It was a pleasure for me to read the two solutions we received for the first Tactical Problem that appeared in Operations #25, submitted by Matt Noah and Clair Conzelman. While both were very good, Clair's was judged as the better of the two, so congratulations to Clair, our first winner! Since both submissions can be very instructive to TCS players, both are included below, with comments appended to each.
Please submit a battle plan for the Soviet side in GD '41, scenario 4.1 Repulse of SR 12 which includes the following:
(from south to north, all start in prepared positions). By Op Sheet assignments.(map, photo)
3-10 Gds Bn (On brigade left, 9th and 8th Coys on line, 7th Coy back).
9th Company (23.17, 22.17, 22.20): Left flank is stongly posted vs likely enemy AA. Attached: 2 machine gun sections (one at 23.17, one at 22.17).
8th Company (24.23, 23.25, 22.26): On line covering minefields along Orel Hwy. Attached: FO-1-34 (24.23), 1 mg sec (23.25), 2 x 75mm guns (24.25).
7th Company (29.24, 27.25, 29.27): Two up, one back, covering the draw. Attached: 1 mg sec (29.24), Bn Mortars (27.25).
Bde AT guns: (30.15, 30.17, 34.17). Flanking the draw.
2-10 Gds Bn (On brigade right, 4th and 5th Coys on line, 6th Coy back).
4th Company (22.27, 20.30, 23.29): Two up, one back. Covers mines along Orel Hwy. Attached: 2 mg sec (22.27, 23.29), 2 x 75mm guns (24.28).
5th Company (18.33, 17.35, 20.34). Two up, one back. Covers mines on right flank. Attached: 1 mg sec (20.34).
6th Company (25.30, 24.30, 22.33). On line in second echelon. Protects key terrain, ready to C/A. Attached: FO-10 Gds Mortars (moves to 22.33), Bn Mortars (22.33), 1 mg sec (24.30).
Bde AT guns: (3 in 27.29). FO-1-26: (41.20). Ordered to move immediately to 23.30.
I'm dividing the battlefield into two battalion sectors: south and north of the Orel Hwy.
a. South sector: Minefields on the forward slope require a defensive setup on the military crest in order to cover them. Luckily their artillery is not expected to be overwhelming. This position guards the brigade left flank, and there is a draw just behind the front line which leads directly up to the likely enemy objective in our rear if they manage to turn our left flank. The 2nd line company not only watches this draw (its sits at the head of it with heavy weapons), but is also prepared to counter-attack a penetration in the center. AT guns, placed across the draw, can fire flanking shots at an enemy force which tries to go up the draw without first taking out each of them. In effect, we have two defensive positions in this sector, each with two rienforced companies defending. The first is the minefield line ridge, and the second is the position parallel to the highway at the top of the draw. The key terrain is the hinge to these two positions...the central hill 8th Company is protecting along the Orel Hwy.
b. North sector: Minefields are covered by two companies in a forward line. This sector contains the shortest route to enemy objectives, hence it has the highest density of units. There is only one real defensive position...two hills with a saddle between them, leading back to the town. The two hills are close enough to support each other, and can also support the front line watching the mines. Most heavy weapons are on these hills.
The Russians have the normal advantages of the defense: good terrain where positions can support each other, the minefield which channels any German attack, and the ability to concentrate the defense once these channels are developed. The weakness is the sectors...only with difficulty can one battalion attack across the highway to support the other. This can be compensated for by reassigning defensive sectors once the main German attack is developed, since the Russians have a good Op Rating for defense orders.
The Germans have the advantage of flexible artillery support, and they should expend a lot of it before the infantry engages. Trouble is, they don't have that much, so it will have to be concentrated. They have the major initiative advantage of seeing the Russian deployment before writing orders. Although the attacking battalions are arranged side-by-side, they certainly don't need to stay that way. To have much hope, they must concentrate in one sector, which may be chosen initially or developed as the situation progresses. They have the ability to concentrate mass and firepower, use smoke, and methodically eliminate resistance along a chosen axis of advance into their objectives.
The Germans, to be any real threat, must chose one of three avenues of advance. If they attempt more than this, the Russian front line, with local counter-attacks, should be sufficient to stop such an attack with minimal loss of ground. But if the German chooses one of these, he can make a penetration:
AA1-- Southern Draw: The German turns the Russian left flank with a breakthrough on the lower slopes of the minefield line along the southern edge of the battle area. They penetrate 600-800m and then turn north up the draw behind the Russian front line. This should get them across a lot of space with minimum resistence. Then they re-group at the head of the draw for an assault into the crossroads objective on the Orel Hwy and into the town, each about 500m away. An alternate axis takes them half a klick farther east, and moves them around resistence at the head of the draw directly into the town from the southeast, and then attacks back west into the crossroads on the hill.
AA2 -- Direct Approach: Slug your way, two battalions in depth side by side along the Orel Hwy, preceeded by artillery barrages front and flank, straight up the hill and into the town.
AA3 -- Northern Flank: The German turns the Russian right flank with a breakthrough on the northern edge of the battle area. Secures the southern slope of Hill 228 and then organizes a prepared attack down into the town and the crossroads on the hill, essentially along the trail from 228 into town.
My brigade is deployed astride the Orel Hwy with one battalion on each side. Since the obvious avenue of German advance is right along the seam between units, we must protect that weakness first. I do this by concentrating four companies, two from each battalion, in two lines of depth along that road in the center. Note that these four companies form a square around the key terrain...the Orel Hwy crossroads on the hill. Only one company (one from each Bn) is out on each flank approach. This observable deployment should encourage him to take a flank approach rather than the direct one. A direct approach will be a bloodbath on the highway engaging most of both side's forces. If he chooses this path, the flank companies will move in on his attacking column, the southern one to the woods on the ridge south of the highway, the northern one along the minefiled line near where the Saroschtscha road crosses the mines. If he chooses to advance on both flanks (one German battalion on each), each of my battalions will fight its own battle. Correlation of forces should easily favor my defense in this situation. The northern sector is the stronger initially, but has little depth. In the southern sector it is easier to force the minefields, but it has a strong second line at the top of the draw. I can add to any weakening battalion by moving the Bde mortar FO and the artillery Fos to their sectors. The infantry gun sections of each battalion will also move to threatened points.
But the most dangerous German course of action will be if he throws most of both of his battalions onto one of my flanks. I would chose the southern approach if I were him, as it gives more flexibity to the advance with more room to maneuver. With two battalions against one Russian, he will undoubtedly make progress and the victory will go to who controls the crossroads and the town in the final assaults. Against the southern avenue, I will cancel the northern battalion's orders, if he is not the target of a holding attack, and begin a defensive order to prepare that battalion to shift sectors, and to take over defense of the town, freeing the southern battalion companies to defend the hill only. The southern battalion's left flank company will stay in position until the breach is made by the enemy and then will pull pack into the woods on the ridge (vic. 23.21). The second-line company will either block the top of the draw, or may slide to the east to block any German flank attempt. If not pinned to the front, the company along the highway (8th Coy) can move to support him. The main killing zone in this scenario is the draw. We have firing positions on all sides, to include some AT guns hidden into the east slope to provide crossfires unless he clears them out. This screen will pull back to the east to provide a constant flank threat to his maneuver north.
If he comes along the shorter route in the northern sector, the main kill zone is the saddle between the hills. He will probably go for the higher hill on the north flank first...we will attempt crossfires with the infantry guns in the center, which will move forward to the best firing positions. If he is smart he will smoke the center, however, so one reinforced platoon from the reserve company is stationed behind the line on the north hill to slow down his advance. Once the German secures that hill, we defend with two companies on line from the center, and move up the reserve company from the southern battalion into the town.
Clair's proposal has a great deal of inherent flexibility, which I think is necessary against a good German player. The dispersed set-up will help dissipate the effectiveness of the German artillery. However, the Soviets will have to be careful to concentrate in time to stop the final German push. Against such a set-up, I would predict a German attack on the southern flank, because of the cover that the southern draw offers (around hex B27.17). A stronger Soviet deployment to the south may be warrented, with the assumption that such troops could be shifted north if the Germans focus on the northern flank. Clair has also deployed supporting AT guns and infantry guns alone, which I think is usually not the best way to use them, since they are quickly lost to artillery and small-arms fire, and are vulnerable to AT rolls. Because these weapons form the basis of any Russian firepower, I feel they are best deployed with infantry platoons, which can absorb casualties, allowing the supporting guns to continue operating longer and deliver more effective overwatch fires.
1. Russian Setup (map, photo)
B20.25: 7-3-10 Pltn, MG Sec
B21.25: 7-3-10 Pltn, 45mm ATG
B22.24: 7-3-10 Pltn, MG Sec
B24.25: 8-3-10 Pltn, 82mm Mrtr
B25.26: 8-3-10 Pltn, 2 x 45mm ATG
B26.26: 8-3-10 Pltn, MG Sec
B29.29: 9-3-10 Pltn, MG Sec
B30.29: 9-3-10 Pltn
B31.31: 9-3-10 Pltn
B20.26: 6-2-10 Pltn, 45mm ATG
B20.27: 6-2-10 Pltn, MG Sec
B21.28: 6-2-10 Pltn, MG Sec
B23.29: 5-2-10 Pltn, 82mm Mrtr Sec
B24.29: 5-2-10 Pltn, 2 x 45mm ATG
B25.30: 5-2-10 Pltn, MG Sec
B23.27: 4-2-10 Pltn, 2 x 75mm IG
B24.27: 4-2-10 Pltn, 2 x 75mm IG
B25.28: 4-2-10 Pltn, MG Sec
B35.34: 120mm Mrtr Sec
The LOS effects of the hill sloping down from Hill 231 towards Mtzensk should also be agreed upon. I assumed that a spine runs down from 40.21 (Point 231) to 35.25 and then follows the road to 24.27. From that point the hill uniformly slopes down towards Mtzensk. This spine means that Soviet units retreating across the spine won't be eliminated by German units (per TCS 1.2 - modified on 5 Jan 97) on the far side of the spine. Another LOS effect is that hex 24.27 will be seen by most German units, particularly if they attack by their left flank. The woods line running from 22.20 to 27.24 will provide cover for the Germans if they attack by their right flank. These hexes are also the only hexes from which they can setup a firebase in any kind of protected terrain. The Soviet defenders have dug-in three hexes away from all woods hexes so as to prevent the Germans from getting an extra column shift on the Area Fire Table (AFT).
Being dug-in. The -2 column shift on both the AFT and morale table is the Soviets best friend. A dug-in full-strength Soviet platoon has an effective morale of 1, and will have only a 25% chance of suppression or worse. The -2 shift on the AFT also makes the firepower of a German platoon nearly equal to that of a Soviet platoon.
Lack of firepower. Here is the Soviet center of gravity, but it is more like a black hole. If you count FP factors (excluding air/artillery), the entire Heroic Soviet OB has 112 FP factors. The Evil Fascist Invaders have two battalions, each with 105 FP factors. You figure it out.
Setting up first. Despite the scenario description that the historical German attack was poorly coordinated and bloodily repulsed, the Germans are allowed to setup and write Op sheets after the Soviet setup. There are no restrictions on German air and artillery, so they will be perfectly coordinated by the German. So the Soviets sets up and then the German attacks hard at the weakest spot he can find. This is another Soviet center of gravity, and any mistake will be fatal. The Soviets will not have time to move and implement another prepared defense op sheet. This scenario presents the Soviet player with a dilemma: stay dug-in and give up all mobility and flexibility, or move and give up all morale benefits and protection.
Firepower. The Germans have nearly double the firepower plus air and artillery that is more flexible and accurate than the Soviets. This scenario reminds me of Hunters in that wherever the Germans want to go, they'll get there. The only real question is how long it takes.
Dislocationability. I doubt that's a word, but the Germans can practice all the various forms of MW dislocation. As they setup last and have attack orders, they can positionally dislocate the Soviets, particularly if they spread out to defend the entire mine belt. The German can bust through the weak line and get to the VC hex while most of the Soviets will be rendered irrelevant. Which leads us to functional dislocation; any units positionally dislocated can move to get in on the fight, but they get to move in the open towards the German firepower buzzsaw - few will survive. So, the Soviet must either stay where they are and hope for the best, or maneuver and get blasted to bits. A dilemma indeed. The Germans also have the tools to tactically dislocate the Soviets: plenty of artillery, smoke, and the ability to maneuver to surround the VC hex. The fifteen smoke missions will mask the Germans as they breach the minefield, and they can also use it to create a safe corridor for their movement through the Soviet line.
Lack of time. Running out of time is the only way the Germans can lose this scenario, and it is the German center of gravity. A good Soviet defense will have many dug-in platoons between the Germans and the VC hexes. Regardless of the attack axis chosen by the Germans, nearly all Soviet units in that path will have to be eliminated. This may sound anti-MW, but MW comes into play by the German ability to choose the path with the least amount of Soviets in the way.
Attacking in open terrain. This of course is always dangerous. There will be no cover for the Germans, except for what they make themselves with smoke. With the new retreat rule, the German must be careful where he maneuvers and initiates assault combats. If the German chooses to bypass Soviet units in order to save time, he then risks losing SYRing units wholesale. A tactical dilemma for the Germans.
Plan A - double envelopment. Under a wide smoke screen, each German battalion crosses the mine belt away from the main road, continues east for about five to seven hexes, and then turns inward toward the VC hexes. This plan offers the German the best opportunity to maneuver to kill off SYRing Soviet units, but the spine will mitigate this somewhat. However, the artillery and air assets will be stretched as each battalion will need its own smoke screen and HE support.
Plan A response - My setup anticipates this attack by posting a company on each flank of 24.27, along with a company sitting on the VC hex. The Strepurino company plus the platoons in 27.27 and 26.35 will protect against any deep flanking move to take the village. In short, the wagons are circled and there is no easy path to 24.27. The village is not defended nearly as well as the road junction as "he who defends everything defends nothing". However, attempting to take the village will cost the Germans even more of his precious time.
Plan B - Overload a flank. Under a smoke screen, one battalion breaches the mine belt and then provides fire as the other battalion pours through. Then both battalions move forward and overwhelm the Soviets. This plan concentrates the hefty German firepower and allows efficient use of their air and artillery. However, there won't be many opportunities to surround Soviet units. This plan works best if the Soviets spread out their defense to cover the entire mine belt.
Plan B response - The front wedge of my setup has good LOS to its flanks and rear. Only one company will be positionally dislocated by this attack, which is acceptable under the circumstances. Regardless of which flank they strike, the German will have to eliminate most of the Soviets. Also, most of the Soviets are within three hexes of 24.27 and its approach hexes. Covering the approach hexes is important as assault combat is not an overwatch trigger. The Germans must be hit and suppressed outside the VC hex.
Plan C - "Charge!" This would be very non-MW but a simple straight ahead push may work, given the German firepower advantage. However, this plan combines the weakness of plan A (inefficient use of air/arty) with the weakness of plan B (not encircling the enemy).
Plan C response - Let them come. I would be pleased to see the Germans attack this way and try to eliminate five out of my six companies in ten turns. This plan also removes the village as a realistic objective, thereby halving the objectives needed to be defended.
No maneuver here - everyone sits in their holes and shoots anyone in gray. This lack of maneuver seems anti-MW, but I am maximizing the strength of my dug-in morale and minimizing the German strength: firepower. This approach also puts pressure on the German center of gravity - lack of time. Every platoon that survives a turn will have to be fired on or, even better, desperately assaulted on following turns. My FOs will hang back with the platoons in the rear until the Germans get close to the VC hexes. They will only call in fire at targets within three hexes, and I will save my few artillery missions until the end game. Ideally I will be able to drop a good shoot on the VC hex just prior to the last German action phase of the game. I won't use Comrade Commissar Shuturhedov until absolutely necessary to protect the VC hexes. No sense in helping the Germans by killing steps for free.
I feel that the magic "win the war in hex 24.27" effect of the VC demand such a defense. As shown above, my setup can handle any attack the German will throw at me, so it's quite flexible even though it features no maneuver.
Matt's analysis is very good, and I like the logical conclusions he draws from them. I feel that the Soviet forces are overly concentrated in the actual set-up, however. German battalion shoots can do a tremendous amount of damage to the massed Soviet troops, severly weakening them before contact. Because there are no forces covering the northern or southern approach, the Germans will be able to cross the wire quickly while their artillery is pounding the key Soviet positions. With 6 battalion fires on the heavily concentrated Russians and smoke to cover the close assault, I think the Germans will be able to secure a victory against this set-up. German smoke is much more effective against highly concentrated forces, so the set-up magnifies this German strength. My suggestion would be to spread out the Russians more, probably 2-3 hexes in each direction, to dilute the effectiveness of German artillery. This will allow more Russians to survive the barrage and participate in the actual defense without being automatically smoked, and while it does not concentrate potential Soviet fires quite as much, Soviet firepower is not going to win the game for them. The Russians should aim at suppressing the Germans, not eliminating them, and this does not require massed fires, but rather unsuppressed Soviet units.