Thursday, June 4, 2015

Michigan Bolt Action League: Battle of Rostov 1942 What-if Scenario for Bolt Action and AAR

We recently played a participation game using a "What-If?" scenario of Rostov 1942. In truth, Rostov 1942 (there was a battle in 1941 and 1943 as well) was a forgone conclusion. Army Group South had to push into Rostov and take it as it was the gateway to the Caucasus mountains and the oil Germany needed. The Soviets had barely enough for a rearguard as the rest of the army retreated.

I chose this battle because there is one group I am especially interested in - the Slovak Rapid Division - that took part in it. This was basically their most famous fight. They moved through a collective farm, knocking away Soviet defenses, and entered Rostov from the northeast. They took part in some street fighting once they entered the city.
Rostov is at the base of the river Don at the end of the Sea of Azov. You can see the different army divisions spreading out through the peninsula after capturing Rostov.
There was some very tough street fighting, but in the end, Army Group South steamrolled through and opened up the path of advance. I chose to add an ahistorical option to the game to make it more fun and see what the Soviets could do if they had chosen to defend.I chose to devise three boards. This would allow us to spread the players out over the boards and allow for more decision making in each players' hands. The first two would be historically based. The city of Rostov, of course, with Soviet NKVD defending vs 5th SS 'Wiking' troops.

The second board would be the collective farm northeast of the city. On this board we had the Slovak Rapid Division vs the 55th Guards Division. The Slovaks had to push through farmland to get to Rostov and support the 5th SS.

The third board would be the ahistorical board. Here we would pit the 22nd Panzer Division (they were there) vs the 63rd Tank Brigade. In truth, Rostov was not defended by many tanks. The idea here is that the Tank Brigade has been sent to relieve the city, so they need to break through the 22nd Panzer to get there.

So in total, we have one board where both sides are fighting over the city; one board where the Axis forces are attacking; and one board where the Soviet forces are defending. Attackers conducted a preliminary bombardment; defenders were allowed to use the new 'dug-in' rule from Ostfront. I did not mess around with any city fighting rules from Ostfront, although they looked interesting.

Each side could move units from the outside boards to the inside by exiting across the board edge. After that, the order die for that unit goes in the bag for Rostov at the beginning of Rostov's next turn.

In addition, each force received 'divisional support'. I should have, but did not write the lists for every board, so I tried to supplement what the players brought to even the games a bit. The support:

Slovaks received: 88mm Gun
55th Guards received: T28 tank

NKVD received: KV2 tank (a bit ahistorical, but I did not have another heavy tank for them)
5.SS received: Stug33b (this tank was really only used at Stalingrad, but it was close)

22nd Pz received: Panzer IVG
63rd Tank Brigade received: three different tank skills from the tank war book

I made special dice bags just for this event - really cheap!
The setup started late because of kids. I apologized profusely, then we setup everything. Rostov received my Secret Weapon Tablescape that I finished just for this event.

The tiles turned out amazing :) I ended up putting some on some Crescent Root buildings, some Dust buildings, some silos, and some Amera Plastic Mouldings buildings. I threw on a ton of walls and rubble to provide cover in the streets.

The collective farm received a ton of Crescent Root buildings, some roads I purchased from Monday Knight Productions, a huge Gamecraft Miniatures barn and windmills, and farm terrain from JTT. Game mat by Cigar Box Battles.

Once the Slovaks made it up the road they could go over the bridge over the Don into Rostov.

The factory board was dominated by a factory model I picked up at Flintcon. Paul threw his buildings and walls out on the board. It looks like a ton of terrain for a wargame, but it looks real. We put my trains I picked up at a model railroad show in the middle.

You can see how the tables kinda connected here:

I'll post more photos in a gallery at the end of this post. I'll also include the packet I wrote up. We did 2,000 points on each table - two platoons. the 63rd Tank Brigade was made up of two armored platoons.

My thoughts on how the event went:

  • It was really fun! 
  • I made rulings, helped players with questions, and provided experience and moral support. 
  • We had gents travel from Niagara Falls, Canada. I couldn't believe that - that is great! Hope to see them again soon.
  • I need to make all the lists next time and provide them to players
  • 2,000 points was likely too much to manage for some players
  • We had a ten turn limit - would have made more sense to do six.
  • Early on I ruled that the farm crops were rough terrain, which was a really poor idea. The Slovaks were never going to make it near Rostov.
  • The Tablescapes look amazing in person
  • The idea of sending reinforcements is really cool, and really added an element to the games.
  • More city terrain was probably necessary
  • I think many players prefer to use late war tanks that have the special rules, better armor, and better/more guns. The 38Ts, BT-7s, T-34/76s, Panzer III/IV etc were kinda surprising to some folks, I think.
In the end, since it was so hard for the Slovaks to move into town, the game ended as a 15-6 loss for the Germans. The Soviet armored platoons were able to push into one objective on the factory board, and the 5.SS was able to take one objective in the city of Rostov. I learned a lot from this game and will definitely use it for our next one. 

Paul and I are running a schedule like this:
  • First month: Tournament
  • Second month: Scenario game
  • Third month: Open day
We had our tournament at RIW in April, the scenario game at Gamers Sanctuary in May, and now the open day at RIW in June. Check it out!

Here is the link to the PDF for the rules we used.

Following is a gallery of everything I saw!

NKVD troops in the city
T-34/76s drove up the center of the board. They had tank-riders
Green troops hide behind a building
The Germans flanked the Soviets' left side with tanks as they moved up and destroyed some tanks and troops
You can see how the Slovaks were bottled up by the farmland. Big mistake on my part. 
Some house to house fighting took place as the cavalry moved up

Eventually the Slovak PZ38ts moved in and took fire
The Soviet river defense in the form of Zis3, infantry, and team weapons

Comrade Joe defended his left flank with a pair of T34/76s
Tank riders were forced to dismount pretty early on
Thanks for reading! Check back next week to see how I did the color modulation on the Soviet tanks.

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