Sunday, 3 September 2017

Cossacks ahoy

Next up was a WW2 stoush. Rhys wanted to take his Soviet Guards Cavalry Division for an outing, it not yet having seen action of the tabletop.  I opposed it with a late '44 Wehrmacht Infantry Division  which amounted to 4 battalions, each of 13 or 14 stands, organized as two regiments. No armour of any sort was included.  His force was 4 cavalry regiments (counting as large battalions, each over 20 stands strong) plus a tank battalion, 7 stands strong: the entire division.  I was again in a Hasty Defence posture, and the boards were arranged this time so that there were some definite valleys to be seen, trending mostly up and and down. Three of the objectives were on his side; the central sector on my side was the only sector without an objective. 

Given the superior nature of the German command & control abilities under the Spearhead rules, I deployed all 4 battalions on board: 2 up, and on the flanks; 2 back, one somewhat more centrally located, and the other on my right. Rhys massed his forces on my right, with nothing at all opposing my left: 1 regiment in the centre; one centre-right; one right; and the tank battalion on the extreme right (from my vantage point).  One unit was held off table in reserve, and I had no idea if it was waiting to move on to my left once I had redeployed, or if it was waiting on my right as reinforcements for the assault there.

Cavalry essentially ignore terrain under the rules, which means they barrel through woods at 9" a turn - very scary.  They were right in my face in no time at all.  As in close-assaulting me on the second turn in some places...  It's true that they are easier to hit than leg infantry (defence factor 4 instead of 5) but charging through a wood evens that penalty out, since woods count as cover. Further, since they are SMG-armed they can move while counting as firing "stationary". This means they can charge up to you from out of rifle range (6") and shoot at you without getting an unanswered shot off first on the way in.  Very nasty indeed.

The battle turned out to be a blood bath. Rhys has some photos here.  Rhys' tank battalion commander was clearly a hothead, as the unit charged straight up the flank, past one battalion, and right into the one behind it without pausing to do much on the way, other than uncover a PaK40 platoon in ambush, and a bunch of lurking infantry who used their panzerfausts to great effect. Scratch one T-34-76 unit.  Meanwhile, my front right battalion was chewed up by endless waves of cavalry, although it also inflicted quite a few casualties in the process. It soon broke, and eventually so did my central one. However, this broke one of his regiments, and forced another to take a moral check and left it unable to resume offensive actions.  This left me in possession of two objectives, and him two while we were both contesting the fifth. I had an undamaged battalion that was moving across from my left, and my while my rear right one was only moderately damaged, it wasn't in that good a position to do much offensively. Rhys also had 1 unit almost untouched (his reserve one had moved on in the centre right), and the rest too battered to do anything offensively. So essentially we were down to one decent unit each - facing off each other across a valley that nobody wanted to advance across!  Clearly this battle had fought itself out to a bloody stalemate. Totally up the victory points, it was 9 to 8 that could easily move to 8 to 10 due to the contested nature of one objective, reinforcing the impression of a bloody draw.

Lessons learned? The cavalry are very scary, but will need some further testing: when to dismount is a critical issue, for example. At what point does minimizing casualties become more important than having an extra 3" movement factor? I think only experience will resolve that one.  Another one is deployment.  I reckon wide but shallow unit deployments, en echelon, might be the way to go, with one regiment sweeping through another as it halts.  But it will need to be tested...

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