Same place, same armies, but different players.
An idle after game chat with my opponent, just after the first game, prompted him to ask for a refight with sides swapped. To what I readily agreed, as I’d found that by some freak of luck, I’d come up with a scenario that was both balanced and fun to play ( a rarity, I’m afraid, but well, you can’t miss every time *chuckles*). So, here is the general synopsis of the battle :
The 61st Panzer is attacking from the South, and must secure 2 objectives in the village of Ivanpabo and on ridge 306 itself. Another important feature of the terrain is the spire of the church of Raketaski, a vantage point from which the nearly the whole battlefield can be observed. Of notice is also the wood west of Ivanpabo, a likely approach for any flanking move.
The map, same as last time. There may be some differences with the actual position of things, at any rate, here’s a pic of the table :
the blue stars mark the objectives.
The opposing armies
German forces :
1 CO cv 10
1 HQ cv9, 6 x Heer, 6 x Sdkfz 251/1, 1 MG42, 1 truck
1 HQ cv9, 6 x Heer, 1 MG42
1 HQ, 2 x Pz IV E, 4 x Pz III G, 4 x Pz II F
1 FAO, 1 FAC
2 x 105 mm (2 x HE, 1 x Smoke)
2 x Stuka (2 x bombs)
1 CO cv8
1 HQ cv 7, 6 x conscripts, 1 x Maxim HMG, 1 x 37mm ATG
1 HQ cv 7, 6 x conscripts, 1 x Maxim HMG, 1 x 37mm ATG
3 x T26S
2 x KV 1
1 x KV 2
50% of the soviet force had the possibility to entranch.
From “The Great Patriotic War” [what’s in brackets are the OOC comments]
It appeared that Polkovnik Foxbatov’s plan was simple : not knowing from where the 61st Panzer would attack, he decided to post the 454th Rifles’ 1st battalion in entranchments on Ridge 306, while the 2nd battalion would occupy Ivanpabo and trenches south of teh woods that cover this village’s western side. Remnants of the 199th Tank Brigade would be stationned at the crossroads behind hill 306, ready to move west or east depending on which side the enemy to attack from and bring their heavy tanks’ firepower to bear [a forerunner to the tactics used by the Soviets from Koursk on : a “shield” of entrenched infantry and AT guns, and an AFV sword to clobber ennemy breakthroughs, or surge for assault from behind the shield. The German plan was a general attack on Ivanpabo, using a flank march to bring their non motorized Grenadiere to battle, while the tanks and half-tracks would speed north down the road, and deploy into line on the hill south of the village. ].
The German plan was a massive attack on Ivanpabo. THis was just what the Soviets had anticipated… notice how bare the defence of their left flank is
At 1403, ennemy 105mm shells fell on Ivanpabo and the trenches west of it, causing but slight losses among our forces, while Stukas divebombed the antitank company on the western slope of hill 306. The ferocious AA barrage put up by our gallant gunners seriously impaired the precision and efficiency of the attack, but bombs nonetheless cut the battalion’s command telephonic wires, causing some temporary disruption in 2nd battalion’s actions [the only suppressed was guess what? the HQ. Oh, well…]. This in particular prevented reports that riflemen in the trenches on the ridge had observed an important armoured column speeding north down the road to Ivanpabo from reaching Foxbatov’s command post, so that the tanks of the 199th Brigade were not dispatched to face the ennemy immediately.
Situation at the end of turn 1. The little blue dots in the right hand lower corner are the FAO & FAC. Overlooking the battlefield from Raketaski’s spire, tehir position will not change. The flank march Battalion fails its command roll, which given the circumstances, isn’t necessarily a bad thing : there are 2 MG stands in the trenches up north.
At 1405, more shells fell on Ivanpabo, while Stukas were also attacking our position. It appeared that Major Lisalituchayamish, who had recently taken over command of the 1st battalion, had well prepared his defensive positions, as his troops only suffered minor losses despite the intense clobbering [buildings and fortifications are a good cure for artillery barrages, especially when your opponent cannot seem to roll 6]. While ennemy missiles were still raining on Ivanpabo, the fascistic Panzers rumbled down the slopes of the low hill south of Ivanpabo, and reached the proximity of the village, getting in position to pour fire on our infantrymen. This did not go without damage for the ennemy : having sorted out his communication troubles, major Kozichka ordered 1st Battalion’s antitank company to open an enfilading fire on the Panzers driving north on Ivanpabo.  Several ennemy light tanks were hit and left burning, starting to nibble down on the strength of the ennemy’s armoured fist [Never fail to take opportunity fire with the Soviets : you never know what command units will pass their command rolls *grins*]. At 1406, Polkovnik Foxbatov issued the 199th Brigade orders to move west to take under their guns the gap between Ivanpabo and Hill 306, a movement that took the heavily armoured KV tanks the better part of 5 minutes.
End of turn 2. Artillery and bombers are still ineffectual. A Panzer II is destroyed.
the Panzers charge onwards…
leaving a burning Panzer II platoon in their wake
At 1412, there was a lull in the ennemy’s artillery barrage on Ivanpabo [My opponent had forgotten he’d scheduled a smoke mission, and rolled – and failed – for more HE. He passed with the Stukas however…], but more ennemy divebombers appeared that attacked our antitank position on hill 306 to avenge the loss of their tanks . The heroic riflemen who had been standing firm under the ennemy barrage started to show some signs of weariness : the ennemy commander took profit of this situation to order his half-tracks to advance [a suppressed AT gun meant that the single hit inflicted on a HT failed to cause suppression, so the whole battalion was free to move. The next German command roll was a 2, which allowed them to dismount and close assault the trenches ], and the mounted Grenadiers assaulted our trenches west of Ivanpabo.  Despite the losses suffered from the tank guns’ fire, our Riflemen inflicted severe losses on the fascistic hordes before their position was overwhelemed and they had to fall back into the woods [1 stand pushed back, another killed but taking out a German stand, and the last one pushing back the ennemy against all odds]. In this action, Sergent Michailischenko’s action won him the Red Star medal. This success, however costly, allowed an ennemy infantry Battalion to enter the battle west of Ivanpabo. Tanks of the 199th Brigade had completed their move, and at 1414 started to open accurate fire from extreme range on the Panzers South East of the village to relieve the pressure on our Riflemen. Several Panzer IVs, the heaviest and most dangerous ennemy tanks, were hit and taken out of action by their markmanship .
The Panzergrenadiers charge and flush the Soviet conscripts from their tranches… but the KVs have some German armour in their sights.
A panzer IV is destroyed. 6mm units are so small it’s hard not to make mistakes, and both my opponent and myself mistook the III for the IV. no biggie though, as fair play came in the way (and the III would die the following round at any rate)
The ennemy infantry started to engage the defenders of Ivanpabo, with the support of their half tracks machine guns, and the guns of their tanks. Our beleaguered men started to take heavy losses, but held firm, though the southwest corner of the village had to be evacuated. . In other places, our men held their ground  [the German fire was exceptionnally bad, causing but a single platoon to fall back, and suppressing another]. The German Panzers, however, were beginning to take horrific losses from our brave tankers : the fascist commander called for more artillery and air attacks on the 199th Brigade, and at 1417, shells began to rain down among the tanks, while, despite the excellent fire of our AA gunners, Stukas bombed their position . Damage was however but slight [Artillery and Aircraft were available that turn, but the shells only got the KV2 under their area, inflicting a single hit that was saved. A stuka took 3 hits by AA fire, so the attack only inflicted 2 hits and a suppression on a T26], and the KV1s and T26s could keep their fire, destroying several Panzer III that were moving south to extend the ennemy line .
end of turn 4
At 1422, while the ennemy barrage  was still falling around the tanks of the 199th Brigade, more Stukas made an appearance , but the AA fire was so ferocious and accurate they prefered to drop their bombs before reaching their target [Poor dispersion rolls meant that a single T26 was suppressed by the Artilley, while the Stukas caught nothing under their area]. Such a poor performance by the fascistic airmen did not relieve the pressure on their tanks, and a Panzer IV platoon that had tried to fill gaps in the crumbling German line was taken under their fireand were destroyed . Sergent Rogatov took personnal care of aiming his KV1 76mm gun in such a way that with 3 shots, he destroyed 3 ennemy tanks, earning a Red Star for his dedication. At 1424, Polkovnik Foxbatov ordered the 199th forward west to bring the KV2s’ 152mm guns into effective range [and the only tie any of my command units managed to pass 2 rtolls in a row eh eh]. The ennemy pressure on Ivanpabo was not decreased however, and tank, MG and rifle fire caused heavy losses among the retreating Riflemen, and forced the forces defending the western side of the village to fall back  [despite some appalling luck – throwing 11 dice without a single 6-, sheer weight of numbers and successive activations allowed te German player to at last clear the west side of Ivanpabo, leaving but 3 platoons : 2 in the church, 1 in the SE building]. Capitalizing on tis success, Grenadiere and panzers started to move around the NW corner of Ivanpabo [the blue arrow. The red arrows are for the fall back, and the cautious retreat of 2nd Bat’s HQ.. It would come in handy, and would add its dice to the AA protection of the KVs *evil grin*]
end of turn 5. Arrows show fallbacks, HQ moves, and german intentions for the following turn.
German panzers have taken lots of losses, and that ain’t over yet…
German air power vs Soviet armour… the Luftwaffe didn’t shine that day.
It soon became apparent that it would not be possible to hold Ivanpabo : at 1428, Major Lisalituchayamish moved his command post east, and ordered his men to try to hold the eastern side of the village, or retreat east of it. But infiltrating German tanks moving round and through the village caught this move under their guns, killing many of our brave soldiers . Their bloodlust however was the fascists’ downfall. While there was a lull in the German artillery barrage, the Stukas attacking the 199th Brigade were once again thwarted by our valiant AA gunners  [1 Ju87 was aborted by the AA defence, and the other one made such a bad dispersion roll once more it got nothing under its guns]. Another Red Star was won, the third of the battle, awarded to Lieutenant Kepachov, for his dedication to provide cover to his armoured comrades. The 199th Brigade’s tanks could once more pour devastating fire on the ennemy armour, destroying numerous Panzer IIIs in the process  &  [Having the KV2’s gun in range does make a difference : 6 more attack dice spoil anyone’s day…]. However, a badly understood order by a junior officer [the 1st and only command blunder of the game] caused 1st battalion’s AT battery to fall back from their trenches. But the losses suffered by the ennemy seemed to take out their fire, and the Germans were content to consolidate their hold on the part of Ivanpabo they were holding. Polkovnik Foxbatov could take profit of the night and of the lack of aggressiveness of the smitten fascists to retreat north with the remnants of the 454th Rifle Regiment and of the 199th Tank Brigade and keep delaying the ennemy progression towards Leningrad.
Turn 6… endgame, as the club was closing.
Command blunder : AT guns vacate their tranches… I guess I know what would have the target of turn 7’s air and artillery strikes
German attack on Ivanpabo : the Soviets hold but half the Church and the big house.
but the Panzers have been gutted : palls of smoke dot the Russian plain.
As the club was closing, we had no time to finish the game. The losses inflicted on the Panzers would have prevented the Germans from taking hill 306 before turn 8 and achieving a major victory. But there was no hope for the Soviets of keeping Ivanpabo (tehir last toehold would probably have been pushed back on turn 7) or to retake it. Barring exceptionnal success by the artillery (we were using auto-suppression rule) or the Stukas destroying the KVs, positions were, in my opinion, fairly final… Once again, BKC shows it’s fun to play, and takes into account perfectly the incertitudes and vagaries of war that prevent any plan from running like clockwork.
Soviet : 3 conscript platoons
German : 2 Pz IV, 3 Pz III, 1 Pz II, 1 Heer stand
Next game should see the 1st outing of my northern Africa armies… onward to Libya (with Rommel, Monty and Auchinleck, that is *wink*)