We cooled off a very warm September evening with some further adventures on the Eastern Front.
The game was a dawn variant of the airborne scenario I have run a couple of times previously
(Battlefront Quad AA, PP Russians with a minitanks cannon, converted toy shop plane)
Background: research shows that the Red Army’s main use of parachute troops in airborne operations was as a way of achieving deeper penetration during the Winter months, when other offensives were severely limited by weather. The insertions were often planned to be met by ground troops and Partisans, and it does seem that the dropping could be haphazard.
Here, as part of a wider operation, the paras attempt to link with a detachment of Ski Troops who are engaging a supply dump in the forest.
The Ski Troops come on at the bottom, the paras dropping within the ringed DZ.
The three objectives they were given are marked with red stars.
The Germans opted to defend a compact perimeter (ringed in black) and let the Russians come on to them – presumably planning to deny the other objectives by counterattacks. They had two scary Quad 20 AA guns dug in defending the dump.
The Russians chose to drop at dawn, giving one turn of reduced visibility, hoping this would mean the paras wouldn’t be cut to shreds, ‘Arnhem-style’, as they drifted down (which had been their fate, last time, when the dropped too near the objective). On turn one, visibility was limited to one square.
TERRAIN FOR THE GAME
I’m still working on terrain ideas … for this game I tried laying the snow tiles out on a blue cloth (which saves them rocking and sliding) with a river edge cut back so the blue shows. Then the river is cluttered up with chopped shards of laminated paper to suggest broken ice. I’ve pinched the idea from something I saw on the Perfect Captain‘s site (I think). Anyway, we all thought it worked quite well.
Winter Warfare: Ski Troops approach an icy river …
(QRF Aerosans, converted PP Skiers)
I also played about with sculpting a hill that I could drop some 6″ area tiles into (so it would be part terrain piece, part tiling system). So far so good. Hills are rarely seen on PBI boards although they are covered in the rules. You need to shape them and place them so how they block line of sight is intuitive and feels right.
Tile/hill: on the desk and on the table)
BACK TO THE GAME
The game started in partial darkness and the TB-3s came in …
Dropping parachute infantry in the first wave …
… and a T-60 tank by glider in the second wave …
The paras hit the drop zone bang on, and – for the first time, ever – the tank safely crash-landed without any dramas (they appear to be getting the hang of it).
Due to the limited visibility, the paras took no incoming fire during the descent and took few casualties hitting the ground (three of the 4 squares had minor issues – which gives them a ‘pin’ result) but one soldier was fatally injured … which was inconvenient as it was the Platoon Commander.
The attempt to bump up a successor failed (which is annoying), and I overruled a subsequent failure which was excessive (Russian rolls: 1 saving on the drop; 2 on the attempt to replace; 2 on the next attempt to replace).
There were a couple of sections of leaderless infantry in the woods, and the Russian players now attempted to replace their Platoon Commander – but failed (and again, I overruled a second failure – Russian rolls for this platoon 2; second attempt 1)
(German AA gun position comes under mortar attack)
Meanwhile the Ski Troops moved up using their first turn movement advantage to attempt to jump the German perimeter.
Unfortunately, the Aerosans, which could have helped give cover, had whizzed off towards the river, and the Germans proved to be surprisingly alert. They got off some accurate Opportunity Fire and the Russians failed their saving rolls.
Day had broken, and under normal visibility the Germans were getting worn down, but although his comrades were still sorting out leadership issues, one of the Aerosan commanders decided to try out the enemy defences (and test the ‘armour’ of his sled).
Rather than use the rail embankment as partial cover, he decided to whizz along it, going for the bridge and attempting to shoot up the enemy command post. That meant going at close range and fully exposed, into the fire of a Quad 20mm AA autocannon (and, contemptuously – bravely or foolishly – he did not even shoot at it in self defence …) …
Aerosan vs multiple autocannon at point blank
The hamster-bedding probably fails adequately to capture what really happened to the aerosan.
This phase of the battle was stalemated … the Russians were in a mess but had two of the objectives … the Germans were taking losses but still firmly in control of their main position. Both sides were looking to reinforcements for some extra impetus.
To be continued …
Replacing Commanders … we will change this to a ‘dice again’ alternative if you fail (so the platoon will upgrade, but the new leader might not be where the player would like). I also think I will use the same process for saves on the parachute landing so the PC is never lost – I am convinced by the various arguments that airborne troops were expressly trained to cope with this, given the variables of their particular mode of warfare.
Darkness: the simplistic dawn mechanism gave one square of visiblity … this was a great help to the paras, but the ground troops quickly discovered that it meant holding back for a turn or coming into the (PBI) Op Fire zone in order to see sufficiently to be able to lay down their own fire. In the game they were unlucky with the dice that followed. I’m not sure I am unhappy with this but will give it some thought.
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