FOW at the Tennessee Tussle
On Saturday, a couple of locals gamers organized a game day here in Knoxville called the Tennessee Tussle. In the past the event has largely featured tournaments for the area GW gamers, but this year a couple of groups of local historical gamers got involved as well. The Yankee Peddler club put on a 15mm sail game set in the Caribbean (which I unfortunately arrived to late to get any pictures of) and I volunteered to put on a Flames of War game. I decided to put on the German counterattack against the Soviet road column that we played a couple of weeks ago.
For this iteration, I changed the terrain a little to make for a better game and chose two opposing forces I thought would provide a nice balance. The Germans included an Aufklärungs company in schwimmwagens supported by a Panther platoon and a Panzer company with Panzer IVHs supported by a couple of Hornisse tank destroyers. The Soviet forces were very similar to the last game, with a tank battalion of two short companies of T-34/85 with a full company of ISU-122 and a platoon of BA-64 armored cars, and a motor rifle battalion with three companies of infantry. In this case the infantry supports were changed to a company of 120mm mortars, some 45mm ATGs, and a battalion of T-34/76.
Some last minute OOB adjustments had to be made leading up to the game. I had planned to borrow Scott’s nicely done PzIVH company, but the box transporting it took a header onto his driveway Friday night before it could be delivered, so I scrambled around and substituted some Pz IVG as Pz IVH and replaced a platoon of PzIVH with StuGs. When I arrived at the venue I discovered that I didn’t have the SU-85’s I had intended to put in with the Soviets, so they got a couple of extra T-34/76 and the Germans lost their artillery support… having accomplished this bit of on the fly play-balance, the game got underway. I had six players, all of whom were very enthusiastic and made the game fun for everyone. Most had not played FOW before, but the game still clicked along nicely and the players had largely picked up the mechanics within a couple of turns.
The Germans plan was to mass on the right and make a try to seize the town and pontoon bridge. I had provided a spot where the Schwimmwagens could cross the river and the Germans did not disappoint, using the amphibious capability to cross the river and put their two infantry platoons into the forest. They sent the platoon of StuGs into the large woods in the middle and the Panthers out to the far west. The rest of their force came up through the clear terrain between the river and the large woods aiming for the town. The Soviets were string out on the road with the tank battalion to the west led by the BA-64s. The supporting mortars and ATGs of the motor rifles were in the center, with the T-34/76s carrying a company of infantry to the west.
The Soviet’s initial command confusion persisted through the first turn, but by the second turn most of the Soviets had picked up the threat and were on the move. In the west the Panthers got a jump on the BA-64s and killed two of them before they sped away up the road. The remainder of the Soviet tank battalion turned around and much to the suprise of myself and many other observers, plunged into the woods after the StuG platoon. What followed was a crazy fight in the woods at point blank range between a company of T-34/85s and a platoon of StuGs. The only Soviet unit that remained confused was the battalion CO T034/85, who sat on the road alone facing west. Seeing this juicy target, the Panthers headed east at best speed hoping to get in range before he got it together and moved off.
In the west, the Aufklarings put the amphibious schwimmwagens to good use and crossed the river, dismounting infantry on the other side. These troops began moving up through the woods. On the other side though the Soviets immediately dismounted the infantry on the T-34/76 company and plunged them into the woods as well. The Hornisse bagged a couple of T-34s, but the others soon got their licks in, scoring early by knocking out a pair of PzIVH from the leading platoon. When the T-34s bounced a couple of return shots with good armor save rolls the commander of the Pz IVHs faltered and pulled them back out of the line of fire.
The hapless battalion CO had finally activated, but he had already done his greatest service by luring the Panthers to the east. A company of five T-34/85’s came roaring onto the table from the east and caught the Panthers facing the wrong way. 5 shots into the side armor and a failed platoon morale test later and the Germans had lost a significant amount of their firepower. The battle in the woods continued in a stalemate as neither side could inflict a knockout punch. The ISU-122s joined the T-34/85 company and began to shift the balance in favor of the Soviets. The Hornisse bagged another T-34 or two but then wandered a little too close to the Soviet tanks and they knocked out one of the two tank destroyers. Things were starting to look grim for the Germans.
In the woods to the east the German and Soviet infantry finally met. The Soviets were happy to fight defensively and the Germans finally were able to pin and assault them. the Germans knocked the Soviet company down to half strength but it passed a morale test and stayed to fight, giving the infantry following behind a chance to dismount from their trucks and move into the woods behind them. The attack had cost the Germans most of a platoon of infantry, but without a resounding defeat of the Soviet company, they could not follow up to exploit their success.
The T-34/85 company that had killed the Panthers now came racing toward the back of the large woods where the StuGs were fighting. A couple of T-34/85s had been edging toward the woodline where they would be able to flank the remaining Pz IVHs, to a Pz IVH and eventually the other Hornisse went into the woods after them. They managed to kill one T-34/85, but the last Hornisse was killed by a shot from a PTRD anti-tank rifle mounted on one of the BA-64 armored cars. Around this point we called the game as a resounding Soviet victory. The StuGs were trapped in the woods with Soviets in front and behind them and the remaining Panzer IVs were hiding from rampaging Soviet tanks. A platoon of German infantry remained in good shape in the woods, but with no tank support, they stood little chance of clearing out half a battalion of Soviet infantry.
The game was a lot of fun to put on and everyone had a good time. It’s always interesting to play with a different set of people, because they will do things you never expect (like get involved in an armor fight in the middle of the woods). The Germans original had deployed the Panthers in the east with the Panzer IVHs and it would have been interesting to see how the game would have evolved if they had stuck with that deployment, as the T-34/76 company would have been really hard pressed with three additional tanks on that side. The T-34/76 company turned out to be the pivotal unit in the game, driving back the Pz IVHs and preventing them from assisting the German infantry attack, as well as bagging one of the Hornisse.
The Tussle was a fun event with a nice laid back atmosphere. In addition to the two mentioned historical games, there was a Warhammer 40K tournament and some of the local Warhammer Fantasy players were doing pick up games. Several people had tables of stuff for sale as well. Special thanks to Bob for loaning me all of his Soviet armor for the game.