Germans: Randy Waxman
Russians: Tom Gillis
Tom Gillis and I played The Meat Grinder from the new AP5 this weekend.
The strategic setting was set in the first few days of Barbarossa in far northwestern Ukraine at Lutsk. Lutsk was vital as it controlled 2 major bridges over the Styr River including the main west to east highway that eventually lead to Kiev. Some of the more vigorous defense by the Russians in those early days was fought in this part of the Ukraine.
The scenario uses two boards, 49 and the brand new 56, lying side by side with the numbered edges of both to the north. These boards made a good rendition of a suburb transitioning to major city.
The victory conditions were based on a combination of CVP's and control of the boards' 13 mulithex buildings, worth two points apiece. Only three of these buildings were on board 56, all located around the crossroads in the center. The remainder were well spaced across board 49 making the Russian defense much more difficult. The scenario is 5 turns long meaning the Germans have precious little time to capture those multihex buildings to bolster their point total.
The opposing forces were interesting. 8 squads with a HMG and 76LL AA gun for the Russians. Russian armor consisted of 2 KV-2's with 152mm gunnery, an AA truck with a vicious AAMG factor of 16, and a reinforcing (on Russian turn 1)of platoon of three BT-7's, only two of which were radioless. For the German attackers 3 PzIVE's with a company of 10 German squads lead by a 9-2 leader. Also, on turn 2 the Germans received a flanking attack by 3 PzIIIH's led by a 9-1 armor leader. These could enter on either the north or south edge of the boards on turn 2.
Tom played the Russians and set up mostly to cover the center and northern approaches. The area to the south on board 56 is fairly wide open and perhaps this led him to defend that approach more lightly with only a three squads and no armor on the southern edge of Board 49. Setup stipulated that he could not set up closer that hexes <=5 on board 56.
He set up most of the remaining infantry and a KV in the central sector to cover the main road approach into the city and set up another KV and the HMG near the factory-like building to the northern end of board 49.
Looking at the concealed stacks in front of me and knowing I did not want to take on the KV's unless absolutely necessary, I decided to concentrate the entire force to enter on the southwestern end of board 56. In spite of the wide open terrain, I had enough cover from the buildings in the center of the board blocking LOS to this area and from a small area of brush to make the wide open run without incident. The PzIV's made it to the edge of the city near an area that held a city block with two multihex buildings that Tom was willing to let me have with the infantry shortage in having to cover such a large front. By turn 2 the infantry had made it near this area as well without so much as a shot fired in anger. Tom moved his turn 1 reinforcement BT-7s along the main road at the northeastern end of board 49 well away from the German advance. When it came time for my flanking attack I decided to attempt to run a gauntlet of isolated Russian squads covering the streets along the southern side of board 49 in order to engage the BT-7's and attempt to delay a counterattack by the lumbering KV-2's into the section of the city containing my as yet untouched infantry advance. The PzIV's set to work trying to dislodge the Russian squads in 49X9 and 49V4. Even with the infantry supporting these attacks the dogged resistance of these 2 1/2 squads were to be a thorn in my side through most of the game.
On Russian turn two the game of maneuver came to a standstill as a full armored counterattack came from the northern end into the center of the city to confront the PzIII's that had bypassed the Russian resistance in the south. First moving the platoon of BT-7's, one PzIII in an excellent position at 49Q6 dispatched two of them in the movement phase. This panzer was then subsequently jumped in close combat by a lone commisar who imobilized him before being overrun by another PzIII acting like a wingman and taking him out in German turn 3. Meanwhile another BT-7 and a KV-2 moved on to board 56 toward a platoon of German infantry and a PzIV near 56Z2. After dispatching the panzer and breaking an infantry squad Tom effectively isolated the platoon from the rest of the force and covered any approach they might have to rejoin it. With a squad and a half still holding out at 49W9 and 49X9 the blitzkrieg was definitely in a bad way.
Drastic measures were called for and I qucikly sent two PzIII's scurrying toward the armor he had counterattacked with to get some rear shots from 49Q10. This attack did not pan out either as the Germans managed to break the main armament of 1 tank, which recalled successfuly on turn 4 and ended up losing the other panzer to a KV2 shot as the second KV2 moved away from the factory to the rear of the armor leader's vehicle in turn 4. The infantry finally supporting the two remaining PzIV pushed the stubborn but badly outnumbered Russians in 49W9 back toward the center of the city and the landsers sucessfully took control of the southern half of board 49 getting two more critical multihex buildings on turn 5.
The cutoff platoon had no choice but to CX back along the western edge of the dirt road out of sight of the KV and the BT-7, which by this time had malfunctioned his MA. This turned out to be decisive as Tom has moved all the Russian infantry away from the multihex building and the crossroads at 56P5. Through quick manuevering these troops took two of those three buildings by scenario end and tied up two squads to prevent them from getting the third. During that exchange the only German sniper attack of the game broke the squad that had just shot up a German squad at the crossroad.
By the beginning of Russian turn 5 we counted up the points and because of the six multihex builidings I now controlled and the kills on the BT-7s on turn 2 I had exactly two more points than Tom.
So it would come down to this, the Germans with an immobilized PzIII and a PzIV with a low muzzle velocity in the center of town would have to hold off a KV2 and the building that the Russians were contesting now at 49S9 would decide the game. Russian prep fire broke an 8-0 leader in the building setting up a 1-1 CC showdown, but first, Tom needed to kill off the immobilized PzIII in the MPh. Coming around the corner at 49P8 the PzIII took a lame attempt at getting APCR on a 4 and got it with exactly a 4. The shot gave a to kill of 14 vs. 8 armor, about the only to kill shot that had a chance against these behemoths all day in spite of numerous hits. I rolled a 5 and killed the KV2! That sealed a German victory that looked unlikely just moments before.
Tom and I both rate it a 7. I thought the Russians just really don't have enough infantry to cover such a large area but the KV2's are a equalizer in that regard. Tom commented that the highest rating any scenario using board 49 will ever get from him is a 7 :)