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Battle Report: Forlorn Hope at Sachsendorf

With COVID-19 in full force, our new found fondness for Battlegroup was driven online for the ‘Fall of the Reich’ campaign battle ‘Forlorn Hope at Sachsendorf‘. You’ll find the after action report for this battle in the following post.

TL>DR; Jump down to Russian turn 1

From my limited (but growing) knowledge of later WW2 events, I believe this is part of the Seelow Heights campaign, with the Soviet army closing in on Berlin.

AndyP and myself decided to play the book suggested army lists, myself controlling the invading Russian force, while AndyP operates the dug-in German force.

Both sides made up of 1200 points, easily our biggest game by far.

We used Roll20 for the custom map, video/audio, unit management and dice rolling. We had used it briefly on a much smaller 200 point game and it worked surprisingly well.

Battle map of Sachsendorf, pre-deployment of troops. The virtual table is 6′ x 6′. Note the vast swathes of exposed flooded fields

The scenario describes Sachsendorf as a small village comprising of 7 buildings, a few outlying wooded areas and a German dug trench line to the North. The main road runs through the village, East to West, passing by two objectives positioned at either edge of the village. A 3rd objective is at the Northern tip of the German defence trench.

The Russian force would be assaulting from the Eastern edge, while the dug-in German army would be able to setup anywhere on the Western side of the board (50% table deployment zone!)

Scenario Special Rules

Flooded fields and thick mud was definitely not going to be our friend
(Source - historicalsocietyofgermanmilitaryhistory.com)
Flooded fields and thick mud was definitely not going to be our friend (Image source)

Quagmire. This scenario called for most of the map to be flooded fields. This meant that moving tracked vehicles was particularly problematic!

Rolling a 6 on the difficult terrain table meant the unit was bogged down and temporarily immobilised. Something that would definitely plague the Russians.

My little map for Roll20 shows multiple paths through the flood water, however this is purely artistic. The rules state anything off road is deeply flooded.

Movement off-road by wheeled was not allowed.

Artillery, Airstrikes & Defenses

Before deployment, we both noted down our pre-registered targets.

  • Germany got 1x Pre-Reg target point for Andy to plan.
  • I got 6 x Timed Barrages and 3 x Timed air strikes!

Andy selected an Eastern building within the village to be his designated fortified building. His minefield was placed just outside the village, blocking the main entry road.

German Deployment

Germany, as defenders, deployed first. Andy positioned several Volksgrenadier rifle squads, multiple MG34 squads, a Volksgrenadier command squad, PAK40 and a 20mm Flak gun along the Northern trench line. A rather daunting amount of men!

Andy had several StuG’s holding the middle of the map – 2 of which were positioned in the center woodland with an almost uninterrupted view of the approaching road.

The remaining Volksgrenadier platoons, 2 x 80mm mortars, a PAK40, 2 more StuG/H held the center of Sachsendorf. Both mortar teams were dug in too.

All German units started the game with Reaction Fire.

Russian Deployment

Although I had an impressive number of units off the virtual table ready to come on in future turns, deployment was pretty quick. A company of 10 x T-34s, 2 x scout rifle squads and 1 x PT-34 mine-clearer were all I got.

Knowing that movement through the fields would be pretty tough, half the T-34s started on the road and would charge the gauntlet!

A pair of T-34s would slog through the fields to the North, while 3 would plow the Southern approach.

With more patches of trees to the South, the 2 x rifle squads deployed down there also, hoping to make some yardage dashing between cover.

The mine-clearer was tucked behind a column of 5 x T-34s on the Sachsendorf main road.

Below is how the battlefield looked before the first turn – produced using Battle Chronicler

Deployment of the advancing Russian force against the Sachsendorf dug-in German army (Click to view larger)

Russian Turn 1

After a length setup of several dozen virtual units, it was time for the attackers to make their move on the village of Sachsendorf. Well it would have been if the ground didn’t buckle under multiple 120mm barrages.

The ground shakes

Before the game I had decided to call in 3 of my Timed 120mm barrages before I’d make a move on T1. I went with the assumption that at this point I’d have the most accurate guess about Andy’s position.

I thought there’d be no obvious reason for him to not heavily utilise the trench line for his troops, or to avoid the cover provided in the village center.

Unfortunately triple barrages as the very first action meant a lot of head-scratching and rule searching as we both struggled to get out heads around timed barrages, their pre-registered targets and the artillery rules.

Luckily the very first barrage, aimed at the middle of the Northern trench, deviated perfectly down the trench. An MG34 squad took a direct hit and were immediately KIA – first blood! The remaining barrage shells killed 3 more Volksgrenadiers and resulted in 2 further squads being pinned.

The 2nd barrage scattered Westward away from the trench, but also wiped out a whole MG34 squad. A PAK40 beside the trenchline were pinned, while another Volksgrenadier was KIA.

The 3rd barrage, aimed at the T-junction in Sachsendorf, did surprisingly poorly for the number of targets in its area of effect. It did result in the 2nd PAK40 gun being pinned.

With the artillery resolved, it was time to issue some of my ~24 orders to my 13 units.

Advancing the main T-34 column

The column of T-34s charged down the main road, straight towards the village. Hoping their stronger frontal armour would provide at least some resistance to the incoming fire, while a small copse of trees might offer a slither of cover.

Both StuGs in the central woodland reacted on ambush fire and open fired onto the approaching armour. The very first AP shell fired from a StuGA scored a double-6, resulting in the lead T-34 exploding! Andy tasted blood!

A 2nd AP shell missed but a 3rd one pinned the next T-34. The advancing column ground to a quick halt as a 4th round flew over the tank commanders heads.

With the interruption of reaction orders and the loss of my first tank, I forgot that the Battlegroup move order is either a double move or is followed by a fire order. This meant the remaining vehicles in that column didn’t return fire! First of many amateurs mistakes by myself.

The mine-clearer tucked in behind the now stalled armour column, desperate for a tiny bit of cover.

Mud & long shots to the South

3 x T-34s broke through a line of bushes and started heading through the southern flooded fields. Immediately the quagmire rule came into effect. The first tank moving through the field got bogged down! It’s tracks rendered useless in the deep mud.

The 2nd and 3rd T-34 had slightly better luck with their movement. The pair tried to return fire to the StuG’s in the woods, but their 76.2mm guns both failed to hit their targets.

Unimpeded by the mud however, the two rifle squads dashed through the fields. In fact they utilised the immobilised (bogged down) T-34 as cover. Cheeky.

Slow progress to the North

The pair of T-34s to the North didn’t fair much better. One was quickly bogged down in the flooded fields, it’s gun almost useless at this far corner of the map. A potential saving grace however, being that it was also a significant distance from those deadly StuGs.

The 2nd Northern deployed T-34 tried in vain to close in on the trench line – instead of moving 24″ off road (2×12) it only managed 13″.

It was at this point I knew I was implementing the difficult terrain wrong some how – it seemed broken. After the game I re-read the rules. Turns out you should be removing a D6 from your maximum distance and THEN moving… not moving your desired distance and being moved back D6. Subtle but significant difference. Amateurs mistakes #2

Turn 1 ended with a notable result only thanks to the 120mm barrages – apart from that a nasty wake-up call for the T-34s.

The Russian force came under fire from the StuGs, while two T-34s get bogged down in the mud (circled in yellow). Click the map to view larger

On to Germany’s Turn 1.

To Be Continued…

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