Thursday, 26 October 2017

Storming the Citadel Scenario 3 'Panzer Marsch!'

After a few preliminary probes of the Russian defence in the first two scenarios we now move into the main course and the start of Operation Citadel itself.  Scenario 3 'Panzer Marsch' sees the Germans begin their assault on the outskirts of the village of Butovo.


As a result of Scenario 1 'Eyes Down' the Russians have retained their observation post and so benefit from a pre-game barrage.  The Germans were more successful in Scenario 2 'Clear the Way' and managed to clear a path through the minefields.  That means my panzer grenadiers won't have to face any mines this scenario and gain a bonus move in the patrol phase.




The Germans advance to the village on a broad front across mostly open ground, there is no opportunity for a concealed approach.  They will need to rely on their firepower to suppress any hostile fire as they close in on the village.  Fortunately, that's one thing the panzer grenadiers have in abundance. In our experience the defender is often unwise to fall for the temptation of trying to hold a forward defence when faced with panzer grenadiers.  There is a strong temptation to look at the open ground as a potential killing ground, but it can be flawed.  Just how the Germans can tackle an advance across this sort of open ground was ably demonstrated by my opponent Dave when we played Von Luck Campaign Scenario 4 'Church on the Flank'.  If the Germans can make full use of their considerable firepower it makes a toe-to-toe firefight a very risky proposition for the defender.

In my experience the best way to defeat the panzer grenadiers is to find a way to break up their attack so that they are unable to bring all that fire to bear.  One of the ways to do that is to channel them through terrain that offers limited lines of sight. The hope is that by breaking up their cohesion you can attempt to build up fire superiority on single squads and defeat the platoon in detail.  If you've followed our Kampfgruppe Von Luck campaign AARs you will know that whenever my paratroopers were able to break up the panzer grenadiers in this way I was successful. The exact opposite was true when the panzer grenadiers could concentrate and bring all their fire to bear.

We roll for supports and it's a six, so that gives the Russians 11 and the Germans 16 - maximum levels.  So what am I expecting for this scenario?  I don't think Dave will go for a forward defence, it's tempting, but it's an illusion and Dave is too experienced to fall for it.  I suspect Dave will bring in an extra squad as he's down five men already for this platoon.  He will want some entrenchments, because they will be the only source of hard cover on the table and will enable him to defend any area he chooses in the best cover.  Finally, knowing I can have any number of tanks, he'll want the Zis-3 gun as his anti tank support as his other options lack the punch to be effective.  He will make me come into the village to find him and I suspect that's how he plans to break up my cohesion.

With 16 support points I can't resist drawing on 10 of those for the Tiger I.  I could go for two smaller tanks but then there's always the issue of having enough command dice to activate all your units.  Ideally I will be able to activate the Tiger often, it packs a solid HE punch of 7 and has good armour to face off against the Zis-3 (AP7 against the Tiger's armour of 9).  I think a mortar barrage for another four points would be effective in isolating sections of the village, plus the combined effect of pinning units and reducing cover by one level will help deal with any entrenched units.  Finally, as he has a pre-game barrage with the benefit of Wrath of the Gods I don't want him deploying too quickly if I'm having trouble deploying, or worse trying some sneaky ploy like capturing a JoP, so I've opted for my own pre-game barrage with my remaining two points.

We roll for Force Morale with Germans on 11 and the Russians on 9.  The patrol phase starts with our markers quite close to each other.  The Germans roll a 3 for their preliminary patrol phase moves, plus one additional move for winning scenario 2.  In the patrol phase I push aggressively forward and given the proximity of markers to each other the phase is over quickly. While I think Dave will opt for a deep defence I'd be more comfortable knowing I can cross that open ground without taking too much fire.  I have little say in where my JoPs will end up as there's only one patch of cover near my table edge.  So JoPs end up like this:

Russians JoP in red; German in blue

From this it's clear that Dave won't be opting for a forward defence. I think it's the right choice, it could pay off, but it's a high risk strategy that relies too heavily on luck going your way (and we all know how those plans usually work out!).

I have the first phase.  Given the problems deploying (I only have a 1 in 3 chance of doing it successfully) I don't see any reason to use any of my four additional command dice just yet.  While they would increase the chance of a triple six and ending the turn, that's a slim chance and could see me waste some useful dice.  For my first three phases I fail to deploy a single unit, while Dave cautiously brings on a single squad.  He's happy to bide his time and see where I deploy.  I finally manage to deploy a squad into the broken ground on my right and place them on Overwatch.  That will at least stop him thinking about sending out any Scouts to threaten my JoPs.  It's not all bad, I do manage to acquire a fair few CoC points, benefiting from the bonus point when I roll a single 6.

Dave deploys two squads, one towards each flank.  The squad immediately in front of my deployed squad is entrenched close to the JoP.  A deep defence as I suspected.  My following phase I manage to get another squad on the table.  Both are now on overwatch, but deploying under this barrage is tortuous.

First Russian squad appears

Second Russian squad appears (in shadow bottom left)


The Germans sit on Overwatch and my next phase I bring on my FOO, but there is no line of sight between opposing units, so not a lot is happening at this stage.

FOO joins the two squads

Then, just when it looks like we could be off to a very slow start Dave rolls a triple six. Well that solved that, both barrages are gone and there's nothing to hinder deployment for either of us.

With that I decide now is the time to use one of those four additional command dice and it pays off with a double phase.  With that I deploy my third squad; the Unterfeldwebel (SL), and the Tiger.  I also take advantage of the momentary loss of Russian concentration to send a squad at the double towards the village.

Time to make a dash for the fence line

The Tiger makes an appearance

The Tiger has a line of sight over the fence and so can see the Russian squad behind the rear fence.  A  round of 88mm HE is sent their way and immediately causes two casualties and inflicts some shock.  Well, that's what it is there to do.




In my second phase I order my forward squad to slow down and work their way tactically to the fence line, but they are obviously spent from that dash across the open ground and only edge forward slowly.  Meanwhile I send other units forward to join them, including the FOO and the Unterfeldwebel.  The Tiger commander is momentarily distracted and doesn't take the opportunity to engage that Russian squad with another round of HE.

Well, so far things are going well enough.  I have the platoon deployed and moving forward; the Tiger is in a good overwatch position to provide covering fire and once the FOO is up to the fence line I hope to be able to bring down the barrage.  I'm keeping the FOO team in close proximity to a couple of squads to reduce the risk of them being a lone target - safety in numbers.

In the following Russian phase the squad targeted by the Tiger attempts to pull out of line of sight, but they've taken some shock and fail to move anywhere.  However another squad deploys entrenched to cover his left flank from my approaching squads.  I will now be facing three Russian squads, two of which are entrenched and so the Tiger and mortar barrage should be the ideal supports to deal with these.

One of my squads is caught in the open by a Russian squad on my left flank, I thought the line of sight was blocked, but I was wrong.  I'm lucky to get away with some shock and no casualties.

I thought this squad was out of harm's way....


....but not so. We get off lightly with some shock

The Russians can now see where the Germans are heading and in anticipation of them reaching the fence line they take up Overwatch positions.


In my next phase the Tiger fires another round at the same target and they take a further casualty and more shock.  This gives me a bit more protection and so my squads use tactical movement to edge up to the fence line.



Unterfeldwebel and squad reach the fence line, the FOO team are nearly there.


The Russians have their own plans and the Zis-3 deploys in the centre of the table to fire at the Tiger. I use a CoC die to interrupt and the Tiger fires a round of HE at the gun.  Two of the crew are casualties and they receive some shock.  They fire back and hit.  We are playing the Advanced Rules for armour, with a frontal hit scored on a 4, 5 or 6.  The Russians roll for effect with AP 7 and manage five hits. The Tiger has armour 9, but I only roll two saves - disaster! With a subsequent roll of 6 on the 'three net hits' table the Tiger explodes in a ball of flame.  German FM drops to 9 and I'm aghast, I needed the Tiger to do a lot more work than this.  Probably unwise of me to have left it sitting in the open like that, but it was just a lucky shot that could have happened anywhere. Having said that, in the heat of the moment I neglected to check if I rolled three 6s when I fired HE at the gun, because that would have been enough to disable it.


Kaboom!

The Russians on my far left take another shot at the German squad in the open, but I use a second CoC dice to interrupt and move them closer to the fence line and out of harm's way.  With the Tiger down I really need the mortar barrage to do its work.

Russian fire on the Germans

Now that the opposing units behind the two fence lines have line of sight to each other a firefight commences.  My squad in the centre is interrupted before it can fire at the squad opposite, but only suffers a few points of shock.  German return fire is much more effective, causing three casualties, one of which is the Serzhant (JL), who dies.  Russian FM drops.  The Russians are beginning to take some casualties and while I've lost the Tiger, I have only lost one man so far.  If I can win this firefight across the fences and bring in my mortar barrage then the Russians may yet be in trouble.

Squad, FOO and Unterfeldwebel at the fence line

The Russians return fire and the Germans take two casualties and one of these is a leader.  I have the Unterfeldwebel and the FOO team attached, as well as the squad's Obergerfreiter (JL).  The random selection means the FOO is the casualty and he promptly dies.  After the loss of the Tiger this is pretty grim, as that's all my supports killed or destroyed.  Worst of all I didn't even get to call down a barrage.  While I'm not taking a lot of casualties to the platoon, I've now lost the supports I need to deal with the Russian squads I face.  I decide I will shoot it out for a bit longer as I can still lay down quite a bit of fire.

Front line, minus the FOO team
German firefight at the fence line

My left most squad eventually accumulates enough shock to pin.



With that much shock the Unterfeldwebel (SL) decides there are more important things to do and he gets the two squads on my right to pour fire into the entrenched squad.  This is one of the Russian supports, but it has taken three casualties and now accumulates enough shock to pin.  If I can find a way to work my way around this flank there might still a chance to push the Russians out, all of their squads are now below full strength and my firepower is still strong.

Things however are not looking so good for that squad on my left, in a subsequent phase the Russians manage to inflict one casualty, which wounds the squad's Obergerfreiter and causes enough shock to break the squad.


Time to fall back....
With that it's clear I'm not going to make much more progress.  With three men lost from the platoon German casualties have been relatively light.  The Russians have four casualties from their core platoon plus five casualties from their supports, so this has hurt them more.  I think the best thing is for me to pull back and take another shot at the scenario once I'm able to reinforce with more support.  So with that I use my final CoC dice to move my JoP up to my most advanced units to ensure they can withdraw without any problems.

With a safe way back, it's time to withdraw

Well, that was the first of the real fighting and while the Germans didn't make as much progress as I'd hoped it was the loss of the Tiger and FO that really hurt, rather than casualties from the infantry platoon.  The Russians on the other hand have now lost seven permanent casualties and have a wounded man who won't return until 6 July, so in effect they are down 8 men, almost the equivalent of one whole squad, 25% of their platoon.  With the death of a Serzhant they will need to promote someone from the ranks to fill that spot and that man's lack of experience will limit the command options.

On reflection, I don't think I played this one particularly well and was perhaps a little too hasty. The FO probably didn't need to go so far forward so early and I should have limited the opportunity for the Russians to get a shot at the Tiger by considering its deployment more carefully.  I had the (false) assumption that it could withstand most that the Russians could throw at it and paid for that arrogance with a flaming wreck!

The German CO's opinion has dropped to -1, but the Men's opinion, reflecting the low level of casualties is now up to +3.  However the Platoon commander's outlook is Sad.  The Germans are down 2 dead from #1 platoon and #2 platoon has one dead and two wounded men who will return on 6 July.  #3 platoon remains unused and at full strength.

The Russian CO's opinion is +1 but the Men's opinion is at -1 given the higher casualties.  The Platoon commander's outlook is Short tempered.  The platoon has lost 7 dead and there is a wounded man who won't return until 6 July.

So next up we will return to familiar ground for a second attempt to break into Butovo.  However, that ground is now scarred with the smouldering remains of a once mighty Tiger - a sober reminder that this will be no push-over.

To find out what happened in the following scenario you can read the AAR in this post.

To read the earlier AARs and other related posts:

Getting Ready for Storming the Citadel
Carts, tanks and terrain for Storming the Citadel
Storming the Citadel Scenario 1 'Eyes Down'
Storming the Citadel Scenario 2 'Clear Way'

6 comments:

  1. This is a very good report of this map. My son and I are on Map #5 for this campaign. I have to say, you must have rolled pretty well to only suffer 2 points off from your force morale for the exploding Tiger. Did you roll for Junior leader killed when you rolled a "6" for AFV Explodes? I really love to field vehicles, and have learned a few lessons on deployment, I'll share them with you. First, never, ever, deploy a vehicle in the open - bad news as the attacker only needs a "5" to hit, and if they use the Junior Leaders 2CI to activate the gunner, then a "4" is needed to hit. Always deploy your vehicle in which it will be partially obscured as that will bumped up the hit point to a "7". Second, avoid the urge to deploy the tank early, that should be the "coup de gras" so to speak. Waiting will give that "shock and awe" affect on your opponent when you roll out the big boy. Plus, waiting will hopefully let your opponent expose his hand, like the AT gun. Let them deploy that first, since it takes the next phase before they can use it...not in the same phase. Finally, you have to have infantry in a position, preferably in an "overwatch" state, to provide support to that tank. Leaving a tank in the open is what you got...a dead tank. Good luck and looking forward to your progress in the campaign.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, some good points there. Not much cover on this map, which is why I opted for the Tiger and its armour. We worked out afterwards that the probability of a 7AP strike taking out something with 9 armour at the first attempt, even using the optional armour rules, was only 15%, so this was a lucky shot rather than the norm. That still doesn’t justify my poor deployment or complacency!

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  2. Thoroughly enjoyable and detailed read, thanks for AAR.
    cheers John

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  3. Some serious bad luck for the Huns. Could you have left the FO back in the rough, to call the Mortar or was he required to be on the fence to see the Russians?

    Remember good dice is a good strategy!

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  4. Love these reports, we are starting this campaign on Monday and this will help out. A couple questions, does it mention the fences block LOS? Also after your tiger interrupted the ZIS 3 it looks like you interrupted again to move the squad out of the line of fire. was that in a different phase? We thought you could only interrupt once per phase. Thanks!

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    1. We played the fences are traditional Russian village fences that surround the houses, these are often taller than a man and act more as walls than a traditional picket style fence . However they are not solid and so only provide light cover, but they do block LOS. I posted some pictures to illustrate this in this post https://thetacticalpainter.blogspot.com.au/2017/10/storming-citadel-carts-tanks-and-terrain.html

      As for that second interrupt, I can't recall the exact sequence but it certainly looks like that was an illegal use of the CoC die if it was a second interrupt in the same phase. Well spotted!

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