Thursday, 7 June 2012

Battle of Portinhoikka

A little battlereport, we fought this 4th of June, so it's almost fresh baked.

Battle of Portinhoikka

Historical background 

During the summer of 1944, Soviet 21st army tries to fulfill it's orders to push through Karelian Isthmus. Viipuri and village of Tali have been lost to Soviets, and from Tali goes a fine broad road to Portinhoikka, where the road continues towards Juustila and all the way to Imatra and even Lappeenranta. The crossroads at Portinhoikka go to villages of Ihantala and Saarela. Therefore Portinhoikka is a strategic place, allowing big volumes of traffic towards Finland and to two villages that the Finns still hold. By capturing Portinhoikka and the road to Juustila, marshal Govorov would gain significient advantage in the operations againist Finland, so he authorises 21st army to conduct the operation.

Village of Portinhoikka, summer 1944.

Battle setup 

Only 1200 points per side, using hold the line as mission, without delayed reserves rule. Soviets are allowed to have only one IS-company.

Finnish Jägercompany
-Company commander and 2nd-in-command
-Jäger platoon with 4 squads and Panzerfaust in command team
-Jäger platoon with 3 squads and Panzerfaust in command team
-MG platoon with 4 guns
-Anti-tank platoon with 2 75mm PstK 40
-Anti-tank platoon with 2 75mm PstK 40
-3 Stugs

Soviet Guard's Heavy Tank Battalion
-Battalion commander in IS-2
-Guards heavy tank company with 5 IS-2
-Regular SMG company with 3 platoons and commissar

Objectives and deployment 

Field sauna is placed west of crossroads to represent one of the buildings at Portinhoikka. Another objective is an ammo dump behind the road to Saarela. As per mission rules, Finnish player deploys everything (the delayed reserves rule was dropped, and he decided not to place anything to ambush) to the field. 1st jäger platoon is placed near a house at other table edge. 2nd jäger platoon deploys in front of the ammo dump, and machine gun platoon is placed next to it, directly at the crossroads. 1st AT-gun platoon is placed to the road to Juustila, with a gun on both sides of the road. The 2nd AT-gun platoon is placed behind 2nd jäger platoon. Stugs are placed next to the sauna. Company commander goes behind 2nd jäger platoon, ready to join it when situation demands, while his 2nd-in-command goes near the 1st platoon.

Soviets deploy their tank company in front of a small hill next to the road from Tali. Their battalion commander is deployed amidst them. Soviet infantry follows the tanks, ready to fight or die for their motherland.

Deployment looking from the Finnish side.

1st turn 

Seeing the finns, Soviet tanks rev up their engines, clanking forwards. The infantry follows them, just like in training! Luckily for the Ivans, Finnish Stugs are visible in open and thus prime targets for them. Six shots result in 2 hits, which decimate two Stugs totally. Panicking from such carnage, the inexperienced Stug platoon leader drives away, choosing to leave this to the ground pounders.

Soviet battalion advances and fires some 122mm cannons, removing Stugs from play.

Situation just after a few rounds of assault, 1st jäger platoon is decimated.

One IS-2 is destroyed, another is bailed out. Two Stugs are ablaze.

As the enemy is on the other side of the table, the Finnish player moves the 2nd jäger platoon at the double, starting a flanking manouver. MG platoon moves a little to get in range. AT-gunners of 2nd gun platoon are busy setting their guns ready for towing. Meanwhile the Finnish company commander studies his map carefully.

Finns start a manouvering to tackle enemy infantry and get the guns to better positions.

2nd turn 

Soviet tanks continue their advance, getting dangerously close to the Finnish infantry, who wait patiently in their foxholes. Soviet infantry follows close behind, red flag waving in the wind. When the heavy tanks get close enough, they open fire with machine guns, killing a whole squad and pinning the platoon. Not stopping, the tanks drive forwards, attempting to crush the enemy beneath their tracks! The Finns manage to damage one with a Panzerfaust, it's crew jumping out. After a few bloody minutes of tank treads grinding and jägers throwing hand grenades, the 1st jäger platoon breaks off, with only their platoon leader, one SMG team and company 2nd-in-command remaining. They retreat to the road and brace themselves for a new assault. Tanks lurch forwards a little and analyse the situation.

Meanwhile, at the other side of the village, 2nd jäger platoon moves closer to Soviet infantry, as do the machine guns. 75mm guns are quickly unlimbered after a small movement, the pressure to start shooting at the steel monsters is huge. Both AT-gun platoons open fire, hitting their targets but unable to destroy anything, just causing some tankers to bail out and head for cover, among them the battalion commander. The MG platoon also opens fire, killing just one team. Surviving command team of 1st jäger platoon fires it's Panzerfaust again, but misses somehow.

Finns move around some more, and bail out two tanks.

3rd turn 

As the crew realises that their tank's ammo is not going to explode, they re-mount their vehicle, noticing the small hole made by Panzerfaust. Tank company moves a little to get better positions, and open fire at the surviving Finns. Poor 1st lieutenant, this company does not have a 2nd-in-command anymore. Well, the captain will just have to keep everything rolling then. After that, the IS-2 company charges forward, barely noticing another Panzerfaust rocket flying overhead. Machine guns blazing, they kill the last SMG team, causing the platoon leader to make a shameful run for it.

1st AT-gun platoon opens fire, hitting a few heavy tanks, but only causing surface damage. The Soviet tank crews don't bother bailing out. Far away, the 2nd AT-gun platoon fires at full rate of fire, but only hits the ground before the tanks. Near them, the machine gun platoon adjusts the height limiter to "belt height" and prepares to earn their keep. The resulting shootout is a tremendous massacre. Soviet soldiers fall like hay before a scythe, and the ground is stained red. As the shooting stops and a brief silence falls, only a third of the company is left standing, or actually, laying on the ground shaking. Finns reload new belts to their trusty old Maxims. Of 24 shots, 20 hit, and 12 teams failed their saves. Soviet kapitan manages to prevent his company from fleeing.

 MG barrels smoke a little as Finns reload.

What's left of the SMG company.

4th turn 

Courageous Soviet major finally goes back to his IS-2, as do some other tankers nearby. The badly mauled SMG company recovers from pinning and starts digging in, desperate to avoid another salvo from Finnish machine guns. The political commissar is quite pleased to see shovels moving so fast without need to shove his Tokarev around. Near the sauna, tanks pivot their turrets and blast at an unfortunate 75mm gun, destroying the gun and sending it's crew to an early grave.

2nd lieutenant from the 1st AT-gun platoon realises their precious sauna is threatened, runs towards it contesting the objective for a while. His remaining gun scratches the paint jobs of two IS-2 tanks. The 2nd AT-gun platoon finally manages to hit them, but 75mm just is not enough to penetrate their frontal armour. Finnish MG platoon opens fire again, killing a few unfortunate soldiers, and forcing the rest to hug the bottoms of their brand new foxholes. At least they are not able to run away while doing that, thinks the commissar

Soviets are just around the corner, while a brave command team contests the objective.

5th turn 

Soviet infantry keeps pinned down, totally reluctant to face those heavy machine guns again. While the infantry awaits theis possible doom, the tanks continue forwards, a little past the sauna and towards Finnish anti-tank gun platoon. Due to bad shooting, only one scores a hit with a 122mm cannon, but they co-axial machine guns mow down the opposition.

As the fate of the battle hangs in dire balance, Finnish company commander tells his men to hit the enemy infantry hard. Eager to do so, the 2nd jäger platoon and the MG platoon move closer and ready their weapons. Combined firepower of Suomi SMGs and Maxims kills the closest Soviet teams, and they are on verge of escaping. Their company commander cannot hold the situation, so the commissar gives the men some reasons to stay put. With his Tokarev. Meanwhile the 2nd AT-gun platoon continues damaging enemy paint jobs.

 Last shots of the game.

6th turn 

As the Finns are not able to contest the other objective, which is held by 5 IS-2s, and the SMG company did not flee, the Soviets have won the battle. This is according to what happened historically, Soviets made a breakthrough, but the Finns counter-attacked very soon and threw them back after a bloody battle. Despite the initial success, marshal Govorov was not able to hold Portinhoikka and exploit the postition. In real life, there were much more Finnish troops defending the village and it's surrounding, as there were many more Red army units to attack it

”We have the crossroads, double rations today comrades!”

 Remaining 5 tanks advance towards Juustila. But the Finns will have a last word on this.

After battle commentary – Soviet player

Planning my list was easy, as I knew the enemy would had much infantry that I should keep busy somehow, hence the infantry company. Another thing was to maximise the number of tanks without weakening my infantry component, so 5 tanks in a single company and the battalion commander had to do. I also knew that the opposing force could not present very big anti-tank fire, so I could count on keeping some distance and the front armour towards them to be a key to victory. My tactic was very simple and relied entirely on power of the heavy tanks. Infantry was supposed to pass the tanks and push on if the tanks could not achieve a breakthrough. But I was unable to do do that since the flank attack tied my infantry completly. While playing the game, the effectiveness of enemy MG platoon surprised me. Killing 12 teams in a single turn of shooting is something astounding. At this point, when my infantry was taking so many hits, the situation looked difficult, because losing the company would mean almost sure defeat.

After battle commentary – Finnish player

I essentially built my list around two platoons worth of 75mm guns and a platoon of Stugs. Next thing to note was possible enemy infantry detachment, so I took my trusty MG platoon and two combat platoons of jägers. Both jäger platoons were equipped with Panzerfausts in command teams to at least kill someone before being overrun. My deployment was a very basic line defence, with the idea of moving either side to support the other when the tanks close in. Tha game begun badly, my Stugs were stupidly visible in the open, and suffered for it. The first tank assault was very brutal, killing almost a whole platoon in a series of counter attacks by both sides. The only one to crack one of those behemoths open was the command team of 1st platoon, that fled to fight another day. When the MG platoon had manouvered to optimal positions and opened fire at full effect, I was really close to winning this. If the company had fled the field, the whole battalion would have followed, as the battalion commander was bailed out and thus unable to make the morale check for his unit. But that did not happen.

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