The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One

The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
A Late-War After Action Report
with Brjánn Jónasson

The Einherjar Playtest Group was fortunate enough to get to playtest the latest Eastern-front book out, the aptly named Desperate Measures. This book features for the first time a Soviet Tank Company of battle-hardened survivors that does not suffer from the notorious Hen and Chicks rule, and is counted as veterans for mostly anything but being hit. Now that the book is out we were itching to try out the new lists and decided to find out if the Hero Tank Brigade is all it’s trumped up to be.

The new Soviet Hero-lists of experienced troops are perfect for both those starting to collect a Soviet force, as well as the experienced player looking for a bit of a change. The companies are much smaller than Soviet players are used to, but there is no denying the quality is much higher as well.
To find out what the Hero Tankovy are made of we decided that Brjánn would select a Hero Tankovy list of up to 1780 point which would square off against a German Panzerkampfgruppe of equal points value led by Jokull. We decided to play the Surrounded mission with the Soviets as the attacker. Operation Solstice has come to an end and the surviving German armour is withdrawing to a defensive location, hounded by the Soviets.

The setting would include the outskirts of a small village the German Kampfgruppe had retreated to, desperately trying to hold out against the onslaught of Soviets. The Soviet commander orders his troops to surround the village and attack at dawn from two directions. The Soviets are fighting hard to repulse the German offensive and get on to Berlin. The Germans are bitterly fighting on, low on both men and materiel. Neither side is likely to easily give up and the quality of both men and equipment will decide the battle.
Following Operation Solstice the forces under Rokossovsky have recovered and are now pushing hard towards the Oder. New German panzer units are being assembled to stay the onslaught, forming around the core of old hands. But the Red Army is suffering as well. Having been in almost constant combat since the beginning of summer 1944 their forces are depleted but from the infernal fire of war hard men have been forged. The forces of the Wehrmacht have been called to hold on once more, while the heroes of the Red Army prepare for yet another push.
The Soviet Force
Hero Tankovy Brigade – Tank Company, Confident Trained.
18th Tanks Corps

Company HQ
• One T-34/85

Combat Companies
• Hero Tankovy Company with four T-34/85s
• Hero Tankovy Company with four T-34/85s
• Hero Tankovy Company with three T-34/85s

Weapons Companies
• Hero Tank Rider Company with three Panzerfaust/SMG teams and one HMG

Support Companies
• Guards Hero Heavy Tank Company with three IS-2 obr. 1944 with .50cal AA MGs and Tank Escorts (Fearless Trained)
• Hero Light Armoured Car Platoon with three BA-64 (Fearless Trained)

Below: The Soviet Hero Tankovy has fewer men and tanks than a regular 1780 points Soviet list, but can be quite potent nevertheless.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Brjánn: I wanted to put the Hero Tankovy to the test in this game, and that meant picking a good number of T-34s. Picking from the models available I settled for two full platoons of four and a third platoon of three, all fielding exclusively T-34/85s. As my base line unit the T-34s would be the main spearhead of my attack. Since they don‘t have the Hen and Chicks rule they should be able to flank and destroy the heavier German tanks, if they had the numbers to soak up the casualties the Germans would no doubt inflict. The T-34/85 are quite fragile used in companies of threes and fours, so I would have to be extra careful to use terrain to screen my advance as much as possible. At least the smaller companies are easier to hide than the usual Tankovy companies that can have up to ten tanks.

For infantry support I selected a full Tank Rider Company, added a heavy machine gun to the company and upgraded three teams to Panzerfaust / SMG teams. They are perfectly capable of driving off tanks and assaulting both tanks and infantry off objectives. They were my ace in the hole against any possible King Tigers likely to put in appearance, as three Panzerfausts hitting on 3+ in assault is nothing to sneeze at even if you are driving the King Tiger.

I have come to love the new and improved IS-2, the 1944 version. It has a front armour value of eleven, one better than the older version of the IS-2. One extra pip of armour might not sound like much, but once you start playing the difference between ten and eleven really shows. I took the maximum allowed, three tanks, and fitted them with .50 cal AA MGs and tank escorts in case they needed to see off any stubborn infantry. Top armour two, turret-rear MG and escorts, all hitting on 3+ in assaults? I‘ll take three please.

I tried my best to include some SU-100s for long-range cat killing, but in the end decided that the IS-2 obr 1944 simply had more flexibility and were worth paying more points for, and that I didn‘t have the points to pick both.

I had run out of points right about here, but managed to squeeze in some recon in the shape of three BA-64 armoured cars. The ability to lift Gone to Ground and cheekily claim an objective late in the game was worth the points.

I would have liked to include some form of artillery, as hitting as veterans is quite good. Having some Anti-Aircraft guns would be a good idea since it was possible the Flying Ace Rudel might be swooping about in the sky. But even with Confident Trained Hero Tankovy the points run out pretty fast, especially if you take three IS-2 obr 1944 as support. I would just have to do without artillery and air defence.

The German Force
Panzer Kampfgruppe – Tank Company, Confident Trained.
18th Tanks Corps

Company HQ
• Two Panther G

Combat Companies
• Panzer Platoon with two Panther G
• Panzer Platoon with four Panzer IV J
• Panzer Platoon with two StuG G (late)

Divisional Support
• Schwere Panzer Platoon with one Königstiger who rolled Schnell for Tiger Ace skill (Confident Veteran)
• SS-Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier Platoon, short with five infantry teams (Fearless Trained)
• Artillery Battery with three 10,5 cm leFH18/40
• Luftwaffe Heavy Anti-Aircraft platoon with two 8,8 cm FlaK36 with extra crew (Reluctant Trained)

Below: The German Kampfgruppe had been reduced in strength after days of fighting and has to hold out against the strong Tankoy force attacking their positions.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Jökull: With the publication of Desperate Measures Brjánn and I decided to revisit the book we help to playtest. This time we would be doing it entirely for fun and since Brjánn would be taking the Hero Tankovy I thought it would be fitting to field the German Panzer Kampfgruppe. I selected a force that I thought would be a good and fun match for the Soviets. I was further restricted by what I had at hand fully painted but this I found fitting for the force being played, since the Kampfgruppes at this time were composed of what was available at the time. To fit everything into the army I also went with Confident Trained at the core, although I’d borrow from other elements.

I had a King Tiger which was confident/veteran, but wasn't overjoyed with my tiger Ace skill Schnell. My infantry was only a small platoon for the SS Nordland, my Nordic ties and history influencing that choice. The Panthers are excellent T-34/85 killers while the Panzer IV is numerous but struggles against them. A small section of 10.5cm artillery and two Reluctant Trained Luftwaffe 88's. Then I had a few points left and decided to take two StuGs for some added ranged firepower. I didn't know the mission at the time and this did take me to seven platoons and since the Panzer Kampfgruppe cannot use the German Kampfgruppe rule this wasn't optimal, but then there are a number of missions where it is of no importance and as it turned out Surrounded is one of them.

I got to be the defender and this turned out to be harder than I thought. I had a town in my deployment area and there were plenty of houses and tree lines about so I found it hard to get good fields of fire. It would allow the T-34/85s to approach in cover and possibly a chance to flank my big cats before I could return fire. I selected the Panther platoon for immediate ambush. In retrospect I should have taken the King Tiger, which is the IS-2 Kryptonite. I also had the HQ Panthers so I could beef up my line where it was most needed, or so I thought.

Hauptmann Knappe climbed onto his King Tiger and the beast’s engine roared to life. Knappe worried that he only had about half a tank of gasoline, which might do for the coming engagement but would leave the King Tiger stranded if they had to retreat far. At least he had just been resupplied with ammo. He was to join a Kampfgruppe under the command of a young officer. Most of the men here were fresh, full of confidence in the final victory of Germany. Then there were the Panzergrenadiers of SS Nordland. These had seen more than their fair share of fighting and the young men had old men’s faces. They would have to hold one more time, only to hold one more time again tomorrow until there was no one left to hold. Hauptmann Knappe had no illusions of how this war would end, but he would make sure that the Ivan’s would have to fight very hard for every meter of German soil.
The Battlefield
The table featured a small village situated on crossroads in the Prussian countryside in a fairly wooded agricultural area. The objectives forced the Germans to spread out in the initial deployment. They kept the two Panthers in immediate ambush and deployed the two FlaK36 88s and StuGs to cover one objective, and the Panzer IVs, infantry and artillery covering the other. The King tiger was in a nice central location, ready to blow up some Soviet armour. The Soviets split the force in two groups. On one side the three IS-2 obr 1944 advanced, supported by the armoured cars. On the other side all the T-34/85s and infantry prepared to advance. The Panthers in immediate ambush as well as the HQ Panthers deployed in locations best suited to deal with the advancing Soviets.

Below: Initial set up and battle plan.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Below: The Germans try to cover all angles from the Soviet attack with Panthers in immediate ambush as well as two HQ Panthers they can deploy after the Soviet army has been placed on the table.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Below: The Tankovy deploy in a line abrest with the infantry hugging the cover of a wheat field.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Below: The other flank is dominated by the three IS-2 obr 1944 who have the BA-64 recon platoon close by to spot targets.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Turn One: Was That Tree There A Minute Ago?
Before the Soviet first turn the recon moved up the road towards the village, undoubtedly under orders to find enemy targets for the IS-2s immediately. They succeeded brilliantly in this task, but unfortunately two out of three armoured cars bogged as they swerved off the road and hit a as the desperately tried to evade the Panther and Panzer IV Js they suddenly spotted up a head.

The IS-2s held position and opened up on the 88s directly ahead, hitting the large guns twice but failing one firepower roll of 2+ and only blowing up one gun. At long range the formidable armour of the IS-2 obr 1944 made it impossible for the feared 88s to destroy the tanks, at best they could bail out the crew.

On the other side the T-34s advanced into cover behind some tree lines while the infantry slowly slogged through the fields.

Below: The Soviets advance on the German positions.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Below: Disaster strikes as two out of three recon cars bog down under the guns of the Germans.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
The Panzer IV platoon smells blood in the water (or, rather, sweaty Russian men trying to get their armoured cars out of the woods) and move to engage the bogged-down armoured cars with the CO Panther. Needless to say they obliterate the two BA-64s but can‘t see the third, which had a crew with the good sense to hide behind a tree rather than try to merge their armored car to one. The commander of the surviving armoured car decides that fearless is more an expression than actual fact and that his job really is done at this stage and drives off in the general direction of Mother Russia at high speed. He is not heard from again.

The Panther platoon moves to support the two StuGs that were feeling lonely and neglected hearing the roaring engines of twelve Soviet tanks heading for them. They take up positions near the edge of the woods the StuGs deployed in and engage the T-34/85s. The Panthers hit and penetrate two tanks, but fail to blow them up. The StuGs attempt to use Stormtrooper to get to a safer location, but one bogs in the woods. The Panthers fail the roll to Stormtrooper and miss a golden opportunity to bog down next to the unlucky StuG. Or get out of flanking range from the lead T-34/85s.

Below: The Panthers move to support the StuGs but fail to brew up any T-34/85s.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Below: The combined fire from the Panzer IV Js destroys the two bogged-down armored cars and the third flees the battle.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Turn Two: Stick The Cannon Up The Exhaust And Fire!
Invigorated by the lack of Soviet casualties and the fact that the German Panthers and StuGs seemed to have run out of gasoline the T-34/85s broke cover and closed the range with the Germans. Three T-34s managed to flank one of the Panthers from the panzer platoon and promptly blew it up. Only one T-34 had the speed to flank the German 2iC‘s Panther, but that was enough and that Panther too went up in smoke.

On the other side of the battlefield the IS-2s advanced on the 88s and fired at the remaining gun, blowing it up with a single successful shot thanks to the Breakthrough Gun special rule. The command team failed morale and promptly surrendered to the nearest Russian.

Below: Two groups of T-34/85s move to flank the enemy Panthers. The closer group flanks a platoon of two and blows one up, while the one further away only gets one tank into the flank of the 2iCs Panther, but blow him up none the less.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Below: The IS-2s take out both FlaK36 8.8cm guns in two turns and advance on the town.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
The StuG remains bogged in the woods, prompting the platoon commander to doubt the willingness of his fellow tankers to fight to the last man as ordered. The remaining Panther and the free StuG engaged the T-34/85s, and so does the King Tiger moving through the village towards the action at maximum speed. In the exchange four T-34/85s from two platoons are destroyed and the bailed-out remainder of the lead platoon of four tanks quits the field.

The artillery targets the IS-2s, hitting all three heavy tanks, but the end result is rather disappointing as one tank is bailed out in the barrage. The SS-Panzergrenadiers realize that the fight will not come to them, and start slogging out of the fields and towards the action.

The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Below: The artillery bails out an IS-2.
The Battle of Altdamm, March 1945: Part One
Join us next week as the battle continues.

~ Brjánn.

Last Updated On Friday, December 20, 2013 by Blake at Battlefront