With the failure of Soviet force to Hold the Line at Butovo, they’re now retreating towards the final objective of Cherkasskoye. Along the road both fit fighting men and the wounded struggle, and the Germans are right on their heels. Can they hold the Germans for long enough to evacuate their wounded and fall back in good order? Or will the rag-tag column be wiped out by the merciless fascists?

Forces

The Soviet force has been badly battered by the day’s fighting, and is now reduced to two understrength squads. They can still muster four machine guns, and they’ve bumped into the crew of an immobile 45mm AT gun who will be lending them some additional firepower. They’ve got no support at all though,  and they have three carts full of wounded to protect.

The Germans also took an understrength platoon, as they’re saving the good ones for the final push on Cherkasskoye. They had 21 men led by an SNCO, and boosted that with eight points of support which they spent on:

  • le.IG18 75mm infantry gun
  • MG42 SFMG

Clearly the German plan is to take advantage of all that open ground, and just shoot the Soviets to bits.

Campaign Progress

With the Soviet outposts on the run, the Germans are keen to mop them up and then roll on to the main Soviet line of resistance. They’re well on track for a major victory now, only a minor miracle will save the Soviets.

The Ground

The Soviets are fleeing from left to right roughly along the road, trying to get their wounded out via the right table edge. The Germans are moving in from the top of the map, trying to cut the road and wipe the disorganised Reds out.

Deployment

Obviously the Soviet cause will be helped immensely by getting their JOPs as far as possible towards the other end of the road. Luckily they only have three patrol markers vs the German four, which means they can move more quickly. They were also aided by the Germans only rolling one free move for the markers.

In the end they managed to get one JOP on the table edge near the far patch of scrub, and one into the woods behind the house. This put them within striking distance of the exit point, and made it look like there was a game to be played and not just a turkey shoot.

Both sides rolled low for force morale, the Soviets stuck on rock-bottom 8, and the Germans not much better on 9.

The Plan

Victory conditions for the Soviets were simple: get two carts off the table. So the plan was to screen them with infantry and just move them whenever the command dice allowed.

The Game

As expected, the Germans spent their early moves getting troops on table and set up in overwatch. The Soviets sent up a squad but kept it out of sight behind the building while they worked themselves into a better firing position to cover the carts. Taking advantage of a double phase, the Soviets brought their infantry up and opened fire, drawing the German overwatch fire, and then deployed their first cart and started moving it along the road.

Predictably, German fire slammed into the cart and two men were hit immediately. Under that kind of attention the carts wouldn’t last long, so the Soviets deployed a second one. The most dangerous German unit on the table was the le.IG-18 infantry gun they’d brought up, so the Russians elected not to use covering fire and instead poured rounds at the gun crew, trying to silence it. A nearby German squad soaked up some of those hits though, and the German gun kept firing, although to little effect so far. Normally that’s a pretty reliable weapon for the Germans, so that was sure to turn around.

From the other side of the table the Soviet 45mm had also deployed, and while it couldn’t match the firepower of the German 75mm it was adding some high explosive to the return fire. The Soviets couldn’t afford to simply trade fire though, they needed to get those carts moving. Luckily for them a double phase allowed them to get both carts on the table moving, while the troops screened them and drew the Germans’ fire.

The Germans now had a target rich environment and doubled down by deploying an MG34 SFMG to add to the Soviets’ woes, this immediately hit another man on the first cart, leaving it with only one man left. The dice gods were smiling on the Russians though, as they got another double phase and were able to move the carts again and continue to concentrate fire on the infantry gun. The concentrated fire was beginning to tell, with several gun crew hit already, and the survivors nerve failed them when the shock got too high. The crew crew broke and fell back towards safety. The Soviets now switched their fire to the tripod machine gun, which was still putting out a lot of fire, as was the rifle squad. It was too much for the first cart of wounded, which was cut to ribbons and destroyed. In a slight note of consolation for the Soviets their return fire hit and killed a German squad leader, costing the Germans two points of morale.

But the carts were close to the objective, and the Soviets took the chance to deploy their third and final cart. Another opportune double phase allowed them to move both carts rapidly towards the edge. The Germans threw everything they had at them and hit two men it wasn’t enough and in the Soviets’ next activation they managed to push both carts over the line and grab the win.

The Butcher’s Bill

Soviet casualties were limited to the wounded men in the carts, as the Germans were understandably concentrating their fire on them. Taking their one point force morale advantage into account the final Soviet casualties were two dead and two wounded (although how does this work if the men were already wounded?). All of those casualties were on the wounded men, not the core platoon.

The Germans lost a squad leader and three dead, two wounded, although almost all of those casualties were on the MG and infantry gun crew. Their core platoon also got off lightly.

Campaign Post-Match

Soviet morale enjoyed a bit of a boost, with the CO’s opinion going up to +1 and the men’s morale recovering slightly to -4. This is still pretty low but does reduce their morale roll penalty from -2 to -1, which is a good thing. The two surviving squads and their CO from this platoon will be joining the last line of defence where a full platoon is ready to fight, so they’ve got a decent force available.

The German CO dropped his opinion to +2, which means they lose their extra support point, and the men drooped to -5 (they were lucky to not suffer any penalty for losing an NCO).

The Germans are certainly winning the campaign, arriving at the final scenario with plenty of time to spare, but their morale is looking just as bad as on the Soviet side. The men are tired and grumpy, they need to take their objective before they can rest.

Lessons Learned

  • This game was won and lost by two things: a good Soviet patrol phase which put their JOPs close to the far table edge, and some crazy luck with command rolls. They just had more activations and were able to re-activate the carts multiple times to get them over the edge while the Germans just watched.