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manchildstein (ii)

Nieman River Crossing

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Play as Axis against Allied AI, Default AI Setup

Nieman River Crossing

Meeting Action

Map: 2400 x 1200

Axis: 2 Infantry Companies, Approx. 50 AFVs plus some prime movers, Air Support

Allied: "Battalion-level" with Artillery, Pillboxes, Massed tanks

June, 1941

Day, "Dry," Clear, Cool, No Wind

45 Turns

German Mech, Soviet Mech, Suburban, both sides max Fanaticism

Version 1.0

Semi-Historical

On the 22nd of June, 1941 the German 7th Panzer was roaring across Lithuania. By daybreak forward elements of the division had reached the Nieman river and these quickly established bridgeheads.

Here some advance elements of the 7th Panzer have seized two bridges on the Nieman and are awaiting friendly reinforcements so they can expand the bridgeheads. As it is, aerial recon says that the area is crawling with Soviet tanks. Luckily, you were able to seize the bridges without loss; even with some sporadic fire from the bunkers on the hill opposite the road bridge.

Your job is to thwart the Soviet counterattacks and as your reinforcements arrive, expand the bridgeheads.

Probable concentrations of Soviet units are marked with "?" on the mapboard.

In the default setup you have elements from the Recon Battalion; armored cars along with a Pioneer platoon, 2 75mm IGs, and 3 37mm AT guns; these are at the road bridge. They are supported by a platoon of Flammpanzer IIs from the 101st.

At the rail bridge you have 2 platoons of 38(t) tanks, 1 platoon of PZ IIc, and a Company of armored infantry. Accompanying your force are 3 FOs from an artillery battalion; 2 150s and 1 105. In the default the 2 150mm FOs are at the road bridge, and the 105mm FO is at the rail bridge.

You can expect more mechanized elements to arrive any minute, including a mobile flak unit and "Bisons" from the 705th.

There should also be some dismounted motorized infantry.

Finally, friendly air support should make itself felt as well.

When arranging the units at the start, just remember that - if a treeline looks like a good place for Soviets, it probably contains them.

Fate has smiled upon your vanguard in that you were able to seize these bridges in what amounted to a 'coup de main.' Holding them against fierce Soviet counterattacks from the Soviet 5th Tank Division is another matter.

This scenario was inspired by the 'Alytus Bridgehead' scenario from Fire and Fury Games.

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ok... some design notes and other spoilers

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the soviet 5th tank division apparently had some t-28s so needing some kind of 'land battleship' and without the option of t-28s i went with my favorite 1941 soviet tank... the kv2... 3 of these are situated just outside the rail bridgehead

the default setup is not the ideal setup, but instead one which i like to attack out of to sort of add to the challenge... that is to have my overall force roughly split into 4 pieces, one group of units on each side of two bridges...

in the default setup the rail bridge is in better shape than the road bridge... the rail bridge has 3 platoons of infantry plus support weapons (1 company), lots of armored halftracks including 4 37mm types, and 3 platoons of tanks... 1 pz iic, 1 38(t) (light armor, lots of ammo) and 1 38t (upgraded armor, lower ammo loadout)... i like the 38(t) lighter versions because in a 'long' engagement like this one (45) turns they tend to have ammo for as long as they live...

now i had read on the web that a battalion of flampanzers was attached to the 7th panzer, and the oob for the 7th which i have shows that it also had the 705th self-propelled gun battery attached. the presence of these afv types was what really motivated me to design this one... the chance to have 150mm self-propelled guns and flammpanzers in the same scenario!

one common theme i noticed while playing this one was that, it was imperative to make good and well sure that an area was clear of soviet fire before moving through or into it.

for example, due to carelessness alone i lost 2 bisons, a couple of 20mm aa vehicles, and a quad 20mm aa vehicle... in each case i simply ordered a move into a place i'd thought safe only to lose each vehicle to a hail of soviet gunfire...

another similar situation happened when i tried to move roughly a platoon of pz ii tanks across the rail bridge to reinforce the bridgehead.. i lost 4 out of 4 tanks attempting to cross, mostly to the 45mm guns of t26s and bt7s on the opposite bank.

now as for the near side, there is a large gun trap in the row of trees along the river road, all facing across the river and ostensibly into the rear of the german rail bridgehead on the other side... there is also a company of soviet infantry thereabouts... interestingly, it seems that the infantry kind of melts away and regroups clear down near the other, road bridge... as it turns out there was very little if any soviet infantry resistance when i overran those gun positions with AFVs... they simply melted away... the upshot of that was that by about turn 30, these same 'stragglers' were mounting an attack on the road bridge. that necessitated the movement of my reinforcement infantry company to the trees on both sides of the bridge...

those soviets who made that move from bridge to bridge along the river road mounted a fairly credible attack on the road bridge in the later going...

as for the rail bridge, the soviet guns and tanks in that general area fought valiantly but the onslaught from a platoon of light 38(t)s, combined with 2 platoons of dismounted armored infantry, 6 spw 251/1s and 2 (251/10?) 37mm halftracks... all of that combined with the called-in fire from the 105mm FO resulted in by about turn 25... a stretch of road littered with knocked out soviet guns and tanks...

added to the assault force described above were the arrival of even more german tanks as reinforcements...

as for the reinforcements from that back/left corner... at first about 2/3 of them simply pulled up to the edge of the woods and started engaging soviet t-34s, bts, and t26s on the other side of the river... the germans seemed to fare fairly well in that... one platoon of tanks joined the main force overunning the soviet gun positions, and an ill-fated pz ii platoon tried to cross the rail bridge (too soon); in the midst of that other ongoing fight these pz ii tanks simply died without having any effect on the battle...

as for the rail bridgehead, from the start the kv2s became known and they destroyed a couple or 3 german tanks... i had to quickly 'break out' of that staging area and sent my tanks through the trees in a 'se' direction (roughly 1 or 2 o'clock from the german perspective)... they skirted the kv2s on the one side (left) and the open road on the other (right)...

eventually a 2nd reinforcement platoon of pz iis caught up with these elements as they advanced, impressively taking out several t26 and bt tanks around the road... but that was later... in the meantime this group of perhaps 3 pz iic and 4 38(t) (heavy) accompanied by some 251/1 halftracks blitzed its way out of the bridgehead and to the wooden pillboxes at the turn in the road, then went across the diagonal section of road and into the trees.

they met more success and this is about where the 2nd reinforcement platoon of pz ii tanks caught up with them... by then i though that the road through the soviet rear was open and sent what remained of these 3 platoons - perhaps 8 to 10 tanks - headlong in again a se direction and (back) across the long, n-s stretch of straight road.

unfortunately there they met with some bt tanks and i lost a lot of tanks... in the end only 2 pz iic, and 1 38t would make it across the road, and race up the hill to the area behind the soviet pillboxes...

and at that these tanks were all so ammo-depleted that between them they could only take out a single pillbox...

the move back at the road where they had attempted to dash across and met both short and long range fire from soviet tanks... that was where the flanking movement had really gone wrong...

if i could have been just a bit more patient and made it to the soviet rear with perhaps just 2 or 3 more of the 38t tanks... things would have been different.... while the 38t 37mm gun seems to knock out concrete pillboxes from the rear with no problem... the game wouldn't even allow the 20mm HE pz ii to attempt the shot...

indeed 1 or 2 more 38t tanks in position behind the pilloboxes would have been a great relief...

it was as my tanks crossed the road for the 2nd time and lost in those engagements... the survivors pretty much streaming away in retreat from the newfound soviet resistance... that i began to wonder out loud, 'just how many tanks do these soviets have?'

by then i had destroyed literally dozens of soviet tanks and yet wherever i went i was met by a hail of fire from still more of them...

on the near side of the river things didn't go much better... by the 40th turn there were about 7 friendly tanks left and they were approaching the town or already in the town... the road from the rail to the road bridge was strewn not only with soviet guns and tanks near the rail bridge, but as it got nearer the road bridge, the wrecks of numerous soviet and german tanks...

the road was so clogged that it was a dicey manuever to have to get off of the road and into the trees... for any slowdown in moving through the area could mean an ambush by soviet infantry stragglers... stragglers who were not only attacking the road bridge, but who seemed to be line up along the road bridge in waiting to ambush any stray german afvs....

as for the rail bridgehead, the one platoon of infantry in the default plus the 2 hmgs and the mortars and company hq... these were adequate to hold the bridgehead as the kv2s seemed to chase my armored breakout yet fell further and further behind... occasionally a kv2 would gain los to a german unit on the other side of the river, and the distinctive sound of their 152mm gun would be heard and i would hold my breath wondering where the shell would land...

the near side of the river near the rail bridge was cleared early (soviet gun positions) so later those 2 infantry platoons were dispatched to make their way across the bridge and reinforce that bridgehead... interestingly, the 2nd of the 2 platoons was loaded onto 251/1 halftracks and one of the halftracks tried to cross the bridge... a lone bt tank on the opposite bank appeared and dispatched the halftrack... the squad took casualties and was then 3-7... i then dismounted the infantry from the other 3 halftracks (2 squad, hq), and those 3 headed across the bridge on foot while the halftracks sat in the cover of trees... the 3rd squad from the destroyed halftrack recovered and went across with the rest of the platoon... so by then i had more or less an entire infantry company in the trees around the 'grainery' on the opposite side of the river... they began to stalk the kv2s through the woods... i scored a success on one kv2, destroying it this way without loss... it was about turn 38...

the most dramatic part of the battle was probably for the road bridgehead... there the default setup had just a platoon of pioneers (6x6) and some armored cars and flame tanks... plus a 150mm FO... on the near bank were another 150mm FO, plus 3 37mm AT guns, 2 75mm IGs, and some armored cars...

from the get-go things were tight on both sides of the bridge... on the near side the 150mm FO was under pressure from some soviet infantry... armored cars were brought up in the gaps between the buildings and through establishing fire lanes they beat back the soviet tide... nearer to the river more soviets were pressuring the gun positions... a couple of flamethrower units helped drive them back... the 37mm and 75mm guns were silenced early from soviet gun and pillbox/bunker positions on the opposite side... the order of the day seemed to be to get out of LOS of the far banks... meanwhile aa vehicles and bisons began pouring in from the right/back corner as reinforcements... these helped clear the near side around the road bridge... they helped clear the area but not without great loss... one t26 on the near side in particular took out 2 20mm aa vehicles and 2 bisons before an armored car could dispatch it at close range from behind... those armored cars on the near side were what actually saved the german positions in the early going... the greatest help was the arrival of the infantry company... these quickly closed on the town and road bridge whilst the heavy weapons went straight to the treeline on the river bank.

eventually, all of the bisons were destroyed, along with all but 1 of 10 aa vehicles... this is a testimony both to my own carelessness and the sheer volume of fire being put up by the soviets, particularly from the far bank...

in the far bridgehead itself my pioneer squads were quickly melting away, my armored cars and tanks being destroyed. there was a 150mm FO amongst them and it began calling fire in ... not 150 meters away... on a bunch of soviet infantry... this FO would drop in fire, then adjust, drop in fire, adjust again, until he had 'swept' the area around the bridge clean of soviet troops... after a turn 40 cease-fire he was down to about 10 out of 140 ammo, had taken a casualty, but had caused 75 casualties and the loss of 1 soviet tank...

by the time of the cease-fire the soviets still had tanks, and had charged and captured the far road bridgehead in particular... its flag was soviet... the only surviving unit was the FO there... all of the pioneer squads, the platoon and company hq... all were wiped out.. there may have been a vehicle crew or 2 but the bridgehead was effectively lost...

and to the rear of the bridgehead i had 3 tanks but they were incapable of taking out the bunkers on the hill from behind... so the bridge itself was still covered by 45mm and 76mm fire...

on the near side of the road bridgehead i had 7 or 8 tanks as i'd mentioned... but some of those were without AP and a run across the bridge was probably out of the question with several t34s on the opposite side... t34s backed by bt and t26 tanks...

so on the one hand there is a decent chance that the other 2 kv2s could have been eliminated by the rail bridgehead... and the near side by the rail bridge was uncontested... completely under german control... the near side of the road bridgehead was pretty firmly under control... except that there were soviet stragglers to the north of the bridge... these though were no longer a threat to seize the bridge...

on the other hand i had lost the road bridgehead and there didn't appear to be any easy way of re-taking it... my tank strength was too spent... i had no artillery shells left to use smoke to cover an advance across the bridge...

so the lessons learned... at least this one time... were that

a) 150mm FO fire is not very effective against concrete fortifications... the 1 FO on the near side near the road bridge spent almost his entire ammo allotment on those hill pillbox positions and only knocked out a stray t26 tank...

B) sometimes my moves were just a turn or two too soon and these proved disastrous... the lost pz ii platoon... the shattered armored spearhead near the road... the loss of aa vehicles and bisons

c) that either 1 150mm FO or the 105mm FO could have possibly been used for a smoke screen ...

in any event the amazing thing about this particular 'run through' was that it was the most 'touch-and-go' of any cm scenario i have ever played... i mean that every turn the difference between disaster and ultimate victory was razor thin... and this went on for about 40 turns straight!

i mean it was gain after reversal after gain after reversal... in the end the board was littered with tanks and other afvs... the area of the town around the road bridghead ... for about 100 meters outwards from the bridge in every direction was either rubble or in flames...

the score was 55-45 in my favor and i had lost 78 afvs to 73 soviet... admittedly those were 73 soviet tanks and a good number of my losses were halftracks and armored cars... as for 'infantry' losses i had almost achieved 3:1... it was in the low 800s for the soviets and high 200s for axis...

something like 810:280

oh one interesting thing is that i saw no ai artillery barrages - FO fire - until about turn 35 when all of the sudden i began taking what looked like 76mm - or maybe even 120mm - fire around the near road bridgehead... that was quite the shock!

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