Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Block Busting in Bobriusk - Combat Mission Red Thunder - AAR, Briefing

Not a single HE or AP round left. So down to the wire it was for the Stug IIIG to defend against the Soviets in a small sector of this shitty place named Bobruisk.

Yet it allegedly saved the day, causing 27 enemy casualties, 1 enemy tank destroyer, one enemy heavy tank. And shaking the crew of another heavy tank out of their armored vehicle, if all of the above was not enough.

This AAR is from a single player scenario that I downloaded from Battlefront.com's repository. The author is Andrew Bodicky. This scenario is heavily inspired in one from the legendary Advanced Squad Leader. Spoilers ahead!

The original scenario is from a boardgame.
I'm always interested on the design process of an scenario, so I will post here the designer notes for "Block Busting in Bobriusk".

This scenario is based on the Squad Leader Scenario 108 “Block Busting in Bokruisk.” Although I've tried to stick to the scenario as closely as possible, I've had to make a number of changes  due to the various limitations in translation from one format to the other. Firstly, the SL scenario limits the extent of play from across board three to half of board one. Since the Soviet player is allowed to place his forces anywhere on board three the German player is greatly restricted to the half-board. For SL board gaming this works out fine but close proximity of each side's set up in CM-RT causes an immediate hail of gunfire on the first turn and consequently, the end of the battle shortly afterward. As a solution I simply extended the German set up to the entirety of Board 1; this also gives the battle a much more urban feel to it. Secondly, I placed the Soviet player's 7.62cm INF gun off board. With a human Soviet player the gun could be used fairly effectively, but when towed and deployed by the computer was entirely useless, therefore to even game play out I simply placed in off board. Finally, some SL counters are either not available and had to be replaced with a substitute (ie. PSW-234/4 with a Marder-II) or don't directly translate (leaders, ATMs, and individual Panzerfausts). SL Leaders are generally reflected in CM-RT in higher echelons of command and control, while ATMs and PF are represented by anti-tank or breach teams.
Final Note: The city referred to in the SL scenario is incorrectly spelled Bokruisk. The actual name is spelled variously as Bobruisk, Babrujsk, Babruysk, or Bobruysk and is a city in Belarus located South East of Minsk on the Berezina river.  

The tactical map.
The introduction to this scenario:
Bokruisk, June 1944: During the destruction of Army Group Center many of Hitler's “Fortified Localities” (9th Army/XXXV Corps) were cut off and surrounded by the Soviet advance. These moves were an almost perfect copy of the German blitzkrieg in 1941. Bokruisk was just such a city. The city had become a fortress, with pillboxes and old tank turrets being used throughout. In covering the city from the east, a fixed system of trenches and other earthworks were in evidence, but the Soviet attack came from the northern and southern flanks where the Germans were least able to cope with the threat. After successfully breaking through fixed outer defenses, the Soviet's attack turned into bloody street fighting.
The briefing for the German side, which I am in command of:
It is of the utmost importance that you prevent the Soviets from controlling your section of town. From this location access to multiple ingress and egress routes can be traveled, therefore capture of your position would mean the disruption of communication and the elimination of supply routs to other defending units within Bokruisk. Not to mention the fact that our retreat to more heavily fortified sections of the city will be cut off. Your primary concern should be the enemy's armor. Every Soviet AFV that survives this battle will be another nail in the coffin of our defeat as they quickly stream into the heart of Bobruisk. However, care should also be taken as well to halt enemy infantry units from capturing any of our five main buildings. Inflict as much damage upon the advancing forces – the survival of the 9th Army/XXXV Corps depends on it. 

Your forces consist of remnants of a Panzer Grenadier Company with three hastily assembled rifle groups, one 5cm anti-tank gun, one 7.62cm Pak51(r) anti-tank gun, a Marder light tank destroyer and a Sturmgeschutz.  

Due to the disruption of communication from the collapsing front lines, little is known about the exact aspect of the attacking Soviet forces. However, it's a safe bet that the enemy will consist of a combination of infantry and heavy armor.  

All your units should start out in hidden positions. Infantry units shouldn't fire at advancing Soviet forces until they are within 50 to 75 meters. If armor advances into the city first, let them come as close as possible to your infantry before you open fire with your PF, PSK or hand grenades. You will also need to employ a similar technique when using your 5cm Pak38 AT gun. These weapons have little killing power against heavy Soviet armor therefore you may need to wait to open fire until their vulnerable sides are exposed; Your Marder, Sturmgeschutz, and 7.62cm Pak51(r) are quite capable of destroying any of the advancing Soviet AFVs at these close quarters. However, they too are equally vulnerable to the attacking Russian AFV so use them carefully – be certain to have a sure kill with your first shot before exposing yourself from cover. One last point, remember to cause as much confusion as possible once fighting starts, that means using smoke to block the enemy's line of sight to prevent them from concentrating fire at your units and,if possible, counterattacking retreating or disrupted enemy units to recapture ground lost.   
The final fate of the forces portrayed in this scenario:
By the end of the 29th Bokruisk had fallen with heavy losses on both sides. The Germans list nearly 80% of their Ninth Army, including eight divisions that had ceased to exist. But more importantly, complete German units had been surrounded and eliminated. No one had learned more from the Germans that the Russians. 
Good historical references for Combat Mission Red Thunder, all of them at the grand/tactical operational level:

  • Soviet Blitzkrieg, by W. Dunn. A book I got from the now defunct Borders bookstore (Amazon link)

  • Belorussia 1944, by D. Glantz. A book I got in a digital version elsewhere (Amazon link)

With no time to contemplate victory or defeat, the crews will soon abandon and intentionally cripple many of their fighting vehicles. No fuel, no ammo. It will all came down to escape from the impending Soviet encirclement, or search for a place to die like a soldier. Some lucky few will escape annihilation and walk to friendly lines, unrecognizable like paupers.

Brother, give me some bread so I can live one more day. Give me some boots so I can march to battle again ...

Stay tuned for the next installment.


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