Sunday, May 3, 2020

Somewhere near the Crimea 1941 .. a Spearhead battle

I've had a bit of a plan for a while to try fighting over the the same terrain with armies in different periods. I am fascinated in seeing how different periods/rules sets change the face of a battle when essentially trying to solve the same tactical problem.

I began with an action set in 1914/15 in which Austrians were attacking a hastily prepared Russian position in the Carpathians. The battle AAR (Forcing the Vasstanya Gap) can be found here.

I have now taken that same terrain/objective and refought it as a game set in 1941, with a German attack on defending Russian troops. The armies were about the size set by Keith's Scenario Generation System. i fought this battle using my 20mm armies. Friend Gerard gifted me a pile of his amazing 20mm forces several years ago, but I hadn't managed to get these on the table. So I decided that the Russian defenders would be a 'hastily thrown together' force with a Russian cavalry regiment, an infantry battalion, and a battalion of Black Sea Fleet marines. The cavalry were some of Gerard's generous gift of figures. Maybe this game was set down in the Crimea in later 1941.

The game was my second ever solo game, played as we sit in Alert Level 3 lockdown.

My defensive plan with the Russians was singularly uninspiring, I have to say, three battalions all deployed on table, and so no reserve. That was to be a fatal mistake but no spoilers). The cavalry regiment included a battalion of T60 tanks in support, and the two flank battalions each had a battalion of artillery attached.

The German attack certainly allowed for something more adventurous than was possible with the 1914 Austrians. I planned a flank attack on both flanks (not quite the letter of the rules!!).  I cross attached infantry and tanks from the armoured regiment and one of the motorised battalions to create the two prongs of the attack on the German. right. The left flank attack was undertaken by a Motorised battalion. Both motorised battalions had opted to attack on foot (not surpassingly!!).

The German attack plan .. yes I know, you can't do two flank attacks!!

The Russian cavalry regiment at the top of the photo, as the German attack advances. The battalion has its 75mm gun detachment in support

The infantry heavy German battalion attacks along the road onto the Russian left

The Pz IV platoons with the infantry heavy battalion

A Russian battalion is dug in, in the centre

The Russian cavalry regiment.. one of the things I disliked visually about the game was that the cavalry were modelled with horses (as you do) and so totally inappropriate to be seen in entrenchments. However the idea was to get these figures out for a game, so on that score it was OK. However this aesthetic  'grated' with me right through the game. I did however enjoy seeing the cavalry figures on the table, in action

The German left flank attack advances against the cavalry

The centre attack pushes forward, The Russian centre battalion can just be seen top left of the photo

Turn 2 and the German right flank attack arrives

Fire is brought down... Russian mortar fire from the regimental mortar platoon. 

And in the centre

Intense action develops very quickly against the Russian left. This battalion (on random morale) is regular,

The firefight begins on the German left. The Russia cavalry (again on random morale) turn out to be veteran!!! This could be tougher than we thought

However several squadrons of dismounted Russian cavalry are quickly swept aside as the battle develops for the wood on the extreme Russian right/German left. This wood saw similar fierce action in the 1914 game

Pressure mounts of the Russian left with the German right flank attack

The Russian left takes severe casualties and at this stage Russian fire right across the battle is proving ineffective. The Russian artillery is nowhere to be found

The Russian left is unhinged as a company (3 platoon stands) of Marines is eliminated

The Russian right holds its ground. The Tchanka moves across to support the defence. I opted to allow the Tchanka MMG to move and fire as per the German MMG rules. One of the T60 platoons is redeployed to help support the defence

The wood on the Russian right looks as if it might be lost.. one dismounted squadron continues to hold out, although it is flanked

Action is joined with the centre Russian battalion which comes up as 'Green' (no surprises there). However the platoons are pretty much at the extreme of their command radius and so are severely limited in the ability to support the Russian left. Attempts at order changes fail

The Russian left battles hard, despite mounting losses, Infantry platoons can be seen attempting to attack the tank platoons, since the nearest supporting German infantry within range have been eliminated (always the problem with the tank heavy battalion that arises with cross attachments)

Russian infantry fail in their first attempted attack on the German armour, and one stand attacking frontally is suppressed

A supporting platoon of T560s has shifted across (still just within command zone of its battalion HQ) to threaten the Pz IVs that are supporting the German centre attack, each fires on the other, each suppresses the other

German infantry close assault suppressed Marines protecting the village

105mm artillery fire also comes down on the defenders ..

Kaboom.. eliminated by the artillery support

Meanwhile the German armour, in the absence of Russian armour, close assaults the nearest Russian infantry as it attempts armoured over run attacks

They didn't end well for the Russians. The Marines break on morale and begin to withdraw from their position. Now the flank of the centre green battalion is exposed

The Russian cavalry is still holding up, despite those early losses, and the Russian fire begins to take effect. Still no sign of the Russian artillery though

The cavalry commander shifts his regimental reserves in support against the main threat, and the Tchanka starts supporting the defenders. The German infantry begin to take losses

Hot action as the German right pushes forward, and brushes up against the green Russian battalion defending the centre. Attempts at order changes for this battalion still fail

The German right begins its sweep onto the flank of the Russian centre. A Pz III platoon attempts an armoured overrun on a withdrawing Russian platoon (top centre of the photo)

And up close

The cavalry are still holding

Miraculously the Russian platoon survives the overrun attack  (a 1 and a 6 will do that)

The Russian centre, against which the German right flank attack brushed. The defenders are using their reserves (top centre) to attempt to protect their flank. There is an entrenched 45mm AT gun just out of shot supporting the infantry

The Russian cavalry are still battling it out but ...
This game showed amongst other things the subtlety of Spearhead. The differences between the WW1 and the WW2 sets meant that solving the problem looked and felt quite different. The Russian defence I threw down was singularly uninspired (actually it was bloody awful), as I mentioned but it was probably quite typical of many that were attempted in those rly days if accounts are to be believed.. The use of a reserve would have made a significant difference, especially when the cavalry turned out to be veteran.

So, a great wee game.. it only lasted 7 turns. It did remind me of the problem with playing Spearhead in 20mm.. the ground scale distortion that you get with vehicles and guns. It looks wrong in my opinion, and the armour occupies too much table area in relation to the infantry, This distorted the troop densities somewhat, and I think troop density is one of many critical factors in differentiating WW1 and WW2.

But at least some awesome 20mm figures and vehicle finally saw some action.. thanks Gerard!!!

1 comment:

  1. Good game. the advantage of playing yourself is you can flank march on each flank if you want to. The down side is that you probably weren't surprised


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