Saturday, November 27, 2010

Into the Factories

Air superiority has its advantages.

Day One: Aftermath

This was the best opening-day attack that I have ever put together. Overall, the CVP tally looked pretty even: the Russians lost 42 CVP, the Germans lost 35 CVP. However, if one removes those CVP garnered from destroyed vehicles and guns, the totals were thus:

Russian: 33 CVP
German: 11 CVP

That's a 3:1 infantry casualty ratio in favor of the German. Conventional wisdom states that a 2:1 casualty ratio is necessary for the German to keep the Russian on his heels. If I can continue to limit my infantry losses and still get in my licks I should do well. I did lose four tanks, but that does not cause me much concern. Tanks are to be used, and are expected to be destroyed at an alarming rate. This is Stalingrad, after all.

The day started with mixed results. The 80mm Battalion Mortar dropped its Smoke exactly as drawn up. However, I drew a red chit for Battery Access for the Nebelwerfer right off the bat. I had planned for this contingency, so it wasn't a complete disaster, but it did bottle up the Sturm Company for a turn. Without knowing where the barrage would land, I could not risk moving into hexes that might get hit. Here is the situation at the beginning of German Turn Two:

The Rifle Company had managed to take up positions behind the railway berm with minimal casualties, and was preparing to push through the F6 building and toward the H8 building. The PzKpfw IIIL Platoon was required to abandon its plan to support the assault on the B12 building and instead joined the Rifle Company.

The Sturm Company crept forward and took up positions in the wooden buildings and rubble around B8. When the Nebelwerfer barrage landed, it drifted one hex to D12 - an optimal placement. The Sturm Company moved up to the edges of the blast radius and curled around the west side of the B12 building. The reinforcing Rifle Company and PzKpfw IIIH Platoon followed on behind, spreading out as best they could. At this point, my attack was at its most vulnerable - had the Russian been able to drop artillery on the bunched-up German infantry things would have gone to hell.

As it turned out, there was some large-caliber artillery aimed in my direction. That clever bastard Dade waited until I took building F6 to call in his own Rocket barrage, preregistered in hex G5. The barrage drifted one hex to H5, and thus I was able to rout away from it. However, had it drifted to the south or southwest the rocket would have landed on an entire Rifle Company and most of a PzKpfw IIIL Platoon. I was lucky to escape with a few broken units. The barrage did put a stop to my advance in the north.

In the south, the Nebelwerfer chewed up the Russian defenders, removed two Wire counters, rubbled a number of building locations and set a bunch of things on fire. I took building B12 and formed up to make a push for building B17. A dug-in KV1 M42 appeared in E15 and chased my riflemen out of the E hexrow. A 45LL ATG appeared in C17 and claimed a tank moving into A13 - but not until it had removed the Wire placed there. I figured that there would be anti-tank assets in that area of the map, and so I endeavored to use the 80mm OBA to drop Smoke. I had fortuitously preregistered the ATG's hex, but the module was not accurate and the Smoke drifted south. After a few attempts at repositioning it I gave up and decided to take a different tack.

Luckily, fate smiled on my efforts. German Stuka reinforcements showed up - three of them - and one was able to sight the KV1 M42 and hit it directly with a 150mm bomb. After the destruction of the dug-in tank, there were very few Russian units in place to stop my advance. If I could find a way to quickly destroy them before Dade could reposition other defenders, the way to the Power Station would be open. My Sturm Company was poised and ready, and I still had two tanks. Here is the situation (not all units are depicted, just those of prime importance):

I had a powerful stack (4-6-7 + HMG, 4-6-7 + MMG, 5-4-8 + MMG) led by a 9-2 in hex B13 (there was also a burning wreck in this hex, but I omitted it for clarity). Just ahead of this stack I had two PzKpfw IIIH conveniently parked in hexes blind to the ATG. A 5-4-8 was with the lead tank. The Russian had a concealed 4-4-7 in B17, a concealed 45LL ATG + crew in C17 and a concealed 9-0 + 4-4-7 in F17.

First, I moved the tanks along the A hexrow and into bypass to freeze the 4-4-7 and ATG crew:

Both tanks survived CC Reaction Fire, allowing the 5-4-8 and the 9-2 to move up:

The 9-2 was then able to use Spraying Fire in the next DFPh to hit both Russian units with a 30 FP attack. Both of them broke, and the tanks cleaned them up in CC. With nothing to stop them, the Germans pressed on toward the Power Station:

Only one of the tanks survived this sequence of events, but it was the turning point of the game. From this point onward, it was a footrace to the Power Station. I achieved, and exceeded, all of my objectives for the day. The game ended on Turn 7, and the Germans had managed to occupy all of the Power Station and had procured a toe-hold in the factories:

At the end of the day, the perimeter was thus:

The Russian perimeter is in red, the German perimeter is in blue and no man's land is in white. The setup line for Russian units in Reserve is in orange.

Day Two: October 18, 1942

In the Refit Phase, I battle hardened two 4-6-7 squads and one 7-0 leader. The German ELR remained at 4. I rolled [8-2=6] for CPP Replenishment and received 16 CPP to spend.

Retained Forces (SAN 2 ELR 4):

1 x 9-2
2 x 9-1

2 x 8-1

3 x 8-0

1 x 9-1 Armor Leader

3 x 4-6-8

10 x 5-4-8

1 x 2-3-8

17 x 4-6-7

1 x 4-4-7

2 x HMG

3 x MMG

5 x LMG

2 x ATR

2 x LtMTR

1 x DC

Pzkpfw IIIL

Pzkpfw IIIH


Rifle Coy [5-3=2 Full] (6: 9-1, 8-1, 8-0) - 7 CPP

HW Ptn [6-2=4 Full] - 6 CPP
Pzkpfw IIIH Ptn [12-2=10 Depleted] (4-1=3: 9-2 Armor Leader) - 3CPP

I looked at the situation from many angles, and considered a number of options including:
  • Purchasing 150mm Heavy Artillery and hammering the Russian front.
  • Purchasing 150mm Rocket Artillery and hammering the Russian front.
  • Purchasing two modules of smaller artillery in support of an attack into the L27 or L17 factories.
  • Purchasing a combination of artillery and AFV in support of an attack into the L27 factory.
  • Purchasing a pile of AFV and halftracks to push down Tranvanaya Street.
  • Purchasing a HW Platoon and AFV Platoon to support an attack into the L27 and G26 factories.
I opted for the last option above. The Russian starts Day Two with only 15 squads of infantry, which is enough to cover about one-quarter of the front. Dade will probably be purchasing at least two, probably three companies of infantry. Two of those will be Militia, which can set up on-map without additional CPP expenditure. A third will probably be of high quality, a Guards Rifle or Guards SMG Coy, and likely set up in Reserve. I decided not to buy artillery this day, because Russian units can too easily skulk away and leave me no targets. Also, because I am not selecting preregistered hexes I can choose to set up my attack anywhere along the front. Purchasing a Heavy Weapons Platoon provides some long-range firepower and also gives me two 81mm MTRs for Smoke capability. Another platoon of tanks, albeit depleted, with it's 9-2 armor leader should help deal with trouble spots. The Rifle Company can make a cautious attack from off-board. After I see the Russian setup I can devise a plan.

The Russian Setup

This is what the Germans face on Day Two:

I'm glad that I did not purchase an artillery module - there is a paucity of juicy targets to drop it on. Any squads that I could manage to hit would be able to easily advance or rout away. I'm much happier with having the 81mm mortars which can be placed to drop smoke where I absolutely need it and which will be retained for the next day.

It looks like Dade has purchased a Militia Company and set it up in a picket line through the L10 and L14 Foundry Halls. He also appears to have purchased two companies in Reserve. My guess is that he has a Rifle Company covering the river and a Guards SMG company covering the southern portion of the line. He has spent at least 2 CPP on fortifications, and 60 FPP are visible in the form of Wire. That means he has spent 20 FPP on other things, most likely Dummies and HIP units. There is an ambush lurking, somewhere. He has also purchased some dug-in tanks. My guess is that they are T-60 M42s rather than T-34s. Does that add up?

4 CPP: Militia Coy
4 CPP: Rifle Coy in Reserve
6 CPP: Guards SMG Coy in Reserve
2 CPP: 80 FPP
2 CPP: T-60 M42 Ptn Dug In

18 CPP Total

Yes, it's possible.

Day Two: The German Plan

Overall, I intend to straighten out my line and protect the Power Station. Right now, it lies in a precarious salient flanked by the large factory to the north. I intend to clear the L10 and L14 factories with my main attack and consolidate its flanks.

The Main Attack

My remaining Sturm Company, along with the battle-hardened 4-6-8s and augmented with the Heavy Weapons Platoon, will push inexorably into the factories from the west. The 9-2 leads a 36 FP stack whose job is to hose down any Russian that dares come within sight. The stacks led by 9-1 leaders muster 27 FP and 24 FP. I intend to carefully move forward, avoiding close combat (and sewer entrances!) and use my overwhelming firepower to break and rout the units in the factories. The tanks will provide support in the north, where there is less debris. They can freeze defenders without offering Streetfighting opportunities and can also Breach interior walls. They will, of course, not survive the day.

The North Flank

I have set up 8 of my retained rifle squads in and around the H8 buildings. Their job is to hold off any probing Russian infantry and, if possible, inch forward and take what the Russian gives me. I will be happy to let them sit in place if the main attack goes well.

The South Flank

The remainder of the retained rifle squads, the 81mm mortars and a portion of the HW Platoon will set up in/around the Power Station, G22 building and C24 building. The reinforcing Rifle Coy and Pzkpfw IIIH Platoon will enter along Yanvarya Street. The objective in the south is to reinforce the Power Station, take what the Russian gives me around the G26 factory and consolidate the line. If things go well, I may make a very cautious advance toward the B34 and G33 building clusters. The mortars are placed to be able to put Smoke in strategic hexes - M21 to hinder fire from the dug-in tanks, and D27 to cover the entrance of my reinforcements.

We plan on playing this out on December 11th. I am confident, but foresee difficulty inflicting enough Russian casualties to keep on pace.

The power station was empty when Krankauer and his men captured it. The massive generator turbines were silent in their concrete stalls. The smell of grease and diesel was overpowering. A number of window panes, haphazardly located, were broken allowing shafts of late afternoon sun to pierce the gloom. Inexplicably, the station was empty and somehow that emptiness was intimidating. Where were the defenders? First and Third Squads had pushed on, but Krankauer called them back. There was precious little daylight left, and he had no idea what lay beyond the station. Better to hunker down and wait for orders.

The night passed quietly, for Stalingrad. Richter had taken a sniper's bullet in the foot and was evacuated, but aside from that there was no action. From his vantage point on the rooftop Krankauer had searched in vain for some sign of the enemy. Nothing stirred in the unnatural silence. A runner arrived with orders for the coming day: take the Foundry Hall. Krankauer felt nothing when he read them, but he had desperately wished for a cigarette afterward. Take the Foundry. Looking at it then, at night, from across the street, it seemed huge and malevolent. He had no desire to inspect it from the inside. They had been lucky on the previous day with their pell-mell advance through minimal resistance. They could not expect the same in the morning.

Krankauer had tried to get some sleep but failed. There had been too much to work over in his mind. Now he crouched with his men in the shadow of the looming factory, motionless amidst the jumbled remnants of smashed machinery and twisted sheets of corrugated metal. There could be a hundred Russians within a stone's throw, lurking in the shadows, waiting for Krankauer to make a mistake. Or none at all; he would see soon enough. Again, he wished for that cigarette. The darkness was suffocating. Abruptly the terror came, a familiar deathly fear, of the sudden eruption of an angry swarm of tracers, of diving to the ground amidst the whumps of enemy grenades and the screams of wounded men. Of Holz, staring up from the shallow grave. Krankauer faltered, then, just for a moment as panic overwhelmed him. A second later his training took hold and he forced himself forward. Good. No one had noticed. The faintest hint of dawn was showing in the east. It was time to move.

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