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Sunday, June 12, 2011

GUEST AAR: Polish vs Germans "Hold the line"


This is a guest AAR by "Anatoli" from the very excellent Anatoli's Game Room


Scenario : Hold the line (1500pts per side)

Forces Polish Infantry Battalion vs German mechanized infantry.

Polish units held in reserve: 1st and 2nd infantry platoon, scout platoon, Tankettes. Cavalry “Bypassed”.

Polish deployed on table, two hmg platoons  joined by the C.O and 2iC, 37mm AT and 75mm artillery platoon.

Table: Rural / forest region. Worked very well for a Polish front game. A few hills, a forest area in the middle, scattered fields and a country road leading through the middle of the table.
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Initial thoughts:
I was actually into playing the “Fighting withdrawal” scenario but we felt a bit overwhelmed by the amount of rules for that scenario – and since we are still relative noobs we had enough on our minds – so we agreed on playing “Hold the line” since it was similar but a bit simpler. The objective was for the defender to keep his deep half of the table clean from enemies in order to win at the start of turn 6 and onwards. The attacker had to smash through and either rout the defender or capture one of the two objectives. One placed by the defender, one by the attacker, in the middle area of the defending players half of the table.

Now this scenario proved a bit challenging for me as it required at least half of my army to be held in reserve. Meaning 5 out of 9 platoons were off the table. Now, looking at what I had I could chose to either dig in lots of infantry and then drag all my HMG’s and the 37mm anti tank platoon onto the table (the 75mm are immobile as I have no horse limber for them).
Thinking it through it seemed as I would not be able to deploy stuff in a favorable way, I think I picked the lesser of the two evils when I deployed all “heavy” platoons on the table and positioned them as best I could – dug in and gone to ground – to slow the enemy down with a couple of dangerous platoons rather than trying to stop the enemy advance with light infantry platoons.

I also placed my commanding officer with one HMG platoon and the 2iC with the other as these were the most forward units that would most likely end up under fire and be pinned down turn 1 and thus be in most need of a morale re-roll. I also planned to abandon the HMG teams and fall back with my commanders as soon as some infantry arrived from the rear.
The main enemy threat were the recon armored cars in the German army. Fast moving and pretty dangerous. The heavier stuff like the Panzerjägers and SiG33 guns would not really have any targets in this game as I only had tankettes and I would not risk them in a shootout with them tank destroyers.
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Turn 1 German

Germans just use the country road to move as much of their wheeled vehicles up as possible.  German armored recon cars head towards the Polish anti tank guns. Stuka bombers enter the table, after ranging in on their 3rd attempt  and drop their load on top of the HMG team led by the 2iC, killing the HMG platoon command. German Mortars fire smoke rounds against the AT platoon and having smoke spread out by the wind covering not only the AT guns but the armored cars and enough of the table to screen the tank destroyers rolling up at the flank from Polish HMG positions.

Turn 1 Polish
A pretty uneventful German 1st turn was followed by a failed bypassed roll for the Cavalry. At least the tankette platoon led by Roman Orlik arrived, entering behind the 75mm artillery platoon and working their way towards the “German” objective going at the double.
The 37mm artillery can only see the enemy recon vehicles with 1 team which only hit with 1 round but fail to damage the enemy.

Turn 2 German
Stuka bombers fail to arrive
The German army uses most of its 2nd turn to simply move forward, the recon vehicles swoosh by the anti tank positions and enter the narrow tunnel of boccage near the fields. The infantry in their trucks also move towards the weak Polish positions. Both SiG33 guns bog down as they try to enter some woods, the Panzerjägers roll up and open fire at the dug in Polish HMG platoon led by the C.O. killing 1 HMG team.

Turn 2 Polish
1st infantry platoon arrives from the rear, moving up towards the Polish objective as it starts to look like the main target of the German scout vehicles. Polish HMG platoon led by the C.O on the hill opens fire with 2 machineguns down at the Panzerjägers and bail 2 out of 3 vehicles.  Anti tank guns still suffering from a repeated smoke bombardment fail to do any damage, the HMG platoon nearby only being able to see out of the forest with one unit kills but 1 infantry team.

Turn 3 German
Stuka bombers return to the battlefield in force (3 planes). Panzerjäger crew jump back into their vehicles. The SiG33 guns free themselves from being bogged down and try to move further towards the enemy – resulting in another bog down result for one of the vehicles.
German bombers enter the area and fly towards the only logical target – the 75mm artillery platoon. They drop their bombs with precision wiping out the entire platoon save for the spotter which passes his morale check and remains on table though pinned down. Successfully reducing the Polish AT ability with their bombers the German ground forces move towards the 37mm platoon, firing small arms into the undergrowth the artillery platoon successfully avoids being hit.  The Germans then fire their light mortar which manage to hit and destroy a dug in AT team with its excellent 4+ firepower! Not wasting any time the Germans infantry follow that up with a brutal assault where the AT platoon is wiped out. High on adrenaline they see the Polish HMG platoon nearby and decide to make a second charge against that unit.

The Polish led by the valiant 2iC only had 1 HMG team which could fire defensive fire – not able to stop the assault the Germans swarm the Poles but fail to kill anyone.  Not flinching the Poles counterattack and kill 3 infantry teams including the German Commanding Officer who fails his warrior save – and leaving the German platoon in a rout back towards the lost Polish AT platoon positions. The Polish  position their HMG teams so that they have the German column within LoS for next turn.

Turn 3 Polish
Having just lost both artillery platoons the Polish were weakened but did not despair. Most of the German vehicles had only armor 0 so in desperation rifle fire would be enough. The important thing right now was to make the most of the frontline delay action of the HMG teams as the defenses crumbled – and really get more infantry up towards both objectives. My cavalry still “bypassed” would have been a welcome sight but were nowhere to be seen.
Luckily 2nd platoon arrived on turn 3.  It moved on the double towards the “German objective”. 1st platoon moved up and took position around the “Polish” objective. Tankettes armed with 20mm AT guns led by Orlik took up position in the forest, the MG armed tankettes were left where they could fire at incoming infantry to keep them away from the objective nearby. The HMG platoon led by the 2iC opened fire with 2 teams on the truck column containing a German HMG platoon destroying 2 cars and their passengers. The 3rd HMG team fired at the German infantry to the right killing 1 team.

Turn 4 German
2 Stukas strafe the Polish infantry column, dropping bombs but only manage to kill 1 team. The hilarity of the SiG33 gun managing to pass their skill check to free themselves from the bogged down result only to instantly bog down again continued….
German mortar teams fire some high explosive rounds towards the forest containing the Polish HMG platoon, being so devastating that the entire platoon was killed – leaving the 2iC alone amidst the craters and blasted treeline. Armored recon vehicles fire at the tankettes, managing to bail 1, then being shamed by the German infantry platoon which manages to inflict 1 hit that penetrates the armor AND rolls a 6 on the firepower test successfully destroying a 20mm AT armed tankette.

Armored cars attack and kill 1HMG team and the Platoon HMG command but are repelled by the Commanding Officer and the remaining HMG team.

Turn 4 Polish
Polish scout platoon arrives, cavalry does not. Polish forces maneuver around and towards their objectives trying to form a shield from the incoming German troops. The 2iC falls back towards the approaching friendly infantry, the Commanding officers does the same and links up with 1st platoon.

The tankettes led by Orlik manage to inflict the 2nd freak result during a shooting phase. Tankette not crewed by Orlik lands double 6’s to hit on German scout vehicles, while Orlik with his reroll to hit fail to hit a single one!

Turn 5 German
Germans move even closer to the Polish line. But beside the mortars destroying 1 HMG tankette nothing of note happens. No Stuka bombers enter the air space this turn.

Turn 5 Polish
Polish cavalry still fails to show up, despite rolling 5 dice for bypassed! The ideal scenario would have had them enter near the “German” objective and reinforce that flank.
What has happened now is that the German armored cars that entered the dirt road leading through the boccage have been left locked by one bailed out car at the front and one at the rear. The Polish having nothing  to lose and everything to win go balls to the walls and swarm both car platoons with parts of 1st platoon. They manage to bail and scare off the crews leaving 4 empty cars blocking the road.

Turn 6 German
Stuka airplanes return again.
Panzerjägers fire at the tankettes and manage to kill both 20mm tankettes incl Orlik, making the last tankette on the table (bailed out btw) flee the table. The Polish and German troops are too close to each other for the German planes to safely drop their load so they have to break off.

Turn 6 Polish
Badly beaten and having lost half of the platoons on table the Poles roll a company morale check – which they pass with no problem. Look and behold – the cavalry arrives. Sadly they enter near the German mortars when they are needed near the “German” objective.  Trying to muster the strength for one last counterattack the Polish 1st and 2nd platoon charge the Germans along the entire line. German infantry, HMG , Panzerjäger and SiG33 platoon are subjected to the charge. German infantry halts the Polish assault while the soldiers of 1st platoon reach the German tank destroyers. Managing to destroy 1 panzerjäger the remaining 2 panzerjägers fall back. The SiG guns survive the assault and in turn kill t heir attackers leaving the Commanding Officer without a retinue making him fall back towards the remainder of his platoon.

The Cavalry charges the mortar platoon in the fields, German commander opens defensive fire with his SMG and kills 1 cavalry team but the cavalry smashes the Germans killing 4 teams thinking it would be enough to break the enemy. The mortar team however had other plans than to surrender and counterattacked killing 1 cavalry team in close combat and the Polish cavalry failed their morale check and scattered away from t heir enemy! So much for that last minute support.

Turn 7 German
Having survived the last possible Polish push the German infantry units decimate the Polish 2nd platoon and follow up with a close combat assault where the remainder of the Polish troops along with the 2iC are killed. Germans reach the “German” objective, Polish forces are incapable of continuing the fight and what remains of their army withdraws from the table.

German victory!
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Some thoughts after the battle
I had a great time, my opponent had a great time as well – it was his first FoW victory too so congrats. We learned a few new things during this game, mainly how air support works. I think the Stuka schwerpunkt is a superb investment, the targets for the German aircrafts when facing the Polish army are limited in number. In our game there were really only a couple real targets – the 75mm artillery being one of them. Bombing infantry is pretty much a waste of time.

The loss of the 75mm artillery were not that hard a blow to my morale, the guns were pretty useless on that flank since the armored cars got stuck in between the boccage and the German tank destroyers were attacking from the opposite side. It was however a waste of 250pts – though I had no other models to fill the gap as I’m currently painting my 3rd infantry platoon and more AT guns which are cheaper and more mobile (thus superior).

Discussing the situation of the defenders after the game my opponent thought it would have been better to at least have had one infantry platoon on the table instead of one of the HMG platoons. That might be true, but I’m not really convinced. That lonely platoon would have been in for a real shitstorm when the entire German army descended upon it.  I could have stretched it out in a thin line to shield my 37mm AT guns but I think saving the infantry to come up from the rear unmolested by Stukas, Mortars and everything else thrown at the “delay action” units was slightly better.

The entire battle was a gamble for the Polish, for instance I knew that my final assault across the entire front had little chance of succeeding but that was also my only hope. Had those infantry platoons reached the enemy infantry by some miracle I’m certain I would have annihilated them and won. It was at least a bit comforting to have my Commanding Officer survive the battle, though the 2iC died. Both teams really worked their butts off leading the HMG platoons and then the infantry.

We also discussed the “AT rifle “ upgrades. At 20 points each for infantry platoons they are not worth it. In my case I’ve played 3 games and fired probably 12 AT rifle shots – I have yet to HIT a single enemy vehicle. The only reason they are in the platoon is to boost it by 1 more stand and make the platoon larger and thus more durable. It takes 8 killed teams before I start rolling platoon morale.

I learned more from losing this battle than I would have if I’d won.  For instance, the bypassed rule is a good scare tactic. But bypassed platoons only enter the table on a roll of 6. With my lack of luck the cavalry entered on turn 6 when I rolled 6 dice. Those are insane odds as I had rolled 21 dice in total and only managed to roll 1. I’m not overly convinced I would want to have a more important platoon such as a bypassed infantry platoon just trying to get onto the table this way. The cavalry has some speed to make up for it but one should pretty much look at the bypassed unit as a “bonus” if it shows up and just forget about it.

The other thing is the tankette platoon with Orlik. I like him as a character and he has a few decent rules. The main reason to include him is to always be able to set them up for an ambush – which the nature of the scenario and my army composition prevented me from doing. I will definitely give him a new chance to prove himself in next game –where I hope to drop the 75mm in favor of 3rd infantry platoon and a second 37mm AT platoon.

I also find 1500pts to be more fun to play since you really have to think on what to bring to the battle rather than including every option. It is a bit more challenging to play this limit.

With a 2 month break from school I look forward to writing my Polish September campaign and play more early war games linked to historical battles during the summer.  Really looking forward to that!

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Btw how about these modular forests made by Widgren? He also made all the hedges, boccage and hills. The plowed fields are simply a brown doormat cut into small pieces. Just like the wheat fields.


4 comments:

Dale said...

You might consider playing No Retreat next time, as it replaced Hold the Line (see this Battlefront article: http://www.flamesofwar.com/Default.aspx?tabid=111&kb_cat_id=31 . Basically the Hold the Line scenario was replaced for being too unbalanced in favor of the defender.

Good report! Look forward to seeing more.

Anatoli said...

Hi Dale,

Yeah Steven told me as much yesterday, but neither I nor my opponent found the scenario to be unbalanced. It might have been the forces we used and the way we played it though. I don't know. I actually liked it. Though as noted, nothing was held in Ambush. The few troops defending from the start I figured would be better off dug in and gone to ground than in Ambush mode.

dyslexia.tutor said...

Wow! That's a very beautiful table you have laid out there. Some of those photos look like they could have come from a film.

You've got me seriously temped to make some high quality terrain, for display games at home. So far, I've churned out lots of cheap and tough terrain, and it gets used by clubs and for events.

widgren said...

i really enjoyed the game and as a boon i managed to win! that guarantees it to be the battla ill tell my grand children about. the terrain is dead simple to do. ill have to do a few tutorials on my blog http://totte.leblog.se/ .

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