This was the third in a little run of games, and pulled a number of threads together.
I had thought some more about the use of air assault in winter (TMP discussion), and it makes sense for a number of reasons…
Air assault offers deep penetration. Deep penetration would be the standard Soviet offensive intention, and it may be that only airborne operations do offer this option during a Russian winter – put another way … there are safer/better ways of doing it when the roads are in good condition, so the resources don’t go to the parachute units (who are then used as infantry).
Despite my toying with Antonov’s flying tank, the standard way of delivering heavier equipment (before airstrips were secured) was to ‘free’ drop the kit from a low slow overflight.
Now, the TB-3 for example was able to fly very slow, and the tactic undoubtedly worked … but there may be advantages in dropping light tanks this way into fields of snow rather than a hard summer landscape (the equipment missions are probably the airborne drops ‘without parachute’ into deep snow of red Army legend …) …
It might also be worth looking at the operational availability of a plane like the TB-3 which had made Arctic exploration missions … I’m tempted to wonder if it was able to operate at times of year that notoriously kept the Luftwaffe grounded. Certainly, the very possibility that German fighters might be frozen up would make such a mission more attractive if the transports were less affected.
Generally, although we make next to nothing of it in our wargames, the Russians do comment at times of their preference for fighting ‘winter Germans’ as opposed to ‘summer Germans’ – another reason for mounting such missions as were viable during the winter months rather than just sitting out the cold.
The PBI Game
(the Germans were clustered around the airfield, which was the Soviet objective; the ski troops would arrive from this end; the airborne fly in from the left, and the Partizans were hiding around the church)
So, with players voting for another go at the parachute insertion variant, I thought it about time I combined the winter warfare game with the parachute drop. The game and the forces would be quite similar – just the board would be white not green (so I swapped the undamaged terminal for some Warbases ruins, and swapped an off table Russian platoon for some Partisans).
The winter parachute assault game … Forces …
(as usual figures are mostly Peter Pig, vehicles PP, Battlefront, QRF, Quality Castings and Skytrex/CD)
The Germans had a platoon of Gebirgsjaeger, some dug-in guns, a StuG and the Company Command holding the airfield. 2 snipers were available in the usual way, plus a motorised platoon and a detachment of armoured cars were available as reinforcements. This was very much a repeat of previous games, and having learned better ways to deploy them, this force was easily enough to hold the position (if running it again, I would probably remove one of the guns and the StuG and maybe a mortar …)
(the TB-3 delivery system … this time showing the technique of carrying the light tank attached to the underbelly …)
The tanks would enter the table by the road, the ski troops and aerosans in the adjacent fields. The partisans were deployable in the vicinity of the church (the blue truck was a marker for them, not just a scenic piece) … and the parachute assault platoon would drop as previously (the drop included a 45mm gun and a T-60 tank, both of which, like the aerosans, were independently motivating as normal although they deployed with their notional ‘unit’) …
Linking up with Partisans is, of course, a common theme in Soviet deep operation plans at this stage of the war.
Special rules …
Parachute drop: we used the same system as last time (here) including crash landing the light tank. All German squares count as pinned at the start of their turn to represent their being ‘stood down’.
Snow: Ski Troops and aerosans get 2 free APs of movement in addition to their diced APs on the turn they enter the table. Wheeled vehicles pay double APs off road for open and partial squares, aerosans can’t use road movement benefits but otherwise move as unpenalised vehicles. In combat they are Gun:LMG/Armour:4 …
Partisans: the Partisans were diced for as normal, and (as usual with reinforcements) could enter when the Russian player chose but from the secret position … if the enemy entered or shot at the square before such deployment, the Russian player would have to chose whether to vacate the square (deploying whatever was ‘ready’ immediately in adjacent squares) or whether to try to hold the position (in which case the Germans entering the square would have to make an impromptu assault – it would cost no APs, and would effectively be a sort of random ambush) …
What actually happened …
The game started badly for the Russians and didn’t get much better.
Despite the best efforts of the umpire, the Russian commander insisted, this time, in dropping right on top of the objective. Unlike previous games, the Germans were well positioned from a command perspective and rolled well enough to overcome the effects of being pinned at the start of the turn. MG42s were quickly hosing into the air in a scene reminiscent of Market Garden …
As the parachutists drifted to earth, those that were not killed in the air were lost on landing or to opportunity fire. Or such was the fate of those on the airfield.
(the airdrop sequentially … red markers being hits during the drop … to which landing and op fire was added before saving rolls made … in pic 2 the combat stands or casualties are placed … and during the turn, the tank crashes in, and the platoon remnants gather in the trees)
Half the platoon was lost (including everyone who came down on the airstrip). The platoon commander spent all his motivations getting the survivors into cover and managing casualties.
The ski troops swept onto the battlefield with their usual rapid advance, but were only able to secure a perimeter around the airfield … there wasn’t really an assault to support at this stage.
(a couple of QRF aerosans provided mobile fire support for the ski troops)
The T-60 had already been lost in an attempt to rush beyond the StuG’s position (and gain a position from which to support any attempt to rush the open field of fire around the objective) … And things were getting desperate in a firefight that was going the way of the Germans – and which was pinning the Russians to the cover line.
With no assault in prospect at the other end of the position, the only real prospect was for the Partisans to emerge and hope they would find the Germans less determined at their part of the perimeter …
(Partisans enter the fight … a mix of PP WWII and SCW types)
… however, when a player is having a bad day, very little will go right … The dice attempts were poor and by the time enough APs were available to make the rush for the buildings, the German MG42s were ready, and the close assault proved disastrous …
(nobody could doubt the bravery of the Partisans … none returned from this final attempt on the airfield buildings)
To cap it off, in the attempt to extricate the aerosans, the Russian player had to concede an opportunity shot to the StuG … one shot, which was all that was needed (the StuG needs a 5 or 6 to op fire, and an 8 on 2 D6 to hit, but when the game is going your way those shots come off all the time – the consequences of a 75mm hitting an aerosan are pretty much inevitable).
Meanwhile, in the firefights, the ski troops had lost sufficient men to require a break test, the airdropped platoon had lost their commander (then the replacement roll had failed) and the Partisan leader had died in the airfield assault … At the start of the next Russian turn the ski troops broke, leaving the player just with some light armour and some leaderless fragments. The battle was over.
So a game which yielded almost nothing for the Russian player. In retrospect, I think that is probably about right … assault by parachute was a very risky mission with the potential to go horribly wrong. In the first couple of tests, it went better for the attackers than I would have expected (although they failed to follow up aggressively on a successful insertion, so nevertheless did not achieve the mission).
This time, with the Germans fully aware as to what was going to happen (no way could I rewrap this again), the Russians went for an even more risky plan (right on the objective) which pretty much relied on the Germans not reacting (possible, given that they were pinned, but not actually likely), and, indeed, ignored the umpire’s offer of a pause for a rethink.
So I think in this game we tested what could happen if you try a parachute assault without taking full account of what the enemy might do.
In terms of player response, the tests seem to have been successful … allowing some variations on the standard PBI game, and allowing us to use some of the other kit characteristic of battle on the eastern front, but less regularly wargamed (ski troops, parachute drops, aerosans, partisan attacks etc.) …
Chris K has promised an Eastern Front NQM game, soon, however – so I suspect I should be painting trucks by now …