The latest of my “Saturday Afternoon Wargames” happened this weekend. We (Rob Connolly, Simon Griffiths, Phil Gray and I) played a 1960s World War 3 scenario using the Cold War Commander rules.
I wanted to try an earlier timeframe to use a few oddball units (IT-130 assault guns, BTR-60P open-topped APCs) that otherwise would have stayed in their box.
The scenario was “Encirclement” from the CWC rule book. It involved a NATO force trying to race the length of the table to avoid being cut off by Warsaw Pact forces. The NATO force consisted of a British mechanised infantry battalion (1/Cheshires) reinforced by a squadron of Chieftain Mk2 tanks (brand new in 1968) and a couple of companies’ worth of West German M48A2 tanks. NATO could also call upon off-table artillery support.
The Warsaw Pact force had two battalions of tanks (one each with T-62 and T-55), a company of IT-130s and a Motor Rifle Company in those open-topped BTRs. Simon and Phil, as the Warsaw Pact commanders, could also pick from a selection of additional units. They went for a battalion (three models) of off-table 122mm howitzers, a battery (two models) of truck-towed 100mm anti-tank guns, and an air-mobile reserve of four infantry platoons to be delivered by Mi-8 helicopters.
The battlefield consisted of a slice across a broad river valley. Across the valley (and hence down the long axis of the table) ran an embanked Autobahn which crossed the stream at the bottom of the valley via a culvert. Secondary roads crossed the stream via small bridges on both sides. Crest lines divided the table roughly into thirds, in the southernmost of which the NATO force began the game deployed.
I had suggested to Rob that he could theoretically, by dint of a series of very lucky die rolls get his entire NATO force down the Autobahn and off the far end of the table before the Soviets had even had a chance to enter the table. Sensibly, he chose to discount this option.
The Warsaw Pact forces were split with the T-55s and the IT-130s coming on from the east (on the right of the NATO forces) and the T-62s, motor rifles and AT guns entering from the left.
Rob started by throwing the German M48s forward on his extreme left while the Chieftains and the Cheshires advanced down the Autobahn.
To the east Phil moved the T-55s forwards behind the further ridgeline. Here they could hold a large wood (see below) from where they could fire into the flank of anyone moving along the Autobahn. He also moved the IT-130s to a position on the ridge.
Simon’s western Warpac force pushed its T-62s forwards to engage the German tanks. The BTR-60s accompanied them and eventually deployed their infantry into a small wood where they would eventually threaten the flanks of the Cheshires battlegroup as it skidded off the Autobahn.
The NATO force moved forward but the advance bogged down, the M48s trading shots with the T-62s and the Chieftains splitting their fire between the T-62s on their left and the IT-130s on their right. A better approach might have been to manoeuvre the Chieftains into a position where they could concentrate their fire on one or the other – the T-62s could probably have been taken out before the T-55s were in a position to intervene.
By the time Rob had to leave to make it back over the Pennines, the Cheshires had dismounted in the face of heavy fire from the Soviet anti-tank guns only to come under wickedly accurate howitzer fire. I took over for a turn and a half and managed to roll a couple of command bonuses with which I managed to take out all but one of the remaining T-62s but the toll on the Cheshires and their transport from AT guns, artillery, and RPG-7s had pushed the NATO force past its breakpoint. After 8 game turns we decided to call it a day and head for our various homes.
I had given Rob the biggest NATO force I could muster using 1968 technology and that meant giving him a force mix that was fairly realistic for the back-story I’d made up but wasn’t ideal for the gamer wanting the best chance to win. The mechanised infantry were more targets than anything useful. I’d partly balanced this by not properly applying the breakpoint reductions for Flexible Doctrine but even so I think Rob would have been pushed to win this game.
It was great fun though and I think I may seek out some more 1960s kit. A Hornet Malkara would make an interesting scratch-building project!