The last three AARs posted: "InfantryTryout," "Armour Tryout," and "Izdeshkovo" have all been wringing out "Deluxe," the latest version in Dave Brown's excellent Battlegroup PanzerGrenadier series of rules for 15/20mm scale. This AAR's game continues with "Deluxe" and is the largest game we have attempted so far. As such this AAR is VERY LONG so if you want to read all the details, bring your lunch! <grin> Otherwise you can get most of the action from the photos.
Since the last scenario, "Izdeshkovo," was a big success it seemed natural to continue on with another from Robert Avery's excellent campaign scenario book "Vyazma or Bust." I've always wanted to try a scenario with rail tracks and a railway yard so "Vyazma" fit the bill, not only for that but the presence of T-35s in the OOB clinched it!
The T-35 (Zvezda) is a huge tank! It is about 1-1/2 times as long as the T-34 (Old Glory) and it shoots any two turrets with one fire command! The price on the Zvezda was super good but I didn't care for the fragile plastic needle MGs so I replaced them with nails, added a better coaxial MG mount beside the 75mm main gun, then filled the inside of the model with sand/glue mixture for a bit more heft.
Again the force mix, map, and scenario conditions were loosely followed, but I added in an additional German infantry platoon just to ensure the Germans had enough "Schwerpunkt." The force strengths using the Deluxe points system pegs the German attack force at 2660 points and the Russian defenders at 1910 points for a ratio of 1.4 to 1. This seemed about right from previous BGPG attack scenarios and Deluxe also indicates in large battles the attacker should have about 500 more points than the defender. With the Germans having 750 more than the Russians I hoped it would not be a quick blowout win by the Germans. As moderator and to save game time I pre-set the on-table forces with tentative Russian defense positions and a German attack deployment, to be modified by the players as they wished.
We're getting more familiar with the Deluxe rules plus our "pet" house rules from Version 2. For example, we play 1:1 for guns and tanks, use the 20mm ranges for firing and activation, and replace BUA terrain with individual buildings and call them "small terrain features." Those plus a number of little "tweaks." We played on a 5x4 table with a game length of 12 turns and a variable ending. For this early war scenario we continued to have all Russian rifle squads fire as one section (no LMGs) while all the German rifle squads fire as two sections due to their inherent MG34s. This to model the 1941 Russian shortage of LMGs.
It is October 1941. Panzer Group III under Hoth, part of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre), has fought through Izdeshkovo and has just arrived at the outskirts of Vyazma, the gateway to Moscow for Operation Teifun. The 87th Infantry Division with panzer support from Panzer Group III, has been tasked with quickly capturing the railway yard on the outskirts of Vyazma. The railway yard is required to rapidly deploy troops and armour for the final assault on the centre of the city.
Comrade General Timoshenko on the Bryansk Front has conscripted the citizens of Vyazma to prepare defenses nearer the city centre. To buy time lead elements of 16th Army supported by heavy weapons and tanks, which arrived three days ago, were ordered to dig-in with a forward defense at the edge of Vyazma with orders to hold up the German advance as long as possible.
Tim (Kapitan Milleschev) takes the Russian side and Brent (Hauptmann Pollockstein) and Rick (Hauptmann Von Lowellberg) take the German side, while I moderate.
Map and Russian Force (Kap. Milleschev)
Elements of 16th Army (Inexperienced)
Artillery Observer (4 Off-Board fire missions - 4x 76mm guns)
Sniper* (1x) * classed as Elite
#1 CoHQ (Kommissar, 1x AT Rifle Team)
Rifle Plt (Command, 2x Rifle Squads, 1x Tank Killer Squad)
Rifle Plt (Command, 2x Rifle Squads, 1x Tank Killer Squad)
#2 CoHQ (Kommissar, 1x AT Rifle Team)
Rifle Plt (Command, 2x Rifle Squads, 1x Tank Killer Squad)
Rifle Plt* (Command, 2x Rifle Squads, 1x Tank Killer Squad) *No ammo! - Can only Close Assault!
Medium Machine Gun Plt. (Command, 4x Maxim MMG Teams)
Anti-Tank Plt (Command, 2x 45mm AT Guns)
1st Armour Plt.* (Command KV-1, 1x KV-1) * Classed as "Inferior"
2nd Armour Plt.* (Command T-34, 2x T-35) * Classed as "Inferior"
(Special Rule: When activated on a Tactical Move and Fire Order a Tank Killer squad can move, place smoke 3" away, and close assault tanks with +1 DRM. In addition, each Tank Killer squad has 1 Molotov = +2 DRM)
The Russian forces are required to deploy east of the North/South road. The map below shows the Russians dug-in at their positions, all Hidden and with the sniper Ambush Camouflaged. When Kapitan Milleschev arrived to take over command he found his Kommissars had already ordered his troops dug in with an organized defense and he adopted the defense plan "as is." His Kommissars explained that the 4th infantry platoon has been held back in the railway yard because there was only enough ammo for 3 platoons! The 4th can only Close Assault! Since the armour is all within LOS of the German deployment, they are not Hidden. However, they were not placed in their positions on the table until after German deployment.
The woods are Difficult Terrain. The stone walls, hedges, and fences are all of low height, do not block LOS and offer a -1 LOS hindrance or -1 Cover to fire at infantry, guns, and AFVs (stone walls = -2 Hard Cover). The crops are stubble, providing no LOS hindrance or Cover. Entrenched troops and guns behind a stone wall can only claim one Cover DRM since their trenches are mainly for artillery & air strike protection. LOS is 3 inches between units within Woods and automatic spotting of Hidden squads the same 3 inches (for some unknown reason we used 4 inches in Turn 1??). The buildings are a mixture Russian rural village wooden buildings offering Cover, and stone or brick offering Hard Cover.
Kapitan Milleschev has positioned himself and his CoHQs (Kommissars) within contact range of their platoon commanders. Division Command believes the German objective is determined to take Vyazma quickly so Milleschev's orders are to stop the German advance toward the city centre to buy time for construction of defenses to the rear. Significant armour support has just arrived.
German Force (Hpt. Von Lowellberg and Hpt. Pollockstein)
87th Infantry Division (Regular) & support by Panzer Group III (Regular)
FAC Observer (4x Air Missions - Stuka Air Support)
#1 CoHQ (1x AT Rifle Team)
Rifle Plt (Command, 3x LMG squad, 1x 50mm Mortar)
Rifle Plt (Command, 3x LMG squad, 1x 50mm Mortar)
Mortar Plt (Command, 3x 81mm Mortar, 1x Mortar Observer)
#2 CoHQ (1x AT Rifle Team)
Rifle Plt (Command, 3x LMG squad, 1x 50mm Mortar)
Medium Machine Gun Plt. (Command, 3x Tripod MG34 Teams)
Infantry Gun Plt. (Command, 2x 75mm Inf. Guns, Observer, 2x Trucks)
Pioneer Plt *(Command, 2x Assault SMG Squad, 2x Flamethrowers, 2x SdKfz251/1+LMG)
Medium Panzer Plt.* (Command PzIIIH, 3x PzIIIH)
1st Heavy Panzer Plt.* (Command PzIVE, 1x PzIVE)
2nd Heavy Panzer Plt.* (Command PzIVE, 2x PzIVE)
*from Panzer Group III.
(Special Rule: The Pioneer squads have the same attributes as the Russian Tank Killer squads, each with 1 AT Mine = +2 DRM. The flamethrower fires separately)
Hpts. Pollockstein and Von Lowellberg have orders to secure the railway yard and must deploy west of the North/South road.
The terrain to the north has woods and heavier buildings, so the German company commanders decide to deploy their troops to the more open south. Hpts. Von Lowellberg and Pollockstein arrive to issue final orders and they adopt their attack deployment "as is." All German units are visible on the table, in LOS of hidden Russian units (the mortar battery and observer, the two 75mm infantry guns, and the FAC should have been Hidden).
The map below shows the overall German deployment.
Hpt. Pollockstein's south force that intends to clear the railway and south hill before attacking the railway yard from the south.
Hpt. Von Lowellberg's northern force that plans to attack in the centre to clear any Russian resistance there before attacking the railway yard from the west.
The FAC takes up a centre position with a reasonably good view of the battlefield (leaning against the building to represent being inside it). As the troops move into final position they hear the roar of Russian tank engines. The FAC reaches for his radio phone...
The Germans win initiative. Hpt. Von Lowellberg requests the FAC to call in a Stuka attack on the nasty KV-1s, but the Luftwaffe Control says they are busy elsewhere. To provide some temporary cover, the 3-tube 81mm mortar battery, the 2-gun 75mm infantry gun battery, and all the PzIVs place smoke. (House rule: Certain German (eg. PzIV), British, and U.S. AFV main guns of 75mm or better may lay smoke on any terrain point in LOS. Only firing DRMs are used (range, LOS hindrances, Tactical Move & Fire). A one-gun template of smoke is placed on target for a score of 7 or better. If 6 or less, use 1d4 die to determine undershoot on 1-2 or overshoot on 3-4 with deviation distance of 1d4.) Only one round of smoke is available to each PzIV so this is the last smoke from them! Hpt. Pollockstein has the PzIVs advance after firing, one straight down the road toward the KV-1 that fails to activate to Defensive Fire. However a Russian squad is discovered and the 50mm mortar scores a direct hit, causing the squad to Disengage. The 1st Rifle plt and the PzIV plt of the southern force advance without further incident.
Pollockstein has the rest of the south force just advance with the loaded Pioneers and 2 PzIIIs angling north to stay out of LOS of the KV-1 peeking out behind the building. No Defensive Fire. The Russians in their trenches are being cagey, waiting for Close Range before wasting valuable ammo.
To the north the troops recon the woods with poor results. The infantry advance and secure the stone building as a base for an attack on the woods. Again no Defensive Fire. The PzIVs move up behind the behind the the smoke screen and the central barn, out of LOS of the T-35 and the KV-1. However, two PzIIIs move over toward the woods. The first one meets Defensive Fire from the T-35 that can shoot any two turrets with one activation! Constant double fire! The T-35 suppresses the lead PzIII (the yellow bead is hidden) and the second PzIII pulls in behind to get Hard Cover while it attempts a return shot at the T-35, which misses. This ends the German Command Phase.
In the Russian Command Phase, Kap. Milleschev first orders his artillery observer to call in an artillery barrage, and it is successful and on target. The full barrage lands on the Pioneers in their halftracks, but a number of other infantry squads are caught in the open. The FFE effect roll is a 10! This Disperses a German Anti-Tank Rifle team and a Light Mortar team, plus causes one halftrack full of Pioneers, and two infantry squads to Disengage. (We were testing out the new artillery effects table in Deluxe and still feel that it is still too subject to the vagaries of a single die roll for all stands under the template. We'll return to our house rule of a separate roll for effect for each unit.)
Next the T-35 by the rail yard activates and takes a couple of shots at the lead PzIII but both miss. Then the KV-1 platoon activates. Inferior tanks are not hampered if they are stationary and the target is in effective range and in their reduced Arc-of Fire. One KV-1 takes a bead on the second PzIII for a side shot and smokes it! Those big 76mm guns hit hard against '41 armour!
In the south, the second KV-1 fires on the PzIV on the road, hits and causes it to Disengage. That's all the Russian wishes to do this phase, still staying hidden, keeping the German guessing.
In Deluxe's new Exploit Phase, since the German has Initiative, they have 4 Exploit Orders. For the first order Hpt. Pollockstein activates the south rifle platoon and MMG. They move into new firing positions in the south building and the vacated Russian trench in the garden. One squad moves toward the hill and discovers a Russian squad. Since no Defensive Fire is allowed, the now exposed Russians can only watch helplessly.
The second Exploit Order activates the Pioneer's lead halftrack to move up beside the PzIVs.
The third order has Hpt. Von Lowellberg activate the infantry platoon to move toward the woods hoping to discover some hidden Russians without fear of Defensive Fire. One Russian squad is discovered and instead of having the satisfaction of opening fire has to politely wave at the Germans.
(After seeing the effect of these Exploit moves we decided that the Exploit Move Order should only be allowed as a Withdraw Order. Using it to cross an enemy fire-lane or discover hidden enemy troops without any risk just didn't work for us.)
The last Exploit order is used to promote a PzIII to platoon leader since their commander was destroyed by the KV-1. In the Morale Phase all the German suppressed units rally except for a PzIV and PzIII. The Russian squad in the double building Routs! Then the rolls for smoke dissipation result in about half of it remaining. (We use Version 2 rules where smoke can possibly stay for up to two game turns and roll for dissipation at the end of the first enemy Command Phase after the friendly Command Phase in which is is placed. All the remaining smoke on the table will come off at the end of the next Russian Command Phase.)
Here is the map at the end of Turn 1.
The Germans win Initiative on a draw! The FAC radios for a Stuka strike and Air Control says it's on the way! The pilot dives on a KV-1, lining his flight path on a second KV-1 in case he overshoots, but it is a Near Miss! A scatter die shows the deviation direction and a 1d6 roll is 5 inches for distance. This moves the template to the left side and completely away from the KV-1 so the bomb explodes harmlessly.
(Major Goof! After Turn 2 was almost over I remembered that in all the air strikes in our previous Version 2 games a scatter die was not allowed, instead the rules used the accuracy roll to also provide the deviation, which was only along the direction of the flight path, not to the side. Further, the new Near Miss Deviation Table in Deluxe using a 1d6 die roll provides a more realistic hit probability "envelope" than Version 2 and we have adopted that Table for both air attack and artillery deviation instead of using the Version 2 rules. So the scatter die should not have been used to stay consistent. As moderator responsible, I made reparation later in the game by allowing this Turn 2 air attack to continue to be played correctly from the point of error just before starting Turn 3. The attack will use the already rolled 2d6 Near Miss result and the already rolled 1d6 = 5 for deviation direction on the Near Miss Deviation Table and will be resolved from there. Reparation was needed since 1/5 of the German attack strength is in Stuka strikes, so just overlooking this error would not be fair.)
Unhappy with the results of the air strike, the Germans try to activate their 81mm mortar and 75mm Infantry gun batteries. Both activate and but both roll "Say Again" for accuracy and are lost! That's 3 strike-outs in a row for the artillery & air support! Lady Luck is not kind at times.
Hpt. Von Lowellberg activates the north platoon and begins to move a squad in the field toward the Russian squad, but is suppressed by Defensive Fire. A second squad begins to move and another Russian squad reveals itself and Defensive Fires with a hit, but the squad rolls a 12 on Morale and goes Berzerk! (takes the extra 6 inch reaction move option). The Berzerker Close Assaults the Russian but is Dispersed, merely suppressing the Russian.
The last squad moves (photo above) and comes under close range fire from another newly revealed Russian squad and an AT Gun, Dispersing the German squad. The German mortar and MMG near the stone cottage, plus the MMG in the woods all miss. A classic example of advancing in the open and meeting close range fire from an entrenched enemy. The German platoon is down to one suppressed squad now!
In the south Hpt. Pollockstein issues a Move & Fire order to the infantry platoon and MMG, and has the MMG and squads fire at the Russian squad on the hill, Dispersing it. The infantry platoon then moves along the hill, bumping into a Maxim MMG lost in smoke, causing an immediate Close Assault and also revealing a nearby AT Gun and command. The German platoon easily eliminates the MMG. Then the PzIV platoon slowly moves up behind the infantry.
The PzIIIs activate next and one fires at the AT Gun on the hill causing it to Disengage. The other PzIII starts to move but fire from the KV-1 causes it to Disengage.
Meanwhile in the north, Hpt. Von Lowellberg activates the PzIV platoon and moves them north out of LOS of the deadly KV-1, discovering a Russian squad near the stone wall at the same time the T-35 fires with both the 45mm and short 75mm turrets, plus the T-34 fires, suppressing the PzIV.
The second PzIV circles around, crashes through the stone wall and Close Assaults the Russian squad causing it to Disengage and retreat.
Further south Hpt. Pollockstein activates his second platoon, moves one squad into the barn, but while moving the second squad from the crop, up pops a hidden Maxim MMG and Disperses the squad! Then the platoon command moves up near where the squad was ambushed and the third squad moves up the tracks.
The Pioneer platoon activates and the lead halftrack crashes through the hedge looking to advance and dump it's load of Pioneers to wreak havoc on the KV-1. But their plan is seriously interrupted when a squad and AT Rifle team ambush them in the garden, with a good shot from the AT Rifle causing them to Disengage back alongside the cottage. Meanwhile the other halftrack advances to the hedge and it's LMG fires at the squad but misses.
This ends the German Turn.
The Russians begin their turn with another heavy artillery bombardment that arrives on the building to the left shown above. The Germans catch a break and the only unit that is affected is the halftrack that Disengages.
Then the MMG opens up, Dispersing a German Platoon command caught in the open, while a nearby squad misses the German squad on the tracks. After that Kapitan Milleschev activates the KV-1s and orders one to try a shot at the PzIV on the stone wall, but it misses.
The second KV-1 is more successful, Damaging a PzIII by the south road and it retreats behind the building. In the battlefield centre near the barn, a platoon commander (still hidden) issues a Rally order, but the squad behind the hedge fails and the one in the woods Routs! The Russian squads and AT Gun to the north fail to activate, and the T-35 and T-34 fire and miss the PzIV on the stone fence. End of Russian turn.
In the Exploit Phase, Hpt. Von Lowellberg withdraws the PzIV off the stone wall to behind the building, out of LOS of the KV-1. Hpt. Pollockstein withdraws both Pioneer halftracks, and promotes an NCO from the squad in the centre barn to form a new platoon commander. (House rule: Replacing a Dispersed platoon commander with a squad seems too high a platoon cost, the loss of a squad's full firepower. We play that an eliminated platoon commander is counted as a casualty for Breakpoint. At promotion time, the platoon command squad is placed near a platoon squad with a marker that indicates "Replacement" causing -1 DRM to activate. The squad takes a Damage marker to indicate loss of men transferred to the platoon command squad resulting more fragility and -1 DRM when that squad fires individually.)
In the Morale Phase all German suppressed units rally except for a PzIV, a PzIII, and one squad. The Russian AT Gun rallies but the squad at the hedge fails. This ends Turn 2.
Before beginning Turn 3 the Stuka attack that was resolved incorrectly at the start of Turn 2 is completed from the point of error. The original attack was from the north so the template was again placed on the north KV-1 with flight path lined up on the second KV-1. The accuracy roll is the already rolled 2d6 Near Miss result and the already rolled 1d6 = 5 is used for the deviation direction on the Near Miss Deviation Table. A 5 on the Near Miss Table is Overshoot 1d6. The Germans now roll a 1 and the template moves south by 1 inch, covering the KV-1 and a hidden CoHQ!
The FFE roll plus Stuka DRM for the KV-1 is 10 for a suppression test which the KV-1 passes, but the second roll for the CoHQ causes it to be Dispersed!
Here is the map at the end of Turn 2 (revealed Russians - red dot).
Turn 2 was tough for the Germans who have so far lost 6 units to the Russians 4!
German Initiative again. The FAC radios for another Stuka attack but there is no response. Hpt. Pollockstein fires FFE with the mortars at the Russian infantry in the centre, but the shot deviates and is harmless.
The action with Hpt. Von Lowellberg in the north for Turn 3 is all ineffective! The infantry gun battery, both MMGs, the infantry in the stone cottage, and the PzIVs all missing their shots. One PzIV is suppressed by a T-35 during it's move.
In the south, Hpt. Pollockstein has one squad move up into the trench on the hilltop to fire into the flank of the Russian infantry in the centre. The KV-1 fires and misses (Inferior Tank) and the squad also misses. Then a PzIV moves forward to Overrun the Russian platoon command, winning the close assault but ends it's move early becoming suppressed while the Russian platoon commander Disengages due to double suppression. A PzIII fires on the AT Rifle Team forcing it to Disengage back into the building.
After that the Pioneers in their halftracks Rapid Advance up behind the PzIV. The remaining activations in the centre all roll Command Confusion! This ends the German turn.
On the Russian turn, Kap. Milleschev calls for artillery on the infantry massed around the stone house but is unable to contact the battery. Next a KV-1 activates and fires on the German infantry on the hill, the big 76mm shell Dispersing one squad and suppressing another. (Sorry, no photos for the Russian Turn 3) The infantry platoon & AT Gun in the north both fail to activate and the MMG in the centre fires with a Double 1, earning Low Ammo. The T-34 Platoon activates with both T-35s moving up and the T-34 taking up a flanking position behind the woods. The T-35 on the north road Disperses the German MMG near the infantry gun battery. Finally, the AT Gun on the south hill pings a shot off the suppressed PzIV. End of Russian turn.
In the Exploit Phase, with four German orders, the PzIII by the garden pulls back by the house, another PzIII pulls back behind the hedge, two exposed infantry in the centre pull back to the south house, and the infantry on the hill move back over the crestline out of LOS of the deadly KV-1.
During Rally Phase, all German units rally except for the PzIV on the hill and the PzIV on the road. Plus, in another blow to the Germans, a PzIII at the rear decides to Rout! All Russian units rally except for the AT Rifle Team.
Here is the map after Turn 3 (revealed Russians - red dot).
German Initiative. Hpt. Von Lowellberg continues to roll just awful for activations, starting with "lost radio contact" by the FAC so no Stuka strike this turn either. Then both the 81mm mortars and the 75mm infantry gun batteries roll Command Confusion! At least the north infantry platoon activates and the MMG suppresses a Russian squad in the woods. Then the PzIVs move, the AT Gun fails to activate for Defensive Fire, and they fire on the AT Gun causing it to Disengage.
Down south Hpt. Pollockstein doesn't fare much better when rolling for activation with his platoon of PzIVs rolling Command Confusion. But the PzIIIs activate and suppress the T-35.
Then the Pioneer halftracks move up, the first met with accurate AT Gun fire, Disengaging it. The second halftrack unloads and the Pioneer squad moves near the AT Gun then fires. The flamethrower toasts the AT Gun!
(Deluxe allows a squad to disembark, perform a tactical move including Close Assault but Fire is not allowed. House Rule: We allow the squad to Fire or Close Assault at the end of their move). This ends the German turn.
The Russian turn opens with a failed request for artillery. Then one KV-1 attempts to activate separately but rolls Command Confusion. The other one is successful and repositions onto the south road. In the north, there is much better luck! The T-35 Disperses the 75mm battery commander, a squad in the woods suppresses the MMG in the stone cottage, and the squad by the hedge Disperses the German squad in the centre barn.
This ends the Russian turn. In the Exploit Phase, the German side first moves a "spare" platoon command in the centre rear, north toward the leaderless 75mm battery. Then the AT Rifle moves into the woods near same battery. After that the FAC moves south to better observe the KV-1s. Lastly, The 81mm battery commander repositions to see the KV-1s.
In the Rally Phase the T-35 Routs! All other units rally except for the Russian AT Rifle Team and the German PzIV behind the hill. Here is the table after Turn 4 (revealed Russians - red dot).
The Russian left flank is still being held by the KV-1s which are a powerful deterrent! Both sides are taking losses and will soon be rolling for their 25% Breakpoint Test!
Russian Initiative! Kap. Milleschev calls in a heavy artillery strike right on the stone cottage. This results in Dispersing the CoHQ, the light mortar team, and one PzIV, plus suppressing the two other squads there! Three units lost including a tank! A disastrous FFE for the Germans! To add more to the blow, the nearby Russian squad in the woods then fires on the suppressed MMG causing it to Disengage. Since it was already suppressed it is Dispersed!
The T-34 and T-35 (photo above) move up the road toward the 75m infantry gun battery, the PzIV and T-34 exchanging shots with no effect, but the T-35 blows up a truck! (trucks aren't combat units so don't count toward Breakpoint, however, Kap. Milleschev certainly had fun doing it!)
In the south the KV-1s activate and pull back a bit, then blow the light mortar off the hill into Neverland. The platoon command by the hill decides to double time it back to the east house.
This ends the Russian turn. Four more German KIAs!
To start the German turn, the German Air Command finally answers the radio and a Stuka attack screams down right on target, this time catching both KV-1s. However, with a double 1 and a 6 roll + 3 DRM = 9 , only one KV-1 takes a Suppression Test which it shrugs off. The results of air attacks against armour have not been a factor in the game so far.
The 81mm mortar battery now activates and places smoke on the north KV-1. Meanwhile up north Hpt. Von Lowellberg activates the PzIV to fire at the T-34 and misses. Hpt. Pollockstein also activates his remaining two PzIIIs, moving the north one up for a shot at the T-34, but the T-34 Defensive Fires and the PzIII is Destroyed!
Continuing in the north (photo above) Von Lowellberg activates the squad in the stone cottage to fire at the Russian squad in the woods, getting a Disengage Test and on a low morale roll becomes Dispersed! After that he activates each 75mm Infantry Guns separately as uncommanded units. The first Infantry Gun moves up to the edge of the woods and fires at the T-35 but misses, but the T-35's Defensive Fire doesn't and causes the gun to Disengage back to the remaining truck. The second gun repositions and fires at the T-35 and suppresses it!
Back in the south, now that the KV-1 is masked by smoke, Hpt. Pollockstein's other PzIII that previously activated Overruns the pesky MMG in the centre that has been such a thorn and eliminates it, but the PzIII becomes suppressed.
Hpt. Pollockstein now opens up a "do or die" attack in the south which unfortunately results in the latter! First the PzIVs activate and as the first one moves up the road it gets destroyed by Defensive Fire from the KV-1 outside the smoke. The second PzIV moves up and bounces a shell off the KV-1s front armour. Then the infantry platoon in the house Rapid Advances into Close Assault with the Russian platoon commander in the double building. However, only one squad has enough movement to get to the building so it is one on one. The Russian platoon commander is fearsome and Disperses the squad, at a cost of becoming suppressed.
Next the Pioneers on the hill (photo above) attempt to activate to run up and hose down the KV-1 with their flamethrower, but roll Command Confusion! Gak! For the next round, the squad on the hill activates as an uncommanded unit and Rapid Advances in a suicidal charge on the KV-1 in the smoke. The squad is dispersed, but manages to suppress the KV-1. Lastly the remaining Pioneer squad in the rear activates and moves up to the trench at the top of the hill.
This ends the German command phase. The Russians have two orders in the Exploit Phase. The first has the KV-1s pull back 6 inches and, due to a possible breakthrough in the Russian left flank if a Stuka gets lucky, the second uses Hidden Movement to move the BGHQ from the south stone building in the railway yard to the centre building.
During the Rally Phase, all the German units rally except for the platoon command at the stone cottage. All the Russian units rally except for the AT Rifle Team and the platoon command in the double building.
Both Russian and German sides are over their 25% Breakpoint! Both sides roll a 6 requiring all suppressed units to fall back 12 inches. The Germans lose one more unit this way as the platoon commander in the stone cottage withdraws off the table. The Russian platoon commander and AT Rifle Team in the double building withdraw back beside the KV-1s.
Here is the table at the end of Turn 5 (revealed Russians - red dot).
This was a very costly turn for the Germans in lost units! The Germans are now dangerously close to 50% Breakpoint!
German Initiative. Hpt. Von Lowellberg requests the FAC to radio in for a Stuka strike and makes contact! The JU87 arrives to attack the cluster of KV-1s and infantry and is dead on target. But the bomb completely misses the first KV-1 and only causes a suppression test for the second one, which it easily passes. The bomb also misses the platoon commander but scores a direct hit on the AT Rifle Team, Dispersing it. Once again Air Support has failed to come through against enemy armour!
Hpt. Pollockstein activates the mortar battery to fire FFE on the newly discovered Russian squad but it overshoots and completely misses. Then he activates the platoon in the garden. The commander and squad move into the west end of the double building, while the mortar observer stays just outside. The squad fires on the Russian squad and misses. The CoHQ also moves up by the building. After that the Pioneer platoon advances across the road toward the double building under cover of the smoke screen in front of the KV-1s. One squad moves into the east end of the building but the other can only make it as far as the road.
Hpt. Pollockstein now has the MMG in the west building fire on the Russian squad but misses. Then he has the PzIV platoon move, one tank moves to a hull down position at the crest of the hill, fires at the KV-1 and misses. The return Defensive Fire from the KV-1 also misses. The second PzIV fires on the Russian squad for a suppression test which the squad passes.
Meanwhile, on the north flank, Hpt. Von Lowellberg activates each Infantry Gun individually. The first fires at the T-34 causing it to Disengage! The second fires at the T-35 and misses. With the T-34 neutralized, the PzIV moves up just into LOS of the T-35 and stops to fire, firing before Defensive Fire. The T-35 is Damaged and retreats. The way is now open for the squad in the stone building to advance to the woods, so it quickly races forward to the tree line. Lastly, a "spare" platoon command runs toward the Infantry Guns to take over command of the battery. At last some German fire against armour is effective!
The German turn ends right after the BGHQ and AFV HQ move up closer to the action.
On the Russian turn, Kap. Milleschev requests an artillery barrage and it arrives on schedule, on target, right on the double building that the Pioneer and grenadier platoons were taking cover in. Again it was carnage with one Pioneer squad and one grenadier squad Dispersed and both remaining platoon commanders suppressed.
Hpt. Milleschev now activates the KV-1 platoon to fire. The north KV-1 fires on the PzIII near the tracks causing it to Disengage. The south KV-1 fires on the PzIV hull down on the hill and with a good hit, Destroys it!
This sudden series of German losses pushes the German side to it's 50% Breakpoint and suddenly the game ends in an automatic Russian win!! Kapitan Milleschev receives a commendation from Division on winning his battle which buys time for the defenses nearer Vyazma's centre to be strengthened.
Here is the table at Game end (revealed Russians - red dot).
Tallying Up The Score:
The Russian side lost 11 units out of 36 and the German side lost 25 units out of 49.
Comments on The Game:
The outcome of this scenario, an German attack over fairly open terrain toward a prepared, dug-in, and hidden enemy, and unsuccessfully supported by air strikes, probably was pretty historical. The attacker needs some form of advantage to succeed, either far more ground troop strength or good off-board artillery/air support for both FFE and smoke screens.
The force strength for each side was in line with previous scenarios where the attacker won, so that didn't seem to be the problem. In fact I gave the German side an extra platoon of infantry over that defined by the original scenario OOB. In this "Vyazma" game the German attack failed primarily due to lack of effective Air Support against the Russian KV-1s. The Stukas showed up 3 times (about average), dropped their bombs "on-target", but only managed to achieve two, repeat two, suppression tests, which were both passed! Bad luck on these critical air attack rolls caused the German ground attack to stall. The 530 points spent for Air Support, most of the advantage in total strength points for the German, were essentially wasted, putting the Russians closer to parity with the attacker in strength points on the ground (not a good attack plan!). After the game the German players indicated they would rather have used the points for an off-board artillery battery for more smoke screen and FFE capability and an extra platoon of infantry instead! However, one or two good dice rolls against the KV-1's still could have been a game changer! As an aside the double fire capability from the T-35s was quite effective!
In hindsight, my initial German deployment of forces could have been better planned to promote an attack in a more concentrated area for a better "schwerpunkt." And holding some of the force back as reserves to come on in later game turns. It would have been interesting to use the Exploit Reinforcement order for this! Also I could have switched one infantry platoon to say motorcycle recon troops to give more opportunity to recon for hidden enemy.
As for the luck factor, in general both sides agreed that the Germans generally rolled somewhat poorer than average, particularly on critical rolls, while the Russian generally rolled a little better than average, particularly on morale saves and artillery strikes. (The Russian artillery was awesome!)
Comments on Deluxe
We feel we have explored the depths of Deluxe over our last four games. The BGPG game system still remains as our "go to" set of rules for reinforced company and battalion level actions. However, Deluxe seems to have somehow moved a notch away from the sweet spot we enjoyed with Version 2. It's definitely more complex than Version 2 mainly due to the need to activate a Combat Group for Defensive Fire and to remember the nuances of how they interact with phasing Combat Groups when moving or Close Assaulting. Also from the subtleties of command authority with uncommanded Combat Groups. These additions plus the new Command Confusion (pegged at 4 - activation fails 1 in 6 tries) have very slightly lowered the "fun factor" and also lengthened our game session times out to longer than we wish.
As I discussed at the end of the last Izdeshkovo scenario, some of the new rules introduced in Deluxe indicate a move toward more "realism," toward the skirmish level which we like (eg. more fire DRMs, turret facing, etc.), however, some of the changes seem to be moving the opposite way, toward the more "abstract" end (eg. the Exploit Move Order). For us this means that Deluxe is not quite as consistent as Version 2.
On the other hand, we really like the new matrix driven Fire and Close Assault Tables, plus improvements in the game mechanics like more order choices, national differences, turret facing, crew quality, Fog of War Blinds, and a better artillery deviation table. We do miss some of the "spice" that Version 2 provided that was lost in Deluxe like the DRM modifiers for artillery accuracy, smoke possibly lasting 2 turns, variable tactical movement rate, and ability to fire and recon during a tactical move.
The Combat Edition of Deluxe (no pictures) is very much appreciated during game play and shows the author is thinking about ease of use during game play. Dave Brown has obviously spent a lot of time on Deluxe and can be proud of his achievement! Appreciation of any set of rules is always completely subjective based on each of our our individual game tastes and our own unique interpretation of a realistic "fantasy battle." The nice thing about it is, if enough of a rules set hits your sweet spot, you can "tinker" with the rest, "tweak it" to make it sit up and bark for you and your gaming group.
So where does this leave us? I expect we will shuffle both Version 2 and Deluxe into a single "play deck" and use that for our future games. Maybe we'll call it Version 2.5, or as Hpt. Pollockstein suggested, perhaps Version 2D!
Thanks to those of you who hung in to read this far! Hope you enjoyed this AAR. What's next? Actually the usual seasonal interlude is up next as Gary's Command Post goes into the usual holding pattern for the summer. Snow is melting, birds are all "atwitter", the clouds are fluffy white again, and my little cabin by the lake is calling me. For rainy days I'll have some little figures to paint and these rules to "tinker" with. See you in October!