Friday, 14 September 2012

LegioCon MW Soviet AAR

My buddy Duncan and I drove into Winnipeg last weekend and got stuck in with some great players and armies at Legiocon.  They had a 1500pt MW event, which was Duncan's second tournament. He wrote up this great AAR and asked if I could put it up... That was a no brainer...

LegioCon Tournament - Summary and After Action Review
Mid War - 1500pts 
8 September 2012
Winnipeg - Royal Canadian Legion, St. James Branch #4

-  Excellent venue.  Clean, spacious, well lit and very well organized.  Lots of terrain on the tables and variety of locales represented... from the rolling hills of Kursk and the villages of France to the oasis of North Africa.  Large multi-use room upstairs with a lounge/bar/games room downstairs that cooked up some very tasty lunches.  And it's a Legion!

- The usual bunch of criminals.  Thieves, murders and smugglers; the scum of the galaxy.  They would sell their mother for a few more Panzers and had press-ganged women and children into their legions.  Most had travelled over two hours to attend, showing up the locals who were all a bit timid to step onto the battlefield with someone else is watching.

Dunc's Soviet Army and Tactics

Nothing fancy, no surprises, just a classic infantry list.  Durable, some flexibility, hard hitting in assaults with some mobile elements and some real bite.  A large Strelkovy Company forms the core of the Battalion with a smaller Strelkovy Company adding flexibility and flank security.  Combat attachments from the Battalion HQ allow each Company to be task tailored for each mission.  With this Battalion, I use the large Strelkovy Company to take the initiative and provide momentum.  Once deployed it's impossible to ignore, as it covers so much ground.  On the offensive if used aggressively they will be forced to react to it.  With a bit of logic, you can usually figure out what the opponent's likely courses of action are to deal with the company and then use your other elements to exploit their reactions and get them off balance.  All the time, you are buying time to move the company up the board and get on an objective.  On the defence and when dug in, the Company is so large and durable it can soak up damage and assaults while the other elements support the defence and again force the opponent to react to more mobile elements.  The Medium Tank Company is big enough to have some durability and teeth in shooting and assaults, but not so big as to take needless casualties from an inability to exploit cover.  The speed and mobility of the T-34s works well to exploit opportunities the large Strelkovy Company provides.  The Tank Destruction Company with the Zis-2s can easily tear apart groups of almost any vehicle Mid-War thanks to its excellent armour penetration and rate of fire and can also be used to dig infantry out with volley fire and its excellent mobility.  Finally, the IL-2 Sturmoviks provide a real punch to pick off heavy armour and artillery and pin infantry, while keeping the enemy spread out and preventing exploitation of open ground.
  1. Battalion HQ
    • Battalion Commander
    • Battalion Kommissar
    • Battalion 2IC
    • 4 x AT Rifle Teams
    • 2 x 45mm AT Gun Teams
    • 5 x Pioneer Teams
  2. Strelkovy Company
    • Company Commander
    • Company Kommissar
    • 27 x Rifle Infantry Teams
  3. Strelkovy Company
    • Company Commander
    • 9 x Rifle Infantry Teams
  4. Medium Tank Company
    • T-34 Command Tank
    • 7 x T-34s
  5. Tank Destruction Company
    • Company Commander
    • 4 x Zis-2 Guns
  6. Air Support
    • Limited IL-2 Sturmoviks

Game 1 - Germans (Infantry) (Derek) vs Soviets

German Army List
  1. 3 x Dismounted Infantry Pls
  2. 3 x Pak 40s
  3. 4 x HMGs
  4. 1 x Inf Guns Pl
  5. 1 x Rocket Artillery Pl
  6. 2 x StuG
  7. 20mm AA Gun Trucks
Mission: Free For All
First Turn: Duncan

Deployment - I knew I would finish deploying first, so I gambled with a very aggressive deployment on the odds that I would move first.  Not a very risky gamble, as due to the distance there wasn't going to be a lot of effective fire at that range, especially with the "Meeting Engagement" special rule.  With only four units, I was going to have to be fairly crafty in deploying my battalion to give the impression that I was going one direction while actually planning on going the other.  With the terrain favouring an assault on the right flank, I set my large Strelkovy Company slighty to the right of centre, and the other three units to their left, in hopes of drawing my opponent's mobile assets to the left flank.  It worked, as he spread his infantry heavy weapons evenly and placed his StuGs on the left.

The Cunning Plan - With my opponent's company spread evenly across his deployment area (less his StuGs which were deployed on a flank opposite and in response to my T-34s) I just needed to concentrate my forces on the right flank and punch through to the objective.  The excellent mobility of the T-34s would allow them to quickly cross from the left flank to the right and then into the assault with the large Strelkovy Company acting as a blocking and follow-on assault force.  The smaller Strelkovy Company would secure my own deployment area with the Zis-2s waiting in the centre to pop-up and hit any mobile units.

Picture Colour Guide
Red = T-34s
Orange = Strelkovy
Blue and Green = Germans

Opening Moves - T-34s move at the double to cross from the left to the right.  Large Strelkovy follow them and the remainder jockey around to find a good position in the center/left.  Germans dig in and bombard.

Assault - T-34s are quickly on the far objecive and succeed in pinning and then assaulting the infanty platoon, inflicting casualties and driving them off the objective.  The StuGs are dispatched to assist on the right flank.

Counter Attack - The German counterattack to eliminate the T-34s begins with the StuGs continuing their advance from the left flank to the right.

Assault! - With the T-34s destroyed, the large Strelkovy Company finally gets moving again after losing its Kommissar and hustles to the right objective, sustaining enormous casualties.
Meanwhile, the Germans have re-tasked their StuGs and are pushing hard for the objective on my left.  It's a  nail biter as the survivors of the large Strelkovy Company barely push the Germans off and secure the objective in the nick of time.

AAR - An effective deception plan and exploitation of the terrain allowed the battalion to close with and engage the Germans (twice!) despite casualties.

Game 2 - Germans (Pioneers) (Lance) vs Soviets

German Army List
  1. 2 x Dismounted Pioneer MG Pls
  2. 1 x Rocket Artillery Pl
  3. 3 x Panzer Luchs
  4. 3 x Panzer IV
  5. Other Stuff?
Mission: Dust Up
First Turn: Duncan

Deployment - I stuck with T-34s and the large Strelkovy Company deployed well forward.  Lance countered with two Pioneer Platoons (one on each objective) and the Rocket artillery in the rear.  I knew I would finish deploying first, so I gambled on having the first turn and deployed right at the front of the deployment zone, with the tanks in the lead to hit hard in an early assault.  Not all that risky as he didn't have any real weapons to exploit a forward deployment.  I was surprised Lance took just infantry and his rocket artillery... without any AT weapons, the T-34s could fully exploit their mobility and firepower and that led to the large Strelkovy Company being able to advance directly to the objective.

Deployment - German's defensive positions... the thin grey line.

The Cunning Plan - Russia Smash!  Drive forward hard and get straight into the assault to push the infantry off the objective and then just sit and hold it.  I accepted the risk of not leaving any units to hold the objectives in my own deployment area.  I figured that gave me three or four turns to capture the objective before Lance could bring in reserves to park on my undefended objectives.

Opening Moves - Flank speed, damn the torpedoes!  T-34s drive forward and engage the Pioneers with MGs.  Strelkovy follow behind.  Lance digs in and awaits the assault.  Sturmoviks harass his rear area.

Assault - T-34s push the Pioneers off the objective... but don't cause many casualties.
Counter Attack - Disaster!  Pioneers counter-attack and wipe out most of the T-34s!

Counter Attack! - The Pioneers charge back in and almost wipe out the T-34s!  The command T-34 pulls back to a safe distance to preserve the coy.  Meanwhile, Soviet reserves move up to support the main force.  

Assault! - The infantry pull up and start their assault... 

The Assault! - All Soviet forces close with the Pioneers and attempt to suppress and assault them.  The small Strelkovy Company manages to make it into assault but doesn't make good on its opportunity. The large Strelkovy Company is bounced by withering defensive fire.

Flank Attack! - Lance's Panzer Luchs arrived from reserves and promptly hustle straight onto on objective in my deployment area.  With nothing left back to contest the objective, it's game for Lance.

AAR - It was my game to lose and I lost it!  A failure to properly prepare the assault (i.e. pin his infantry with my tanks and allow my infantry to assault... I had the time, I had the units, etc etc) allowed the Pioneers to hold their ground in the face of the Soviet horde.  Second point to improve is that I should have left my combat attachments camped out the objective in my deployment zone.  I knew that the greatest risk to the objectives would be Lance's armoured unit zipping in from reserve and the AT guns, AT rifles and pioneers would have been perfect for deterring this course of action and likely would have bought me more time on the objective.  Additionally, AT guns and rifles don't benefit a Strelkovy Company when assaulting infantry positions so there was no point to bring them forward.

Game 3 - Germans Infantry (Brody) vs Soviets

German Army List
  1. 2 x Tigers
  2. 2 x Dismounted Infantry Pls
  3. 1 x Rocket Truck Pls
  4. Other stuff...?
Mission: No Retreat
Attacker: Brodie

Deployment - Zis-2s in ambush and the large Strelkovy Company dug in and covering the centre.

The Cunning Plan - Draw the Germans as far into the defensive position as possible, to allow the ambush to shoot at the flanks/rear of them and to give a shorter distance for reserves to reinforce and flank the defensive position.  With the objectives in the center, it would leave both flanks open for a T-34 rush into the infantry.  Not too worried about the Tigers, as the board was fairly open and if they parked to use the Strelkovy for grouping and zeroing the Sturmoviks would motivate them to find a different/closer piece of ground.  

Opening Moves - A slow advance from the Germans with the Tigers rumbling forward and taking pot-shots at the Strelkovy.  A platoon of infantry tentatively advances behind them and aims to cross the river.  The Sturmoviks harass the rocket artillery and infantry to pin his force and encourage him to spread out.

Ambush - With the Tigers finally across the river and looming on my defensive position, the Zis-2s spring their ambush and succeed in knocking out one Tiger.  The counter assault from the German infantry routes the Zis-2s.

Assault - The Tiger wades into the defensive position and manages to push back the Strelkovy!  However, due to their numbers they're still able to cling on to the edges of the objective.

Counter Attack - The Strekovy rally and push up to the objective and deliver withering fire to the German infantry knocking their numbers down and then assaulting into the Tiger.  The pioneers earn their (very equal) pay and demolish the big cat while the Strelkovy finish off the scraps of the German platoon.  With that, no Germans remain in the Soviet end of the field and it's game.

AAR - Straight-forward game.  I can appreciate the challenge of trying to knock a massive, well-equipped, fearless Strelkovy Company off an objective... there's just no quick way to do it as they can just eat casualties, they're not likely to break and assaulting them is suicide.  That said, the company is a sitting duck to those heavy guns on the Tigers unless there are a couple other elements supporting it.

Big Takeaways for Soviet Tactics
  1. Know how to assault.
    • Despite the "Quality of Quantity" rule, the Germans can throw up so much defensive fire (and it's very, very accurate against conscript troops) that they will still bounce you.  You MUST pin the enemy.  
    • Use the geometry of the opponent's defensive positions against them... coming in on a flank with a smaller force will significantly reduce the amount of defensive fire you receive as his units will block each other.
    • Properly equip/support your Strelkovy to assault.  SMGs and flamethrowers, as well as close tank support will allow you to properly pin your target and successfully get into the assault.
    • Invite everyone to the party.  Try to get more than one unit in close for the assault.  If you can use one assault to draw in additional friendly and enemy units to turn it into one giant melee, so much the better, as each casualty you inflict on the expensive German troops will quickly tilt the odds in your favour and impact his combat power while your Strelkovy soak up the casualties and keep pushing forward.
    • T-34s rock.  "Hen and Chicks" means you're never going to win a straight up shoot out with the Germans, but you can zip around the battlefield at the double (fast tank!) and drive over/through their infantry instead.  Without the threat of the Panzerfausts and Panzerschreks in mid-war, the T-34 is a monster against German infantry and light vehicles.
    • Understand what endstate will come out of your assault.  Before you assault, have a good idea of where each of your units will end up... judicious positioning may allow you to exploit a victory.
    • Soviet Pioneers.  Don't leave home without them.  Ever.  These turn your helpless infantry horde into a tank destroying death swarm and boost up your numbers for "Quality of Quantity".
  2. Be ruthless in how you spend your points.
    • With having two early T-34 assaults in both games, tank riders or additional tanks might have brought both of the games to a much earlier close; in my favour.  While a massive Strelkovy Company is intimidating and powerful, its cost can take away from points spent on other elements... you need to get the right balance.
  3. Deception
    • The mobility and firepower of the T-34 allows you to use some deception in your planning and to force the opponent to react to your repositioning.  The more you can hide what your real intent is, the better!
    • The Strelkovy Companies can be so large it's actually possible to "hide" where they will attack because they can cover such a large frontage... Will it go left?  Will it go right?  Additionally, you can take a risky move at the double and eat the casualties to get into an assault position your opponent might not be expecting.
  4. Mutual support
    • The mobility and punch of the T-34s and the threat of the large Strelkovy Company worked well together.  With the opponent focussed on the horde, it allowed the T-34s some freedom on the battlefield to reposition, fire and assault... which in turn allowed the Strelkovy Company to keep pushing forward.  The Sturmoviks added to this by presenting a very credible threat to any armour.
  5. Predict your opponent's plan and keep the initiative
    • Take a good look at your opponent's units and the mission and think about how he might employ them against your force.  I was able to fairly accurately predict each opponent's strategy based of the disposition of their units and what I thought they would perceive as the most threatening elements of my force.  With the Soviets, you MUST keep the initiative.  Right from putting your first objectives and units on the table to the opening moves through to the assault.  On the offence this means pushing forward to the objective, then flanking and making them react to your actions in order to unbalance them to allow you to get into the assault.  I was able to do this in both games where I was acting offensively.  To keep the initiative on the defence, you have to set up your positions carefully to get the enemy to come where you want them.  You can do this by setting up in positions that threaten his lanes of advance and the objectives, as opposed to just dropping down on the objectives.  They will normally respond by attacking your units to open up the lanes and objectives, which gives you the information you need to counter their offensive.  You will usually have an ambushing unit than can be used to hit the flank of your opponent's units which will cause extra damage and slow his advance if he turns to deal with them.
  6. Soviets are out-gunned.
    • This is an odd one.  The Soviets are like a schoolyard bully... very threatening and intimidating and able to terribly exploit a weaker opponent due to the number of dice they can throw when they're doing the shooting and assaulting.  However, if they get in a straight up shoot out (especially at long range) with a tough unit, such as Tigers/Panthers or Pak40s/88s or even a group of Panzer IVs/StuGs, they will wilt and fade away as they simply take far more effective hits due to the difference in skill levels, Armour Penetration values, "Storm Trooper" and "Hen and Chicks".  So, you must act with a measure of low cunning and cruelty and pick on the weak elements of his force while avoiding the tougher ones.  There are a few solutions: move to the flanks with your superior mobility to force him to move or die, swarm with pioneer equipped infantry, bomb with Sturmoviks, ambush, eliminate his supporting infantry/halftracks, etc.  A key thing to plan around is that the German player is either going to move those tough units to a great piece of ground and use the elevation, armour and firepower to dominate the battlefield or use them to block lanes and hunt your own forces; deploy accordingly and try to find at least two counters to each problem (don't depend on Sturmoviks alone to save your bacon...)!
  7. Bring the right toys to the party
    • As you don't know what types of armies you're going to be dealing with at a tournament, be prepared for each: infantry, mechanized, armoured, heavy armour, etc.  Though I didn't get a lot of mileage out of the Zis-2s and even the Sturmoviks didn't destroy that much, had I run into larger armoured forces or more than a pair of Tigers, I was well equipped to deal with them.  A heavy armour force has been problematic for me to deal with in the past, as they simply shoot up anything that threatens them then leisurely pick off everything else.  On the flip side, I didn't overspend on AT elements so I had enough anti-infantry punch to successfully assault and shoot down infantry when required.
Remember comrades, if your friend drops his rifle, you pick it up and carry on!  Za Stalina!

1 comment:

  1. Great write-up! I'm glad you showed up and had fun.

    Now you need to beat Chris next year so we have someone new on the podium! ;)