Thursday, 28 January 2010

Preparation for Vapnartak: Day 1

German Grenadier Kompanie 2,000pts ‘Free For All’ vs. Finnish Tank Armada (Nathan)

My first game for six weeks, and following my efforts to paint everything I’m hoping to take to York I was quietly confident. The enemy was bringing a tank company whose idea of armour made the Marder’s look like hard cases, and the only problem case looked to be the two KV1’s that were certain to appear. I put my faith in a spattering of 7.5cm guns that should be enough to remove them from the equation.

I went with the 2,000pt army I had made up for the first game at Vapratrak; 3 platoons of infantry (1 pioneer), 1 of (3) Marder III’s, 1 of (3) StuG F/8’s, 1 of HMG’s and 1 of mortars, topped off by a platoon of two PaK40’s and one of four 10.5cm howitzers. The Finns had one of five T-26 light tanks, one of four T-28 multi-turreted tanks, one of two KV1’s, one of two Landsverks anti-aircraft vehicles, one of four howitzers, one of anti-tank guns and a pioneer platoon. We had both forgotten to bring the scenario rules along, so a random roll in the rulebook brought a ‘Free for All’ mission, with the Finns technically attacking.

The Battle:
I could almost feel the rust on the cogs grinding as I tried to remember how to play and what the best setup was. My optimism that the Marder’s would get the best of the T-26’s on the left was clearly misplaced as the Finns tanks advanced and used their pop-guns to cut through the tank-hunters with ease. I was forced to bring the StuG’s across from the centre to restore order and shield my two grenadier platoons and artillery from the tanks and pioneers now advancing. My right flank looked shaky with the removal of the StuG’s, their sole AT defence against the KV1’s on the Finns far left being the PaK40’s, and clever manoeuvring by the Finnish tanks ensured they rarely had a shot.

The punch-up on the left cost me the Marder’s, a platoon of grenadiers and, eventually, the StuG’s, although not before the latter had put pay to the T-28‘s advance down the centre. These losses were due in no small measure to the Finns heavy artillery which was a mighty thorn in my side all evening. The enemy tanks and pioneers suffered severe losses, but not enough to stop them reaching the objective and my artillery. On my right the KV1’s had machine-gunned the mortars, but were stalled by the prospect of advancing in front of the PaK40’s, and leaving my third grenadier platoon behind them. Nether the less the German situation was grim.

A sudden ray of sunshine appeared with the surprise revival of my pioneer grenadiers on the far left. Despite suffering 60% casualties they launched back into the fray, clearly catching the T-26’s on the hop and wiping out the last two before moving onto, and finishing off, the last Landsverk. The Finns pioneers had reached, and chased away my artillery, only for the PaK40’s to swing round and reduce them to a single base, effectively destroying the Finns right flank and centre, although for the loss of a huge part of my own army.

The opposition took this turn of events to mean that the KV1’s must finally be risked, and ploughed them into the woods containing my third grenadier platoon. One bogged down, but the grenadiers were unable to take advantage and fled the field. With this I was reduced to below half strength, and in keeping with proud tradition my CO scarpered with the sorry remains of my troops. The battle against the Finns was lost. Again.

So what did we learn:
Marders are fragile! Their weak armour had no chance of saving them in the exposed position I left them in, and I would have been better off hiding them on the edge of a wood and risking the bogging checks. Their loss early on meant the StuG’s were drawn into an area which the Finnish artillery clearly had zeroed! My one platoon of pioneers, although they came good towards the end, were stuck out on one (far left) flank, and lacked impact. The trucks that two of the grenadier platoons, and the PaK40’s, were issued with were unused as I hoped to draw the enemy into my own killing grounds and use the Marder’s, StuG’s and PaK40’s to destroy them before counter attacking with the infantry. As it was I was on the defensive all the time and in the end they were sent to the rear to prevent unnecessary losses.

The enemy had also learnt from their last encounter; the objectives were far apart and difficult for me to cover with my AT guns. The Finns tank platoons split up and went down both flanks, again causing me to divert my assault guns to one side to fend them off. Their artillery was a real shock, having upgraded from the normal two 10.5cm guns, they were now used 15cm heavy howitzers which annihilated everything they touched, and given the excellence of their spotter it seemed to destroy much of my army, from StuG’s to infantry and even my own spotters!

On a final note I’ve spend much spare time over the last 5-6 weeks painting and revamping my Germans, and I was gratified to find they looked as good on the table top as I had hoped, even if I was the only one admiring them as I removed the bases one by one…..

Grenadier Kompanie 800pts ‘Capture the Hill‘ vs. British Light Tank Squadron (Red)

So with the Finns victorious and gone, and an hour of club-time remaining (like Ferguson extra time, but shorter), another FOW opponent stepped forward for a smaller, shorter game. We decided to play the 800pt scenario for Vapnartak - a form of capture the hill, where victory could be gained from turn three onwards, but failure to win by turn 6 equalled a draw automatically.

My Germans took to the field with two grenadier platoons in trucks, a Marder III platoon (2 guns), a PaK40 platoon (2 guns), and my secret weapon; a captured KV1e heavy tank. The enemy (my old adversary, the British commanded by Red) fielded a light tank company from Africa, with three platoons of Crusader II tanks, one of 2 6pdr portees and one platoon of truck mounted infantry.

Sadly my battle plan turned out quite uninventive. The KV1e trundled forwards onto the hill, machine-gunning the portees as it did so, neatly removing the only British unit that could damage it, and sat on the objective. The remainder of the battle saw the Marder’s be shot up by the massed Crusaders, a grenadier unit pop-out of a wood to massacre the majority of the British infantry before being shot to pieces themselves, and finally the British tanks falling over each other to avoid being in sight of the lethal PaK40’s. When time ran out (past turn 6 as it happened) the KV1e was still on the objective slowly shooting up the Crusaders parked around it, while the PaK40’s and second platoon of grenadiers were being gallant and hiding! A draw it was.

Ignoring the fact that I fielded a tank the enemy couldn’t destroy, my tactics were quite boring even for me! My troops spent the whole game hiding in buildings or woods so they wouldn’t get destroyed and cause the KV1e to retreat automatically. If I was playing for a draw it was a success, but an entertaining spectacle it was not. The Marder III’s were once again easily taken out by pop-guns as my attempts at an aggressive deployment failed. The 800pt list will have to be rethought, especially based on the fact that I discovered I was 60pts over the 800, sorry Red!

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