SU-152s Up Close and Personal – A Crossfire Battle Report

Rich Wilcox and I played out the second scenario from my Tarnopol 3 Round Campaign called SU-152s Up Close and Personal. The scenario design was based on my experiment with a 2 Foot City.

This game was a first on several counts:

  • First game in Rich’s new wargaming shed. Every wargamer needs a wargaming shed, or room, or hall. 😉
  • First time using my new tripod to take the snaps. Hopefully this will result in less blurry pictures in future.
  • First time I fielded my SU-152s. Lovely models painted by Ian Galley.
  • First time using my new 3′ x 2′ urban table. This is an idea from Nikolas Lloyd; paint the rough back side of some hard board black then dry brush to get a cobblestone effect. OK I haven’t dry brushed the cobblestones yet but I will eventually.
  • First use of the the Aircraft Special Rule.
  • First use of the demolition of buildings rule.

It has been a couple of weeks so I have forgotten some of the details – like when exactly the Russian aircraft flew over the table – but I’ve captured the important events.

Plans

Rich, as the German defender, got to deploy three anti-tank barricades, convert three building sector into strong points, and lay a mine field. Of these only the barricades were visible before the battle. Judging from where he put the barricades it was obvious he wanted to channel me through the square in the middle of the table.


Deployment

I can’t now remember where the strong points were, but it will become clear where he cunningly put his minefield.

As it happened I was happy to oblige Rich with an attack on the centre right. I deployed across the table, but with my Assault Engineer reserve on the right where I hoped to punch through. I had an SU-152 on each flank, giving me options as to where to blow a hole through his line.


Russian Deployment

Phase 1: Soviet Attack

In the first initiative the Russian infantry moved forward into no-mans-land, but the real impact was felt on the right where my SU-152 began to demolish a house next to the square.


SU-152 Opens Up

At this point we realised the House Rule for blowing up buildings hadn’t been explicit about when initiative passed. We decided that given a Pin means initiative passes, that a single hit on a building had the same effect. So what did I roll … one hit.

Rich took the opportunity to rearrange some of his troops. A platoon moved from the centre (somewhere) to face my main attack.

It only took two initiatives for the house next to the square to collapse into a pile of
rubble (rough ground).


Boom!

We then realised we didn’t know what to do if the building was occupied. Given we hadn’t stated before hand we decide any occupants were unaffected by the falling walls. (I’ll revise this in future.)

My SU-152 now had uninterrupted line of sight to the back edge of the table. I was fairly
confident I’d split Rich’s force in half and he wouldn’t be reinforcing the platoon in front
of my assault troops. Pushing ahead with my attack I laid some smoke in the square. The idea was that the smoke was cunningly positioned to prevent fire across the square in both directions, which it did, but not completely. Rich opened up with his Pak 38 and got one of my chaps crossing the street.


Russian left pushes forward and Germans appear opposite

Rich pushed forward on my left. I wasn’t too worried about that, glad in fact, as it meant I knew where more of his troops were.

I moved up my SU-152 into the square – its mission was to blow away the anti-tank gun. The gun, of course, got to reactive fire, but Front ARM = 6 will stop most things.


Monster rolls forward

Boom! Suppressed anti-tank gun.


Boom!

I also didn’t see any point trying to batter my way through the anti-tank barricades on the left and redeployed my second SU-152 to the right.

I dropped some smoke to allow my assault guns to move around in the square safely, then rolled the armour forward.

Mean while, on the right, one of my squads stumbled into Rich’s minefield. The squad survived, but was essentially pinned in place for the rest of the game.


Achtung Minen

In the next room my infantry assaulted Rich’s troops and inflicted the first casualties of the game.

I followed this up with some rapid house clearing. German stands were disappearing fast.


House Clearing

Finally I pushed my assault engineers through the gap into the Railway Station building itself.


Engineers push to station

In hindsight, this is where I made my first major mistake. Rather than pushing on and securing the entire complex, I cautiously clung to the edge that I’d captured, subconsciously assuming he had troops in the building.

Phase 2: German Counter-Attack

Russians on the terrain objective! Rich wouldn’t stand for that, counter-attacked into the station, retook a building sector, and took out an engineer squad in the process.


German Counter-attack

The battle centred on the Railway Station as Rich prepared himself to clear the complex.


Engineer pain

Thinking to capture more objectives I pushed an assault engineer onto Rich’s base line.


Russians push around the flank

This was the moment of my second big mistake. Once again I clung to the edge of the building sector rather than pushing on the capture it all, which I could easily have done.

This gave Rich the time to clear the station, which he did. I lost another engineer stand and the PC. This would have implications for me later as my remaining assault engineer was now immobile.


Germans clear station

In fact I was running out of infantry. With my infantry either dead, facing off Germans, immobile because of poor command and control (i.e. dead PC), or stuck in a minefield, I took the admittedly dubious decision to push forward an assault gun unsupported by grunts.

Rich responded by shuffling his troops around in the station to get all around defence.


Germans dig in for all round defence

My infantry managed to make another killed. The Pak 38, which had been facing them for most of the game in the centre left, finally succumbed to a close assault.

On the other flank the SU-152 crawled up the street to get a shot at the Railway Station, but a panzerfaust stopped it in its tracks. Damn, +2 PEN will kill even Front ARM = 6 (that’ll teach me for being smug).


Tank Fist!

Phase 3: Last Gasp

Hmmm. I can’t remember when the Russian planes were overhead, but I do know when the Stuka arrived – we’ve a photo of it pounding the lonely assault engineer next to the railway line.


Stuka

As my last mobile troops – the second SU-152 – pushed ahead, Rich successfully counter-attacked with his troops in the station towards my right flank. Ouch.


Germans counter-attack again

Then just at the SU-152 got to the station walls, the same German platoon returned and dealt with it using demolition charges.

That was it. I conceded.


Killer platoon hunts SU-152

Conclusions

Rich and I had a fantastic time. The fortunes of war swung both ways and it wasn’t clear until right at the end who would finally win. In other words we thought the scenario was “balanced”.

The game also had the right “feel”. It simulated combat in a built up area and felt like it.

  • The assault guns were awesome, and useful for blowing a path through the city, but were, in the end, vulnerable to enemy infantry when unsupported by their own infantry.
  • Fighting in the building complexes was brutal.
  • People avoided the streets and clung to the buildings.
  • The barricades did channel the attackers vehicles in front of the defending anti-tank guns. Not that a Pak 38 can do much to a SU-152. This channelling occurred despite the fact that the SU-152s could have blown their way through the barricades if they’d wanted to; it was easier just to follow the open path.

The rule that you can’t reactive fire at stands moving between two sectors within a building complex made attacking through building complexes much easier. We weren’t too sure about that and speculated about alternative rules (e.g. stands doing such a move are shot at like those in a bunker, or the Nikolas Lloyd suggestion of distinguishing between those stands moving through a building complex and those firing from the windows) but didn’t use either. (More on that on my next venture: 92nd Naval Infantry Brigade in Stalingrad).

We played a couple of house rules: Aircraft Special Rule and demolition of buildings by direct fire HE. The Aircraft Special Rule was nice actually; it didn’t really impact the game but we were both looking to the sky for rescue. And psychologically it was a big deal when a friendly plane came overhead, even if the impact of the plane was minimal. The SU-152s being able to knock down buildings did influence the game. It might have been a tad easy, and we needed to tighten up the rule as we played the game, but it did seem a good addition. Of course we also played my Direct Fire HE against Structures house rule. It makes tanks very potent in a built up area and makes them worth having.

In terms of tactics, I only realised after the game that I might have won had I not got all cautious at critical moments. On two occasions I could have won the game by pushing ahead with my troops into the objectives. The trouble was that didn’t even occur to me during the game – don’t know why, blame it on the Stukas I guess. I played cautiously and this allowed Rich to recover, counter-attack, and win. Full credit to Rich on that – he made few, if any, mistakes and took the game

I particularly liked Rich’s recovery when I broke through on the right and got into the Railway Station. He managed to extricate his remaining front line troops and man a second line of defence within the station complex. A nice little manoeuvre and once again this had the right “feel”.

We were both surprised by how long the battle took. Given the small table and small number of troops, we’d both expected it to be over in an hour or so, and had had plans to play a second game during the afternoon. Well that didn’t happen. It probably took about 4 hours real time to play through.

All in all a good game.

With one win to the Russians followed by a win by the Germans, the third and final round of the Tarnopol 3 Round Campaign will be Battle Group Friebe using the Prepared Defence option.

Overall results of the campaign:

Round Scenario Battle Report Winner
1 Russian Recce Battle Report Steven
2 SU-152s up close and personal Battle Report Rich
3 Battle Group Friebe Battle Report Rich

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