This time you can read a battle report from a clash between the 2nd SS Panzergrenadiers and the 1st Armored Brigade (People's Army of Poland) belonging to my colleague Kondziu.
We decided to set the army limit to 1750 points. I took two full platoons of panzergrenadiers supported by a platoon of PaK40s, an SS scout platoon, four StuGs, and three NW41 launchers. Of course there was also a place for Ernst Barkmann. Kondziu had a bunch of T-34s (17 to be precise), a platoon of ISU-122 assault guns, and looted German heavies (Tiger and Panther). All supported by a platoon of razvedchiki - a very nasty one. The complete orders of battle:
- 2nd SS Panzergrenadiers 1750 points [pdf]
- 1st Armored Brigade (People's Army of Poland) 1750 points [jpg]
We started by preparing the battlefield. We tried to assemble a typical rural area - a mixture of houses, fields, small woods, and hills.
Then we rolled for the scenario... This time it was Cauldron.
As usual, I tried to place objectives to form a triangle, with each objective near terrain features that give some cover and protection.
I decided to attach SS Scout Platoon teams (with Panzerfausts) to one of my panzergrenadier platoon in order to establish the core of my defense line. This operation reduced the number of platoons to five, which forced me to deploy only two of them at the beginning of the battle. I deployed panzergrenadiers to guard both objectives, and left the PaK40s in immediate ambush.
Luckily, Kondziu deployed a company of T-34s on his right flank in such a way that the tanks were visible from the hill nearby. I took the chance and placed Barkmann in hull-down position on the hill.
Kondziu: The deployment of my platoons didn't really go to my liking as both my tank companies ended up on the same side of the table as my reserves were expected to arrive. I'd prefer them to start at the opposite side so that the enemy's attention were be split between them and the reserves.
It was also just about impossible to conceal all my tanks from the AT gun ambush and Barkmann which could turn out very bad indeed. I placed my CC on the right flank where I thought I'd be conducting the main attack on the objective closer to my edge of the table, if I were lucky enough, along with some support coming in from reserves. The other company would try to annoy the enemy on the other objective and attempt to tie up any of his reserves.
After deploying Barkmann in front of the company of T-34s, I saw a chance to decimate the whole company by combining fire from Barkmann's Panther and PaK40s, which emerged from ambush. Actually, I regretted a little bit that I had placed Barkmann on that flank, because there was not enough field for the third AT gun from the platoon.
However, the fire was successful. PaKs had amazing 100% accuracy, destroying four T-34s. It was a little bit funny because Barkmann missed all of his shots... (even with re-rolls).
Kondziu: To my horror four of my tanks on the right flank snuffed it from AT gun fire. Loosing half a company of T-34s before you even take out your tape measure from your pocket is detrimental to morale, let me tell you.
Worse still, the remaining tanks were blocked from pursuing their objective due to burning hulls laying in the way. At this point I decided to move the CC away from there to eventually join the reserves but keep him out of enemy LOS at all times. From lack of alternatives, the remainder of that company was assigned the role of being shot at by AT guns and Barkmann and maybe keep them at it long enough to keep them off of any other units. Especially that an attempt at traversing the wreckage with one of the tanks resulted in, surprise, surprise, it becoming stuck.
The left flank moved up forward mostly unmolested and secured some cover in and behind a field.
Not much for me in this turn. I moved Barkmann to flank the company of T-34s, however, without any success.
Kondziu: The AT fire having completely no effect due to an inordinate amount of luck on my part and nothing else, the situation remained unchanged. The left flank spread out and moved up to take position behind the objective while the right flank stood there to get shot at some more. The CC swiftly moved up behind a house though, ready to bolster the reserves, whenever they appeared.
When you play against a massive enemy, such as Soviets or People's Army of Poles, you have to focus on eliminating whole platoons if you see a chance to do so. Otherwise the hoardes of metal cans will ride through your lines sooner or later. I followed this idea, but again my fire was ineffective.
Fortunately, the remaining PaK40 didn't disappoint me, and it was able to destroy one of T-34s that went "one step" too far from the crops field.
Kondziu: One of the tanks on the left got too close to the AT gun and paid dearly for its transgression, while the right flank, apparently having gotten some experience in ducking bullets, survived another round of AT fire. Why couldn't they have done this sort of ninja stuff in turn one?
My reserves having arrived I decided to go for broke and try to get the rightmost T-34 to get stuck in the debris of his brothers-in-arms, at which I promptly succeeded and now had two unoperational tanks in that company. I also moved up one of the tanks out from the wood and took a pot shot at one of the AT guns. One less AT gun to worry about.
I put in my razvedchiki in from reserves and aimed them at the isolated infantry teams in the field crops. I also moved up my CC so that they benefit from a morale re-roll and 2 extra MGs. Alas to no avail, as the ensuing rain of fire managed to take out zero enemy teams, or even pinning them down.
The tanks in the left flank just moved up to take cover behind the buildings and forests in case the enemy reserves arrived this next turn.
The appearance of halftracks could mean only one thing - it would be a hot round for my front lines. Unfortunately, I couldn't do much to stop the inevitable assault. I had a dilemma of choosing the target for the last PaK I had on the hill - CC or halftracks? I decided to shoot at CC - unfortunately, again with no effect.
In response, razvedchiki warmed foxholes of my troopers with the nasty flamethrower (ROF 4) and fiercely assaulted them.
Kondziu: Suspicious luck caused my CC to live through AT gun fire and the remainder of my reserves, the ISU-122 and the looted heavies, all to arrive at once. Those I moved up towards the objective to secure it if it were taken, or at least contest it if it were not. Half of the razvedchiki teams got out of their half-tracks and let rip with all they had (and this included a flame thrower) resulting in some enemy casualties and, more importantly, pinning the infantry platoon well down.
The tanks on the left flank moved up into a field, and a building and managed to finally let rip their MGs. To no effect. They formed up into a strange position too where half the tanks were facing the enemy table edge while the other ones faced the objective... and I'm not sure why anymore, but it must have been a brilliant ploy of some sort. But one thing I could be sure was that I was contesting both objectives at this point.
The razvedchiki then conducted an assault on the enemy infantry positions successfully driving them off, securing the field and coming close to clearing one objective.
The right flank continued to be stuck. I think one of the tanks actually managed to break free at one point only to become stuck again when it tried to move.
At this stage I started to feel that situation was getting worse and worse. The luck from the first turn had been already forgotten...
The optimistic aspect was that reserves started to enter the battlefield. The first were StuGs. I hoped that they would be able to delay the doom of the surrounded infantry platoon... or at least delay it. Unfortunately, Kondziu placed his tanks in such a way that I had to take a risky path through woods to finish move in cover. And of course one of the StuGs didn't make it. Fortunately, the rest of the platoon was able to destroy two enemy tanks.
On my left flank, I decided to consequently finish what I had started, and I finally managed to eliminate the T-34 company. Luckily, Barkmann destroyed one T-34 forcing the company to retreat from the battlefield.
However, all these efforts would be useless if my brave panzergrenadiers didn't dig in again. Fortunately they did, and I had a new line of defense that enabled me to hold the ground for one more turn.
Kondziu: Some units on the left flank were lost due to incoming reserve StuGs, which was worrying, and the remainder of the company on the right ran away, which was not surprising. But those reserves put the pressure on and I felt I'd have to clear the objectives to win next round or be shot to bits.
The CC took out one of the AT guns by long-range fire, but left himself vulnerable to retaliatory action, which will prove fatal.
I moved up with the units in the center to conduct an all-out assault and drive the enemy platoon away. This worked pretty well since most of the enemy infantry I could get to did indeed perish in the onslaught, but I got greedy and tried to pursue a breakthrough assault on one of the AT guns which led to the razvedchikis' total extermination. At this point it seemed that I had a high chance of success in the scenario as the next turn allowed me to score the objective if I managed to keep the enemy at bay.
But in a bout of unfounded optimism I tried assaulting the same platoon with my remaining tank company. Alas, the infantry platoon and all its attachment were too successful in laying down defensive fire from its twenty three million AT weapons meaning that practically nothing survived to even dish out damage, and even that was quickly taken to pieces. This meant that I had only two out of my five companies still operational and had to test my feeble morale at the beginning of the turn. Provided that the CC even survived.
My front lines were crushed and I realized that it might be a little bit too late for my reserve panzergrenadiers to turn the tide of the battle. All seemed lost, because I was not able to reach the frontal objective with the teams that survived the slaughter.
The last desperate action was to engage the CC tank with Barkmann. The 424 Panther hit the enemy tank with the first shell, transforming it into a fireball. Fortunately, consistency in eliminating companies till the last tank paid off as whole battalion was forced to retreat.
The CC died, so no company morale check for me. Small saving there, I didn't have to fail it myself.