Another diversion

Having just finished painting my last model ships for my forthcoming COW (Conference of Wargamers) session, I really should be play-testing the rules … but I cannot stop thinking about how much fun I had fighting the Battle of Nerfburg Heath, and how much I wanted to try out the minor tweaks and changes I had made to the rules I had written.

Being weak-willed and prone to doing things that I know that I ought not to be doing, I set up another small scenario from the Hexland vs. Gross-Schism conflict to try out my ‘improved’ rules.


THE BATTLE OF THE NORTHERN PASS
Having seen his forces trounced in the Battle of Nerfburg Heath, the Prince of Hexland became even more determined to seize the lands of the Archbishopric of Grosse-Schism. He summoned the truculent General von Trumpf and ordered him to use whatever force was necessary to defeat the forces defending Grosse-Schism. Von Trumpf was a devious fellow, and decided that as the direct approach had failed, an indirect approach might be more successful. He therefore put together yet another small force drawn from the units of the Hexland Army, and marched northward with the intention of invading Grosse-Schism by swinging around its border and invading via the Northern Pass.

The Archbishop was concerned that the Hexlanders might mount another invasion, especially as the troops that had come to his aid had now gone back back to their home countries. He quickly called for volunteers as well as recruits from abroad, and within a few weeks a small contingent of former soldiers from the British and Hannoverian armies arrived in Gross-Schism. They formed a small ‘British Legion’ as well as helping to train the Gross-Schism volunteers.

As his troops neared the Northern Pass, news reached von Trumpf that a small unit of the newly established Gross-Schism Army was guarding the pass. The numbers were small, and locals described them as being dressed in old and tattered uniforms. ‘Scum. At worst they will be a few woodsmen and hunters; at best they will be untrained militia‘, thought von Trumpf to himself, and that night, whilst his men were preparing for the forthcoming advance into Grosse-Schism, he told them that they would have no problem brushing aside the troops that opposed them. ‘You are many, and they are not; you are trained soldiers, and they are not. Tomorrow we march … for the glory of Hexland!’ (‘and von Trumpf‘, he thought to himself).

Advertisements

Other people’s Portable Wargame battle reports: More Zulu War action

A few days ago Ross Macfarlane staged a Zulu War battle using 54mm-scale figures and my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

This battle looked like it was great fun to fight, and a fuller battle report can be found on Ross’s blog.


Please note that the photographs featured above are © Ross Macfarlane.

Other people’s Portable Wargame battle reports: The Battle of Isandlwana

Recently Mike Lewis and Anthony Morton staged a re-fight of the Battle of Isandlwana using 54mm-scale figures and my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

To my no doubt biased eyes the results look spectacular, and a full battle report can be found on Mike’s blog.


Please note that the photographs featured above are © Mike Lewis.

Other people’s Portable Wargames … at the Victorian Military Society’s recent seminar

Last Saturday was a very important day (and I am not referring to the Royal Wedding or the FA Cup Final!) as it was the date of the Victorian Military Society’s Seminar: INVASIONS SCARES AND THE ‘BATTLE OF DORKING’.

Unfortunately, I was unable to go, but I understand that during the lunch break, the Battle of Dorking was re-fought using 15mm figures, my PORTABLE WARGAME rules, and a purpose-built terrain board. I have seen some photographs of both the figures and the terrain, and it all looked very, very impressive. These can be seen on the Society’s Facebook page.

I hope that more information about the game will become available in the fullness of time as it is exactly the sort of wargame I envisaged being fought using my rules.


Other people’s Portable (Naval) Wargame battle reports

By sheer coincidence I happened to see a reference to a battle report that featured the downloadable version of my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME rules … and I just had to read it.

I’ve not come across the RED IN THE MORNING blog before and I don’t think that the writer is one of my regular blog readers. He used the rules to re-fight the Battle of Manila Bay …

… using a Chessex gridded mat and counters from Avalanche Press’ board game, REMEMBER THE MAINE.

I thought that the summary of his thoughts about the rules and ideas for developing them were very interesting, and they have reinforced my own thinking and will help me as I continue to write my book.


The Battle of Cambrai: An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier

THE BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier


1. Introduction
Many, many years ago, in an issue of Airfix magazine (or possibly the Airfix annual) I saw a photo of a World War One game where the author had assembled a number of Airfix Mark 1 tanks that were busily advancing on a reproduction of the German trench system around Hamel modelled out of Plasticene of all things. The tanks were supported by British infantry in caps and the Germans all had pointy helmets, (all that was available then) but it was an image which has stayed in mind ever since, and I thought that, one day, I too would put on a game with masses of rhomboid tanks poised to crash through the mud and the blood to the green fields beyond. That day finally came last year when I realised just how many W.W.1 tanks the redoubtable members of Sheffield Wargames Club had between them. Time for a game …

2. Design Concepts
After reading around the subject, I decided there were a number of elements of the battle I wanted to capture:

  • The sheer mass of armoured vehicles employed (almost 500 in all);
  • The key tactical role the tanks played in the destruction of German wire obstacles in lieu of a long preliminary bombardment;
  • The limited endurance of W.W.1 heavy battle tanks and the limits that posed on their operational significance.

Having decided to put a modicum of complexity into modelling the armoured side of things, then clearly the infantry, artillery etc. were going to have to be heavily abstracted to make a playable game, but these elements needed to be present and have the capability to play a significant role as W.W.1 armoured operations were most definitely a combined arms event. One element I made very abstracted was the creeping barrage, in the end allowing British field guns to fire fairly freely (although only able to hit the first two rows) as it wasn’t worth the extra complexity of specifying barrage or rates of advance etc.

The basic game elements were drawn from my various grid based games (most of which were in turn inspired by Peter Pigs ‘Square Bashing’ and Ian Drury’s ‘Storm of Steel’ and ‘Sands of New Stanhall’. I kicked around some designs for a two or three day battle which would include some of the German counter attacks but in the end decided to concentrate purely on the first day. This in turn meant that all players would play the British, as running the Germans on the wrong end of the initial attack would be a dismal job at best! The game then fell into place fairly rapidly, the mechanisms used in Operation Uranus being obvious candidates, the main things to note being:

  1. Dice rolls are required to enter particular terrain types, this made wire especially a formidable obstacle to infantry and cavalry.
  2. Rolling dice for movement meant vehicle reliability could be simply modelled by making low scores a bad result for tanks (losing vehicles to breakdowns etc).
  3. Whilst infantry, guns and cavalry were modelled as one base = one battalion (or cavalry brigade) and they fought as a single element, the tanks were represented as strength points assigned to each vehicle model so the attritional effects of movement and combat could be modelled without requiring truly immense numbers of toys. The available tank SPs were just distributed over the available tank models and recorded with little dice. The game was designed with twelve tanks in mind, but in the event we managed to assemble no less than eighteen!
  4. Artillery barrages attack everything in the square, this makes the defending artillery pre-registered on no mans land extremely powerful indeed if the attackers try and march through with massed infantry. This in turn means that reaching the enemy gun line is a high priority for the tanks and that infantry attacks against uncut wire are essentially doomed to fail (as there is very little chance of crossing the wire and the defensive artillery will destroy units stuck in no mans land fairly quickly).
  5. Similar command and control limits as in Operation Uranus apply i.e. units can generally only move straight forward once committed to combat.

3. Playsheet
A very simple set of rules, British move and then Germans move. Squares are attacked by ‘assaulting’ them i.e. trying to move into them. Those units which make a successful move roll are shot at by the defenders, the survivors then engage in three rounds of close combat. Stationary units are hit by fire on a 6 but moving targets on a 5 or more, which makes assaults extremely bloody. Only some units have a ranged fire capability, the rest fight by assaulting. Move distances and ranges are in terms of squares, orthogonal only.

Turn Sequence

  • British move, declare assaults.
  • German move, declare assaults.
  • Artillery fire.
  • Ranged fire.
  • Assaults.
  • Rally (4+).

Units

  • * Dice per SP or base, Number after / is defensive fire only.
  • ** 3D6 if Anti-tank gun vs. tanks.
  • *** Pillboxes can only be destroyed by hits from artillery or by assault, all other ‘kills’ just disorganise them.

Move rolls (to enter/cross terrain). Use worst type in square.

  • * lose 1 SP on a ‘1’.
  • Stacking maximum 6 units per square.

Ranged, Artillery and Defensive fire

  • 1D6 per unit/SP.
  • To hit target: Stationary 6, Moving 5, Moving Cavalry 4.
  • Score = killed/1SP loss for tanks.
  • Heavy Artillery and barrage fire hits all units in a square.
  • Field artillery barrage disorganises if roll one less e.g. 5 disorganised hits on 6 vs. stationary. This is supposed to represent suppression from the creeping barrage.
  • Distribute hits randomly. Disorganised units may not move, conduct ranged fire and in assault shoot once and defend with 1 dice with no fortification benefits. Tanks are never disorganised.
  • Units may rally on 4+.

Assault

  • Units which make a successful move roll enter the square.
  • Defender fires twice using assault rating (unless disorganised).
  • Then fight three rounds using assault rating, 6 to kill.
  • Defender gets one extra dice for wire and one for trenches/cover (not pillboxes).
  • Attacker pushes out defender by rolling 6+, adding surplus troop bases, tanks and defenders in fortifications count double.
  • Guns and pillboxes are captured if the defender is pushed out, assaulting infantry are disorganised if they win.

4. Game Notes

  • 6 x 4 squares battle area, along with a further row of squares for no mans land and another row further back for reserves etc. No mans land is at the top of the battlefield (not shown) with a further line of squares behind that. The Germans have continuous lines of trenches across the first, second and fourth rows, the first two lines being covered by wire as well. The gun line is the third row. Each square represents approximately 2,000m, Cambrai itself is off the table at the bottom of the map.
  • The game lasts 8 turns (hours).
  • Defensive artillery may be surprised on the first turn if the British choose not to fire a preparatory bombardment. They open fire and are spotted but their fire has no effect on a 3+, roll for each target square.
  • The British have four turns of field gun barrage (two shots each) per division and 25 rounds of heavy gun ammo (maximum six shots per turn). One round of preparatory bombardment may be allowed (does not disorganise targets). If the guns move they lose all their dumped ammo and are only allowed one conventional ranged shot per turn. Field guns only support their own division.
  • British will need to allocate corps and divisional frontages, which may not overlap for infantry divisions, although a reserve division can overlap one front line division. No movement outside divisional areas. The cavalry boundaries can be allocated when they are committed. Once committed to NO MANS LAND units move straight forward, although tanks may deviate within the Corps zone to avoid obstacles.

German Forces

    2 x Infantry Divisions with 9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar and 3 x Field Guns each

The Hindenburg line has 6 x pillboxes, 3 further pillboxes in outpost and reserve lines. One gun is an Anti-tank gun (positioned in Bourlon Wood).

For each division the commitment of forces to each line is:

  • Outpost line: 2 x Infantry, 1 x pillbox.
  • Main Battle Line (HKL): 5 x Infantry, 3 x pillbox, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar.
  • Gun line: 3 x gun.
  • Reserves: 2 x Infantry.

Only deploy defending units when the British try to enter the square or are adjacent on high ground (Welsh Ridge, Bourlon Ridge).

British Forces

    III Corps

      62nd Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
      51st (Highland) Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
      20th Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
      12th Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
    IV Corps

      36th Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
      56th Infantry Division (9 x Infantry, 1 x MG, 1 x Mortar).
    Cavalry Corps

      5th Cavalry Division (3 x Cavalry).
      2nd Cavalry Division (3 x Cavalry).
      1st Cavalry Division (3 x Cavalry).
    Tank Corps with 380 Mark IV tanks and 96 support tanks. Approximately 1SP per 6 tanks so around 70 SP distributed over the available models, maybe more if feeling generous.

5. Player Briefings

Battle of Cambrai, 20th November 1917
British Briefing

General Scheme
General Sir Julian Byng’s plan for an offensive by his Army has been accepted by GHQ. We will make a surprise attack in the region of Cambrai using massed tanks supported by predicted artillery fire and no major preliminary bombardment. When a breakthrough has been achieved the Cavalry Corps can exploit the situation and advance on Douai and Valenciennes. Given the limited resources available following our great victory at the Third Battle of Ypres, the progress of the operation will be reviewed after 24 hours.

Objectives

  • Break through the Hindenburg Line defences on a frontage of at least 10,000 yards.
  • Take the dominating Bourlon Wood/Noyelles position.
  • Pass the Cavalry Corps through to capture Cambrai and exploit.

Enemy Forces
The enemy is believed to have some six divisions in the area, but only two manning the immediate defences. It is likely that large enemy reinforcements will arrive after 48 hours, however most enemy units are exhausted after the Battle of Ypres.

The Hindenburg Line consists of the three main defensive belts; an outpost line some 2,000m deep; the main battle zone also some 2,000m deep and fronted by a 14′ wide anti-tank ditch and a further reserve line 6,000m to 8,000m into the enemy position.

Each defensive zone is fronted by major wire entanglements, contains numerous dug in positions and bunkers and is reinforced with concreted machine gun posts (the so-called ‘pill boxes’). The bulk of the enemy troops and fortifications are likely to be concentrated in the main battle zone, with counter attack forces in the third line.

The enemy field artillery is mostly located behind the main battle zone and will lay down a curtain of defensive fire once our attack has commenced. The enemy gun line is out of barrage range of our field artillery, but the heavy artillery is within easy counter battery range.

Friendly Forces

    III Corps

      62nd Infantry Division
      51st (Highland) Infantry Division
      20th Infantry Division
      12th Infantry Division
    IV Corps

      36th Infantry Division
      56th Infantry Division
    Cavalry Corps

      5th Cavalry Division
      2nd Cavalry Division
      1st Cavalry Division

Each division has 100 field guns with sufficient ammunition for four hours barrage fire each. If they move this ammunition will be left behind and they will be reduced to their ready supply.

300 Heavy guns (six brigades) with sufficient ammunition for a total 25 concentrations between them. These guns are immobile.

Tank Corps, three tank brigades with 380 Mark IV heavy battle tanks and a further 96 support tanks of various marks.

Special Order to Tank Commanders

  1. Tomorrow the Tank Corps will have the chance for which it has been waiting for many months – to operate on good going in the van of the battle.
  2. All that hard work and ingenuity can achieve has been done in the way of preparation.
  3. It remains for unit commanders and tank crews to complete the work by judgement and pluck in the battle itself.
  4. In the light of past experience I leave the good name of the Corps with great confidence in their hands.
  5. I propose leading the attack in the centre division.
Hugh Elles B.G
Commanding Tank Corps
6. The Game
Tim Gow, Sharon Langdridge and John Armatys turned up for this one, which worked out at a rather handy two divisions each for them to command. The addition of Tim’s extra tanks (the paint seeming suspiciously wet) meant we could field no less than eighteen Mark IV type tanks in a surprising variety of colour schemes and markings, all very realistic no doubt. This meant each division could be assigned three tank models to produce a nice even distribution across the front, all very historical, and a necessity given the victory conditions of 10,000m wide break through. The 20mm troops were deployed in the south, and the 15mm troops in the north as being further away they naturally looked smaller.

The progress of the game was recorded for posterity by the miracle of digital camera technology, and we managed to record the situation at the start of the game and at the end of each turn. As might be expected, the massed armour rolled over the Germans, although the game was not without its distinctly sticky moments. The photographic evidence reveals rather poignantly the ever diminishing number of operational tanks in the front line and the increasingly ragged progress once the main Hindenburg defences were reached, a couple of pillboxes in the centre proving extremely tough nuts to crack.

Highlights of the game:

  1. The sheer spectacle of the table groaning under masses and masses of tanks, supported by an impressive number of infantry (some 54 bases of infantry alone, excluding artillery and support weapons).
  2. The glee with which the assembled tank commanders rolled over the German outpost line
  3. The consternation when they hit the Hindenburg Line proper!
  4. A lone German artillery battalion holding Bourlon Wood for hour after hour, fronted by blazing Mark IVs, all very historical.
  5. The death ride of the 51st Highland Division as they launched wave after wave of infantry assaults across the St Quentin Canal, only to be mowed down a brigade at a time by the defending artillery (who eventually succumbed to massed mortar and Vickers machine gun fire).
  6. The triumphant march of the Cavalry who trotted through the middle of the raging battle and off to glory without a scratch.

I was very pleased with the way the game went, and the players were all delighted to have given the Hun a good kicking, although it was by no means a walkover – some divisions had lost all their infantry and few tank units had more than one or two SP left. The only thing which really concerned me was that the combination of benefits they got which made the defenders extremely tough indeed and even during the game I dropped the additional dice they were supposed to have in close combat. If running it again I’ll probably revise that area somewhat.

7. Conclusions
Apart from a couple of minor tweaks, this game seems to work well. It is perhaps a bit depressing that I seem to have to write a set of rules for every single game I do, perhaps one day I’ll crack the secret of writing a more general purpose set. I’ll be bringing this to COW2003, and I hope anyone with even a passing interest in W.W.1 can come and give it a go. Contributions of even more tanks will be welcome!


Operation Uranus: An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier

OPERATION URANUS
An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier


Operation Uranus: Romanian briefing

To: Gen. Lascar, Commander 14th Vanatori Division, 3rd. Army, Seramifovitch 05.00 on 19th November 1942

There are strong indications that the enemy is preparing to attack. You must hold your positions at all costs for the honour of the Romanian Army, in particular you must delay or damage any enemy motorised formations to enable armoured reserves to move up and deal with them.

14th Vanatori Division

1 x Divisional headquarters
6 x Infantry battalions (3 Regiments)
1 x Infantry battalion (Jäger)
1 x Cavalry battalion (Reconnaissance)
1 x Engineer battalion
1 x 47mm Anti-tank gun (Anti-tank battalion)
1 x 120mm mortar (Mortar companies)
2 x 100mm howitzers (Artillery regiments)
2 x 75mm gun (Artillery regiments)
6 x barbed wire entrenchments
4 x minefields
25 x dummy counters

Units are deployed (as inverted counters) in rows B to E.


Operation Uranus: Russian Briefing

From: General Zhukov, Stavka representative to the Southern Front, Seramifovitch, 13.00 on 19th November 1942
To: General Bagramyan, 5th. Tank Army

The 5th Guards Tank Army will spearhead our thrust south to seize Kalach and surround the Nazis in Stalingrad. Use your attached Rifle Divisions to enable 3rd Tank Corps to pass through the lines of the Romanian Hitlerite running dogs to your front. The armour must be got through the lines in the maximum possible strength before nightfall.

124th Guards Rifle Division

1 x Divisional headquarters
9 x Rifle battalions
1 x SMG battalion
1 x Anti-tank Gun
1 x 120mm Mortar
1 x Engineer battalion
2 x 76mm guns
1 x 122mm gun

16th Rifle Division

1 x Divisional headquarters
9 x Rifle battalions
1 x Anti-tank Gun
1 x 120mm Mortar
1 x Engineer battalion
2 x 76mm guns

3rd Tank Corps

1 x Corps headquarters
3 x Tank brigades (2 x T-34, 1 x Motor Rifle battalion each)
1 x Motor Rifle brigade (3 x Motor Rifle battalions)
1 x Motorised SMG battalion
1 x Motorised Engineer battalion
1 x Armoured Reconnaissance battalion
1 x Guards Mortar battalion (Katayushas)

Plus air/artillery support as detailed in the rules.


Victory Levels: Based on number of Tank Corps units exited by the end of the day.
Note: the maximum victory level is only attainable if the entire tank corps leaves the table intact.

17: Order of Lenin all around. The Fascists in Stalingrad will be utterly annihilated as the mighty 3rd Tank Corps sweeps aside all opposition
15 to 16: Your mission has been achieved, and it is likely the enemy in Stalingrad will be surrounded by our powerful armoured forces.
13 to 14: 3rd Tank Corps has penetrated the enemy line, but will have a stiff fight to defeat the enemy armoured reserves and complete the breakthrough. Strict adherence to Stalinist principles will be necessary in future to avoid disgrace.
Less than 13: The crippled 3rd Tank Corps is highly unlikely to defeat 1st Romanian Armoured Division, and the success of our offensive now hangs by a thread. Report to Moscow immediately for reassignment to a Peoples’ Mine Clearing battalion.


Operation Uranus: RulesIntroduction

  • Each stand is a battalion.
  • Turns are approximately three hours (6 tums in a day).
  • Each square is about 2km.
  • The battle lasts a single day.
  • The battlefield is four zones wide by six zones deep.
  • The defender deploys counters face down in his area (rows B, C, D, E).
  • The Russians do reconnaissance (roll 206 for row/column, pick two counters three times).
  • Russians plan and fire bombardment: they have 16 points to fire initially (maximum 2 per zone), plus a further 8 on call (maximum 4 per turn).
  • Place fire points and plot four Target Registration Points (TRP) for on call fire. Roll D6 for each counter in a square per fire point, kill on 6.

Movement

  • Infantry/artillery move 1 zone.
  • Motorised move 2 zones (3 if not into combat).
  • Romanians may move D6 mobile units (half D6 if HQ destroyed).
  • Maximum of 6 units per zone at any time.

Combat

  • Artillery fire: allocate and resolve support points vs. squares (only vs. TRPs) … Note: this hits everyone! Resolve as initial barrage (roll per unit in target area, 6 kills). This includes airstrikes generated by random events.
  • Support fire (mortars l square, artillery/rockets 2 squares) may be into friendly squares. Romanians fire first, unmasked batteries cannot be targeted in the turn they are revealed. Fire once, 6 kills.
  • Close Combat (in same zone): Fight three rounds, rolls of 6 kill. Defender fires first on first round. All roll 1D6 except:
    • Engineer/SMG Infantry: 2D6 vs. soft, but die first.
    • Anti-tank: 2D6 vs. armoured, no effect vs. Infantry.
    • Tanks: 2D6.
    • Artillery: 2D6.
  • Each barbed wire gives one defender an extra D6, each minefield gives one defender an extra 2D6. Undefended wire does not impede movement in any way. Undefended minefields kill one unit on a 6, may be cleared by engineers spending a turn in zone. Units may not withdraw from close combat except in direction they came – defenders allowed 1 free shot with 1 unit.
  • Terrain has no effect, it just looks pretty at this scale (it is the rolling Steppe after all!).

Command and Control

  • In real life Red Army attacks were carefully orchestrated.
  • Each rifle division must have a divisional sector, and its forces must be divided into echelons (1st and 2nd).
  • The 1st echelon components are allocated an axis in the divisional sector and must move forwards along it (it may halt).
  • Divisional units may move around freely in the divisional sector.
  • The 2nd echelon is held off table and may be committed to an axis in the divisional sector only on the say so of the C-in-C.
  • Units may not move off their axis (line of squares) at any time.
  • The Tank Corps may be held in reserve and allocated a divisional sector and brigade axes when it is committed. All calls for support fire are also routed via Army HQ, against the TRPs.

Random events (D6 +1 per turn elapsed). Roll at the start of each turn:

    1 to 4: Thick fog, artillery and support fire may only be directed against squares adjacent to friendly units. Event is cancelled whenever 5+ rolled.
    5: Russian Air Strike. One support point available against any square.
    6: Romanian Air Strike. One support point available against any square.
    7: Extra Ammo. Add one support point to pool of available Russian points.
    8+: No effect


    The GameAn enthusiastic crowd of Russians was assembled: 16th Rifle (Daniel), 124th Guards (Steve Bridden), 3rd Tank (John Armatys), all under the watchful eye of Comrade General Nick Mitchell and Commissar Tim Gow.

    The Russians deployed as shown on the plan.

    Basically the 124th Guards was attacking on a narrow (1 zone) front, whilst 16th Rifle had three zones to cover. The Tank Corps was kept in third echelon reserve so its divisional sector and brigade axes could be determined once the initial attacks had gone in. The Romanians deployed as piles of inverted counters, although in fact it was a very conventional defence – four battalions in column E with wire/mines, mortars and two reserve battalions in column D, divisional artillery and a few more obstacles in row C, and divisional reserves (cavalry, engineers, Jäger battalion, anti-tank and Divisional HQ) in column B.

    General Mitchell rolled the three recon attempts, two of which either missed the table altogether or landed on empty squares. The final one turned up a mortar battalion in D2. The Russians plotted four target registration points for their on-call artillery, mainly along the 124th Guards axis, and allocated their 16 point barrage in quite a deep fire plan, again favouring the Guards. The barrage was resolved and numerous counters removed, the Hill in E4 was completely cleared, much to the Guards delight, and one hidden loss the Russians were not aware of was the Romanian divisional HQ. Only two of four Romanian front line battalions survived the barrage, and of them, only one (in E1) had any fortifications left intact.

    The Red horde rolled forward, and General Mitchell proceeded to stick pins in his map and shout down the telephone. As might be expected, 16th Rifle ran into opposition along its entire front, the regiment from F1 eventually totally destroying itself in fruitless attacks on the surviving Romanian battalion hiding behind its minefield. Progress further south was better, although again it was 16th Rifle which ran into most opposition, and lacking sufficient concentration of force along its attack axes, suffered brutally, its attack eventually petering out as indicated on the following map.

    The lack of opposition to the Guards prompted the Tank Corps to move into 2nd echelon reserve on turn 2, and then to enter the table on turn three, most of its brigades routed along row 4, while one Motor Rifle brigade moved along row 3. Unfortunately, Corps Commander Armatys had been ordered to ‘follow the Guards infantry closely’, and like a good Marxist-Leninist, that is exactly what he did – the loaded tanks, trucks and batteries of Katyushas bumping slowly over the Steppe, following the plodding infantry in front.

    By the fifth turn, the 124th had actually reached column A, but General Mitchell’s map pins were not indicating any armoured breakthrough, so Commissar Gow came to investigate. He found the Tank Corps motoring slowly along behind the infantry. A certain amount of political reorientation took place, and by shifting infantry units back and forth, it was found to be possible to move the vast bulk of the Tank Corps up at a more rapid rate. Despite firing 3 ammo loads at B3 (on top of an unfortunate regiment of the 16th Rifle), all of which missed (raising shouts of sabotage) in an effort to clear the way, the last Romanian reserve, their Anti-tank battalion, slipped into A4 on the last turn. This prevented the Tank Corps from simply driving off the table, and although the T-34s crunched the Romanian 47mms under their tracks easily, as night fell the Tank Corps was still on the field and not motoring off lo its destiny at Kalach.

    Fortunately, there was still at least one defended minefield left for the Division and Army commanders to clear in their new assignment to a Shtraf battalion …

    So not a good day for the Red Army. although the Romanians were largely obliterated, significant portions were still holding out at nightfall, and had delayed the Russian Tank Corps significantly. Interestingly one of the operational problems Red Army commanders strove to resolve (with increasing success) was at what point to commit their Army and Front level deep operational manoeuvre groups. Too soon and they would get chewed up in breakthrough fighting, too late and the enemy would have time to bring up reserves. In this case, time to revisit those Pu-36 Field Regulations I think!

    While these rules are incredibly simple, they do actually work, even for a large battle like the one described above – mainly through the uncertainty the attacker faces, and they work even better with a proper command structure superimposed. I hope to use them for other set piece modern battles, although probably at the lower company base scale.