We played our big annual two day game last weekend, Sowchos 79, an eastern front scenario written by Tom Schumacher for the Battlefront WWII rules. The scenario is based on an assault on the collective farming village of Sowchos 79 by the Germans as part of their effort to reestablish their Chir River defences before attempting to relieve Stalingrad.
|The scenario map, showing initial Russian deployment areas|
The “Big Game”
This is the third of our annual summer “big games”, games too large to play in a single afternoon and requiring more space than a conventional board. We played on a 12' X 7.5' table, a nice wintry landscape to cool down two of the hottest days of a Canadian summer. This year we set up in Phong Nguyen-Ho's spanking new man cave in his palatial basement, christening it in style with a five player, 15 hour long game (that actually concluded!!) We fielded lots of armour and figures in 1/72, mostly Phong's, who broke in his newly minted Russians while I got to trot out my winter Germans for a second time.
|Phong lays out the terrain on our 12' X 7.5' table|
Food was provided by Ted Hodson, serving us up falafels and chili the first day and spring rolls and tabbuleh salad the second, all home made. Phong got into the food action as well, providing an exotic okra, tomato and avocado salad, so we were well-provisioned!
|Most of the entire board seen from above. The Germans entered from the top, left and bottom, while the Russians were dug in in and around the village of Sowchos 79.|
|Sowchos 79, viewed from the Russian side of the board, with the road that the T-34 reinforcements arrive in the foreground. The village is composed of wooden buildings surrounding stone buildings in the core.|
|A Sowchos 79 detail. The brick building (centre) was held by the Russians until the last game turn, with the 110th PG's losing almost half a company trying to take the first sector.|
The Secondary Objective
|The smaller built up areas west of the town also had to be taken. The 111th PG's battled through these and up along the stream, through a tenacious Russian defence.|
The German force was made up of two regiments of Panzergrenadiers, 110th (armoured) and 111th (motorized) along with support weapons, supported by four companies of the 15th Panzer Regiment, mounted in a mixed bag of Panzer II's, II's and IV's. Each PG regiment had a battery of 105's in support, with a second battery of 150's in shared general support.
Two motorized rifle companies of the 117th MRB defend Sowchos 79 and surrounds, supported by T-34's and T-70's of the 117th Tank Brigade and T-70's of the 159th Tank Brigade. More elements of the 117th and 159th Tank Brigades arrive later in the game. Russian off board artillery support is slim, a battery of 75mm howitzers and a battery of 82mm mortars.
A third mounted rifle company is in convoy on the road into Sowchos from the north, but these are largely discounted as they fall in the path of the advancing panzers.
2. Convoy ambush
While some of the German tanks shoot up the convoy others roar up either side, overrunning the scattering Russian infantry and sowing panic. The convoy grinds to a halt, and the remainder is shot up by the German tanks, causing barely a speed bump in the armour's advance to the town.
3. 111th PG's roll in from west
At the same time the 111th PG's roll down towards Sowchos 79 from the west, dismounting from trucks to clear the built up areas and woods on this side of the town. They immediately encounter some small arms fire from the houses and take casulaties, proving that the Russians do not plan to give up this covered approach without a fight.
4. 110th PG's move in from the south
In a pincer movement the 110th roar in in their armoured halftracks from the south, while their 75mm halftrack and AT gun peel off to enter the woods (top right) hoping to set up a thin anti tank screen against any Russian armoured counter attacks from east of the village.
5. 117th Tank Brigade T-34's square off against approaching panzers
Northeast of Sowchos 79 the Russian T-34's in hull down positions watch the advancing German armour decimate the Russian truck convoy, but are too far away to lend support. The T-70's in this brigade detach and move back to Sowchos to support the rifle companies.
6. Plotting moves
The Russian players (Dawson and Phong on right) place their now spotted Russian T-34's while Herr Dyment (left) plots the next move of his beloved panzers.
7. 111th's progress blocked by Russian T-70's
The 1st Co. of the 111th PG's hoped for a quick sweep of the outlying houses, but this is brought up short by the arrival of two T-70's along the road to Sowchos.
8. T-70's on road
9. 111th's second company moves into woods
The second company bypasses the houses and moves through the woods towards the town. They attempt to bring their support weapons with them, but these quickly bog down and are forced to traverse the edge of the woods instead.
10. 110th PG's move in on the town
The armoured 110th PG's swoop around and in towards Sowchos 79 from the west, joining the 111th in their attack from this direction and forcing many of the Russian infantry to reposition to meet this threat.
11. Russian arty zeros in
Light shelling pins some of the 111th as they move to clear the outlying houses.
12. Mortar strikes on Pak38
Mortar shells rain down on the 110th's Pak38, knocking out its transport. A successful bail out, however, saves the gun which is eventually emplaced to guard the right flank of the Panzergrenadier's attack.
13. Carnage on the road
German armour pours past the shattered Russian convoy. The lighter German tanks break off to deal with survivors while the remainder press on towards the town. Russians drop smoke in an attempt to allow their infantry to move in to close assault, but these are swatted aside by the German tanks.
14. What the Russian T-34's saw
The German tanks begin taking some long range fire from the hull down T-34's as the Panzers continue to press their advance.
15. Sdkfz. 251/9 dukes it out with T-70's
Meanwhile the T-70's of the 159th Tank Brigade crest the ridge south of Sowchos, moving out of their deployment area in an attempt to move in behind the 110th through the woods. They are held up by a German 75mm halftrack and trade shots.
16. …and loses
Despite dominating the exchange with its better gun, a bad maneuver roll forces the German halftrack to panic and turn, causing it to be brewed up in enfilade. This allows the T-70's to move into the woods, making their way up in enfilade of the German right (south) flank.
17. 110th's attack goes in on the town
Following an artillery strike and under cover of smoke the 110th PG's dismount on the edge of town to close assault the perimeter houses. Most are driven off but their command halftrack knocks out a T-70 in close assault and enters the town while a Russian Maxim opens up from an adjacent house, driving some of the attackers to ground with grazing fire before it is KO'd as well. A slender toehold is gained by the Germans on the west of Sowchos 79. On the upper right two of the four T-70's of the 159th can be seen waiting hull down for any emerging attack on this front.
Bullets kick up the snow as a Russian Maxim opens up from the perimeter houses in grazing fire.
19. Paks in action
The two German Pak38's, along with the 37mm armed battalion commander's halftrack, emplace on the right flank of the PG assault, creating a small Pak screen against any Russian armoured counterattack that might emerge from this direction.
20. Relentless panzers
Meanwhile, from the north, the German armour continues to grind its way methodically but relentlessly towards the town while the Panzergrenadiers scream for armour support. “We have some T-34's to deal with first,” they are told over the radio…
21. Fire and maneuver
Employing fire and maneuver tactics, the Germans methodically pin down the Russian T-34's while some of their armour uses the cover of a ridge to close in enfilade. The 111th's FOO responds to a request for smoke, laying down a screen on the enemy armour to help the panzers close within effective range.
22. Tank hunting
Back on the 111th's front, a bad maneuver roll on the part of the Russians force their tanks to withdraw into the cover of trees bordering the stream. The Germans use this opportunity to break out of the outlying houses and move into close assault in a hope to break the stalemate that has tied up their attack on the left flank.
23. 111th's 2nd Company follows in
With the Russian T-70's neutralized, the 2nd Co. pours out of the woods and across the fields towards Sowchos 79. Shelling and small arms fire greet them, but they succeed in engaging the enemy to the left of the 110th's attack, and quickly force a foothold into the perimeter.
24. Overview of 110th's attack
As the 111th's 2nd Co. comes in (lower left), some small headway is being made by the 110th. The command halftrack is still lodged at the entrance, but most of the sectors to its left are now cleared. To the right pioneers use their flamethrower to clear out the Russians one sector at a time, eventually winning three sectors before being KO'd. On the right, the brick building (removed) proves a very sticky wicket as counterattack after counterattack is driven off with heavy German casualties.
25. Pak38 comes under fire
Russian mortars engage the German Paks with the hope of knocking them out.
26. Taking it to the T-70's
The first T-70 on the German (111th's) left flank is KO'd in close assault. The grenadiers battle it out with some Russian infantry dug in in these woods before moving on towards the second tank in this area.
From left to right:
2nd Co., 111th makes it to the town as the remaining T-70 on this flank emerges from the woods by the stream. Enemy troops in the perimeter houses are driven out and the 111th (2nd Co.) link up with pioneers of the 110th who have seized the northeast row of wooden sectors.
To their right, the 110th's attack has stalled out. The Russians, using shoot and scoot tactics, continually bloody the nose of the Germans on this front, steadily depleting the enemy's numbers at little cost to their own. The German armour is desperately needed to break the stalemate, and the German panzer commander dispatches a pair of tanks to circle around to the northeast (top left).
28. Second T-70 breaks and runs
As Russian tank casualties mount, the second T-70 on the German infantry left flank breaks and runs for cover back to Sowchos 79.
29. 117th Tanks collapse northeast of Sowchos 79
Two T-34's are KO'd in enfilade, and a failed maneuver roll sends the two surviving tanks in panicked retreat, where they are easily picked off before exiting the board. With the last of the Russian infantry from the convoy driven off back towards the Chir River, nothing now stands between the German armour and Sowchos 79.
30. First T-34 reinforcements arrive
But the battle is far from lost for the Russians. Their first reinforcement of four T-34's arrive on the road west of Sowchos 79, and with the enemy armour still well to the north, two of the Russian tanks slip into the village to bolster the infantry defence. But ominously, German armour enters into the town from the north. The grenadiers, with nothing to combat the Russian tanks, hunker down and wait for friendly armour to help oust the blocking T-34's.
31. More T-34's crest the ridge south of the town
On the same reinforcing round, the Russian commanders send two more tanks to the ridge south of Sowchos 79, to bring in fire on the PG's halftracks.
32. Panzers roll on to Sowchos 79
German armour rolls past burning Russian tanks against little opposition.
33. …and into the town
Only a flock of chickens bars entrance to the northeast end of Sowchos.
German armour enters Sowchos 79, with the tank bottom left threatening the rear of the T-34 which has thus far stymied the German infantry advance. Tanks entering on the northeast (top right) cause the Russian infantry to fall back from their forward positions.
35. Against all odds!
Bad luck continues to plague the Russian side as a T-34 and two T-70's are knocked out and a second T-34 driven off in an attempt to take out the Pak screen in close combat. Despite the Russians drawing fire with feints before closing, the Paks along with the PG 110 battlaion commander's 37mm mounted command halftrack beat all odds and hold their position intact. This was the last exchange of Day 1 of gaming.
36. Battlefield Overview
Day 2 of gaming begins with the Russians on the ropes.
Top right: German armour pours into and around the village.
Mid-left: Panzer grenadiers have gained a narrow foothold all along the east side of the village, but wait for armour support before resuming their attack, as the two T-34's still dominate the town entrances on the east side. Just below this, two Russian tanks burn and a third has withdrawn disordered, effectively ending Russian armoured threats on this front. A couple of T-70's continue to skulk around in the forest.
37. Rolling into trouble
The arrival of the second T-34 reinforcements ends badly. The German panzers had secured a firing line along the stream, dominating the road entrance in enfilade before the Russians' arrival. Two of the three Russian T-34's are KO'd the moment they enter the board , with only the third managing to move away to cover behind some woods.
38. Surveying the battlefield
The surviving T-34 of the second wave of reinforcements crests the ridge south of Sowchos 79 to see a field of burning Russian armour. He fires off some long range shots but to little effect against the German armour that is now sweeping around the west side of the village.
39. Bringing up the guns
While the PG's wait for armoured support to break the deadlock, the 111th brings up its guns, hoping to get them into action in the town.
A German panzer moves in on the boxed in T-34, surviving the double tap fire before disordering it at close range. This allows a second tank to move in and close assault from behind, while the 111th PG's maneuvers to bring AT rifles and its AT gun into range, in case all else fails.
41. T-34 dispatched
The T-34 blocking the northeast entrance to town is finally taken out in close combat by the enfilading panzer.
42. Clearing out the north edge of the village
With the Russian tank dealt with, the 111th PG's are freed up to move in, clearing out the north edge perimeter sectors one at a time.
43. First (and only!) panzer KO'd
Other German armour sweeps through the northwest side of the town, driving out the few Russian infantry still in this area. The lead tank succumbs to a close assault by hidden infantry, the first German tank loss in exchange for 15 of the enemy.
44. Game end
Back to back failed maneuver rolls on the part of the Russians, exacerbated by the presence of German armour all around them cause the Russian defence to collapse. The German PG's rapidly move in to seize abandoned sectors and the Russian players, after 10 turns and 15 hours of play and with virtually no armour support left, throw in the towel.
Although one Russian company was still in reasonable shape at the end, having fought well using shoot and scoot tactics, it broke and abandoned its positions on the final turn. The second, suffering crippling losses, was finally annihilated. The PG companies end the game at just shy of 50% casualties on average, but the real deal-breaker was the domination of the German armour over the Russian, losing only one tank to 15 of the 18 Russian tanks. A great annual “big game” all around, and a lot of fun for both sides. Can hardly wait until next year!