Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Road to Minsk

After running an OP14 game over Skype, I thought I'd try a non gridded game, in this case my WW2 version of One Hour Wargames. It fits the bill as it uses a small (3' x 3') table and has a mercifully small number of elements to manouvre.

I wanted to get some of my newer toys out, so I bodged up the 'raid' scenario from the rules and turned it into a Summer 1941 Panzer breakthrough on the Eastern Front! In this scenario, a smaller force (four units) tries to tear across the table evading a larger number (six units) of enemy.

Kampfgruppe von Gow. A panzer battalion (Pz 38s) and a motorcycle battalion with attached AT guns.

Kampfgruppe von Armatys. Two schutzen battalions, one supported by infantry guns, the other by extra AT guns.

These units are modelled on 20th Panzer Div which fought with Panzer Group 3 in the battle for Minsk. To make more of a game of it I had the Schutzen fight dismounted and made the nmotorcycle battalion operate as normal motorised infantry rather than Heavy Recce as otherwise the Germans would have been far too mobile. The HQ elements are just for show.

The Germans had some offtable air and artillery. I modelled these as 1D6 of offtable arty support and four missions of Stukas, each with 2D6. The Stukas had to be called in by the KPzBfw attached to a unit while the 105s were in general support.

10th Rifle Div. These elements are considerably bigger than the German ones, being entire Regiments. The division has three Rifle Regiments (modelled as standard infantry units) and a 76mm Artillery Regiment (modelled as a standard on-table artillery unit) which can fire in support of any unit of the division. Simon had this division, the stand with the red flag is the HQ.

15th Mechanised Corps. Two (weak) Tank Regiments and a Motorised Rifle Regiment reinforced with close support artillery. Despite the T34 and KV, the tanks are just treated as standard tank units. In June 1941 the heavier tanks were hugely outnumbered by obsolete light tanks, and many of the more modern tanks lacked basic like spares, or even ammunition.... The motor rifle troops don't have any trucks, as also common in mid 1941.

Jerry got  my shiny new NKVD detachment and an officer with a megaphone. Mainly there to provide support and encouragement, but also had a house rule which might allow the recovery hits.

The initial setup. One thing I'd learned from Galkow and Tims matrix games was the importance of keeping the players oriented. The big grid labels are pretty garish, as is the compass indicator, but the players said they preferred them as they could work out where stuff was. I might make them a bit smaller for the next game (Tim suggested 64 point text was fine).

The action opens with a single regiment of 10th Rifle Div set up a hill facing west. The Germans are trying to get across the table and leave by the road in square C3. The Henschel spotter is stooging around because I painted it and it looks nice.

Jerry set up to provide encouragement to the soldiers.

The Germans are forced to enter in A1, the top left hand corner. Von Gow turned sharp right and headed due south. Von Armatys meanwhile march stolidy straight ahead. I think some planning may have taken place.

Faced with this target rich environment, the Russians on the hill opened fire while Jerry shouted encouragement.

The managed to inflict some hits on the motorcycle battalion as it sped past, but the Germans called down artillery fire from their 105s which somewhat impeded the Russians aim and even inflicted some losses. Jerry sprang into action and shoved the skulkers back into line.

The Germans approached the road, but the Russian infantry edged off the hill, despite being slowed down by the artillery fire.

Oooer, a major part of 15th Mech Corps came driving down the road from the east. Time for the Germans to get their skates on or they risk being crushed in a vice.

The Germans accelerate their assault. Panzers attack frontally, motorcycles from the flank all shot in by artillery and Stukas.

Meanwhile, 15th Mech Corps drops off its Rifle Regiment and its close support artillery who busily start digging trenches across the road.

Under the overwhelming assault, the Russians give way and run for the rear, leaving the NKVD to face the panzers all on their own.

However help is at hand, as the Tank Regiment rolls up the road.

Unfortunately it gets the full combined arms treatment, Pakfront, Stukas and artillery, all backed up by the panzers. Not a pretty sight.

The NKVD however urge them on.

Back down the road, the infantry finish digging in, overseen by the Corps Commander. Just off to the right can be seen the first Schutzen battalion approaching their position. Out of sight of the entrenched Russians for now (it is till a couple of miles away).

The Panzers assault the Russian tanks, shot in by AT guns, Artillery and Stukas.

The burning wreckage which results can be seen up the road. Meanwhile the NKVD fall back to the Motor Rifle troops, who reorient 45 degrees to face multiple threats. 

Dear me! The rest of 10th Rifle Div and 15th Mech roll down the road from the east, right behind the German motorcycle Bn. Not what you want to see behind you.

The Germans pause to take photos of burning T-26s. A popular past-time in 1941.

They hurry off, pursued by a great mass of Russians. Are they advancing or retreating? Who can say.

Fortunately the motorcyclists are bit nippier down the road than the KV-1s... they have accumulated quite a few hits by now.

The Germans rapidly regroup around square B3. This is a somewhat target rich environment for the dug in Russians, and the 76mm guns do grievous damage to the motorcyclists as they drive past.The panzers and one of the Schutzen battalions go for the 'table edge creep'. They do actually need to exit via the road though. The battered motorcyclists park up by the farm, while the other Schutzen cover the panzers flanks with their AT guns.

The Russians deploy into line while shelling the Germans. The 10th Rifle Div are trying to get within spotting range to call in their Div artillery, but the Germans keep running away. They are running out of table however...

Much to the annoyance of the Russians, the motorcyclist speed away. The Panzers finally make it on to the road. If only the Motor Rifle troops had deployed on the road exit rather than 6" forward... hindsight is a wonderful thing however.

The Germans call in their last airstrikes and artillery to pin the Motor Rifles in place. It would be very embarrassing if they close assaulted the Germans in the rear at this stage.

The Russians close in on the Schutzen battalion protecting the flank. They are looking distinctly ragged now, with four hits and disordered. The Germans drop artillery on the Russian tanks to slow them up even though it doesn't do any material damage. An armoured overrun would be disastrous.

The Panzers motor off to Minsk, followed by the Schutzen. The Motor Rifles pour fire into them but are hampered by the airstrike. The motorcyclist follow (with five hits!).

The flank protection battalion falls back.

The Russians form up for a mighty attack as the infantry close up behind the tanks and advance as close as they can to the remaining Germans.

The Schutzen battalion on the road is now also looking distinctly shaky, with four hits and disordered. German artillery keeps the Motor Rifles pinned in place though, precluding an infantry assault.

The German infantry are right at the brink, as the Russians close in.

The Russians aren't in a position to finish them off however as the Schutzen on the road march off east to join the Panzers, and the remaining Germans disappear eastwards cross country. The Germans have therefore achieved their victory conditions of exiting two units by the road (the ones which left cross country don't count) albeit with no less than 13 hits between them. The Russians are left with quite a force, three Rifle Regiments, a Tank Regiment and the entire 10th Div and 15th Mech Divisional Artillery . Sadly, with the Panzers racing up the road and hordes of German infantry rolling up from the west, this lot will being into the bag, unless they head south to the Pripyet Marshes and become partisans.

I was pretty pleased with that. Once again, it ran over two nights in two one hour sessions and I was rendered hoarse at the end of each, but the tech all worked OK this time and the players said they appreciated the big location markers to keep oriented. They'd obviously all read their briefings and hatched plans, and the Russians came so close to crushing the Germans in a trap.

The game mechanism worked well, and I was pleased with how the revised air and artillery worked. No-one attempted to rally so we didn't get to try out the new rally rules, but the NKVD house rule worked OK and provided a degree of entertainment, although I can always rely on Jerry to role play well. I realised that I wasn't using the mods for soft cover, and I think I'll drop that from future versions in  line with the rule that is you don't remember a rule and it doesn't break the game, it is probably unnecessary. It would mean that there are essentially three levels of protection in the game with 3+, 5+ and 6 to hit respectively (ie halving each time) which is nice and neat and lets me deal with CB fire against single dice artillery battalions.


  1. Great looking game- nice to see a non gridded/ hex system work sso well.

    I guess the simple 1 hour wargames rules help here.



    1. Thanks Pete. Yes, it worked OK. A grid would have been easier to manage, but the small unit count (less than a dozen actual manoeuvre elements) kept it manageable. The modern textured game cloths look great but they also provide a form of camouflage for units on them when viewed via Web cam!

  2. Another excellent game and great report. These are the rules for Batt level WW2!