had regained some mentum today. The next scenario will be played next week and it is going to be a mini-Stalingrad

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Ray. The campaign book is really good and I think it can be adapted to other rule sets easily

  6. Great looking game - minis, terrain, and write up. Best, Dean