I deployed my Polish infantry dismounted, as any defending infantry units count as being in Foxholes when the game starts. This means that the enemy needs a firepower roll to destroy them on top of the usual hit and save dice. They can be surprisingly stubborn.
The Soviets have access to much more weaponry at the company level, including these PKM teams. Most of the infantry dismounted about 18" away and got into a firefight, meaning I quickly lost my exposed BMPs - although the infantry were largely unscathed. This would come in useful later...
The set up. You can see I only had two companies on the table to start with, so I had to spread them out to cover all three objectives. The Soviets had lots of tanks, and they started the game on the board (whereas I chose to put mine in reserve). They would exact a fearful toll on my armoured vehicles early in the game.
The Soviets' opening moves. You can see how they lined up to form an impressive fire base which made moving very difficult for me.
BMP-2s pouring into the village. They were going to come on through and barrel into my HQ, but there was an ATGM team waiting for them. These can be deadly - their missiles are very potent, and since they aren't tanks they're quite difficult to weedle out and destroy (you can tell I'm an infantry commander at heart).
This summarises the first three turns on the left flank - the BMPs on my side are getting wiped out, but the Soviet attack stalls as they seem unwilling to get in close where all my RPGs are waiting...
Meanwhile, on the right a convenient stone wall and some good cover gives the Soviets another chance to smash my poor BMPs - although those ATGMs do start to wear down some of the mighty T-72s.
Back on the left side, after some frightful dice rolling on my part, my reserves finally arrive. Barrelling up one side of the map, they isolate the T-72s and destroy them while the infantry step out for a frontal attack (most of their transports having already been destroyed). I capture a lot of ground, but some pesky Shilka AA tanks tear into my attacking force and kill off the remaining BMPs.
You can just see Mike's helicopter support on the left, which absolutely smashed the armour (note the tanks with removed turrets - we quickly ran out of explosion markers). Despite this, I managed to get into position for a sneaky dash to the fourth objective (the red and blue Airborne counter). It did me no good, as the nearby infantry meant that it was contested.
In the game's closing turns, I tried to launch another counterattack on the right flank. This was less successful, having lost all my armour, but it still managed to preclude any last-minute dashes for the objectives. The AGS-17s were particularly useful - rolling an astonishing nine dice, they are great for mopping up enemy infantry, but with a less impressive firepower roll of 6+, they struggle against anyone in cover.
And a special mention must go to my battalion commander, whose BMP-KSh was blown up within minutes of the game kicking off, but who calmly kept peering at his map the whole time.
Result - Polish Victory (Two objectives held, one contested)
A smashing game - thank you to Mike for being such a sporting opponent (especially when he was flying to Europe about six hours after the battle), and Ian for hosting us and ensuring a constant stream of Tunnock's caramel wafers and strong coffee.
It was a hard-fought game, and as always, casualties were high on both sides. We agreed that Mike had 'won the firefight' within the first few turns, but he needed to push on to the objectives to convert that to a victory. My losses in armoured vehicles approached 100%, but the infantry were much better off and formed the core of both my attack and defence. As always, I was saved by the intervention of the dice gods on numerous occasions - their fickle sense of capriciousness kept the Soviet artillery in particular a minor annoyance.
Reflections, for those of you who are familiar with the rules:
- Infantry in cover are tough to weedle out
- ATGM teams are fantastic for defence - they have tank-level firepower, but with all the benefits of being infantry
- Mortars and artillery are not going to be decisive unless you have huge batteries of them
- Air power is a 'nice to have' - but the proliferation of guided-AA means that in games like this, they're only going to knock out one or two things before being shot down
Thank you to my sporting opponent, my generous host, and my patient readers.