Monday, May 20, 2013

Stalingrad No2 Railway Station

 Battle for Stalingrad No2 Railway Station

Following the failed Soviet Counterattack in the second battle the German forces quickly went back onto the offensive. The 21st Panzergrenadier Regiment had reached the Stalingrad No2 Railway Station and had gotten into close contact with the enemy.

Stalingrad No2 Railway Station with ruined Central Railway Hotel behind
 During a long night the 21st Regiment soldiers were stealthily relieved in place but other elements of the 6th Army force. Specifically a Pioneer platoon from the attached 399th Engineer battalion and a platoon of riflemen from the 72nd Infantry Division. Hauptman Von Rotgers, the German commander, put in a request for recon assets and was granted a detachment from the Regimental Recon Platoon (3 dummy blinds costing resource 1 point). The battlefield was laid out as below.

View facing north. German blinds coming from the west.

The front line had a short no man's land along the railway tracks in the center but at either end the enemy forces were in very close proximity. The Russian player was allowed to place a unit in either the tall building on their left flank or the signal control offices west of the rail tracks on their right. In the end they chose to position their ex-conscript platoon from the previous battle (now rated as poor regulars having been 'blooded') in three floors of the tall building on the Russian left side. This unit I had given the nickname of Heroes Regiment troops. They were to experience some misfortune. The Germans were allowed to place units in both those advanced positions as well as anywhere on their side of no man's land. The German player placed an entire platoon of veteran pioneers in the tall building. He also put one of his recon blinds showing on there.

As a special rule for this battle I said that to mirror some reports of enemy combatants occupying different rooms and floors in the same building I allowed a situation where both sides had blinds within 4" of each other not to fight until one moved forward. The Germans got the first blinds card of the game and promptly moved forward their recon elements. In the tall building they immediately bumped the Heroes Regiment platoon which was forced to deploy on the table. Elsewhere the other two recon blinds moved forward into the railway station and uncovered two veteran squads from the 33rd Rifle Division.

German recon team spots soviet infantry defending No2 Railway Station
Then the Russian blinds moved. The Heroes Regiment was given the order to move forward and occupy the west side of their building. This of course brought them immediately into contact with the pioneers. A brutal, mostly one-sided series of close combats followed after which a single Russian rifleman staggered from the building leaving behind 24 dead comrades including the platoon big man.
The Heroes Regiment troops come to a sticky end.

The sacrifice was great but they did succeed in killing 4 men in one pioneer squad including one of the two flamethrower teams, plus a man in each of the other two squads and they added bits of shock here and there. The flamethrowers also set fire to the building and the reduced pioneer squad spent the next several turns trying to fight the fire, with little success.

The two strongest pioneer squads vacate the burning building.
Comrade Neilov in the red defence bunker ordered one of his veteran infantry platoons in the railway station to swing round and attempt to block the path of the engineers. He also put all other blinds on reserved dice. When the German blinds card came up the two squads of engineers advanced out of the building. The first squad to try to cross the gap into the next building was hit by the reserved fire from a veteran MMG team in the Central Railway Hotel building and also fire from the third veteran 33rd Division rifle squad. The Germans took many casualties and were suppressed with just three men left. This did allow the last engineer squad with the big man and flamethrower to rush over into the cover of the small building but in their haste they didn't notice a booby trap that exploded and caused one dead and a shock. This small building was in the 2nd objective band and so the Germans claimed the resource points for that.

Soviet MMGs set up crossfire. The 1st pioneer squad is suppressed, the 2nd sets off a booby trap in a building.

Flamethrower torches MMG team.
The Russians activated a second veteran MMG team in the building in the third objective band behind. This caused 3 casualties but left the flamethrower team still operational. They then promptly incinerated the MMG team, killing all five members in a blizzard of fire. 

Veteran Soviet platoon fails to prevent pioneers from capturing third line objective.

 As luck would have it the assault troops from the 399th battalion kept the initiative in the next turn by getting the first card and they used this to occupy the smoldering ruins that they had just flamed and as this was in the third objective line the German commander was content to limit his advances to this point. The Russian player asked whether he could get back the objective by throwing out the Germans but up until now we hadn't been playing it this way and so, with neither side wishing to risk any more troops, the game was called.

Pioneers retreat past burning building as German commander digs in on the railway line.
The follow-on battle was particularly one sided as the Russians had spent up a lot of their resource points on the MMGs, the Heroes Regt platoon, the 33rd Rifles and a selection of boobytraps as well as a Die Hard squad that was holding an objective building on the north of the map but never got on the table. The Germans only deployed their engineers and the recon assets and so got full points for everything else and had about 15 follow-on dice to the Russians' 9. The outcome was a breakthrough victory which meant that the Germans have reached the Volga and are lapping around one of the Red Oktober Metallurgical Factory halls for the final battle.

The Soviets are penned into a tiny pocket up against the banks of the Volga.

A resounding victory for the Wehrmacht but not without losses. The precious veteran pioneer platoon, perhaps the most powerful unit in the German core force roster, took nearly 70% casualties with only 10 men making it back to German lines. The Russians mourned the destruction of their Heroes Regiment troops but I wonder whether the loss of one of their two core veteran MMG teams won't be more problematic. All these troops may be badly missed for one reason or another by both sides in the climactic battle.

We had some discussions after the game and came to the conclusion that I had generated an unsatisfactory set of objectives for the Germans that were a bit too close to their front line. And the German player had played within this stricture and the campaign rules and done the minimum necessary to get his objectives. My fault, not the player's, and we have come up with a better solution.

An attacker will still have three objective 'bands' that he needs to take a building in each of. He will now get half the points for the band when he first takes control of a building in any band BUT he will only get the other half of the points if he is still in possession of a building in a particular band at game end. That way a defender has an incentive to organise localised, in-game counter-attacks against a penetration by an attacker and the attacker has an incentive to commit extra troops to reinforce any gains made. All this I think encourages realistic tactics and behaviour and I was very pleased that we reached this rule change. Neither player has played with uncaring abandon. They have attacked when needed but both have also husbanded their forces when they had the opportunity. And all three of use are thoroughly enjoying ourselves.