After a week of continuous operations, Col. Vladimir Brusilov was dead tired but functional as was his command. Replacements and the lightly wounded returning from the medics had brought him up back up to strength although there was something off about the new troops that Brusilov couldn't just explain away as reservists struggling to remember their training. He watched in amazement as units of scouts blundered forward seeking covered positions for his projected ambush of an oncoming German counter attack force. To his left, a four vehicle strong BRDM unit seemed bogged at the edge a few patches of woods, unable to force their all-wheel drive scouts into the undergrowth. Finally, one managed to find a gap. In a West German forest where the trees were planted in neat rows! To the right another scout detachment reported their tracked and agile BMP-2s were bogged, quite conveniently behind a different patch of woods, "utterly unable" to advance.
Brusilov liked his new political officer even less. An eager KGB lieutenant had replaced the prior incumbent after he had been injured in a traffic accident while moving at night under blackout conditions. The lieutenant sported a shoulder holster with some foreign-made pistol he seemed eager to try out. The team of uniformed KGB border troopers he had in tow were more conventionally armed; their presence wasn't a comforting sign.
But the orders from headquarters were clear enough. Catch the Germans in a river crossing and follow up with an assault crossing to cut the secondary highway on the far side of the river. If Brusilov had cared he could had read the stream's name on the maps but it hardly mattered. The grid coordinates were right, which was the only thing that did. The idea was to set up an ambush before the Germans arrived and surprise them while attempting the crossing. The problem was that the ground on this side of the water was distressing short of suitable cover for his troops and the river had both bridges and fords enough to render the whole length crossable without special preparation. Another position chose by headquarters from an inadequate map no doubt. To add to the joy, Brusilov was forbidden to blow any bridges "that would be necessary to continue the advance".
In the end, with predawn light growing and river mists likely to rise within the hour, Brusilov packed his troops behind what cover could be found and hoped for the best. He had the tanks on the left while the right was held down by his infantry. Backed by a battery of artillery, massed fire from cover would rip up the Germans in the open. Dawn demonstrated there was only one real problem with the plan. The "attacking" Germans were deployed across the river in firing positions with no sign of advancing to the stream edge.
The German opening volley ripped into the Soviets, with malign precision savaging the Carnation battery which was deployed in a stone and hedge bordered enclosure for want of better cover. The storm of fire destroyed two guns. The third valiantly but futilely returned counter battery fire for the remainder of the battle, working through almost the entirety of the available reserve ammunition. One of the precious T-64s disappeared as well.
As the exchange of fire continued, a depressing pattern emerged. The Soviets were killing light units on the German side but were unable to kill the Leopard tanks. Even the lightly armored Leopard I tanks seemed to lead a charmed life. Soviet Tanks showed no such immunity.
A pair of German helicopters appeared on the left, planning to make the last intact T-72 company substantially less intact. The canny German pilots seemed to have measured the distances with a micrometer. The Shilkas AA vehicles blazed way, creating a fine display of smoke, fire and falling branches, well short of the helicopters. The tank's AA machine guns stayed silent as the crew wisely stayed buttoned up. The helicopter's contribution was missiles into his precious T-72 company, fortunately missing or, in once case, destroying a fine hardwood that one day would have become a keepsake bench or chest along with many proud cuckoo clocks.
The helicopters came back in view. Brusilov stared in amazement as the Shilkas hammered some additional rounds in the air, more fireworks falling short. Enraged, he started to order his driver to take him to the battery but stopped and waved the KGB Lieutenant into the vehicle with him, his men piling in behind. Brusilov hammered on a Shilka's hatch until a sergeant opened it. Advance into range, THEN fire, he ordered the man. The sergeant seemed disposed to argue until he looked beyond Brusilov to the "aide". The KGB lieutenant was resting his hand on the fancy pistol's grip. The sergeant remembered how to salute and Brusilov watched as the two guns lurched forward. When the pair of helicopters bobbed up again a few hundred yards to the left of their prior position, one of them lurched, smoked and promptly dropped out of sight. There wasn't a satisfying explosion but the surviving helicopter disappeared as well.
Now a pair of German helicopters appeared on the Soviet right. The lead German pilot showed the same knowledge of the Shilka's range as had his comrade but he had not, apparently, passed the course requirement on knowledge of Soviet anti-air missiles. The Gaskin launchers volleyed as did the shoulder fired missiles from the infantry companies. A series of flashes amid smoke and there were no longer any helicopters threatening the right.
Unfortunately for the Soviets, the loss of the helicopters didn't stop the bleeding. The Leopards proved completely capable of eliminating the remaining Soviet tanks on their own. With the loss of the tanks, any chance of stopping the German river crossing was a fantasy. Instead Brusilov started issuing orders to fall back into the low hills behind. With not much else available, the Shilka batteries hosed down the German positions to cover the retreat.
[The selected mission was Free for All. Battle ended in a draw due to time, although the Soviets were holding the short end of the stick, loosing 6 units to 4. A weak plan with weak dice were not a winning combination for the Red Menace this time around. The Soviet player now has an appreciation of the difference between Team Yankee Americans and West Germans.]