Out of the Mist strategy
The East German III Korps springs into action and attempts to get a jump on the US forces at Hofstetten in scenario 15 Out of the Mist for World at War 85. This is one of my favourite scenarios from the Storming the Gap set. It pits the East Germans against US forces is a battle that tests your ability to react to your opponent and, for the Germans, your ability to attack and keep your forces moving to press to obtain multiple victory conditions.
The US starts the game with a small infantry force deployed on the map consisting of two infantry platoons and M-113 APCs as well as an M-106 SPM and a Dragon ATGM for the infantry.
On turn 2 and 3 the US gets reinforcements in the form of two formations of armor with three M1s and three M-60 Pattons. These two formations enter the map at the northwest corner at 3A1.
The East Germans start the game with a slightly larger infantry formation, the 1/4th 4 MSD, that has three infantry platoons, three BMP-1s, a T-55 AM and a Spigot launcher for the infantry. These troops enter the map at 3W4.
On turn 3 the East Germans also receive reinforcements with the remainder of the 1/4th 4 MSD as well as a contingent of ten T-72 tank platoons. The remainder of the 1/4th 4 MSD consists of the division’s support vehicles including BMP-2s, BMP-1s, the 2S1 SPA, two BRDM AT vehicles and more of the T-55 AMs.
Normally I would discuss the victory conditions later on in the article but in this case they impact how each side deploys and moves so it is important to address them before we talk about the scenario any further.
There are three objectives in the scenario:
- Objective A: Hofstetten at hex 3L10
- Objective B: exit hex 3A4
- Objective C: exit hex 3A10
The East German player can win the game by exiting three ground units from either hex 3A4 or 3A10. They can also win the game by exiting two ground units and also holding the town of Hofstetten (which is hexes 3L10 and 3M11). Just holding Objective A does nothing for the East Germans. The German’s have 30 ground units available to them so they only need to exit one-tenth of their force to win. The rest can be used to engage and stop US forces.
The set-up for the scenario is quite simple which might be another reason that I like it. The US forces start on the board deployed anywhere west of, and including, hexrow H. Where those troops are going to go depends, I think, on where the US player thinks the East Germans are going to try to exit their ground units.
No matter where the East Germans intend to try to exit from, having your initial deployment within range of the village at 3J6 gives you time to either move south to try to stop them at Hofstetten if they are aiming to exit from 3A10 or take the bridge at 3J3 if they are moving towards Objective B.
Its never sunny in Hofstetten
The first complication in the game is the weather. The weather starts at Level 4 and can’t change for the first turn. On turn three the sheeting rain storm will stop but Mud will still be in effect. It might be a good idea to check out section 16.5 in the rulebook before playing.
For the first two turns, the East Germans will be at half MP and will be affected by Mud if they don’t travel on a Road. Even after the winds and rain let up, any travel that isn’t on a Road will reduce the unit’s MP by 1 as Mud will stay in effect for the rest of the game (16.5.3). The weather will also limit LOS and firing but with the reduced travel rates no-one will be firing in the first few turns.
The US troops aren’t going to be too concerned with the weather since the East Germans will be far, far away and it will also slow them down. If the initial elements of the 1/4th 4 MSD attempt to head west cross country they will get almost nowhere. Even moving down the roads is only, at best, going to get them into the city at 3T7. Their rate of advance is going to be so slow that the follow-up elements of the division will catch up with them on turn 3.
Due to the impact of the weather you are going to be forced to send the 1/4th 4 MSD southwest along the road network and towards Hofstetten. So you might as well plan on doing that and then it just seems like a great idea you came up with.
Plan B from Bad Kissingen
If the most efficacious route for the full 1/4th 4 MSD is towards Objective A at Hofstetten then what is the Pact player to do with the tanks of the 2/4th 4MSD? It consists of a total of 10 T-72 tanks which is not a insignificant number of vehicles. They actually out-range the American tanks by one hex and they also have an enhanced move and fire capability so they can continue to move towards an objective and still fire.
Individually they outgun any single US armored formation by three to one and collectively they still have 50% more firepower. The entire, fresh, formation of T-72s can, on average, generate 20 hits. The Patton formation could save three and the M1s could save 4.5. If they can focus their fire on a single US armored formation they should be able to destroy it in a single activation.
And lets not forget Volley Fire (10.6.10).
On, or around, turn 6 the East German tanks can be at 3K4 or K5 and ready to make a dash to either of the two exit objectives. There are two problems with this location though. The first is that it is quite close to where the two US armored formation come onto the table and it also has very little cover for the T-72s to move into. The Americanskis can easily be positioned in the woods in 3J2 ready to heap depleted uranium rounds into the T-72s. Due to the Mud, the East German tanks will need to travel into the city at 3T7 to get to either Objective and so the Pact player can wait until then to see what the US is doing and then react accordingly.
The second problem is that this route gives the East German player very little time to get to Objective C if that is the one they picked. From 3W4 to 3L9, via the roads, is four full turns of movement. A canny US player will gave done the math as well and assume that you are going to Objective B or have given yourself an interesting handicap if you aren’t.
C is for cookie
My preferred approach is to steamroll both formations down the highway towards Hofstetten and then use the infantry and vehicles of the 1/4th 4 MSD to engage any US troops there and clear them from the road so that the tanks of the 2/4th 4 MSD can make a run for Objective C.
This has several benefits. It lengthens the amount of time that the US armor has to travel in order to engage any East German troops. It lets the Pact player overwhelm any defenders in Hofstetten and it also puts the woods and river in the south of the map between the East German tanks and the Americans. It will be slow going once the East Germans hit Hofstetten as any units going around the town will be impacted by Mud but that should be balanced by the time it will take the US armor to reach you.
But what if I’m not East German?
So what do you do if you’re not playing the East Germans? Part of the US plan is to keep it’s forces flexible enough to react to whatever moves the East Germans make. Remember, the US only needs to keep the Pact forces from winning. They play the spoiler and so that needs to be the mindset you stay in while you play.
The men and women of the B/3-8/1 8 ID (or is that a Star Wars droid name?) are most likely going to be used as a speed bump to slow down the East Germans. They won’t be able to stop them and they don’t need to. Objective A only comes into play if the East Germans can’t get three ground units off board. If it looks as if the East Germans are going to take Hofstetten then the most sensible thing for the US to do is let them and pull back troops to a more defensible location and attempt to block the advance of any units trying to exit. Even with Objective A, the East Germans will still need to get ground units to the other objective.
The East German player has to commit to either Objective C or B prior to the game beginning and while they can attempt to fake the US player by making a run towards both, they have to exit units from the Objective they chose.
Hammer meets nail
The US tanks are going to lose a turn to the Mud when they come on to the map at 3A1. There is nothing that you can do about this other than to start plotting your movement so that the Pattons, which arrive on turn 2, aren’t clogging the area when the M1s arrive on turn 3.
Depending on what the East Germans do, the US armored forces can attempt to set up two lines of tanks to try to stop any Pact T-72s from exiting. If the East Germans go north there are woods in 3J2 and again in 3B4 that the Americans can use to provide cover for a firing line.
If the T-72s head to Objective C at 3A10 then the best positions for the US tanks are in the town at 3B10 and the woods at 3B11.
And don’t forget that off-road travel in this scenario is slow and so putting two units on a road to force the East Germans to destroy them or move around then can slow them down substantially.
End of Operations
Out of the Mist uses three End Operations cards and this is going to mess with the strategy of both sides. In turn one there are four formation cards and three End Operations cards. This changes to 6:3 in turn 2 with the arrival of the US Pattons and then 9:3 on turn 3 when all the formations are on the table.
Turn one can end with neither side being able to move (there is a 12% chance of this occuring). This decreases slightly in turn 2 and even more on turn 3 but the potential for a formation, especially an East German formation, to not activate is high throughout the game. The East Germans can mitigate this slightly as they have a Designated Formation card they can use to try to make sure both formations are able to move. They may even want to prioritise using the card to give the T-72s two activations a turn, if they can, in order to make sure that the tanks are in position to try to exit the map.
If, due to the affect of the End Operation cards, the East German player is not able to keep moving the 1/4th 4 MSD forward then they may want to look at changing their approach and try to push the tanks as quick as possible towards Objective B and avoid Hofstetten.
If a battle does develop around Hofstetten it will probably open up at short range unless the US wants to risk a unit or two at the apex on the hills at 3N9. US troops in or adjacent to 3L10 won’t be in LOS until there are East German troops either on top of the hills or to the north of them. Once the battle is engaged, the US player will most likely try to push their vehicles within the three hex minimum range of most of the Soviet supplied ATGM systems that the DDR troops will be using.
A reverse slope defence like this also benefits the US as the American infantry have a Dragon ATGM launcher with a tragically short range. Something that isn’t an issue if the East Germans have to come in so close to be able to fire.
The East German forces are equipped with the T-55 AM tank. This vehicle was part of a modernization program and, for our purposes, the primary addition to the tank was the Volna fire control system upgrade. It has the Orange AP and HE values which reduces the penalties that it has when doing a Move and Fire action. So as long as it only moves up to half its MP value it will only lose 1 FP dice when firing.
One last thing
Don’t forget that the East Germans will be accompanied by a 2S1 SPA and a recon vehicle. The BRDM 2 isn’t a powerful vehicle but it does have an additional MP which will be useful in the Mud. As a recon vehicle it is also always in command (7.2.5) so there is nothing stopping the East German player from running the BRDM 2 over to 3K6 and calling in artillery fire on units in or near Objective A.
So many options
The primary reason that I like this scenario so much is that it requires both players to keep on their toes and take advantage of opportunities that their opponent and the End Operation cards provide them. The East Germans must try to drive the pace and direction of the scenario but the US should never forget that their aim is to not lose and that anything that can delay or hold the East Germans is worth the price.