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The Order of the Great Patroitic War Minsk Offensive Part Two:
Operation Bagration, June-July 1944.

6000 points per side Total War Battle
by G. Jökull Gíslason & Brjánn Jónasson

In this article, Jökull and Brjánn provide us with a blow-by-blow account of the ensuing battle.

Read part one here and part three here...

Left: The Order of the Great Patriotic War.
The After Action Report
Turn One
Germans: 2 points.
The Germans were the attackers and conducted a successful counter-battery barrage in the first turn, pinning both artillery batteries and taking out two guns from each and one assault gun. Their infantry advanced to secure the centre objective on their side while the Panthers and Hornisse moved to support the Grenadiers.

Below: The Germans advance.
Turn One: Germans
Soviets: 2 points.
The IS-2s were unable to advance at speed as they had to hold the objectives until reserves arrived. They did manage to rearrange their positions but simply could not go too far. Both Udarny Companies advanced against the nearest objective, one capturing the village while the other advanced through wooded areas. Both artillery batteries failed to range in, despite aiming for targets in the open. The only damage done was by a flight of IL-2s that took out a Panzer IV.

Below: The Soviets take advantage of the concealing terrain.
Turn One: Soviet
Turn Two
Germans: 5 points (+3).
The first reserves arrived as five Tigers (company commander, second in command and a platoon of three Tigers) and the Hummels moved on to the table, with von Saucken’s special rule assisting in getting two platoons. The Tigers went to support the attack on the village and sped on using Model’s special rule. The Panzer IVs advanced in the same direction. Counter-battery artillery kept being successful and both batteries became pinned a second time, both losing a gun as well. More keenly felt was the loss of the first IS-2, the company commander no less.

Below: The Soviet Company Commander is killed in action.
Turn Two: German
Soviets: 5 points (+3).
Surprised at the Germans sending almost their entire force against the village the Soviets felt secure in their plan. Soviets too got their first reserves and a Company of T-34's arrived. They sped up the right Flank. One artillery battery failed to rally and the other again failed to range in. Apparently there were a lot of replacement personnel in those batteries and the Kommissar was starting to feel itchy. IL-2s did sterling service a second time. Failing to hit the Panther they aimed for, they did take out a rocket launcher and pinned the battery. The advancing Udarny Company on the right exchanged small arms fire with the Grenadiers and did some damage while the other Udarny dug in in the village.

Below: The Soviet infantry takes up defensive positions in the village.
Turn Two: Soviet
Turn Three
Germans: 8 points (+3).
The German advance was now in full swing and still more reserves arrived. Two more Tigers came to support the Hummels on the left (German) flank and the Tigers and Panzer IVs let loose their cannons and MGs against the Udarny in the town. On the other flank the two Tigers and Hummels fired against the new arrivals and destroyed one T-34 and bailed another. Some fire was directed against the Udarny that now advanced in the open but caused only a few casualties. The Panthers fired at long range against the IS-2 tanks but did no damage.

The two armies prepare to clash.
Turn Three: German
Soviets: 8 points (+3).
A second T-34 Company arrived from reserve and the Soviets started to take their advance more seriously. The Udarny in on the right lined up for an assault on the grenadier platoon holding the central objective on the next turn and the T-34s on the right flank advanced and got ready to fire at the Hummels. Sadly, shooting only destroyed one Hummel despite an impressive number of shots fired. Luckily for the first time the feared Soviet artillery did something right when the reserve artillery hit a Panther and sent it up in flames. Even the trusty IL-2s failed to hit a Tiger under the template, and the T-34s had already destroyed the Hummel also under the template.

Below: Soviet air support swoops down on the German armour.
Turn Three: Soviet
Turn 4
Germans: 11 points (+3).

This turn saw a major breakthrough for the Germans when the Tiger Platoon unexpectedly assaulted into the town and dealt the Udarny a serious blow. All their attempts at chasing away the Tigers failed since their leadership was improved by the For the Fatherland Tiger Ace skill, and the single upside for the Soviets was that two Tigers bogged after failing a skill test to drive into a building. But the major blow was when the 15cm SiG guns fired directly at and destroyed two IS-2 tanks, causing the remaining two in that battalion to flee the field, even as the Panthers again failed to dent the heavy armour of the IS-2s. The Panzergrenadiers dismounted in a wood close to the two Grenadier platoons, and took pot shots at the advancing Udarny.

Below: The German 15cm sIG33 guns prove more than a match for the IS-2s.
Turn Four: German
Soviets: 10 points (+2).
Things were now going really badly for the Soviets. The Germans were almost in possession of the town and had thrown the Soviets off balance while the Soviet attack hadn't really got underway and their spearhead had been destroyed. Somehow it was all wrong. But the Soviets soldiered on. The Katyusha Battery came in from reserve although would be a full turn before they made their presence felt on the field.  The Udarny on the right charged against the Grenadiers in the woods and with their flamers clearing the way they did serious damage to the Grenadiers that just barely had the men left to contest the objective. The Stalins and T-34s had a hard time finding line of sight through the smoke screens laid down by the Germans and the Luftwaffe made a surprise appearance and chased the IL-2s away.

Below: The Germans begin clearing the village. 
Turn Four: Soviet
But the main event was the counter-charge in the village. With around half their remaining troops the Udarny assaulted the three active Tigers. It started badly when the flamer failed to score a single hit and worse when the assaulting teams did nothing to the Tigers. But then fortune played her trick and two of the remaining three Tigers bogged down in a wooded patch in the village, leaving four out of five bogged down, and the last one failed to hit. Now all that was needed was a motivation check to carry on – and the fearless troops failed. The Battalion commander forced a re-roll and failed. Then the Commissar urged the men on and FAILED! EPIC FAIL! The Udarny broke off from the bogged down Tigers, failing to take advantage of the only real chance they had to destroy the Tigers in the village.

Below: The Soviet armour tries to turn the tide.
Turn Four: Soviet
Turn Five
Germans: 14 points (+3).

This turn saw the crew of all the Tigers free their tanks and get on with clearing the village. The Germans were now firmly in possession of three objectives that the Red Army could not threaten. At the same time they wiped out the reminder of the Udarny and SU-76 assault guns in the village, and the Panzer IVs started pounding the guns of the God of War battery. At the same time some damage was inflicted on the T-34s by the two Tigers on the other flank, and the two Hornisses finally got into a position to attack the IS-2s, immedietely brewing one up from extreme range.

Below: The Soviet infantry lose control of the village.
Turn Five: German
Soviets: 12 points (+2).
The Soviets managed to clear up the Grenadiers in the forest and bag another Hummel as well as a Panzer IV. The ongoing duel between the 76mm guns of the God of War Battery that was greatly diminished and had now for three turns through a combination of bad hits and good German armour saves failed to destroy more than two Panzer IVs. The Razvediki sped on in their Scout cars and with satisfaction the Soviets unleashed the Katys' devastating bombardment but after saves and firepower tests against dug-in troops had little effect. Technically the Red Army was now in possession of the contested objective but the Germans would be able to contest it again before their turn was over.

Situational Map After Turn Five
Situational Map After Turn Five
Turn Six
Germans: 17 points (+3).
The Germans continued to clear their right flank and were now in secure possession of the village, leaving AA half-tracks to hold the objectives as the Tigers rumbled on towards the artillery. The Tigers and Hummels on the other flank now met the advancing T-34s head on and managed to destroy enough to force a motivation test which the Fearless troops promptly failed. Artillery took out a IS-2 and even the Luftwaffe made a surprise appearance in the form of a pair of Henschel Hs 129s that strafed the Razvediki destroying one transport and bailing others.

Soviets: 14 points (+2).
The Soviets had by now lost over half their Tank strength, and the remaining Udarny had been badly mauled and was under half strength. Without the Soviet attack ever gaining momentum it was clear the Red Army could not sustain the attack, and the Soviet side conceded defeat.

The final tally.
Situational Map After Turn Five
German Command Notes
Well, as it turned out we were wrong about the main Soviet attack. The sneaky Russians removed one objective next to the village and set up to defend that part of the table, with the main attack facing our grenadiers. We decided to try to hold off the attack as long as possible with the resources available and push the other side with the first reinforcements of five Tigers and the Panzer IVs, as without tanks there was very little that could threaten so many Tigers on that side of the table.

Thanks to horrible luck on the Soviet side the plan worked out. As there were more objectives on the flank with the Red Army attack we had to hold for as long as possible, and push in the village as fast as possible. We double-timed the five Tigers to get there faster, using the special rule of Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model to triple-time to allow the slow tanks to cover ground fast when they arrived from reserve. The Tigers went to town (literally!), and the Russians had nothing to stop them on that side, as they were either unwilling to commit a company of T-34s to slow down the Tigers, or were determined to use all their armour on the attack.  The battle was very close though, and had the Russians broken through our lines they would have won the day, as they had another special rule giving them double points for objectives in our deployment zone. In the end our flank held and the Tigers could not be stopped, and the Germans won the day. Not because we had the better plan for the battle, but because we had Lady Luck on our side, and had enough flexibility to respond to the mass of Soviet armor on the other side.

Soviet Command Notes
The Germans were right about the initial plan but when it was clear that they would send their main attack against the village it seemed to be easy pickings on the other side. The Vasilevsky Maskirovka rule and the German placement meant we had two objectives on our side in easy reach of each other and all that remained was a determined attack against the forward objectives, with the Jackpot being if we could grab the objective in the Germans' deployment area.

So what went wrong? We had terrible luck for a start. The big artillery batteries failed to range in for the first two turns. The Stalins were lost to a pair of regimental guns. Oh, and Fearless really isn’t!

But it is easy to write off the entire experience and miss the lesson. The Soviet attack failed mainly because it was piece-meal. The IS-2 Stalin's could not advance from the start since they were needed to cover the objectives and the T-34s that were first available went in a new direction seeking targets of opportunity. We never attacked with the concentration that was needed nor the force required and that is where the Germans succeeded. Granted Model and von Saucken worked very well with the reserves rule but the Stalin Regiment had eleven IS-2s, a full half of a real life Regiment, but lacked any support that could have secured the objectives and allowed the Tanks to advance. We could also have done a better job at deploying our support platoons. The artillery should have been placed to cover the objectives freeing the IS-2s earlier. This lack of direction was confounded by a series of unfortunate events (rolls) and the game was lost.

Situational Map After Turn Five
The game was fun, even if I must confess such a run of bad luck for the Soviets does leave a tinge of frustration even in the most easy-going persons. But the battle had its moments, tension and it was a good event. As far as a promotional event it exceeded expectations, and since it was run as an open event we had a lot of history buffs make a short visit to enjoy the hobby from the historical perspective.

We really liked the playing field, three full-size tables had been painted in the same colour with flock added. This gave us a field of 180x360cm (6'x12') and is ideal for Total Victory games. It means that both sides have room to maneuver  and elements such as transports and moving at the double come into their own.

On a personal note I went a little too far in the organizing of the event. I had to paint 2000 points of Soviet infantry and artillery, prepare the lecture, organise the venue as well as several other things. This meant that there was less time to prepare for the actual game. The upside is of course that I now have afully painted Udarny army, as an event of this size is a great incentive to get the paint job done. Funny thing is I painted the last units the night before the game as I had two German units left to do. One was the 15cm SiG regimental guns. In retrospect I'd rather not have finished them at all, as they were instrumental in breaking one of the IS-2 Companies!

Then there is also the lack of experience with the Soviet side. The sheer size of the forces is challenging and in the group we still need to learn to handle them. In a battle of this size it is tempting to beef up all the main elements but as it turned out we never managed to get the best out of them and the Germans came out better with more and smaller batteries rather than our big and potentially devastating artillery. So we'll hold off playing the Soviets until we get the hang of them.

Einherjar will for sure do another event like this, but we all agree that next time it will be a more private affair and focus on the enjoyment of the game. We might do another write-up though!

~ Jökull & Brjánn.

Last Updated On Thursday, February 2, 2012 by Blake at Battlefront