We have lately been looking around at some other sets of WWII rules and I fell in love with the Battlegroup series. Martin and I had been trying to find a suitable date for a game for almost two weeks now and over the weekend we both realised that we would be available on Monday, so we met up yesterday morning for a game. What a way to start a week, right? And to make things even better, the weather had turned fabulous here in Germany over the weekend, so we spontaneously decided to have he game outside (this resulted in a board set up, which is a little more basic… Sorry for that!).
I had been in the mood for a late war game when creating the forces on Sunday, we went for the Fall of the Reich supplement and these are the forces (those marked with an asterisk were randomly determined to be reserves and arrived on turn 1 for the Russians and turn 2 for the Germans).
The German defenders had a Tiger II* as their forward headquarters unit, a PzKw II l Luchs reconnaissance and PaK 43 as support. The main force consisted of a squad of Volkssturm with two Panzerfäuste* and an armoured Panzergrenadier platoon. The later consisted of command squad in a SdKfz 251/10, a medic* and four eight-men Grenadier Squads (one started in reserve) in SdKfz 251/1. Their machine guns had been upgraded to MG-42s. They also had to special rules to raise their Battlegroup rating (more on that later).
The Soviets had a forward HQ, a VVS Air control officer* both in a GAZ jeep and a wire team*. There was also a T34/85 platoon* and a single JS-2 tank*. Their reconnaissance was provided by an infantry foot patrol. Oddly enough, I thought I had chosen a sniper and put a according mini on the able instead. (Good thing I actually put the sniper besides a bush that had virtually the same colour as his uniform and forgot about him all game long! :-P) There was also a rifle platoon, consisting of a command squad, four eight-men rifle squads (one would start in reserve), a Maxim HMG team*. They also had access to a two-gun off-board Zis-3 battery and two on board 82mm mortars*.
Table seen from the German side
Martin chose to play the Germans, so the Soviets went to me. Set up was fairly straight. The Soviets deployed virtually even spaced along their deployment zone (10″ into the table). The German PaK deployed to the rear and in the centre, the Luchs on the road running the length of the board, with one of the halftracks behind. The other Panzergrenadiere and their halftracks deployed in the shadow of the village and the village square itself.
Table from the Soviet side
The first round saw the initiative go to the Russians. Not much going on there. All units (including the tanks and infantry from reserves moved forward). Two rifle squads and the Maxim were driven forward by their commissar and made extra speed under constant cries of Ura, Ura, Ura. The air control officer tried to call in the artillery, but after he saw the spotter round go wide, decided to call it off. I would have loved to fire the JS-2 at the PaK, but thought twice. Ammo is a bit abstract under the rules, so the JS-2 carries precious few ammo for that. Since I had not bought a re-supply unit for either side I had to think twice when to shoot and when not.
JS-2 in the fields
The Germans still lacked their reserves, so their actions were limited to advances by a few units and by the PaK firing. Well rather failing to spot a target and when it had, to hit it! ;-).
T34´s on the roll
Now the second round saw initiative go to the Soviets once more. Their officer tried to call in the artillery again, but once more their spotter round went wide and they were not ordered to fire for effect. The air control officer wanted the mortars to fire at the PaK, but had to find it was too far away, so the mortars just advanced. So did the other infantry and tanks. The JS-2 had now almost run into the Luchs and decided to take a shot at close range. It hit and ripped the small tank to shreds.
JS-2 vs the small cat
Now the German reinforcements arrived on table. Unfortunately Martin had rolled very few orders, so it was mostly about moving the reserves up. The Königstiger in the middle with the Volkssturm in its wake and the halftrack racing up to the village. The only shot fired was the PaK which took its chances on the JS-2. It scored a lucky hit and blew the big tank up. But this did not prove a happy occasion for the Germans either. Battlegroup works not just with unit moral, but also with a moral for your whole force. For every tank or unit lost you pick a random counter and it’s value gets deducted from your Battlegroup rating. So I had to take a counter for the loss of my behemoth and actually managed to pull a special out of fuel counter from the bag, which I then played on the Königstiger. We rolled for the result and lo and behold… It ran out of fuel and it’s crew chose to abandon it. This is a fate of war.
PaK 43, Königstiger and Volkssturm
The next round saw initiative go to the Germans. But again a poor roll for orders meant that essentially not much happened. The Volkssturm advanced further, the reserve Panzergrenadiere still raced towards the village and the PaK was back to not hitting anything!
Advance of the mighty Volkssturm
[Photo edited to conform with German law]
For the Russians it was still a general advance and again some of the troops were pushed forward by the commissar in charge. The most impressive event of this round was that the Russian artillery finally had run out of Vodka (or had they managed to fill up enough?) and were finally able to hit the village square. Most of the infantry and halftracks got away with a scare, but the Panzergrenadier command was mauled by the barrage, lost their nerve and ran off the table.
Panzergrenadier reinforcements debussing in the village square
The next few rounds saw the fighting pick up, now that the Russians were in range of the village. This also meant that the Soviet artillery chose not to fire for effect, for fear of hitting their own troops with the exception of one very effective barrage on the newly arrived reserve Grenadiere.
Moving towards the German village
To block some of the troops moving up on the German right flank one of the MG-42 teams moved out of the village and fired at the advancing Russians. They only managed to pin them down and as a reward were ripped apart by a high explosive round and machine gun fire from one of the T34′s.
MG-42 team firing from the village
The Russians un-pinned themselves and close assaulted one of the German unit in the village square, wiping them out for the loss of five of their own.
Close Assault in the village
Together with one of the rifle squads, the Maxim managed to wipe out another one of the German grenadier units, while the wheat fields saved themselves from punishment. The PaK finally found its Mark,and managed to wipe out the two centre T34′s.
But not before that happened, one of them had killed the MG-42 team that had deployed together with the other Panzergrenadiere from their half track on the road.
The mortars also found a good target at last and destroyed first the infantry in the fields and then the halftrack that had brought them there. Sad thing is, that the halftrack had previously led a blessed life with two shots from a T34 missing it.
On the last round, I was getting a bit worried. Unless I could the Germans to exceed their Battlegroup rating, it would be a loss for me. I knew Martin had pulled a huge number of counters already, but I did not know their value. And
I was running out of targets. My remaining T34 was behind the village and most German units were out of line of sight anyway. So my infantry started shooting at one of the halftracks and the command halftrack. While they never stood a chance to destroy either, they forced both crews to abandon them, which meant two more counters for Martin. And the last one pushed him two points over his Battlegroup rating which meant a last-minute Soviet win.
Russian Infantry advancing
All in all, we were both very pleased with the game. It was fast paced with a good historic feel and we both felt that just a little more experience, would make it even more pleasant. So,we are looking forward to the next installment!