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Operation Bagration : Zhlobin : June 22, 1944

by on October 28, 2012

Did you ever paint something up nice and shiny with lots of special rules to bring to a game, just to watch it just become inneffectual and shot up?  Well, that’s what happened to my new Engineer Sapper Platoon.  I wanted badly to see a Russian shoot a panzerfaust, and ended up with a comically tragic game ender for all my expectations.  See below..

Starshiy Serzhant Detroteev could not stand to be around Komissar Anathemski.  The boor readily shipped off  rescued ex-POWs to gulags as he sentenced good soldiers to into shtraft battalions.  Now, he attached himself to the troops of the engineer sapper platoon in hopes of earning glory for his part of the offensive.  He strutted back and forth, pointing a swagger stick over to the other side of the river.  “The enemy is reportedly trying to secure this bridge before we use it, comrade.”  He emphasized the last word with a sneer.  “You will make sure we keep it by taking the fight to the other side.”

Zhlobin, Turn 1

This setup shows the a Free-for-All across a river with Russians on the left with a firestorm howitzer battery and trio of T-34/85s, a rifle company in the woods on the far side with some t-34/76s, heavy mortars, a group of sappers and sapper engineers in the center facing the bridge, scouts on the near side.  No recce moves this game.  Bob has Mk IVs, Panthers, an armored anti-aircraft platoon, some infantry and Hummels on the other side.

A soldier reluctantly lugged flamethrower tanks over his shoulder as Detroteev attempted to reason with the Kommissar to hold the line on this side of the river rather than get isolated on the far bank without armored support.  “They are moving tanks up for a counterattack.  We should wait for the rest of the regiment before we cross.”

The Komissar sneered.  “Have you no faith in the tools our workers have armed you with?  Explosives, body armor!  Why even the workers of Germany are userful!”  He patted a requisitioned case of panzerfausts that went by on the backs of a sapper team.  “You will send our men forward, comrade.  Or else.”  He punctuated his threat with a point of his finger.  “Remember, your new body armor only protects from the front…for a reason.”

The T-34/76s crossed the river decently with wide tracks, while the tanks on the other side generally bogged, but were able to burn two Mk IVs at distance.  The Soviet line moved over the river and all that extra artillery was generally inneffectual due to pinning for most of the game.

Turn 2, “Engineer Sappers forward!”

Eventually, the T-34/76s were able to get close enough to threaten the back rows of Hummels and sdkfz/7 quads, with the strekolvy following behind.  The other sappers dug in to protect to objective while the engineer sappers crossed river and bridge, risking exposure to make use of their toys.

Turn 3, T-34/76s sneak around to get at artillery

They had crossed the river now, and the roar of panzers in front was almost as loud as the political officer haranguing them further to the building up ahead.  Detroteev had drilled them on how to take down bunkers and emplacements, just like the ones that stopped  the tank brigade crossing earlier this day (see earlier battle report.)  But how would they fare against tanks?   “Flamethrowers and faustnikas to the front,” he ordered to protect his troops.  At his back, he could almost feel the muzzle of the machinegun  carried by the hulking Khazak that shadowed the Kommissar.  As the German tanks opened up machine gun fire to rake his men, he saw the fear in their eyes. A few faltered.  Anathemski ordered them to stand their ground, and for the Khazak to ready his weapon.

Turn 3, Close enough to assault!

And here it gets ugly.  The engineers manage to close the distance to assault Mk. IVs and anti-aircraft quads, and fail both tank terror tests!  Then the kommissar eliminates a stand, and they still fail!  They begin to get chopped up by mg fire and the Panthers come into play and the Hummels direct fire.  The strekolvy company also tries to win with numbers on and assault, and gets repulsed by the required eleven hits!

The smoking barrel of the Khazak’s machine gun answered what happens when engineers ran back to the river.  Detroteev stared in disbelief as the kommissar ordered to continue  fire, gunning down even those who dared to look over their shoulder.   A private spat and dared to raise his submachine gun towards Anathemski, but he was too slow for the Kommissar and his pistol. 

Between the tanks spitting hell at them and the bloodthirsty kommissar who had all but eliminated the third squad for cowardice, the battered remains of the platoon made it to the building and easily rooted out a couple of German observers.  “We cannot continue!” he argued with Androteev as they watched self-propelled howitzers lowering their guns to shell them directly.  Out of the other window, he could see second squad getting pinned and gunned down in the open by the quads opening up. 

“Nonsense!” replied Androteev.  “We will win this battle,  these fascist invaders will drown…in lakes of our own proletariat blood!”  The Khazak wheeled his machinegun around and pulled the trigger when the men refused to obey the Kommissar’s order to assault the surrounding tanks again.  Those who were trained to use the panzerfausts and the flamethrower were no longer alive.

Turn 4, The remains of the e.s. platoon are huddled in the little house. The strekolvy are out in the open.

“Look what you’ve done!”  Detroteev shouted above the chatter of bullets striking the walls.  “There is no one left to fight!”  The dead and wounded were piling up around them by the minute, by both German and Soviet bullets.

“You are still alive, so pick up a weapon,” the kommissar menaced, using his pistol to point to the dropped panzerfaust.  His eyes were bloodshot orbs of madness, piercing into the sergeant to obey.  But over the kommissar’s shoulder, he could see through a hole in the wall a panzer turret directly aimed at them rocking from recoil.  Then, the whole room exploded in a wash in fire and blood, abruptly ending the argument forever.

Turn 4, Strekolvy repulsed, now about to eat it.

That’s pretty much how effective the new unit was.  And the three Panthers and direct firing Hummels took out the t-34/76s and started to chew up the strekolvy.  The right flank still had Soviet artillery trying to unpin and T-34/85s still mired in the banks of the Dneiper.  I called it when the Panthers successfully  passed bogging checks over the river and started to roll into my mortar batteries.  German MVP is the Kommissar for taking out enough of the engineer sapper platoon himself (3 stands) so that there was no way I was going to survive assaulting the tanks.  If I made some tank terror tests, I think there would have been a chance to take out one or two German armored platoons.  I want to thank Bob for coming aboard the campaign and playing a great game as we newbies both fumbled through the rules and numbers.  He has great looking Mk IVs.

Turn 6, Panthers about to cross the Dnieper

Postscript : After a couple days, I re-read my army list and forgot that I bought a special warrior that gave the engineer-sappers a !#@ Motivation of “2+” in the first place, meaning some of these tank assaults would have happened if I had remembered my numbers!  And so…

Leytenant Zabolotnov, medal-winner and a rising red star among the ranks of the engineering battalion, sat sidelined, reassigned  temporarily to supervise the regimental field kitchen by his hated rival, Kommissar Anathemski, who then took “supervisory command” of his platoon.  He stood helpless amid piles of peeled potatoes, overhearing the distress reports from the radios in the command bunker about a German panzer counterattack.  He itched to get back to the front and lead his men, and to save them from the raving glory-hound who now led them.

Another rookie mistake, so note-to-self, “write your motivation, skill and to hit numbers right on your arm while playing…and don’t have too high expectations about unit’s performance if you can’t remember what they do.”  Maybe the Kommissar should’ve also shot the player!


From → Flames of War

  1. Wil, that territory seems to be bad luck for the Soviets. I had the worst time in the region in the previous campaign turn. Luckily the Soviets are still poised to inflict heavy losses on the Germans.

  2. Yeah, just a speedbump to the Red Steamroller. I’ll be there at 11ish tomorrow.

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