Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Crisis Point - a first report

So Crisis Point came and went at the weekend and I think it's been a great success. We took over Dungworth Village Hall for the weekend and managed to entertain and feed fifteen participants for the weekend. 

I'd originally planned for three games with the deliberately vague theme of "Invasion" but we were unfortunate in losing one of the games due to family commitments and then, late in the planning process, losing its hastily arranged replacement due to illness.

Despite this we managed to comfortably accommodate the players we had and all of them seem to have enjoyed the experience. A nice side-effect of the cancellation of our original third game was that in the end all of us were playing in the same alternate-reality setting; a Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in Summer 1948.

The first game set up was my Stary Boleslav. As regulars here will know, this involved two Soviet Forward Detachments (mixed brigades) advancing on the eponymous Czechoslovak city. The defenders had a single, somewhat disorganised, brigade to resist them across two axes of advance.

I'll put out a later post describing how my planning of the game worked out in detail but for now you need to know that on both axes of advance the Soviet forces found themselves up against a stiffening Czechoslovak defence along the line of the major river. In both cases the Soviets pushed forward with tank units leading and tried to bash through the built-up areas along the river.

In the south Jamie C and Matt Z ran into a few problems by advancing faster than they expected. Their lead Soviet units were so fast that they ran into their own pre-programmed artillery fire.

The southern table, looking toward Stary Boleslav

The first southern table with the town of
Albrechtice top right and Dobruske village
top left

Arthur W and Richard P as the Czechoslovaks fought hard and forced back some of the attacking units before a strike by Soviet Pe-2 dive-bombers took out the headquarters of the infantry battalion defending Albrechtice.

Pe-2 strike on Albrechtice

Both sides had had the option to purchase supporting forces before the game. Jamie and Matt invested some of their points in arranging for the presence of two spetsnaz units in the Czechoslovaks' rear area. One of these, deployed near the airfield, successfully called in a medium bomber strike by a flight of lend-lease B-25 Mitchells somehow kept flying after the end of the Great Patriotic War.

The bomber strike would have been ideally placed to delay the arrival of a Czechoslovak Army "tank" battalion (actually Hetzer self-propelled guns) but delays in getting the message through meant that the strike served only to crater the road near the Dobruske bridge.

The road to Albrechtice turned into a major traffic jam as the Soviets' second echelon passed the parked trucks of the motorised rifle battalion that had supported the initial tank attack on the town.

Infantry are hard to winkle out of towns but repeated artillery and air strikes and the close-range intentions of T-34s and Soviet infantry eventually whittled down the defenders of Albrechtice and Dobruske.

In the north Stuart A and Ned W pushed their Soviet units towards two river crossings; the railway bridge on the right and the medieval stone bridge in Blatno, which was ably defended by Tom Z. 

The northern table, looking west towards
Stary Boleslav. Blatno is the large 
built-up-area on the river.

The old bridge at Blatno with Czechoslovak defenders on the left

Beyond the river was an old castle into which Matt C deployed the only anti-aircraft guns in the game - a couple of troops of 88mm Flak-36s! Being dual-purpose weapons they were able to engage Soviet tanks. Unfortunately for Matt they spent most of the game ineffectually firing at extreme range at heavily armoured T-44s.

The castle - a Kibri Z-scale kit expertly
assembled by Richard P

Legend has it that Field Marshal Sir John French once said, "The machine-gun has no stopping power against the horse." I've been unable to confirm the accuracy of the quote but I can now confirm that if the machine-gun in question is mounted on a low-flying Czechoslovak Spitfire, French is incorrect.

Stuart's Cossack battalion had made good progress and was in the process of crossing the railway bridge when first a strafing attack from Spitfires and then a Czechoslovak artillery barrage stopped their advance.

By the time we reached two o'clock on Sunday (an hour before our planned finish time) it was apparent that a Soviet breakthrough was imminent on both tables. 

In the south the defenders were reduced to a few infantry cowering in the ruins of Albrechtice and some engineers strung out along the highway behind the town. Jamie and Matt Z had husbanded their heavy self-propelled gun regiment and an attached heavy tank regiment as a reserve. They were ideally placed to exploit the hard-won breakthrough.

In the north a similar situation applied. The T-44 company attached to the Cossacks had done much of the hard work capturing the railway bridge and artillery and airstrikes had suppressed the defenders of the castle. A T-34 tank battalion was ready to move into the enemy rear.

We assessed that if we played for the additional hour two things would happen. Firstly the Czechoslovak players would get to see their final forces destroyed or routed, and secondly the Soviet players would get about halfway to Stary Boleslav.

We therefore called the result a tactical Soviet victory but a marginal strategic victory to the Czechoslovakians. There wouldn't be any medals for the Soviet commanders but they'd probably avoided being sent to guard a chemical weapons facility in Uzbekistan!

I'll do another post shortly reviewing how the TacWWII rules worked for this event.


Meanwhile on the other table, Andy T and Neil M were running Czeska Skalice, another game in the same 1948 setting but using the Cold War Commander rules. 

I didn't get to see what was going on in detail but Rob C, Dex M, Phil G and Ron P seemed to be having a great time. For more details see referee Andy's report here.

Richard P also has some fine reports on the weekend: Part one - the set up and Part Two - the games


Cold War Commanders said...

Fantastic weekend and both games looked great. Arthur and I held out as long as we could and in hindsight I could have kept the Hetzers in reserve further back and engaged in long range sniping but where's the fun in that 😂 Charge!

Counterpane said...

Cheers Richard!

Steve J. said...

Lovely photos of the games there and I must admit I'm really taken with that castle, that I might need to get...

Tales from Shed HQ said...

The castle is a great kit. There's a few in the Kibri-Z scale range that work great with 6mm miniatures

Andy T said...

Great write up Richard. Thanks for organising the weekend. It's interesting that we got basically the same result in both games: extremely stubborn resistance from the Czechoslovak defenders before eventually succumbing to sheer weight of fire. It seems that quantity does indeed have a quality of its own.

Counterpane said...

Cheers Andy!