Report 3 of HG Assault Gun Battery on the frontline is coming up. This time, I played Finnish Pioneer company in Fighting Withdrawal.
When I checked out my opponent's list, I already knew it was going to be a tough game. But when I saw the table on which we were supposed to play, I figured it would be next to impossible to beat them. But nevertheless, I did not travel 200+ kms to give up a game before it even began! :)
During deployment, my opponent selected the table edge, where there was most concealing terrain, leaving me in a spot where I would have to cross almost completely open ground to be able to threaten his pioneers with direct confrontation. He placed his objective in the center of the table and I did the reverse, spreading out his forces as much as I possibly could so that I would not have to fight all of them at the same time.
Before the game even started, I was concentrated in an area on the left flank, in which there were only 2 houses to hide behind and a field of crops that I would have to leave anyway. Also, the pioneers somehow managed to install lines of barbed wire in front of my tanks to stop my armored cars from roaming around freely.
I started the game by inching my way forward through some slow going terrain and stopping in front of the barbed wire. Knowing that the odds are stacked against me, I did a gamey trick, bogging Hans Sandrock in one of the houses and jumping over to one of the StuHs to be able to take on his gunline. This made it possible for me to draw first blood by taking out a 122mm howitzer.
The Finnish Pioneers did not have to do much to be able to counter my moves. With my tanks in open terrain, all they had to do is to coordinate all their artillery on my current position. The result was a couple of destroyed assault guns, as well as a smashed PakPuma leader and a bail on the 234/4. Fortunately, with the HG re-roll, my recon managed to pass the morale check.
Over the couple of next turns I was desperately trying to go as fast as possible forward, shoot his guns (including a Pak40 platoon with the Finnish hero) and get into assault range with as many tanks as possible. I was more or less successful with the plan, as I managed to kill the Pak40 guns and set up a charge into the Finnish positions. I swinged with 4 tanks.... and only killed one pioneer stand. The countercharge was devastating as he got 5 more guys into the fray, hit with all of them and I failed 3 saves. With only one tank remaining, my troops decided to find another approach to take out this position :)
Time was running out and I made pretty much zero damage to the dug in opponent. But I did not intend to give up so easily and switched my main effort to the central objective where he concentrated his StuGs and heavy artillery. At the start of the game, it was also a place where he deployed another platoon of pioneers but with the Strategic Withdrawal rule in effect, they were already gone. By that time, I only had 2 StuGs and a PakPuma patrol available so had to figure something out really quick. I set up my last push with the Pak40 targetting one of the enemy assault guns and my tanks ready to assault into 3 teams of pioneers to use the 'tanks do not stop for anything' rule, if possible. The plan worked out fairly well, as I managed to destroy one enemy tank and my depleted assaulting unit killed one of the pioneers. The counterattack bailed a StuG but I passed my morale check and with the 12" move, got behind his artillery unit. With HG troops fighting to the last man, the Finnish commander tried to take out both units at a time but failed to do significant damage, as only the PakPuma died a burning death. My single remaining StuG shot the enemy tanks at moving RoF (with no effect :( ) and then charged into the Finnish artillery unit, killed one of the guns and made the rest flee. But the flight was not fast enough and the brave assault gun crew captured two more heavy artillery pieces. At the same time, the only surviving recon leader tried to inflict side shots on the enemy tanks but also failed miserably. This turned out to be the last turn for the HG soldiers as they were wiped out to the last man in the next shooting phase :(
Unfortunately pics are missing for this phase of the game, but this one pretty much sums it up:
Still, I felt I did have a tiny bit of a chance to pull it off right until the very last moment. When we summed up the battle, we agreed that if it was not for the combination of the scenario/terrain, the results could have been completely different.
1-1-1 for the HG Assault Gun Battery.