Monday, February 15, 2010
ORCCON Tune Up
On Wednesday, I was at The Realm in Brea, CA. ORCCON 2010 was going to start in a few days at the LAX Radisson Hotel. One of the main events is a 2-man team Mid War tournament. Each member of the team brings a force of 1,000 points to square off against other teams in 5 battles over President's Day Weekend.
This picture has nothing to do with this AAR except that Tim and I started an hour after Jeff (Strelkovy) and Daniel (Italians) did and they were still going on (and fading fast) after Tim and I finished. Their game lasted an unusual 4 hours! Let's hear it for making continuous company morale rolls.
Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Tim and his son are going and he wanted a warm-up with his Grenadiers. I grabbed a copy of Eastern Front and mustered up 985 points of Lend-Lease Shermans and proxy SU-85's to oppose him in a Hold The Line mission (rolled a 3 for mission).
For this After Action Report, I am trying something new. I was inspired to do an After Action Report after I found this Warhammer Fantasy AAR: Vampire Counts vs Dwarfs written by Padre. Years ago I enjoyed creative writing, so this AAR will give me an outlet. I hope the readers like it and that it isn't too long.
A Quaint Little Village---
Mladkomvzvod (Junior Platoon Commander) Andrei Volkov commanded his driver, Vova, to halt the M4A2 “Emcha” tank just inside the treeline. The 30-ton American tank came to a stop, with just the barrel of the 75mm cannon protruding past the shadows of the trees. Andrei, who was standing in the turret, looked behind him and saw the other 10 tanks of his company stopped in a line.
They had once been 40 strong. The battles of summer had depleted Andrei’s unit to a mere shadow of their tank allotment. Andrei was the ranking officer, a lowly Junior Platoon Commander. The man he had replaced had died two days ago inside his tank, trapped and burned alive after getting hit by anti-tank guns.
It was August 1943. The Red Army had routed the Germans at Kursk and now a counter-offensive was in full swing. High Command expected to push the hated Facists back to the 1941 start line, purging the German swine from Mother Russia. Afterward, it would be a simple matter to regain the Polish lands signed over to Russia. It was of less importance than ensuring no German boot stood on Russian soil proper.
In the early morning hours, the 229th Separate Tank Regiment, what was left of it, was charged with clearing a village of all enemies and capturing the bridge over a river. The town was situated south-east of Kharkov and High Command intended to use the bridge as one of the several prongs to encircle Kharkov and recapture it for the second and last time.
The village lay 10 kilometers ahead. Andrei had stopped on a slight rise, giving him a good view of the land. The small river bisected the village, north to south. Two roads paralleled the river before meeting in the center of town.
They had been promised infantry. Andrei found none. They had been promised air support. Andrei saw no planes in the sky and lacked a single radio on the same VVS frequency.
What Andrei did have was 4 SU-85’s of the 314th Assault Gun Regiment on his left flank. If Tigers or those new Panthers were around, the 85mm gun was going to be busy.
During the briefing, the commander of the 4 assault guns had warned Andrei not to get too far ahead. Otherwise, the shells from his guns will the Shermans after passing through the German armor. He found his joke very funny. Andrei did not and he had no intention of putting his men in front of another Russian tank unit. Friendly fire, isn’t.
The diesel engines were cranked up to full RPM and the 11 Shermans charged up the road towards the Village.
Andrei wanted the attack to be fast, fast, fast. The river and trees forced Andrei to stay on the road, or else risk losing a tank to a thrown track. It was a narrow road and the Russian tankers presented a tightly packed target for the Germans. The young commander desperately wanted to get inside the village and secure the bridge before it was destroyed.
Or before their tanks were destroyed.
Surprisingly, no ambushes or PaK fronts awaited them on the road. Andrei's force neared the village and he received his first glimpse of the 314th to his left.
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
Andrei watched the smoke trails of the German rockets streak into the sky. They formed a majestic arch, like a rainbow, but instead of a pot of gold, the end of this rainbow impacted amongst the 314th SU-85s.
Boom! Black, oily smoke mixed with the white smoke trails. One of the assault guns had been hit. In a brief instance of pettiness, Andrei wondered if the fool from this morning was still smiling or even alive. (I know a great way to start the game! I'll roll two 1's for my top armor saves! One dead SU-85, one bailed. Yay!)
Focus on the attack!
Faster, faster! Andrei urged his tankers forward (12” moves). Don’t stop to engage observers or other distractions. They had to get inside the village before the German Nebelwerfers wreaked more havoc.
Whoosh! Whoosh! German Nebels scream, again falling on the assault guns. (More hits, but no more 1's and the bailed SU-85 gets going).
They don't like those guns. Andrei shouts to his gunner, Misha.
Better them than us is stoic Misha's reply.
Misha spoke too soon. Nebel rockets burst all around the gaggle of Shermans. Men scream and the slow creep of panic crawls up the spine of tankers. Andrei ducks inside the Sherman and buttons up. Instead of the concussive force of high explosives, Andrei peers out the vision slit and sees only white smoke.
Smoke! It's just smoke, laughs Misha. I can't see anything!, shouts Vova.
Slow down, Vova. We are bunched up and an accident will bottle us up nice and pretty for the Germans. (Hen and Chicks 6" of I want to go faster, but I can't starts. Those grey cylinders on the bridge are not oil drums or an objective marker. They are Tim's turn counters.)
Tiger, Tiger!! shouts one of Andrei's tankers who is just beyond the smoke.
Andrei Sherman was still in the back of his gaggle of charges. He couldn't see the Tiger. Inwardly he groaned. The Tiger's front armor is nearly 100mm thick. It's side armor isn't much less either at 80mm. A Sherman 75mm cannot penetrate the front armor of a Tiger. In order to kill it from the side or rear, Andrei's men will have to make a dash across the open and try to get behind the mighty German tank. All the while, the Tiger will pump 88mm shells into the Russian tankers.
Crack! Boom! Sparks fly from an SU-85. It's crew jumps out of the assault gun, expecting it to explode. No flames. The tank commander shouts at his men and they all jump back in. German machine guns make their decision easier.
Wait, wait! It's not a Tiger. It's a KV! It's one of ours! Why is it shooting us?
Andrei knew. The Germans captured Russian tanks and pressed them into service. Russians tank are better than the Germans, except for their Tigers.
Two SU-85's reply. Sitting stationary on over watch, their guns bark 4 times. One hit! Boom! The KV-1e erupts in flame. One less tank of Mother Russia defiled by its pressing into Facist service.
Enemy infantry! The smoke had dissipated, thanks to a favorable wind, revealing the secret held close to its bosom. Squads of German grenadiers on both sides of the road. The destruction of the KV must have cause them despair. They swarmed out of their foxholes and makeshift revetments and charged Andrei's tanks.
More infantry. Andrei admired their courage, even as he directed his tanks to counter the threat. Drivers locked gears and treads in place, pivoting their mounts to present hull and coaxial machine guns at the enemy. Turrets swung to face the onrushing infantry wading across the shallow portion of the river.
Andrei watched as the first wave attacked his men. (Tim tells me he is making a mistake, but he felt he had no choice after the KV-1 is knocked out. "Next time, I'll let you come to me.")
The men across the river attached first. Unleashing flame throwers and grenades at the Russians. These were not just any infantry. No, they were pioneers. They unleash a hellish fury on the Shermans. 3 Sherman crews flee their tanks, expecting them to explode at any moment.
Laying low in wheat fields, two 3.7cm PaK36 gun crews start firing. Boom! An SU-85 immediately explodes. Stielgranate (blasted AT 12) easily pierces the front armor of the assault gun, killing all inside. (The Stielgranate surprised me. Next time, I'll back up outside of 8"). A second SU-85 crew jumps out of their stricken vehicle.
Return fire from other Russian tanks cut down the pioneers to a mere squad.
These Germans fight like Russians, Andrei thinks as he watches. Flinging themselves at Russian tanks, with little regard to their own well being or life itself. Vehicle machine guns chatter. A staccato of death. The bullets scythe through the grenadiers and they fall like chaff. (I rolled 19 dice against the Pioneers and an incredible 36 dice against the Grenadiers).
Don't let them escape! Break them, break them! Andrei shouts encouragement to his men. En masse, the Shermans turn and chase the fleeing Germans into the fields.
Only the German commander's horse survives the furious pursuit. Those infantrymen who trip or stumble are crushed underneath the treads in the onslaught. This was battle.
A third platoon of Grenadiers emerges from the fields near the Nebelwefers and the smoking KV-1. Turrets swing to meet the new threat. For a brief instance, the air is still. Tankers and infantry. Russians and Germans. Stares. Moments of indecision.
They break. The Village is in Russian hands!
Thanks Tim for a great game. Russian Shermans in Mid War are a tough nut to crack for an infantry list.
The PaK36 with Stielgranate will be Tim's MVP at ORCCON. When used in ambush with AT 12, it's very deadly.
I learned that I can create a Mid War force out of my Late War Shermans. I can add SU-85s or a fast moving infantry force. Time to start working on an Tankovy Excel Army List.