Saturday, 4 January 2014

Action at Oberickelsheim - Part V - the battle begins

Pat and Aaron got to my place at 9 in the morning.  After running through the scenario rules with them, they plotted their orders on their maps; together this took up the next hour - Aaron had actually formulated a plan the night before, only to discover in the morning that he hadn't noticed the page detailing the objectives and victory points associated with them, and thus proceeded to rewrite his entire attack plan!  Of course Pat had a much bigger job here, with so many more units.  So turn one (0630 game time) started at 10 o'clock in real time.

Turn 1: the scene is set
To the left you can see how the finished battlefield looked.  I had run out of time the previous night making up woods - there are rather few of them on the board, and those that are there aren't finished yet.  C'est la vie.  The river wasn't also finished properly - the water surface needs smoothing out, painting properly (so the centre is darker than the edges), and then needs to be given a more glossy varnish.  Still, I can't say I'm unhappy with the overall result.  Of course, with so much time invested in making the stuff, I have a vested interested in saying so!  But Pat said he'd have been perfectly happy being just a photographer all day, looking at the spectacle of the thing, so that was nice to hear.

The scenario rules called for a rain check (6 to turn on rain, 6 to turn off rain) not every turn, but every moving phase, so twice a turn in other words.  A single phase's rain would turn freshly ploughed fields (the darkest brown ones) into mud after a single player's movement; it would take three phases' worth of rain to turn all the other ploughed fields (light shades of brown) into mud.  Rain would also stop all aviation, of course; this being 1979, all-weather aircraft are a thing of the future.

Pat's available air assets were some ragtag fixed-wing stuff (the Czechoslovakians were still flying some MiG-15s at this date!), plus a single flight of helicopters: a stand of Mi-4 Hound Bs armed with light rockets, so fine against infantry, but no good against armour, paired with a stand of Hind-Ds - the Czechoslovakian military had only just procured their first MSH stand's worth of Hinds by this time.  All in all, more of a nuisance than a threat.  So overall, Aaron's air assets were the more formidable, despite not including any helicopters at all.

Turn 2 - like 18th century naval lines
As it turned out, rain started falling on the very first check, so the freshly ploughed fields had turned to mud before the end of the first turn.  This was going to complicate Pat's tactics more than Aaron's.  Except for a few jeeps, the American force was entirely tracked, and while mud would slow them down, it wouldn't halt them completely.  In contrast, half of the Czechoslovakian force was wheeled, and thus fast on firm ground, but they couldn't handle the mud at all.  Initially, however, this wasn't much of a concern - there weren't so many freshly ploughed fields around, after all, and at the start of the second turn it stopped raining, anyway, alleviating the worry.  With the rain ceasing planes were potentially soon available... but the advanced recon forces had yet to spot each other, as their paths had unknowingly turned somewhat parallel to each other, just out of spotting distance, or were screened by low rises and hedges.

Turn 3 - enemy? What enemy!
The weather held out during the third turn, but since the recce forces still hadn't spotted each other, the pilots were still on the ground.  At least some combat formation troops were now making their way onto the field.  You can see the first battalions of both OT-64 equipped motor rifle regiments snaking the way along the roads; 1/68 to the fore, 1/51 further away.  And it is possible - but only just - to see a stand from the regimental recon company of the 62nd Motor Rifle Regiment about to enter a village on the far board, presaging the arrival of 1/62 battalion next turn (the other two stands are already in the village).

Crap!  It's them!
Now on the fourth turn, things got more interesting.   The recon forces finally found each other.  It's something of a crap shoot in my experience when this happens - somebody has the initiative, somebody doesn't.  Somebody has the wrong kind of element out in front for what the other guys has, somebody doesn't.  In this case, first blood went to the Czechoslovakian 15th, as their lead element sported a 73 mm main armament, while that of the 3/7th had a 12.7 mm HMG...   But that wasn't the interesting thing.  The rain kicked in again, so no one was going to be bringing any aircraft to help in this particular portion of the fight.  More amusingly, two of Pat's OT-64 stands from 1/51 Battalion where half-way across a not-so recently ploughed field, and before they made it to the other side, it had turned to mud, and they were bogged!  Just what I had hoped might happen when I made the weather rules up, but I never expected it to actually happen.  Ah, umpires, they're evil, I tell you :-)  So Pat was left with a choice: abandon the APCs and slog forward on foot (it was a complete company that was bogged, so that was a viable choice), or wait for the battalion's ARV section to reach them and tow them out.  He chose the latter, as it wasn't far away, but he probably would have saved time overall by just marching forward on foot.

No comments:

Post a Comment