Tuesday, May 29, 2012

5. Panzer Division Captures Gorki!

In a daring strategic envelope, the defenders of Orsha sallied out to capture Gorki from the Russian horde. Armored elements of 5. Panzer Division, supported by Tiger and Panther platoons from 3. Pz Army, thrashed the Bolsheviks, inflicting horrendous casualties upon the enemy and throwing them into disarray. The attack also successfully cut-off Soviet tank forces in Bykhov, forcing the wholesale surrender of some of the enemy's best troops.

This was a great game against Syamael's Russian SMG horde. Being the first time for me playing Germans, and the first time playing a tank company, I was looking forward to see what my little force can do. It was certainly scary, as I've only got 7 PzIVH (including HQ and 2iC), 3 Panther A, 3 PzIIL, an armored pioneer platoon and a Luftwaffe 88mm battery. Lucky for me I was able to add some key Firestorm troops - a platoon of 2 Panthers and another platoon of 2 Tigers.

Arrayed across the field was a daunting sight. Hordes of Russian SMG troops in 2 companies, supported by a mortar battery, Katyushas, 6 SU-100 and 5 SU-76. These were further bolstered by a company of sappers and IL-2s on limited air support.

My deployment was obvious in its intent to drive up the flanks. What wasn't obvious was that my 'stronger' right flank (5 PzIVH, 2 Tiger, 2 Panther, 2 88mm guns) was actually the feint meant to pin the enemy's anti-tank assets. My 'weaker' left flank (3 PzII L, 3 Panther, 2 PzIVH) was the actual assault force designated to capture the objective. The key objective on my side was held by dug-in panzer pioneers.

My 5PD forces lucked out as Syamael deployed with the assumption he would get turn 1. As it turned out, I won the roll, and my flanks surged forwards. The enemy SU-76 force were wiped out in a single round of fire, while rapid-firing Luftwaffe 88s forced a couple of the SU-100 crews to bail out. The PzIV platoon on the right flank advanced rapidly, and in 2 turns destroyed the Katyusha battery.

On the left flank, the Luchs platoon used their amazing mobility to close in on enemy infantry, gunning them down in droves with MG and cannon fire. Panthers and command PzIV tanks added to the carnage.

I must admit I wasn't sure at first how well the Luftwaffe gun crews would perform, being Reluctant Trained as opposed to my panzertruppen's Confident Veteran rating. I must say my misgivings were ill-founded. The gun crews performed admirably, their high rate of fire harrasing enemy armor throughout the battle. They were hit by mortar fire once, and were pinned for 2 turns, but they quickly recovered thereafter and continued pumping high-velocity AP shells into the enemy.

The Russian SU-100s proved to be extremely hardy. At range, my guns couldn't seem to knock them out (keep failing firepower tests), and I was just plain lucky that most of the time, most of the crews bailed out and couldn't seem to remount fast enough despite being Fearless. Eventually my PzIV swept around the right flank and started shooting into their thinner side armor. Only one SU-100 managed to survive the battle.

A highlight of the battle was when the SMG company on my right flank surged forwards to assault my PzIV platoon. With one of the tanks out of range, only 4 tanks opened up with defensive fire MG. Amazingly, they scored 12 hits out of 16 shots, immediately crippling the assault. The tanks' counter-assault in the next turn further decimated the SMG company.

The Russian air support was quite effective, given that it was only limited, and did not have much time to act. My other FoW army is a LW British infantry company of 11AD who regularly fight with rocket-bearing Typhoons on priority air support, and I'm very used to calling in air strikes to get rid of the odd pesky Tiger platoon or two. Being on the receiving end of rocket air attacks is not funny. The first rocket strike destroyed one Luchs and forced another to bail. The second rocket strike killed a PzIV. I lost 2 other tanks in the battle - a Tiger to concentrated SU-100 fire, and a Panther to Russian sapper assault.

As the enemy forces on my right flank started to disintegrate and falter, I threw my left flank into the final assault. These tanks had been parked away from assault range of the enemy infantry, spraying the enemy with MG and cannon fire for the past few turns. Finally when the enemy ranged anti-tank assets were depleted, the Panthers, Luchs and PzIV assaulted the enemy sappers and SMG teams. In the center, Firestorm Panthers also assaulted. The strike was decisive and the Russians' resolve broke, throwing them into retreat. Even the enemy Commissar couldn't stop the rout, and he was killed by his own men.

This was a most amazing battle and a great debut for my 5. Panzer Division troops. Looking forward to the next campaign turn. We will throw the Bolsheviks all the way back to Moscow!

About 5. Panzer Division
I chose 5PD because I feel the historical unit really reflects the Confident Veteran rating. The division fought in Poland, France, the Balkans and was about to be shipped to North Africa when it was assigned last minute to 3. Panzer Army in Russia - and their tanks had already been painted desert brown! This also explains why my Luchs platoon is still in its desert camo scheme. 5. and 12. Pz Div were the two major tank formations of the Heer in the Bagration theatre of operations.