So, my forces have been forced out of the city and are now desperately fighting for survival. Will the Panzergrenadiers escape, or will their fate be sealed like the 6th Army? On the outskirts of Stalingrad, my Panzergrenadiers were accosted by a Soviet Tankovy Company – the Guards baying for blood after the annihilation of Papa Stalin’s namesake.
Round two and I was paired against Craig and his Medium Tankovy, appropriately playing No Retreat. I would be trying to fend off a rather large platoon of T34s, some Stuarts, three KVs and some armoured cars.
I chose the village side, to hide my tanks/Pak 40s and give me good cover to spring an assault on any Soviet tanker too close to the houses. Shane dropped an objective on the crest of a hill, giving me the opportunity to hide beneath it and dig in under the objective. Both infantry platoons dropped on the objectives, with the Pak40s covering the centre – right of the battlefield (but totally blind on the left). I kept the Panthers behind the rear buildings, able to move and support either objective and keep their side armour out of harm’s way. With no real need for smoke, the Nebs, infantry guns, AAA and recce were consigned to reserve.
The Soviet’s deployed aggressively – KVs holding the middle of the battlefield, with everything else loading on my left – sensing this was the easier of the two objectives to approach. Shane started by moving hard forward, T34s a turn away from the objective, KVs covering their flanks. A couple of shots were fired, but most units needed 6s or 7s, and noting found its mark.
Left objective (burning wreck) about to be swarmed on turn 2!
KVs move ‘up the guts’ of the battlefield
Central defense. Three Panzerknackers and two Pak40s
The Pak40s covering the forward and right approaches to the village
After the Soviet rush on my line in turn one, I sent my Panthers up to the wheat field to provide support for the grenadiers, who were keen to keep their heads down. As the Russian advance was, well… rushin’ my lines, I would only have one or two opportunities to call in my air support before the enemy would be too close. With confidence I called down a flight of three (!!) flying tanks, and targeted the lightly armoured Stuart. I’ve had experiences fighting Soviet tank forces before, and without a CO, the force can be immobilized (by sniping the platoon commanders) or broken quite easily (thanks to a small platoon count).
I managed to bail the Co (only) thanks to a poor firepower roll. The Panthers, having moved, could only get two shots off, but still bagged a couple of T34s. I stormtroopered back to cover, mindful of the KV threat to my right. The Paks fired their first and only shots of the game, bouncing harmlessly off the KV hull.
The Russians responded by surging their T34s forward (and remounting the CO) to assault the my objective – would this be a three turn massacre? The armoured cars showed up and went down the road, while the Stuarts maneuvered to be a second wave of destruction..
Admittedly I was feeling pretty confident, the grenadiers were veterans and had a panzerknacker in place. With no defensive fire it was onto the assault – one stand died in the initial tread-crush, while I countered and (unsurprisingly) bagged a T34 with the knacker. The Soviets countered, killing another team – where as I failed my motivation test to continue the fight, and was forced to break off, far from the objective.
Soviets consolidate… in time for victory?
In middle of the park the KVs snuck around so the Paks couldn’t target them. A long range shot was fired at the Panthers but it posed no threat to the crew inside.
For the last time in the game, I call for air and target the armoured cars – alas, I am let down again by firepower rolls, only managing to bail two of the cars.
The left flank is a crisis flank – my infantry fail to unpin from the assault and fail to dig in – tough corn/wheat that they’re standing in!
In order to keep the game alive, I edge one of the Panthers to within a track of the objective. Not wanting the T34’s impressive armament to blast through my side armour, the big cats target the nearby Russians, bagging three and forcing a Platoon check. The fearless guards…. fail!
Craig threw the CO in – afterall the Stuarts had a minute chance of cracking a Panther and the KVs were too far away… The commander threw the dice down for the re-roll and failed as well! The T34s and their light tank CO legged it – 1 platoon down!
Corn field horror show
With the KVs hiding through forests, my central grenadiers left half their number in fox holes while the rest moved forward to ambush in the woods. I made sure to take the platoon commander (knacker), 2IC (knacker) and CO (knacker) with the expedition – confident of an assault…
Turn three and the armoured cars zipped down the road to pour fire into the grenadiers – five hits would (obviously) halt my progress, regardless of the platoon’s location. The KVs, with crystal ball in the command tank moved out from the woods and poured more fire into the Panthers, bailing one.
Armoured cars or sheep dogs?
The stuarts whip around to the side of the wheat field, keen to pour fire into weak side-armoured Panthers (but failing to do so… ah Hen & Chicks).
I get lucky and have reserves in turn 3 – I call in the infantry guns – hoping for a left flank scattered deployment to pop some of the light tanks with my AT 9 guns. Instead, I get them out of harms way, all the way to the right.
Despite (or perhaps because of) the Stuarts to the rear, I turn both Panthers towards the KVs and fire back, managing to bail one tank. Oh dear. The right grenadiers sit tight and try to dig in (failing) – didn’t anyone bring a shovel?
The Stuarts fire back, but achieve nothing. The armoured cars move to the other side of the wheat field to machine gun my infantry to death and the KVs fail to do anything meaningful. I’m still contesting the objective (both, in fact) and the Panthers are living up to their rock hard reputation…
Too slow to outflank – too weak to fight toe-to-toe
I get more reserves this turn – blimey – and call for the 8rads, figuring their 2cm guns can bail a Stuart or two and relieve pressure on the Panthers – they also show up on the right flank, and move flat out to the other side of the table.
Speaking of Panthers, they monster the KVs, killing two and bailing one – the Guards heavies pass their check to stick around however.
My wheat-field grenadiers unpin and dig in – what a turn this is! With the KVs stranded – I send out the central grenadier platoon, assault the bailed tank – capture it and consolidate back to cover; 2 – nil on platoons! The Panthers storm troop so they are contesting the objective and showing their front armour to the pesky light tanks. The armoured cars are just inside range of the infantry guns, but I fail to range in. A good turn for the Germans.
Unsurprisingly, the Stuarts take off to crack side shots at the Panthers in Craig’s turn. It seems every man and his dog with Stuarts gives this tactic a go – Manni was the first (and to his credit, bailed two of them!)
Lucky for me the Stuarts whiff their shots – not even managing a bail!
The armoured cars do better though – bagging the grenadiers (forcing a motivation check – now its my turn to fail!), and bringing it 2-1 on platoons. If the Stuarts can hold out and bail both Panthers, the game will fall to the Russians…
Fifth turn and after being shell-shocked by the initial Russian onslaught, I’m right in this game. I get auto reserves, bringing on the Nebs – yep, on the right side. The 8rads have doubled twice and are within touching distance of the Soviet backfield (and unguarded) objective.
The Panthers take matters into their own hands – turning turrets to face off with the light Soviets and blowing them to pieces. Third platoon down & autofail morale! The Germans have escaped the envelopment, to fight another day…
Post Game Thoughts
Paying so many points for two Panthers is a big call – but they worth gold in this game – not only did they keep me from losing after the Soviets successfully pushed my off my objective – they bagged all three armoured platoons, winning the game single highhandedly.
Craig really didn’t do much wrong – the Panthers were a rock that would have been difficult to deal with regardless of Soviet opposition. If anything, perhaps the Stuarts should have assaulted while the T34s ran the flanks to shoot the Panthers in the side.
Aside from Panther glory, this game showed me just how effective bold/upfront aggression can be – this would be the first of two games where my opponent would get the jump on me (the other being Rhys who put me on the back foot and kept me there all game), and really dictate the terms of the engagement to me. While I expected this to a degree, the turn two rush really had me unprepared – it really did come down to the Panther’s deployment, able to support either objective quickly.