Chris Harrod wanted to play an Operational Wargame so we played my Megablitz scenario called A Dot in Russia. This was only Chris’s second game and only my third – all spread over many years – so we made a few mistakes. None-the-less an enjoyable game and could have gone either way.
We played using my suggestions for playing Megablitz with Crossfire armies. So 1:33,000 ground scale, 3×3 cm battalions, and Russian Rifle Regiments on 45x45mm sabots. The table was 6′ x 3′.
Following Martin Rapier’s suggestion we played House Rules for:
- infantry and artillery defending
- fighting in difficult terrain
As the Soviet commander I deployed 36th Rifle Corps across the front line. I figured I wouldn’t go for defence in depth, nor a fighting withdrawal. I’d contest the front line because of:
- The defensive bonus for Static infantry introduced by the house rules mentioned above – they fight better if they don’t move
- The speed difference between an rifle corps and a panzer division – if I tried a fighting withdrawal he’d catch me quickly
- The promise of reinforcements from 19th Mechanised Corps from the north-east.
That meant the opposing forces were deployed right next to each other.
Chris played the commander of the 16th Panzer Division. The only German troops on table were a depleted Panzer Grenadier Regiment from another division. He deployed these north of the village of Small Dot, facing one of my rifle divisions.
Chris had to deploy most of his troops – 16th Panzer itself – off table in march column.
Turn 1 and the bombs and bullets started flying. Planes from both sides swarmed over my northern Rifle Division and the depleted Panzer Grenadier Regiment went into attack.
My reinforcements from 19th Mechanised Corps began to arrive very quickly. On Turn 1. First up were elements of the corps artillery. [First mistake of the game – the entire corps artillery should have arrived because reinforcements are “named” units not stands.]
The Panzer Grenadiers has some success in the north. Nothing like ganging up on the little guy.
The lead elements of 16th Panzer drove onto the table on Turn 1. The scenario lacked rules for how a march column arrives and we quickly agreed that the first unit in a turn to arrive got full movement, the second had a 1 km penalty, the third 2 km, etc.
Woohoo! A T-34 from 19th Mechanised arrived on Turn 2. I was feeling pretty cocky. Unfortunately it would take a long time for a reasonable portion of the 19th Mechanised to arrive.
The depleted Panzer Grenadier regiment encircled some of my boys. With the house rules in play defending, i.e. “Static”, infantry get +1d6 in combat. This made a big difference to the resilience of my entrenched infantry.
I wanted to engage Chris all along the line so counter-attacked with my southern rifle division. I wasn’t intending to go very far. I just wanted to encourage him to spread his forces like I’d been forced to do. I thought I’d use “Attack” orders for a turn then go back onto “Static”.
I’d started the game with a rifle regiment in Small Dot. I pulled this out when I remembered that troops fighting in built up areas incur 1 LOG per turn. I couldn’t afford that so just abandoned the village. Chris promptly occupied the village so I warned him of why I’d vacated. [In hindsight I should have explicitly stated that the BUA in this scenario, at last the two smaller ones, did not incur this LOG cost.]
Chris has moved on table in a sensible march column, with recon elements at the front. However, that wasn’t the most efficient formation when going into battle off the march. So it took a couple of turns for his fighting units to get into contact. A Panzer III Battalion and a Flak unit were the first into action.
However, it wasn’t long before the serious guns arrived. Chris has some very potent units. 5 or 6 SP. Two of these ganged up on my of my southern rifle regiments and, not surprisingly, pummelled it.
As soon as the heavies of 16th Panzer arrived – tanks or armoured infantry – they were thrown into combat. I lost troops all a long the line.
Even the relatively weak battalions of the depleted Panzer Grenadier regiment killed their second Russian rifle regiment.
With gaps appearing in my line Chris formed up his support elements into columns in his rear. Presumably to roar forward when an opportunity presented itself.
The reinforcements from 19th Mechanised were still a long way away, so 36th Rifle Corps would have to continue taking the punishment alone.
I considered my rifle corps expendable. I just wanted to slow Chris down and give my mechanised corps a chance to arrive.
Certainly 16th Panzer was well capable of chewing up the Russian rifle regiments. Particularly when two or three German battalions combined in attacking a single Russian unit.
Chris pulled his depleted Panzer Grenadier regiment back towards the columns forming in the centre. I didn’t want them to get away because I was pretty sure there were some units down to SP 0 in there. So I launched a counter attack with what I had. Which wasn’t much. Only my reconnaissance units and my corps command (two units). [Another mistake – recce troops can’t be under “Attack” orders.]
Meanwhile Chris was making a consolidated effort to clear the road near Small Dot. There was only an artillery regiment in the way, which was easily dealt with.
In either a gamey or masterful most I drove the supply element of my, now deceased, artillery regiment onto the road to block it. Once again I wasn’t expecting to win any fights. I just wanted to slow Chris down.
I might have slowed him down but Chris managed to form an impressive column on the road.
With my artillery convoy over run by panzers the German column was off.
I tried to slow Chris down some more with attacks my the few elements of 19th Mechanised that had made it on table. But he just deployed a holding force to block their way.
My only read defence was the pioneer battalion I had on the road. It had managed to lay a minefield then moved further east to start laying another. If nothing else it would prevent Chris using “Transit” orders.
Unfortunately, the pioneer couldn’t prevent Chris’s reconnaissance elements driving past.
Just as Chris’s column made a dash down the road, three battalions of tanks arrived from the north-east. 19th Mechanised Corps had finally arrived in some force.
Not that it mattered because Chris had run out of time. The turn limit was used up and 16th Panzer Division was still spread out on the road.
Conclusions and observations
We enjoyed the game and playing Megablitz again. We did make a few mistakes with the rules due to being novices:
- Planes have to refit before they can sortie again
- Recce can’t “Attack”
- All elements of a named reinforcement unit arrive together, e.g. the artillery regiment, spotter and supply of the 19th Mechanised all arrive together; too messy to do anything else
- High speed for “Attack” and “Mobile” orders are for moving in open ground not just on roads
It was that last point that meant Chris was obsessed with the road. He thought he had to be on it to move fast. It was true that he needed the road to be in “Transit” but he didn’t need it to move fast under “Attack” or “Mobile” orders. I’m not sure how much of a difference that would have made to the game, but it would have made a difference. Perhaps a decisive one. He could have punched a hole through my front line, anywhere, then streamed through.
Speaking of which, Chris had deployed 16th Panzer Division is a sensible road column, with recon elements at the front. But for this scenario he should have loaded his combat units at the front for the punch through.
I’m not sure about my decision to contest the front line. This strategy meant I lost all of 36th Rifle Corps. There are alternatives for the defender that would be interesting to explore. Fighting withdrawal – slightly dubious because of the German speed advantage. Or defending congested area in the eastern part of the map, near the forests. Both these strategies rely on the 19th Mechanised arrive on the German flank. But, as I found, you can’t really rely on the mechanised corps.
After the game I made a few changes to the scenario. Nothing substantive, just tweaks to make it clearer.
- Added road column rules
- Added all attributes of aircraft units so that next time we played we would remember they existed e.g. orders, turn around time, altitude, etc.
- Added boxes for each strength point, e.g. instead of just “SP 3” it because “SP 3 [ ][ ][ ]”; this gives us the option to use the orders of battle to record losses rather than counters
I’m also wondering whether to impose some restrictions on where the depleted Panzer Grenadier regiment can deploy at the start of the game. The back story is that they are already engaged with the Soviets so I’m tempted to force them to deploy at least half of the regiment at most 1 km from a Russian stand (if any Russians are deployed on or near the deployment boundary). Just a temptation at the moment.
For motorised units I put a rifle stand on top of the transport. This was to visually differentiate the combat units from transport units that use the same truck models. But it did look a bit silly. Not sure what I can do about that without making specialist units for Megablitz – something I’m disinclined to do.
We didn’t like the clutter on the table. Chris was keen to use bigger sabots for the bases. So 4x4cm sabots for battalions and 6x6cm for Russian rifle regiments. This would mean we could the markers (SP, LOG, POL) on the sabots, what Tim Gow suggests in the rules. I have purchased the bigger sabots but I’m not sure about using them as it would mean going to 1:25,000 ground scale and hence a bigger table. Small is beautiful I think.
Chris also suggested smaller order markers. Half size. I had just printed out the order markers that are freely downloadable. They certainly could be smaller, hence less obtrusive.