I also decided that it was not fair to force Don to use an Eastern Front list – which for the most part has not had its points adjusted the way Earth and Steel has – while I got to use the cheaper Western Front list. That meant my Königstigers were a little more expensive. I always thought it was because they did not have the Unreliable rule, but it is mostly because the Eastern Front Königstigers have a Front Armor of 15! (Actually, I did not think twice about needing that extra frontal armor, figuring that any tanks Don purchased would be heading for my flanks.)
Here was my list:
- Company Commander in Königstiger (Henschel) - two Tiger Ace skills
- Platoon of one Königstiger (Henschel) - one Tiger Ace skill
- Platoon of one Königstiger (Henschel) - one Tiger Ace skill
- Panzergrenadier platoon with 2 squads, panzerfaust upgrade, and field cars
- Schwere Panzer Anti-Aircraft Gun platoon with 2 Unarmored Sd Kfz 7/1 (Quad 2cm)
- Armored Rocket Launcher Battery with 3 Panzerwerfer 42 and extra crews
Don's list was:
- Strelkovy Battalion Command
- Strelkovy Company with Komissar
- Strelkovy Company with Komissar
- Maxsim HMG Company
- Light Anti-Tank Gun Platoon
- Field Artillery Battery with 76mm Field Guns and 122mm Howitzers
- ISU-122 Platoon (of 3)
The idea for this scenario sprang from my desire to face my fears. I figured that a Königstiger list would do very poorly against a Soviet Strelkovy horde. I mentioned on day to Don that I wanted to play against them – even though I knew I would get beaten badly – because sometimes you need to know just how bad it can get. Don, of course, said he would be more than willing to oblige as it would allow him to finally get to use those Strelkovy that have been sitting in the box.
The mission was Free-For-All, ensuring all Soviet troops would be on at the start, and 1,500 points per side. That smaller point total meant that I could not have everything I wanted (like an AA platoon and two infantry platoons and air support), so I would have to make hard choices.
I knew that Don would attack, no matter whether he rolled attacker or defender, and I figured he would not bring air support, because he likes his points on the board.
I purchased four boxes of Gale Force 9 rivers, so I just had to use them. The creek (not river...) came on the board in two places, had a ford on each branch, then merged at a split and went off the board. Although I have not put the grass on the pieces yet, they really look good. They may be expensive (I got the four sets for $80; 20% off), but they are flexible and lay flat. Really top notch product.
I also broke out all of my trees. Some were really too small, but we used them as "one-story" trees (so someone in the second story of a building could see over them to a target that was also elevated one story). There were three wooded areas and I decided not to lay felt our foam down to define the area, but rather just simply put down an outline of trees to show the boundaries. That made the table look much nicer. I think it is about time to get more or the tall evergreens from China...
Don brought his roads, hills, buildings, ruins, and walls. Although I tend not to like those hills, they really are probably better for gaming than mine. The are a simple, tall block that has a steep sided slope. They are tall enough to block line of sight to pretty much everything, including a Königstiger; they are that tall.
The roads added a nice touch to the village, but really played no part in the game. Same with the walls and buildings. They were all on the Soviet side of the board and Don deployed away from them.
The board above shows the Soviet side at the top and the German side at the bottom. The Soviet objectives are shown in red, while the German objectives are shown in blue. The woods are medium green, the hills olive green. The creek is shown in light blue with the fords in the lightest blue. The small cream squares represent standing crops, which provide concealment for infantry and gun teams, but not for vehicles larger than a Jeep. The reddish squares are buildings and the tan ribbon is the road. No walls are shown as they played no significant role in the game (but they looked nice).
As we were going over terrain and troops (the "Talk") it starting becoming clear that Don was going to have a problem. I think he thought I was going to have a 14 armor (pretty natural, because I kept talking about it when discussing my last game against Matt) so was as surprised as I was when I told him the Eastern Front Königstigers had a frontal armor of 15. He brought three ISU-122s and their anti-tank was only a 15, so he had to get them on my flank if he was to do anything.
Also, his anti-tank guns were so weak that there was no way for them to penetrate even my side armor. (Although he did admit that they were there to kill my armored AA or some expected panzergrenadier half-tracks.) That meant he had no anti-tank assets that could take care of me frontally, and only three that could get me from the side. The greatest threat came from the one battery, that could get me from the top (they had a anti-tank of '4' against my top armor of '2'). The roll of a '1' could penetrate my armor, and a '2' could bail me.
Don won the roll for attacker, and thus got to select the baseline. He also had to start deploying first, but naturally, I had fewer platoons.
Objective placement was interesting because we both avoided one flank and placed one objective in the center (in line with the fords) and the second on the same flank as each other.
My Tiger Aces rolls were: Company Commander re-roll misses and Motivation 2+; left platoon re-roll misses; and center platoon rate of fire 3.
The basic battle plan was to follow the advice posted on the Tactica Königstiger thread on the Flames of War forum: shred the enemy from long range for as long as possible and then move in and take the objective. The main thing was to be patient and not rush to the attack. The "problem" with this tactic, or so I thought, is that this list would not have enough firepower to stop the infantry swarm, and they would just run over me like army ants. But, that was the whole point of running this game, to see how the list handled the situation.
With an objective to defend in the center (behind a ford), and one on the left flank (behind a creek), I decided to post the infantry in the surrounding terrain in the center, as I felt that the main attack would be going after that objective. The center Königstiger was hiding in the tree line, dominating the center lanes of attack. I felt that it would be better to have the faster gunner firing there as that Königstiger was unlikely to be moving until the end game.
The left flank Königstiger sat behind the river, ostensibly guarding the left objective from the Strelkovy company that would be advancing on that attack axis, but also getting a good cross-fire on any ISUs trying to sneak up on the center by using the woods a cover.
My Company Commander posted between the other two Königstigers, ready to shift to either objective that would be threatened. In the event of an advance, it could support the attack on either objective.
The Panzerwerfers were on my far right flank. That meant it would have a harder time getting to the back field on the left flank, but had excellent cover and could use the platoon's commander to provide an alternate spotting position. The primary observer position was in the center woods, beside the center Königstiger.
Finally, my armored AA platoon was in the center, behind full cover and out of sight, should the Soviets get first turn. I knew that Don was going to try and target them, as they would be a pretty easy VP if I got careless.
The Soviet setup was to stretch a single Strelkovy Company across half of the board with HMGs in front and artillery behind in support. The ISUs were to move to my right flank and work around to the rear. The second Strelkovy Company was to attack across a narrow front and capture the objective on my left flank. The anti-tank guns would defend their objective, keeping my armored AA platoon and motorized Panzergrenadier platoon away.
Don won the roll to move first. He started off by pushing his infantry forward, all across the board. The artillery observer doubled onto the hill so he could get a good look at the German line. As his ISUs were all the way to the rear (out of range, in case I had first turn), they had to plow through the ford and naturally one of the tanks bogged.
The Panzerwerfers found their mark right at the start and pounded the center Strelkovy company and the Maxsim HMG company, killing teams from both and pinning them down. I was lucky and killed the Komissar with a rocket on the first shot. Meanwhile the Königstigers simply lobbed shells into the Strelkovy and the enemy battery (which were barely in range). The armored AA moved up on my left flank in order to strafe the Strelkovy defending the town, along with the Königstiger on that flank.
The Soviets struggled and were unable to unpin, especially without a Komissar to harangue them, so they continued to weather the storm from the rockets, losing more stands. (Don was really doing bad with infantry saves in the beginning.) Slowly the ISUs moved forward, but in the interim I had pinned the Soviet artillery with a stray rocket, so again they could not counter-bombard me.
Eventually the Soviet shrugged off the effects of pinning and started to move forward again. However, it was a bit too late by that time. The rockets started finding their mark and and the Maxsims started dying in droves. It was too much for them and they broke and fled. At this point both Strelkovy companies decided to pull back and dig in (which it took a couple of turns to perform).
The ISUs, however, saw an opportunity to strike at my Panzerwerfers and lessen some of their infantry's misery. After each bombardment, and when I made a successful Stormtrooper move, I would nudge the Panzerwerfers towards the center, allowing them to help defend the center objective. As it turned out, I probably made that move prematurely as the ISUs now had a bead on them. Three shots range out and ... three misses. (I think Don rolled a '1', '2', and a '2'.) Now that the ISUs were exposed, the Königstigers made short work of them, taking out the entire platoon in a turn. (It really helps having a Königstiger with a rate of fire of 3, plus a company commander that can re-roll misses.)
The artillery was starting to have some effect – although in hindsight it was rather negligible due to Don's horrendous rolling for ranging in (over the course of the game he failed to range in three times, each of three attempts) – pinning my Panzergrenadiers and rattling the roofs of my Königstiger and Panzerwerfers. That forced me to start concentrating on taking out the observer. However, after two rocket bombardments and numerous 8.8cm rounds from the Königstiger, he was still alive and well. (That must account for his inability to range in fire, however!) When the last of the smoke cleared, the Company Commander crossed the creek and assaulted the observer, wiping his out.
Meanwhile, on the left flank, the armored AA had moved to the creek line and blasted all exposed Strelkovy, stopping their advance cold. At this point Don pulled back and dug in. The AA and the Königstiger advanced across the creek, occasionally pausing as they got stuck in the mud, and chased the Strelkovy down. Although the Königstiger had little to fear from the infantry or the anti-tank guns, one of the AA was destroyed as it rounded the corner of a building. (The unit passed morale, however.)
Just as my Panzergrenadiers started mounting their trucks in order to make the trek across the center, in preparation for the assault on the center objective, Don decided to call the game, realizing that I was going to slowly pick off his units and he really did not have anything to stop me. At that point we started talking the game over and trying to figure out what happened, and what the Soviets can do to beat this list.
So, What Happened?
The main problem with the list was that there were really only two units that could kill a Königstiger: the artillery and the ISU-122. Let's go over each unit.
- Strelkovy Company: by itself, a Strelkovy Company has no real integral anti-tank assets. Each stand has Tank Assault 2, which against a Top Armor of 2, means it can do nothing. When I played Shawn, he added the PTRD anti-tank rifle and the flamethrowers to the mix (at great expense). Let's look at those:
- The PTRD anti-tank rifle is AT 5, which has no chance against the Side Armor of a Königstiger, which is an 8. In assault they are a Tank Assault 3, which gives them 16% chance to force the Königstiger to bail out, effectively killing it, unless it is defended by another unit. That said, I have a tendency to call priority target against Gun teams when firing at Strelkovy, specifically to kill off the PTRD when they are present.
- The flamethrower cannot fire in defensive fire so it is really only effective against a Königstiger when it is shooting. A flamethrower gets two shots, even when moving, and hits with a skill test, so has a 67% of hitting with each shot. Each shot that hits, in turn, has a 16% chance of destroying the Königstiger. Thus, the chance of destroying the Königstiger is about 30%. That is not bad. Two flamethrowers just might have the Strelkovy chasing the Königstiger off of an objective if they aren't wiped out first. (More on that later.)
- ISU-122: with an AT of 15 and the Königstiger having a Front Armor of 15, the ISU-122 has not chance of taking out a Königstiger frontally. It must get onto its' flank. With the ISU-122 being a Slow Tank, just as the Königstiger is, that is going to be a tough misson. Even so, once the ISU-122 gets on the flank it will typically have a 50% chance to hit and an 83% chance to kill (42% chance total), so the Königstiger's destruction on the first (moving) shot is by no means assured. The odds are pretty high that unless the ISUs are using covered approaches, the Königstiger will take them out before they arrive on the flank.
- 122mm Howtizers: with an AT of 4, going against the Top Armor of a Königstiger, these guns stand a chance of killing them (16% to penetrate and 67% chance to destroy, or about 11% total), once they range in and hit. The odds lower slightly if you add in the field guns to the bombardment, but you increase the chance of hitting.
- SU-100: with an AT of 16, this assault gun has a 14% chance of bailing a Königstiger when it hits. This is okay, but does not do much unless there is an infantry unit ready to pounce on the bailed tank in assault.
- Shturmovik: with an AT of 12 going against the Top Armor of the Königstiger, air support remains one of the best means for taking a Königstiger out. The problem, of course, is getting the aircraft and ranging in. Anti-aircraft can upset the aircraft's plans, but it cannot be counted on to protect all of the Königstigers on the field; at best it can protect only two at once. With a top-of-the-line aircraft using cannons, it has a 33% chance of killing a Königstiger outright, after it has successfully ranged in. (That makes you think, doesn't it?)
- 152mm Artillery: with an AT of 5 going against the Top Armor, and a FP of 2+, if these guns range in and hit successfully, the hit will have a 28% chance of destroying the Königstiger. The good thing for the Germans is that the Soviets have to spend a lot of points to get artillery this powerful (they have to buy the 122mm howitzers first).
As Don put it, "yeah you may win these games with the Königstiger, but I won all of the others where the Königstigers aren't at". I would probably agree.
So, my fear of Strelkovy is lessened. They have been beaten with Gepanzerte Panzergrenadiers and with Königstigers, but the Grenadiers lost, badly. Maybe it is time to look at them again ... with fortifications! :^)