Clash of Steel AAR part 1
Previously I took some time to ‘theorycraft’ about the possible issues and strategies for both sides in the Clash of Steel scenario from Stalin’s Triumph. This is the first part of the After Action Report for the scenario which may take a few installments to fully detail. The scenario is not too long but the Soviets will be getting reinforcements on turns 2 and 3 which will slow down the progress of the report.
Prior to waves of Wehrmacht and SS troops crashing onto the map from the west, the Soviets need to deploy the 52nd Guards Infantry into Pokrovka. As I previously mentioned, I am intending to deploy out from the city itself to try to delay the German ingress into Pokrovka.
To that end I have placed the Trenches and AT Trenches to the west of the city. The trenches are in hexes 6N3, 6L5 and 6M5. There are Sappers in 6L5 and 6N3 and regular infantry in 6M5. I decided to place the Commissar in N3 to help keep the Sappers there in Good Order for as long as possible.
Note: I only placed two of the Anti-tank Trenches initially but I did correct this error before the Germans starting assaulting the city.
Two of the AT trenches are in 6K4 and 6M2 not so much as a deterrent but to suggest to the Germans to go north and south around them to try to spend more MPs before getting to the trenches and the ATGs.
The ATGs are in the Woods hexes 6L4 and 6M3 as well in the city itself in 6N6. The guns in the woods will be able to fire on any trucks or halftracks coming to the city and the gun in N6 is there to guard against vehicles trying to scoot around the woods in 6J7 and 6L8. I decided against putting it in the north part of the city (6P3 for example) as my thought is that any German vehicles going that way are going to be encountering Soviet reinforcements from the north.
And, as per the scenario SSR, all of the Soviet units will start the game concealed.
I have a cunning plan
Well its not cunning so much as retrograde. The intent with the 52nd Guards Infantry is to slowly cede hexes and try to whittle down the Germans as they advance into Pokrovka. If an opportunity presents itself to counter-attack a Disrupted German stack then they will but otherwise the idea is to try to maintain their strength and hold out as long as possible. Nothing glorious just a terrible grind of troops.
The crowd hushes with anticipation as the first card is drawn from the Activation deck. The German 18th Panzer formation gets to activate first. With no Soviet targets and no fears of Opportunity Fire they move onto map 5 and rush towards the woods in 5M3-M4.
The 52nd Guards Infantry card is drawn next and, as you can imagine, they decide to stay concealed in their trenches.
Next up is the 35th Panzergrenadiers. As I am assembling the counters I notice that the Pioneer unit doesn’t have a Mounted option. I will fix the Vassal module later but do note that the unit will appear to be on foot in any screenshots. I decide to start bringing the 35th onto the map from 6A7 to try to minimize the number of possible ATG shots the Soviets can get next turn. 6F4 and 6F7 are the first hexes that the ATG in 6L4 is able to hit with a long range shot so I will try to avoid those hexes while moving onto the map.
The next card drawn from the Activation deck is the Battlefield Event card. A 6 is rolled and the result is We need Ammo!. The next formation activated is the 25th Panzergrenadiers but the reduced AP and HE firepower will have little effect as they are not going to be in range of any Soviet units.
There is a small corridor from 6A4 to 6F5 that I will use to bring the 25th on. It will reduce any possible fire on the trucks and will also let me put the STuG IIIGs into the woods to starting firing on the Soviets.
Now if you have been paying attention you will have noticed that I have not brought out any of the End Turn cards. Yet. Sadly they are both pulled and the Das Reich card is left on the bottom of the pile meaning that they won’t activate this turn. That is a bit of a kick in the shorts for the Germans. I could have used two Fate Points to put the first End Turn card back into the deck but I still would have most likely drawn the two End Turn cards first so it seems as if it would have been a waste of Fate Points.
So a very quick turn as you would expect with only a single die roll and the only eventful moment was the lack of appearance of Das Reich. The cards for the three Soviet formations arriving on turn 2 have been added to the Activation deck (with one End Turn card left behind for Das Reich) and so it is on to the next turn.
To help welcome our Soviet friends, the first card drawn from the Activation Deck for turn 2 is the Soviet 31st Tank. The pluckyT-70As of the 31st come on anywhere from the 5K11 – 5T12 hexrow. The Pz IVs of the 18th Panzer can hit the T-70As almost as soon as they come onto the board so in order to keep them in one piece for more than one turn I will bring them onto the map at the extreme edge of their deployment zone near 5K11. Doing this allows me to keep the light tanks out of regular range of the Pz IVs.
The German’s don’t really want to waste shots on the T-70s and so they are able to deploy untroubled by incoming fire.
Next up is a Chaos card. I flip a card from the Solo Deck and get a 8 with is the Battlefield Smoke result. The result continues for the entire game and now Extended range fire will be at an additional +1 and concealed units are discovered at 3 hexes instead of 4. That last result will certainly help out the defenders in Pokrovka. It also means that the German recon unit in Das Reich will now have to move into the normal range of the Soviet ATGs to remove their concealment.
The Soviet 52nd Guards Infantry are drawn next. There are no German targets in range of any of the ATGs and so they will, once again, pass without any action. The silver lining is that there will at least be a few units able to fire during a German activation.
The Das Reich card is drawn next so the End Turn card that was kept out for them is put back into the Activation deck which is then shuffled. I split the unit into tank and infantry groups and send the Tigers and their Pz III spotters north with the HQ and the infantry and the T-43 east with the sHQ.
The tanks enter the map at 5U6. I don’t want to get them too far forward as they will be Ops Complete and so rather defenseless until next turn. I use the Pz IIILs to shield them with vehicle smoke and set the Tigers behind so they won’t be easy for any deploying Soviet tanks to target.
In terms of the Das Reich sHQ, the HQ’s command range currently extends from 5S6 to 6K3. As long as the sHQ stays in that range it will be able to keep the infantry units it controls in command. It will require a bit of careful planning to keep them organized at this range but my plan is to slowly move back and fire with the Tigers so this should be okay.
I bring on all of the sHQs units from 6A2 and keep them all out of range of the ATGs. I push the Sdkfz 222 a hex further and risk a shot from one of the Soviet ATGs. I check a Solo card and the gun will indeed not opt try to fire on the recon vehicles. With extended range and the Battlefield smoke it would have been reduced to a single die.
The next card drawn is for the T-34s of the Soviet 3rd Tank. They can come onto the map from any hex at the top of map 5. I decide that instead of trying to engage the German Tigers, the 3rd Tank will bravely try to move at speed towards Pokrovka. This might help stretch out the German tank units and also cause some problems for Das Reich as it tries to stay in command and perform two different tasks on the battlefield.
Two of the T-34s are provided with Tank Riders. These two units will move in front of the rest of the 3rd Tank and try to deflect or delay any possible German infantry attacks on the tanks. The tanks once on from 5F12 and move down the railroad towards Pokrovka.
The first End Turn card is drawn and then the German 35th Panzergrenadiers are activated. This is where things can get a bit ‘sticky’ potentially. There are two Soviet ATGs that can bear on the 35th and the SdKfz 251s will quickly be in Extended range. Starting with the SdKfz 251 in 6E7, I move it to F7 and then G8 and finally end at 6I7 behind the woods. The ATG in 6N6 doesn’t have an LOS to the unit due to the woods in 6J7. Continuing with the SdKfz 251s, I move from 6E8 to 6H9 and check for Op Fire but the Soviets don’t take the bait. Moving to 6I8 and then stopping draws out fire from the ATG in 6N6 but it fails to hit. The rest of the unit moves up and I try to make sure that I keep some of the stacks on the railroad to get the additional bonus for soft targets if the dismount.
The Germans continue to activate with the 18th Panzer coming off the top of the Activation deck. The light tanks of the Soviet 31st Tank are close by and present a possible target. The possible wrinkle in this plan is that the Soviet 6th Tank, and their much tougher T-34s, has yet to show up and I don’t want to position my Pz IVs in such a way that they provide easy targets for them.
Oddly, the Battlefield Smoke event means that a Move and Fire action and just firing at Extended range have the exact same odds. So it seems that staying further away from possible T-34 fire and firing at Extended range is the best bet. Sadly fire from the entire formation only results in a single Disrupted T-70. The Soviets were quite good at rolling 6s for their armour saves.
The next card from the Activation deck is the second End Turn card. The Soviet 6th Tank and the German 25th Panzergrenadiers are still in the deck and so I pull both End Turn cards and set them aside for next turn. As per special rule #2 the aircraft cards are put into the deck for turn 3 as is the card for the 92nd Motorcycle Guards.
So it was another quick turn with not a lot of action (primarily because of those T-70s making a lot of saves) but I suspect that the next turn will be a bit more active.
In the next part of the AAR, turn 3 of the scenario begins. Can the Germans start to attack the city before the Soviet reinforcements arrive? We’ll find out soon.