Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Red Flags and Iron Crosses (Tarred and Featherstoned) - Play-test 4

The fourth play-test was a sequel to the third. The victorious Germans spent the night in the newly captured town replenishing their ammunition, refuelling their vehicles, and repairing any defects. They were joined by a new reconnaissance unit (again in a Kubelwagen) before setting off on the next stage of their advance. The Luftwaffe agreed to provide air support, but it was limited to a total of four sorties per day. Playing cards were again used to determine when the aircraft sorties would arrive.

The local Russian commander realised that it was imperative that the German advance be stopped before it reached the nearby crossing point over the River Bug. He ordered troops from his reserve forward to occupy part of the old ‘Stalin Line’ defences. These troops included two infantry units, an anti-tank gun unit, a light field artillery unit, and a tank unit equipped with a T34. With the exception of the tank unit (which was rated as ‘above average’) these were all rated as ‘average’.

The newly arrived German reconnaissance unit left the town and drove down the road towards the old ‘Stalin Line’ … and was immediately fired on by the entrenched Russian light field artillery unit and destroyed! The leading German tank unit was following some way behind, and its commander saw the Kubelwagen explode into flames in the middle of the highway. Luckily the Luftwaffe had been dealt a Spade picture card, and this meant that the advancing Germans enjoyed the support of a Bf109 fighter sweep over the battlefield sometime during the second turn.

As the German tanks advanced in arrowhead formation along the axis of the road, the Bf109 roared overhead and strafed the Russian trenches, killing one Russian infantryman in the process. The Russian light field artillery unit opened fire on the leading German tank and hit it several times, but none of the shells penetrated the tank’s armour.

At the beginning of turn 3 the leading German tank turned off the road to drive around the reconnaissance unit’s burning Kubelwagen, only to go straight into a minefield where its tank blew up. The Russian anti-tank unit then opened fire on the German tank unit that was advancing to the left of the road, but missed. The other German tank unit swung to the right, hoping to avoid further gunfire from the Russian light field artillery unit, whilst one of the motorized infantry units advance up the road and stopped just behind the Kubelwagen.

The German motorized infantry debussed behind the burning Kubelwagen whilst a Stuka attacked the Russian anti-tank unit (the Luftwaffe had been dealt a Spade non-picture card during turn 2). The Stuka’s bombs were, however, ineffective, and the Russian anti-tank unit opened fire on the German tank that had turned away from the road to avoid the minefield on the left-hand side of the road. Its shells missed, as did those fired by the Russian light artillery unit against the German tank that was advancing on the right.

During turn 5 the left-hand German tank unit fired at the Russian anti-tank unit, killing one of its crew. The anti-tank gun replied, but its shells were unable to pierce the German tank’s armour. The Russian light field artillery fired at the other German tank unit, but its shells were as ineffectual as those of the anti-tank gun unit. However, the Russian T34 unit now advanced up the road and opened fire on the same German tank unit, destroying the PzKpfw IV tank with its first round.

Although the German commander had brought up the rest of his motorized infantry and the infantry gun unit, he realised that attacking the Russian position without more infantry and artillery support was going to be very costly in men, material, and – most importantly – time. He therefore withdrew his troops back to the recently captured town to reorganize, intending to find an alternative route forward on the following day. He decided to leave the garrison of this section of the ‘Stalin Line’ to be mopped up by a following infantry formation.

Lessons learned:

The minefield rules worked well, and the presence of minefields on the battlefield channelled the attackers into the killing ground in front of the Russian entrenchments.

Attacks on well dug-in troops can only be conducted after suitable preparation. Mobile troops cannot ‘bounce’ enemy units out of fortified positions; they have to be driven out by infantry assault after their resolve (and numbers) have been reduced by artillery fire and bombing.

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