Monday, June 13, 2011

Panzer Command Ostfront - Who Killed Pak36?

It came to my attention that the Niemirow scenario I played a while ago was actually intended to be played by a human player as the Russians against the computer and not like I did as the Germans against the computer.

Trying to do it the right way now and ... Doh! What a tough nut to crack!

The town of Niemirow lies in the center of this map. Me commanding the Russians advance from the foreground. See main text for details.

First of all, it took me some time to decide who supports who in this scenario. The Russians sport two (depleted) infantry companies and an assortment of tanks, mostly BT7s. We are supposed to clear the town of Niemirow from (now that I played as the Germans I know) a lot of German AT guns supported by infantry and engineers. Clearing a town is an infantry mission and tanks should in theory be used as support. But given the sheer amount of tanks I have under my command (a battalion, maybe more) I had to sort of reverse roles. This will be a battle where infantry supports tanks. There, tactical doctrine guided by heads and tracks count!

Nonetheless, my opening moves are plotted in the first screenshot. I use Russian tactical symbols for atmosphere ... :)

Faithful to Russian Army regulations of the historic period, I intend to stay away from roads during the initial push as much as I can. I intend to advance with one infantry company in my left flank (label A in the screen above), all the way through the woods until I reach one of the roads that crosses the town. The other infantry company in my right flank will have a rougher ride, jumping off from the woods and crossing a huge opening until they reach the same road I mentioned before. These two infantry companies will be tasked with spotting, suppressing and (if possible) eliminating AT guns they find on their way forward.

An early arrival to the battle, a BT7 tank company (labelled C in the screen above) will be pulling some overwatch for the poor infantry fellows in my right flank.

Once both infantry companies are near the road, all AT threats should be gone for the rest of the tanks (labelled D in the screenshot above) to advance across a fordable stream and into the open terrain on our right flank, where I will regroup and start a tank-infantry push towards the center of Niemirow. So many tanks, so little space!

First mistake: infantry support weapons (HMGs and 50mm mortars) assigned to the company in my left flank (labelled A). I sincerely expected all sh!t to fall down on these guys, just because of their proximity to Niemirow. Yet the company in the left flank advanced almost without incident, draining fire support for the other company in the right flank ... who had an early start into the shooting fest.

There they were, with a great field of fire over my guys in the right flank: a German infantry squad and a Pak36 AT gun standing fast in a tree line so ridiculously thin that my first reaction was near indifference.

A German infantry squad (foreground) and a Pak36 AT gun to their left fire upon the infantry advancing in the open ground (seen in the background) of my right flank.
The tank company in my right flank could only position two BT7 tanks to take care of this German position. With long range fires, they managed to push the German infantry back, but the Pak36 was there to stay. In quick succession, both tanks were disabled by this AT gun. The fires from my men in the open, still stunned by the now non-existent German fire, didn't make any difference to the AT gunners.

Aren't those tracers pretty, Matthias? What are these Russians thinking?
My infantry in the right flank couldn't suppress the AT gun. I suspect the engagement range was too extreme.

Things were not looking pretty. Out of desperation, I check the two 50mm mortars attached to the infantry company (labelled A) in my left flank. With great pleasure I found out that the mortar crew was slogging through a woods patch behind the infantry's main body, and that they actually had a semi-decent line of sight to the pesky AT gun.

Fire mission for one of the two 50 mm mortars. The line of sight is the red line and the red cube is the area fire plotted. The Russians are below red and yellow icons. The only enemy contact is the AT gun, under the grey icon to the right.
The mortar's fire were a miserable failure. I'm sure the indirect fire would eventually catch the AT gun crew, but the clock was ticking and I had to pull forward the "good stuff" ...

T-34s, virtually the only war machine worth something in our order of battle. I was supposed to hold these guys (remember the tanks' axis of advance D in the first screenshot?) until all was clear in the right flank. But somebody has to do the job. Two T34s get ready to cross the stream and move into that patch of open terrain that by now has all the markings of a killing ground.
The job gets done by a single shot from one of the T-34s.
I don't want to bore and make too much out of this tiny episode that happened during an scenario that is obviously worth of a wider analysis. But it was a rude awakening for me: (i) suppression needs weapons with extended ranges, (ii) infantry support weapons should be distributed to assist the whole formation (Russian infantry regulations speak very clearly about how the support weapons should be positioned between advancing formations) and (iii) non-covered approach routes are useless unless you have overwhelming fire superiority BEFORE the first soldier jumps forward.



UsF said...

I still haven't given this a shot, because of CM:BN. Hopefully I will get to it in time. Thanks for all the reviews still. :)

9train said...

I really dig the diagram you made for the engagement.

Anonymous said...

Which programm do u use for the tactical drawings?

JC said...