Saturday, April 2, 2016

Panzergrenadier AAR - Spartanovka '42

Starting with the first day of Barbarossa our scenarios progressed along chronologically without me thinking about Stalingrad. Now that we arrive at that time period in the war, what about Stalingrad scenarios? Thinking about it now, I realize I have an approach-avoidance problem with Stalingrad. On the plus side are the importance of the battle, and its unique nature. On the minus side is my complete lack of suitable city and factory ruins terrain. 

In the last AAR, Verkhne-Kumsky, I tried to fool myself and "jump past" Stalingrad and go right into Winter Storm. However, this seemed to somehow increase my attraction to gaming in Stalingrad. I found myself buying an OOP card game called "The Hell of Stalingrad" and also playing the board game "Storm over Stalingrad" owned by another in our gaming group. It wasn't enough. 

So after coming face-to-face with the elephant in the room, my lack of suitable terrain, I've decided to make a stab at bunch of city ruins terrain over the summer and try to do some Stalingrad scenarios next fall & winter. 

Here is my first terrain attempt so far, a battle damaged machine shop (1/8 MDF base, 3/16 foamboard walls, and printed roof glued to picture matte. Kitty litter, broken up cork, and match sticks for rubble).

Meanwhile, as a lead up to the main city battles, I decided to jump back to about four months before Winter Storm and do a "light" scenario based on Spartanovka using our customized set of rules based on the Panzergrenadier series (Deluxe & 2nd Edition).

Spartanovka August 24, 1942

Historical Overview
The addition of Wietersheim’s XIV Panzerkorps (16 Pz, 3 Mot Inf, 60 Mot Inf) energized Paulus' AOK 6 offensive providing a breakout across the Don river at Vertiachii and a race to the Volga River. Hube's 16th Panzer Division arrived at the Volga north of Stalingrad on August 23 after eliminating defending AA batteries manned by women on the way. Forward elements began shooting up shipping on the river. However, both the 3rd and 60th Motorized Infantry Divisions were required to be dropped off behind 16th Panzer to maintain a secure supply corridor back to the Don and the Russians were pressuring from the north. Regardless, and expecting light resistance, on August 24th Hube confidently attacked into Spartanovka and the northern outskirts of Stalingrad. Soviet General Yeremenko rushed elements of 10th NKVD infantry and a few T-70s to Spartanovka, supported by T-34 tanks straight from the Tractor Factory production line, some unpainted and without gun sights, manned by factory workers given almost no training.

This scenario is loosely based on the German attack at Spartanovka on August 24th.

Tank Warfare On The Eastern Front 1941-1942 - Robert Forczyk
Stalingrad by V.E. Tarrant

Map And General Scenario Notes
All of the Soviet infantry are deployed Hidden on the table at start with all the German forces in their LOS and visible.

The relative force strengths were added up yielding the German attacker at 1430 and Russian defender 1185. This gave a German advantage of 245 points but a very low ratio of 1.2 for an attack scenario. However, the Russian T-34 crews are of very poor quality. So I just crossed my fingers and went with it, hoping I'd picked an ending game turn that would balance the scenario.

We play Panzergrenadier at 1:1 scale for guns and tanks, use the 20mm ranges for firing and activation, and replace Built Up Area terrain with individual buildings as "small terrain features." We played on a 5x4 table with an initial game length of 7 turns before a variable game ending roll begins.

The woods are Difficult Terrain. The fences are all of medium height, do not block LOS and offer a -1 LOS hindrance or -1 Cover for fire at infantry, guns, and AFVs. The buildings and one warehouse are wooden construction offering -1 Cover except for one of plastered over and whitewashed brick and one warehouse with -2 Hard Cover. The hills have gentle slopes. The Mokraya Mechetka is just a "damp" gully that costs 3 inches to move over and does not require a bog test. 

Here is the game table before deployment.

Russian Briefing and Force (Kapitan Milevich, Kapitan Chapovin)
In command of the local northern sector of Stalingrad, you have been ordered to defend Spartanovka from German attack. You have one overstrength platoon of 10th NKVD infantry and a platoon of T-70 tanks for support. More T-34 tanks are on the way fresh from the Tractor Factory, but these will be manned by untrained factory workers. No artillery or air support is available.

Mission: Maintain one Russian infantry unit in any of the 5 village buildings or 2 warehouses at the end of the game to win, or cause a German Battlegroup Break Point (>50% casualties). Otherwise lose.

Special Rules: The Russians are determined to hold at all cost, so despite inexperience all units are 0 DRM for morale and rally checks. In addition they are Stubborn which allows a 60% Battlegroup Break Point instead of the usual 50%. The Russian infantry and T-70 crews are inexperienced but tenacious, so -1 DRM for activation and firing, and 0 DRM for close assault. The T-34 crews are untrained factory workers with -2 DRM for activation and firing, but since they are also tenacious are 0 DRM for close assault. The T-34 crews may not adopt a crest line hull down position (they are lucky to find the brake pedal!).

On Table at Start:
Elements of 10th Mechanized Army (Inexperienced)
  Battlegroup Command (veteran)
  Company Command (regular)
  1st Rifle Platoon (command, 5x rifle squads, 4x Molotov) (regular)

On Turn 1 at entry point #1
  1st Armour Platoon (command T-70, 2x T-70)* (Inexperienced)
On Turn 2 at entry point #2
  #1 Civilian Armour Platoon (command T-34, 4x T-34)* (Civilian)
On Turn 3 at entry points #2 or #3
  #2 Civilian Armour Platoon (command T-34, 4x T-34)* (Civilian)

                                * Classed as Inferior tanks.

Here is the Russian set-up. 

German Briefing and Force (Hauptmann Polikeiner and Hauptmann Lowelein)
General Hube has ordered you to attack Stalingrad by pushing rapidly through Spartanovka to the factory districts beyond. Only light resistance is expected. You have recon troops (armoured car and motorcycle), Schutzen infantry in halftracks, plus medium and heavy armour support. Your small battery of 81mm mortars is all the artillery or air support that is available. The Luftwaffe is busy bombing Stalingrad.

Mission: Clear Russian infantry units from all 5 village buildings and 2 warehouses at the end of the game to win, or cause a Russian Battlegroup Break Point (>60% casualties). Otherwise lose.

Special Rules: German moves first. All units are Aggressive ( +1 DRM to activation, close assault, morale and rally checks).

Enter on north edge of table on Turn 1 according to map above.
Elements of 16th Panzer Division (all units are regular except as noted)
  Battlegroup Command (command Pz35(t) (veteran)
  Company Command ( command Panzerbefehlswagen)
  Motorcycle Recon Plt (command, 3xRifle/LMG squad)
  Schutzen Plt (command, 3x Rifle/LMG squad, 2x SdKfz 251/1, 1x SdKfz 251/10)
  Medium Mortar Plt (command, 2x 81mm mortar team)
  Armoured Car Recon Plt (command SdKfz 222, 3xSdKfz 222)
  1st Medium Panzer Plt (command PzIIIL, 3x PzIIIL)

On Turn 4 (enters on south road)
  1st Heavy Panzer Platoon. (command PzIVG, 1x PzIVG)

Game Play

Turn 1 - German moves first

German Turn:
Confident that Spartanovka is vacant and disdaining any recon attempts the motorcycle recon platoon blasts nonchalantly at full speed down the road into Spartanovka (the platoon leader's motorcycle had previously broke down so he "appropriated" a Kubel). 

They don't disembark at the end of their move, and get shot at by three vodka drenched Russian squads that all miss. 

Then the armoured car platoon advances followed closely by the Battlegroup commander in his Pz35(t) and they shoot up the revealed Russian squads, suppressing one. 

The remaining German forces move onto the table. The main infantry attack to the east is supported by the mortars and armoured cars with the medium armour to the west in a flanking position. So the mortar crews set up on the low hill just in front of them. 

Two PzIIIs move to the top of the west hill to see if any surprises are waiting on the other side. Nope! This is going to be easy! 

End German turn.

Russian Turn:
The T-70 platoon enters on the east road surprising the motorcycle recon platoon in the open. They shoot, destroying one motorcycle, but the driver and passenger are thrown clear unharmed. The two infantry squads fire again at the motorcycle platoon getting two hits but the aggressive Germans confidently pass their morale checks. [Any hit on a soft vehicle that requires a morale test automatically destroys it so the Russian squad fire that hit the mounted motorcycle should have required the squad to dismount with a further Disengage Test.] 

End Russian turn.

The Russian squad rallies. End Turn 1

Turn 2 - Russian Initiative & moves first

Russian Turn:
The #1 T-34 platoon enters on the centre road and takes the first road east to support the infantry in the village, not wanting to go toe-to-toe with the German armour until the second T-34 platoon arrives. However, one PzIII on the hill spots the side of a T-34 through a gap between the warehouses and fires with a lucky shot, suppressing it. 

The T-70s hold position and all fire and finally get on target dispersing the lead German motorcycle squad! Then the three Russian squads fire destroying one more motorcycle, but again the driver and passenger are thrown clear unharmed. [no photo] End Russian turn.

German Turn:
The mortars immediately lay down a smoke barrage at the village crossroads to protect the motorcycle troops. Two armoured cars move up and fire their nasty autocannons at the Russian squad in the east house near the Volga causing it to disengage. The other two armoured cars fire at the squad in the centre building and miss.

The halftracks move up with the Schutzen platoon and disembark. The SdKfz 251/10 fires the 37mm and causes the squad in the centre building to disengage. The Schutzen platoon now performs a tactical move with one squad moving to the now vacant centre building, triggering defensive fire on the way by the Russian squad in the southwest building, which misses. The remaining two German squads and commander assault the west building discovering one Russian squad in it. The squad can't try to withdraw since he is already activated for defensive fire. However, his defensive fire misses. In the Close Assault, he fights valiantly, dispersing one German squad, but is overcome and disperses. 

The PzIII on the distant hilltop fires again at the side of the suppressed T-34 hitting it again and causing it to disengage with damage! Two more PzIIIs move up to crest line hull down positions on the centre hill and both fire at the side of a second T-34 causing it to disengage and take damage as well! Two T-34s damaged without even seeing the enemy! 

Now the motorcycle platoon activates and the Kubel plus one motorcycle accelerate up the road through the smoke screen to the centre-rear house, disembark, and Close Assault the Russian platoon commander and suppressed squad inside. The two Russian units and one German squad are suppressed so the German wins, requiring the Russians to withdraw. After withdrawal both Russian units pass their subsequent Rally test. The last German squad, already dismounted on the road, moves up into the east house near the Volga and fires at the Russian squad in the open getting a lucky shot and dispersing it! The T-70s defensive fire back at the German squad and all miss. 

End German turn.

All units on both sides rally except for one T-34. Here is the table after Turn 2. 

It is looking bad for the Russians! In two turns the Germans have captured 4 of the 5 buildings, eliminated two Russian squads, and suppressed another squad and a T-34. A determined Close Assault by both enemy infantry platoons may win them at least one warehouse in Turn 3, close to winning the game by capturing objectives! The Russians desperately need to win initiative in Turn 3 so they can get the #1 T-34 platoon into defensive positions quickly and get the #2 T-34 platoon into the action!

Turn 3 - Russian initiative & moves first! The Russian's wish has come true!
[We rolled that the smoke dispersed at the end of the Turn 2 but the smoke should have stayed until the end of Russian Turn 3 and then rolled for dispersion.]

Russian Turn:
The #2 Russian T-34 platoon reinforcements arrive on the centre road and take up defensive positions near the creek. Two face the west hill, the rest face down the road to deter further advance by the enemy infantry and PzIIIs. Come and get us! 

Then the #1 T-34 platoon on the east road orders two tanks to move down the road behind the T-70s to support them while the remaining two tanks take up positions between the two warehouses to deter any advancing enemy infantry. The T-34s fire on the German squad and platoon leader in the centre south building and suppress both. The 76mm guns pack a wallop against infantry when they hit with HE! This reduces the immediate threat to the warehouses considerably! 

Then the Russian infantry platoon leader near the warehouse orders his squad in the south-west building to move into the middle of the building to be out of LOS of any enemy. After that the platoon leader tries to move into the warehouse but defensive fire from the German infantry pins him on the spot and suppresses him. 

End of Russian Turn.

German Turn:
The mortars attempt to place smoke in front of the T-70's and T-34s but it drifts east over the Volga. The armoured cars decide to pull back in the face of the heavier 76mm guns of the T-34s. Three make it to safety but one is destroyed by a lucky boxcar roll from T-34 defensive fire!

PG W9 Spartanovka T3 German Smoke & Armoured Car Move.jpg

The SdKfz 251s also pull back behind the hill, out of LOS of the T-34s. Then the PzIII platoon activates with one tank boldly advancing to a crestline hull down position for a shot at a T-34, which misses. The T-34's defensive fire rolls Low Ammo (blue bead)! Meanwhile two other PzIIIs confidently re-position to new crestline hull down positions for shots at another T-34. Both shots hit hard with two disengage results, so the double disengage from different fires forces the T-34 to withdraw off the table for elimination! The remaining PzIII on the distant hilltop just advances closer to the action. 

End German Turn

Rally: All suppressed German and Russian units Rally.

Turn 4 - German Initiative and moves first.
The mortars lay down more smoke in front of the T-70s and T-34s blinding their LOS completely. The squads in the centre-south building and the squad in the east Volga building both fire at the Russian squad and platoon commander in the open near the warehouse and both roll boxcars eliminating both Russian units! Nasty! 

Next the PzIII on the west hill fires with Point Blank Fire at the T-34 and somehow finds a weak point in the sloped front armour and destroys it! The dice are getting hot for the German fire now! 

Flushed with success, the three other PzIIIs in the platoon move up and re-position into crest line hull down positions to target more T-34s. Like shooting fish in a barrel! Two miss their shots but the third suppresses another T-34. The defensive fire all misses. Hull down tanks are hard to hit to begin with but the additional -2 DRM for the civilian gunners makes it much worse! 

To make matters even worse for the Russians, the Germans receive a reinforcement of two PzIVGs on the west road. The PzIVGs race down the road but can't fire because it is a rapid road move, so they just take up firing positions against the T-34s. The T-34s have already defensive fired at other targets. 

Finally the halftracks move further behind the hills to the west and the armoured cars and Battlegroup Commander in his Pz38(t) also move behind the nearby hill out of LOS of the T-34s and T-70s. With the German armour now flanking the Russian position the prudent thing for these lighter armoured vehicles is to hide and not become a casualty leading to the German break point. Let the big boys duke it out! 

End of German Turn.

Russian Turn:
The #1 T-34 platoon near the Volga fails to activate, however one T-34 from the platoon activates uncommanded and pivots to present his stronger front hull to the PzIVGs. Another T-34 between the warehouses activates uncommanded and fires at the squad and platoon commander in the centre south building but misses. Looking to flank the PzIIIs the T-70s move up to the crossroads and two of them fire into the side armour of the PzIII on the hill but both miss. The PzIIIs defensive fire also misses. The third T-70 fires at the German squad in the house and hits but the squad confidently passes his morale check. 

Further west in #2 T-34 platoon, one T-34 activates and fires at the PzIII on the hill but misses. However, the defensive fire brews up the T-34! The long 50s are hot today! 

End of Russian Turn.

The suppressed T-34 fails to rally. All the mortar smoke dissipates. The Russians are already over their 25% break point and roll a 4 on the break point test resulting in Panic requiring all suppressed units to Rout. So the suppressed T-34 in #2 T-34 platoon is eliminated! 

End Turn 4. The Russian defense is being shredded and the #2 T-34 platoon in the west is caught in a vicious crossfire! Here is the map at the end of turn 4. 

Turn 5 - Russian Initiative & moves first.

Russian Turn:
Two T-70s exchange fire with the PzIII on the hill and despite hits on both sides there is no effect. The last T-70 fires on the German squad in the house and hits hard with a Disperse Test. However the squad rolls boxcars on his morale test so just disengages to the north. The #1 T-34 platoon by the warehouses activates and the west-most T-34 fires at a PzIVG and misses, and the PzIVG's Defensive Fire also misses. Two T-34s fire at the German infantry in the south-centre building, eliminating the squad and suppressing the platoon leader. The loss of the German squad substantially reduces the threat of a close assault on the warehouses! With no other targets in LOS, The remaining two T-34s fire at the mortar platoon commander and miss. 

There are not that many Russian units left to fire! End Russian Turn.

German Turn:
The mortars drop FFE on the two T-34s by the Volga with no effect. Then the armoured car platoon re-positions and all fire at one T-70 at the crossroads. 

The T-70 is suppressed by the heavy fire from the armoured car autocannons. Meanwhile the gun duel between the PzIII and the T-70s continues. The PzIII fires first causing a T-70 to disengage with damage. 

On the west side of the table one PzIVG exchanges fire with the T-34 behind the warehouse with no effect. The other PzIVG moves south on the road for a rear shot at the T-34 on the road but misses. Then the north-most PzIII on the hill crestline fires at the same lonely T-34 left on west road and also misses. The remaining two PzIIIs decide to move, one through the woods, just passing a bog test for half speed so remains inside the woods. The last PzIII moves down off the hilltop through the gully and fires at the last T-34 in the west platoon at point blank range but, hindered by the wreck, the shot has no effect. The T-34's return defensive fire also misses (the -2 for civilian crew, -2 for inferior tank turning turret, -2 for hard cover is a net -6 DRM for the T-34! Sheesh!). 

End German turn.

Rally: The German squad by the Volga house routs! The German platoon commander in the centre building rallies. The T-70 by the Volga building rallies. The damaged T-70 does not rally.

On the Russian's 25% break point test a low roll requires the suppressed and damaged T-70 to fall back 12 inches behind the T-34s.

Turn 6 - German Initiative & move first.

German Turn:
The mortar fires FFE on the T-34s again with no effect but the barrage now includes the damaged T-70 which is destroyed! 

Next the PzIII on the hill and and the T-70 at the crossroads again exchange fire and this time the T-70 is destroyed! 

To the west the two PzIVGs and one PzIII open up destroying the T-34 behind the warehouse and causing the T-34 on the road to disengage with damage. The #2 T-34 platoon is all but wiped out! 

With the Russian armour threat in the west now much reduced, the remaining two PzIIIs now move closer into the action. The one inside the woods emerges and positions near the gully while the other from the hill crest moves into LOS of the last T-70 hiding behind the wreck and fires. Despite good Hard Cover from the destroyed tank, the T-70 is hit and disengages back behind the building. 

The armoured cars re-position with no fire and the halftracks stay put. End of German turn.

Russian Turn: The #1 T-34 platoon fails activation so individual tanks try to activate uncommanded with no success. The Russians are on the ropes now and their only hope is to hang on until the end of Turn 7 and then hope for a dice roll of 8 or more to end the game for a Russian win. However, they are rapidly approaching their 60% Break Point so cannot afford too many more losses! End of Russian Turn.

Rally: The #2 platoon T-34 rallies but the T-70 does not. On the 25% Break Point test a low roll requires the suppressed T-70 behind the Volga house to withdraw 12 inches south toward the T-34s. End turn 6.

Turn 7 - German initiative & move first.

German Turn:
The infantry platoon commander re-positions to the centre of his building to get out of LOS of the T-34s. Then the mortars fire and manage to suppress a T-34! Following that the PzIII near the gully (that came out of the woods) fires on the last T-70 and damages it. Since it is already damaged then it is destroyed! The Russians are yelling "Ouch!" and getting very nervous about their 60% Break Point. 

Meanwhile, both PzIVGs fire at the T-34 by the warehouse and once again miss, as does the T-34's defensive fire. So the PzIII in the gully activates and moves up to point blank range in front of the T-34 but misses with his fire, rolling snake eyes for Low Ammo! Another PzIII moves down from the hill, positions right in front the the T-34 and fires, this time suppressing it! The Germans have nothing left to fire and Russians are not over their 60% Break Point! Can the Russians hold on? 

The armoured cars and halftracks do not move. End German turn.

Russian Turn: The three unsuppressed T-34s in #1 T-34 platoon activate. Since LOS is blocked to any enemy tanks, two fire long range at the mortar platoon commander and one at an armoured car but all miss.

Rally: Both T-34s fail to rally! Arg! It all comes down to the Russian 25% Break Point roll test and the game end dice roll! First the 25% Break Point roll test which yields a crappy 5 so both suppressed T-34s are required to withdraw 12 inches. This takes them off the board and both are eliminated! This puts the Russians over their 60% Break Point for an automatic win for the Germans! All the Russians needed was to roll two 8s or better in a row to win. Lady Luck said no. A closer game near the end than expected!

Here is the table at game end. 

Tallying Up The Score:
The Russian side lost 14 units out of 21 (67%) and the German side lost 5 units out of 26 (19%).

Historical Aftermath:
The German attack into Stalingrad met unexpected resistance which slowly increased over August 24th including a strong Soviet counterattack that forced the German 16th Panzer to go over to the defensive and eventually be driven back north of Spartanovka. Surrounded and low on ammo and supplies the 16th Panzer hedge-hogged and waited for rescue.

Comments On The Scenario:
In this scenario a German win is inevitable if the game continues indefinitely since scenarios that are unbalanced always depend on a defined game turn where the game ends and therefore who wins. Early in the game play of this scenario it seemed that the Germans would win their objectives by about Turn 5, but it eventually turned out to be pretty close. One factor that perhaps might have tipped the game more to the Russians favour is if they had managed to roll better on their 25% Break Point tests. They started rolling early in the game at Turn 4 when they rolled a nasty 4 for Panic and then continued to roll low for the next 3 turns with fives and sixes! This caused the elimination of three T-34s and forced two suppressed T-70s to withdraw into open terrain positions.

The Germans made excellent use of crestline hull down positions which combined with the poor civilian gunnery of the T-34s pretty much decided the armour battle at the west end of the table. I think the +1 DRM Aggressive for the Germans and -2 DRM for the Russian civilian tankers modeled the national differences of the battle very well and I am pleased with the way it played out. Our group liked this scenario and it was obvious we all had fun with it.

Comments On The Panzergrenadier Customized Rules:
Our customized set of rules based on the Panzergrenadier series (Deluxe & 2nd Edition) move the game a bit more toward the tactical end of the scale and they continue to serve us well. The revised Anti-Tank Penetration Ratings feel better. And the revised expansion of the AFV Armour Factors to six options (HF,HS,HR,TF,TS,TR) instead of the original two (F,S) definitely feels better. On a 1-4 die roll the shot hits the hull and for a 5-6 hits the turret. As a new tweak in this game we decided to allow German 251/1 halftracks to remain in the game after unloading passengers (as AFVs with an MG) to model the German armoured assault.

Thanks for reading to this point! Hope you enjoyed it. This will be the last miniatures AAR posting until fall since it is time to embrace our short Canadian summer that is fast approaching. But on rainy days I'll have plenty to do - build and paint some Stalingrad terrain!

Until next time! - Gary


  1. Great AAR with a super set of rules (nice tweaks too)

    1. Thanks Steiner! Yeah, the Panzergrenadier series of rules are the closest to our "sweet spot" so far and we've settled on them as the basis for adding our pet tweaks. - Gary

  2. Interesting and well done batrep, explanations are really nice!

    1. Thanks Phil! In return I always enjoy your wonderfully painted figures and the great photos of the battles on your superb blog! - Gary


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