Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Assault on Bespalovka - Graviteam Tactics Operation Star

Looking back, I realize that I started this blog a year ago during last Thanksgiving weekend.  Something about this time of year must put me in mind of the Eastern Front of WWII.  One year ago I was playing Achtung Panzer (now renamed Graviteam Tactics), the same game I'm playing tonight.

Tonight I'm playing the Taranovka campaign from the German side, during the Soviet "Operation Star" in early February of 1943.  Operation Star was the Soviet offensive after the destruction of the German 6th Armee at Stalingrad to recapture the cities of Kursk and Karkov.  Initially successful, the Soviets over-extended their attack, setting the stage for Von Manstein's famous counter-attack in the Third Battle of Kharkov.

The Taranovka campaign deals with the encirclement of the German 320th Infantrie Division in and around the Ukrainian town of Taranovka.  I'm commanding the 2nd Battalion on one of the regiments of this division. The weather is nasty: very cold with a blizzard the night before.  In this particular action I'm advancing on the village of Bespalovka to the south of Taranovka with 4. Companie reinforced with some infantry guns and a recon section.  My intent is to begin to break the encirclement so I can link up with units of the SS Leibstandarte Adolph Hitler to the southwest.  Having fended off a probe around dawn, I know that there are troops from the Soviet 6th Guards Cavalry in the area of the village.

One of the things I love about this game are the maps.  I'm a sucker for games that use actual military maps.  

Within a few minutes of stepping off, 4. Companie encounters a Soviet platoon.  We quickly flank them and the weight of fire of three German platoons backed by a pair of infantry guns wipes out the Soviets in a few minutes.

Note the orange smoke in the picture above.  This game is really gorgeous, and full of nice weather effects, signal flares, explosions and fires.  The combat is by far the most immersive of any game of this scale I've ever played.

Bespalovka itself is occupied only by an AT gun.

With no infantry support, the AT gun is first neutralized by a mortar round and then overrun, albeit not without casualties.  Note that in this shot the red and yellow dots indicate the position of my troops.

In less than half an hour we've secured the village.  I elect to rest my most fatigued platoon and send another platoon to recce the crossroads to the west.  If they encounter no resistance, I'm intend to move them toward the objective marked "Rail Crossing" further to the west.

The Soviets have more infantry and guns to the south of the village!  My troops come under fire, so I move a platoon supported by the infantry guns to the south side of the village to defend that flank.  Concentrated fire from squad MG42s and indirect fire from the infantry guns routs the Russians in a few minutes.

Shortly thereafter my platoon takes the rail crossing.

What's that odd sound?  A trio of Soviet biplanes!  This was great - for some reason I've never had an air attack happen to me when playing this game before today.

The aircraft make a pass over the village and rail crossing, and bank around...

...for a bombing run! The bombs turn out to be neither accurate nor terribly effective.

Nor are my troops minded to take being bombed lying down, as tracers criss-cross the sky.

With the village and rail crossing occupied, I dispatch the recce section toward Hill 209 to scout the route for a next advance.

I'm always puzzled by the scoring in this game.  Most of the time when playing a campaign I ignore it, since what really counts in achieving your self-selected objectives to move toward a campaign victory.  In this case I grabbed a good bit of territory without completely gutting my force, while causing some significant Soviet losses. 

Now, if I can just survive the Soviet armored attacks about to happen to my relief force to the southwest...