“The Gap” is scenario 3 from Jim Day’s popular MBT (second edition, GMT, 2015).
The Soviet 8th Guards Army are pouring over the border into West Germany along with the rest of the Warsaw Pact. The 79th Guards Tank Division is given the honor of advancing first into the Fulda Gap, where it meets elements of the US 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), the Blackhorse Regiment. The cav’s mission – delay the Soviet forces while the rest of the US forces move up towards the border.
In this scenario, the US gets an under-strength Armored Cav Troop. That means we have an M1IP tank platoon (the IP model was basically a slightly upgraded M1 Abrams in terms of armor and electronics) and two pairs of M3 Bradleys along with an M106 for indirect fire support. We also get four recon infantry sections armed with little more than LAWs to deal with the oncoming onslaught of Soviet armor.
The Soviets get a ton of tanks and fighting vehicles. They have an entire reinforced tank company with which to take on the US cavalry. This means four platoons of T-80BV tanks, three platoons of BMP-2s filled with infantry that have RPG-22s (and in one case, a Saxhorn ATGM launcher). They also have three self-propelled artillery guns and a couple of engineer squads riding around in a pair of BTR-70s. They get a BRM-1 reconnaissance vehicle too. That is a heck of a lot of firepower.
The major US advantages lie with the American concealment and prepared fighting positions. Two vehicles may set up in a hull down position while four units can use hidden unit markers (I am playing solo so I didn’t use these). The US player also gets a bonus when searching for hull down positions and a +20 to initiative rolls each turn.
The main objective of the Soviets is to get off the left edge of the map board. The Americans obviously want to prevent this from happening.
Here’s how it went:
|Initial US Setup (ignore the errant KO marker)|
We’ve got map board 1 above map board 3 here with a village or town on either side of the maps. The game starts up with the US set up and the Soviets off board. From turn 1, the Soviets get their tanks moving while the rest of the company (BMPs etc.) comes on board on turn 3.
One of the great things about the US M3 and infantry cav units is that they are recon units and therefore get their own unique command counters. No need to be within the command span of the US company HQ.
I set my units up with the idea of basically funneling the Soviets through the middle of the map and into the kill zone set up by my M1 tanks. To this effect, I put infantry up on the top of the southern hill in the woods hex under full cover. The M3s are set up on the east side of the hill. I am hoping to hit out at the Soviets as they come on the board and then pull them back over the hill as soon as possible.
To the north of them, I put infantry beside the road to ambush any hapless Soviet tanks that try to dash west along it. To the north of them, set up in Hull Down positions, are two M3 Bradleys. To the west, set up in and around the crops (the crops give automatic partial hull down cover) are my M1 tank platoon.
Further west in the village is an infantry squad and the company HQ tank along with the M106 artillery and an M3 Bradley with a TOW launcher to fire from extreme range.
|Infantry and M3 Bradleys set up on and near hill in SE corner of map.|
|NE of map: A pair of Bradleys and infantry near the road set up on overwatch.|
|M1 Tank platoon set up in NW corner of map with CHQ and arty in village|
|End of Turn 1|
During Turn 1, the Soviet tanks come on board, taking eye-watering losses to long-range ATGM fire from the Bradleys. Three tanks are knocked out by the Bradleys on the hill on the northeast section of the map. A Bradley way back on the western edge takes out another T-80. The pair of M3s to the south miss both their shots with the second one actually incurring a weapons malfunction!
|End Turn 2|
By the end of turn 2, the Soviets have lost another pair of T-80s. However, the lead platoon is nearly halfway across the map and has managed a kill on an M1. The M3 Bradleys down near the southeast of the map are in deep trouble. One is killed while the other is in full reverse trying to get away from a pair of tanks rumbling towards it. As you can probably guess, the surviving M3 is the one with the weapons malfunction.
The Soviets try to use a kind of bounding overwatch to move their remaining tanks forward. A pair of T-80s is pursuing the M3 Bradley to the south, getting dangerously close to being out of the command span (the scenario rules say the Russian command span is 8 but I used 10 here). At this point, it hits me that this is probably a bad idea. The T-80s both fire and somehow both miss their prey.
The BMPs come on board and head west out of the little town nearest their map edge. Due to the trees to the north, the M3 Bradleys cannot get an LOS on them even though they are on top of a large hill.
The M1s are engaged with a Soviet tank platoon near the center of the board so the Soviet commander decides to just skirt around the southern hill and send the rest of his guys west while the Americans deal with the tanks. This seems like a pretty reasonable tactic at this point. There isn’t really anything that can hurt them that much, right?
The remaining pair of T-80s manage to both score kills on two M1 tanks at point blank range before being cut down by the Company HQ tank and the M3 Bradley in the town. A pair of T-80s races out of command span and tries to get into firing position near the town while the BMPs make a run across the hill and try to dash off the map.
Unfortunately for the Soviets, the M3’s weapons malfunction is repaired now and it starts killing BMPs. The pair of M3 Bradleys on the northern hill come down and try to get in position to score some kills on the swarm of BMPs as they make their escape. The infantry start to open fire on the nearest BMPs as they roll into sight.
More devastation occurs as the infantry up on the southern hill start firing off LAWs at the escaping BMPs, scoring a pair of hits. The M3 on the hill pours in GP fire on a Russian squad that has bailed out of its damaged vehicle. Meanwhile, the CHQ and the M3 in the town manage to easily dispatch the T-80s that were attempting to provide cover fire. The swarm of BMPs has been whittled down to a little over two platoons.
The BTR-70s near the center of the map start firing at the M3 Bradleys at close range, causing a bail out result on one. The other is unscratched.
A BMP manages to kill off the American M3 Bradley in the town to the north. Both CHQs fire at each other at point blank range and miss. The US artillery fire combined with the infantry GP fire and the M3 Bradley on the southern hill massacre two squads worth of Soviet troops, eliminating one and reducing two others.
On Turn 8, the rest of the BMPs and the Soviet CHQ race off the map edge, leaving behind the BTR-70s and (oops!) the 2S1 artillery as well. I have totally forgotten about them and concede them as lost to the enemy by the end of the scenario.
As you can guess, the Soviets lost badly in this one, with the US VPs reaching nearly double what was required for a win (something around 740, I think? – I was too numbed to count).
I had fun with this scenario. It’s really tense and although it may look like a cakewalk for the Soviets just by sheer numbers, it’s really easy to make a bad decision and lose quickly. Up until about turn 4, it looked like the Soviets would just cakewalk through the whole thing.
However, the Americans managed to cause enough problems to effectively hinder the Russians forces as they rushed towards the map edge. I would like to try this scenario again, this time using the Russian artillery more wisely and focusing my firepower just a bit more before rushing forward.