Map and Objectives
On June 29th lead units of the 3rd Panzer Division were already at the Berezina River south east of Minsk. The bridge had been destroyed by the retreating Russians but enough remained to be worth rebuilding. The 394th Infantry Regiment was ordered to cross the river and establish a bridgehead. Meanwhile, elements of The Russian 8th Airborne Brigade were rushed to the area and have arrived on the east bank with little time to prepare detailed defenses.
The terrain east of the river is mainly light woods, medium high crops, marsh, low hedge, and a low stone wall, all blocking LOS. A low wooded hill offers limited LOS advantage. The woods are passable to vehicles at half-rate (no Bog Check). The two gullies and the marsh are Difficult Terrain.
To try and shorten the game time I set the game length to 6 turns on a 4x4 table. To minimize deployment time the German begins Turn 1 with a pre-set deployment on the west bank of the river with the first wave of troops already loaded in assault boats. The German objective is to establish and control the bridgehead (no Russian infantry unit within 18 inches of the east end of the bridge), AND control the stone cottage (no Russian infantry unit within 4 inches). The Russian defender's deployment is also pre-set with all units hidden and entrenched east of the river. The Russian objective is to prevent German control of the bridgehead (maintain at least one unsuppressed infantry unit within 18 inches of the east end of the bridge), AND control the stone cottage (no German unit within 4 inches). 5 VP are awarded to the side that meets their objective at the end of Turn 6. Additionally the German gets 1 VP for each Russian unit eliminated and the Russian gets 2 VP for each German unit eliminated (there always seems to be fewer German units eliminated!).
The total point cost of the units assigned to each side was German 1255 and Russian 760 for a ratio of 1.65 in favour of the German attacker. However the total point cost of the combat + support units available to each side on just the east side of the river (the PzIIs cannot cross & HQs are not included) is German 760 and Russian 530 for a ratio of 1.53. This ratio of east bank forces was deliberately set to see if 150% attacker strength would yield a relatively balanced infantry scenario. This will also be the first scenario played with Russian better grade airborne troops that are regulars (rally on 7) and with an HQ having a +1 for initiative rolls.
We diced for who would play on each side. Tim and Brent won German with Rick and I playing Russian.
German Force & Pre-Set Deployment (Lt. Von Pollockstein and Lt. Mueller)
Battlegroup HQ (+2 bonus on initiative roll, veteran)
Off-Board Artillery (3x missions of 105mm artillery)
Company Command (veteran)
Schutzen Plt (command, 3x squad + 1x LMG, regular)
Schutzen Plt (command, 3x squad + 1x LMG, regular)
Schutzen Plt (command, 3x squad + 1x LMG, regular)
Schutzen Plt (command, 3x squad + 1x LMG, regular)
Pioneer Plt (command, 2x assault SMG squads, 1x LMG, 1x flame-thrower, regular)
Recon Light Tank Plt (command PzIIC, 3x PzIIC, regular)
Assault Boats (11x Sturmboot 39)
The Germans deploy with all Russian units hidden except for a 76mm infantry gun that was destroyed previously by artillery. The Russian markers show areas where Russian troop movements are suspected. No Russian troops are visible near the river, no doubt due to the massive artillery barrage on the east bank that has just lifted.
German first wave of assault boats ready to cross! I've always wanted some assault boats and decided to scratch-build these from 110 lb (199 g/m2) cardstock. The design took a few template mock-ups to finalize. They are pretty much to scale lengthwise for a Sturmboot 39 but much wider to accommodate a FoW medium base unit. They also have a North American style motor instead of the Kovats motorized “steering oar.” I'm calling them nationality “generic” for future river-crossing games. <grin>
Russian Force & Pre-Set Deployment (Lt. Lowellinski and Lt. Chappevich)
Battlegroup HQ (+1 bonus on initiative roll, veteran)
Company Command (Kommissar, regular)
Rifle Plt (command, 3x rifle squads, regular)
Rifle Plt (command, 3x rifle squads, regular)
MMG Team (1x Maxim MMG, regular)
Light Mortar Teams (2x 50mm mortar, regular)
Sniper Teams (2x, veteran)
Light Tank Plt (1x command T-26A, dual MMG turrets, regular)
This is what the Germans don't see. Having just arrived and seeing the east bank under heavy artillery barrage, the two platoons of infantry hastily dig-in about 100 yards back from the river, out of sight of the German guns softening up the landing zones. A second line of defense, an MMG and two light mortars, are positioned further back. The T-26A is held in reserve, careful not to get in LOS of the PzIIs across the river. Two sniper teams have prepared hidden trenches near the river edge the previous night and have already crawled into position after the barrage lifted.
Turn 1 Initiative R7, G3 – Russian wins and chooses to have the German side go first.
German off-board 105mm artillery opens up, one mission to the hill top which misses the hidden light mortar but the second lands on the river edge where the north sniper is hiding and he is dispersed!
The Recon PzII Platoon activates and each tank recons the three woods across the river, seeing nothing on poor dice rolls. With no other enemy revealed by the artillery mission near the dead sniper the north Schutzen platoon revs up their boat motors and races across the river, expecting Defensive Fire. Nothing! They land unopposed. The Schutzens are singing Bruce Cockburn's song “Wondering Where The Ivans Are!” The Pioneer platoon doesn't cross, just moves downriver a bit, waiting for the first platoon to scout inland and report back on where they are needed most. The 2nd wave Schutzen Platoon moves up to the shore line, ready to board the boats when they return.
The south Schutzen Platoon is ordered to race across and land at the south woods, planning to flank the objective? But the first boat out gets hit by a revealed sniper that yields a Retreat result. (House rule: If a boat is hit with a suppressed, retreat, or abandon position result, it still keeps going, but lands its passenger at the destination shore with the fire result applied. A destroyed result eliminates both boat and passenger.) Therefore, the squad lands suppressed and damaged.
The other 3 boats cross, land, unload, and enter Close Assault with the sniper team. Since snipers cannot enter Close Assault they just conduct a voluntary retreat move. So the sniper team retreats back into the forest and is suppressed [sniper unit should have had a yellow bead]. Back on the west side, the 2nd Schutzen Platoon moves up to the shoreline, ready to board. End German Orders.
Despite a huge pile of CPs to draw upon, the Russian gives no orders in Turn 1. The sniper is suppressed, and the light mortar is at maximum range for a chance shot at the German troops in LOS on the west bank. Best to just hold positions and stay hidden. In the Rally Phase the sniper fails to rally and stays suppressed. [Error: A unit that conducts a voluntary retreat cannot attempt to rally that turn.] End Turn 1.
Turn 2 Initiative G7, R2 - German Initiative.
The PzII Platoon recons both swamps and the centre woods with good dice rolls that reveal nothing anywhere! Where are those pesky Russians? Lt. Mueller decides to send the north Schutzen Platoon forward to probe the woods ahead. The first squad scouts out the south end of the woods but, after getting within 2 inch LOS, runs into a dug-in Russian squad and is suppressed by Defensive Fire at close range. Finally seeing a Russian target the remaining 2 squads and command charge forward in Close Assault and suddenly find themselves facing a whole platoon of Russians commanded by Lt. Lowellinski! Defensive Fire disperses another German squad! The remaining German squad and command enter Close Assault with the Russian platoon. The Russians win the dice, dispersing the command, and causing the squad to retreat suppressed and damaged! Each Russian unit then rolls for damage and due to their better airborne troop quality, only one is damaged.
A serious initial setback for the German. The Russian plan is working so far! Seeing the resistance, Lt. Mueller orders the Pioneer platoon to cross the river and land in the marsh to outflank the Russian position. He sends the Schutzen boats back to the west shore where the 2nd Schutzen platoon embarks.
Meanwhile, Lt. Von Pollockstein orders 2 squads of the south Schutzen platoon to scout into the woods ahead while the command stays behind to rally the damaged squad. The squads race forward, one encountering the suppressed sniper team, eliminating it. [Error: We played that the sniper team was automatically eliminated in close assault because it was suppressed and couldn't conduct a voluntary retreat. However, the rules do not prevent suppressed units from retreating voluntarily. Therefore the sniper team should have retreated again, maintaining suppression with no rally attempt this turn. Snipers are only eliminated in close assault if they have no retreat path.]
The south Schutzen boats are sent back to the west shore where the 2nd Schutzen platoon embarks. End German Orders.
For Russian Orders Lt. Lowellinski considers close assaulting the suppressed infantry in the north woods which would disperse them surely. However this immediate success would soon be shattered by the PzIIs deadly 20mm fire or possibly an artillery mission shedding them in return. Plus they would be too close to the Pioneer platoon, easily out-flanked. So he wisely just holds position. The Russian squad fires on the suppressed German squad in LOS and misses. In the south, the hidden light mortar on the hill reveals and tries a long-range shot at the boats on the west bank, but misses. End Russian Orders. In the Rally Phase, the German south squad rallies, and one of the two squads in the north woods rallies. End Turn 2.
Turn 3 Initiative G5, R5 - German Initiative (German wins tie).
The German side sees not much action by the Russians last turn so orders the Russian to go first. The Russian orders are the same as Turn 2 for the same reasons. The Russian squad fires on the suppressed German squad in LOS and again misses. In the south, the light mortar on the hill tries another long-range shot at the boats on the west bank, but misses again. The hidden T-26A idles behind the cottage, waiting to rush to the hot spot. End Russian Orders.
In the north, Lt. Mueller orders the second wave of Schutzen across the river. The Pioneers send their boats back to the west shore where the Company Commander and FOO embark. The Pioneers then advance toward the Russian position but it is slow going in the marsh.
Meanwhile, Lt. Von Pollockstein orders the second wave of Schutzen to cross the river to the centre woods. They encounter no Defensive Fire.
The Schutzen platoon in the very south continue their flanking move through the woods. The command and rallied squad at the shore move toward the south hill top. The remaining two squads are out of LOS and therefore must activate independently. One moves toward the light mortar but cannot reach it. The other moves swiftly and Close Assaults the light mortar, easily dispersing it. However, the German squad is damaged in the combat. The platoon is now well positioned to provide flanking fire and advance on the cottage.
The PzIIs activate and move closer to the bridge to provide fire support down the road gap in the woods on the east bank. End German Orders. The remaining German squad in the north woods rallies. End Turn 3.
At this point the game is half over and the Russian positions are holding well so far! However, the concentration of German forces in the north forest is formidable!
Turn 4 Initiative: G7, R6 - German Initiative. German side makes the Russian go first.
The Russian position in the north woods is heavily outnumbered so should they stay and fight the imminent German close assault or withdraw to the gully, woods, or garden? Since victory depends on maintaining units within 18 inches of the bridge, plus the added not-so subtle threat of being shot by the Kommissar, Lt. Lowellinski decides the platoon will stay and fight “For Mother Russia.” The platoon activates and one squad fires at the nearby German squad in LOS, suppressing it. At least it won't be assaulting. The hidden MMG decides to not reveal and fire at the Schutzen platoon on the hill since it is flanked and only gets a +1 cover mod for return fire, plus it would then be out-of-arc for any Defensive Fire to the west and north. Better to wait hidden for now. The T-26A holds position since the PzIIs have LOS down the road. End Russian Orders.
With two command units in the north woods, Lt. Mueller activates the Schutzen command to form a Combat Group of two infantry squads and has them move toward the Russian position. Close range Defensive Fire from two Russian squads results in a Retreat Test for one and an Abandon Position Test for the other. Both Russian squads roll high and pass, getting Obey Orders results! The squads stop, not wanting to close assault, and fire back getting two Suppression Tests which the Russians pass. However, now that the threat of Defensive Fire is reduced, the Pioneer command is activated, forms a Combat Group with the remaining 5 units (3 Pioneer, 2 Schutzen), and declares a Close Assault. Defensive Fire from the last Russian squad forces one Pioneer squad to retreat back into the swamp with damage (a break for the Russians since we find out later that this Pioneer squad is secretly carrying a flame-thrower team which gives an additional +3 factor to any close assault!). The rest enter the melee. The German side wins the first round by a difference of 2 (I didn't record the factors), for the result “They Don't Know They've Lost!”, which means one Russian unit is suppressed and a second round is fought immediately. For the second round, the Russians have 4 factors and the German has 8 factors for a difference of 4. [Error: We forgot to include the +1 Pioneer bonus]. The Russian rolls poorly with a 3 and the German rolls a 7 so the final total is German 15, Russian 7. A difference of 8 less one for the Russians being Tenacious, leaving a 7 which means Losers Routed! The Russians have 2 squads dispersed, and the remaining two retreat to the gully damaged and suppressed. Two German units take damage from the melee.
[Note: I should have read the rulebook more carefully when we got to this first big close assault since I made a major goof here, discovered after the game ended. I thought the first units that make base-to-base contact had to be nominated as the lead assault unit for each side, which also affects targeting during Defensive Fire. This is totally incorrect since the rules state after all units are in contact, each side nominates a lead assault unit which can be ANY unit that is involved in the assault. Therefore had we performed this correctly, the Russian side should have nominated the command unit as lead assault unit (factor =3) with 3 supporters for a total of 6. The German side should have nominated a Pioneer squad as lead assault unit (factor=4) with 4 factors for supporters, plus one factor for first round, and 1 factor for Pioneers for a total of 10. Note the difference in factors for this case turns out to still be 4 so the outcome of the close assault would still be the same as occurred in the game. We were doing it wrong but happened to achieve the same result!]
The Germans now control the north woods and look formidable on the north end of the board! Only one squad plus command, the light mortar, and MMG in their path. The German Company Commander and the FOO cross in boats to the east side.
Meanwhile, Lt. Von Pollockstein orders a squad from the Schutzen platoon in the centre woods to advance and scout the woods ahead. The squad runs into a hidden Russian platoon which Defensive Fires causing the German squad to retreat suppressed and damaged. The remaining squads just move up and consolidate in the woods out of Russian LOS. Then the Schutzen Platoon on the hill activates. Seeing a newly revealed Russian squad in the centre woods in LOS one squad fires and misses. The remaining 2 squads move up and reposition to the south end of the hill then both support the LMG which also fires at the Russian squad, rolling boxcars! An automatic Dispersed result. Ouch! Another Russian squad bites the dust.
Next the PzIIs move to have LOS on the Russians in the gully and all fire, all miss (-2 to hit when suppressed). End German Orders. In the Rally phase the two Russian units in the gully both rally, and the Pioneer squad with the flame-thrower in the swamp rallies with a 12, becoming Battle Hardened (+1 to all dice rolls)! End Turn 4.
Turn 5 Initiative: G7, R3 - German Initiative – German goes first.
Big Ukrainian head slap! A sudden realization that when the German platoon moved to the south end of the hill last turn, more Russian units would be visible to them. The T-26A is in LOS, and the MMG and Company Commander (Kommissar) could be seen as well. I place them all on the board, and then immediately realize that the Company Commander and MMG were in entrenched in cover so they should have stayed hidden until they fired, moved or were discovered by an enemy unit contacting them. However, now that they are revealed they must stay that way. Here is what the Schutzen platoon on the hill can see.
Lt. Mueller orders a smoke barrage on the Russian platoon in the centre woods, which lands right on target, completely covering the Russian platoon and negating any possibility of Defensive Fire. Rats!
Seeing the beautiful smoke screen, Lt. Von Pollockstein activates the centre Schutzen Platoon and declares a Close Assault, moving in untouched. Russian has 4 factors (2 squad + 3 supporters) and the German has 6 factors (3 command + 2 supporters, +1 first round). However, the Russian again rolls a crappy 3 on the close assault, same as last time while the German rolls a normal 7. The difference of 6 is reduced to 5 for Tenacious which is Losers Routed! This causes the 2 remaining squads to be dispersed and the command to retreat suppressed and damaged to the crop behind! Sheesh! Looking bad!
[Note: Same comment here as for the previous close assault. However, if we had correctly used the Russian command as lead (factor=3) the net result would have been 1 less and only one unit, the command unit, would have been dispersed so the 2 squads would have retreated instead to the crop, both suppressed and damaged. It probably didn't alter the final outcome in this game.]
The PzII platoon fires on the Russian units in the gully again and all miss again, one getting Low Ammo. The Schutzen platoon on the hill activates and fires on the MMG suppressing it! [Comment: The rules say they should have fired on the Company Commander because it was the closest unit, but since the command unit has no ranged fire capability, I agree with them having the choice of MMG as target since it is the nearest threat.]
Lt. Mueller now activates the Pioneer commander who orders one Pioneer squad and 2 infantry squads in the north woods to move up. They get a poor movement roll but move toward the woods edge enough to get LOS and fire on the Russian squad and command in the gully, suppressing them. Defensive Fire misses. The Schutzen commander is activated next with the remaining squads. Most move up to the woods edge, but 1 squad has enough movement to Close Assault the suppressed Russians in the gully. The MMG is suppressed so can't Defensive Fire. The German rolls high and easily disperses both Russian units. The Pioneer squad (with the flame-thrower) in the marsh independently activates, tries to move out of the marsh, but rolls low and makes slow progress. End German Orders.
This is a disastrous turn for the Russian! The front line positions are shattered and the infantry eliminated, plus the MMG is suppressed. It looks grim! Lt. Lowellinski activates the light mortar which manages to suppress the German squad in the gully.
Faced with deciding the greatest threat, I decide it is the Schutzen platoon on the hill that could pour fire on the troops in the crop and threaten to take the cottage. So I move the T-26A up in front of the cottage and let fly with both MMG turrets at 2 Schutzen squads. One is a miss, but the other causes a squad and LMG to retreat suppressed and damaged.
This ends the Russian Orders since there is nothing left to order! In the Rally Phase, the German squad on the hill rallies, but the squads in the gully and at the shore line do not. The Russian MMG and infantry command both rally. Whew!
The Russians have lost more that half their force so need to pass a Battlefield Withdrawal Test to proceed to Turn 6, otherwise the game ends immediately. The Russian rolls an 8 and with the +3 mods passes the test so the game continues. End Turn 5.
Turn 6 Initiative: G6, R3 - German Initiative - German goes first.
At this point Rick and Brent have to leave so Tim and I continue the game.
Roll for smoke endurance and it disappears. The centre woods Schutzen platoon tries to activate but rolls a 3. Lt. Mueller is not willing to authorize spending 4 CPs from HQ to activate the platoon. However, he does spend 1 CP to successfully activate the non-commanded squad and LMG there. The LMG and squad fire at the MMG and miss. Next the Schutzen squad on the hill activates and the LMG and squad fire on the MMG getting a Suppression Test which the MMG passes OK. The third squad moves up to the hilltop and fires at the MMG also getting a Suppression Test which the MMG passes again! Moving to the north woods, The Company Commander attempts activation and rolls snake eyes invoking Command Confusion! All German CPs are gone! The German side holds on to the initiative with a good dice roll. Lt. Mueller now attempts to activate the Schutzen commander and rolls another snake eyes! The snake eyes after Command Confusion invokes FUBAR! ending the German Orders Phase and possiblty saving the Russian bacon!
In the Russian Orders phase, the MMG activates and fires on the LMG and squad in the centre woods causing it to retreat damaged and suppressed.
Next the T-26A moves up into close range and lets fly with both MMGs at the two nearest Schutzen squads on the hill, suppressing one.
In the north, the light mortar suppresses the squad in the gully again. End Russian Orders. In the Rally phase, all 3 German squads rally, 1 on the hill, 1 by the shoreline, and 1 in the gully. The Russian rolls high for the Battlefield Withdrawal Test and passes, so the game ends at the end of Turn 6!
Tallying up the score:
The Russian side lost 10 units for 1 VP each so the German side is awarded 10 VP. The German side lost only 2 units for 2 VP each so the Russian side is awarded 4 VP for losses, plus 5 VP for the objective for a total of 9 VP. Perhaps a very marginal German win on points! Perhaps a Russian marginal win for holding the objective. It is pretty much a draw. Historically the 394th Schutzen secured the bridgehead but endured heavy counterattacks for the next 24 hours.
2. The Russian infantry squads were supposed to get one LMG each but we forgot to put them on the board when the platoons were revealed. We also forgot that both LMGs and the MMGs (the MMG team in the crop and the 2 in the T-26A) are eligible for Sustained Fire which allows them to fire at multiple targets in both Defensive Fire and Orders Phase. Who knows what difference that would have made, but any tilt toward a Russian advantage would have been overshadowed by the impact of the Pioneer flame-thrower had it not become mired in the swamp!
3. The game was much shorter due to the 4x4 table and only 6 game turns, lasting about 3 hours after we got going. I'd like to shave another half hour and will consider how to achieve that. Maybe try 5 turns on a 4x4 table with pre-set deployment. Perhaps the streamlined Battlegroup Panzergrenadier Deluxe rules that are due for release in the next few months (?) will help...
4. This was the first “all-infantry” game our group played with these rules. Especially in close terrain that mandated large close assaults to take strong positions. I think the rules worked very well for pure infantry vs infantry combat and I feel that BGPG is an “infantry first” rules set. It will be interesting to explore infantry close combat vs enemy positions and enemy held terrain features in future games with the learnings made in this game.
Our gaming group seemed to really enjoy playing this scenario, which is the whole point really! This scenario will be the last one we play from the Skirmish Campaigns “Russia '41 – Drive on Minsk.” book, chronicling the actions of 3rd Panzer Division. Another excellent reference source for 3rd Panzer Division in Barbarossa is “Panzer Wedge” from the Stackpole Military History Series.
The next WWII miniatures gaming night will be some time in January 2014. I have no idea about the scenario or game to be played. Tune in late January for the next AAR! Meanwhile, Turkey Day is getting closer and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (or its equivalent in whatever belief system you have!) - Gary
For each boat I traced around the outside of the template onto blank card stock, then still holding it in position, traced around again with the flaps (F) & folds all up to show where to fold. After cutting out, just white-glued it all together. Then I traced and cut out a second “bottom,” trimmed it just a little smaller, and glued it on the outside bottom for a double-strong thickness there and to hide the bottom flaps. The top needed a bit of trimming after to get the sides even. Then a bit of filler into all the cracks and black spray primer inside & out to seal the paper (sticky tack to hold them down). Two coats of grey craft paint and light gray drybrush. Then the side numbers, the black trim & brown on the gunwales, and a brown floor. The motors were made from dowel & painted metallic grey.
A finished close-up.]