These days, in between bouts of 7th Fleet and Nations at War, I’ve been having fun playing the World at War expansion, Counterattack. After playing through its first scenario, “Dial 411 for Information”, the second scenario, called “One Thing At a Time”, was quickly set up on my table over the weekend.
The background here is that NATO is desperately trying to stall the Soviet advance into France in early June of ’85. In order to stem the tide, the Americans send in a special group of Sheridan tanks behind the front lines to hit at reinforcements coming through Dattenberg. The Soviets will score VPs by both exiting units off the west side of the map and taking out the Sheridans.
The order of battle is quite interesting as the Americans only get four platoons to work with from the 3-73 formation. These are nowhere near as powerful as Abrams tanks, with neither their armor toughness nor their range capabilities (Sheridans have a 1-5 armor rating and range of only 11 and cannot fire at extended range). The Soviets have two formations, the 65th Tank Regiment and the 143rd Tank Regiment. These are all composed of T-64 platoons with extended range capable cannons. To make up for the lack of US long range firepower, the US 3-73 formation gets a DPICM strike (that can hit three surrounding hexes) every single turn.
This scenario takes place on the Blood & Bridges map and the activation mechanic forgoes the usual chit-pull routine in favor of two tables that outline an order of activations for both sides. The table that you use is rolled for each turn so even though there is less unpredictability here, the order of activations is by no means set in stone, giving the scenario some nice replayability.
Here’s how things panned out during one of my plays of “One Thing At a Time”:
The Soviets set up first here and they don’t get many options. The 65th Tank is splayed in column formation along the road from Anhausen to Dattenberg, sitting right out in the open. The only decision here is where exactly to put your HQ, which can be a bit agonizing as the US player sets up second with a wide range of options.
|65th Tank Regiment: Lined up and ready for a beatin’!|
The 143rd is set up in and adjacent to Rieden way on the east side of the map.
|The 143rd Tank Regiment in and around Rieden.|
The Americans choose to set up on the hill to the southwest of Dattenberg, overlooking the broad expanse to the east with a nice shot at the oncoming Soviet tanks. This provides excellent defensive cover as well. The Sheridans will benefit with one extra defensive die due to their being on a hillside (should the Soviets fire from ground level) and another die for being in woods hexes.
|American Sheridan tanks of the 3-73 perched on a hilltop on the west side of the map.|
The 3-73 starts off with a bang and serves up a piping hot plate of Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions on the HQ of the 65th and the surrounding T-64 platoons. Fortunately for the Soviet tankers, it manages to reduce only the platoon with the HQ while the two other nearby platoons are disrupted.
The Sheridans fire off their Shillelagh anti-tank missiles, which destroy two T-64 platoons. Overall, the 65th is bruised by the opening salvo but definitely still in the fight. The Soviet tank commander pulls back his disrupted platoons towards Anhausen, where they are out of range of the American anti-tank missiles and they have better cover in the city ruins.
Meanwhile, the 143rd Tank Regiment creeps westwards along the south side of the board, hoping to have the US tanks within long range striking distance by next turn.
|The 65th Tank Regiment HQ pulls back with disrupted forces while lead elements sit waiting to advance.|
The 3-73 starts the turn off again with DPICM strikes, this time aimed at the T-64s and HQ of the 143rd Tank Regiment. The strike is somewhat effective, catching the Russian tanks in the open and reducing two platoons and the Soviet HQ. The DPICMs are the only thing to strike out at the Russians this turn as the Soviet tanks are either out of American AT missile range or not in line of sight.
The 143rd keeps moving up to find range on the Sheridan tanks. Moving fire is almost totally ineffective, causing only one disruption on one American platoon, which it shakes off easily during the next 3-73 activation.
The 65th moves its lead tanks into Dattenberg while long range fire from the units back in Anhausen serve as deadly cover fire, reducing one of the Sheridan platoons sitting on the east side of their hillside defensive positions.
|The 143rd finds no purchase in its attempts to destroy the 3-73 at extended range.|
Having been stung by the long range fire from the 65th Tank Regiment, the 3-73 throws the DPICM artillery strikes at the Soviet HQ sitting in Anhausen. The city ruins prove effective cover, however, and the artillery strike manages only to disrupt two Soviet tank platoons.
The Soviets hit their stride this turn. The 143rd fires from long range at the Sheridans, killing one of the American platoons. The 65th activates later in the turn, hammering the two Sheridan platoons sitting with the 3-73 HQ, killing one and disrupting the other. Half the American force has been wiped out so far, so the 65th Tank Regiment commander pushes his lead platoons straight out of Dattenberg and towards the exit hex on the west side of the board. Victory seems to be within the Soviets’ grasp.
|The 65th Tank Regiment sends two platoons far out ahead to dash for the exit hex. 3-73 is hurting badly.|
The 143rd gets an activation right off the bat and destroys the remaining Sheridan stacked with the US 3-73 HQ, leaving only a single American unit sitting on the board. It’s starting to look like game over for the Americans at this point. The Soviet 65th takes some fire from the single American unit but shrugs it off with a successful armor save roll.
The two lead units of the 65th are far away to the west of their HQ and end up out of command, even though they are in striking distance of getting off the board.
The Americans get their HQ back and let loose at the two Soviet lead units of the 65th Tank Regiment, incurring one disruption. Anti-tank missiles do the rest of the job by finishing off one of the lead Soviet tank platoons. The Russians now have only one platoon that can possibly get to the exit hex now. It’s down to the wire on this one as turn six is fast approaching.
The lead tank of the 65th, far outside of its HQ’s limited command range, rolls for command and is indeed in command! It saunters its way to the west side of the board. One more activation and it will have exited, earning the Soviets some nice VPs.
The 3-73 activates and can only move this turn in order to find LOS on the single Soviet tank platoon making its way to the exit hex. The 143rd keeps heading west though it has no chance of reaching the exit hex on time.
|The sole remaining Sheridan moves west to fire on the sole lead tank of the 65th Soviet Tank Regiment.|
The 3-73 activates and the sole remaining lead Soviet unit of the 65th Tank Regiment is destroyed in a hail of DPICM and anti-tank missiles. This basically ruins the Soviet chances for VPs. The 143rd and the remainder of the 65th Tank Regiment move further west, vainly attempting to reach the exit hex.
With no Soviet units exited from the board but three of the four American units destroyed, I decide to count this as three victory points for the Russians, which comes out to an American Victory, according to the scenario rules. However, if the scenario went on for even one or two more turns, I felt this probably would have been an overwhelming Soviet victory.
|End Game – The Soviets have failed to exit any units off the map. That lonely Sheridan is in a bit of trouble though…|
The American DPICM strikes were brutal and managed to hurt the Soviets every time they landed. The fact that one strike can hit multiple hexes at the same time makes them incredibly dangerous. The best Soviet option seems to be to stay out of US anti-tank missile range and fire away at extended range in hopes of damaging the 3-73 just enough to get Russian tank platoons safely off the board.
With the Americans getting a bonus dice each for a.) being in an elevated position and b.) in a forested hex, it was hard work for the Russians to acheive their goals. Alternately, having played this scenario with a Soviet rush to simply close range assault the Americans or just get guys moving off the map with limited covering fire, I can say that these tactics don’t seem to work so well either unless the Soviets are extremely lucky. Had the Soviet lead tanks of the 65th been in command during turn five, I felt the Russians would have had this in the bag but with a 6 morale rating, the chances of this working out were quite low. Likewise, the Soviets can’t afford to just disrupt the US Sheridans with their exceptionally high morale of 8 as they can shrug off disruptions easily on their next activation.
I liked this scenario as the two sides are very different in terms of their capabilities at various ranges and the resources they have at their command and it reminds me a little of the excellent Angels of Death scenario from Blood & Bridges.