Friday, December 17, 2010

No Time for Mercy

Gonna go in and dig 'em out

Day Two: Aftermath

Again, I am shocked at the gains made by German forces on Day Two. Essentially, I lined up my remaining Sturm Company in front of the L10 and L14 factories, and then blew a hole clean through the Russian lines. The day ended on game turn 7; had it gone to turn 8 I would have had troops inside the Commissar's House. I vastly exceeded my goals for the day, and now have the Russians cornered. But as we all know, an animal is most dangerous when cornered and wounded.

By the numbers, I did enough to keep pace. The CVP tally was thus:

German: 61 CVP
Russian: 30 CVP

I attained the necessary 2:1 CVP ratio. However, 16 CVP came from two destroyed T60 M42 tanks and a captured 45LL ATG. When considering only infantry casualties the score was 45:30, or a more modest 3:2 ratio. Acceptable, but barely so. The running total for the CG is:

German: 103 CVP (78 Infantry, 25 AFV/Guns)
Russian: 65 CVP (41 Infantry, 24 AFV/Guns)

It's interesting that hardware losses are approximately equal, but the Germans have inflicted almost twice as many infantry casualties as the Russian. Dade and I maintain that a 2:1 casualty ratio is necessary for the German to win, and so far this playing is showing that maxim to be true.

Here is a graphic depiction of the Day Two goals and the actual line of furthest advance:

Things started out a bit shaky. In the south, half of my reinforcing Rifle Company rushed across Tramvanaya Street to hexes F26 and F27. The other half secured the cluster of rubble and buildings around B28. The 9-1, his two squads and their MGs managed to link up with the two 1-2-7s and their MMG set up in B27, creating a 30 FP overwatch stack that positioned itself in the upper level of hex C29.

Meanwhile an 8-1 with two squads, supported by a Pzkpfw IIIH, began crossing the open ground toward C33 using armored assault. They made it as far as B32, when a hidden Russian observer dropped 80mm Battalion Mortar on them. Both squads broke, and routed with the leader to A34. Unfortunately, a hidden 6-2-8 lurked there and all three units were lost. Further, the rest of the Rifle Company was dangerously exposed. Disaster loomed.

Not all was lost, however. I had placed a 2-4-7 on the rooftop of the Power Station to make sure any hidden units on factory rooftops would be exposed. There were none. When I saw where the Russian artillery requests were placed, the number of possible locations containing the observer were reduced to only a few. I am usually hesitant to use Area Fire vs. empty hexes as a reconnaissance technique, but this time it paid off. After a few shots I discovered the observer in the upper level of hex F33, then hosed him down with a 30+1 shot from the overwatch stack. That eliminated the artillery threat and allowed the Rifle Company to continue unmolested to the cluster of rubble and buildings around F33 where I rooted out a few more hidden units and captured a 45LL ATG. Once that area was secured, the perimeter was pushed south to the gully and across the debris field toward the Q34 factory.

Around the Power Station, I simply crept forward taking what the Russian was giving me. The reinforcements arriving from the west allowed me to whittle down the defenders and keep them from causing too much trouble. Tanks eliminated two of the dug-in T60 M42s, but I was not present in enough strength to push across the street into the P25 factory.

In the northern factories, things got weird. Dade had deployed mostly dummy counters in the L10 and L14 factories and the Sturm Company had little trouble clearing them. On Turn 1 a Russian sniper killed the 9-1 that set up in J13, putting a bit of a kink in the overall plan (on the day, Russian sniper rolls accounted for 3 of the 5 slain German leaders). The 9-2 and his 36 FP stack of MG needed to be re-positioned to take over for the dead 9-1.

After clearing the first two factories, I was faced with the ugly proposition of crossing the street between the L10/L14 factories and the Q10 factory. The Russians had a MG nest upstairs in N5, sweeping the street, and the bulk of the defenders were lurking in the P-hexrow where I couldn't bring my firepower to bear without moving into a kill zone.

I decided to crack this nut by threatening the Russian MG nest with the 9-2, which caused the Russians to retreat and allowed the squads set up around G6 and H8 to creep forward and pressure the north flank. As I posted in my last entry, I did not expect the tanks to survive the day's fighting, so I brazenly drove the Pzkpfw IIIH through the rubble in N17, through the debris in O17 and on top of a Russian 9-1 with a 4-4-7. About a platoon of 5-4-8s was able to squeeze in behind the tank, and one of them advanced in with it. In the ensuing Close Combat phase the Russians eliminated the 5-4-8, but the tank remained. In following fire phases the tank's machine guns were able to break the 9-1 and his squad, as well as everything else that tried to approach. The Pzkpfw IIIL raced up to support its colleague, and also employed its MG firepower to devastating effect. Germans held the P18 building and the southwest portion of the Q10 factory; this opened the door for the rest of the Sturm Company to surge through the Q10 factory and take the S17 factory.

As it turns out, I was wrong about the tanks. All four survived. Here is the path the two tanks in the north followed over the course of the game:

If I go on to win this campaign game, it will be because of those two tanks and their effectiveness on Day Two.

Day Three: October 19, 1942

In the Refit Phase I battle-hardened five 4-6-7 squads and one 8-0 leader. The German ELR remained at 4; German SAN remained at 2. I rolled [5-1=4] for CPP Replenishment and received 17 CPP.

Retained Forces:

1 x 9-2

1 x 9-1

3 x 8-1

3 x 8-0

1 x 9-2 AL

1 x 9-1 AL

8 x 5-4-8
9 x 4-6-8

1 x 2-4-8

12 x 4-6-7

1 x 2-4-7

3 x 4-4-7

4 x 1-2-7

2 x 2-2-8

5 x HMG

6 x MMG

5 x LMG

3 x ATR

2 x LtMTR

2 x LMG(r)

2 x 81mm MTR

1 x Pzkpfw IIIL

3 x Pzkpfw IIIH


Sturm Coy [9-1=8 Full] (9-1, 8-1, 7-0) - 9 CPP

On-Map Setup for Sturm Coy - 3 CPP

Nebelwerfer Module [7-1=6 Normal] - 2 CPP

Pre-Registered Hex for Nebelwerfer - 1 CPP

Battalion Mortar Module [8-1=7 Normal] - 2 CPP

Here is the Day Three perimeter:

German Perimeter in blue, Russian Perimeter in Red, No Man's Land in gray. The Russian Reserve Unit set-up line is in yellow.

One look at the perimeter and I immediately decided to use my second (and last) Nebelwerfer Module, pre-registered on R24. Russian units are guaranteed to be packed into those factories. Since the Russian perimeter takes a sharp turn to the east, it creates fewer opportunities for the barrage to drift somewhere useless. The least helpful direction of drift would be to the south east, but that would end up precisely on top of any Reserve units backstopping the R23 and R27 factories.

The rest of the purchase took more thought. I considered eschewing the Nebelwerfer barrage in favor of purchasing two companies. I thought about buying a Sturm Coy along with a Pzkpfw IVF1 Ptn. However, those options were troubling to me because of the immense distance the reinforcements would have to travel to engage with the Russians. It would not be until turn 3 or 4 that the reinforcements would reach the line, leaving not enough time to use them properly. Any thought of going Idle for the day was absent from my mind - I have the Russian cornered, and allowing Dade to catch his breath and dig in would be a dreadful error. I solved the problem by foregoing the purchase of an AFV platoon and instead spending 3 points to set up the Sturm Coy on-map. I hope that this will give me an element of surprise, because I don't think Dade expects it.

Russian Setup:

Here is what Dade sent:

I was hoping that Dade would dedicate more forces to defending the Chemists Shop and the Commissar's House. However, he has clearly realized that they are of reduced strategic importance now that the Germans are in position to sweep the Russians out of the factory complex.

There do not seem to be enough Russian units set up on-map. I count only 28 non-Reserve stacks. Dade clearly purchased one company in Reserve, and he MUST have purchased a second company. Are they entering from off-board? Very possible. I would not be surprised if he also brought on a mobile platoon of T-34 M43s along with the infantry. It's a gamble, given the possibility of Stukas in the sky, but at this point the Russian has to gamble a bit. A dug-in platoon of HIP T-34s could also provide nasty surprises. Assuming Dade purchased two companies of infantry, the maximum number of HIP Russian squads allowed would be 5. I will have to keep one eye open for nasty ambushes. On Day Two, even when I was being exceedingly careful, I still stumbled into an ambush. I hope I avoid it on Day Three.

The German Plan:

In the south, a picket of half-squads will attempt to consolidate the area around the Bread Factory. If they run into hidden Russians things will go bad for them.

The Sturm Company and the retained Pzkpfw IIIHs are set up to bust into the P34 factory and are tasked with taking it in its entirety. If Dade is bringing on reinforcements from off-map, they will probably head straight for this factory. I expect a fight. The 81mm mortars are set up on the rooftop of the G33 building in order to drop smoke in helpful places. The Battalion Mortar observer is on the rooftop in K30 to provide artillery support.

The Nebelwerfer is preregistered to drop on G34. How it drifts will have a big effect on what the remainder of the German forces do. The general plan is to have the 4-6-8s in the M24 and L26 buildings, along with their fire support stacks, secure the buildings west of the street and push across it when an opportunity presents itself. The 9-2 Armor Leader with his Pzkpfw IIIL is set up in L19 to destroy the dug-in T60 M42 in hex O23 and then support the attack. The retained 5-4-8s in the S17 factory will push southward.

The remaining forces in the P5 and O10 factories are there to make sure that they are really empty. A strong force of hidden 6-2-8s lying in wait could do some real damage.

It is entirely possible, if my luck holds up, that the Germans could win this thing on Day Three.

It’s often said that the dead appear to be sleeping. Not this Russian, frozen in the instant of waking from a horrible nightmare. His last moments had comprised a fevered, clawing scramble through broken glass and jagged metal until machine gun bullets tore him apart. The remains were now inextricably tangled with the twisted frame of the collapsed skylight, head tilted at an impossible angle, eyes fixed glassily on Krankauer.

The sergeant observed, stock-still. That could be him, snatched by the ravenous claws of Stalingrad, but – on this day – it was not. Maybe he and this Russian were more alike than he cared to realize. Maybe the Russian had brought in harvests, made mischief, kissed girls, loved his country. Or maybe he had been an unrepentant criminal and his grisly death the just reward for a poisonous life. Krankauer could never know, so it did not matter.

It took much effort just to reach the body, wedged as it was into the tight interstices of the debris, and Krankauer silently complimented the dead boy for his resolve to escape. A thorough search of the body was even more taxing and in the end a disappointment: no cigarettes. Krankauer wormed his way out of the wreckage and slumped against a concrete wall. So easy to lie down, not move, stop struggling. He doffed his helmet and thought of Oma Anina and the smell of fresh-baked pastry, then let the exhaustion wash over his body. So easy.

“Steh auf!” The prodding of a hobnailed boot brought Krankauer back to consciousness. “Komm mit mir!” The sergeant lurched to his feet. “Jawohl, Herr Leutnant.” Clearly the lieutenant was in command, but Krankauer did not recognize him; a state of affairs becoming all too frequent of late. Surely this lieutenant had important orders for the coming day, for he was already striding off in search of the other platoon leaders. No rest, then. Krankauer replaced his helmet, grabbed his weapon and followed.