Today, I played through the first scenario of Operation Garbo, the Swedish front expansion for World at War. Titled, “The Hammer of Thor”, this particular battle features three Soviet formations against three Swedish formations as they duke it out for control of a city. The objective for each side is very simple. The Swedes need to attack and hold an entire city (Ranea, in the northeast corner of board B) in 8 turns while the Soviets need to hold them off.
|Swedes must capture Ranea in NE corner.
In order to accomplish this task, the Swedes get the SN Tank Company, TN Tank Destroyer Company, and the QJ Mechanized Infantry Company. The SN company consists of slow but deadly Centurion tanks while TN has faster but more vulnerable IKV91s. The QJ Mechanized Company has three platoons of infantry each carried in extremely versatile PBV-302 armored personnel carriers.
The Soviets, on the other hand, get the 22nd Naval Regiment, which has weak but very fast PT-76 tanks that can pack a decent punch at very close range. The 22nd Support Battalion has a bunch of old BTR-60 APCs with three infantry platoons and two Sagger anti-tank missiles. Finally, the 22nd Tank Battalion can scarcely be called a battalion at all with only a headquarters unit and a single platoon of T-55 tanks. It seems the Russians saved their best for the central European front and sent in their second-line units to take on the Swedes.
Both sides get several HE and Smoke artillery missions to make things more fun.
This particular battle is fought on a single map with six formations so things get quite crowded quickly and with artillery and smoke flying around everywhere, it gets pretty cozy.
Trying to plan out my deployment for the Soviets, I decided to keep my T-55s away from the hillsides and out of sight of the Swedish tank destroyers. I wanted them to be available when the fighting got closer to the city. I placed them near enough to the city so that they can respond quickly to any Swedish rushes.
The PT-76s are even more vulnerable than the T-55s and, for that reason, I also keep them well out of sight by placing them to the north side of the board, just near the forests where some Swedish units might try to wheel around to attack the city from.
The infantry and BTR-60s from the 22nd Support Battalion are placed on the hills to the south of Ranea with enough LOS that the HQ can call in artillery on the Swedes and hopefully fire off some Saggers at any approaching Swedish tanks.
The hope is that the infantry and Saggers will weaken the Swedes before they get near the city and the PT-76s and T-55s will engage any survivors at close range and finish them off.
|Soviets set up with infantry to south, T-55s to the rear and PT-76s to the north.
As for the Swedes, I decide that the Swedish QJ Mech Infantry will be placed to the south of their deployment zone and they will take this southern route to hit out at the Soviet infantry of the 22nd Support Battalion, thus eliminating the Soviet anti-tank capability.
SN Tank company will start out in the forest area in the deployment zone and provide long range fire support as well as artillery to cover the advance of both QJ and TN.
TN will advance quickly along the road, take Nottrask, cross the bridge and engage any nearby Soviet enemies around Ranea so that the infantry from QJ will be able to safely enter the city after finishing off the Soviet infantry from 22nd Support Battalion.
At least, that was the plan. Things turned out very very different.
A couple of special scenario rules are in effect for this turn. First of all, the Soviet 22nd Support Battalion, after a hard night of partying in Ranea, is still completely hammered and unable to activate this turn. The Swedish have complete surprise and can pull one of their formation markers out to start the game off.
The Swedes pull the SN chit and call in an artillery strike on the 22nd Support HQ sitting on a hill to their southwest. The HE is completely ineffective but the smoke arty is right on target in L8, which effectively blocks LOS for a couple of turns to the advancing Swedish units. Although the 22nd Support cannot activate, I’m guessing it can perform opportunity fire so this seems like a good move.
The QJ Mech Inf. duly activates next and moves along the southeast road, licking its chops and ready to take on the infantry of the Soviet 22nd Support.
The Soviet 22nd Naval Battalion activates twice and moves its entire force to the south to help reinforce the infantry of the 22nd Support. The northern road of advance for the Swedes is wide open now and Swedish TN company takes advantage of this, zooming along the road to the east, straight for Ranea. One of the Soviet infantry platoons on the hill to the south takes a potshot at the approaching IKV-91s but the fire is completely ineffective. The Swedish SN battalion trundles slowly along behind them.
So far, very little fighting has occurred. The Swedes are advancing quickly thanks to the smoke artillery laid down earlier in the turn. None of the Soviet HQs have LOS to the Swedes, rendering them unable to fire artillery of their own on the advancing units.
|Turn 1 End. Swedes make big advances east towards Ranea with SN and TN companies.
The SN tank company activates and moves east, again taking opportunity fire from the 22nd Support Battalion on the hill to the south. This is ineffective and no losses are suffered.
TN activates next and fires artillery on the Soviet 22nd Support battalion HQ sitting on the hill but this misses entirely. They follow this up with a smoke mission that also misses its target and lands too far to the east.
TN activates again and this time, it is able to move without fear as the Soviet 22nd Support is Ops Complete. By the end of TN’s activation, it has IKVs inside Ranea. Turn 2 and it already looks like Mission Accomplished. The Soviet 22nd Tank activates next, however, and moves its ageing T-55s up on the hill to the south of the city, dangerously close to TN’s advance guard that has just arrived in the city.
Swedish QJ company moves along its southern route to get at the Soviet 22nd Support infantry but the HQ is disrupted by opportunity fire and is halted. The Soviet 22nd Naval Regiment activates and pulls back to Ranea, right beside the Swedish TN headquarters. The next chit activates the 22nd Naval Regiment again and it calls in smoke to give itself some cover from the approaching Swedish tank battalion to the west. It fires an HE mission on the adjacent TN headquarters, disrupting both of its units and then follows up with a successful assault on TN HQ which reduces both its platoons.
Swedish QJ company activates again and fails to rally its disrupted units although a couple of platoons of IFVs loaded with infantry slowly make their way east. The pace of QJ is agonizingly slow and they are missing the deadline for reaching their short term objectives on the way to the city.
The 22nd Support Battalion, noticing the huge amount of smoke swirling on the battlefield and rendering their Saggers completely useless, decides to pack their infantry up on their BTR-60s and head for Ranea.
The Soviets had some good luck this turn as the 22nd Nav and the 22nd Tank near Ranea started to work together against the TN company. The 22nd Tank destroys one of the Swedish IKV units already in the city and this is followed up by an assault by the PT-76s of the 22nd Naval Regiment, which destroys the remaining Swedish tank.
The Swedish QJ and the 22nd Support are now in a race for Ranea and it looks like the Soviets are going to win.
Swedish infantry from the TN Company are now forced to rush into Ranea to try and secure parts of it before the Russians arrive. The PBVs unload their infantry in the north of the city and rush down to assault the 22nd Nav HQ with its PT-76s. The assault is astonishingly unsuccessful and although the 22nd Nav is disrupted and must withdraw to the south of the city, it is not heavily damaged.
So far, the expected anti-tank missile menace expected from the Soviets has failed to materialize thanks to poor rolling and obscured LOS. The game has turned into an artillery duel between Swedish and Soviet commanders, laying smoke to prevent long-range weaponry from playing any kind of decisive role in the fighting. HE artillery has been used repeatedly to soften up enemies prior to assault.
|End Turn 3: Soviet 22nd Support races back to Ranea from the south as SN company battles 22nd Tank and 22nd Naval Regiment around the city.
The 22nd Naval Regiment gets its revenge against the Swedish infantry from TN which sent them packing from Ranea in the previous turn. They call in HE artillery on the infantry, disrupting it. They follow it up with an assault that completely destroys the infantry platoon in hex T3 and the Russians reoccupy the city.
The SN Tank company sends its own infantry from the north, assaulting the 22nd Naval Regiment in hex T3, reducing and disrupting both PT-76 platoons. The Soviets yet again withdraw from the city.
QJ Mechanized infantry did not activate this turn, which leaves the Swedish TN and SN companies without major infantry support around Ranea. What a mess.
|22nd Support Battalion arrives near Ranea while Swedish QJ lags far behind.
QJ Mech Inf. finally activates to start off the turn and they trundle along northeast to Ranea.
Back in Ranea, the fighting is fierce as ever. The 22nd Naval Regiment, battered and bruised, orders a smoke mission to block LOS from Swedish tanks creeping up on the hill to the north. A second artillery mission, this time High Explosive, slams into the adjacent Swedish infantry from SN company holding hex T3, disrupting it Follow-up close range HE fire from the PT-76s finishes off the Swedish infantry off. Downtown Ranea has switched hands so many times now in the last two or three turns that it must be just chest-high rubble at this point.
SN company moves its tanks off the hill to the north of Ranea, hoping to get some shots off at the Soviets without the lingering smoke in their way. The Centurion tanks manage to blast the T-55s of the Soviet 22nd Tank Battalion to smithereens. This is the first good thing to happen for the Swedes so far.
|End Turn 5: SN company takes desperate hold of Ranea.
Turn 6 starts and the Chaos marker enters the cup.
The Swedes’ luck holds up this turn with the SN company activating right off and destroying the 22nd Naval Regiment along with its headquarters. The only real opposition for the Swedes now is the Soviet infantry from the 22nd Support Battalion, speeding its way to the east of Ranea.
Luck seems to have dimmed for the Swedes, however, when the Chaos marker is pulled and the Soviets are granted another HE artillery mission.
The Swedish QJ Mechanized Infantry, so useless until now, manages an activation and sends two APCs with infantry to the east of Ranea while the HQ and one platoon go for the west side. With the help of the armor from SN company, the Swedes hope to take the city in the next two turns.
|Swedish QJ infantry finally arrive near Ranea as Soviet 22nd Support Battalion sets up defenses in city.
The turn starts with QJ Mechanized Infantry on the east side of the city brutally assaulting the 22nd Naval Regiment with its HQ and totally destroying it. The HQ on the west side of the city approaches and is disrupted. Two turn end markers are pulled next, ending turn 7. This does not bode well for the Swedes. They now have one remaining turn to take the city.
Swedish armor from SN Company now sit on the west and north side of the city, hammering away at the Russian infantry inside. One Centurion makes a dash into the city and, against the odds, destroys an entire Soviet infantry platoon.
QJ Mechanized Infantry company alights from their APCs but gets disrupted by fire from a BTR platoon on the east side of the city. However, the infantry on the west side manages to assault a Soviet APC and take hex T3. The Soviets now have only one hex of disrupted units sitting in Ranea.
The 22nd Support activates, using the extra HE artillery mission it received from the Chaos marker draw in turn 6. The adjacent QJ mechanized infantry with HQ is disrupted. AP fire reduces the Swedish APC stacked along with it. With only these holdouts left in the city, it comes down to the next marker pull, which is either a QJ chit or End Turn.
The next marker ends the turn and the game is over. The Soviets, holding a lone hex in the city, are the victors as the Swedes fail to take the entire city.
|Soviets hold on to one remaining hex in Ranea as they are surrounded by Swedish units.
What went wrong for the Swedes? Primarily, their biggest problem was sending in TN company so far ahead of the other Swedish units. The double activations of TN that were used for movement resulted in their entering the fray in piecemeal fashion. They were picked off accordingly and the entire formation was soon lost by the mid-point of the game. On the Soviet side, it’s important to find a way to get those infantry working early in the game even with all the smoke flying around the battlefield and making the use of AT missiles problematic at best. Both sides seemed to use their artillery wisely enough but the Soviets were able to follow it up with effective assaults or fire that eliminated enemy units.