Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dreaming of Tanks

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. Things have been so busy at work I find myself falling asleep when I sit still for more than a few minutes. That turns out not to be a state good for serious wargaming.

However, after resting a bit yesterday I found myself in the mood for some tank action. I ended up playing Steel Beasts Pro PE during what gaming time I managed (between naps!). It must have mad an impression on me, since I ended up dreaming about tank battles.

Taking that as a sign I should play some more SBPro PE, I downloaded and played JC's new scenario, Between a River and a Hard Place. He's blogged about it here; this is my go at it.

Plan for movement to battle positions

The simple version of the briefing is that there's a Russian tank regiment moving through the engagement areas shown above. My job is to stop it using elements of an armored company - two platoons of M1A2 SEPs and the company command tanks. The EAs and a set of battle positions have already been specified. JC is asking for feedback on the mission so I'm electing to use the pre-set BPs. My biggest concern with these BPs (which JC has already noted) is that they are oriented along the Russian axis of advance. My fire will be directed at the front of the advancing tanks. I'd prefer to be oriented for flank shots.

Inside the commander's station
The systems in the M1A2 SEP are amazing compared to those in the older M1-series vehicles. These things are monsters!

I choose to advance 2nd platoon and the XO to the battle position overlooking EA Ellicot and 1st Platoon and the CO to the BPs overlooking EA Columbia. I've set the conditional routes leading to the BPs to have the platoons retreat if they come under indirect fire. I also wanted to set them so that they would reposition after a certain period of time, but I've forgotten how to set multiple conditions. Back to the manual...

I also picked a bad route for 1st Platoon. Rather then having it follow a main road along with the CO I diverted it on to a secondary road, in wedge formation - in the snow. It didn't arrive nearly as quickly as I would have liked!

A mixed recon force of Russian IFVs and tanks enters both EAs. Here 2nd Platoon and the XO make short work them. Unfortunately, I also neglected to set my fire-control to hold fire until the Russians had fully entered the EA, so these kills happen outside the far edge of the EA.

Russian own goal?
Neither 1st Platoon nor the CO are in place yet at EA Ellicot yet, but as they advance they sight enemy recon vehicles well into the EA. Between them they account for three IFVs and a pair of tanks. It also looks like the Russians called a fire mission in just past the village in EA Ellicot. Unfortunately, that's the exact spot where I shot up their IFVs and the surviving infantry dismounted.

Despite numerous screw ups, I'm feeling pretty good about things so far. I've stopped the Russian recon forces without taking a single casualty. I do have to say that the scout unit parked on the hills to warn me about approaching enemy needs a few more weeks at the NTC to figure out how to do their jobs!

CO moving to his BP 
Burning recon force in the village in EA Ellicot, as seen from the COs tank

2nd Platoon and XO in hull down positions overlooking EA Columbia

And then it all goes seriously pear-shaped. T-90s enter EA Columbia and take the CO tank under fire. I pop smoke and try and maneuver to an alternate position but trees to my rear make it difficult. I foolishly pull the tank out in to the open to make a dash to another position, exposing my flank. I manage to kill one T-90, but his wingman takes me out.

A mad scramble to alternate battle positions
Artillery begins to fall on 1st Platoon. One tank is killed immediately. A second takes repeated hits from HE and T-90's, kills an enemy tank, and is eventually destroyed by a T-90 from outside the OA boundary. The rest of 1st Platoon attempts to fall back to an alternate position. The T-90s coming in from the southwest of the EA are too much, however, and the two remaining tanks of 1st Platoon are destroyed.

The rest of the engagement is a fighting retreat where I'm killing T-90s, often at short range, but am overwhelmed by numbers. The XO makes a heroic stand eventually destroying 12 T-90s from his immobilized tank. 2nd Platoon do almost as well, despite losing two tanks as they withdraw to new positions.

In the end I lost seven out of my ten tanks, having killed 24 Russian vehicles. I may have stopped the Russian advance but I certainly didn't do it with any grace and style!

In retrospect I:

  • Should have set up alternate battle positions to take the Russians in flank from good hull-down positions,
  • Should have set up alternate BPs with good conditional routes to displace when under fire,
  • Should have used my artillery - I used a single fire mission, and it was in panic, probably falling on empty ground already vacated by the Russians.
The scenario was great fun, though. I think I may give it another go and see if I can do better than 70% casualties!