Saturday, 14 November 2015

Barbarossa - Kesselschlact!

On Thursday the Wollongong Wargamers had a go at a slightly larger FOW game, around 1200 points, this time set in the Early War, from the BARBAROSSA book...
With Bryan being the only experienced FOW hand, 1200 points is probably still too large a force for an evening's game,
German force above, Soviets below - big Stelkovy company, and this one of only 2 platoons!
but I was hampered by my lack of Strelkovy in my ability to create a smaller balanced force for the Soviets without using a couple of T-34s, which at this period are rightly very expensive!
The German force was based on the Czech panzer company, using Pz38(t)s.
However only the first infantry platoon were PanzerSchutzen, with half tracks.The second smaller platoon were truck borne...
Apart from the hordes of Strelkovy, the staple of the Red force were T-26s, which are armed with a reasonably handy 45mm gun - better than the 37mm on the Pz38, anyhow....
For terrain I wanted to recreate the vast open spaces of Eastern Poland and Byelorussian that so freaked the Germans out in the opening border battles of late June 1941 - endless open horizons. Probably nothing to upset Aussies, but definitely making the German uneasy. However, as you may note in this photo, the ground was not entirely flat - about 3/4 of the distance up you can see a fold in the ground - only a few metres of dead ground? Or enough to hide an entire Rifle Corps? Only one way to find out if the Luftwaffe aren't in your sector!
However completely open terrain makes for a boring game, particularly for the Cauldron scenario we wanted to attempt, so I thought a few peasant isbas and crop fields around a road/rail intersections seemed plausible...
I also tried to replicate the undulating terrain by using a slightly taller table in the middle to create a slightly elevated ridge along the middle third of the table.
In accordance with the scenario, the Russians, with the 'Always Attack' special rule would be the attackers, and accordingly laid two objectives within the German defender's cauldron, and I as the defender set out 2 of my 4 platoons. At this stage I made 3 critical errors: I failed to take advantage of the ambush option, I chose one of my 2 initial platoons to be my Nebelwerfer battery, and most embarrassingly of all I failed to absorb the fact that the attackers would be coming on from either short edge - my werfers were deployed right next to where the hordes of Russian riflemen would come on, nicely covered by the edge of a forest - D'Oh!
And when I write 'hordes', I do so with feeling:

However, my initial deployment had not been completely inept, I had put a little thought into the placement of my Company Commander and his deputy...

So that they were able to score the first tank kill - always good for morale, and making up for the fact that its not really the business of the headshed to be opening the batting!
The location of the T-26s in the open did mean I was also able to start whittling down the Stelkovy with the Wefers - but losing one team was barely noticeable, and when Caesar felt it worthwhile to destroy another of his teams for his Kommisar to reroll the unpinning of the infantry, I began to realise I was up against it!

 And the Soviet reinforcements were arriving immeadiately, whereas mine were delayed...

Caesar and Bryan lost no time in mobbing my Nebelwerfer battery...

The survivors pulled back to fight another move - but just one more move!

My reinforcements, in the form of my first panzer platoon arrived in the specified place, only to be ambushed from the rear by the Russian reinforcements - the all powerful T-34s!

Meanwhile the Strelkovy were digging in on the first objective whilst the Red armour moved to threaten the second one. I had two or three moves left to evict them from that first objective, else the attackers could claim the scenario victory conditions...

Reluctantly, I ordered my single original platoon of truck borne infantry out of their defences around the second objective to skirmish towards the first objective. This small platoon would not have the strength to retake it themselves, but if they could lay enough fire down to whittle down and pin the Russian riflemen.... would make the job of their apc bourne mates a little easier. These were just starting to arrive...
Escorted by the second panzer platoon...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it was the German infantry who were getting whittled down, despite the cover of the crops... 
Overall, things weren't looking good, except that the arrival of the German armoured reinforcements seemed to have persuaded the Russian commanders to concentrate on holding onto just the one objective by the railway line - if they started a move by holding it undisputed, they had won the game...

It was time for one last desperate throw of the dice - a mounted assault to retake the objective across the railway embankment... 

When disaster struck - whilst the Soviets had seemed to give up on the second objective, a platoon of the dreaded 'tridsatchetverkas' raced through the village and appeared on the flank of the German forming up area..

As we were running out of time, I conceded to the inevitable and congratulated Bryan and Caesar on their dynamic attack attack - although I had made lots of mistakes in my initial deployment, and for all practical purposes the handful of T-34s were invulnerable to my panzers; nonetheless they had kept the initiative throughout the game with a series of unpleasant surprises...a performance worthy of a Rokossovsky or Rybalko!


  1. "the staple of the Red force were T-28s"

    Those are T26 tanks - the T28 was a heavy tank with a main turret and two smaller MG turrets.

    1. Bit of finger trouble with the first mention. Correctly spelt through the rest of the blog though, and now corrected.

  2. I think it's time someone went BACK to The School of Infantry or digs out his class notes. Once again I see artillery thrown away.

    I quote, " Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it was the German infantry who were getting whittled down, despite the cover of the crops... " If I remember right, cabbage leafs don't offer much in the way of bullet stopping power :)

    Anyway joking aside my friend, a very nice blog as always.

    Remember...which way is north and which way will the bad guys come from.

    1. Thanks for your kind comment Baz. Yes, lots of silly mistakes made - but valuable lessons learnt, in good company!

  3. Looks very nice and impressive...

    1. Thanks so much Phil! Hope everything is ok chez vous...thinking of you all.

  4. Nice AAR old chap. We used to deploy artillery, nebelwerfers and the like 'off table' to reflect the fact that they rarely would have been 'on table' in most scenarios. IIRC on the forum the Fow chaps did give guidelines for this(mind you this was a good few years ago). We found it gave a much better game but you still had the 'assets' to hand as it were.

  5. Thanks Steve. Yes that would have worked better for me!

  6. Good to see a sailor finally understanding the value of land actions. Great looking game.

  7. My dearest Sparkles.

    As opposed to your last teaching game where you took advantage of the pupil it is good to see you deliberately give away the advantage in this game. Stirling intentions sir that we can all applaud!

    Those Pz38(t)s sure are quaint looking. It's amazing to think how far armoured vehicles developed in the next few years.

    von Peter himself

  8. Thank you your von ship, if only it were so - I was beaten fair and square, in fact I think I experience Blitzkreig from the receiving end, the opposition were always one step ahead of me! Note to self : Must - read - and understand - the scenario - before deploying!

  9. Great battle! Very interesting!