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Brent Pollock

Our Backs to the Volga - ongoing German AAR

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[Nov 3: added hyperlinks to screenshot pictures]

[April 11/05: quite a few pictures seem to have disappeared from the free hoster...I'll try to reload if I still have them]

Inspired by the AARs for the CMAK demo and the "SMG defense", I've decide to maintain a running AAR for my PBEM game of Our Backs to the Volga from the Stalingrad Pack.

Here the synopsis covering the action up to my orders phase for turn 4.

Preamble:

This is the second time Steve and I have faced off in this scenario. On the first go, I was the Russians and came out with a Minor Victory (see the partial AAR in the Rating section). We enjoyed it so much we decided to swap sides and have another crack at it.

Most of my Stalingrad experience is from ASL Red Barricades, although I've also played two CMBB Stalingrad city scenarios (Library and the tractor works one from the CD).

Spoilers aplenty...but you probably already figured that since it is an AAR.

All references to right and left are from the German edge perspective.

Set up:

Set Up Overview Overall all aim is to cause a crisis in the centre. So, the centre assault gets all three mortar FOs and will use them to establish a smoke jungle for the advance to the factory. They also get two of the three 105 FOs and these drop HE on the two sides of the factory. The entire company is going in on that 80 m wide central approach between the two roads; the 105s should take the heat off their flanks by hurting anyone on the sides of the factory.

The last FO is kept for riverside interdiction, possibly even with unspotted fire. Just trying to break up the reinforcements.

The left flank is going to head straight in to the middle of the factory across the street, with the two StuGs providing some smoke to the right side. They'll start on Move to Contact and then accelerate to Advance on turn 2.

The right flank is going to head straight for the factory using Move to Contact. This group has the longest haul to their objective (~250 m). The two Pz IVs will rubble a suspected OP (that building looking west down the T-intersection between the two factories) then look for other things to do.

All three sectors post one or two HMGs on overwatch, with as much LOS to the riverbank as possible to restrict the backfield motion.

-------------

Turn 1:

Orders:

Pre-order recon shows two bunkers, but no tanks or ATGs.

Left flank:

Rollin, rollin, rollin...

Centre:

Holy patootie - the first thing to move in the middle are a handful of Russian squads coming at us from the central factory [steve later comments that he thought the Germans had a longer haul in the middle but thinks he was misremembering the distance traversed by the reinforcements, hence the Russian rush]. Shots are exchanged and some of the Red boys hit the dirt. The smoke box is established by turns end. Left side 105s start some seriously burning rubble on one of the tiles that started "**".

Centre: End of Turn 1

Right Flank:

Pz IVs bring the target to "*". The Pioniere roll on.

-------------

Turn 2:

Orders:

No change of plan. 81 mm FO ammo will be pretty much exhausted by the end of this turn.

Left Flank:

One squad pins as the advance hits a couple Russian speed bumps. Otherwise running fine. StuGs starting shifting to the left rear of factory.

Centre:

Smoke Jungle thoroughly established. One bunker took a couple of pops before the smoke became too thick, but didn't do anything to stem the tide. A couple light losses to some short rounds from our 105s, but the Russian screen looks like it's about to get overrun. But, the boys are getting tired, so I'll call a 30 to 40 second halt, which will also keep them out of the 105 blast zone for a tad longer. Also, one platoon needs to halt to confront the two units in the building at point blank. I'm not worried about losing the smoke during the pause, as the entire company is within 40 m of the factory. "Light Armor" sound contact moving around right side of factory...maybe the 105 HE will ding it. Another tile on the left rear goes down. All that dust should add to the mayhem.

Centre: End of Turn 2

Right Flank:

Some pinning by MG fire. Russians moving towards us out of the factory. Steve seems intent on establishing a forward screen. The Pz IVs have brought the target to "**" and it seems to have struck a nerve: some 82 mm smoke has dropped in front of them, but not enough to obscure the LOS.

-------------

Turn 3:

Orders:

Right Flank needs some more definite orders as Contact has halted some of them. Anticipating that the Pz IVs only need a couple more hits on that building, then they can shift over to help the pionieren.

Left Flank:

We're well in to the factory but it seems Steve is doing the same thing I did, as we start to get clobbered by some 120 or 152 mm HE. We lose a few guys. Might be time to hit the cellar for a few minutes (sewer move ahead about 10 or 20 m).

Centre:

Two Russian squads that surged into the building get obliterated without inflicting casualties. At this point, I've lost 4 or 5 guys to my own 105s, but it seems to be worth it; the 105s have dropped three factory tiles, starting two fires in the process. Several other tiles, including one with a panicky Maxim team, are looking pretty shaky, and the 105s still have another two minutes of fire left. No sign of the AFVs. Catch a quick glimpse of one of Russian squads that sets up marooned crawling towards one of my MG posts...might lose that overwatch position.

Centre: End of Turn 3

Right Flank:

Minor progress and minor pinning fire. Pz IVs complete their Urban Renewal project on time and start shifting to help the foot sloggers.

---------

Turn 4:

Orders:

Two platoons on left of left flank will hit the sewer for 2'. Remainder are to Advance ahead, hoping to miss the TRP.

Time for the Central boys to get in before the Smoke Jungle dissipates. They'll be plenty tired when they pile in but they should get a couple minutes respite once they're there and wait for the 105s to stop.

Left flank needs to form up and neutralise the screen. Fortunately, one of the Pz IVs can draw a long range thread to the Maxim.

[ April 11, 2005, 12:31 PM: Message edited by: Brent Pollock ]

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I also have played this scenario 1 1/2 times PBEM.

I am always interested in analyzing this one, because I feel it has 3 flaws which are common to many, many CMBB scenarios.

1) It is too short

2) The defender has too much materiel

3) As a result of 1 and 2, the scenario favors the defender.

With respect to your particular AAR:

I am a bit suprised that your central attack is not yet getting pummeled by Soviet artillery aided by at least one TRP. If your opponent did not plan for artillery support in the center, then he made a bad mistake indeed.

Your decision to move squads into the sewer just to avoid enemy artillery fire strikes me as a bad one, because those squads will be lost for some time. What is the 'sewer time' for your very short movement orders?

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Trommelfeuer (Sven):

Thanks for spotting that. Serves as a good indication of how little German I know. Hopefully I won't forget the lesson.

Originally posted by Trommelfeuer:

Always nice to read AARs !

Just a small suggestion: It should be "The Pioniere roll on." instead of The Pionieren roll on.

Plural of Pionier is Pioniere.

Regards, Sven

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Runyan 99:

1:

I'll try to comment on this after finishing the game as the Germans. It certainly seemed plenty long when I played as the Russian side.

2:

At the moment, I would tend to agree. As the Russians, I felt like I had plenty of infantry and I'm not certain how historical the number and weight of OBA batteries are. Anyone who played Avalon Hill's Turning Point: Stalingrad is aware that they modelled Russian artillery as being quite limited in effect, mainly just engaging in large calibre sniping missions for fear of counter-battery fire.

As to the lack of a TRP in the centre, it should be noted that there are three factory fronts and only two TRPs. Also, the centre is the easiest to support with enfilading fire. Given that he charged a platoon or two out of the central factory, he is probably not counting on a TRP. My experience playing the Russians can be found in the Scenario Depot rating section.

As to sewer movement, I'm left wondering what you've used it for. I first tried the artillery avoidance tactic as the Russians: worked like a charm. Use HQs with Stealth Bonus and keep the moves to < 4 minutes. You will likely lose fewer guys to sewer disorientation than to the HE shower. Remember: you can still emerge from the sewer into rubble if the rubble was formed after the Sewer move order was issued - check the archives for my posting on who can use sewer movement and rubble's effect. In our previous match, once Steve saw that I was using sewer movement, he started using it to cross 20 m gaps between buildings. This paid off to the tune of one T60 and two T34s getting whacked by infantry grenades: bloody brilliant!

Keep the discussion going, that's what the thread's here for...

[ October 30, 2003, 10:11 PM: Message edited by: Brent Pollock ]

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Originally posted by Brent Pollock:

As to sewer movement, I'm left wondering what you've used it for. I first tried the artillery avoidance tactic as the Russians: worked like a charm. Use HQs with Stealth Bonus and keep the moves to < 4 minutes. You will likely lose fewer guys to sewer disorientation than to the HE shower. Remember: you can still emerge from the sewer into rubble if the rubble was formed after the Sewer move order was issued - check the archives for my posting on who can use sewer movement and rubble's effect. In our previous match, once Steve saw that I was using sewer movement, he started using it to cross 20 m gaps between buildings. This paid off to the tune of one T60 and two T34s getting whacked by infantry grenades: bloody brilliant!

Keep the discussion going, that's what the thread's here for...

I used it in a test with GE plts from reg to crack with different leader bonusses. Long range (20 minutes). Losses above 10%. Units scattered all over.

In the two live events, I lost too many men. Plt sent across 10 m, each time a vet or crack squad under double stealth bonus got lost.

Maybe I'll give it another try...

Gruß

Joachim

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Originally posted by Runyan99:

I also have played this scenario 1 1/2 times PBEM.

I am always interested in analyzing this one, because I feel it has 3 flaws which are common to many, many CMBB scenarios.

1) It is too short

2) The defender has too much materiel

3) As a result of 1 and 2, the scenario favors the defender.

I have to disagree here smile.gif . I played it PBEM as the attacker and, despite my first impression was the same as yours, at the end i found the scenario rather balanced. We ended with a draw, huge casualties and low ammo .

For the AAR, i think playing it for the second time should slightly favor the attacker (surprise is always the defender's main asset).

A tremendously exciting scenario, one of the best available for CMBB and until now the ONE about Stalingrad streets fights (maybe the unplayable To the Volga excepted) IMHO.

Good idea to make an AAR.

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First,

No update yet on the AAR. I completed my game file Wednesday night but boneheadedly forgot to send it. Realised the mistake late last night.

Second,

regarding Sewer Movement, I think it is important for everyone to remember the arithmetic:

if you lose fewer guys to sewer movement than you would've using regular movement, then it is probably a good idea. Sure, even crossing the street can lose you a squad in the sewers, but trying to move across the open street can lose you plenty more than that. I don't focus on how many get lost in the sewer, I focus on how many more (or less) wouldn't have made it using surface movement.

[ October 31, 2003, 09:12 AM: Message edited by: Brent Pollock ]

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I have to disagree here smile.gif . I played it PBEM as the attacker and, despite my first impression was the same as yours, at the end i found the scenario rather balanced. We ended with a draw, huge casualties and low ammo .

This scenario often ends in a draw. However, just because the scenario ends in a draw does not mean it is balanced.

The scenario is too short for the German player to reach the large VP flags in the rear. That isn't balance because the German player doesn't have an opportunity to win.

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Turn 4:

Orders:

Two platoons on left of left flank will hit the sewer for 2'. Remainder are to Advance ahead, hoping to miss the TRP.

Time for the Central boys to get in before the Smoke Jungle dissipates. They'll be plenty tired when they pile in but they should get a couple minutes respite once they're there and wait for the 105s to stop.

Left flank needs to form up and neutralise the screen. Fortunately, one of the Pz IVs can draw a long range thread to the Maxim.

Left Flank:

No casualties from the Russian HE this time: a couple rounds hit before the boys make it into the sewer, but they are off target (or the target point’s shifted). The other sections seem to be out of the target zone and make good progress toward the factory edge.

Centre:

Wow – turn 4 and one of my FT teams is already dishing heat: scratch one platoon HQ. I’ve got the better part of three platoons solidly into the first four edge factory tiles and the 105 was left the two edges of the factory in very precarious shape, dropping another tile this turn and leaving many beams teetering. I’ve got a couple platoons straggling and with the smoke disappearing, they could eat be in trouble next turn from enfilading fire. The squad stalking my MG team receives about 30 ammo points in 50”.

Centre: End of Turn 4

Right Flank:

Last street is being crossed in fair order. A few casualties taken from the screen, but now the Pz IV is starting to harass the Maxim and weight of numbers is coming into play. However, my pioniere seem to be attracting pinning quantities of mortar fire.

---------

Turn 5:

Orders:

Left Flank: no change.

Centre: factory dwellers need to catch their breath, although I might send a platoon rightwards to try and help the FT team hose the bunker.

Right: hunker down and start blasting the screen: could be in danger of letting the 76 mm FO zero in…maybe it’s time for the 105 to drop smoke?

[ October 09, 2004, 11:21 AM: Message edited by: Brent Pollock ]

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Originally posted by Runyan99:

This scenario often ends in a draw. However, just because the scenario ends in a draw does not mean it is balanced.

The scenario is too short for the German player to reach the large VP flags in the rear. That isn't balance because the German player doesn't have an opportunity to win.

Well, it's Stalingrad and it isn't supposed to be easy ;) I really don't know if it's impossible to win, i opened a thread about exactly this question some time ago.

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Screen shots: that's the next step for me, investigating the Free-picture-host they mention in the FAQ...anyone able to give me idiot-proof instructions.

On the upside, I did figure out how to insert the hyperlink to this thread in the pointer thread I embedded in the CMBB forum...so there's hope for me yet.

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...rather than setting up screen shots, would you guys rather I just sent you the movie file and the Password?

Please respond directly via e-mail instead of posting directly here; I'll see what the consensus is by next weekend. Before then, anyone (except my opponent :D ) who requests the movie/password should receive it within a day or so of sending me the request.

I am still considering posting screenshots, but maybe just the overall set up and some highlights.

[ November 01, 2003, 10:52 PM: Message edited by: Brent Pollock ]

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Hi Guys,

I am very happy to see an AAR on this scenario - thanks Brent, it will be interesting to see the outcome. Thanks also for the review at the depot.

This Scenario has generated a lot of interest and you can get some more background info and comments in these threads;

Is it possible to win Our Backs To The Volga as Germans?

Longest TCP

Attacking

Scenario

Just a few comments from me;

On the topic of Balance: It is possible to win as either side, more often than not it is the Germans who will come out on top. Usually the outcome will be pretty close. However the most important thing for me is that you enjoy playing it, and judging from the comments in the above threads and at the Scenario Depot it seems most of you do.

The Large rear center flag is not intended to be captured in reality - it is there to ensure balance and to create an objective, however if the Germans can contest the flag and advance that far they will most certainly have won anyway. The larger flags are hard to take, the smaller ones are relatively easy.

I spent a lot of time trying to create the right atmosphere and feel for Stalingrad and i experimented with the rocky ground instead of rubble tiles - too much rubble on a city map looks very dark and moody for my taste, hence i used rocky ground instead to obtain the right visual effect. I also took a lot of time to get the ferry terminal looking right. If you place a rubble tile on the map (Water) before placing the bridge tile you will get the effect of a damaged pier.

The guys at Boots & Tracks did a great job playtesting this one and providing suggestions and tweaks - they are awesome!

I will be out of town for a few days and i will check back in next week. Keep up the discussion.

I hope you all enjoy the scenario. All comments, suggestions and criticisms are welcome.

Best wishes from a warm and sunny China,

CDIC

PS. Brent. I don't know how i overlooked the fanatacism of the Russians (Your comment at the Depot is valid). We were under a time pressure to get the Stalingrad Pack out in time for the anniversary so maybe it was overlooked. If i were to change anything about this Scenario that would be it. I am still convinced that 30 Turns variable ending is sufficient. Typically it will last 35 to 36 turns in total.

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CDIC: Thanks for chiming in!

Also, as a temporary bone thrown to those wanting screen shots, here's the Preview screen available via the Scenario Depot section on the battle:

SP OBttV Preview Screen

The bottom of the picture is the back right-hand corner of the German edge.

I'm still working on getting a handle on this "free-pix-host" thing...

[ November 02, 2003, 09:42 AM: Message edited by: Brent Pollock ]

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Turn 5 Action:

Left Flank:

Before they can hit the sewers, another 5 or so guys get KO'd by the 152 mm barrage. First Factory tile gets obliterated. Remaining guys creeping forward.

Centre:

No big surprises. Mainly rest and recuperate for the guys in the factory while the poor buggers who didn't make it in are having a bit of a struggle. A Russian AC puts in an appearance and gets driven off. The MG in the backfield is still unharmed and has completely buzz-sawed the closest squad.

Right Flank:

The Maxim's been spooked but the pioniere are pinned by on-board mortar and off-board OBA (76 mm?). I don't know if the two Pz IVs are going to be enough support to help an early push...perhaps I should pull back across the street and hope the HE falls on empty buildings.

Still no sign of either T34, the ATGs or the last bunker. Don't know if the right flank has stepped on the other TRP.

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---------

Turn 6:

Orders:

Left Flank: More artillery avoidance via sewer moves is in store for the guys in the left side of the factory. Everyone else is going to fan out ahead and to the right to see what they spot. The StuGs are going to back up, head right, and drop a building near the central factory to try and give them some dust cover and knock around the Russians.

Centre rest up for 40” or so and start scouting. A FT team and a couple squads will try to get into position to flame the bunker. The MG team in the backfield is still on its own. Artillery from the third 105 mm HE FO will start to drop into the rear of the Soviet HQ Bunker in a wide pattern, just in case something’s shown up back there.

Right Flank:

Fan out to try and weather the artillery storm. The PzIV is switching to smoke now that the Maxim’s running for it. Maybe the smoke’ll break up some LOS for the incoming HE spotters. One FT Team will probe ahead and take their chances.

-----------

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Results:

Left Flank: More of the same from last turn: the 152 mm HE continues to inflict damage on my greyboys and the factory. The StuGs have started backing up, but I don’t think they’ll be in position for a couple minutes. The scouts don’t spot anything.

Left: End of Turn 6

Centre: The slaughter continues, with fleeing Russians getting shot in the back by one or two full platoons at once. Both FT teams in the factory start squirting, with the most spectacular one being on the right side – bunker go BOOM! Bunker go boom! Stragglers running about 50:50, but the right side should be easier with the bunker nixed. The 105 mm HE drops into the rear of the factory. A T34 has finally been spotted: it looks like its moving into the back of the factory to shore it up.

Centre: end of Turn 6

Right Flank:

The pioniere continue to take mortar and OBA fire. PzIVs dishing smoke and moving up to help.

Right: End of Turn 6

---------

Turn 7

Orders:

Left Flank: No change in plan.

Centre:

Time to start exploring, with one platoon going to the left, another two forward (after resting up the tiring/tired guys) and another going right. Trying to explore and extract the stragglers from their predicament. Harassing 105 has been lifted and shifted, due in 5’.

Right Flank:

No change. The first PzIV is now in position to dump smoke into the danger zone.

[ November 03, 2003, 09:54 PM: Message edited by: Brent Pollock ]

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Turn 7 results:

Results:

Left Flank: Same as last turn: more 152 mm pain, the StuGs aren’t in a support position yet and the scouts don’t spot anything…although there are a few hints that a general contraction is underway of Russian troops towards the centre.

Centre: Redeployment continues. Reinforcements encountered on the left side of the factory and I seem to have found a couple of 50 mm MTRs. Stragglers still taking it on the chin.

Right Flank:

I’ve lost the 20 to 30 guys to this artillery, and the PzIV stopped after one smoke round…thanks guys…big help.

[ November 05, 2003, 12:00 AM: Message edited by: Brent Pollock ]

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You seem to have gotten into the center factory fairly easily. I cannot help but feel there was something lacking in your opponent's defense in that area.

In any case, I am interested to see if your quick advance in the center will allow you to take the rear 300 point flags.

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The Large rear center flag is not intended to be captured in reality - it is there to ensure balance and to create an objective, however if the Germans can contest the flag and advance that far they will most certainly have won anyway. The larger flags are hard to take, the smaller ones are relatively easy.

I don't see it quite the same way. I don't see one Large rear center flag. I see a group of three Large center flags around the Soviet HQ which are fairly easy for the Soviet player to defend, and extremely difficult for the German player to take. Together, those 3 flags are worth 900 points.

All of the other flags on the map are worth a total of another 900 points. If the German player is fortunate enough to take both of the Warehouse and Storage factories, and the riverside warehouse in the center, then he can earn those 900 points.

But this is why I think the scenario is set up to draw. Those 900 points in the rear are pretty much a freebie for the Soviet player, and unattanable for the German player.

Of course, if the German player fails to take those 900 points worth of 'frontal' flags, then he loses. So, it seems to me that a draw is the best the German player can hope for, barring a miracle.

My suggestion therefore would be to reduce the value of the HQ flags (e.g. three 100 point flags) or expand the game to 50 or 60 turns so that the German player has enough time to make a final assault on the Soviet HQ and the three rear flags.

I would be interested to hear from those who played a 2-player game in which the Germans won. How was the win achieved? What flags were held and how did the casualty points shake out, more or less.

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Well, as I stated above, I can't really fault him there as I did the same thing: no TRP in the Centre. As far as I can tell, that was the only "lacking". Charging out of the factory towards my guys didn't help, but I don't think having them sit tight would've made a huge difference, they just would've died in the factory instead of outside it. The amount of smoke I called in was designed to cause a thorough eclipse of the sun right in front so my guys could be free from incoming fire until they hit the factory. Considering that his artillery is busy mauling 1/2 to 2/3 of my flanking forces, he isn't doing abominably.

Originally posted by Runyan99:

You seem to have gotten into the center factory fairly easily. I cannot help but feel there was something lacking in your opponent's defense in that area.

In any case, I am interested to see if your quick advance in the center will allow you to take the rear 300 point flags.

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---------

Turn 8

Orders:

Left Flank: More 152-phobia on the left side of the factory. The other guys are going to send some assault half-squads into the rubble to see what they can see. Some LMG half-squads start firing on the Soviets that set up behind our central start line: those guys are harassing my stragglers, so I need to relieve that pressure. I hope the StuGs get into position this turn.

Centre:

Time to dish firepower on the left side where I’ve run into a platoon or so and the light mortars. Central platoon goes exploring. Right side tries to whack the AC and prepare for this “Light Armor” sound contact that seems to be heading our way….could be the FT tank.

Right Flank:

Keep crawling. More smoke called for from the Pz IV, and then I need it to shift to the right edge to try and deliver HE on the squad that is about to chop up my FT man. Sure hope the OBA runs out of ammo really soon.

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