(c) 1999, Wayward Publications
[Pre-game] [Russian Strategies] [German Strategies] [Special Notes]
Although I am not a tank kind of guy, the allure of this big steel scenario is just too much to pass up. This scenario sees two King Tigers, two Jadg Panther, two Tigers and three Panthers attacking three JS2ms (Stalins for you early war buffs) and three SU-100s. Oh, yes, there is some infantry in there too. Adding to the charm of the game, the Germans secretly select one of two victory conditions before set up. The first, exits 36 VPs off the map; the second, sets out to collect 20 or more CVPs than the Russians.
Four issues are presented at set up.
1) The initial Russian force of some 10 squads and two ATGs deploy in a narrow and, quite frankly, compromising band across the width of the middle board. The two ATGs are impressive at first look, a 100L and 85L. The latter, can not kill anything from the front and so, must attempt side shots. The 100L can destroy all but the King Tigers but it too, is better off claiming side shots.
2) The Germans are marginally split in half, with each force having to set up north or south of the row Q board split.
3) The Russian tanks come on during turn three in what seems like forever.
4) I say the game is heavily pro-German. The ROAR record shows a 20-12 pro Russian position. It took me a minute to figure out why there was a difference. I can easily see a frustrated German player gunning the tanks (no pun intended) to exit them or, in the remaining turns, going for the last, needed kills. I think inexperienced German players, or if the German player is the lesser experienced of the two players, will tend to lose this game. Many subtleties are present but you need them all to win. The fact is, the Germans hold all the cards. They have the gift of time. 10 turns is more than enough to accomplish either VCs and perhaps even both. They have the weapons. While the King Tiger and Stalin tanks always make for fun engagements, everyone is vulnerable from the side. The Tigers have no purpose in the game other than attempting flanking moves. They have the infantry. PFs, or better yet, the mere threat of PF is a powerful weapon. They also the initiative. That is, they can choose where to attack. A board edge creep certainly needs to be considered. There is no better way to minimize a lethal ATG than to avoid it all together. They also have full disclosure of the units. Except for the ATGs, no Russian unit is HIP or unknown at scenario start. A wise German player will take full advantage of all these considerations. In fact, they can easily lose if they don't. Take your time and go methodically.
So what advantages do they Russians have? He has to be patient. First, consider the ATGs goners from the start. You can only count on them having two shots before return fire devastates them. The 85L has to be in a position to get side or rear shots. That means you might have to put it out of the way and actually take the chance to let tanks get by you. An excellent idea in theory but nerve wracking in practice. If he doesn't go there or has too much infantry support, it'll be wasted. Likewise the 100L had two shots but it can take the risk of going after tanks from the front. In general it is better to pick off the weak ones first. This way the number of tanks can be reduced so he'll have less chance to flank positions.
Study the layout of the maps first. Two characteristics will be noticeable.
First, the terrain is broken into small groups of woods separated by open glades. This is the worst defensive terrain for Russians. It is very likely broken squads will be unable to escape. Since the Germans may be going for victory points, this would be a very easy way to score a lot. Also, the worst way to lose units is through failure to route or by interdiction. For as brittle as Russian squads are, they are still difficult to eliminate by direct combat. Make the Germans spend the firepower and time destroying you. Under no situation let he get a tank behind a group and cut off their escape. What this means is that you can not maintain a forward defense. For as hard as it may seem, drop back as soon as possible. You might what to take several shots at German infantry first to break up the groups. This is the only purpose I see the 50* mortar having - hitting the units in the woods at long range. Once tanks get into the picture, it'll have no affect. I ending up dropping it. You may three fire phases before being forced back. While his tanks are unstoppable, he won't get them too far ahead at this point, at least not without knowing the ATG locations or without his infantry support near by.
The AT guns will have to take their chances alone. They are definitely not worth risking the infantry. Consider them disposable weapons. In fact, the gun crews may have to destroy the guns at one point to avoid being captured.
The second characteristic of the map is the natural choke point along the leading board 4 edge. The woods make an effective barrier along have the board. This is where you want to make a stand. Have the infantry fall back to the woods line and the infantry reinforcement advance up to it. This screens your tanks from his encroaching PF-toting infantry. Most importantly, have the newly arriving tanks plug the holes. Six tanks should be adequate for the job. Wherever happens, do not go out to meet his steel. Roll in, set up next to woods to cover your sides and wait for him. Tank battles are so often determined by the defender getting the first shot. While turn three seems like forever, it is actually a very good time. The tanks are fast enough to get to these positions in one movement phase and by that time, the Germans committed their tanks.
As mentioned in the introduction, you have all the advantages but like the Russian player, patient and deliberate play is the key. Few weapons pose a threat to your tanks and the infantry are even less of one. Nevertheless, don't let your tanks get too far ahead of their support. The initial restriction, if you can call it that, is having three turns before the Russians tanks enter. All that means is the defense line will be set then and your quick advance is over. In many ways it is more of an advantage for the Germans than anything else. You'll know where his resistance is and you can allocate forces appropriately. Chances are he'll get into his final defensive position before you have fully committed your forces and as result, you'll be better able to react.
Once you know where his line is, it is just a matter of getting local superiority in one area. His line might very well be a series of positions supporting each other. If that's the case, when one of the ends fall, the entire line will eventually fall. The tanks have to be matched up, however. The King Tigers face off against the Stalins. Anything else looking at a Stalin is going to be flamed quickly. Likewise, he can't afford to match his Stalins against any other tank for the exact same reason - those tanks will get flamed by the King Tigers. I like going for the SU-100s first. Three Panthers should be able to take one out. After that, the Russian will have to shift his line to protect the newly exposed flank. That is when the situation falls apart. However, this may take four turns so be patient.
The Germans also a not-so-secret weapon in the form of panzerfausts (PFs). In many games with this amount of large tanks, the few squads available rarely make a big difference. The tanks tend to destroy each other to decide the outcome. However, in this scenario, the Russians have an excellent defensive line opportunity. They are hard to flank and they will get the first shot. Some Germans are reluctant to expose their King Tigers even. They are worth an incredible amount of CVPs. This is where the infantry come in. They will take time catching up with the tanks but by mid game they enter the equation. For starters, if the ATGs have not been discovered yet, spread the infantry out and go after possible hiding spots. Double time, search and/or deploy - do it all. Use tanks to isolate and surround Russian infantry. That means merely breaking them will effectively, if not literally, remove them from the game. Even the reinforcements of six elite squads pose little threat. Four of your own and a leader can take care of them. Additional squads just make it easier. By late game, the Russian infantry should be neutralized and then German squads go tank hunting.
This tank hunting represents the final squeeze on the Russian. Ironically, the Stalins for as massive and fearsome as they are, do not scare off infantry. Both Russian tank types are woefully unprepared for them. Stalins have a CMG of 1 FP and the SU-100 do not have any. German infantry have only to get within four hexes to make big steel move. Again, once the Russians have to start moving, the game is all but over.
Notice these tactics have nothing to do with which Victory Condition you choose. While you certainly should pick the one you feel most likely to get, one is not better than another. In fact, in some ways, they are almost the same. Whichever selected, you still have to break his defensive line. Once that breakthrough is achieved you can go after either with the same ease. I suspect the reason the ROAR record is so lopsided for the Russians is that the impatient German player runs for the board edge too soon. By doing so, they let Russians get good shots from the side or at least shots without any return fire. Many players think they have to win earlier than later. In essence, playing a 10 turn game in seven turns. Go methodically. Take your time. If you have to exit do so on turn 10.
I saw a particularly effective tactic. The 100L opened up on a JadgPanther side. It only UK/Shocked the vehicle. With infantry closing in and two Panthers nearby, it fired again IF thinking this was the best and last attempt to kill. After all, if it waited it might not get a second chance. Naturally not killing it, one of the Panthers charged and entered its location. This was risky in the since that the crew needed a 5 in CC/Melee to kill it but likewise the Panther had a 16 sN with which to fire back. The Panther won. With the threat of the AT gun gone, the area was swarmed with other tanks and infantry. That sector fell in one turn. While two SU-100s waited in the defense, the LOS favored the Panthers. They were able to move around into position. One SU-100 was enclosed on three sides and need only wait one more turn for the inevitable. The southern flank had been completely opened.
As always, I encourage discussion. If you agree or disagree, feel free to write me.