GUEST POST BY ANATOLI FROM ANATOLI'S GAMEROOM
September 3rd, 1939. German forces are pouring in over the Polish border while the Polish border defenses are crumbling fast. The German 4th Panzerdivision is part of the German army group South heading towards Warsaw. Having recently fought against the Polish Volhynian cavalry brigade near Mokra these troops have already had their first taste of battle. While the Polish forces withdrew to their next defense line the 4th Panzer prepared its next move, supporting the army group South in its breakthrough attempt in order to clear the last obstacle between the Germans and the Polish capital.
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German light panzer division vs Polish infantry battalion: 1500points
(Forces included a few options that could be counted as “illegal” , such as the Germans including more infantry and the Polish including the “wz.34 armored cars”. Nothing that tipped the balance.)
Germans were attacking and had 1st turn.
Randomizing the effects of the “previous battle” resulted in the Polish having won, but the Germans had not suffered enough losses to their Panzer force to make either side suffer from negative penalties and forcing troops into reserve. Both armies started out fully deployed on the table.
Polish battle plan.
Since the Germans had 1 platoon of Panzer II’s, and 1 platoon of 38t tanks, led by 2 38t tanks I was facing a few more tanks than I had up to this point. In my army I had 2 AT gun platoons and 1 light artillery platoon supported by some crappy FT-17 tanks of which only 3 had AT guns. However I hoped that those units would be more than enough to shoot the enemy tanks to pieces or at least wear them down before they started roaming around in my deployment zone.
As always, 3 huge infantry platoons in my army caused some deployment issues. I decided to deploy 1 platoon on each flank, and held a 3rd platoon in the center as a reserve platoon which would support either flank when needed.
I knew that if those AT gun platoons failed my entire force would be destroyed. I did not put any hopes with my FT-17 tank platoon, and my AT rifle teams generally have the accuracy of a Star Wars storm trooper.
As the battle started the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Polish force stretching across the entire front looked pretty impressive. Against this, a tightly packed German panzer fist was moving fast along the left flank. In the back two schützen platoons were driving along the road in their transport trucks. German mortar teams provided valuable smokescreens shielding the approach of the softskin vehicles. German tanks made contact on the left flank, opening fire at the Polish positions near the farm. Polish HMG teams took the blunt of the attack but managed to survive despite not being dug in, a situation shared by the rest of the Polish force.
The German approach had been swift and left most tanks in positions shielded from the Polish AT gun platoons. Nevertheless the Polish anti tank response managed to knock out two 38t tanks which burst into flames. The Polish infantry withdrew from the tanks into safer positions, some infantry moving into the farmhouses for cover. The anti tank rifle team from 3rd platoon jumped into one of the barns and sniped an approaching Panzer II causing the German crew to panic and bail out.
German mortars shifting their duty from defensive smoke screen to high explosive shells started bombarding the treeline where the Polish were massing troops, inflicting casualties to the HMG teams and pinning the Polish line allowing friendly infantry to take up position in the sparse cover near the road on the right flank. By this point the armored spearhead reaches the Polish troops and smashes into them, destroying what was left of the HMG platoon. This results in more AT fire from the Polish positions, fired wildly and largely missing the enemy tanks as they move around between the dodging Polish infantry platoons. Only one enemy tank is made to bail out while the remainder push on. In their eagerness to overrun the Polish line two Panzer II bog down as they try to cross a hedge making the Pz II unit lose momentum.
Leading the charge the 38t platoon fires at the Polish AT gun platoon in the nearby forest but fails to pin them down. However the German fire knocks out 2 gun teams, and the defensive fire from the Polish last gun only manages to destroy 1 38t tank before German armor overruns the position and grinds the defenders beneath their tracks. This made things a bit difficult for the Poles as the remaining AT gun platoons were positioned awkwardly to get a good shot at the German tanks now.
Meanwhile the Polish right flank was held static, utilizing their cover and awaiting the FT-17 tanks to arrive from the back to knock out the German command tank and soften up the German infantry positions. Progress is slow, and while the old tanks come under fire they reach their fire support destination but fail to hit the enemy command tank or to damage it with the occasional stray projectile. The German armor turn around and starts their right turn maneuver sweeping the Polish infantry to the sides as these duck out from German tracks and out of friendly AT gun lines of fire. The Polish AT guns simply score too few hits to halt the German advance , and while the German tank platoons leave a trail of burning wrecks in their wake they push the Polish forces in front of them destroying the stragglers.
Once the Polish forces near the left flank farm finally position themselves to counterattack the infantry fails to summon up the guts to do so, meanwhile German mortar teams time their barrage well and destroy 1 entire AT platoon and 1 75mm gun in one blow. German panzers race ahead and mop up the infantry standing in their way. Despite suffering more wrecked tanks the German platoon commanders keep their morale up and disregard the losses. Having made a fantastic outflanking maneuver the German tanks reach the 75mm artillery position which is the last bastion of AT firepower shielding the Polish rear.
Further up the right flank the Polish infantry had waited long enough. With the support of the Ft-17 tanks, one single HMG team and their rifles they storm towards the German Schützen and pin down the enemy before clashing into them and destroying the entire platoon in close combat. Polish wz.34 armored cars follow suit and attack the second German schützen platoon , taking a direct hit from the enemy light mortar which blows up one of the cars before the remaining two crash into the Germans and make them flee. The Germans soon retaliate with their own AT gun platoon, bailing the surviving cars, and then making the crew flee from subsequent salvos.
Meaning to support the German mortar platoon which had become threatened by the Polish infantry charge the German force commander tries to intervene but his 38t tank hits a tree and gets stuck. The German mortar platoon takes its chances and charges out of their cover in a counterattack against the Poles. A brief firefight between both units result in a couple of casualties before the Germans crash into the Poles who become destroyed in a furious close combat that follows.
At the back the Pz II platoon is reduced to 1 single tank, which decides to leave the battlefield out of free will. The 38t survive against all odds the badly timed 75mm artillery fire and finish off the last of the Polish AT guns on the battlefield. The remainder of the Polish force, the little that is left, break and flee the battlefield.
The road to Warsaw is open, 5 days from now the 4th Panzerdivision will reach the Warsaw suburbs.
My thoughts after the battle
It is funny how the outcome of the battles from my “September campaign” played by me and my buddy Widgren have been historical so far. As such I cannot complain. This was a hard fight for both armies. Widgren had less tanks than a real light panzer division would usually have around which made the objective of punching through my line with 50% of his force impossible. He simply had to put his faith in the tanks and their ability to outflank me.
In that regard the Germans succeeded. But the die rolls for the Polish AT guns in this battle was downright ridiculous. Especially for the 75mm artillery platoon which imo is worthless compared to the cheap AT gun platoons the Polish have. 2 artillery barrages completely missed their target, and only 1 hit out of some 10 shots in direct fire was scored from the 75mm guns.
I don’t like these guns for three reasons, one being the size of the guns themselves which make it hard to position them efficiently and make good use of terrain. They are also worthless in indirect fire due to their low firepower in that mode. But primarily it is the price. 4 guns are almost as expensive as 3 light AT gun platoons which are more scary as they can be deployed in ambush and have higher RoF per gun.
This is also connected to another artillery problem for the Poles, as they have to field a light artillery platoon in order to field a heavy artillery platoon. So you pretty much end up paying 500points for 3 good artillery guns that you want to have around. It is hard to complain about this because without that restriction I can only assume everyone else, me included, would always include that heavy artillery. On the other hand, it makes for a boring army on 1500points when you only have 3 infantry platoons and 2 artillery platoons to show for your 1500points.
The Polish army is pretty hard to play for various reasons. None of the units can act efficiently on their own. No mortar platoons is a real problem.
The infantry have poor RoF and moving them around pretty much reduces their minimal lethality to nonexistent levels as their accuracy drops. And you want to move them because they perform the best in close combat. But you can’t move out of cover even when facing a single enemy schützen platoon as you are too weak to break them down yourself. With the lack of vehicle backup in the Polish lists you rely on other things that seldom work out for a good offensive push. HMG teams running up to cover your position waste precious time, AT guns are very immobile. The army is best when dug in and awaiting the enemy assault.
I do look forward to expand my army with more cavalry, dismounted cavalry and try out the Motorized Cavalry list with the Rifle/MG infantry in the near future however. There are very few options and tweaks to each Polish army organization though – especially compared to the multiple option that make German forces seem like a swiss army knife in comparison.
Anyways, I still enjoy playing this game and just wish I could play it more often. There are still a ton of scenarios in the campaign. Widgren has obtained a great number of city buildings so we hope to play the missions involving the siege of Warsaw further down the road – now that will be epic!
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