Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Storming the Citadel Scenario 2 'Clear the Way'

After a bit of a break we are back into Storming the Citadel and that takes us to Scenario 2 'Clear the Way'.  This one bears a lot of similarity to Scenario 1 and reflects some of the preliminary sparring on 4 July 1943 prior to the launch of Operation Citadel the following day.  This time we see the Germans probing the Russian minefields in the hope of neutralising a number of them to make things easier for the main assault.  If you followed that first scenario (Scenario 1 'Eyes Down') you will know the terrain here is very similar, as is the mission itself.  My experience last time was far from pleasant and I didn't like the prospect of trying to tackle a formidable force of entrenched Russians across open ground.

My lesson though is to perhaps fear casualties a little less than I should.  After all, it is the Russians who must carefully husband their one platoon through five scenarios.  While I don't want to be wasteful with what I have, I do have three platoons and as the attacker I should expect to take some pain if I want to make progress.  My thoughts for this scenario are that I should worry less about having my engineers clearing mines and focus more on how I can suppress the Russian platoon, or even better, just drive them from the table.  So the plan is simple - deploy all of the platoon quickly and have them ready for the appearance of the Russians.  Then, using fire and covering fire, see what I can do to make the ground easier for my engineers.  I see no hurry bringing them on, they can only serve as easy targets.

The Russians have 8 minefields they can place in the red rectangle

The roll for Force Morale saw the Germans off to a good start with FM10 to the Russian FM8.    We both had support rolls of 1, so I brought in an Engineer Demolition Team with a Goliath.  While it's a one-shot-wonder, it will take out a minefield on a roll of 2-6, much better odds than a mine clearing team which will need a 6 to do the same.

Two Goliaths from SHQ.  Small, but perfectly formed.

The Russians must use the same platoon from the first scenario, but they are down two men, one permanently and one wounded (who will return for scenario 3).  I have the option to draw on any one of the three available German platoons and so I opt to bring in a fresh one for this scenario.

Russian Serzhants - a first blooding for my freshly painted AB 'upgrades'.

The patrol phase was fairly predictable given we both know where the minefields were likely to be and there was simply no easy way around this for the Germans.  With the patrol phase finished Dave sets out his minefields.  He has one large area of six fields and a smaller one of just two.  Of these eight, two will be dummy minefields, but I see little point trying to guess which ones they might be.

Blue JoPs are German, Red are Russian

Minefields and JoPs in place.

Holding the initiative I took the opening phase. To increase the odds of accomplishing all I wanted to do early in the scenario I elected to use one of my four additional command dice.  I see no reason to hold on to these in this instance and so I felt justified when I rolled a very useful set of command dice that gave me the options I wanted.  I was able to to deploy all three squads onto the table as I had planned, putting two in Overwatch and one Tactical ready to move into a patch of rough ground near the largest minefield.

Facing the Russians, the central squad and the German right flank

German right flank squad on the hill

German left flank squad nearest to camera 

Now I wait to see how the Russians will respond.  Well, Dave had decided that what had worked so well last scenario could work again, and his command dice allowed him to deploy three of his squads.  This time only one of these was entrenched, so this made for a slightly less ominous force than last scenario.  They all dutifully poured fire onto the squad on the hill on my right flank.  I took two casualties and 6 points of shock.  The squad Obergefreiter (JL) dodged any hits, but this could be turning into a repeat of the last scenario if I'm not careful.

Russians deploy three squads, only one entrenched

Russian deployment looking across the minefields

My two squads on Overwatch return fire, both targeting his squad on the hill to my left, which was already down one man killed from the previous scenario. The Russians take one casualty and some shock.

Knowing the next few phases could be critical I elected to use the second of my additional command dice and this paid off handsomely.  I rolled a double phase, plus some very useful command dice.  This was my chance to try to hit the Russians as hard as I could.  My roll included a four, so I decided to bring on the Unterfeldwebel (SL).  While this would make it a little harder to get my engineers on the table, I thought it more important to have the big man on the table to ensure I maximise my double phase.

I deployed him so that he was attached to the squad on the hill that was carrying six points of shock, but in command range of the middle squad.  In this instance the command dice would allow me to activate all three squads without needing the help of the Unterfeldwebel, which meant all of his 3 CI were spent taking shock off the squad.  I activated the Obergefreiter with the squad on the hill, removed another point of shock with 1CI and then activated the whole squad to return fire with the other.  With the remaining command dice I had the other two squads activate and also fire at the same target.  I have six LMGs firing at this one target and they dish out a lot of pain - the Russians take four casualties and they accumulate eight points of shock.  Luckily for him the squad Serzhant avoids taking a hit, but with only three men remaining, the squad breaks, falls back in disarray and sees Russian FM fall to six.

Russian squad on the hill breaks under fire

The hand of God at work.....

That's one Russian squad dealt with and I have another phase to come.  The following phase I choose to use the third of my additional command dice to make sure I can make the most of this opportunity.  I roll three 1s but it doesn't matter, with six dice I have options that allow me to activate all three squads once again.  We now turn our attention to the other two Russian squads.  Two German squads target the Russians entrenched behind the large minefield and even though they are in hard cover they take three casualties, one of which wounds the Serzhant and Russian FM drops to five.  That's seven casualties that the Russians have taken so far, plus the wounded Serzhant.  The fire on the Russian squad behind the hill inflicts a further two casualties and some shock.  All up that brings Russians casualties to nine.

Well, that proved a devastating double phase and Dave really has to consider whether he wants to hang around much longer.  This platoon has to fight for three more scenarios and with one man killed from the last scenario plus the four he will lose permanently from the current casualties, he has to evaluate what is to be gained from continuing to fight.  He has gained the pre-game barrage by winning the first scenario, but if he withdraws now he loses the benefit of two minefields for the next.

I think he makes the right decision when he decides to withdraw and save his platoon for the tougher fighting that is to come.

With a scenario victory and a difference in FM of three in the German's favour, my two casualties are patched up and return to the platoon.  The Russians will lose four men permanently, three return immediately and two return the next day (which is the next scenario anyway, so those five will all be available).  All up the Russian platoon is down a net of five men.  The CO's opinion is at 0 and so is the Men's opinion.  The platoon commander's outlook has dropped to Sad.

The German #2 platoon remains at full strength as does the so far uncommitted #3 platoon.  #1 platoon has suffered two permanent casualties.  The CO's opinion is 0.  The Men's opinion is +1 and the platoon leader's Outlook is Content.

Much like the first scenario this one was decided very quickly and with the benefit of a double phase. Fortunately, all in my favour this time.  So with honours even after the first two scenarios we now head into 5 July and the serious fighting commences.  I will have to deal with a Russian pre-game barrage, but at least there are two less minefields I'll need to be worried about.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Storming the Citadel campaign Scenario 1 "Eyes Down"

Here we go back into another Chain of Command pint-sized campaign, this time on the Eastern Front.  I'll be playing Dave once again, my opponent in the Kampfgruppe Von Luck campaign, so we decided to reverse roles for Storming the Citadel.  I would attack with the Germans, wielding the firepower of the panzer grenadiers and Dave would try his hand at defending.  I've been busy getting things ready for the campaign and you can see some of that here.

This first scenario is a patrol scenario, but with a difference.  The outcome will determine who has a pre-game barrage in the third scenario.  However it's not solely about achieving a straight scenario victory.  The destruction or survival of a Russian observation post (OP) is a key factor.  German scenario victory is rewarded with a pre-game barrage for the third scenario, regardless of what happens to the OP. A Russian victory will see them rewarded with the pre-game barrage instead, but only if they can prevent the destruction of their OP.  The updated scenario requires the Russians to place three markers to represent possible locations for the OP and the Germans won't know which is real or which is dummy until a unit is within 6".  That effectively limits the option for the Germans to sit at the back of the table and blast the OP into oblivion.  Now the Germans are under more pressure, finding the OP is going to be a lot harder.

The question for both sides in this scenario is, how much do you really want that barrage and what price are you prepared to pay?  The barrage in the third scenario most benefits the Germans.  As the attacker the threat of the Russians having the barrage is not as great, the only thing to be wary of is a Soviet attempt to capture a JoP, otherwise the Germans are not unduly pressured.  I think the key for this scenario for the Russians is to deny the barrage to the Germans, but to do that without taking too many losses.

Supports are 1D3 for each side and I start by rolling a 1.  I had ideas of bringing in an Sdkfz 251 if I had the full three supports.  I reckon Dave wouldn't be expecting German armour and so wouldn't spend his support on an AT weapon and the half track might be quite a powerful unit, but that was not to be.  I thought my best support option was the Adjutant.  My plan was to try to strike quickly and the Adjutant would allow me to bring my Senior Leader on early.  If I couldn't win the scenario I could at least try to destroy the OP and then withdraw.

We started with German FM at 10 and the Russians at 9.  Rolling for entry saw us come from diagonally opposed corners of the table.  The Russians entered in area 3 and the Germans in area 1.

I made good progress with the patrol phase and managed to get a JoP almost in the centre of the table.

End of the patrol phase and JoPs are placed.

Our JoPs ended looking like this with the OP markers placed in obvious spots near the JoPs:

German JoP in blue, Russians in red.
Looking at the setup it wasn't rocket science to guess that OP2 was most likely the real one.  So my plan was fairly straightforward, to have two sections deploy from my forward JoP, ready to lay down fire on the Russians as they appeared and then most likely I'd look at bringing my third section for a flanking move to the right and for the OP.  Keep in mind that to identify the OP I need to get within 6" and until then I can't fire at it.

The three OP markers in place near the Russian JoPs
I had the first phase and elected to use one of my extra command dice.  I think time is of the essence here, so why not hope for a double phase or start to accumulate CoC points?  I don't get the double phase but I do bring on my first two sections as planned.  One goes into the rough ground and is placed on Overwatch, the other goes forward from the JoP into the open ground and goes Tactical.

The Russians roll their first command dice of the scenario and get a double phase.   Dave deploys two sections opposite me.  One LMG section is entrenched and the rifle section goes into the rough ground.  He opens fire on my section in Overwatch and inflicts some Shock and I return fire, inflicting a casualty and some shock.

The first Russian sections appear

In the second Russian phase Dave deploys another LMG section, also entrenched, alongside the one already deployed and his fourth section comes on in another patch of rough ground.  His Senior Leader deploys so that he has three sections (the two LMG sections and one rifle section) all in command range.

The full Russian platoon turn up

He opens fire with everything - that's 55 dice after accounting for shock and casualties.  The Germans take three casualties and one of those is the section leader in the rough ground, who takes a serious wound and my FM drops to 9.  If nothing else, my hunch on which OP is the real one is undoubtedly correct, but how am I going to get within 6" of it faced with this horde of Russians?

In my phase I bring on my third section as I need to try to even out the firefight.  I return fire, but given the numbers opposite me it's a bit disappointing and leaves a lot of firepower to come back my way.
The third German section appears
The next Russian command roll delivers yet another double phase.  This is not looking good.  I'm faced with a line of four Russian sections, two of which are entrenched, so not only am I outnumbered, they are in better terrain. I have no decent cover, no covered approaches and no opportunities to work around a flank.  If I'm going to get to that OP I have to make a frontal assault against a numerically superior force, some of whom are entrenched.  This looks more like 1915 than 1943!

This is a tough nut to crack.

So I now take two phases of Russian fire.  The first attack is from three sections targeting my section in the open.  It's an attack using 44 dice.  That ends up 16 hits, yielding four casualties plus enough shock to pin the squad.  One casualty is my senior leader who is lightly wounded and my FM drops to 8.

I don't have a CoC die and no one any longer in Overwatch, so I have to face another phase of Russian fire.  One downside to rolling a double phase is the limited number of useful command dice, but Dave has his senior leader ideally placed so that on a single roll of 4 he can get three squads to fire.  That means in this phase he is comfortably able to find enough command dice to activate the whole Russian platoon to fire.  Now that my section in the open is pinned, it shares the same cover as the adjacent section, so any fire will be spread across all four teams.  Over 50 dice make up this next attack.  Mercifully there are only (only!) 16 hits and luckily only one casualty, but a lot of shock, enough to see the section in the open break and fall back.

Things are not looking good.
Well, I can't see any way to turn this in my favour and it's clear the longer this goes on the worse my casualties will be.  If there is any hope of squeezing out a victory it will come at too great a price.  So far, I have taken four casualties and that's only because my leaders have absorbed two casualty results and fortunately for me only received wounds.  The Russians have taken five casualties, so honours are fairly even in that sense, but otherwise I have to admit that I'm being driven from the field.  Letting the Russians have the barrage in scenario 3 isn't a great outcome, but nor is it a disaster.  Better I keep my casualties down and save my men for the more important struggle to come and so I make a voluntary withdrawal.

Dave played this perfectly.  The OP was set up as far from me as possible and he capitalised on the two early double phases to halt me in my tracks by bringing all available fire to bear.  Not only that, his two LMG squads were entrenched, making it a formidable position to assault.  It left me with a mountain to climb.  I'm not sure having the half track would make that much difference, as getting to within 6" of the OP would have have put it at serious risk of a grenade attack.  Of course two consecutive double phases allowed the Russians to deploy maximum force and really lay down a huge amount of firepower.  In many ways my casualties could have been considerably worse. Let's chalk this one up to German over-confidence!

I fear this scenario may prove a tough one for the Germans now that they have to get within 6" of an OP marker before it's revealed.  Unusually for a patrol scenario the Russians can entrench and so they can protect the real OP from a strong position and the Germans must engage in an uneven firefight if they are to have any hope of reaching it.  In our case the Russians had all the advantages - the hidden OP; more support (they rolled better than the Germans and so had level 2 support against the German's level 1); numerical superiority; the ability to be entrenched, and the pure good luck to get a couple of double phases so early in the game.  The latter was just the fortune of war and I can live with that, but perhaps allowing the Russians entrenchments now gives them too much of an advantage?

All up it's a minor set back and early days, so let's see if I can have better luck clearing the minefields in the next scenario.  

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Getting ready for Storming the Citadel

For a shift in theatre we have decided to play the Chain of Command pint-sized campaign Storming the Citadel, set during Operation Citadel (Kursk) on the eastern front in 1943.  So I hope to be posting regular AARs on how we progress.

The campaign looks interesting, if nothing else because the battle at Kursk does not strike you as the subject for a platoon level skirmish game.  That said, once I had downloaded the pdf from the Too Fat Lardies website and started to read through, it's clear this could give quite a good flavour for how that battle may have looked from the level of a platoon or company commander.  Forget the big picture, this is about the infantryman's war, pushing through solid defences manned by resolute Russians.  In that sense it seems perfect for Chain of Command.

Perusing the support lists and the scenarios, I could see I needed to add a few more units and vehicles, plus some additional terrain.  But that's good, isn't it?  We are wargamers after all, we like doing this stuff, in fact we can't help ourselves.  It's a sickness, I tell you.

I have posted earlier about working on a few more Russian buildings.  I wasn't totally happy with the Sarissa Church and it's rather strange dome, so I made a change.

Church with my effort at a dome.  
I found a suitable moulded shape in a hardware store - the finial for a curtain rail that looked about right (well, based on my very limited knowledge of Russian architecture).

With a bit of cutting to get it closer to the size and shape I wanted, I mounted it on the roof and added the cross that came with the original building.

When it came to painting I decided my attempt at a gold finish had failed and a quick surf of Google showed that blue was a more common colour.  So blue it is.
That looks a lot better.
The terrain in the two early scenarios in the campaign include many patches of rough ground/scrub.  The painted teddy bear fur I had used for my Pacific Kunai grass would be an ideal solution so I set about creating about a dozen pieces of randomly cut rough ground.  The key to all this is to use a comb to spread the paint through the fibres and so avoid clumping.  It's so simple, yet very effective.

The rough ground as it looks on my gaming mat.  

The first scenario in the campaign is a fight over some high ground containing a Russian observation post.  If the Germans can win the scenario by driving the Russians off the table they secure the heights and benefit from a pre-game barrage in scenario 3.  If the Russians win they get the barrage, but only as long as their OP is not destroyed.  The Germans don't know the exact location of the OP.  The Russians have three markers to represent three possible spots and these must be placed in areas of rough ground.  The Germans won't know which is the real one until they get within 6".  I couldn't think of what to use for the markers, but thought why not make some small OPs, I'm sure I'll find future uses for them?  Using a 40x40mm base I made a simple frame from toothpicks; sculpted some sand bags from milliput and then made a camouflage net out of gauze bandage.  I did put some figures into one, but they can be removed and I think they will make good dug-in positions for my Pacific games, so time has not been wasted on these.  The figures were random from the spares box - a Zvezda Russian scout with binoculars and the radio operator is actually a Japanese figure from Waterloo. I marked each OP with a number underneath so that the Russian player can record which is the 'real' OP and once that is discovered we will use the OP with the figures as the 'real' OP and remove the dummies from play.

Scenario two has the Germans trying to clear minefields. The Russians have eight of these, two of which will be dummies and the German objective is to clear four minefields.  If they fail the Russians will get two free minefields in Scenario 3.  Chain of Command normally allows a maximum of two minefields as supports and for that reason I only have two minefield terrain pieces.  I saw that John Bond has some clever ideas for making minefields on his excellent John Bond's Wargaming Stuff blog.  I haven't followed John's method using old sprues but I've copied the general idea which will allow minefield terrain pieces to be placed over existing terrain.  Simple, but very practical.

One of my existing minefields

Some more generic minefield markers I've used for other games

The 'Bond Method' of minefield.  Simple. Effective.

I create platoon boards for each force, it makes set up easy and helps with deploying.  You can see how I make them by clicking Making Platoon boards.  I have one for the Panzergrenadiers that recently saw good use in the Von Luck campaign.

So I made one up for the Soviet Guards Platoon.

And here's the base platoon with a range of supports - snipers, flamethrower team, L46 47mm AT gun, Maxim MMG, PTRD anti tank rifle, 50mm mortar and a commissar.

Not sure how useful the commissar is to the Russians as he is in list three for supports which puts him at the equivalent of the Maxim or the 47mm AT gun, which may prove more attractive choices.  Anyhow here he is in all his glory, barking out commands to remind any waverers the right direction to go to find the facist hordes:

The sniper team are from Zvezda and I enjoyed painting these two up in their amoeba suits.  Talking of which I have just bought some of the new AB Russian scouts figures and they are now in the paint queue, as they are a support option that may turn up later in the campaign.

As always there are some artillery pieces and AFVs to add.  I've had several of these for a while, just waiting to be built and painted, so now is the perfect opportunity.  It's also one reason why I like gaming in 20mm, the choice (and affordability) of 1/72  scale kits is excellent.  It's not that I don't have a Panzer IV, you understand, it's just that I don't have a Panzer IV Ausf F in tri-colour camouflage.  Like I said, it's a sickness.  The same applies with the Tiger.  I have two from Armourfast, but I don't really like them.  This is the Revell Tiger, considered by many in the modelling community as the best 1/72 Tiger out there.  I wouldn't totally agree, as this is an Ausf E and I would expect to see zimmerit, that aside it's a fine looking model. The Panzer II is from S-Models and it's a lovely kit, a quick build but with a brass barrel.  You get two in the box, so this one will be in tri-colour but the other will be in early war grey (unbelievably Grossdeutschland still had a couple of these in the tank pool in 1943).  The SU-122 is from UM and the two guns - the Russian 76.2mm infantry gun and a German 20mm flak gun are both from Zvezda.

For some reason I've found it hard to get my hands on a 20mm Russian 12.7mm heavy machine gun, it seems not many people make them.  Fortunately I found one at MMS (just in time it turns out as they close down for good at the end of September). I've just finished painting it and it's crewed by a PSC crew.  The gun is 1/76 and the MMS crew were on the small size of 1/76, while the PSC Russians are on the large size of 1/72.  They were not going to mix, so PSC get the gig on this gun (and yes, for the observant, it should have and will have a bigger crew).

This lot will join my existing German and Russian arsenal, some of which are pictured below.  All possible supports units for the campaign.

All PSC kits

All PSC except for the Sdkfz with the AA gun (which is from Caesar)

SU76 from UM; GAZ from S-Model and ZIS 76mm from PSC

sIG33 15cm infantry gun from S-Model with a crew from AB.

IeIG18 from Zveda with a PSC crew

Airfix Pak40 with a PSC crew