The German Orbats:
This campaign was far closer than I anticipated. I was concenred that I had got the balance wrong in the orders of battle and that the Russians would sweep all before them.
The orbats were drawn from a variety of sources, primarily the Wargames Vault BKCIV and Micromark army lists along with my Rapid Fire supplements combined with what figures I had available. I tend not to use points systems so it was more guesswork as to the appropriate balance of forces that would give a good, largely even game.
The Germans would be strung out along the valley leaving them vulnerable to be destroyed in detail. Their orders were derived from the scenario book and were mainly delaying actions until the final stand. The Command Values (CV's) of CO's and HQ's would be important for ensuring the survivability of the German units and so it proved. The CV's of both sides were drawn from the rulebook with the Germans at the upper limit of what they were allowed.
For the Russians repeated command failures and blunders made it a challenge to maintain co-ordination and cohesion as they advanced through the valley. Their 120mm mortar battalion, which proved very deadly, were not used to their maximum effect due partly to command issues and partly mistakes on my part. I became too drawn into focussing on bringing units into action against the Germans when I could have held back more using those CV's to activate the mortars.
Although the Germans inflicted a good deal of punishment on the Russians as they advanced along the valley floor, it was at the cost of most of their SS and recce battalions. I was confident (too confident as it turned out) that the Russians would achieve victory in Map 10.
In the final phase the plan was for the 3rd Motorised reinforced by the engineer company to attack the German left flank using the wood as cover. The 2nd Motorised reinforced by the anti-tank company would attack the German right utilising cover of stone walls. The badly depleted 1st Motorised with the 45mm anti-tank battery would hold the centre suppressing the Germans with their own firepower and calling in strikes from the 120mm mortars and artillery.
The T34's were to advance with the 2nd Motorised and hopefully neutralise the Panther threat. Finally the naval infantry battalion would be the reserve primarily for the 2nd Motorised battalion. The Regimental CO was to be at the forefront of the attack using his CV to negate command failures among the battalion commanders and where possible call in artillery and mortar strikes. The force CO was positioned more to the rear and fulfilled a similar roll.
The way I played this with 2 CO's (and 3 for the Germans) was to treat them as enhanced HQ's issuing orders as CO's but if they failed their command roll it would not signal the end of the turn for that side. This would only apply to the force CO.
In the battle the Russians once again found great difficulty mounting a co-ordinated attack. The turning point came in turn 10 when they lost 9 units for nothing in return. This effectively ended the 3rd Motorised threat leaving only the 2nd Motorised with the naval battalion to have any chance of success on the opposite flank. When that ground to a halt with the loss of pretty much all of the 2nd Motorised any chance of driving the Germans from the valley evaporated.
This is a subject much debated on Facebook and various forums. In the rules all hits are recovered at the end of the turn. This encourages concentration of fire on individual units in order to destroy them before they can recover. Most of this campaign until the final battle consisted of skirmishes so not a major issue. It could be argued it is more suited to small actions allowing for a more protracted game.
I have been toying with using the alternative (also provided in the rules) of leaving hits on with the intention of trialling it in some future game. When Steve J commented on this in a previous posting it prompted me to introduce it into the final game of the campaign.
I was pleasantly surprised! My two concerns had been units destroyed too quickly and the tabletop littered with hit markers. Neither was a major problem. Leaving hits on brought a different feel to the game. You have to think far more carefully about moving across open terrain or leaving units exposed to taking casualties. Similarly a single unit firing at another in hard cover requiring a '6' to hit for example, no longer feels like a wasted effort hoping at best to suppress the target. Even if only one unsuppressed hit is obtained it now has value.
With regard to markers, yes there are more of them but not to the extent I envisaged. Dice markers can of course be replaced with something more aesthetic which I may get around to eventually!
Units were removed more quickly but not devastatingly so. In order to improve their resilience I noted that some wargamers have advocated rallying hits. I am more inclined to go with improving saving throws rather than introduce another procedure. It is something I intend to look at more closely in due course, but in the meantime I need to play a few more games before deciding if this is a route I need to go down.
So the answer is yes I intend to continue leaving hits on which I found to be more in line with my style of wargaming. Definitely a different feel to the game and better for it in my opinion.
This is the first game I have played in BKCIV using the new recce rules to any extent. Maybe it is my ageing brain but I lost count of how many times I read through the rules and the Pendraken forum to get my head around them. I think I got them right in the end but mistakes were made early on. I doubt whether it would have made much difference to the outcome, just annoying not to get them right in the first place.
Because of the nature of the campaign, I treated the German recce units as fighting units rather than their primary purpose.
The challenge for this mini-campaign was creating the mountain pass. I have no mountain terrain as such so had to utilise what I had. It is obviously never going to be as good as sculpted terrain but I hopefully conveyed the right look, if a little stylised, of impassable rocky mountain sides. I added more bark and lichen to my collection as the campaign progressed relying a little less on beach pebbles and rocks. The bark I used early on was from my father's model railway in the 1960's. Resilient stuff!
Overall this was an enjoyable mini-campaign, not knowing quite what was awaiting the Russians on the next map. This could of course be completed in a fraction of the time it took me so do not be put off if you are tempted to give it a go. Photographing and noting events for the blog at least doubled the gaming time. This time was also split between figure painting.
Programmed Wargames Scenarios has been reprinted as a 2nd edition and currently available through Caliver Books. It should not be too difficult to create your own mini-campaign along similar lines although I firmly recommend the book, especially if you are a solo gamer.