Basically the scenario was Late War, Eastern Front, with both sides choosing armored forces. I am not quite sure which list the Germans used - either Bake Regiment or Ostfront Panzers, it was a PDF - but the Soviets used the Self-Propelled Artillery list from River of Heroes. The problem was the mission - we rolled up Encounter - so 1/2 of both sides forces were in Reserve and the reserves were both Delayed and Scattered.
Maybe saying the mission was the problem is wrong. The Soviets only had five platoons (companies), while the Germans had six. (Yes, the Soviets had a pretty elite force.) So that meant that only two Soviet platoons could be deployed at the start. The Soviets had the following (as best as I can remember):
- ISU-122 Battalion Commander
- IS-2 x 3
- ISU-122 x 3 (with Rat)
- ISU-152 x 3
- Katyusha Rocket Launchers x 4 with extra crews
- Sapper platoon (5 stands?)
- Priority Air Support (Shturmovik II-2 TIP)
The Germans had the following:
- Company Commander and Second in Command, both in Panthers
- Panthers x 3
- Panzer IV H x 3
- King Tiger x 1
- Light AA Halftracks x 3
- Panzerwerfer Rocket Launchers x 3 with extra crews
- Recon platoon in haltracks
The battle report is short and bloody, but it points out three key lessons to learn from.
The Soviets got the first move and the IS-2 company moved forward and blasted away at the Panthers. All missed. (Giving that the mission was Encounter, the Mobile Battle special rule was in effect, so the Soviet takes were going to have a hard time hitting and the Katyushas could not bombard on the first turn.) The Battalion Commander missed. Even the flight of two Shturmoviks, who had three tanks under their template, missed all targets. The Panthers counter-attacked and destroyed two of the three IS-2s. Despite being Fearless they failed their Platoon Morale Check. The Panzer IVs meanwhile blasted a single Katyusha rocket launcher. That was turn 1.
On turn 2 Don only had the Katyusha's and the Battalion Commander. The former failed to range in and the latter took out a Panzer IV. The air support came in again, but again their bombs failed to find their target. In the German turn the Battalion Commander was taken out and the Katyusha's lost one stand shy of a morale check. The Panther platoon double-timed towards the Soviet objective uncovered by the routing IS-2 company.
So, at this point the Soviets are one stand away from taking a morale check, and if they fail it, they will automatically fail the Company Morale Check, thus losing the game. And facing them are five Panthers, two Panzer IV, and three light AA halftracks. The only thing that could save them are Reserves - rolling a '5' or a '6'.
It was at this point that the Dice Gods decided to smile on the Soviets. The reserves came in - an ISU-122 company - and they came in randomly right in front of the double-timing Panthers. Six shots at 5+ and they get four hits, resulting in all three Panthers in the platoon being destroyed! (The air and the rockets miss.) The Germans fail their Reserves roll (my only roll of the game), the Panther 2iC and Panzer IV obliterate the Katyushas, and the game is over with a German 5-2 victory.
So, what were the three lessons? We will start with the easiest ones first:
1. The Soviets could have not lost on turn 3 if they had remembered to run the Soviet Katyushas off of their baseline. This would have resulted in one platoon dead, one alive, and one not counted, meaning 50% casualties, not > 50%. This was a critical rule forgotten.
2. Although the odds were not great that the Soviet Reserves would come on that turn (33%), the fact was that the double-timing Panthers resulted in no advantage, even if no Soviet reserves came on. They were not within 4" of the objective, so they could not have claimed a win at the start of German turn 3. So, the Germans risked all for no gain, and lost.
3. What you choose for deployment critically affects the outcome of the game. The Katyushas could not bombard on turn one unless the Soviets lost the First Move die roll and as the Soviets had fewer platoons to deploy, the odds were that they were going to be the attackers. Secondly, the Katyushas have an AT rating of 2, meaning that stand little chance of bailing a tank, and no chance of destroying it outright. Finally, given that they were a soft target, they stood a real chance of dying. The Katyushas never should have been selected as part of the two critical platoons to start the game on-board. My recommendation was that the Soviets should have started with two assault gun companies, plus the commander (7 tanks).
Some discussion resulted in whether the Germans should have selected the King Tiger instead of the AA. Given the Shturmoviks being most abundant at the beginning of a game, I thought it was very important to keep them off of the Panthers. Putting a KT out there would have just given the aircraft more undefended, high value targets to choose from. The AA needed to be there, in my opinion.
Bad day for the Soviets!