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Subject: A second replay of Scenario 5 rss

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Brian McCue
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I played Scenario 5 again, this time as the Russians. It was quite a game and, frankly, I was surprised to win.

Recall that in this scenario, the Germans (with Pz IVH's and a few III M's and some infantry) are trying to go the length of the board (from low-numbered columns to high) while the Russians (with T-34s, two AT guns, and some infantry) are trying to stop them. VP are scored for killing the enemy, and for the Germans getting (or not getting) at least five units off the far end of the board.

The time before (see Scenario 5), when I was the Germans, the Russian set-up had been pretty much a goal-line defense, with most of the tanks in the village Stravrhevoy, an AT gun in the mid-board heavy woods hex 1708, and a tank or so on the on the lower edge of the board, in the unlikely event that I decided to take the scenic route. And I gather that most people play it that way. We had had a great game and I recommend that you look back at that session write-up if you missed it before.

This time, I was the Russians; my opponent was a different person from before, but he had played the scenario several times. I wanted to do my set-up along the same lines as the Russians had the previous time--most of my tanks in Stravrhevoy, with a couple lurking on the reverse slope of Hill A 17, one AT gun in the Heavy wod and one back. But I blocked the scenic route with two T-34s in medium-woods hex 2616, thinking that if and when the Germans opted for the usual route, I could quickly move these tanks to someplace useful, whereas if I used anti-tank guns, they would have to limber, be slowly towed around by vulnerable trucks, unlimber, etc. Also, I wanted to keep one AT gun for that same heavy woods hex and one for the last-ditch defense, so tanks it had to be.

We were using the Hidden Units rule, which I think is required in this scenario: my three Hidden Unit markers were on the tanks in 2616, the 1898 woods hex (in truth occupied only by a truck--the AT gun and an Infantry were the adjacent heavy woods, just like the Russian set up the last time), and on another truck-infantry-AT-gun combinaiton set up way back in 01412/0413.

To my surprise, the German player opted for the "scenic route," bringing everything on through Kurvha. My two T-34s had Overwatch orders, and when the German lead tank came into sight (hex 3315) I opened fire. One tank missed but one hit, and caused a Brew Up!

From the German standpoint, this scenario is as much a race against time as it is a fight against the Russians, and now the German force was caught in a traffic jam. The brewed-up tank negated the road in its hex, so everybody else had to get off the road and nearly everybody had to wend their way through the alleys of the village. My tanks did a little more shooting, but direct-fire smoke (a key element of German play in this scenario) made their work hard, and eventually one of them decided to give up and displace. But it decided that too late, so I lost two tanks for exchange for one, and for a major delay in the German advance.

In working their way around the congestion, some German tanks (notably including the more mobile Pz III's) got so far to their right flank that they decided to see about going up the 03xx row and advancing against the probable AT gun in 1708.

At this point I wasn't really sure of what to do, because I liked where my units were--they were forcing the Germans to keep using Short Halts to fire smoke and cover their advance (as I had done, the time before), slowing the down. And I got in a few actual shots, but these all missed.

Meanwhile, a wild scheme began to form in my mind.

When the Germans got everybody across the river and a force of the four Pz III's and few Pz IV's ready to barrel down the shorter route (past the AT gun in the heavy woods), I moved all my surviving tanks to a Rally Point where the trail meets the paved road. I did this as late as possible, given that I didn't want to be under fire while I did so.

Next turn, I picked up the Hidden marker from the AT gun in the 04xx hex, combined it with my other two Hidden markers (the one from the Heavy Woods AT gun, which had exposed itself for some fruitless Overwatch fire, and the one that had covered the two Hero Of The Soviet Union tanks that had been in the forward position and had brewed up the lead German tank to such great effect, at the cost of their own selves), and put them all down on the 5 tanks stacked at the intersection.

These then dispersed, under cover of Hidden Unit markers, to the three winds. To me, the key to hidden movement is imbalance: the Germans were going to have to consider all three markers to be equal threats, so to make that as wrong as possible I allocated 1, 4, and 0 tanks to the three markers. The one tank headed up to the tree-lined 1304-1505 corridor, the four tanks peeked round the corner of the A14 hill (hex 3109) and the zero-tank marker advanced, with a boldness known only to dummy markers, up the middle of the board and toward the Heavy Woods hex that held my AT gun.

The right thing for the Germans to do in this case was a simultaneous charge on all sectors, and they did just that. Their losses were light, but--again--one of them had a disproportioanate effect. It was in hex 1618, I believe, that my stack of four tanks hd to use all four shots to destroy one enemy tank--but it was another brew-up on a constricted roadway! So the users of the scenic route had to detour even more, long after their interest in the scenery had declined to zero and all they wanted to do was to get off the board.

Recall that when I was the Germans, I had lost three Pz III's trying to defeat the Russian AT gun in that Heavy Woods position. This time the Germans lost "only" two. A third got damaged, and then the Germans remembered their own doctrine and decided to bypass the strongpoint. Meanwhile, my singleton tank had emerged from the tree-lined promenade and gotten into a blocking position of its own, in the Light Woods hex 1704, LOS to which was blocked by other woods. Positions like that (i.e., around corners) are hard to defeat in this game, because at some point somebody has to move into close range and receive fire before he can give it. The Germans lost a tank doing just that and then sent two more, one to the position in which the first one had been killed and the other to attack the T-34 from the rear. (A ribald comment was made. Note use of passive voice.) The forward tank missed (as I recall) but the one with the rear shot connected and the target was destroyed. And then the AT gun in the Heavy Woods hex got the last word: it had slewed around and it took a rear shot of its own, destroying the target. Live by the rear shot, die by the rear shot.

After one more turn we did some arithmetic and concluded that the Germans just barely could not win. Although they had nearly wiped my force out, their surviving tanks did not have enough time to get off the board (two of them were slowed by damage), and the trucks would have to take a highly direct route that would expose them to fire from one or both AT guns.

So, technically, I won. BUT:

--We used the Pz IVH Errata Card, according to which the tank has less armor than on the original card, so the Pz IVH's were more vulnerable than they had been when they were mine last time. Moreover, the scenario's point values are obviously keyed to the original Pz IVH's, and perhaps an adjustment is in order when awarding points for destroying the Errata version.

--We gave the Russians the two extra tanks that they are supposed to get if the Morale rules are used, but we didn't use the Morale rules. This was done intentionally because the group's experience with the scenario (including the time when I played the Germans, and now again) is that it is very close even so, suggesting that if the Russians didn't get the two tanks (or if they did, but there was Morale), they would lose for sure

It was a great game, and against is a terrific opponent, not only in his skill with the game but also in his knowledge of the rules. We had to look a few things up, but he always knew right where to look, so the game moved along smartly. We started at 0900 and ended at 1600; with an hour in there for lunch, the scenario took six hours to set up and play.


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Brian McCue
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The beneficial effects of brewing up those tanks (blocked road, suppression of other units in the hex (and maybe an additional morale effect, had we been using the morale rules), and LOF blocked by smoke) make me wonder (again) if one can shoot at a KO'd enemy tank just to try to brew it up.

I've read Western Front accounts that said German doctrine was to keep shooting at the wreck until it caught fire, though that was to keep it from being salvageable, not for any of the reasons above.
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