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GT:OS - second campaign mission

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33LIMA    762

I give myself a fright, in my second Ostfront campaign battle!




Having gained ground on my first mission, in my effort to sieze bridgeheads over the river Mzha at Pavlovka, I'm keen to use my gains as a springboard to get over the river and give the Soviet 104th Motor Rifle Brigade another bloody nose. As a newly-arrived kampfgruppe commander in Das Reich, I'm also keen to prove myself, though anxious not to foul it up, either. And it looks like I am about to be given ample opportunity to make a mess. For some reason, the mission 'briefing' credits us with capturing a bridgehead  - perhaps something is lost in translation here, as the best we have done in my sector is to reach the river on our side, not actually get across it. But my real problem now is that Ivan is reported to be throwing a tank brigade against us, from the north-east. I don't know what sort of tanks they have, but this really doesn't sound good. Nevertheless, if at all possible, I want to throw some troops over the river, before going over to the defensive to meet this counterattack.




I'm hoping that my own heavier armour will have arrived on the scene by now. But my hopes are dashed when I find that they are still not deployable. All I have is the same re-inforced Grenadier (infantry) company to the west of Pavlovka, and the Panzer Pioneers who fought my first battle, now depleted by the loss of one of their SPWs.


A look at the map shows there is a small pocket of Ivans to the south, but I'm more interested in pressing on than wiping them out. Nevertheless, in moving my Panzer Pioneere towards the river, I keep one platoon in reserve, to the east of the little pocket, where it can contain them...or perhaps destroy them, if the opportunity presents itself.


On my left flank, I move my footsloggers west, heading for Pavlovka. In GT:OS, there are limits as to which squares (even within move distance) you can move a platoon onto, and in this case, my rear platoon, near the river bank, is left trailing behind the lead platoons. I can see that these fellows are going to be quite isolated until they can close up with the rest of the company, but I'm in a hurry, and accept the risk. Which I am about to be given cause to regret.


These moves trigger two battles. To the east, a Soviet counterattack is coming in at the point where my Grenadiers and Pioneers have come together. This one doesn't worry me unduly, as it involves infantry only. But on the left, as luck would have it, more bad boys from the 104th Motor Rifles have decided to go for my isolated Grenadier platoon, which has reached a wood to the west of Pavlovka, close to the river. I took a chance, and now I'm going to have to pay the price.




I have visions of the Ostfront equivalent of Custer's Last Stand, a platoon wiped out that I will surely miss later. I put such thoughts aside, and choose to fight this battle first. At least this time it's daylight, and I'll be able to see what I'm doing. Time for the Das Reich to show the Bolshevists what we're made of!


...to be continued!

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33LIMA    762

Watch your arcs!

I waste no time in orienting my Grenadier platoon to meet the expected attack. We deploy inside the wood, in a flattened triangle with its base at right-angles to the direction of the expected incursion, and platoon HQ roughly in the middle. I keep all four sections/squads back from the enemy side of the wood. Long lines of view and fire work in both directions! My plan is to hit the enemy as they enter the wood, from close range, using the depth section for local counterattacks as the opportunity arises. If we need to re-orient, the woods will provide some cover.

If there’s a way of deploying scouts as OPs closer to the northern, enemy edge of the wood, I don’t know what it is, but the leafless trees are fairly sparse and we have some visibility towards the far side of the river, from whence the attack will likely come.

The good news is that I have some armoured fire support – a half-tracked SdKfz 251/9 kanonenwagen, mounting the same short 7.5cm gun as early Panzer IVs and StuG IIIs (and the last model of the Panzer III). I position this in the middle, well covered by infantry, and set his priority arc of fire.






We haven’t been here long enough to dig in, but I give everybody the order to stay concealed and defend.




This is my virtual persona, the grenadier platoon commander, and he looks a bit worried, for reasons which are perfectly understandable. We’re on our own out here, the rest of the reinforced company having pressed on to the east, towards Pavlovka. There’s a lot hanging on the poor fellow’s shoulders.




We wait, then wait some more, for something to happen. Nothing does. After another few minutes, deciding that hiding in the middle of the wood like an ostrich is, perhaps, not such a wonderful idea, I push my troops a little further north, in case we’re missing something important, and to give me fields of fire down towards the river obstacle, just to the north. But still, nothing happens.






Right, that’s it! I’ll be dammed if we’re going to sit here all day, waiting upon Ivan’s pleasure. Our kampfgruppe’s mission is to seize crossings over the Mzha. And one such crossing - a ford. by the look of the map - is but a short distance directly north of us. I might as well make a dash for it! If the enemy attack comes in, well, then we’ll meet it from a bridgehead on the far bank. Let’s do it!

From the map, I plan my move. First, I order two sections and the kanonenwagen up to the northern edge of the woods, to cover the crossing.






Then I order two other sections to leapfrog them and cross. I am a bit wary of the crossing itself, but the leading section is able to walk over the evidently-frozen river at the site of the ford.






The other section reaches the bank further east, and without needing any prompting, decides to stick to the ford, turns left to reach it, then follows the leading section over. Good work, meine herren! I spread out the two sections in a rough, flattened arc, in a straggling patch of trees on the far bank, facing north-east. Then I bring a third section across, and slot it into the gap on their right, nearest the river where they are mostly in dead ground. Platoon HQ, the fourth section and the kanonenwagen I place on the southern bank, to cover the troops who’ve crossed the river. Right – now get down! Take cover! And watch your arcs!




No sooner have I begun setting the aforementioned arcs, than small-arms fire breaks out to our front. Contact! Enemy front! Give me an effing minute, will you, I just got here, I tell the unseen Reds, in my head. But I know I'm lucky - a minute or two earlier, and they'd have caught us on the hop. Well, come and have a go, if you think you're hard enough! We're the Das Reich, and now, we're ready for you!




...to be continued!

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33LIMA    762

The Russians are coming...again...




There's a bang amongst the mounting rattle small arms fire, and a dark fountain of earth springs up in the open ground to the north-east of my little bridgehead, across which the Soviets are advancing. I realise my kanonenwagen has joined the fray. She's firing from the position down by the river to the right, where I'd moved her to provide a good field of fire into my killing ground.




The enemy is not the human wave I feared, more like a fighting patrol, maybe weak platoon strength. From what I can see of them, the Reds are working their way forward in short rushes, pausing to fire their bolt-action Mosin-Nagant rifles and PPSh submachine guns.




The combination of disciplined fire from my Grenadiers and HE rounds lobbed over by the kanonenwagen cuts them down as they try to cross the open snowfields. Like the poor fellow below, who has slumped to his knees as the flying dirt from the HE round which got him falls back to earth all around. Next second, he groaned and slumped forwaed onto the snow-laden soil of Mother Russia...or rather, considering where we really are today, Mother Ukraine.




I try to set up a mortar shoot, but fumble the drill half way through and the rounds are never fired. Fortunately, they’re not needed. The attack withers away.

Taking advantage of a lull in the combat, I adjust the positions of my three sections over the bridgehead, pushing them slightly further out, towards the edges of the wood. And I bring platoon HQ over the river to join them.






Another group of enemy infantry is reported emerging from the treeline further to the east, but this effort is just as feeble at the first attack, more infantry without and supporting fire. It’s not for want of courage that it fails. The Reds make a very determined attempt to get at us, across the open ground. I don’t know whether they are near-fanatical patriots, have been well topped-up with Vodka, or have Commissars behind, threatening to shoot anyone who goes back. Maybe all three. But from what I can see, they won’t stop until we drop them in their tracks.




Some of them nearly reach my foremost positions, before crumpling into the snow.




As usual, I’m relishing being able to play from a ground level view, with all labels and markers turned off, switching to the full-screen map view to check contact or other reports, give orders and in general, to follow the ebb and flow of battle. Not for me the God’s Eye view, or markers turned on. It’s less convenient and more confusing, certainly but it feels a whole lot more real. If I could, I would pass a law, effective world-wide and imediately, outlawing the incorporation of a God’s Eye view in PC wargames. Why? Well, to compel developers to ensure that their games are fully playable without it. A well marked-up map should be more than enough. PC wargames should simulate war, not a wargame. But I digress…

We have now defeated two waves of attackers – quite small waves, admittedly, but defeated they’ve surely been. And not only has the counterattack been beaten off, we’ve secured a bridgehead over the Mzha in the process. Not where, when or how we originally intended – the plan was to seize the bridges on the far, eastern side of Pavlovka, or at a pinch, the ones in the village itself. But the opportunity presented itself, and we took it. How the kampfgruppe adapts its plans to this development, will be something I’ll have to think about in the next turn. I do know that it would be good to get a bridge or two as well, rather than relying on a ford which I still haven’t established is passable to any kind of vehicles.

By this time, the clock is counting down towards the end of the turn. A last ‘crazy Ivan’ is shot down as he makes a hopeless rush towards our bridgehead, his demise observed through binoculars from the position of the kanonenwagen. Then, all is still once more.




The troops in the bridgehead begin to relax. There seem to be two casualties here, regrettable but modest enough for the outcome. By contrast, the field in front of us is liberally sprinkled with the enemy's dead.




The results screen credits us with a minor victory, which I think is fair enough. We haven’t taken any key points, but have inflicted significantly more casualties than we suffered; albeit that's clearly a reflection of our greater strength and firepower. And we’re over the river. Considering that I started the battle fully expecting to be wiped out, I’m more than content with all this.




As in fact I am, with the mission itself. I wouldn’t like it in real life, if every operation resulted in a desperate fight to the death, killing or wounding many of my men. Nor would real armies last very long, at such rates of attrition – as Phyrrus of Epirus supposedly said after one of the kind of victories named after him, ’Another victory like that will be the end of us’. Or words to that effect. So I don’t much like that kind of fight in a simulated campaign either, where losses are cumulative and resupply is nether automated not guaranteed. The interest and the challenge of planning and conducting a simulated military operation, as part of an interwoven series of such operations, is what I’m liking most about GT:OS. The battles which result are just a part of that experience; the icing on the cake, almost. I really appreciate the time and the space that GT:OS is providing me, in my efforts to apply something akin to realistic military drills and solutions to simulated military problems. The antithesis of the click fest, if you will. The uncertainty and the anticipation are as immersive as the flying tracers and the booming shells.

I’m sure there will be more desperate battles at some point, when it’s the enemy, not us, who has ‘Got there firstest, with the mostest’, when we are swarmed by T-34s, or perhaps human waves with fixed bayonets. But that’ll be for another day. Now, I need to get over to the east, where my kampfgruppe's main force has also been engaged. Is this another desperate attack by penny-packets of infantry from the hard-pressed 104th Motor Rifles? Or something altogether more dangerous? Whatever it is, I need to deal with it quickly, then get across those bridges, before the advance guard of the 195th Tank Brigade, reported coming down from the north-east, threatens to turn the tide of battle against me. Suddenly, that staff job I left behind in Berlin just a few days ago is but a distant and fading memory!

Before I dash off to rejoin my Panzer Pioniere at Pavlovka, I want to share some links to the best GT:OS videos I’ve so far found. They are by Guetapens, and (with an EMB graphical mod, I think) nicely illustrate how the battles look (and sound), when played as I play them, from more realistic viewpoints - and without those intrusive labels. The clips also depict some neat touches, like the ability to lock the camera to an individual vehicle or soldier. This is surely Graviteam Tactics: Operation Star at its very best! And that is very, very good indeed!


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