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Monday, November 16, 2015

Fulda Gap, 1985 - Cold War Commander

The order has finally come. The forces of the Motherland are prepared to end the long stalemate with the United States, tanks pouring into Fulda Gap in Germany. The ultimate objective is Frankfurt and the major airfield there, but first the lead battalions must clear the way.

Michael painstakingly put this excellent scenario together (including the map below), and sent us the following intelligence report a few days before the battle:

"1. The Americanskis have had many years to prepare this area for defense. Be prepared to deal with any and all available defensive measures
2. It is anticipated that the capitalists will deploy up to a battalion to defend this area and fight a delaying action.
3. Your objectives are
a. capture and hold Brand - recent intelligence photos show that their is a bridge just West of Brand and not east of Dietges - minor
b. Capture and hold Dietges - minor
c. Push at least 1 BNs of the east edge of your area of operations using highway 458 by the end of turn 8.
Good Luck!"
We'd need a bit more than luck it turned out.
For this battle, Michael played the American defenders while Roxanne (a new gaming bud) and I played the Soviets, splitting the sizable force. We weren't sure of the American strength, but we deployed 7500 points, including extensive artillery and air assets (mostly helicopters), despite having less than ideal air superiority.

 The minor objectives are the villages of Brand and Dietges while the main objective is the western reaches of highway 458 (the American table edge), which lead ultimately to Frankfurt. Here's how it looked on the table from the Soviet edge:

The small village of Brand is in the foreground and Dietges is at the crossroads in the middle of the board. Dietges has been prepared with plenty of wire in an attempt to slow down the Soviet advance.

The Soviet left is the edge of a vast German forest, limiting visibility, and the forest continues into the American sector, along with plenty of hills and cover which we can expect the Americans to make use of. Recon has shown possible enemy locations (the white blinds below).

The river is not fordable in this area, and thus the bridges become our concern. Roxanne took an infantry battalion and the weaker of the two tank battalions. I took an infantry battalion, a tank battalion, and the overall HQ. I decided to attempt to flank with my infantry from the left (on the road), while deploying the tanks in a broad line to begin with.

Roxanne deployed all of her forces on her side of the table.

Roxanne advanced far more cautiously than I, slowing down to move her tanks through the hedge row, allowing time for her infantry to dismount and capture the town of Brand.

My tanks pushed forward quickly, trying to get the Americans to reveal themselves.

Which they did.

A single tank platoon began firing from the cover of the village.

Followed by the first American air strike. Which destroyed two platoons of Roxanne's infantry.

Two more tanks began firing on my tanks from prepared positions on the left.  Those fortifications, combined with the front armor of the Abrams, made it unlikely that I could knock these tanks out from the front.

Not for lack of trying though... lesson learned. Don't waste shots like that.

From the American point of view.

I began calling in helicopter support, trying to dislodge the tanks on my left. I hoped to soften them up before bringing in my flanking attack. Sadly, it wasn't enough to do any real damage.

The answer must thus be... more air support! Another chopper is called in.

But not so lucky with the American anti-air this time!

The surviving chopper withdraws to rearm while an American jet tries to attack my tanks.

Thankfully I too had considerable anti-air assets. As we learned later, this was a considerable set-back for the Americans. They had no additional air to call on.

At this point, all of the action was on the left, where my tank battalion was being stymied by two mere platoons of Abrams tanks.

Further chopper strikes  resulted in a miscommunication with command. The helicopter went a bit too close to the American lines...

With predictable results. Michael commented that he'd never seen so much destroyed air in a came of CWC.

Seeing that my attack on the fortified tank position was going no where from the front, I decided to try to bring on my flanking infantry in BMPs into the fight and attack the tanks in the rear.  Which Michael had been apparently waiting for...

A minefield!  I didn't even know the game HAD minefields!  Can't say Mike didn't warn me that the Yanks would have all sorts of prepared defenses.  Ouch. My BMPs drove right onto it. Most of them got bogged down, meanwhile several platoons of infantry (including an AT unit) ambushed the forces that weren't in the mine field.

A minefield and an ambush at the same moment!  Well played Michael, well played...

Roxanne hadn't been idle in all this, and after leaving a detachment to hold Brand, positioned the rest of the infantry to rush the crossroads. Her tanks began to push forward into the hills to reveal the Americans there.

American artillery dropped smoke on my tanks to prevent them from putting their fortified tanks in a crossfire with my BMPs.

Sadly, the BMPs were doing rather poorly with the mines as well. Still, their presence forced Michael to withdraw his tanks deep into the woods. The ambush was largely fought off, but at significant price. I would say Michael's plan on the left was entirely successful. I feel a bit like a dupe for falling so easily into it. 

Roxanne dropped smoke of her own to allow an easier approach to the town. For the early part of the game her artillery had been scheduled to pound the crossroads with H.E., so the forces there were already weakened.

Her recon unit discovered a second minefield on the hill (and the cost of its own life), and her tanks began to move around it. I have to confess that at this point I had no idea what she was doing. Turned out to be a solid move though.

On my side, the smoke cleared, and with the game getting close to ending it was time to aggressively push forward toward the major objective (the highway end).

Sadly, it was nearly impossible extricate most of my infantry from the minefield.

I started pushing my tanks (still largely intact) towards the enemy position on the road, while Roxanne looked to cover my approach.

Her tanks maneuvered around the minefield and took position on the hilltop overlooking the line of Abrams blocking my path. Well played Roxanne! It was the only position close enough to the enemy (10cm) to see them in the woods.

So naturally the Americans dropped more smoke, making it so no one could shoot at each other.

Moving into the endgame, the Americans have successfully fallen back to their secondary positions and retain most of their strength. It was pretty sad how little damage all of my tanks had been able to do.

My tanks moved towards the final road, getting around the enemy which surprisingly didn't shoot as I passed them.

Oh, that's why.

Another minefield, this time blocking the table edge. We rolled to see if the tanks spotted it in time, and sadly, they did not. We determined that they were caught up in it, and with it being the 8th turn, knew that they had failed to capture the main objective.

However the lone BMP that I'd managed to extricate from the minefield made it into the town, as did several of Roxanne's.  Unfortunately, due to the successful holding action of the Americans, we weren't able to dislodge the single infantry platoon that held one of the blocks of houses. The objective would be considered contested.

With one town held by the Soviets, one contested, and the highway not secure, the battle was a minor American victory. The Soviets clearly held the field, but they weren't quick enough to push through to Frankfurt before significant reinforcements could be flown in. 

A very fun game, full of surprises (those minefields!).  I must say I learned a lot not only from how it went down, but from watching the two far more experienced wargamers (both of whom also have actual military experience). Roxanne's moves were quite savvy and Michael's defensive plan was rock solid, despite having a far inferior force. I was a bit over-aggressive I think, and I underestimated the kinds of nasty surprises the game could throw at me.

Good game!