[Note: I played this scenario by myself in order to fully understand the basic rules of the World at War system before teaching it to two people later on in the week.]
Defending Klappebruck in World at War: Eisenbach Gap is no easy task for NATO forces. Team Bravo has a handful of M1 Abrams tanks, an ITV (improved TOW vehicle) platoon, some infantry units, a couple of M-113 armored personnel carriers, and an attachment of TOW jeeps. At setup, I think about placing my hard hitters on the south edge of the map to achieve quick kills. However, I remember this was Russ’s mistake last time we played the scenario–setting up too close to the map edge results in a lot of dead NATO units (the Russians activate first, after all!). With this in mind, I set forces in the woods east of Klappebruck and my M1 platoon on the large hill west of Klappebruck. These areas offer a lot of narrow (1-hex) firing lanes to destroy the Soviets piecemeal. The Soviet setup is a lot more straightforward. I do my best to ensure the HQ is safe, but still able to call in a smoke mission on the all-important first dash to cover.
In the opening turns, the Soviet forces do just that, racing across the wide open gap on the map’s southern edge to shelter in the forest. Smoke blinds the U.S. HQ in Klappebruck proper, but the M1s and ITVs disrupt and eventually destroy two BMP platoons east of Lansamen. Most of the Soviets make it to the forest though, and crawl through to the northern edge just shy of the river; U.S. ITVs see this coming and get out just in time.
In the mid-game, the Soviets basically bog down as they try to pry U.S. infantry and TOW jeeps out of the forest just north of the river. A big problem here is that no Soviet markers are pulled for a turn or two, which wastes the turn 2-4 free activations. Despite turns of ATGM and cannon fire, coupled with two HE artillery strikes, it takes quite a while for the Americans to be destroyed and they take a couple of BMP platoons and Soviet infantry platoons with them! From my perspective as the U.S. commander, I wait until just before that group breaks, and immediately plug the hole with my last infantry platoon, causing the entire cycle to start all over again. Meanwhile, I shift the M1s and ITVs to the large hill west of Klappebruck, which denies the Soviets a clear assault lane to the town.
The tide of battle eventually turns, but far too late for the Soviets to win. They destroy two infantry platoons, some Dragons, and the TOW jeep platoon, but in the meantime the M1s have shifted to Eisenbach and are laying down withering long-range fire. Soviet infantry assaults the ITVs in Klappebruck, destroying them them, but the infantry runs out of time before getting to Birghoff. The final score is as follows:
US losses: 2 x infantry with Dragons, ITV, TOW jeep, M113
US remaining: M1, m113, HQ
Soviet losses: 5 x BMP, T-62, 3 x infantry platoons, 1 x Sagger.
Soviet remaining: infantry w/Sagger, infantry, reduced HQ, reduced BMP, reduced infantry, T-62, reduced T-62
Hexes controlled: U.S. has Eisenbach and Birhoff (6 total), Soviets have Lansamen and Klappebruck (2 total)
In the final analysis, my Soviet plan of attack was too cautious and one-sided. I left myself no alternate routes of attack, and was too afraid to sacrifice some BMPs to knock out the M1s. This limited me to one assault plan, and when that didn’t succeed as quickly as I had hoped, I was pretty much sunk. The Americans, on the other hand, did pretty well despite heavy losses. In the future, I want to try to fall back a bit more quickly, which will force the Soviets to redeploy on multiple occasions. Playing this scenario also alerted me to the critical importance of using cover (especially your own wrecked forces!) to increase the lifespan of units. It also reminded me to use bounding overwatch as much as possible in the future.
In the coming weeks, expect to see an “Inside the Box” on World at War: Blood and Bridges, and a few session reports as Russ and I continue to duke out WW III.