Royal Hussars, 2nd Squadron
Major Antony Durnford rode the third tank in line, mixed in with Troop A, as his 2nd Squadron pursued the enemy recon force. 3rd Squadron was on his left, closer to the Ruhr River. 1st Squadron had disappeared in this sector earlier this morning, a terse report indicating that it had come off worse in an encounter with an enemy battalion-size Forward Detachment on the SOUTH bank of the Ruhr. That was extremely bad news, as only a breakthrough out of the Frankfurt sector or a crossing of enemy forces from the north bank where they had last been reported probing could account for it. That report had energized the Colonel and now the rest of the Royal Hussars was riding to the rescue.
The enemy recon force had all the aspects of a tease. There was a word for it - something suitably Asian, no doubt - but Durnford's foggy brain couldn't place it. The recon troops had shot up a column of support troops almost literally in front of Durnford's column, and it was off to the races. The enemy had quickly opened the range to almost 3 kilometers but would still stop to shoot occasionally with wire-guided missiles. So far, the Regiment's luck had held, unlike the poor bastards in the support column.
The radio crackled. "The Scorpion Leader reports tanks to the north east, Major. Dozens of them."
"Standard deployment. Troop A to the right; Troop C to the left. Swingfires pick a likely spot; that village over there looks good."
Headquarters, 5th Guards Tank Brigade
The inconvenient jamming was obviously a sword that cut both ways, Bayan thought as he listened to relays from his Reconnaissance Battalion as it leapfrogged back towards the bridgehead. He couldn't believe the enemy hadn't realized that an entire brigade was south of the Ruhr yet, much less that 3rd Shock was finally maneuvering to cross behind him. If not for an airdropped message canister he would already be kilometers to the south; instead he was sweeping west along the river with two battalions of tanks - 60 compared with barely 30 enemy vehicles in sight.
"The mangkudai are falling back on our antitank ambush, Polkovnik," reported the Operations Officer, grinning at the annoyance depicted on the face of the KGB liaison. It was bad form to remind the White Russians that the tank warfare doctrine assiduously practiced by the Soviet Army had been invented by the steppe nomads and perfected by Temoujin, Subotai, Chepe among others.
"Signal tulughuma," Bayan responded. In moments, relayed by flags much as by the Greak Khan's tumans, the advance would begin, hooking in behind the flanks of the enemy columns. You couldn't jam signal flags
BH picked Counterattack. His plan was to drive straight onto the objective he placed to the west and hold against all comers, using his Scorpions to bring spearhead his entire force to Puchcrsreuth (I'm not making that name up, the Dons at GDW did that 30 years ago). He wanted to get his Swingfires to center court, and that limited how far he could drive the spearhead.
I countered with chained spearheads, putting the BRDMs in Floss in the northeast corner of the map (I kid you not; the GDW guys had a sense of humor) and then moving the BMP-1s of 1st Battalion to the high ground south of Floss. Then I set up my T64s with one 'company' on the high ground and in the urban strip just south of the high ground, one behind the woods at centerline, and the third behind the wooded area at the northeast corner.
BH took a bit to digest that; he clearly hadn't figured on chained spearheads. Then he decided to follow Patton's guidance about good plan, violence, etc.
This depicts BH's advance. Troop A and the Company CO, Major Durnford, moved due east to Stornstein while Troop B and Troop C advanced directly on the objective, depicted by the green counter with white triangle. Troop D ended up in reserve. BH opened fire, scoring two hits with five shots and I bounced one and bailed from the other. More shots were not possible because Troop D ended up blocked by Troop C and the Scorpions. Troop A was behind a woods and thus immune to return fire, for the moment.
My Turn 1 was much more productive. My western company used a dash to move to the village of Wildenau. The center company moved to the village of Kalkrenruth, protecting itself from the Swingfires by placing woods in the way. The BRDMs hustled out of town, prepared to hunt Swingfires or Scorpions. Amazingly, my BMPs successfully blitzed.
This allowed me to put 7 shots from T64s and 3 missile shots into his force. Two of the T64 shots were flank shots at extreme range on Troop A from No. 2 Company in the center. Major Durnford dodged a bullet literally by shifting the hit to Troop A. Dead tank. The other tank could only see Troop D, and killed a tank. Fire from my No.1 Company killed one of Troop B's tanks and bailed another. Troop B passed morale. Missiles from my BMPs killed two Scorpions. The Battalion Commander, tucked in behind the hill to the west in a defilade position, popped one of Troop D's tanks. Another passed morale check. Ugly turn for BH, thanks to a flock of 1's and 2's for saves.
BH lost the game in this turn. Bad dice, and a bad decision. There was a 50 percent chance, roughly, that I would get reinforcements. So he could forgo the objective and try and bushwack my reinforcements. Or he could go after the objective. But with 9 remaining Chieftains to my (still) 10 and potential of 4 more, he could not afford both. Nevertheless, he tried (good plan, violence, etc.) The bailed Troop B tank refused to remount, and he tried to cross the stream with Troop B's functional tank. Bog. Troop A took up positions in the village of Stornstein, bogging one tank.
BH fired a little better this time, but again did no permanent damage. The Scorpions managed to bail a BRDM and a BMP, and his tank fire bailed another T64. Swingfires scored one hit on No.3 Company, and got a bail. My armor save electrons seemed to stick on 4.
Since BH was having no luck, it wasn't much of a surprise when my 2nd Battalion appeared. I pushed four tanks into the southeast corner. Meanwhile No. 3 Company closed in on the Swingfires from the west. BRDMs pushed to HMG range of the Swingfires.
The four tanks in the southwest corner managed to kill one Chieftain, and the morale test sent Troop A's lone survivor off the table. That left Durnford all by his lonesome. Fire from my tanks and the BMPs crisscrossed the table. No. 1 and No.2 Companies combined to score two hits killing two tanks in Troop C. Troop B lost a tank to fire from No.3 Company. Two Scorpions exploded from AT-4s. The last tank in Troop D bailed then exploded from a shot by the 1st Battalion Commander.
About half the hits in this massacre were from flanking fire, and of course 2+ firepower is just brutal. My missiles got the Scorpions. Then BH's morale dice deserted him - Troop A and Troop B fled. Now there were two tanks and three Swingfires left.
BH decided to play for points instead of resigning, and maybe try for a stall on time. His Swingfires, and the two tanks sitting stationary, combined for a total of 5 hits. I bounced one of the Chieftain hits, and one of the Swingfire hits went for a bail. Major Durnford's tank, gamely holding Sturnshein, managed to kill a tank and bail a tank for a morale check, which I passed. No points
My Turn 3 effectively finished the battle, but not the game. Picture at right shows the last British tanks burning at the end of Turn 3. Center picture shows me surrounding the invincible but incredibly incapable Swingfires so that they can't shoot anymore. And the last picture shows the only British survivor of the massacre, which cost me two tanks.
No.2 Company, 2nd Battalion arrived. Durnford's command tank ducked all but one shot, but that killed the tank. No. 2 Company finished off Troop C. Nothing I did hurt the Swingfires. He couldn't exit the village with the unpronounceable name, and survive so this set a pattern. I moved in quickly to get below 8" (4 hex) range and worked on causing him two casualties. He took a couple potshots at tanks that hadn't hidden, but were gone to ground, and either missed, saw bounced, or rolled a '1' for firepower. Finally, turn 7 saw tank rounds gut two Scorpions. Game over. If the village had been closer to an objective, it would have gone as a draw.
Counterattack is a battle I usually win as the attacker, but to do so I usually have sufficient recon/spearhead to get into reach of the objective and, typically, reverse my front so that the defender reinforcements walk into a buzzsaw. NATO tanks with advanced stabilizers cause me problems, but the usual outcome is a victory. This was the first time I saw a defender win this scenario. BH contributed a little by trying to do two things at once with a smaller army. But equally, there was no small amount of luck involved. Long range shots against T64s are only 50/50 propositions, and moving Chieftains halve their shots. The terrain channeled his advance so that only about half his weapons could shoot on turn 1, and from there you have the start of the avalanche that produced the massacre.
The British officer stood tall despite the shock of losing his command but surviving the experience.
"Durnford, Antony, Major,"
"Save that for the interrogators, Major. I have no time for that. I'm surprised that an officer of your distinguished heritage did not recognize the Horns of the Bull strategy."
The Major looked at him blankly.
Bayan shook his head. No one studied history anymore.