|"Get those carts moving"|
The Russians aren't in good shape, with only sixteen abled bodied men left of their original platoon. All they have in support is an immobile 45mm L46 anti tank gun. The Germans, on the other hand, will draw on a platoon that is down only three men, plus they will have the added benefit of seven support points.
Everything seems to be in the German's favour for this one and both Dave and I sense this might be a fairly short scenario. With that in mind we have decided to revert to an earlier rule that was posted in the TFL CoC forum, that said the carts should be treated as medics if fired upon. This struck both of us as a good balancing mechanism, otherwise we feel there is too much incentive for the Germans to focus all their attention on the carts and the game could degenerate into a turkey shoot. Of course, if we were going to be strict about playing the period then the Germans will have little hesitation in firing at the carts, but in the interest of a more challenging scenario we decided to incorporate the rule.
For the German support I selected a IeIG18 75mm gun and a Sdkfz 251. My thinking was the infantry gun would provide a good level of HE support and help suppress the Russian 45mm AT gun, hopefully freeing up my half track to swoop down and capture the carts. My squads should be able to deal with the Russian infantry as we outnumber them with both men and firepower.
We start with Force Morale at 9 for both sides and the Russians win the roll to determine who has initiative. The Germans benefit from 1D3 moves in the patrol phase and a roll of one gives me a single additional move. With the initiative, Dave was able to get moving quickly and so the patrol phase ended with the Russians able to cover quite a bit of the table. As a result JoPs looked like this:
Holding the initiative Dave takes the first phase and promptly rolls a double six. We thought this might be over quickly, but not quite like this. A Russian cart is able to deploy behind the farmhouse.
In the follow up phase the cart is joined by the other two. Meanwhile, both the Russian squads deploy, one in the orchard and the other behind the farmhouse.
|Is this the Eastern Front or the American West?|
|The carts arrive and there's not a single German in sight. Yet.|
With the Russians off to a good start I see every reason to start making immediate use of my extra command dice. It's a good decision, as it produces instant results with a double six of my own. With that, the Germans deploy two squads, one to the top of the hill and another in the rough ground. From there they can both target the Russian squads around the farmhouse and cover the edge of the table where the carts will try to escape. Both squads open fire targeting the squad behind the farmhouse, which is in open ground. Despite all the firepower this only results in one casualty and five points of shock, but the Serzhant (JL) takes the hit and is incapacitated for the remainder of the turn. Russian FM falls to eight.
|The Serzhant is stunned and shock accumulates|
In the following phase the Germans deploy their infantry gun onto the hill and the third squad into the rough ground, where they are joined by the Unterfeldwebel (SL). With nearly every Russian unit now deployed there seems no reason to hold back German deployment.
The German squads in the rough ground continue to target the squad in the open, causing two more casualties and three points of shock. The Serzhant takes another hit and is stunned again. Russian FM takes a hefty drop down to six. With eight points of shock, the squad is pinned down. The third German squad and the infantry gun target the Russians in the orchard, inflicting a casualty and five points of shock. The squad Serzhant is the one who is hit and he suffers a light wound. This time Russian FM holds steady, but I can't complain, that was a very effective series of phases for the Germans and the Russians won't be able to stand up to too much more of this.
|The wounded Serzhant continues to bark out orders|
The next Russian command roll produces yet another double phase and it's obvious that Dave needs to get the carts moving to exploit the opportunity. He brings on the Russian Leytenant so he can try to rally off some of the shock and take command of the squad whose leader is out of action. Meanwhile, he returns fire at the squad and infantry gun on the hill, but only manages to inflict a small amount of shock.
|The wagons start to roll|
|With a double phase the Germans can only watch from a distance|
In the subsequent phase the Russians roll yet another double six, at which point I'm starting to think that the carts will make it off the table before I even have a chance to try and stop them. So much for my Sdkfz 251 turning up to force their surrender.....they will be long gone at this rate. The carts move 8" and are now only 13" from the table edge, which means they can't get off the table in the next phase, so I'm still in with a chance. His squads fire up to the hill again and this time one of my squads takes a casualty. The Russians try to deploy the 45mm gun, but with their senior leader busy at the farmhouse the order doesn't get through.
In the following Russian phase the carts move a further 7", leaving them only 7" from safety.
With both his squads carrying some shock and one of them pinned, Dave wisely decides that laying down covering fire may be the most effective method to protect the carts and so he lays fire on the hill and the rough ground. I'm going to need to do something drastic to try to save the day.
|Covering fire will reduce the effectiveness of German fire|
In my next phase I decide it's time to get ruthless. I activate all my squads and the gun to fire at the carts in an attempt to prevent them slipping away. It's an ugly war with little quarter taken or given by either side and I've played my part. The carts contain four men and only kill results have any effect. The covering fire that Dave elected to lay down now proves very effective at limiting the number of hits. I fire two squads and despite all that fire only manage to inflict two casualties on the carts.
My third squad and the infantry gun also fire. The result is better and this time we inflict an additional three casualties. In the end all this may not mean a thing, because if the Russians can slip two of those carts off the table in the next phase then they have their victory. My FM drops down to eight as a result of firing on the wounded men.
Well, next Russian phase and it's all eyes on the movement roll for the carts. It's agonisingly close, but it's only 6", taking them to just one inch from the table edge and within a whisker of victory. So, it's not all over just yet. The Russians finally manage to deploy their 45mm gun and it fires HE up at the hill causing a further point of shock. Meanwhile his squads maintain their covering fire in the hope that will limit further casualties to the carts.
The German phase sees the last of the extra command dice used and it pays off handsomely with a double six. The rest of my command dice don't give me a lot of activation choices, but enough to have two squads fire once again. There's still a chance I can deal with those carts, if only my FM holds up. The result is enough to raise the number of killed men to four in one of the carts and so eliminate it. The German FM takes quite a hit as a result and drops from eight to six. If I can eliminate a second cart in the next phase, then that will see me face a few less Russians in the next scenario.
|That's one cart eliminated|
|The Germans watch the carts come agonisingly close to escape|
The subsequent German phase sees the covering fire come off my squads, which allows me to direct much more effective fire at the carts and it's enough to the do the job and eliminate that second cart. I have a CoC die available and, while it does nothing more than ease my conscience, I use it to avert the FM test for shooting at the wounded men.
|A second cart is eliminated|
With that Dave calls it a day and the scenario is over. Well, as we thought, the scenario played fairly quickly, however it was not quite as one-sided as we imagined. Russian victory could so easily have been attained had the carts been able to move just that little bit faster. While double phases abounded and they could so easily have given the Russians a chance at victory, they ultimately rewarded the Germans. Luck as always was fickle and the combination of the slow moving carts and the weight of German fire was enough to tip the balance.
In the early stages the Russians benefited from holding the initiative and the fact the Germans were restricted to one free move in the patrol phase. That meant the Russians were able to place their JoPs quite far up the table, clearly an advantage. The game was marked by double phases on both sides and it certainly gave the Russians a good shot at moving the carts, but in the end they were hampered by their inability to move fast enough. Nonetheless, it was a close run thing. If it wasn't for that bit of ill fortune, this could so easily have been chalked up as a Russian victory. In hindsight Dave realised that he started laying down covering fire too late and should have considered using it much earlier. The Germans were all firing at effective range and covering fire would have been a very effective way to reduce the chances of a hit from 1 in 3, to 1 in 6. Quite a shift in the odds.
The German platoon took two casualties. With Force Morale ending at six for both sides, I paid the penalty for shooting up the wounded men, as a consequence German FM is not high enough to see those two casualties return. As it stands now, one is lost permanently and I'll only see the other return if we make it to 6 July. CO's opinion goes up to 2 and the Men's goes up to 3. The platoon commander's outlook is energetic. Overall the Germans are in reasonable shape to face the next scenario.
Russian casualties have no further impact, as this platoon is now replaced with a fresh one from a new regiment and we will start afresh with CO and Men's opinion.
So next we move to the final map. The Russians really need to make a stand here and try to throw the Germans off schedule. We plan to follow this campaign with Citadel: the Breakthrough, the follow up pint sized campaign, and so the outcome of this particular campaign will have repercussions for both sides in the next one.