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GT:OS - campaign finale

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33LIMA    762

Das Reich finally secures the Pavlovka bridgeheads!




Well, I finally reached the end of my first campaign in Graviteam Tactics: Operation Star, having in the process just about secured and held my campaign objectives, though not earning a victory (in a typically arcane GT:OS reckoning!).


The Pavlovka campaign had reached its final (eighth) operational-level turn, so although I might have several battles to fight at tactical level, I knew my time was running out. So to the east of Pavlovka, I pushed a combined force of StuG III assault guns and panzer pioneers northwards towards the River Mzha, intending to reinforce my battered units on the far bank and establish a bridgehead so strong that the Reds would be unable to kick me out of it, try as they might. That was the plan, anyway.




It was quite a tense business, as my SPWs, advancing on the left, changed from line to column formation to ford the river in the snowy darkness. There was a  certain amount of bunching up as they reached the near bank...




...but the half-tracks quickly shook themselves out and made the crossing without opposition, passing the frozen bodies of casualties from the earlier fighting.




To their right, my two StuGs had moved up to a fire position on the southern bank, accompanied by an infantry platoon...




,,,but meeting no opposition, they then made their own crossing and swung north-east, to establish a blocking position against the Red tank brigade still expected to hit us from that direction.




At this point, the GT:OS curtain came down. I don't recall there being any contact as I write this, so I'm not clear what caused the handful of wounded reported on each side (or why they aren't counted in the casualty total). I'd achieved what I'd set out to, and gained some ground at the enemy's expense, so I'm not especially bothered that GT:OS only awarded me a draw. Equally I'm not bothered about the lack of combat. For me, 75% of the fun is laying and carrying out your plans, with the excitement and uncertainty as to whether, how and when the other side may, or may not, make the effort to mess things up for you.




I didn't know it at the time, but the next battle was going to be my last one of the campaign. And it was going to be an altogether more violent and bloody affair.


...to be continued!

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33LIMA    762

Contact on the right flank!


Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm finding it mildly frustrating that there can appear to be some inter-mission discontinuity, between GT:OS campaign missions. The map view below, at the start of my final operational-level turn, shows my StuGs (blue unit marker, 'tracked vehicle' oval with the dot in the centre) not across the river to the north west (where I left them at the end of the last move) but back on the southern bank. True, within limits you get to reposition units before each tactical phase, but in what turns out to be my last roll of the proverbial dice, my StuGs will be playing no part.




Instead, as the red arrows on the map show, the surviving troops from my original eastern bridgehead are what I've got, and they're being counterattacked. Perhaps things would have turned out differently had I made different choices earlier, but having been denied my heavy armour until well into the operation, it's a bit frustrating that this last battle will be fought without my StuGs, never mind my Tigers.


What I do have is the remains of two infantry platoons. The one on the right is dug in and has a lightly-armoured but powerful Marder III self-propelled A/T gun. I place this so as to cover the track leading down from the north-east, and then set up the infantry nearby, to cover it.




On the left, I set up the other platoon in the same woods. This is what's left of my leading panzer pioneers, with a single SPW their only available armour. They're basically covering the left flank and rear of the other lot, with a field of fire as far as another track which runs north-south and is a second likely axis of advance for the enemy.


We did have another SP gun in this sector, a Marder II, but it was knocked out in the earlier battle with Soviet light tanks. Both the Marder and one of its victms still stand where they lay after that fight, just to the right of my positions.




I'm pretty thinly stretched and hoping not to be heavily attacked, but of course that's exactly what happens. Enemy armour is spotted (and heard) coming down another north-south track. This is not the one covered by my sole decent A/T weapon. This is early 1943 and we have no infantry A/T weapons like Panzerfausts or Panzerschrecks.




As usual, I'm playing with all 3-d world markers turned off and from a near ground level viewpoint, for maximum immersion - I prefer GT:OS to simulate war, not simulate a wargame. But I roll the camera out and just ahead of my forward troops, to see what they can see. And what they can see is a platoon of T-60 light tanks, headed down the centre track towards us, roughly in my centre.




They've got a few infantrymen with them too, and while my grenadiers are soon lacing into these, the light tanks return fire with 20mm cannon and co-axial MGs.




I don't especailly want my thin-skinned Marder to leave the protection of its tank scrape, but I know that it has no clear field of fire through the woods towards the centre of my positions. I hestitate briefly, before accepting the inevitable and ordering him to displace to the north-west, leaving the wreck of the other Marder behind.




He doesn't have to go far. He spots the T-60s and lets fly.




I see at least one of his rounds splinter a tree to his front, but others find their mark, and the effect of a 7.5cm AP round on light tanks is all too predictably disastrous, for the latter.




Some of the accompanying troops are caught up in the fireballs which engulf their armour. They run mindlessly to and fro, their clothing ablaze.




The 20mm cannon of the T-60s are a serious danger for my Marder, so I'm relieved when the rearmost Soviet llight tank also goes up in flames.




So far, so good! But no sooner is the first battle on the right flank won, than it's kicking off, over on my left.


...to be continued!

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33LIMA    762

Final fling!




The second enemy attack comes in on my left. Any hopes that it's just infantry are soon dashed. It's more armour; probably more light tanks, but that's more than a match for my weak infantry platoon over there, bereft as it is of significant A/T weaponry.




I order my Marder to switch flanks, and soon, he's trundling through the left-flank platoon's hasty defensive positions.




However, he's too late to stop the platoon from being outflanked on their extreme left. Destroying the platoon HQ, the enemy armour pushed south, reaching the track which runs west to east along the rear of our positions. I hastily divert the Marder to the left, and he runs out onto the track.




At this point, I mess things up. Some of the Red armour seems intent on reaching the river to the south, but other tanks are reported heading east down this track. I know the Marder is going to meet them head on. The Marder wisely halts, but, eager to save the infantry the Red tanks are shooting up, I push him further forward. This generates the desired combat, but it goes against me, and the Marder goes up in flames!




I have just lost my only decent A/T weapon! I should have got him into an ambush position in the woods and let the enemy come to him, but it's too late now for second thoughts.




Part of my problem is that these enemy tanks are T-70s, not T-60s, armed with a much better 45mm gun, instead of a 20mm cannon. The T-70s spread out and enter the woods, over-running my left-flank platoon...




...and catching their SPW, which I pulled back deeper into the woods, too late to save him.




By this point, I have rather run out of options; attractive ones, at any rate. My infantry here are pretty well pinned down by the T-70s. Fortunately, they seem to be without supporting infantry of their own. My troops take advantage of this - there's a flash and a gout of smoke from the rear of the nearest T-70; it looks like he's been hit by an A/T grenade!




The tank goes up in flames. The hatches flip open, but nobody gets out.




At about that point, I finally run out of time, as well as realistic options. The battle is rated as a 'minor defeat', which is probably about right - we won emphatically on the right flank, but the Reds had the last laugh.




Returning from the tactical to the operational level, I find the campaign is now complete. The debriefing tells me that - as I can see for myself from the map - Das Reich has succeeded in clearing Pavlovka and securing crossings over the Mzha. Overall, though, counting up victory points, the campaign is rated as a defeat. Perhaps I should have mopped up those enemy hold-outs to our right and rear. But while I'm lucky we caced nothing wose than light tanks, they were enough to match the light armour which was all I was able to deploy for nearly all of the campaign. And I still haven't got the hang of calling in artillery, assuming I had any avaibable. Still, it's been a great introduction to Graviteam's magnum opus, and I'm looking forward to pitching in to my next campaign!

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