Advancing Companies - Dwindling Hope

Advancing Companies – Dwindling Hope

 The last battle in the Red Guards at Kursk mini campaign series features 18th Panzer Div counterattacking 5th Tank Corps. So another test for Advancing Companies, this time with a German attack rather than the Russians. 

Battlefield from the south. There is a marshy stream running E-W, a hill with some woods and a farm to the south, and some crops running up the middle of the valley. The stream is impassable in the middle two squares (blue counter), but there is a ford on the west edge (green counter).

The Russians don’t have much stuff. Two rifle and two SMG squads start on table, supported by a single 45mm AT gun and a Dshk 12.7mm HMG (a variable attachment). There are three T34s offtable who will come to the rescue. As this is a hasty German counterattack, the Russians aren’t dug in.

The Germans have a mighty force! Four Panzer IVs, two Sdkfz 234/1 armoured cars, four entire squads of armoured assault pioneers in halftracks, armed with satchel charges and flamethrowers! To top it off is an armoured assault pioneer HQ squad riding an Sdkfz 251/10, although the model looks suspisciously like an Sdkfz 250/9. It will have to do.
Well this should be a walkover. The Germans need to exit two tanks or armoured cars off the west side.

The Russians set up a couple of squads in the northern woods to prevent a German end run through the woods. Their main strong point was around the farm, with the AT gun and HMG supported by one squad covering the valley, and another squad holding the woods to the east to prevent an approach from that direction. 

Having learned my lesson from the previous games, the Germans committed a portion of their force and kept the rest in reserve. In the north a pair of engineer squads supported by a Pz IV, and a group of three Pz IV in the centre. I kept the infantry mounted as they were largely immune to the Russian rifles and SMGs in their halftracks.

The armoured mass rolled up the valley, while the Russians watched.

The Russian AT position managed to miss completely! The HMG had some anti-armour capability, but also missed. A mass of 75mm HE from the panzers suppressed both weapons. The riflemen couldn’t do a thing against the German armour at range.
Rumble, rumble. On go the panzers. Two pressed on up the valley, one stopped to provide fire support, and the armoured engineers overran the infantry in the woods to the north with their tank support.

The ensuing close combat in the woods was astonishingly bloody, both sides infantry were eliminated, but the panzers survived. Meanwhile the Soviet 45mm gun managed to rally.

The T34s arrived at this point. They had a specified entry area behind the ridge, so on they came and were promptly all suppressed by Pz IVs.
The reserve Pz IV moved up, but the unsuppressed 45mm destroyed one at point blank range. The Soviet riflemen now moved into the corn fields and assaulted the armour.

The soldiers died but another Pz IV was left burning. Umm, that is suddenly not going so well for the Germans.

The T34s were still the bigger threat so the Germans concentrated on them, and destroyed two of them with the remaining Pz IVs.

The 45mm however claimed its third kill. The valley was now full of burning Pz IVs. The Rifle squad which had been in the wood fell back to the farm. I can’t recall how it got suppressed. The last T34 was also damaged but still in action.

Now the remaining engineers rolled forwards, hoping to clear the way for the armoured cars as the few remaining Russian infantry occupied the cornfields. I’d removed the wrecked Pz IVs by this point. The DshK finally rallied after several turns.
I put the Pz IV wrecks back on for what happened next. The Russian 45mm and HMG proceeded to destroy all the halftracks, leaving suppressed and dead German engineers all over the battlefield. The only bright spot for the Germans was that they had managed to work the one remaining Pz IV forwards, but unfortuately it was damaged and suppressed by the one remaining (damaged) T34. 

The Germans now had no tactical choices as there were only a couple of turns left. They made an end run up the valley with the armoured cars as it was their only hope of victory.

This went about as well as might be expected as the AT gun destroyed one, and infantry assault in the corn field destroyed another. The Germans did finally rally their suppressed Pz IV and managed to slip it off the end of the table however.

So at game end the Russians were left with a fraction of their force, but their morale held, as did the all important AT strongpoint on the hill. The Germans failed to exit enough armour and lost brutally, game VP Germans 12, Russians 26. That left the final VP total Germans 28, Russians 48 for a decisive campaign win for the Russians.
That was a very unexpected result considering how badly things went for the Russians at first, I still can’t quite believe the Germans managed to lose that one. It just shows the power of AT guns against armour. You’d think I would worked that out from the previous games. 
Having played five games now, I’m feeling more on top of these as a rule set, and I think they have a lot going for them. One thing I haven’t had much chance to try out is indirect fire to see how that may affect things. Some more playtesting required, in particular that last scenario. I think the Germans should have used their infantry to clear both flanking positions, but it is so tempting to commit the Pz IVs as they generate so much firepower. I’d be tempted to put some Russian infantry in the fields at start as well, as they provided decent cover and the infantry AT assaults were very effective.
I’m also more comfortable with the idea that the units represent Charles Grant type ’sections‘ – so 2-3 of their real life counterparts. It just works better with the ranges, move distances, unit density etc in my head, even if they look like individual vehicles and rifle sections.
I’ve really enjoyed playing those games, good to push some stuff around, try something a bit unusual and focus on more tactical situations than my usual grand tactical and operational stuff. 

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Autor: Martin Rapier / The Games We Play