Clash of Steel AAR part 3
In the last installment of our AAR the Germans started to flatten Pokrovka with artillery fire and then Soviet and German ground attack aircraft took on a secondary mission of landscaping the local flora with 100Lb bombs. The Soviet IL-2 and the German Me 109 both ran out of ammunition and so the only aircraft available for this turn is the Stuka. All the Soviet reinforcements are on the map and the battle for Pokrovka is hopefully going to get very interesting this turn.
First to activate in the fourth turn is the Soviet 3rd Tank. They need to get to the city as soon as they can since there are now German armoured units there. They also need to put themselves on the other side of the woods in 5L5 – M3 to keep themselves from being fired at by the tanks of the 18th Panzer and also to be there when those tanks do come through the woods and start firing at the motorcycles. I make an effort to remember the effect of the Torrential Rain and move the 3rd Tank straight south. This keeps them out of the range of the Tigers and Pz IVs. They dodge around the motorcycles in 5F7 and through the woods.
The Stuka is drawn from the Activation Deck next. The T-34s to the north of the Tiger formation look threatening and so the Stuka is called in to attack the Soviet tanks in 5S10. The attack is on target, for a change, and generates two hits. The Good Order T-34 saves a hit and the Disrupted tank shrugs off the Stukas attack. The post-attack status roll is a 4 and so the Stuka circles the battlefield and waits to pounce next turn.
The Soviet 6th Tank is activated next which makes the Stuka’s ineffective attack more troublesome. The Disrupted tank in 5S10 fails to rally and stays Disrupted. The tanks from Das Reich are within range and there is no Smoke blocking LOS to them so it is an auspicious time to fire. A T-34 in 5Q10 fires at the Pz IIIL in 5Q7 but misses. The other tank in the hex, with the aid of the HQ, fires at the same target and totally misses. The Good Order T-34 in 5S10 fires at a Disrupted Pz IIIL and continues the formation’s habit of missing. In the woods in 5R10 one more T-34 platoon fires at the Disrupted Pz IIIL and wrecks the German tank. Finally, the last T-34 in 5R10 fires into 5Q7 and gets a single hit which the Pz IIIL can’t save which leaves it Disrupted. Maybe the unit needs to take a day off and calibrate their gun sights?
The Soviet infantry in Pokrovka are activated next. The Out of Command markers are removed and all of the units are within range of the reduced HQ so they can act this turn. There are two Disrupted units and luckily for them even though reduced the HQ has a morale of 6. Surprisingly they both manage to Rally.
The Soviet infantry in 6O6 is facing three German units so it decides to move back into the city into 6P6. The infantry in 6M5 fires at the adjacent Disrupted Germans. The LMG allows them to get a hit but the Germans manage to save. The Soviet infantry in 6O5 fires at the same Germans but isn’t able to bring any fire to bear on them. The Sappers in 6L5 don’t have any targets in range unlike the ATG in 6L4 which has a wealth of them. It decides to fire at the German APCs in 6J4 but isn’t able to hit. A disturbing pattern is starting to become apparent. None of the rest of the units in the 52nd Guards Infantry have targets and so they stay under Concealment and wait for possible Op Fire targets.
Next off the top of the Activation Deck is an End Turn card which is followed by the second End Turn card. Well that is a bit of a kick in the shorts for the Germans. Aside from the Stuka they didn’t get to activate a single formation. There are six formations that weren’t able to activate so it will be some time before the End Turn cards even enter the deck in turn 5.
So prior to beginning the turn I double-checked the rules on withholding End Turn cards. From 3.3.1:
This means that if you have two, or even three, Formations that didn’t activate, you hold the ET marker(s) until all three have activated.
So that means the card that the Germans hold will stay out of the Activation Deck until all of the German formations, other than the Stuka, activate.
To help expedite that happening, the first card from the Activation Deck is the German 35th Panzergrenadiers. The 35th has a toehold in the outskirts of Pokrovka. Several units are ready to enter the city but they have not yet disembarked and so this will require a bit of planning as there are several Soviet units that will be able to take Op Fire shots as they disembark.
Before we do anything like that though there are two units that need to rally. The infantry in the city at 6N6 fail their Rally check by one and so the Germans burn a Fate point to make them pass. The unit in 6K7 easily makes its roll and so the entire formation is ready to go. Starting with the German infantry in 6O7 I realise that the only way to make it into the city this turn is to drive in and then dismount. The APCs drive into the city and the Soviets don’t bother taking an AP shot. The infantry dismount and then the infantry in 6P6 fires. At 1 hex range they have a 24 firepower but the range modifier doesn’t help and they miss. I repeat the process with the German infantry in 6N7. They drive into the city, to 6O6, and the Soviets in 605 refrain from firing until they dismount. Again two misses are rolled and given the chance of the Germans making a save I decide it isn’t worth trying to use a Fate Point to get a hit.
With those troops safely inside the city I decide to try to move some of the other units of the 35th into the city. The Pioneers in 6L8 won’t be able to dismount in the town but I need them in the city so they can at least threaten to use the Goliath they have. I move them into 6M7 which is at Extreme Range for the ATG in 6L4. With the Battlefield Smoke the gun has no chance of hitting. It continues to move into 6N7 and then into the town at 6O6 where it has to stop as it has run out of movement points. The HQ decides that it doesn’t want to move and is happy where it is for the moment. That leaves the mounted infantry in 6K7. The Torrential Rain will limit it to 4 MP this turn and so it won’t be able to move and dismount unless it wants to be stuck in the open so it also decides to try to drive into the city. It moves into 6L7 and it is there that the solo deck is checked to see if the ATG in 6L4 will fire. A card is flipped and it does indeed take a shot. It manages to get a hit which the Germans don’t save and so it is Disrupted and the activation ends for the 35th.
Next up is the Soviet 6th Tank. The Disrupted tank in 5S10 passes its Rally Check and so the entire formation is able to activate. Clearly the T-34s of the 6th Tank want to fire on the German invaders but the question is what is the best way to do so. If they stand and fire then the tanks of Das Reich will be able to move out of standard range of them when they activate. Doing a move and fire to get into Reduced Range will keep the Germans close at hand but this also means moving into Reduced Range of the Tiger tanks and that just seems like a bad idea. At standard range each T-34 should generate one hit on average. The Pz IIILs will save 1/3 of a hit with each save attempt and the Tigers will save 1.5. The only way that the T-34s have a chance to take down the Tigers is to flood them with fire.
The plan then is to stay in place and try to strip off the Pz IIILs from the formation so the tanks can then concentrate their fire on the Tigers next turn. So starting in 5S10 the T-34s target the Disrupted tank in 5O7. The first T-34 gets two hits which the PzIIIL can’t save and so it is Reduced and then Wrecked.
This puts another Wreck marker on the table and it will limit the options for the other T-34. If it fires at 5P7 then it is only firing through one hex of Degrading terrain (the Wreck) but LOS to 5O6 is blocked because it goes through two Wreck hexes. So it will fire on 5P7. It also gets two hits (so much for that average) and the Pz IIIL saves one and is Disrupted. The tanks in 5R11 also begin to fire at the newly Disrupted German vehicle. The first tank gets two hits, making up for last turn I assume) and the Pz IIIL saves on and is now reduced. The final T-34 in the hex fires as well and gets one hit which the Panzer is able to save. The last two T-34s in 5010 fire. The first at the Reduced Pz IIIL which results in no hits and the second, with the help of the HQ, fires in a final attempt to wreck the last Pz IIIL and it only gets a single hit but the German’s luck have failed them and it is wrecked.
Next up is the 92nd Guards Motorcycle. They are one of the two Soviet units that didn’t activate last turn. The motorcycles have great movement but while mounted the infantry can’t fire. The motorcycles can’t reach the city and dismount but they are on, or adjacent to, the railroad which gives Soft Targets a +1d6 terrain save. Despite the fact that it will leave them about one turn away from Pokrovka I think the safest course for them is to move and then dismount on the railroad.
There is a Disrupted unit in 5G7 with the Commissar \< dramatic music playing > and it fails its Rally Check. Both dice were a 4 so I reroll one and it comes up a 6. Unlike other games this actually results in the loss of the Commissar but I now have to check to see if the unit goes Berserk (10.8 in the Stalin’s Triumph Companion Book). That roll is a < ominous music playing > a 1 and so the unit does in fact go Berserk. The nearest enemy unit is a stack of Panzer IVs in 5N5 and so the delusional members of the motorcycle unit streak towards them in an attempt to get into Close Combat with them. At two hex range one of the Panzers declares an Op Fire but misses. At one hex range the other tank platoon fires and also misses which lets the motorcycle platoon enter into close combat with the tanks. Luckily (?) for the Soviets being Berserk gives them +1 MP which allows them to perform the Assault.
The Soviet motorcyclists get a +1 to their Assault Factor due to being Berserk and also have their to-hit number reduced due to their only being tanks in the hex. Despite these bonuses the motorcycles are unable to hit but the tanks do manage to generate two hits. This reduces the Soviet platoon and it retreats back into 5M5 where it is marked Ops Complete.
While all this insanity is going on the rest of the formation moves forward and deploys into the cover of the railroad.
Next to activate is the 18th Panzer. After surviving that “scare” with the wildly over-enthusiastic Soviet motorcycle enthusiasts, the tankers determine that the Soviets are blocking a possible Move and Fire location. To rectify this one of the Pz IVs in 5N5 declares an Overrun (5.5) attack on the motorcycles. The tank rolls 6 dice and gets two hits. The motorcycles attack back (but with no Infantry bonus) and I make the assumption that it is still Berserk until it needs to test next turn. Even with the additional dice it is unable to hit and it is destroyed. The tank would like to continue to the Woods in 5L5 but with the Torrential Rain and the additional MP cost for the Overrun it can only go into 5L6.
This suits the T-70A in 5J6 which declares Op Fire. Surprisingly it doesn’t manage to hit the German tank. The other Pz IV in 5N5 declares a Move and Fire action and moves into 5M5. Since this is Extreme Range for the rest of the T-70s they refrain from using Op Fire. The Panzer fires at the Soviet light tank in 5J6. At Reduced Range it still only manages a single hit which Disrupts the T-70A.
The Torrential Rain slows down all of the tanks and this also impacts their ability to Move and Fire. The Panzers and Marders in the 18th Panzer all have a movement allowance of 4 which means that they can’t spend more than 1 MP and still fire. So none of the remaining units can move into the Woods and fire. One of the Marders moves from 5N3 to 5M2 and fires at a Disrupted T-70 in 5I5. It gets two hits and Wrecks the Soviet tank. The second Marder moves from 5O3 to 5L3 and stops. The HQ and Panzers in 5N4 advance into the Woods at 5M3 and stop. The odds on getting a hit at any of the German movement is so low that I don’t bother checking for Soviet Op Fire.
The next card from the Activation Deck is the Soviet 3rd Tank. This means that one of the End Turn cards is put back into the deck and it is reshuffled. The T-34s of the 3rd Tank need to start applying some pressure to the German tanks advancing from the west and happily all of the units in the German 18th Panzer are Ops Complete. The Marders with their 15 armour rating are going to be the first targets.
The T-34 in 5E5 advances to 5G4 and after checking LOS it fires at the Marder in 5L3 and is unable to hit. The next tank platoon moves from 5E6 to 5G5 and fires at the same Marder getting a hit which the tank doesn’t save. Unable to move and fire the other two stacks move to 5F4 and 5F5.
Next into action is the German 25th Panzergenadiers. Given that most of the infantry are still in their trucks I think that the best bet is to use the STuG IIIs to try to soften up the Soviet infantry before moving the trucks. Due to the impact of the Torrential Rain the STuGs won’t be able to move into Reduced Range and fire so the tank in 6H6 will just fire at the Sappers in 6L5. All three shots hit and the Sappers don’t make a save and are eliminated. Since it can’t move and fire the second STuG elects to move to 6J6.
The Landsers are in trucks and not APCs so they can’t take advantage of the Mobile Assault rule. They will need to walk to the Soviet trenches instead. I need to draw the fire from the Soviet infantry in the trenches in 6M5 and so I advance a German infantry unit from the woods in 6H5 to 6J5 adjacent to the Anti-tank ditches. The Soviets don’t bite and so I need to move out another unit. I move both units from the woods in 6J7 to 6K6 where they dismount but the Soviets still don’t want to take a shot. I finally move the HQ and two infantry units into the woods in 6J7 which were just cleared and then end the formation’s activation.
Next to be activated are the Soviet defenders in Pokrovka, the 52nd Guards Infantry. If the Germans had the points I would have spent two Fate Points to put the card back in so there was a chance Das Reich could activate before them but sadly that option isn’t available as the Germans only have a single point left.
The ATG gun in the woods in 6L4 is going to wait for Das Reich to activate and see if it can get a Reduced Range Op Fire shot. I flip a Solo card for the infantry in 6M5 and they fire at Reduced Range at the Germans in 6N6. They get two hits and the Germans save one and are Disrupted. I draw a card for 6L5 and it also fires at the impertinent Germans in 6N6. They get one hit but the Germans manage to save it. The Soviet infantry in 6P6 get an Assault result but both of the adjacent targets would cut them to pieces and so they decide to fire instead. 606 is the biggest German threat so they fire there but don’t get any positive results.
With reinforcements coming from the railroad I decide to move the troops in 6O3 to the woods in 6M3. They advance into 6N4 and then into 6M3. The recon vehicle in 6K2 takes an Op Fire shot but misses. The infantry in 6P4 decide to advance to 6N5 and try to hold up the German advance until the motorcycle troops can get into the city. The HQ stays put and their activations ends.
Das Reich gets into action next. In the north only the Tigers and the HQ are left of the tank force. Both Tigers can fire through the Wrecks and moving into Reduced Range won’t do anything other than open the Tigers up to Op Fire so they remain in place and fire. The Tiger in 5Q6 fires at the T-34s in 5S10 and gets three hits. The top tank takes two hits and is Disrupted while the bottom tank takes one hit and saves it. The HQ/Tiger stack in 5P9 fires at the Soviet HQ stack in 5Q10. The hope is that the HQ’s added dice will overcome the impact of the terrain. Sadly it only gets three hits. The bottom tank is assigned two hits and doesn’t save either. The top tank gets one hit which it can’t save and is Disrupted. A roll for the HQ results in it being Reduced.
The the south there is much to do as the infantry units of Das Reich press their advance towards the city. The recon vehicle in 6K2 opens fire on the ATG but misses. The APC in 6J3 moves into 6K3 where the ATG does fire. It gets one hit and the APC doesn’t save and is Disrupted. The SdKfz 251 in 6J4 also advances into 6K3 but the Soviet infantry in 6M3 wait for them to dismount before firing. The Germans oblige but even with the LMG the Soviets aren’t able to do any damage. The dismounted German infantry roll for Mobile Assault but aren’t able to do so.
The mounted infantry in 6I3 advance into 6L3 where they stop but don’t dismount as the rain has slowed them down. The troops in 6I4 advance one hex forward and then dismount. The AT Ditches are easier to navigate on foot which they will attempt to do next turn. Finally the HQ advances into 6I3 after checking the Command range from the HQ in 5P5. Das Reich was the last unactivated German formation from the last turn and so the last End Turn card is put back into the deck and it is reshuffled. There are now two End Turn cards and two formation cards in the deck.
An End turn card is drawn next and then the second End Turn card is drawn to draw the turn to a close. The Stuka and the Soviet 31st Tank were not activated and so the two End Turn cards are kept out for them.
So that was one very short turn followed by a long turn that could have very easily gone the length and had every formation activate.