Clash of Steel strategy

Clash of Steel strategy

Some time ago I decided that I was going to write an AAR for a scenario from Nations at War but I was unsure which one to do. I polled the Nations at War gamers on the various social media sites that Lock ‘n Load Publishing is on to see which of the NaW games they wanted to see an After Action report from. The gamers collectively decided that they wanted to see a report from Stalin’s Triumph. Stalin’s Triumph is a game with large scenarios. If you have played any scenarios from Desert Heat (as I have been previously) then a scenario in Stalin’s Triumph is the exact opposite of it. Lots of units. Big tank formations. Guns with longer ranges and longer turn limits.

The monster of them all is, of course, Stal Stal Stal which is three maps, fifteen turns and, I suspect, the entire counter set of the game. It makes it difficult to choose a scenario to write an AAR for since most people wouldn’t have the patience to read a fifteen turn report. No matter how well written and illustrated.

Of the “smaller” scenarios in Stalin’s Triumph the one that appealed to me the most was Clash of Steel. It has what I most want in an Eastern Front scenario primarily lots of tanks and room for them to manoeuvre in. It also poses an interesting strategic problem for the German forces.

The objective

The Soviet 52nd Guards Infantry is set up in, and around, the city of Pokrovka and the Germans have to control every hex of the city at the end of the game or the Soviets win. This is tricky enough as the Soviet 52nd Guards Infantry are set up for a siege.

They also have three Trench counters and four Anti-tank Trench counters to help bolster their defense. There are two sets of Wood hexes in 6L4-M3 and 6R2-S1 that are within the 52nd’s deployment area that will also help give the Soviets some additional defense. The 52nd also has three ATGs, Sappers, Support Weapons and they can begin the game Concealed. The Soviets in Pokrovka will not be a pushover. Luckily the Germans have several HE barrages as well as a squadron of Stukas to help in the attack.



If that isn’t enough, the Soviets will be getting reinforcements. Three tank formations as well as a formation of motorcycle infantry will start arriving at the north of the map on turns 2 and 3. Two of the tank formations consist of T34s and the third are T70s. These will obviously want to sweep towards Pokrovka in the south and stop the Germans from taking the city.

And this is the crux of the problem for the German player. They need to commit enough forces to take Pokrovka but, at the same time, they need to be able to stop the Soviet reinforcements from relieving the city and costing the Germans the game. They also need to do it in a timely manner as the Soviet player is only required to hold onto a single city hex to scupper the German plans and win the game.

German Benefits

The Germans do have a few ‘tricks’ in their back pockets that they can use. There are two areas of Woods on Map 5 that they can use to provide additional cover for the Panzer IV units.

Sadly though they are too far away from the west edge of the map, where the Germans come on, for the Tigers to make it to them before the Soviets come on in turn 2. With a lucky card/chit draw the Germans may be able to place some of the PzIVs from the 18th Panzer there before the Soviets can attack.

The primary benefit to the Germans is the the units of Das Reich as well as all of the PzIVs will be able to use Unit Placed Smoke (7.5). The Germans can, if they want, use pairs of tank squadrons to ‘Shoot and Scoot’ with one unit firing and the other placing Smoke and then moving back into a position to fire next turn.

The Germans also don’t need to destroy the Soviet reinforcements but they do need to slow them down until Pokrovka is in Germans hands. Obviously wrecking T34 units is the best way to slow the Soviets down but so will taking out HQ units and forcing the Soviets to make Command Checks to activate.

Soviet Benefits

The Soviet 3rd and 6th Tank consist of T34s and, no disrespect to the valiant T70 crews, are the main threat that the Soviets pose from the north. Once they arrive on turn two they will almost immediately be in range of any German forces that are arrayed against them. They are fast and they have a good range for their AP fire. They also just slightly outnumber the German tank units in this scenario. They will have no cover and no smoke and starting on turn 3 the Germans will have the option of using air strikes against them.

As is usual in a scenario of this period, the Soviets outnumber the Germans and can use this to their advantage. The T70s are no tank-killers at range (nor Infantry-killers for that matter) but there is no reason why the 31st tank can’t be used to delay the German tanks while the T34s get into good firing positions. Even without using the T70s to jam up the treads of the Tigers, on turn 3 the Soviets will have an activation advantage and the 31st Tank can also be used there to spend an activation and wait for the Germans to move their tanks before the T34s commit.

Relieving Pokrovka

So while the Soviets get quite a few reinforcements, what they need to help defend or relieve Pokrovka are Infantry. Tanks are great but they are not the best tool to remove infantry from cover. The 92nd Guards Motorcycle formation comes onto the field on Turn 3 but the application of them in attacking the Germans is complicated by several factors. They can only deploy into hexes K11-T12 on Map 5 so they have a considerable distance to travel to get to Pokrovka all the while trying to negotiate their way through a running tank battle.

Soviet Motorcycle infantry

And while they are fast when mounted they are very fragile. Not only will the Germans be targeting the 92nd Guards units the Soviets are going to need to use units to defend them or take out the German tanks before they can eliminate the motorcycle troops. And even if they make it through the gauntlet of Tiger and PzIV fire, once they get to Pokrovka they will have to deal with German infantry that is tougher than them in an Assault as well as having heavier HE firepower.

Das Reich

The Das Reich formation provides a particular flexibility for the German player. The formation has an SHQ ( which means that the tanks of Das Reich can defend against T34s on Map 5 while the Armoured Infantry, Goliath and Recon unit can help attack Pokrovka.

Normally a formation in Nations at War is a small blob that is clustered within the range of the formation’s HQ. With the SHQ the infantry units in Das Reich can up to ten hexes away from the HQ (twice the range of the HQ plus the range of the SHQ) making it far easier to split the formation into two separate manoeuvre units. They still activate from the same card/chit but the Tigers can be trying to take out T34s while the armoured Infantry is assaulting Pokrovka. The Das Reich infantry have Augmented (5.1.7) Assault Firepower and HE range making them the best infantry in the scenario and a critical part of the German plans to take Pokrovka.

Defending Pokrovka

Ultimately the game hinges on the ability of the Soviet player to defend Pokrovka and stop the Germans from capturing it. The best way to do this is, I think, to stop the Germans before they even get into the city.

The Germans will be approaching from the west and it is safe to assume that aside from a STuG that all of the German tanks will be used to hold off the Soviet forces coming from the north. Even so, in order to get to Pokrovka they will need to be mounted in trucks and Sd.Kfzs which will be prime targets for the Soviet ATGs and will also be hampered by the Soviet AT Trenches.

None of the Soviet ATGs are particularly powerful (335) but the trucks and the Sd.Kfzs aren’t particularly resilient either. Placing ATGs in the Woods at 6L4 and 6M3 give them some cover and allow them the opportunity to fire as the German infantry advance. The AT Trenches have two features that the Soviets will find useful. First, they apply an additional 3 MP cost to a hex. They can only be put into Clear hexes so the total cost of that hex is 4 MP. Unless they start adjacent to the hex both the trucks and the Sd.Kfzs will be stopped by the AT Trenches. Exiting the Trench makes the unit susceptible to Opportunity Fire as well and restricts the hexes that a vehicle unit can move to.

The Soviets also have standard Trenches (page 8 of the Stalin’s Triumph module rules) and these are an excellent place to put the Sappers attached to the 52nd Guards Infantry. The Sapper have an Augmented Assault Firepower and the Trench gives them a +2 Firepower bonus. They Germans will have to try to break those units with Goliaths, artillery or Stukas as the cost of an infantry Assault would be too difficult unless the units are first Disrupted.

Wrapping it all up

This looks like it will be a great scenario to play. The Russians have a tricky defense to plan. The Germans have a very tricky assault to plan and while this is all going on there will be a titanic tank battle to the north as the Soviets try to funnel motorcycle infantry through a wall of German tanks to help keep the Pokrovka out of German hands. Each side has some unique challenges that will make their overall goal difficult.

Zac Belado
Author: Zac Belado

Zac is a wargamer from Edmonton, Alberta Canada. When not trying to figure out a new set of rules or cut the corners on counters he is busy building websites.