Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Breakout from Borissov

Well, with the painting of the Brits slowly progressing but no where near getting a Battlegroup together for a game of Blitzkrieg Commander II (BKC2),tonight Ruarok and I decided to adapt one of the scenarios listed on the Specialist Military Publishing website and pitted Ruaroks' Russians against the German force that I had borrowed from Cammie.

The date is July 1941. The German 18th Panzer Division has been tasked with clearing the Borissov-Cherven Highway. In response, the Russian High Command have instructed elements of the Moscow Motorized Division to break through the German lines.
The forces are deployed at the start of the game, looking South, the Russians are looking to push down the Borissov-Cherven highway and through the German lines.

In BKC2, artillery, in my opinion, can be devastating. However, for early war Russians, still recovering from the purges of the Red Army in the 1930's, artillery has to be pre-planned and as such they lose a lot of tactical flexibility. However, as Ruarok, knew roughly where the Germans were deployed and as he was going first, he scheduled his first artillery barrage to land on the hill in the South Western corner of the table, where the German infantry were deployed. Scheduled artillery lands on target - no deviation rolls required, so down came the first artillery stonk, a battery of 76mm artillery -

The result of the first Russian Artillery barrage -The red dice are suppression dice, the white dice are hits (but no suppression).

So although most of the German Infantry were suppressed, no bases were killed outright and as there were no other Russian units nearby to take advantage of the suppression, the counters were removed at the end of the German turn. It was only after the end of the game that Ruarok remembered he actually had 2 batteries available to fire so the stonk could have been a lot more devastating. In the meantime the Russian T-34's rushed down the highway, while the Russian Infantry moved up through the centre of the battlefield.

In response, the Germans moved their Panzers east, towards the Highway, with a view to setting up a firing line that would cover the southern exit of the highway.

The Russian advance down the Borissov-Cherven Road.

On the Russian turn 2, the advance continued but with the tanks moving off the road into a line abreast formation. The infantry advanced between the 2 woods into the open battlefield. The German Forward Artillery Observer rubbed his hands with glee and radioed his battery of 105mm's to bring down death and destruction on the Russian hordes. Unfortunately a piece of Frankfurter sausage from the FAO's lunch must have got into the works of the radio and the call did not get through so the embarrassed FAO spent the turn stripping down the radio and removing the offending crumb of sausage meat.

 The German Panzers, in the meantime, started to take up their positions to bring their firing arc onto the Highway and a few long range pot shots had the effect of suppressing the lead Russian T-34. However, when trying to roll for a second activation the Panzer HQ failed his roll, so no more firing took place and we were into turn 3.

Another round of scheduled Russian artillery came in but landed on an empty part of the battlefield, the Germans having inconsiderately moved. The Russian Infantry continued their advance, while the Russian tanks moved forward, and took out 2 of the German Panzers. The German opportunity fire was ineffectual at killing any of the Russian tanks, although a couple more became suppressed.

Fortunately, at the start of the German third turn, the FAO did manage to get his radio working and this time the 105mm battery briught down their fire on the Russian Infantry, killing 2 bases outright and suppressing another 5 bases. The German Infantry started to advance out of their positions to try and take advantage of the suppressed Russian infantry. The German Panzers, however, continued their ineffectual fire against the T-34's, only suppressing 1 and acheiving no kills.

Position at the end of the German Turn 3.

The Russian turn 4 saw the T-34's push forward and take out another Panzer. The infantry were, however, effectively pinned as a result of the German artillery fire so the German Turn 4 saw the FAO bring in another stonk of fire on the infantry, this time with devastating effect taking out 5 of the remaining Russian Infantry bases as well as destroying the Infantry HQ base. The German Infantry also opened up and accounted for another 2 bases. All the German Panzers, could do in support, however, was suppress 2 of the T-34's.

The Russian Infantry threat has all but disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Turn 5 saw the Russian tank HQ roll a command blunder (a "12") and the resulting roll on the Command Blunder table saw all units under his command make a full move forward and no further action could be taken. The Russian CO then followed suit with his own Command blunder roll. This resulted in his Command Value (CV) being reduced by -2 for the rest of the turn and the next - this had significant consequences for the next turn as will be seen.

End of Russian Turn 5.
The German turn 5 saw another artillery barrage take out the last Infantry base and with it the Russians had reached their break point threshold. The German Infantry then started to swing west to support the so far ineffectual Panzers, who finally on this turn managed to take out their first T-34.

With their break point reached and the Russian CO on -2 CV, the Russians were on a shaky morale roll, which Ruarok duly failed and the Russians broke, and thus the Germans had thwarted the breakout attempt.

This was only my 4th game of BKC2 and the lack of familiarity with the rules did slow the game down a bit and also led to a number of errors being made through the game - Ruarok forgetting he had 2 artillery batteries, I forgot that units got an extra attack die when firing at less than half range as examples. We also discovered that we had been playing the suppression rule incorrectly when caused by opportunity fire. In the rules when a unit is suppressed by opportunity fire (ie when it has been fired on by an enemy during it's own turn) any suppression marker is removed at the end of the unit's current turn. We had been playing that the suppression remained all through the enemy turn and was only removed at the end of the unit's following turn- much more restrictive that is intended by the rules.

Having said that, I think once you get familiar with the rules (and to be honest it is not a lengthy rule set - most of the pages in the rule book are taken up with the army lists) I think the game plays fast and is entertaining. It may not have the detail that some gamers require - usually a unit is hit on 4,5 or 6 most armour saves on a 5 or 6 (later heavy tanks can also save on a 4 and some on a 3!) and Infantry get no saves at all. The ability to be able to command a formation to do several things in succession during a turn can be devastating. Equally, the curse of the failed command roll at just the wrong time can scupper any general's best laid plans.

Although BKC2 discourages using forces that are "balanced" in terms of point values, after the game on adding up what points values we had been playing with we discovered that the German force amounted to 1885 points and the Russians only 1545. We have left the table up and intend to reply that scenario again tomorrow night (and hopefully remembering more of the rules) but as the Russians are effectively the attackers, I'm going to suggest to Ruarok that they have a couple of more tank companies, just to raise their breakpoint threshold and see if that makes a difference. The scenario is scheduled to last 20 turns and our game tonight ended at the start of turn 6 so hopefully the addition of a few more Russian tankies might encourage Ruarok to keep his infantry out of harm's way and let his armour do the damage.

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