Hmmm.... After our two "tryout" games, one using only infantry and the other only armour, what scenario to choose for our first 15mm combined arms game with Battlegroup Panzergrenadier Deluxe? Leafing through my pile of scenario books, I found Robert Avery's excellent campaign scenario book "Vyazma or Bust." Written for IABSM, the scenarios adapt well (with some tweaks) to other company/battalion level rule sets. Many years ago we played the first scenario "Izdeshkovo" with Flames of War and then Disposable Heroes, but oddly enough we didn't get around to playing it with IABSM before we moved on to other rule sets. Since I'm still hung up on early Eastern Front battles "Izdeshkovo" seemed a familiar candidate to try with BGPG Deluxe.
The force mix, map, and scenario conditions were loosely followed, with some customization added. Then I added up the force strengths using the Deluxe points system and found the attacker to defender ratio seemed low, so I added in a Pioneer platoon with 2 flamethrowers (to maybe counter the KV-1?). After that the German attack force totaled 1215 and the Russian defenders 915, not counting transports (ratio = 1.3 German to Russian). Still seemed to be a low ratio for an attack scenario but the 300 extra points for the attacker is close to the 250 recommended by Deluxe for small battles. Factors such as terrain and tactics make balancing a scenario design by points to be very iffy, so I left it there. I don't think you can achieve balanced scenarios using points but it does help to see if you are in the ballpark in the design. As moderator and to save game time I pre-set the on-table forces with tentative Russian defense positions and German attack plans, to be modified by the players as they wished.
We mainly stayed pretty close to the Deluxe rules but carried over some of our "pet" house rules from Version 2. For example, we play 1:1 for guns and tanks, use the 20mm ranges for firing and activation, and replace BUA terrain with individual buildings and call them "small terrain features." Those, plus a few "tweaks" that are mainly polishing the chrome. We played on a 5x4 table with a game length of 10 turns and a variable ending. For this early war scenario we also had Russian rifle squads fire as one section (no LMGs) while all the German rifle squads fire as two sections due to their inherent MG34s. This to model the 1941 Russian shortage of LMGs.
In September 1941 Heersgruppe Mitte begins Operation Teifun, the assault on Moscow, opening northeast of Smolensk with an attack on Izdeshkovo sitting on the main Smolensk-Vyazma highway. After breaking through initial Russian resistance the lead elements of 87th Infantry Division, supported by panzers and panzergrenadiers from 57th Panzer Corps, race to secure the crossroad and bridge passing through the town of Izdeshkovo to clear the way for the division's main strike force just two hours behind them in their advance toward Vyazma. Timoshenko on the Bryansk Front, aware of the speed of German panzers, had previously ordered battered remnants of 214th Rifle division and the few remaining guns and tanks of 101st Tank Division to dig in and defend the bridge at Izdeshkovo with "No Retreat." Advance scouts have just returned indicating the enemy is near. The squeal of tank treads can be heard in the distance...
Tim (Hauptmann Mueller) joined on Turn 7 by Brent (Hauptmann Pollockstein) take the German side and Rick (Kapitan Lowellinski) the Russians, while I moderated.
Map and Russian Force (Kap. Lowellinski)
214th Rifle Division (Inexperienced)
Rifle Plt (Command, 4x Rifle Squads)
Heavy Plt (Command, 1x MMG, 1x 82mm Mortar, 1x Mortar Observer)
Sniper* (1x) * classed as Elite
101st Tank Division (Inexperienced)
Anti-Tank Plt (Command, 4x 45mm AT Gun, 3x Truck)
Armour Plt* (Command KV-1, 3x T-26) * Classed as "Inferior"
Russian forces are required to deploy to the north of the hills. The map below shows the Russians dug-in to their positions, all Hidden and with the sniper Ambush Camouflaged. The tanks are also classed as Hidden because they are not in LOS of the enemy yet. When Kapitan Lowellinski arrived to take over command he found the previous commander, with limited forces at his disposal, had already dug in with an organized close-in defense with mutually supporting positions. Fearing most for a determined German attack over the hill near the bridge, that area is strongly reverse-slope defended, with the remainder of the force defending the forest and road further west. The forest is the big unknown since it is only Light Woods so tanks and halftracks can pass at a slower half-tactical rate without bogging. Kapitan Lowellinski adopted the defense plan "as is" and ordered the armour platoon, centred around the massive KV-1, to remain in reserve in the town centre with engines running until the main thrust of the attack is determined. Will it be hill, woods, or road?
The stone walls, hedges, and fences are all of low height offering -1 LOS hindrance or -1 Cover to fire at infantry, guns, and AFVs (stone walls = -2 Hard Cover). The crops are low, providing no LOS hindrance to all fire, -1 Cover to fire at infantry & small guns, and no Cover for AFVs. Entrenched troops and guns behind a stone wall can only claim one Cover DRM since their trenches are mainly for artillery protection. LOS is a custom 4 inches between units within the same Light Woods and automatic spotting of Hidden squads the same 4 inches. The buildings are all Russian rural village wooden buildings and the river is impassable.
Kapitan Lowellinski has positioned himself and his CoHQ (Kommissar Vlasov) within contact of their platoon commanders. Lowellinski's orders are to maintain control of the bridge at all costs for use in an impending counterattack.
German Force (Hpt. Mueller joined on Turn 7+ by Hpt. Pollockstein)
87th Infantry Division (Regular) & 57th Pz Corps (Regular)
Panzergrenadier Plt* (Command, 3x LMG squad, 1x MMG squad, 4x SdKfz251/1+LMG)
Mortar Plt (Command, 2x 81mm Mortar, 1x Mortar Observer)
Rifle Plt (Command, 3x LMG squad, 1x MMG squad)
Rifle Plt (Command, 3x LMG squad, 1x MMG squad)
Pioneer Plt (Command, 2x Assault squad, 2x Flamethrower)
Medium Panzer Plt.* (Command PzIIIH, 1x PzIIIH)
Medium Panzer Plt.* (Command PzIIIH, 1x PzIIIH)
*from 57th Pz Corps, assigned to CoHQs for infantry support.
The German force is required to deploy within 12 inches of the south edge so deploys as shown, under Blinds.
Hauptmann Mueller faces a difficult situation. Advance scouts reported 24 hours ago that the bridge is defended, but in unknown strength. He can hear tank engines rumbling faintly, with a somewhat deeper note, which is disturbing. A fast frontal assault over the hill or down the road will likely be a death trap, certainly with high casualties. After observing the terrain he agrees with his orders from Division, to use the 57th's PzIIIs as infantry support since the terrain is not tank friendly. He opts to feint an attack on the hill with his panzergrenadiers and one PzIII (Blind #3), then conduct the main attack though the light woods, with a flanking force also closing in from the west toward the north crossroads. According to this plan, all troops dismount from their truck transport except the panzergrenadiers (in halftracks) and re-form into small battle groups, each generally a platoon of infantry, an MMG and a PzIII. The Pioneers in the centre to advance through the light woods where the fighting is expected be heaviest. The mortar observer creeps into position unseen with LOS down the road to the crossroads.
We represented the individual battle groups with Fog of War cards, which when laid out did not show where the main German attack would fall, so that was pretty neat! (rather than abbreviate these to FoW cards, too close to "Flames of War," after this I'll refer to them as Blinds)
Turns 1 to 4
Since Blinds only move at Tactical rate, the first 4 turns go fast, just the German troops advancing through the Light Woods. The feint by the Blinds near the river, does have the effect of holding the Russian armour in the town (represented by the red Blind). Kapitan Lowellinski just holds position and passes.
Here is the map after Turn 3.
On Turn 4 the Germans lay smoke on the north crossroads and advance through the light woods close to the Russian positions, but just out of LOS. On the Russian phase, Kap. Lowellinski orders the armour to move west on the road to where the enemy tank engines are loudest and support the infantry there, but rolls a Command Confusion and the tankers sit back for another sip of vodka. End of Turn 4.
This is where first contact causes the opening exchange of fire. The Russians win initiative and let the Germans go first (step into my trap!). The Germans renew the smoke on the crossroads, this time a little off target. [We allow smoke to drift, same as FFE, and use the Version 2 rules for Dissipation where it can stay for up to 2 turns.] Hauptmann Mueller orders the west Blind to move up to the edge of the woods and being within 4 inches of each other, the Blind and entrenched AT Gun both spot each other at the same time so the troops in the Blind and the AT Gun are placed on the table. The Germans are better troop quality so fire first. The 3 LMG squads, MMG, and PzIII exchange fire with the AT Gun and come out the worse for it! You'd expect ten sections of fire, even with a -1 Tactical Move DRM should do some damage at Close Range, but nothing! Hauptmann Mueller checks to see if the dice are loaded! Meanwhile the AT Gun returns Defensive Fire using Intensive Fire and causes the PzIII to Disengage. [Game error: The AT Gun should have fired first since Hidden units fire first on simultaneous spottings if the enemy is within Arc-of-Fire, even if the enemy troop quality is better. In this case the error didn't matter!]
During the exchange of fire a German squad glances down the road toward the town and sees Russian tanks, one of them bigger than anything he has ever seen before!
Meanwhile the German Blind containing the Assault Platoon moves up into LOS of the westmost Russian squad in the woods, revealing the Blind and entrenched Russian squad simultaneously. With a great Defensive Fire roll, one Assault squad is Dispersed (unbeknown to the Russian also taking out one Flamethrower!). This causes the Assault Platoon to stop and fire rather than Close Assault, not knowing if more enemy are hidden nearby. The German fire is again ineffective as the other Assault squad misses and the remaining Flamethrower rolls Out of Fuel and is removed! Arrg!
Now the German Blind just to the west reveals itself, 3 squads, an MMG and a PzIII, and all move toward the Russian squad, the PzIII far to the rear. The nearest two squads and platoon commander are just able to charge the Russian position in Close Assault with the MMG remaining close behind (as a Heavy Weapon, MMGs can only defend in Close Assaults). [Game error: Deluxe allows the Russian squad one Defensive Fire against each Close Assault declared by the same or different Combat Groups in the same command phase. So the Russian squad missed a chance to fire first.]
The Close Assault is barely successful. A Russian high roll causes one German squad to Disperse, while the usual poor roll for the German only causes a double Suppression which is an automatic Disengage. Deluxe first determines the winner of Close Assaults by who has the most Disperse/Damage/Destroy results, with Disengage actually not covered in the rules. We decide to value a Disengage as equal to a Disperse for Close Assault results since the squad has to abandon the position, making the Close Assault a draw. In a draw, the attacker wins if no unsuppressed defenders are present so the Russian squad is forced to fall back. [House rule: We also play that a Disengage causes Damage to infantry & guns.] On the German consolidation move after the Close Assault, another entrenched Russian squad comes into LOS to the east and is revealed. For the rest of the German turn, the Blinds just move up.
On the Russian turn, to make matters worse, the newly revealed Russian squad opens fire on the nearest German squad with another monstrous roll, Dispersing it! The Russian armour activates and Kap. Lowellinski orders them to move up the road to the main threat area.
During the Rally Phase, the Russian squad and the German PzIII both rally. Turn 5 was A nasty run of luck for the Germans! Hauptmann Mueller shakes his head. His troops have now suffered 3 KIA and lost 2 flamethrowers, while the Russians have not lost anything!
The German wins initiative and the 81mm mortars fire with FFE on the AT Gun at the crossroads and achieve a Suppression Test which the AT Gun crew shrugs off. Then the entire western battle group activates to fire at the AT Gun with the MMG firing first separately, this time Dispersing the AT Gun. One for the Germans!
The eastmost German blind in the woods moves up revealing itself as four loaded SdKfz251s with LMGs and a PzIII, spotting another entrenched Russian squad as they advance. The Russian squads decide it is useless to Defensive Fire against armor. [Game error: Rifle fire is allowed with -2 Penetration against AFVs but only if they are Open-Top or are in the lightest armour class. Since the halftracks are Open-Top, the Russian squads could have Defensive Fired, but would need to roll at least a 9, (+2 Close Range, -1 for the woods, -2 Penetration and -1 halftrack armour) to achieve a Suppression Test.] The four halftracks fire their LMGs, two on each Russian squad and both Russian squads Disengage, one retreating across the road and the other into the house. After clearing the woods, the remaining German squads just to the west are ordered to move east, still in the light woods and out of LOS of the Russian armour. The PzIII in the far west battle group moves up to the forest edge, out of LOS of the KV-1.
On the Russian turn Kap. Lowellinski tries to activate the armour to reposition and adjust Arcs-of-Fire, but rolls Command Confusion. He chooses to keep the rest of his force Hidden so passes the rest of his turn. For the two German Exploit orders Hpt. Mueller has the panzergrenadier halftracks and the three PzIIIs move east though the forest. In the Rally phase only the Russian squad in the crop rallies. Here is the map after Turn 6.
Hauptmann Pollockstein parachutes in from Division to lend a hand to Hpt. Mueller and takes over command of the western troops. German Initiative. The smoke dissipates and the mortar observer begins a long trek toward the bridge. The western group's MMG activates itself alone and fires on the Russian squad in the open, Dispersing it. Two for the Germans!
The other squads and the PzIII in the western group, look to rush across the road but when they attempt to activate roll Command Confusion! The rest of the German turn is movement within the centre woods, reorganizing and consolidating the infantry, halftracks, and PzIIIs just back from the edge of the woods, out of LOS of the Russian tanks patiently waiting to pounce. However, during the movement of the PzIII Combat Group, one PzIII ventures to the edge of the east side of the woods and is immediately pounded by two hidden 45mm AT guns, positioned to defend the open hill approach.
The PzIII is in the nearest AT Gun's Arc-of-Fire so the hidden AT Gun reveals and fires first with Defensive Fire, suppressing the tank. The second AT Gun reveals but has to rotate and misses. After being ambushed by AT Guns the other two PzIIIs to the west are not so bold and they just move up close to the edge of the woods, out of LOS of the Russians.
End of German turn.
On the Russian turn, both AT Guns fire again at the PzIII and both miss! Then Kap. Lowellinski tries to activate the KV-1 and T-26s to reposition their Arcs-of-Fire to face the huge threat from the forest, but rolls Command Confusion again!
In the Exploit Phase, for the first Exploit Move, Hpt. Pollockstein moves the MMG and the PzIII in the flanking group to the west onto the road so they have LOS and a fire lane to the west house. The PzIII is out of LOS of the KV-1 due to the tree line. The rest of the infantry hustles across the road into the woods.
For the second Exploit order, the CoHQ (under Blind) moves to the edge of the woods near the hill and reveals. In the Rally Phase, both the PzIII in the woods and the Russian squad in the building fail to rally. End of Turn 7.
The Germans win initiative and with 9 Impetus Points have big plans for this turn so decide to go first. The CoHQ at the edge of the woods acts as observer for the mortar battery that drops FFE right on target on top of one of the AT Guns.
But the AT Gun crew hears the incoming rounds and hop into their slit trenches for no effect. Next the MMG on the road to the far west fires a long burst at the suppressed Russian squad in the building causing a double suppression which is a Disengage and an automatic Damage [House rule]. Since it was already Damaged the squad is Dispersed.
Hauptmann Pollockstein takes this success as a good sign so activates the rest of the infantry in the western group to tactically move forward toward the KV-1 to see what Defensive Fire pops up. They are not concerned about immediate Defensive Fire from the KV-1 since they are out of its Arc-of-Fire so the crew doesn't even know they are there yet. The Russian tankers are preoccupied with the nearby tank engine noises. "Can you see where that tank is in the woods, Ivan?" "No Pesha, he is still hiding, keep ready to fire!" But as soon as the Germans pop out of the trees, a trench is spotted with a surprised Russian platoon commander. At the same time another of those pesky 45mm AT Guns opens up from a nearby hedge but misses. Pollockstein orders one squad to Close Assault the Russian commander, and the other two squads to Close Assault the KV-1 to see how tough this monster really is! The German platoon commander cannot quite get into the action in time to join in the assault.
The one-on-one Close Assault results in a suppression for both the German squad and the Russian commander. On a draw the attacker wins unless there are unsuppressed defenders, in this case none. So the Russian side loses and the commander is forced to fall back. The assault on the KV-1 does not go as planned. Assaulting a heavy tank has a -2 DRM so the roll by the squads has no effect, not even a scratch! However the KV-1's crew suppresses one squad to win the melee. The two squads and command fall back to the woods.
To draw enemy fire, a single German squad in the centre woods activates and "volunteers" to try for the house, but the squad only gets a few steps out of the woods before two things happen. First a Russian platoon commander is spotted in a nearby trench. Second, the nearest T-26 Defensive Fires, causing the German squad to Disengage and fall back into the woods (the KV-1 and damaged squad behind the T-26s have no LOS,and the other two T-26s have unsuitable Arcs-of-Fire).
Seeing no major opposition except the enemy tanks with guns aimed elsewhere, Hpt. Mueller separately orders the MMG in the centre woods to move east in the woods and then to the edge of the woods around the curve of the tree line so it is outside of the KV-1's LOS. The MMG fires first because it is out of the Arc-of Fire of the two remaining T-26s. The MMG fires at close range on the Russian platoon commander, Dispersing him. The remaining two T-26s decline to Defensive Fire, since the PzIIIs have not moved yet.
Hpt. Mueller now activates The Pioneer platoon (commander and Assault SMG squad) and orders them into the house. The SMG squad takes position to the rear of the AT Gun and surprises the gun crew with a heavy volley of flanking fire, Dispersing it!
With still lots of Impulse Points left, the Germans are on a roll now. Mueller activates the four Panzergrenadier SdKfz 251s and the first one pokes its nose out of the woods to be met with a solid shot from the remaining AT Gun, destroying the halftrack and causing the grenadier squad to Disengage and fall back into the woods. A second grenadier squad disembarks, moves along the stone fence and is immediately suppressed by fire from a suspected sniper, probably somewhere in the trees across the river. The third halftrack unloads the platoon commander and an MMG squad and they both move into the house. Finally, a grenadier squad unloads from the fourth halftrack and moves up to the stone fence between the buildings suddenly spotting a Russian platoon commander in the next house. After all the disembarking movement, two of the halftracks fire their LMGs at the AT Gun, but both miss. The squads that just disembarked cannot fire.
Whew! Things are heating up, and it's not over yet! Hpt. Pollockstein activates the two PzIIIs in the centre light woods and moves them east within the woods before they turn and just poke their noses out of the woods edge. The location they appear is out of LOS of the KV-1 due to the tree line, plus the remaining two T-26s that have not fired can not see them move since they are outside the T-26s Arc-of-Fire. So the PzIIIs fire first before Defensive Fire but all for naught since both rounds are ineffective! Alerted to the fire from close range tank guns, the two T-26s swing their turrets and Defensive Fire on the PzIIIs. Again both shots are ineffective, the -2DRM for Inferior tank and Out-of-Arc plus the PzIIIs in the woods cover a big factor! Crappy shooting all around.
In the Russian command phase Kap. Lowellinski first calls in artillery on the suppressed grenadier squad in the crop. The mortar rounds land dead on target causing a Disengage test, but the squad passes and is unaffected.
With one platoon commander to the west eliminated and the other suppressed, a nearby hidden CoHQ decides to take over direct command of the damaged squad, but he rolls Command Confusion!
Next the KV-1 commander activates his platoon and issues a Tactical Move & Fire order. The KV-1 can't quite see the PzIII on the road due to the tree line, so fires at the MMG in the open, causing it to Disengage into the woods. Russians must move/fire as a group, so the rest of the T-26s must fire before they move. They all fire at the two PzIIIs. It's hard to believe, but despite a couple of hits, the shells just bounce off the PzIIIs front armour! Again due to the Inferior & woods DRMs.
Now the KV-1 reverses and takes a Defensive Fire side shot from one PzIII which pings off the 75mm thick side armour. Two of the T-26s stay put while the third reverses back behind the hedge, with the second PzIII's Defensive Fire missing. A furious tank battle shootout at close range with no effect so far!
To finish off the Russian turn, Kapitan Lowellinski activates the sniper to shoot at the German squad in the crop, but he misses. Then a hidden squad near the AT Gun reveals itself to fire at the German squad by the stone wall, but he also misses. Next the AT Gun fires again at the PzIII in the woods and causes a suppression, but no further effect because it was already suppressed from a previous turn.
This ends the Russian Turn. The Germans have two Exploit orders. First, the Assault SMG squad and platoon command start to move across the road but have to stop in the middle upon spotting the Russian BGHQ which occupies their destination. Second, the MMG in the centre woods moves east into the house while his platoon commander moves south to assist the nearby squad to Rally.
In the Rally phase, the west group of Germans rally the MMG and the squad in the woods. To the east, the German squad in the crop and one in the woods rally while the PzIII and another squad in the woods fail. The Russian platoon command rallies. End of Turn 8.
Lots of action in this turn! The Russian now have 5 units eliminated. Any more and the need to begin the 25% Battlegroup Breakpoint Test!
German initiative. The CoHQ acts as mortar observer and directs the mortar battery to repeat their barrage on the Russian squad and AT Gun, which falls right on target. But the shrapnel misses the squad and just misses suppressing the AT Gun. Then the two PzIIIs in the woods fire Point Blank at the two T-26s. One T-26 is hit and passes a Suppression Test but the other is hit and Destroyed! Finally, a tank kill! Now the west Combat Group activates with Move and Fire and the lone PzIII boldly moves up to the crossroads. The KV-1 and AT Gun both Defensive Fire and miss! The PzIII fires, and misses the T-26. [The shot should probably have been at the KV-1 as greatest threat, even though it would have needed an 11 to get a Suppression test, but we decided that the PzIII would rather shoot at a T-26 with front armour of 1 than a KV-1 with a front armour of 6! Our group will do some more thinking about target priority in cases like this] The two squads move up to the edge of the woods and one is forced to Disengage from fire by the Russian squad. The German squad then fires on the AT Gun, suppressing it.
In the east, Hpt. Mueller attempts to activate the two MMG squads in the double house but rolls Command Confusion. Then the east PzIII in the woods and a nearby squad in the woods try to activate and also roll Command Confusion! After that, Hpt. Mueller activates a big Combat Group based around the double house to Move and Fire. First he moves the squad in the crop to Close Assault the AT Gun, drawing two Defensive Fires. The sniper misses him, but the squad is Dispersed by a newly revealed MMG! Next Mueller rushes a platoon command over the stone wall to Close Assault the east building held by the Russian platoon commander. Defensive Fire from the AT Gun and squad eliminate the command squad, so the remaining rifle squad is ordered forward and makes it into the building, initiating a Close Assault. The German squad wins the melee with the Russian commander Dispersed and the German squad suppressed.
As part of that Combat Group's activation the Pioneer platoon (assault SMG squad and commander) that were stranded on the road resume their move across the road to Close Combat the BGHQ! The T-26 Defensive Fires and gets one suppression test which the squad shrugs off, so the Close Combat proceeds. The result is no effect for either side so a draw, and since the attacker has unsuppressed units, the defender loses. The BGHQ must "fall back" 6 inches, away from the any enemy (same as for a Disengage) and toward cover. The only nearby cover is the crop but it means moving closer to the enemy so we interpreted the rules to mean the BGHQ had to withdraw off the table and be eliminated!
Ouch! A major blow for the Russians! The Russian CoHQ is automatically promoted to BGHQ and remains hidden near the east AT Gun.
To finish up the German phase, the mortar observer Rapid Advances up to the hill while the west MMG moves to the edge of the woods, fires on the AT Gun and misses.
For the Russians, German Turn 8 was a disaster for sure! To begin the Russian turn Kap. Lowellinski sees the vulnerable 82mm mortar near the enemy SMG squad and decides to order them to make a run across the bridge. Out of Contact, the mortar squad pays 1 Impetus and activates, receiving a Rapid Advance order. They make a break for the bridge, hoping to get across. The Assault SMG squad Defensive Fires and gets a suppression test, but the mortar crew are having none of it and carry on. However, the MMG in the house spies them and with one burst, Disperses them!
Kap. Lowellinski then tries to activate the squad in the crop to the west and rolls Command Confusion. After that disappointment, he tries to activate the KV-1 tank platoon and rolls snake eyes! Loses an Impetus Point and the Russian tanks sit idle again! A tough blow with so many juicy targets in sight. As a last action, he tries to activate a leaderless combined arms group in the east with an MMG, rifle squad, and AT Gun. This costs 2 Impetus, one for Out-of-Contact and the other to form the Combined Arms group. Without a platoon commander Impetus points cannot be used to assist in activation. If successful, the group can promote one squad to platoon commander and he can then issue a normal order. However, Lowellinski's activation roll is less than a natural 7 so it does not activate. That is 3 failed activation attempts in a row! End of Russian turn.
For the first German Exploit move the SMG squad and command squad hustle out of the building toward the bridge and take cover from the enemy MMG behind the Russian truck.
For the second Exploit move, the platoon command in the centre woods activates the MMG, PzIII, and a squad. The MMG in the house moves over into the woods for better LOS on the enemy AT Gun area. The east PzIII repositions to get out of LOS of the KV-1 and closest T-26 due to the woods, and to get a better sight picture on the T-26 in the crop. The commander and rifle squad move to the edge of the woods for LOS to the AT Gun.
In the Rally phase, the west Russian AT Gun fails, and the German west squad and the squad in the east building both fail. The PzIII in the woods and the squad nearby both rally.
The Russians lost 4 units thus turn, raising their total losses from 5 to 9! This is well past the 25% Breakpoint of 6 so Kapitan Lowellinski rolls for the 25% Breakpoint Test and comes up with boxcars! The Russians hang in strong! However, unbeknown to the Germans, if one more Russian unit is eliminated the game will be over due to reaching the 50% Battlegroup Breakpoint of 10 units! For a Russian win, they will need to hold the bridge, hope the game ends at the end of Turn 10, and not lose one more unit. End of Turn 9.
German initiative again and they have 9 Impetus Points to the Russian's 5. Hpt. Mueller starts by ordering the mortar barrage to continue but rolls a 4 "Say Again!" so no barrage. Then he activates the MMG in the house to shift around inside the building and face the AT Gun. This movement draws Defensive Fire from the squad, suppressing the MMG. Next the MMG and squad in the woods activate and fire on the AT Gun and squad. The squad misses and the MMG gets a Suppression Test x 2 but this results in "Obey Orders!" for both Russians. After that the last damaged squad in the woods activates and just moves up to the edge of the woods.
Hpt. Pollockstein now activates the 2 PzIIIs in the woods to Fire. The west PzIII fires on the closest T-26 getting a solid hit requiring a Destroyed Test, but the T-26 rolls high miraculously with only a Disengage + Damage result, and retreats into the crop! The east PzIII fires on the only T-26 in LOS, the one that reversed into the crop last turn. This causes a Damage Test that results in Disengage, and since AFVs do not get cover from crops, the T-26 has to fall back 6 inches which takes it off the board to become eliminated!
The Russian losses are now 10 units, at the Russian 50% Battlegroup Breakpoint, so the game suddenly ends in an automatic German win! Here is what the table looks like at game end (the red dots are Hidden squads).
The Russian side lost 10 units out of 20 and the German side lost 6 units (not counting the two flamethrowers) out of 33.
Comments on The Game
After the initial maneuvering and skirmishing in the game, Turns 8 and 9 were a good example of how to dismantle a crustal defense. Of course it helped in Turn 9 that the Russians rolled Command Confusion for 3 out of 4 activation attempts! If you're wondering why the KV-1 and T-26s seemed rather ineffective, the Russians attempted to activate their armour platoon six times in the game and rolled Command Confusion four times! Only two Russian armour activations in the game! "C'est la Guerre."
There were also two things that we didn't use, the Withdraw Order with a -1DRM to hit, and the Fall Back option when Close Assaulted. Not sure if these would have resulted in a less brittle Russian defense and perhaps slowed the rate of KIAs. It might be something to try in a future game: Give ground for less casualties? Nevertheless, it turned out to be a close game that could have ended in a Russian victory if the Turn 10 roll for game end was an 8 or better!
Initial Comments on Deluxe
This is not an in-depth review since we have only played three games. These are only our observations and first thoughts after playing a full combined arms game of Deluxe. The bottom line is that we like Deluxe provided we use our house rules to make it run to taste. Dave Brown has obviously put a lot into Deluxe and it can stand proud among peers.
A set of rules is always evaluated from a personal point of view and each of us will will rate a rule set higher or lower depending on if we prefer points-based tournament games or home-made historical scenarios, more abstract or more realism, longer or shorter games, skirmish level or regiment level, use house rules or the rules are the Bible, etc. The way that a new rule set strikes you is also affected by whether you have never played it before, or are upgrading to the latest version. So these thoughts are from only our narrow perspective.
Our veteran group enjoys games that tend slightly toward the "realism" end (but not too much), historical scenarios, reinforced company level to skirmish level (we also play Chain of Command), and don't mind longer games played over several sessions. We have enjoyed playing BGPG Version 2 (see my review) with a number of house rules (see Stirring the Pot) that mostly trended the game a bit more more toward realism and skirmish level. We felt that part of Version 2 was already written at 1:1 scale for guns and vehicles (AFVs have rules employing facing, out-of-arc, slow turret, attacked from rear, overruns, LOS across wrecks, clearing wrecks, etc.) so we just formalized it with some house rules.
Playing Deluxe after Version 2 reveals an interesting phenomenon! Some of the new rules introduced indicate a slight move toward more "realism," toward the skirmish level which we like (eg. more order choices, more fire DRMs, national differences, turret facing, crew quality, Defensive Fire groups). However, a couple of the changes seem to be moving the opposite way, toward the more "abstract" end (eg. DRMs for artillery accuracy eliminated, risk-free Exploit moves). We also noticed that a few rules in Version 2 have disappeared in Deluxe (eg. smoke possibly lasting 2 turns, variable tactical movement rate, recon with fire capability). Perhaps to streamline the game play? Regardless, these are minor considerations compared to the major overriding improvements to the game mechanic, which are the new matrix based Fire and Close Assault Tables, group Defensive Fire, more Order choices, and the Fog of War "blinds." These are enough of a reason to move to Deluxe, and we can bring along whatever we miss from Version 2, free of charge! <grin>
If you want to try Battlegroup Panzergrenadier Deluxe, consider buying the Combat Edition first, which besides being cheaper, is black & white, soft cover and only has the rules and equipment tables, no pictures. It's perfect for referring to during games. I also have the hardcover edition with the glossy colour photos and it is a visual treat, but more cumbersome for game play.
A good game and everyone had fun (except Hpt. Lowellinski during Turn 9 activations!). All are keen to play Deluxe again using our growing list of house rules. By special request from Tim (Hpt. Mueller) the next scenario for play this February will include T-35s and hopefully the AAR should be posted in early March. Hope you have enjoyed this write-up and thanks for reading this far <big grin>.