"How I learned to fight a delaying action in the woods"
Saturday afternoon James brought over his most recent Megablitz scenario, titled Operation Arctic Fox. It's a July 1941 Nordic Front engagement between the thin Red line of Soviets and an enormous horde of grey-clad Germans and Finns. By random lot, I was assigned the Soviets. Ziggy and James played the German and Finn force. Oh well, I always love a challenge! Ziggy would command the SS Nord Division and James commanded the 196th Infantry Division.
Now's a good time to discuss my brilliant tactical plan. I tried to employ the "defense in depth" theory to the best of my minimal number of troops' best ability. The NKVD and 122nd Infantry Division would take point - the forward town of Salla and the border bunkers. The 104th infantry and 1st Tank spread to cover the center and would fall back as appropriate towards Allakuritti, the German objective. I had to hold them off for three days, that's 6 daytime turns and 1 night-time turn per day. Not appearing in this picture are a light bomber and some shit-box fighters I also got to leverage.
The German preparatory bombardment was ineffective and caused no casualties. The German mass creaked forward slowly across the border, being primarily infantry. I quickly dispatched my bomber and an escort to harass the only armored unit in the German force. Although some damage was done, it wasn't telling.
The initial push. I lost one bunker, circled in red. The other three held out, miraculously.
The battle of Salla begins in earnest. The SS Nord repeatedly assaults the town, supported by dive bombers and a veritable legion of artillery. The Soviet biplane pilots were easily the equals of their Finnish counterparts and caused considerable havoc amongst the attacker's air units.
Heroes of the Motherland, my single Engineer Battalion destroy a bridge. For those of you playing along at home, this took three attempts (needing a 3+ on one die).
A turn later, they redeployed back a bit and began work on barbed wire and roadblocks. You may be able to tell now that much of my success during the early part of the game was relegated to blowing up inanimate objects and building things. The German tide was unstoppable and I had to console myself with other endeavors.
Our German players, Ziggy to the left and James, right, cackle as the border is removed. The map has been "redrawn" as they say.
At the end of day 1, the Finnish 6th Infantry Division arrived to my consternation. I was thinking I had a solid grip on things before their surprise arrival. Now I been reduced to 2/3 of my starting force, only killed A SINGLE MOTORCYCLE RECON STAND and the dadgummed Fascists get a THIRD DIVISION?!?!? Who in the hell wrote this scenario?
The second day began with a blurry picture of a well-coordinated attack against the remnants of the 122nd. They we soon eliminated. Their 76mm artillery was positioned back a bit, out of immediate danger.
The Worker's and People's Army Public Works Division completes phase two of Operation Keep Out Jerry. Note that I've moved a BT-7 battalion of the narrow fording point left of the road. I had to block up fording points as best I could to slow ze Germans.
This gives you a good idea of how poorly things were going for the Soviets. I had three infantry stands and two artillery west of the river. I'd "massed" my five combat stands east of the river at "carefully" chosen choke-points. That was four tank battalions and one motorized rifle battalion. I also had 152mm artillery, the heroic engineer and my army HQ.
I successfully managed to evade a crushing with the artillery from the 122nd Division. They fell back to the join with the 104th. Hurrah!
The engineer continues to clutter up the road. The HQ falls back as well. In retrospect, I suppose the "T" order should have been "M" since he wasn't on a road. We don't play much so mistakes will happen.
I finally manage a militarily-feasible position. My infantry regiment in the woods is supported by a mass of artillery. The Finns charge ahead, heedless.
Huzzah! A crushing victory for the Red Army as two battalions of Finnish infantry are destroyed! My lone recon group has scouted out the brigade closer to the river.
Over on my right, I give the Germans the finger. I pulled one regiment back, giving them only one target to attack. They'd have to bite off small bits of my army slowly - I wasn't going to let them kill off two regiments in one big attack.
Angered by the previous setback, the Finns storm the woods again!
And although they wiped out the defenders, they lost more troops in the process. Their cohorts begin crossing the river.
My second infantry regiment I'd been holding back burst forward as the Germans pressed on the right. A massive battle erupted as Soviet and German planes howled overhead, adding to the carnage! Far to the right, the Heer Infantry prepare to ford the river. A heavy tank battalion and the motorized rifles set up a greeting party.
Back on my left, two tank regiments smash into the Finns as they cross the river!
CATASTROPHE! I lost a full unit of T-34s in a matter of minutes! Although the Finns also lost a unit, they had numbers to absorb the loss. On 9 dice rolled, I rolled an astounding seven hits against my tanks, leaving the OT-26 unit there with but a single SP!
As they day was drawing to a close, the rest of my tanks at Blood Rapids were eliminated, as were the artillery on the west side of the river.
As were the two infantry regiments on my right side. At the end of day two I had no units west of the river. The Finns and Germans had both crossed the river, at opposite ends of the battlefield.
The blown out bridge was paying dividends. My heavy tank regiment was being torn apart on the right edge there. Hey, whatever it takes to slow the bad guys down...
Crappily, the He111 makes an appearance and kills off my engineers who were working on the second of two bridges into the unpronounceable town. There was cursing at this point of the game by the Soviet player.
That concluded Day Two. I was down to a 152mm artillery battalion, two tank battalions, my HQ and a supply group. The German/Finn contingent was at 95% of their starting strength and about 18-20 km away from their objective. I'VE GOT A CHANCE!
July 3rd began with the Red Air Force's bombers making yet another run - this time at the godforsaken Pioneers wrecking the roadblocks I'd lovingly crafted earlier in the battle. Although the explosions were cool, the Pioneers remained on-task. James uttered some curses at the Red Air Force during this engagement, much to my delight. They were frustrating the hell out of the Germans, if not exactly killing them in droves.
The Soviets establish a last line of defense outside the city. It was turn two of the last day. My HQ is working on blowing up the bridge and has failed twice thusfar.
Turn three and another failed bridge demolition! There is SS recon just outside!
Turn 4. HOLY CRAP they're close now! Another failed bridge roll! Things were pretty damned tense. The roadblocks however were working miracles slowing down the parade coming down the road.
Turn 5 and I finally manage to get that damned bridge to pop! Oh my goodness that was close. The Finns were a move away from reaching the bridge.
On turn 6, the Germans engaged the Soviet battlegroup but it didn't matter much. They hadn't entered the city as night fell! I'd pulled off a Pyrrhic victory if ever there was one.
Wow, for a five-hour game, that was remarkably tense. Granted, the town was in big trouble going forward, but we weren't playing "going forward." I think the German Pioneers could have begun a pontoon bridge during the night turn, but it wouldn't have been completed.
On the whole, I feel really good about the result of the game. I used everything I had, and it took everything I had, to slow down the German advance. My plan was pretty solid and worked out well - which is a pretty rare thing for me. Megablitz is fantastic for its ability to re-create a large mobile battlefield. With no "shooting ranges" to speak of, mobility is king and in this instance, being able to fall back and consolidate, dragging out the time was just what the Ruskies needed.
James remarked that he was surprised by my set up and expected a much stronger blocking force earlier in the battle. The last game of Megablitz that he and I played, the Battle of Hannut taught me that a strong front wall with nothing behind it is very easy to exploit. I didn't want that to happen to me the way it went down against James' French in that battle.
James and Ziggy, thank you both for a damned entertaining game! Looking forward to the next one for sure.