The Battle of Lembitu: Tiger in ambush

My wife and I had a wargaming friend of mine staying with us overnight on Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning I set up a MEMOIR ’44 scenario on my wargames table for us to fight out. Both of us were relatively new to using MEMOIR ’44 with figures rather than with the playing pieces and boards that come with the game, so I chose a scenario that had a mixture of armour, infantry, and artillery. I was able to use some of my collection of 20mm-scale figures and vehicles as well as my Hexon II terrain.


The scenario I chose was BATTLE OF LEMBITU: TIGER IN AMBUSH. The map that comes with the scenario looks like this:

I managed to almost completely reproduce this on my tabletop, the results looked like this:

(The only problems that I had were:

  • I could not fit the right-hand row of hexes on the tabletop;
  • I had no suitable terrain features that would indicate marshes … so I used some oblongs of dark olive green felt that I normally use to represent minefields.)

The game briefing stated:

On the 17th of March 1944, near the Estonian village of Lembitu, west of Narva, the Soviet Army launched a massive attack on German defensive positions guarding the strategic railway Narva-Tallinn. German infantrymen were quickly in trouble because of the numbers, but the coming of two Tigers tanks of the 502.schwere Panzer Abteilung changed the fate of the battle. Russians tanks couldn’t resist the counter-attack of the two Tigers led by Otto Carius, a famous ace of the German Panzerwaffe. At the end of the day, more than fifteen tank wrecks were scattered on the battlefield. The Russian attack was repelled.


Because I got so engrossed in actually fighting this battle, I forgot to take any photographs as it progressed … which was a pity but it does show how intense our involvement in the wargame was.

I commanded the Russians whilst my friend took charge of the Germans. The end result was a victory for the Germans. (They had destroyed three each of my Armoured and Infantry units whilst my Russians had only managed to destroy one of the German Armoured units and two of their Infantry units.)

In the post-battle discussions about the rules there were one or two things that we felt needed improving, but that these were minor cosmetic changes and did not require a full-scale revision of the rules. We also both felt that part of the enjoyment we gained from this battle was due in no small part to the fact that we had used painted toy soldiers and vehicles rather than the plastic playing pieces that come with the game.

I used figures from my MEGABLITZ collection for this battle … and both of us felt that using two two-figure bases for each Infantry unit worked well, and that this was better than the single-figure units we had used previously. Likewise the fact that casualties to Infantry units were indicated by ‘kill rings’ (actually plastic blind rings) rather than figure removal was more aesthetically appealing.

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8 Comments on “The Battle of Lembitu: Tiger in ambush”

  1. Conrad Kinch says:

    Looks like a sticky scenario. Tigers are intriguing to play against they represent a lethal, but brittle combatant. It is quite possible to lose them to a single shot, but if your opponent cannot pull off that single lucky shot, they can do terrible damage.

    Not entirely sure how I'd approach that scenario, I'd probably to coax the Tigers out as the Soviets, or maybe refuse the flank.

    Glad to see you had a good one.

  2. Seeing the scenario and the name 'Otto Carius', I was reminded of the first snbstantive scenario in the Europe in Flames East Front PC game; 'Surprise Party'. I tried this as a 'Command Decision' scenario several years, and it might work as a 'Memoire 44' as well. Not sure about that.

    I think the adaptation was a success, but the Russian player ('Uncle Brian') had some absolutely filthy luck during the action (at one point a German heavy armoured car survived an ambush by a T34 at close to point blank range), and was not helped by an appallingly bad ruling by me (as Umpire) late in the game that led to the failure of an armoured counterattack Brian had in mind.

  3. Conrad Kinch,

    You are right about the Tigers. They are lethal … and I never managed to get more than a single shot in on one before my T34s were shot to pieces.

    The cards I drew all seemed to favour moving forward on the flank where the Tigers were located. I did try a frontal assault in the centre … and lost another T34 to the Infantry with anti-tank weapons and one of the Tigers that came out of cover.

    Although the result was a win for the Germans, it was very much closer than that would suggest, and we were unsure of who was likely to win until the last couple of moves.

    It has convinced me that I need to look again at MEMOIR '44, and although I think that the rules need a couple of tweaks, they are fine for what I want to do.

    All the best,

    Bob

  4. Archduke Piccolo,

    Having read a lot about him, Otto Carius seems to be the doyen of tank commanders. He seems to have been able to read the terrain exceptionally well, and to be able to place his tanks where they would do the most damage before being spotted.

    A true Panzer 'ace'.

    The scenario you describe sounds very interesting, and I will try to get a copy of it if I can.

    All the best,

    Bob

  5. I have made a few mods to Memoir 44 to turn it into something which looks a bit more like WW2 combat, partly incorporating a lot of the rules from the supplements, adding in the 'battle back' concept from the Napoleonics & Ancients sets, toning down the lethality of ranged fire to reduce the casualty rate and borrowing some of the card tweaks and artillery changes from the Memoir 80 variant. I've also given variant force options for e.g. heavy weapons ratios to make the sides less bland.

    It does look very grand played with toys on Kallistra hexes. If you get a pack of single hexes you can make up the extra alternating row of hexes on one side.

  6. Martin Rapier,

    I have copies of all the MEMOIR '44 rule books and hope to meld them together with some of my own ideas. I like the 'battle back' option, and we used it in the game we played on Wednesday. I will look for a link to the MEMOIR '80 variant. It sounds very interesting.

    I do have a pack of single hexes but could not add the extra row as there was not quite enough tabletop! (My table is about two inches too short.)

    All the best,

    Bob

  7. Good looking game as well as reading like an enjoyable social get together, something Memoir and relations seem to be very good at.

  8. Ross Mac,

    It was a most enjoyable battle to fight, and proved how quick and easy it is to set up and play a wargame using the MEMOIR '44 rules. They may not be perfect … but they are much better than a lot of others, and very simple to pick up and use.

    All the best,

    Bob


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