Sunday, 5 November 2017

Storming the Citadel Scenario 3 'Panzer Marsch' Round two

After a chastening rebuff for the Germans in the last scenario we return to the outskirts of Butovo. The Germans have regrouped and will attempt to break into the village once again. The first time around the German were repulsed leaving behind the blazing hulk of a Tiger. While the panzer grenadier platoon suffered light casualties, it was the loss of all the supports that called for the platoon to fall back and regroup. I can't say I played that scenario very well and in hindsight could have done several things better. It speaks volumes for giving the attack some thought and having a coherent plan beyond responding to what your opponent does.

The support roll for this game was three, giving the Germans a total of thirteen and the Russians eight. That's enough to allow for some German armour and for the Russians to be in a position to counter the threat by calling on a Zis-3 if they wish. Dave can't ignore the possibility of armour and so I'm sure he will bring in the gun. The Russians could do with an extra squad to help make up numbers and that is what I expect to see make up the remainder of his support.

I have decided this second attempt to break into Butovo calls for a change of tactics and so opt for an all-infantry attack. I will bring in an extra squad from list six, a mortar barrage from list four, a Senior Leader from list two and finally, an adjutant to allow me to get both senior leaders on the table to give me maximum flexibility with my four squads. The tanks can stay in reserve this time.

I expect Dave will defend in depth once again, so my plan is to find a way to break through to the back of the table and work at him from a flank. The Russian platoon is starting to feel its losses and will only be able to field three effective squads, so I'm hoping I can stretch his defence enough to take advantage of a weak spot.

The Germans benefit from a +3 for their force morale roll (+2 as per the campaign, +1 for Men's Opinion) and that takes them comfortably to 11. Russians roll well enough and start at 10. The patrol phase then plays out much like the previous game and we end up with JoPs almost exactly as we did last time.

The Russians continue to benefit from the free pre-game barrage, their reward for victory in Scenario 1 'Eyes Down'.  This means, that with the added effect of Wrath of the Gods, I will need to roll a 5 or 6 to deploy during Turn 1. This held me up quite a bit in the last game where I failed to deploy a single unit during my initial phases.

Initial German deployment

I have the initiative so take the first phase and attempt to deploy a squad into rough ground. Unlike the last game I have no problem with the barrage and they are placed on Overwatch. The Russians are in no hurry to deploy and bide their time waiting to see what I have planned. I'm equally successful deploying when I bring on a second squad and have them take up a tactical position in my centre. The barrage is causing me significantly less problems this time around.

The Russians continue to bide their time deploying, but do bring on a sniper team to harass my squads, clearly hoping to take out German leaders. That's an interesting support choice from Dave, which means he can't have an additional squad and a Zis-3. I wonder what he's chosen?

My squad on overwatch is facing the right direction to try to spot the sniper, but is unable to locate where the fire is coming from. Fortunately we don't take any casualties, just a couple of points of shock.

With Germans now appearing, the first Russian squad deploys to the house in the centre and opens fire on my squad opposite. They are in the open, which is why they deployed tactically and it pays off when the fire only inflicts some shock. I have little option but to approach the village across open ground, so moving tactically will give me what limited cover is available, but the key defence the panzer grenadiers have in this sort of situation is their firepower and I will need to use this to best effect. It doesn't remove the fact I feel horribly exposed. I'm going to need to build up a good firebase before I can feel comfortable about moving forward. Until that happens we are going to have to fight this out from the open.

The first Russians appear

Caught in the open, but at least we are tactical

Now some good fortune comes my way when I roll a double phase. I need to take full advantage here to get the upper hand in the firefight, so I decide to deploy another squad in the centre. One of my senior leaders deploys with them to provide maximum tactical options and to help rally off the inevitable shock we are going to accumulate while under fire in the open. Both squads pour fire into the house and the Russians take two casualties and some shock. One of those hit is the Serzhant (JL) and he's lightly wounded. The Russians are unmoved and their FM remains at 10, but that's a good start, hopefully I can inflict more pain in the follow up phase.

A second squad joins the firefight

In my second phase the German fire continues to be effective and the Russians suffer two kills and more shock. The Serzhant is hit again and he takes another wound which is enough to kill him. At the sight of this, Russian morale takes a drop and FM is down to eight. So far, so good. This provides some justification for my case that the panzer grenadier's best defence is often their firepower.

I want to deploy my FO and get the mortar battery ready to drop down a barrage, but until I have a clearer idea of Russian deployment I decide to hold him back. With only a Russian squad and sniper team in sight it's too early to know where best to deploy the FO. That said, it's obvious my squads in the centre could do with some help, so I'm torn about the deployment.

I've already accumulated a CoC dice, so use this opportunity to end the turn and with it the Russian barrage. That will free up my deployment going forward.

Just when I'm feeling things are off to a reasonable start, the Russians roll a double phase. I have one squad on Overwatch in the rough ground, but I've just spent my CoC die ending the turn, so my chance to use it for an interrupt has gone. All of a sudden the idea of ending the turn doesn't seem like such a great use of that CoC dice. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It's clear the squads in the open are not out of trouble by any means.

It comes as no surprise when a Russian squad deploys to make the most of the double phase. This one is entrenched behind the fence line in the centre of the village and joins the squad in the house to fire at my squads. In their exposed position the prospect of being hammered by two phases of Russian fire is daunting.

A second Russian squad appears

Under pressure and in the open!

I take two casualties and four shock across the two squads, but my leaders dodge any hits. It could have been worse. My overwatch squad in the rough ground opens up on the Russian squad behind the fence, but we are only at effective range and they are in hard cover, so we inflict some shock, but nothing more. I have to face another Russian phase unable to reply or interrupt.

The following Russian command roll is a mixed blessing. There is a triple six which is not great, but fortunately the other two dice are both four.  With only one Russian senior leader this doesn't leave many options and probably saves me from a punishing round of fire. His squad in the house is now leaderless and has accumulated enough shock that Dave makes the bold decision to deploy the Russian Leytenant (SL) to rally them and fire. We take one casualty, again no leaders are hit, but I'm beginning to feel very vulnerable out here in the open and about to face another Russian phase.

With the Russian Leytenant now on the table there is only a 50/50 chance other Russian units can deploy, but Dave clearly felt the need to have him on hand to command the leaderless squad in the house. After all, he has me caught in the open and has another phase to come, so the leader's presence will increase his chance to direct as much fire as possible my way.

The next Russian command roll sees an end to the consecutive phases, but it does allow him to lay down more fire. Without the Leytenant to direct the way, an attempt to deploy another squad is unsuccessful. Nonetheless, between his two squads he is able to bring down a lot of fire (30 dice to be exact). The end result is the loss of a German LMG team and German morale takes a blow, dropping to ten. This firefight is now hanging in the balance and I need to find a way to take the pressure off my two squads in the open.

Casualties start to mount and an LMG team is wiped out

With the Russian pre-game barrage out of the way, it is time to start using my extra command dice. That sixth dice can make quite a difference - a double phase is always welcome, but so are options for more CoC points and unit activations. I'm feeling vulnerable in the open and decide right now I need to look after my central squads. They both lay down covering fire for their own protection - the full squad does so on the entrenched Russian squad, while the German squad that is reduced to a single team is able to cover the width of the house and so suppress fire from there (if you are interested, there is a post on how I made my covering fire markers).

Covering fire hits the fence line

Covering fire on the house

Now that I have a much clearer idea of where the main threat is coming from I deploy the FO into the rough ground. The observer has a good line of sight to the centre of the village, so that the entrenched squad and any other squads deploying in that area will likely fall under the barrage - assuming I can bring it down, that is.

The FO team in the rough ground 

The squad in the rough ground with the FO continues to target the entrenched Russians and their fire is much more effective this time, inflicting two casualties, one of which is the JL, who is stunned and out of action for the turn. The Russians don't seem to be unduly disturbed at the sight of their leaders being hit, their FM remains unchanged.

Another Russian leader takes a wound

I deploy my second senior leader into the rough ground to ensure I have maximum opportunity to activate the FO. Both the squad on that flank and the FO could be decisive in suppressing the Russians that are giving my central squads so much trouble. Having the senior leader on hand should help ensure they can be activated often. He orders the FO to make contact with the battery, we need to protect those squads in the open and we need to do it soon.

Squad and FO under the watchful eye of the Unterfeldwebel (SL)

In the following phase the Russians fail yet again to deploy more units. They are missing the influence of a senior leader, deploying the Leytenant early has come at quite a price. Meanwhile, the covering fire I have placed on his two squads is proving effective at keeping my two squads from taking too much further punishment. At effective range they will only take hits on a 6, yet they remain vulnerable and if the Russians can deploy other units before I can find a way to counter them, then they may yet be in a lot of trouble.

Just when I'm feeling things could turn against me, I roll a double phase. This is a moment to seize and I intend to make the most of it. In the centre I turn my covering fire into direct fire and have both squads target the house. Before I can do this Dave uses a CoC die to interrupt, he knows how brittle my squads are becoming and feels he might just be able to pin or break one before I can fire. He manages one casualty, but none of the leaders are hit and it doesn't do enough to either squad to change their status. With his interrupt over I now have my fire phase. The squad reduced to a single LMG team fires into the building and inflicts one casualty and one shock. The Russian leaders are proving very vulnerable to fire today and the Leytenant (SL) gets a light wound which takes Russian morale down to 7. My full squad in the centre then takes its turn to fire on the same target and the Russians take another two casualties and two shock. They are now taking losses and accumulating shock and I feel are very close to pinning and hopefully breaking.

Knowing I will have the next phase I sense it could be possible to take the pressure off my squads in the centre. The FO calls in a ranging shot on the entrenched Russians, he has called it well and it comes in right on target and inflicts one shock on the squad. Next phase I should be able to bring the whole barrage down and effectively take that squad and the sniper team out of action for a while.

The ranging shot is bang on target

Now is the time to deploy my fourth squad on my left flank. They will target the Russians in the house, but I also have them in a position to make a flanking move once the mortar barrage comes down. They inflict a further casualty and some shock.

Another squad deploys and targets the house

I feel my next phase could mark a turning point in the game and if all goes well I can make a push into the village. The FO calls in the barrage. While it has no effect on the entrenched squad other than pinning, it does kill the sniper team (who have been fairly ineffective all game, but it's good to see them eliminated nonetheless). This means the one target I need to deal with now is the squad in the house.

80mm mortar rounds rain down

My two centre squads fire and cause two casualties, this kills the Leytenant outright and the result of the other casualty is enough shock to break the squad. They fall back, routing right off the table. The combined effect of a killed senior leader and and a squad breaking is a huge blow to Russian morale, which drops to three. That's the sort of result I was after.

During the next Russian phase Dave fails to deploy any other units and things are starting to look grim. To add insult to injury I roll another double phase, which allows me to advance the platoon towards the village and head for cover, out of the open ground.

Right hand squad moves forward

Centre squads use the cover of the barrage

I know there are more Russians to come and so there is still a chance a squad could appear in the centre house, so now is a good opportunity to move my exposed squads towards better cover.

The left hand squad makes its flanking move

German squads work their way around the flanks

The Russians have taken ten casualties including the Leytenant and one Serzhant and it's clear there is little to be gained from continuing the fight and so, when the Russians finally get their phase, they call it a day and withdraw.

This looked like a close run thing at one stage and there were a handful of phases where things could have turned nasty for the Germans. With two of my squads in the open and the Russians able to take advantage of some consecutive phases, I was beginning to take casualties and one squad came very close to breaking. While Dave was rolling consecutive phases he was less fortunate with the activation dice other than the 6s. I was more fortunate. Having two senior leaders meant that with better activation dice I was able to really make the most of each phase.

The casualties to Russian leaders proved very influential, forcing the Leytenant to come on early and creating subsequent problems getting other units to deploy. He had a Zis-3 as a support and while I had no armour, its HE could have tipped the balance had it been able to hit any of my squads in the open, but with his senior leader on the table he was unable to get the gun to deploy. The leader casualties also played havoc with Russian force morale. A change in fortune when the Germans had some double phases was probably what helped turned the tide - the mortar barrage took one squad out of action and vicious German LMG fire did the rest.

Casualties ended even at ten each, but with a difference of seven between the two FM, the Germans were immediately able to return many of the wounded back to the platoon. All up the Germans have one man lost permanently and two more who will return on 6 July (if we get that far). For the Russians these losses will be more significant. Their wounded won't return until 6 July, but by then a fresh platoon will have taken their place, so the net loss so far for the Russian platoon from the four games is sixteen men.  They have two more scenarios to fight before they are replaced, yet they have managed to delay the Germans by one game so far and inflict casualties across all three platoons.

The remnants of the Guards platoon

The German CO's opinion improves with the victory and is now at 0. The Men's Opinion has taken quite a boost, casualties have been low and progress is being made and it now stands at 5. This hasn't helped the Platoon commander's outlook though and it is short-tempered.

The Russians CO's opinion remains the same at 0, but the Men's Opinion drops to -3 in the light of the increasing casualties. The Platoon commander remains short-tempered.

And so next we move into the battle for the village of Butovo itself. The Russians are beginning to feel the strain of their casualties, but they have proved very resilient so far and the Germans will find it hard to dislodge them from the village.

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

You can follow all the posts and AARs from the previous scenarios on the Campaign AARs Page.


  1. Enjoyed spending Sunday afternoon reading your AAR.
    cheers John

  2. Thanks John, we managed to play the next scenario on Saturday at the club meeting. I will post that AAR in the next few days - it's turning into a very tense campaign.

    1. Ooh, that's great to hear! I have a laundry list of "to-do" projects based on your AARs -- jump-off-points, covering fire markers, barrage markers -- all bookmarked and ready to follow your example when I can find the time. :)