The last two weeks have had a bit of a tank theme to them for me. The week before last saw the final session played out in a WW2 Eastern Front game that saw me, as the Soviet army, get defeated by a joint German/Hungarian force, and it’s that game that forms the main content of this post.
Before I get to that though, a bit about last week! I was away for work for a couple of nights, and years of experience have taught me to take something to keep me busy when I’m confined to a hotel room on a dark evening! In this case I took a couple of Pegasus Hobbies 1/72 scale Panzer 38(t) models to make. These come two to a box and there’s enough room in there to put in a bit of board to cut on, some files, a modelling knife, some modelling clippers and some glue. I also took a Jack Daniels miniature whisky tin to put the assembled tanks in so that they survived the journey home (sadly, the miniature whisky was consumed years ago)!
Anyway, I got one of each tank put together on Monday and Tuesday evening (they’re quick-assembly models) and got them undercoated on Thursday night once I was home. Wednesday night was spent reading a bit on 1940 French tanks. Once I was home I also had the chance to catch up on the blogs that I follow and it turns out that Buck Surdu, Mark Morin and maenoferren have all been doing tank stuff, so a bit of a tank week (and Chris Kemp’s been doing an Eastern Front game)!
So, on to the WW2 game! Last year I played a WW1 game, against my long-time wargames opponent John, celebrating the centenary of the first tank-versus-tank action in 1918 (and you can read that here). The game was good fun and, with the current popularity of the “Tanks” and “What A Tanker” games rules, we talked about using our own home-grown rules for WW2 games with tanks only. It turns out that John was first to get a game scenario sorted out, along with some simple mechanisms that also allowed infantry and air support to feature in the game.
The game was set in January 1945, near the city of Komárom in Hungary. The Soviet army was in the process of developing an attack to capture the city, defended by Hungarian and German forces, with the latter hoping to muster sufficient forces to launch a counterattack. Initially the Soviets (commanded by myself) had a couple of Lend-Lease M4 (76mm) Shermans, two SU-76 self-propelled guns and supporting infantry, whilst the Germans/Hungarians had a Marder, a Hetzer, a Jagdpanzer IV (all tanks destroyers), a Panzer IVH, an 88mm FlaK 37 anti-aircraft gun operating in the ground role and supporting infantry as well.
Initially, the Soviets jockeyed their tanks into cover to try and whittle down the opposing forces while waiting for their main attack force to arrive. The Hungarian Marder got knocked out by one of the Shermans, but then both of the latter were destroyed in a German air attack supported by the Jagdpanzer IV.
It took a while, but eventually the main Russian force arrived in the form of eight T-34s (four each of T-34/76 and T-34/85 models) carrying supporting tank riders. This force steamrollered its way down the board, losing some of its tanks, but destroying the Panzer IV before backing the remaining German tank destroyers into a corner and overwhelming them. Patchy Soviet air cover arrived in time to be able to destroy the dug-in 88 and it then looked like the Russians would be able to move forward and gain a foothold in Komárom itself. Wishful thinking on my part!
As the Russians prepared to consolidate their position, German reinforcements arrived in the form of four Panzer IVH tanks supported by armoured infantry, with air cover overhead. The Russians weren’t in a bad position, but now suffered from a string of poor initiative and shooting rolls on the dice.
For the loss of no German tanks (!) the combination of the Panzer IVs and air support finished off all of the remaining Russian vehicles! Surprisingly, the two SU-76s were the last to be knocked out, trading shots with the Germans until the end! Since the Russians were left with infantry units in exposed positions, their only option was to retreat and make use of any limited air cover they could get.
So, I lost! It turns out that is what actually happened anyway, the Soviet attack on Komárom on this occasion being defeated. I can live with that! I had thought that I’d maybe just made a hash of the whole thing – since we played along the board lengthways, it didn’t prove feasible to outflank the Germans with the more numerous Russian armour, so there was little room for tactical manoeuvre. The only other option might have been to pull back the initial Russian vehicles and wait for the main attacking force, but this might have allowed the Germans to develop more of a depth to their defence whilst allowing them to pick off the Shermans and SU-76s as they pulled back.
Anyway, it was a good game and we both enjoyed it! John basically used his existing rules as they were, substituting some simple infantry combat rules in where needed. Allowing for the presence of infantry in predominantly tank-based games is important, since tanks only venture into built-up areas (or forests, jungle etc.) when they have close support from their own infantry. Next step will be for me to work on my own rules and get some more tanks built and painted, although preferably in the comfort of my own home!