Adam remains keen on ‘O’ Group, and has put together an Eastern Front scenario called “Collective Farm 643”. Chris took the attacking Soviets and I had the defending Germans. Adam was umpire and provide all the kit.
Summary: Over quick. The Soviets took the direct route to the objectives and got hammered.
Adam put together a scenario.
This battle represents a Soviet counterattack on a spread-out Collective Farm in the Summer of 1942. They have some nice tools, but the Germans have the edge in quality.
The Soviets win if they end a turn holding at least 3 of the 5 built up areas in the German deployment zone.
He started with a hand drawn map.
But quickly moved to an electronic one.
I inverted it to align with the photos that follow.
The table matched the map.
The following photo shows what the table looked like after deployment. On-table were Company Commanders, a couple of Soviet platoons, and lots of Combat Patrols. The Combat Patrols represent the possibility of troops, either your own or the enemies.
In ‘O’ Group players plot loose operational zones for each company and more specific locations for the small number of units in ambush. Chris had two on-table companies, one of which was concentrated around the woods on my right. The other company had responsibility for the my left and centre. He also plotted a consolidation point in the centre. If he captured the consolidation point, this is where his reserve rifle company would appear. At that point he’d have to rethink his operational zones to accommodate the extra company, but guidance from the author is that these new operational zones can be even more loose.
In contrast to Chris, I had all three companies on table, one on the right and two near the road junction and villages. The following photo shows these elements plus the units hidden in Ambush.
I had two companies on my right. Although initially there were only some Combat Patrols visible.
Like Chris I only had a single company in the left and centre. And because of bad dice rolling at the start of the game, this was reduced to two Rifle Platoons. Luckily Chris didn’t know that. Well, he knew I’d lost a platoon, but didn’t know which company this was from.
Chris attacked on my right, along the road towards Villages 3, 4 and 5. This is where he had his visible platoons. In reaction, I spawned some new Combat Patrols.
I also moved one of my two Combat Patrols out of the threatened woods. This was so I would look weaker along the road and entice him him to attack faster. And I did look weak here. He had two platoons on table and two Combat Patrols which could be used to deploy his third rifle platoon. I had a sole Combat Patrol on table.
Of course, looks can be misleading. Chris advanced and triggered my Ambush in the woods. I also deployed another platoon from the Combat Patrol. Both platoons started shooting like crazy. In ‘O’ Group shooting first really matters. Shoot first and keep shooting seems to be a good policy.
As my defence hardened on the right, Chris created some more Combat Patrols on the left and centre.
Then he advanced on the left and centre. That included bring on his T-34 platoon from the base edge. Unlike rifle platoons, armour cannot be deployed from a Combat Patrol and must come from the table edge.
On the far left, my Combat Patrol in Village 1 got scared off by Chris’s advancing infantry. Or perhaps there were no Germans there at all.
Chris then moved two platoons towards Village 1. With two Soviet platoons around the village it now looked an enticing target for my regimental artillery.
In the centre, Chris advanced a platoon towards Village 2 but the defenders shot them up.
The firefight continued on the right. Chris deployed his 3rd platoon from that company.
The Soviet artillery started up. Soviet artillery hurts.
The T-34s reached the road.
On my right, Chris got his spare rifle platoon into the woods on my flank.
While he developed his flank attack on the right, Chris also brought on his other armoured platoon. This time T-26s. Although he didn’t advance them very far. T-26s aren’t very good.
I didn’t have much on the left. Just a couple of Combat Patrols threatening any potential Soviet advance along the road. I didn’t need to win here, just keep the Soviets occupied.
And while Chris was eyeing up my Combat Patrols, he drove his T-34s straight into an Ambush on the road. 75mm Pak 40s. Boom!
I followed that up with a close assault on Chris’s flanking rifle platoon and routed it. End game.
The Soviets were defeated a long way from the critical Village 3.
Observations and Conclusions
Adam’s kit looks better and better. I do wish he’d put labels on his stands as knowing which units are which always helps. But that is a small quibble.
I think we got to 6 turns, or there abouts, out of 16. Chris demonstrated against my left (Village 1) and centre (Village 2) and tried attacking directly towards the cluster of villages on my right (Villages 3, 4, 5). It didn’t work.
Given Chris had to capture three villages to win, I had decided I could lose both village 1 and 2 as long as I kept village 3, 4 and 5. So I put 2/3 of my force in and around those. Village 3 was the critical one. Whether he came from my left or tried going straight down the road, he had to take village 3, so I placed three ambushes around that village.
One of my take aways from Adam and Chris’s last game, Assault on Kristov 3, was that an off table reserve is inefficient for the defender. In that game Chris had his reserve off table which meant these troops had to be brought on piecemeal and from the base edge. These off table reserves helped but were not in the right place at the right time. I had a theory that having all defending companies on table would be better. To test that theory I put my 1st company in front of the right flank villages and 3rd company around the villages. I was happy with the result because it meant Chris attacked along the road into two to one odds.
With two of my companies on the right, I only had a single company (2nd Company) on the left. This wasn’t even a full company as one of ‘O’ Group‘s mysterious rules is that if you roll badly in turn 1, you lose troops. Somehow this always seems to happen to me. So 2nd Company only had two rifle platoons … not that Chris knew that.
In the post game debrief, Adam thought Chris should have attacked my left flank. Chris and I don’t think this would have worked because in ‘O’ Group it takes too long for troops to move across the table, let alone doing a wide flanking move. I had even tried a flank attack in Assault on Kristov 1 but it didn’t work.
There is another reason that flank attacks aren’t great in ‘O’ Group. There are no defensive positions so, really, there is no flank. My impression of all the Kristov games was they were meeting engagements. Similarly sized formations bumping into each other. As I observed after Assault on Kristov 2, the Combat Patrol mechanic that where ever the attacker choses to attack, the defender can deploy troops in front the attack. So if Chris had attacked my left flank I would have just put layers of Combat Patrols in his way … my left would have become my front.
The game took a while to play. We started playing at 20.30 and finished at 23.30. That is four hours real time to simulate 72 minutes of combat (12 minutes per turn). This meant, for the first time, Chris ventured an opinion on ‘O’ Group … “Not the kind of game to play in an evening. It needs a whole day.”
I remain puzzled by force balance in ‘O’ Group. I had three good rifle companies in defence. Chris initially had two poor rifle companies in attack. I’m not sure how that is meant to work to make a good game. Admitted Chris did have reserves off table: another rifle company, a T-34 platoon and a T-26 platoon. But there only contribution was the T-34s driving on-table and driving like crazy across my left flank to get knocked out as soon as they got within sight of my 7.5cm Pak 40 which was in ambush near Village 3. All our games have had a similar force ratio and, apparently, this is normal in ‘O’ Group. I don’t get it.
For myself this game didn’t change my opinion of ‘O’ Group.