Engineer-Sappers vs. Schwere Panzerkompanie

Engineer-Sapper Battalion v. Schwere Panzerkompanie

I am not one of those players that can choose a force and just play variations of that one army. There are so many choices you can’t limit yourself. I play Soviets in all periods of the war, mid-war Finns, mid-war Americans, and late-war 2. SS. For our upcoming TAK League I have an mid-war Italian army on the way. My friend James is the same way. He plays mid-war Fallschirmjagers, British from all periods, and so on. If you collect Flames of War armies like James and I then you have probably run across the same problem we have. Namely, we only get to play so much and so as we spread the love around to all of our armies, it doesn’t allow us the opportunity to play with one force enough to really master it.

James recently came up with an idea to remedy that. I had just completed my late-war Engineer-Sapper Battalion from River of Heroes and James had toyed with the idea of playing the Schwere Panzerkompanie  from Hammer & Sickle. James suggested we play each mission in the rulebook, both as the attacker and defender, with the exact same army. So it began. We split Free-For-All with James winning game one and me game two. James swept both games of Encounter. I won the first Hold the Line game as the attacker. Even though my special rules prohibit it (Engineering Assault), we decided to play Hold the Line with me as the defender. At least now I could get some use out of the Pioneer Supply Trucks I paid for in my army. Here is how that game went:
Bird's Eye Deployment
Set Up
I have five companies (Six counting flamethrowers attached to combat companies) of which I could put two on the board and the rest in reserve. Though I thought briefly about deploying one Sapper Company and my 122mm Howitzers, I decided the no-brainer move would be to start out with both Sapper Companies on the board. Thanks to my Pioneer Supply Trucks, I chose to begin with six sections of barbed wire as well. Finally, I chose to defend the edge of the table opposite the river, forcing James to deploy on the other side of the river. I figured the river would slow his advance and force him to use the bridges to get his vehicles over.
Soviet Deployment
James of course started the game with all six of his platoons on the table set up 12 inches from the back end of the table. He had two platoons of two Tigers each as well as his HQ Tiger. They were supported by an 88, pioneer platoon, and an armored AA platoon all deployed on the southern end of the Soviet line. Finally, James had a battery of 105s, which he spread out nice and wide on the back line.
Set Up
Turn One
German CrossKnowing he had to get all over me before my reserves came on, the Germans double-timed their Tigers over the bridge. All other units moved up 6 inches except the 88 and the 105s. The 88 took a shot at company 2, which was dug in on the southern end of the line and prioritized the HMG on the hill by the objective. Pow! They hit, we failed the save, and they made the firepower. First blood goes to ze Germans. The 105s tried to range in on the Soviets but just couldn’t find their mark. All units that didn’t double-time then took (and passed) their stormtrooper move.

On the Road



Hammer & SickleNo reserves showed up in the Soviet’s first turn. They would have to hold out with just the sappers for a while. Since the Germans committed all of their forces to attacking company 2 on the southern end of the line, company 1 moved out of their foxholes and maneuvered towards the center of the board, cutting off maneuver space for the Germans (they tend to want to stay outside of 10” of flamethrowers and faustnikas starting their turn in concealing terrain). Not wanting to be caught out in the open by the AA guns, they hugged the blown out buildings (The destroyed buildings were played as area terrain, seeing in and out only 6 inches and providing bullet-proof cover).

Turn Two
German CrossAdvancing slower now to allow for shooting, the tanks moved out onto the road with the AA guns nearby. Again, all units were very careful to stay outside of 10 inches of the sapper company moving up on their northern flank. Again the 105s attempted to range in and again the wily Soviets were dug in too deep to be seen. The AA scored a perfect 3 hits on company 2, all of which were saved. The tanks hit with all 5 shots (they all moved) killing one base. Finally the 88 opened up, causing a 9th hit, not enough to pin. For some reason, the tanks did not choose to fire their MGs. All units but the HQ passed their stormtrooper roll and moved in closer to company 2.
Turn One

Hammer & SickleThe Soviets got a reserve unit on the table and the 122mm Howitzers set up on the table edge. Now the Soviets could keep the Germans from clumping up on the bridge in front of the objective. Company 1 continued to maneuver, closing in on the attacking Germans, getting their special weapons guys into position.

Turn three
German CrossWith the Soviet 122mm howitzers in place and ready to take aim at the cluster of tanks and trucks on the bridge, the Germans decided to lay down some smoke on the observer. Unfortunately, he was just as well hidden as the rest of the company and the 105s just could not find the mark. The Germans took the opportunity to take advantage of their full rate of fire on the dug in Soviet company. All 5 Tigers, the 3 AA guns, the infantry, and the 88 all opened up on the Soviets. The main guns of the Tigers killed two bases while the AA hit twice but couldn’t bust through the cover. The infantry sent their dead eyes forward, plucking off a Soviet who stuck his head up at the wrong time. This time, the infantry and one of the Tiger platoons failed to stormtrooper.

T-34/85s


Hammer & SickleThe Soviets had another reserve unit show up. This time it was a company of 5 T-34/85s. They moved on and took up position behind the woods just behind the dug in company. The 122s ranged in on the AA truck on the bridge, bombarding the AA, 2 Tigers, and some infantry. They managed to kill one infantry base and pin the platoon but were not able to damage any of the vehicles.

Turn four
German CrossThe professional German soldiers of the pioneer platoon quickly unpinned from the previous artillery attack. The AA trucks moved as to be out of the way of the ranged in Soviet 122mm howitzers. Everyone else stayed put and opened up on the dug in company. The 105s attempted again to range in the Soviets and again came up short. They just could not range in the Sappers. As shots rained down from all of the German vehicles and infantry, the Sappers put their heads down and managed to survive the volley unharmed. However, due to the sheer ferocity of the deluge of firepower, the dug in Soviet company became pinned down in their foxholes. Every platoon except the infantry successfully stormtroopered. They used this opportunity to spread out and get out from under the Soviet ranged in marker.

Template


Hammer & SickleTurn 4 saw no more Soviet reserves show up. Since all of the Germans stormtroopered out of the way of the artillery, the 122s had to reacquire a target. They finally did on the third attempt but were unable to hit anything. Though unpinned, the dug in company stayed gone to ground in their foxholes. As company 1 waited in the concealment of the destroyed building, the T-34/85s moved through the woods and took up position on the edge of the tree line. One of the tanks must have hit the trunk of a knocked down tree as it got stuck going into the woods. The other four took up position. While one tank fired at the AA and missed, the others fired on the Tigers hitting twice. The armor held strong against one hit but the second hit rattled the crew and they became bailed out.

Turn Five
German CrossThe bailed out Tiger crew decided to stay in the fight and got back into their vehicle. The infantry moved into position across the barbed wire from the sappers. Another Tiger touched the corner of the barbed wire, causing the whole line of defenses to fall down. The infantry opened up, pinning the Sappers but causing no casualties. The artillery again tried to range in on the Soviets and still could not find the target. The Tigers open up on the T-34/85s, killing one and bailing another. The Pioneers assaulted the pinned sappers, and all of the defensive fire shots were off target. They were too beaten down from the firepower aimed at them during the battle. The pioneers killed two bases in the first round of assault and though they passed their test, the sappers broke off from the assault, yielding the objective for the moment. Still in range of the Tiger Platoon on the north flank, the sappers were then assaulted by the tanks. The sappers were able to survive the first assault and then break off from the tanks as well. The Germans now held an objective.

Germans Advance


Hammer & SickleNo reserves came in turn 5 for the Soviets. However, the sappers that were assaulted by the Germans unpinned and got ready to mount their counter-assault. First they sent two flamethrowers up to fire on the German pioneer platoon. The majority of the platoon was wiped out with the remaining survivors running off. Another flamethrower from company 1 ran out of the destroyed building and destroyed a Tiger. The Sappers then assaulted in and killed another Tiger, forcing the other tank to break off. The objective was once again in Soviet hands.

Tiger Assault


Turn Six
German CrossThe 88 opened up and killed off a member of company 1. The artillery ruined its chances for a no hitter. After 17 unsuccessful tries it finally ranged in on the third try of turn 6! The bombardment proved fatal to no one except the battalion Commissar. The loss of the heroic political figure deeply saddened everyone around him.  At the end of the German turn it was time to roll for Stormtrooper. The Tiger near the center of the board passed and moved 4” towards the Soviet side of the board. Unfortunately, the Tiger started 5” from the Soviet side of the board, thus ensuring that the Germans would start turn 7 without a platoon on the Soviet side of the table and therefore also ensuring a Soviet victory.

Final Assault


Conclusion
It is very difficult to assault a trained, dug in force on the objective with the specialized firepower that the Sappers have at their disposal. Maybe that is why they are always supposed to be attacking in missions with prepared positions. The Germans had a great plan to move just out of assault range and hit the companies one at a time with everything that they had. If one or two saves had gone the other way or the Soviets had failed an extra motivation test this game could have ended very differently.