Saturday, 4 January 2014

Action at Oberickelsheim - Part VI - the action intensifies

The bridge-layer moves up the column
Rain continued during throughout the 5th turn as the opposing forces continued to move onto the developing battlefield.  On the northern sector of the table, the Czechoslovakian BVP-1-equipped 1/62 Motor Rifle Battalion was somewhat surprised to find they had been able to march clear up to the river without contacting the enemy, so the vital AM-50 bridge-laying equipment that had been protected toward the rear of the column was suddenly need up front.  Yet more delays for the Czechoslovakian advance!

Mexican standoff...
Meanwhile, Aaron had made a small tactical error in his handling of the encounter between the two clashing recon battalions: he had moved an element of TOW-equipped M113s into the middle of a village.  This is a very poor place for such a vehicle to be, since you can't actually shoot our of the centre of a village: you have to move into the outskirts first.  Unfortunately, TOW-equipped vehicles can't shoot if they have moved, and there was a stand of BVPs waiting outside for him to emerge, ready to kill him as soon as he did.  Aaron's discomfiture in being trapped inside a village was compounded by the fact I had done exactly the same to him in our last game together; although that was more serious, involving bottling up a company and a half...  Rushing into a built-up area is only useful if you aren't going to actually want to shoot from it (observing is fine) - you need to actually make it to the far side for that. 

Half-way through turn 6 (0930 by the game clock), after Pat had moved, but before Aaron had, the rain stopped, giving Aaron the opportunity of bringing his air support to bear.  However, Pat succeeded in a radar-jamming EW mission, giving Aaron a dilemma.  He could send in his sole ARM-armed strike at the opposing off-table SAM battery, and attack it at a penalty (meaning he'd kill it only on a 5 or a 6), or he could wait a turn, knowing that Pat couldn't keep maintain his jamming mission, and attack at better odds (4, 5, or 6), but run the risk of the rain returning. He chose to delay.

Turn 6
Here's the view from the northwest corner of the board.  The bridge-layer accompanying 1/62 MR battalion has nearly made it through the waiting column to get into the crossing place.  Further along the river, the Czechoslovakian 15th Reconnaissance Battalion has started to take serious casualaties from 3/7 Armored Cavalry A troop as more of their stands move onto the hill between the village near the bend in the river and the approaching Czechoslovakian 1/20 Tank Battalion.  However, the main body of this battalion is as yet too far away to influence the fight - only their lead reconnaissance elements are getting close to the hill.  Coming across towards the northwest from the centre of the Czechoslovakian deployment zone is the 1/68 Motor Rifle Regiment, followed by the Divisional HQ which has just made it onto the table and is also moving in column up the centre - this was mostly a collection of EW stands (some were represented physically in this scenario) and towed AA guns.  Following up Aaron's 3/7 A Troop is B troop of the same Squadron, plus 1/30 Infantry, which is making for a ridge that another Czechoslovakian column - the 1/51 Motor Rifle Battalion - is fast approaching.  Beyond that, another Motor Rifle Battalion, 2/68, is backed-up, mostly off the table, waiting its turn to move down the road.  Pat was trying to get an order change through, and get it moving off the road, and more towards the centre of the table, but wasn't succeeding yet.

Turn 7 - the advance continues
Unfortunately for Aaron's plans, the respite from the rain was just that - a respite.  It immediately started raining again.  But it wasn't all bad.  All the mud was seriously compromising Pat's ability to manoeuvre the few combat elements he had that he could get off the roads, because his tracked BVPs were all in the north, where the enemy wasn't, while his wheeled OT-64s struggled forwards toward an increasingly dangerous looking American centre.  Here we see the lead elements of the 1/68 Motor Rifle Battalion attempting to move forward as quickly as they can to relieve pressure on the 15th Reconnaissance Battalion, and coming under long-range fire from lurking M60A1s to which they can't reply...  Not a great position to be in, especially when you are still trying to deploy from a marching column!  Pat was leaving it a little too late in dismounting his infantry here.  APCs are not tanks; they are buses and it is much better to be rid of them too early than it is to wait too long, because then they will die...

In the northern sector, the bridging section was now getting down to business.  Everything had essentially ground to a halt here while the bridging equipment was being deployed.  The lovely AM-50 model in half-deployed position is by Dragoman.  You only need the stand looking like this for a single turn - but the effect is worth it!  Of course, a single bridge across the river was hardly going to let a single battalion across in reasonable time, let alone the following regiment!  More were clearly going to be needed...

And here's the one accompanying 1/20 Tank Battalion as it moves to reinforce 1/68 Motor Rifle Battalion.  This is an armoured  MTU-55, as befits an armoured battalion; the AM-50 is mounted on just a truck.  The excavating vehicle behind is a scratch-built KN-251 (some close-up shots here); it won't see much use in a meeting engagement game like this, but on the defensive such vehicles are quite handy for digging defensive positions.  There are also some APCs here carrying engineering stands attached to this particular battalion.  The engineering aspects of the game are something that Keith McNelly's point-based scenario system entirely dispenses with: you "buy" the defences themselves rather than make them with engineering vehicles you "buy", which is an easy abstraction to make, and quickens things, but leaves an important part of "the game" unrepresented, I feel.

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