FOW – Road ambush in Belorussia
Last week we got together for a mid-week holiday schedule game and decided on a quick and easy Flames of War game. Bob assembled a force of Soviets and I put together German unit, both within the approximate timeline of Summer 1944. We decided to give the Roadblock scenario from the FOW rule book a try. Despite having owned the Version 2 rulebook since it came out, I’ve never tried out that scenario.
The Roabblock mission starts with one side having 2-3 units strung out on a road running the length of the table. The other side ha a portion of their units deployed away from the road a bit, but one unit laying in ambush and getting an initial ambuscade. The goal of the mission is for the ambushing side to seize one of the tow objectives placed on the road. Since we had not played before and were reading off the set-up as we went, neither Bob nor I had a real clear picture of how the game would unfold. Bob erred by chosing a low value unit as the “target” of the ambush (meaning only that this unit had to be placed on table), while I made a counter error in placing one of my armored units (A StuG platoon) as one of the escorting platoons, which allowed is ambushing T-34 unit to wipe them from the table. Since Bob probably should have chosen one of the tank units as the “target” anyway, it worked out fine. My initial units then where a pair of infantry platoons and the short lived StuG battery. Bob started out with an infantry company, an HMG company, a heavy mortar company, and a T-34 company.
The road unit receives reserves each turn along the road while the attacking unit has the usual FOW dice-based reserves. With the destruction of the StuGs, the objective to the east was in danger of being quickly overrun and so I immediately began moving infantry to contest it. I also brought in my unit of PaK40’s and raced them at best speed up the road and toward the town. Bob opening moves were to advance against the western objective with his infantry and to bring down the 120mm mortars on the PaK40’s. Two of the guns were destroyed, but the remainder reached positions in town where they were out of LOS of the mortar observers and could cover the objective with fire. This combined with the threat of the Panzer IVH’s arriving on the road behind them to make Bob’s tanks cautious. This gave me just enough time to scoot some infantry into the woods bordering the road, from which I could contest the objective. Eventually Andy arrived to take command of the Soviets eastern flank while Bob continued his infantry assault on the west.
My infantry platoon at the west end of the road advanced to a small ridge just south of the largish wooded area through which Bob’s infantry was advancing. The grenadiers of my Sperrveband had barely the time to dig in before the Soviets started to unleash the Red God of War on them – targeting them with both the 120mm mortars and a battery of 122mm howitzers. Just for good measure, the Soviet HMG company hosed them with 5 HMGs each turn. Fortunately they had dug in well and I was taking minimal casualties, but di get pinned and stay that way for much of the game.
I brought on my Grille self-propelled 150mm infantry guns and zoomed them into firing position. The Soviet tanks were often clustered together giving me excellent opportunities to hit 3 or more of them, but the Grille proved to be completely out of ammunition, they failed many ranging rolls and even when they ranged in, failed thit a single tank the entire game. However, they did destroy two infantry teams, and the entire course of the game would hinge on those two destroyed teams…
Eventually I decided to make my move and brought in the Panzer IVH, moving to the rear of the Soviet tanks. However, I should have waited one more turn, as the SOviet assault guns now arrived in my rear! I lost a tank to the assault guns and one bailed to the T-34’s. Unfortunately I was only able to destroy a single T-34 in return before the combined fire of those two units destroyed and routed my tanks.
While I might have had no success as an armor commander, I was much more successful as an infantry commander – or at least a better dice roller. Bob tried and assault against my pinned down Sperr platoon in the west, but I scored enough hits to through back his assault with defensive fire and then tore into the unit again on my turn. Bob fell back to regroup and wait for the artillery to work over my unit. Over several turns I eventually lost a few stands from the unit and it’s ability to throw off a second attack was becoming precarious.
However, the real threat was again to the east as Andy worked the other infantry unit into position to attack my thin line in the woods. The initial defending platoon there was chewed up by tank and fire and routed, but the reserve Sperr pioneer platoon arrived just in time to take over the positions. Any T-34s that moved within MG range to assist against the infantry in the woods (who were back from the edge and could only be seen within 6″) took fire from the PaK40’s. The SU-122s charged the PaK’s, hoping to take them out, but the PaK’s got off a good round of fire (actually a great round of fire) and destroyed all four of them in one turn. However, that provided enough cover for the T-34’s to move in and pin down the pioneers for the infantry assault. Andy’s well planned attack though was spoiled by my dice as I rolled 5 hits on 5 dice and threw back the assault with defensive fire. Had the unit not lost the two teams from the otherwise pusillanimous Grille platoon I would have needed 10 hits to pin the assault and I’d have been overrun right then and there. However, MG fire from the tanks was taking it’s toll.
I had one chance and cut loose with a fusillade of fire from every gun (including my own 120mm mortars, now in place on the west end). This fire forced morale tests for both of the infantry companies and the HMG company. Failed tests here would have left the Soviets with little assault capability in the west and in the east with only the tanks having to come into a very difficult wood against a veteran panzerknacker platoon. However, the Soviets made all three rolls. In the next turn the Soviets rolled over the infantry platoons on each flank wiping them out and added a final insult by blowing up one of the Grilles with and artillery barrage.
A very fun game with some interesting swings. I’m sure I could have done something better to counter the T-34 threat. The scenario was an interesting one and works fairly well to represent an attack on a road column in a genaralized format. We played this one using 1750 point companies and as usual, the ability to use the points-based force selection to disperse the scenario generating responsibilities worked well for a quick game. Since we used historically matched forces and stuck to the same time span for equipment and such, the game had a fine historical feel (in addition we have a couple of standing house rules such as always allowing off-table artillery that help to produce a more historical feel from the generic tournament oriented scenarios in the book).