Sunday, March 18, 2018

Soviet Deliberate Attack: The World War III Project

The World War III Project continues on the heels of last week's Soviet steamroller past a Dutch covering force.  The Soviets locate the Dutch and are able to piece together a strong attack, bypassing the population center of Hamburg and striking to the south.

With the intense NATO air campaign ongoing and Soviet control of the skies in constant question, the Soviets are running out of steam and all along the lines NATO forces seem to be gaining the upper hand.  The Soviets, in particular the Second Guards Tank Army, know a breakthrough in the north is critical and have focused much of their attention against the Dutch forces with 3 Shock Army keeping the British bottled up.  The local Soviet commanders sense the Dutch are ready to break soon.

The 1st (NE) Corps has re-established a main line of resistance along the A-7 Autobahn with powerful armor and infantry formations.  Even though last week's fight was a disaster, the Dutch still bought previous time for the rest of their fellow units to dig in.  

The Corps has chosen the line of Seevetal to Toppenstedt to Egesdorf to hold.  The Soviets know this after intense probing activity and have selected the Toppenstedt - Hanstedt - Asendorf axis to assault along, with both Hanstedt and Asendorf serving as critical road junctions the Soviets know they need to capture.

The breakthrough must come at Toppenstedt with Asendorf as the final objective.  There are follow on elements that can exploit and even after constant air assault and re-routing of convoys and trains, the Soviets have sufficient category II and III units to reinforce a breakthrough...

Soviet Deliberate Attack
The Soviets planned a strong attack with a consolidated armored brigade formation and an infantry battalion supporting.  The assault called for the Soviets to bypass Toppenstedt to the north and seize a hill overlooking both Toppenstedt and Hanstedt.  If they can capture the hill, Hill 121, the Dutch defense will be untenable.  They've allocated massive amounts of artillery in support to cover the attack.
planning based on the terrain.  The stars are objectives.

The Soviet plan is brutally simple.  The 2TA Intelligence Officer feels confident with the area just west of Toppenstedt being sufficiently wooded and covered as to provide Dutch forces with excellent defensive positions.  The Soviets will send dismounted infantry into Toppenstedt with a tank company in support to the north.  This supporting attack will pin Dutch forces.  The main effort, roughly 2 tank battalions worth of T-80s will assault around Toppenstedt and move fast towards Hill 121.  If they can grab Hill 121, the Dutch will be forced to abandon the A-7 line.

With Soviet recon elements already in Toppenstedt, the infantry quickly follow.  So far the Dutch have not opened fire or revealed their positions.
 The Dutch have a mechanized infantry company dug into an orchard and farm complex to the east of Hanstedt, with priority of 155mm fires in support.  To their south, Hill 121 is being defended by a Leopard II company of the 41st Armored Brigade.  To their north, a large wooded recreation area is being defended by another Leopard II company also of 41st Armored.

The Dutch open fire on the recce BMPs at the edge of Toppenstedt, knocking out 1 platoon.  The battle has started!  Soviet infantry rush to take up positions in Toppenstedt, per the plan.  Their BTRs remain in the town safe and sound.  For now...

Soviet T-80 company moving in support of the infantry in Toppenstedt.  Note the Leo IIs to their front.

The Soviet main effort, 2 Battalions of armor move against Hill 121.

 The Leo's in the park see T-80s pouring through the defile south of Toppenstedt and immediately engage.  Their shooting leaves a little to be desired in the first volley, and a T-80 platoon becomes disorganized.

Long range shots being traded by Leo's on Hill 121 and the T-80s advancing past Toppenstedt.  Both side's artillery fire starts to fall.
 The Soviets are using a full Battalion's worth of the Army's artillery, the big guns, against the tanks atop Hill 121, but these would eventually shift to the orchard.  The Dutch have a difficult time getting their artillery to fall, but when it does, it's targeting dismounted Soviet infantry in Toppenstedt.

The Soviet infantry set up their base of fire against the orchard as well.  The supporting attack is really meant to pin the Dutch infantry from reinforcing Hill 121.  It's working so far and the Dutch have nailed themselves to their foxholes as they're blanketed with HE shells and infantry fires from Toppenstedt.

Green dice are casualties.  Infantry platoons bug out after 4 hits.  Small arms and heavy weapons fire is variable.  Full strength platoons shoot 1D3 shots (1d6 divided by 2).  Platoons with 2 hits shoot 1D2 shots.  

Carnage in Toppenstedt as Soviet infantry fight around burning BMP2s.  The Dutch fire all seems to be coming from a tidy orchard at max range in front of them.

The Battalions shake out.

Meanwhile the Leo II gunners find their targets from the park.

The tank battle for Hill 121 is starting in earnest now.

Dutch infantry returns fire and the Soviet left company in Toppenstedt is pinned.

All eyes are on Second Tank Army today.
 While the Leopard IIs cant seem to hit much, the MILANS from their dismounts and supporting HOT missiles are finding targets.  3 T-80s platoons are sent packing from a massive volley of missiles coming from the orchard.  Even before they hit their targets, the Soviet fire support officer is lifting and shifting fires from Hill 121 to the orchard.

KO's T-80 platoons.

Ivan looks like he's going to reach Hill 121 in strength.  While the situation looks dire, the Dutch Brigade commander orders the Leo II company in the park to move and reinforce Hanstedt and counterattack against Hill 121 if necessary.  The Leopard II atop Hill 121 is in big trouble and has way too many T-80s to count in front of them.

Leopard II company rushing to reinforce Hill 121

Remnants of a company atop Hill 121 burn while Ivan inches closer.  The infantry in Toppenstedt get ready to mount up in their BTRs to overrun the orchard and the park in front of them.  The Soviet commander feels victory close at hand!

 The Soviet commander decides to throw all his weight towards Hanstedt and Hill 121 now.  The infantry mount up in their carriers and move towards the park and orchard.  Meanwhile the Soviet tanks atop Hill 121 orient themselves towards Hanstedt, preparing for a counterattack.  The war may only be 2 days old, but these tankers learned those lessons the hard way.  This doesn't look good for the Dutch.  The infantry company commander requests permission to withdraw.  Unbelievably, the Dutch brigade commander calls the Division commander, who calls the Corps Commander. 

Permission to withdraw was not forthcoming. 

Meanwhile the Dutch infantry in the orchard and hanging on by their fingernails.  MILAN ammunition is running low, as is small arms and mortar ammo but the platoons are still holding.

Ivan's tanks have over run Hill 121 and the infantry is preparing to move out from Toppenstedt.

The Dutch have a few tricks up their sleeve however as a Leopard II company moves quickly to counterattack Hill 121.

Infantry race out of Toppenstedt.  The Dutch company commander's request to withdraw from Hanstedt was denied by Corps.  They have no choice but to fight in place!  That said, Corps did straighten out the artillery situation for them.

The Soviets were flush with victory.  Speeding towards Hanstedt while their tanks consolidate on Hill 121.  This was their big break!
 The Dutch FSO, pleading on the radio for artillery fire, has his wish granted.  The DS battalion finally gets straightened out and opens fire.  I roll a "6" and that's 10D6 to roll.  The 2 platoons on the left of the infantry assault get nailed in the open with their occupants killed.  Then the marders open fire.  It's a killing field, and this turn proves decisive, with the Soviet infantry assault stopped dead in its tracks, broken up by accurate 155mm artillery and gunnery from the orchard.  Meanwhile the Leopard II's take up position to fire on Hill 121.  There are plenty of targets up there.

Artillery impacting around the Soviet infantry in their carriers.

formerly BTR80s.

Meanwhile the Dutch infantry are hanging on, against all odds.

The Soviets on Hill 121 get into a shootout with the Leopard IIs, with the Dutch eventually getting the upper hand.

The Soviet attack peters out.  
What a nail biter!  I received more than a few requests to play a larger game in support of the World War III project.  So while I probably prefer a company sized game, there is something fun about translating the map movements to the miniatures on the table.  

The Soviets started out really strong, but most turns their artillery didn't arrive or their targets passed their save throws due to being armored or being dug in.  The Soviets probably needed to be a little more cagey with the armor, instead of challenging the Leo IIs right on top of the hill.

Additionally, the Soviets didn't use smoke and instead opted to keep the enemy's head down with HE fire.  In terms of the Soviet plan, I thought the dismounted supporting attack into Toppenstedt was a good idea.  They ranged the orchard and a shootout began, which was exactly what the Soviet commander wanted, keeping those troops pinned down in place.  The assignment of an armor company to the infantry was a good call, too.  I had no idea there would be Leopards in the park area.  

In speaking with Mike, the action will move further south into the CENTAG AO soon.  So stay tuned!  We're just getting started!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Covering Force Battle at Lauenburg: The World War III Project

Ken, Steve T, and Dave came over to play the first battle of "The World War III Project" today using the Team Yankee rules, and forces generated by Mike from "The Third World War 1987" blog.

Forces included Dutch units from the 41st Armored acting as a covering force for the rest of the 1st (NE) Corps to redeploy to a line further west, behind the A7 Autobahn, who must establish a new main line of resistance.

The Soviets are hot on their heels with heavy armored elements from a 2TA reconnaissance battalion, in addition to a tank battalion.  We used the "Fighting Withdrawal" scenario from the Team Yankee extra scenario mission pack, which has a great covering force battle feel to it.
Looking from the east towards the Dutch deployment area.

Looking from the West towards the Soviet deployment area.  Lots of small German towns interspersed throughout.

We started with a platoon of Leopard II's in ambush, awaiting the Soviet onslaught.  Additionally, we had the HQs platoon (1 x Leopard II), a Leopard II platoon (3 x Leopard II), and an infantry platoon in Marders (3 MG-3 sections, and 2 x MILAN sections).  The Soviets had 2 x Companies of T-64s (playing T-80s), 8 BTR 60s (playing BTR-80s) along with 7 x AK74 teams, 6 RPG-7 teams, and a PKM team.  The Soviets also had 2 x BMP2 reconnaissance vehicles as well.

Steve T (R) and Ken (L) moving out with the Soviets!
 Steve T and Ken take advantage of the Spearhead move with the BMP2s and gain an extended deployment area due to the recon.  They deploy behind a town immediately east of the Dutch engagement area and dismount all their infantry into a small orchard and village to the front of the Leopard positions.  It's nighttime now, close to dusk so we have to roll for visibility.  The thermals on the Leo IIs work magnificently each turn.

Dutch Leopards awaiting the Soviets.

Dutch Company Commander looking over the kill zone.
 Soviet recon skulks up to the line of departure, probing for where their intelligence officer said they'd find Germans, or Dutch, or British.  Or basically someone wearing a NATO country uniform...

BMP-2s probing the front.

Dismounts in their foxholes overwatching this key avenue.
 The listening posts can hear what sounds like large trucks out there in the darkness and through their GPS sights, they catch quick glimpses of long, wheeled vehicles.  BTRs!  Ivan's here!

 The Soviets dismount their infantry behind a small town and fan out into a fruit orchard north of it.  They're moving slowly, deliberately, towards the west.  The Leopards are watching in the darkness.  A quick keying of the handmike twice alerts the Dutch Company Commander that they have enemy in their engagement area.  A single handmike key back tells them all they needed to hear. 

The Leopard II tanks see BMPs getting into position in a treeline in front of them.  A quick shot dispatches a BMP and the other one bugs out!  The battle has begun!  The Dutch Leopard IIs open fire with their AA and coax machine guns on the horde of Soviets in the orchard.  Tracer fire ricochets throughout the small fruit trees sending leaves and branches and men flying.  The Soviets are losing teams but this fight is just getting started.

Soviet troops fan out in the orchard.
 Meanwhile the Company Commander sees a different threat in his thermals...T-80s (T-64 in TY speak)...lots of them!

Soviet armor fans out and drives up to the edge of the crop field.

note the minefield markers upper left.  The Soviets did a great job of NOT driving through them the entire game.
 Dave and I as the Dutch commanders have the right flank and locked down for infantry but Steve T and Ken have the center locked down with a battalion of T-80 (T-64s).  They start firing at the exposed Leopards in the center and are able to kill one and bail 2.  The platoon takes a morale check and fails it!  They bug out!  This is what it feels like to fight with an arm tied behind your back!!

The Soviets see an opportunity and surge their infantry forward into the central woods to take one of their objectives.  They're stopped cold by Marder and Tank COAX fire but they've got enough bodies to spare!  They get a toe hold in the woods.  This was one of the decisive moves of the game and a great and bold move on the part of the Russians.

Dutch transports and commander's Leo overwatching.

tank knife fight starts with the T-80s.  Unbelievably our rolling is so bad we don't kill a single T-80 in this volley but instead bail out one.

Ken's tank company moving into position using a town as cover.

Dutch infantry overlooking their engagement area and an objective.

Ken's tanks moving up!

The Soviet infantry fights their way into the woods.  The burning markers are where teh Leopard IIs used to be after they bailed and BOLO'd their morale check.  They're 4 inches from their objective.

 Dave wants to move the infantry platoon into the town to get some shots off on Ivan and it's a great call.  They move out as quick as their 8 inches will allow.
Dutch infantry huffing and puffing their way up to the town.

Ivan pinned down by auto cannon fire from the marders on the way into the treeline.  We're at least making them fight for the objective.  

This single Leopard II is keeping the Dutch in play, for now.
 The Dutch attempt to reposition their forces to meet the greater Soviet threat but it's night and the tanks, 2 out of 3, get bogged in the woods.  Of all the luck!  This is not going well!  Meanwhile, Ivan wants to keep the pressure on the Dutch before they can reorient themselves.  They send the empty BTRs forward to pressure the furthest westerly objective.  Another thing to worry about!

bogged down Dutch Leopards.  Another common sight.
 As the gaggle of BTRs crosses the road, 2 of them are knocked out by Leopards.
 Meanwhile, the tank battalion consolidates and forms a base of fire, trying to knock out Dutch armored vehicles wherever they appear. 
T-80s sitting in front of the minefield.
 Dave's infantry are now in the village, holding out, and hoping to threaten Ivan's flank if he charges through the minefield. 

Commanders tank bogs down!

BTRs next to the objective.  Note the Leopard II facing east.

Soviet infantry fans out in the central woods, stepping over dead Dutch tankers.  They have the objective!  

Leopard engages the BTRs on the flank.  The Soviet plan is working!

This Leopard is keeping the objective bottled up, and is one of the only elements keeping the Dutch in this fight.

The Dutch go for broke and move into the western woods.
 It's getting close to when we need to start evacuating our platoons, and also lift an objective from the table, per the fighting withdrawal rules.  The Soviets start surging their armor forward to end the knife fight with the Leopards and infantry.

Soviets crossing the road with T80s now.  They mean business!

Until the very last, this Leopard kept shooting.  He is eventually taken out by a Soviet T80 company at the end of turn 5.

Dave gets incredibly lucky and kills a T80 with a flank shot from the Panzerfaust44.

Ken's tanks on the objective but ready to race back if we remove it.

That's it.  The destruction of the Leopard next to the central woods means it's curtains for the Dutch who, although they fought hard, rolled awfully bad.  Losing the ambush platoon after only a single turn, and then having infantry flood the central woods put us on the backfoot for the battle but it was a highly mobile, hard hitting fight.

The Soviets played this fight smart and instead of sending everyone "up the middle," they used their armor to exploit successes.  Dave and I discussed that we could have done a few things differently for this battle, and the location of the Marder IFVs was discussed as a possible mistake.  Same with the infantry who were dug in far away on the left flank.

Still though, a great time and thanks to Mike from his blog for providing the inspiration for this engagement.  While we didn't have the outcome we thought we would have, the Soviets put up a great fight and the Dutch retrograde turned into a rout, with pretty much the commander's Leo, MILAN teams, and a single Leopard from another platoon escaping and evading out of the AO, a trickle of beat-up armored fighting vehicles limping their way west.

Hot on their heels were 2 Soviet tank companies who lost only 2 tanks, and a Soviet infantry company who took a little bit more serious losses, but who are still in the fight and are now licking their wounds.