There are a few things we still need to develop and establish to make the operational games flow more effectively (like the C in C role and order changes), and one of these is an after action report. Jon has recently tidied up the blog and commented that there is a lack of AAR's which is a pity, as the blog is a very effective memory jogger (and trip down memory lane) for some of our best games.
In future, I will ask all participants to blog or send me (or whoever is the umpire) their particular point of view of the action. I will then use this as a basis for a write up coupled with any pictures that have been taken. Hopefully, this shouldn't be a big job for every one to contribute (or ensure their glorious moments are commemorated!).
So, based on my memory, notes and Russ and Phil's contribution this is how I think our last game played.
German initial plans and dispositions.
The Germans fielded a full panzer division plus a panzer regiment and recon battalion from a second division. Mark was the weaker thrust and was expected to occupy 1A and 1B whilst actively using what little recon he had to search out any Russian forces on 2A and 2B. He was to use artillery to pound any spotted Soviet units and generally look aggressive on these tables pinning any Russian units that could be moved to delay the main German attack along C and D tables.
Jon was given the larger force to drive down A and B and see whether by the end of the day he could take 3B. The Germans expected big problems with the Soviet armoured train in this sector and Jon was under no illusions that the town in 1C could become a dangerous obstacle to any advance. More artillery was assigned to this sector with the expectation that FOOs would spot and drive off this threat. In addition, a recon battalion was kept as a fighting battalion in the hope that a flank attack could be opened from 3C onto 2C and then onto the airfield on 3A. This would give the possibility of unlocking Mark's forces for a major push across the river.
With the recon now a major part of the German plan to unlock the Soviet defences a further addition was made to the order of battle with an extra paratroop battalion. This was scheduled to land on the airfield at 3.00pm when it was expected that Russian forces would be stretched and reserves committed enabling a German surprise attack to seal a Soviet collapse. The recon battalion sent by Jon would give Marks paras some support, cut off any Russian defences along the river line and win the game by 5.00pm.
A Karl Mortar was the only off table artillery employed by the Germans and only one of its three shots was pre-planned to hit the airfield on go one.
Russian initial plans and dispositions.
The Soviet forces are very cheap compared to the German points values and with 1200 points to play with the Russians deployed a weak infantry division of two infantry regiments but with most of their supporting elements. A workers militia battalion defended the bridge and a collective farm militia unit defended the town on 1C. The airfield was defended by a fanatic NKVD unit and an independent armoured brigade and a cavalry regiment constituted the only mobile units deployed by the Russians. In addition, the armoured train with armoured recon was the lynch pin of the defence on 1C, 2C and 3B. All deployed Soviet forces could begin the game dug in.
Frank was determined to hold his mobile units in reserve for a possible counter stroke during the game. The remaining forces were fairly evenly split between Phil and Russ with Russ getting the majority of field defences for use on the open 2D table. The greatest fear for the Russians was the potential loss of the train to air attack which they believed would lead to the speedy collapse of their defences across the C and D tables. Therefore they put most of their AA defences into 3B with instructions that Russ always moved the train onto 3B during air attacks.
The game commenced with the Russian players hidden and determined to see where the main German attack would develop and the Germans cautiously advancing and trying to determine where the main Russian defences were deployed. Mark quickly occupied 1A and 1B whilst Jon deployed wearily onto 1C fully expecting a stubborn Soviet defence of the town on 1D; he wasn't disappointed! Jon also occupied 1D with the intention of outflanking the towns defences. Jon would not advance further before the town was taken.
The Karl mortar effectively knocked out the airfield on go one but the Russians had foreseen an attack and had deployed an engineer battalion with the airfield to repair any damage. The turns were rapidly being played and the shell holes were fixed well before the half hour air attack. Frank made the most of this opportunity with a cheeky strike against the German off table airfields; the Germans were lucky to lose only one squadron. Ozy made note and made sure the opportunity never materialised again!
Meanwhile, I wondered how the Germans were to look aggressive on A and B without launching some kind of attack; so did Mark and with a total disregard for the original plan (which he had insisted on!) the Germans pushed onto 2A and 2B.
Phil had deployed a battalion on the German side of the river on 2B in order to make the most of the forested terrain. This could be used as a bridge head for any future counter attack but was initially meant to prevent the Germans from establishing a jumping off post for a bridge head of their own. Phil rolled veteran for these heroes, and dug in with abbatis they proved a tough position to take (I'm sure Mark and Phil remembered that this unit would be out of supply and therefore fires on a -1?).
The air attack on the first hour set the plan for most of the game. Frank launched a devastating medium bomber attack on Marks forces which routed a battalion whilst Ozy launched a strike against the airfield and left a recon flight overhead 3A to spot any up coming reserves which Frank may have sent Phil. Frank never risked using the on table airfield again. However, Frank's hourly air attacks were a serious worry for Mark and they effectively debilitated the German attack on 1A and 1B which after taking the first Soviet defences on 2B lacked any further strength to exploit further advances. A bridge was built but the engineers building a second crossing were annihilated in air attacks and Mark was forced to hold the ground he had won.
Meanwhile, Russ put up a dogged resistance on 1C and Jon was careful to organise properly coordinated attacks in which to overwhelm the Soviet defenders. Ozy and Jon worked well together in ensuring that orders and artillery were used to their maximum. By lunch time the Germans were pushing onto 2C and 2D. The armoured train had struggled to support 1C with its Katyushas as poor Russian communications hampered the defence. Ozy deployed the recon aircraft in advance of Jon's push onto 2D and an aggressive search of the table revealed the location and strength of Russ' forces. However, the dug in defenders had KVIIs in support and Jon's casualties mounted.
The train was far more effective on 2C firing over open sights. Again, Russ' defence of this table was stubborn. Unknown to the Russian players, Jon's attempt to push the recon battalion through 2D and onto 2C was defeated as this unit was impaled by an effective Soviet anti tank defence. The loss of the recon battalion doomed Mark to play a passive role on 2A and 2B and meant the paras would have to rely on their own resources to take and hold the airfield.
Through out the afternoon, Frank seriously contemplated what to do with his reserve. Russ was adamant that he was holding on but his losses were mounting. Phil was keen to launch a counter attack against Mark by building a bridge on 2A and launching the armour against Mark's weak flank and then cutting off Jon's line of supply. This is the big "what if" of the game. It would have meant denuding the airfield defences of the engineers in order to build the bridge and they had suffered some losses from Ozy's air attacks. Also, it would have meant a very elaborate order to ensure the tanks did not require any further order rolls - Frank only succeeded in changing one Russian order all day! Also, it would have relied on this single unsupported unit surviving several engagements before achieving its ultimate goal of taking 1D! And yet there was no German defence on 2A or 1A and Mark had only a single unit in reserve to hold his whole front. As I say, this is a big "what if".
However, Frank decided to await the 3.00pm air attack before launching the tanks on a more direct attack against 2B and across the bridge which Mark had obligingly built. He was relieved that he had waited as the German para drop took the Russians by complete surprise. The tanks chewed up the Paras who ran for a nearby wood in order to survive. The tanks took some casualties before resuming the advance towards the river. The para's launched another attack against the airfield but were surprised themselves by a second counter attack from Russian cavalry, Frank's last reserve. These routed the remaining paras, who never really stood a chance without the recon support. The Germans hadn't expected the Russians to still have reserves by this time in the game and it goes to prove two of Napaoleon's maxims - he who has the last reserves wins, and God favours the big battalions!
Jon's attack grinded on and Russ' losses mounted. Russ was determined to hold onto 2C and 2D to the bitter end and the Germans were desperate to secure the points on these tables in order to salvage a win before Mark's forces collapsed. As the game entered its last hour, only the train was denying the fall of 2C. Surrounded by anti tank detachments and walloped by the Karl Mortar, German infantry with satchel charges attacked through the woods to finally destroy it. At last, Jon's forces were free to advance against 3B but Russ still had a militia unit and a motorised infantry battalion dug in and waiting.
Meanwhile, Mark's forces were collapsing. Ozy had committed Mark's last reserve to counter the Soviet tank thrust but in the last minutes of the game, this had lost its last armour and nothing stood in the way of the Russian counter attack which denied the Germans from holding the points on 2C.
At this point the game was over - it seemed as if the Russians had secured a last minute draw. But a count of the points showed that 2C was not secured by either side and that the final tally was 9 - 8 in the Germans favour - technically a draw for the Germans but a marginal loss for the Russians! It couldn't have been closer and I am sure that both sides could play this again and get a very different result.