22 May, 1985: 0630 hours. Oberst Meik von Rogers of the West Germany Army slammed his fist down on the radio in frustration. The sudden thunderstorm had thrown everything into chaos. The shattered elements of the 613th Panzers and the 182nd Panzer Grenadiers were streaming into his area of the battlefield with Soviet recon units hot on their heels. Everything was a mess. But if he could just get his sub-commanders to calm down, he might be able to salvage the situation…
Both teachers, Mike and I took our Presidents Day holiday to duke it out in the first Blood and Bridges scenario: Separation. The West German and Soviet forces are each trying to exit off their own map side, but begin the game in random places (possibly even beginning right next to each other!). Each player gets points for one thing: number of units exited off the map. Mike’s forces began concentrated in the northeast corner of the map in and around Faulbach. I, on the other hand, had my forces split: a weak motorized rifle company in the northwest and a small but powerful recon company in the southwest.
My plan was pretty simple: use the BTR armored personnel carriers to truck the infantry to Anhausen where they would set up a defensive position near the West German exit hex. At the same time, my recon BMPs and T-80s would take the small hill southeast of Anhausen, affording them good coverage of Mike’s northern approach route. Later, the BRDM armored cars and freed-up BTRs would race east to my exit hex and blast through.
Early on in the game, Mike slowly maneuvered his tanks west between Faulbach and Anhausen, taking potshots at my T-80s as he went. I quickly learned the danger of the slow-moving but powerfully armed M48s! He disrupted the T-80s which set me back on my heels a bit. However, things changed on Turn 3 when a Soviet airstrike decimated one platoon and the formation headquarters. Later, two Hind helicopters came roaring in and made quick work of the rest of Mike’s tanks. He placed his Redeye surface-to-air missiles in a sort of difficult spot and had to spend a few turns getting them into position. They got one shot off at my Hinds throughout the game, but missed and depleted their ammo.
I plunked the Hinds down in a copse of trees within 10 hexes of the West German units and they had control of most of his movement lanes for the entire game. These guys ended up taking out two platoons of tanks, one Marder platoon, and two infantry platoons! This was the first time I had played with helicopters and…man, they are deadly. Mike’s response to the Hind problem was to take a page from my playbook and set up an infantry ambush near my exit hex. A platoon with Milan ATGMs set up in the large hills south of Faulbach and nailed two armored car platoons before the helicopter chainguns chewed them up. With that out of the way, he had no appreciable anti-armor assets left and surrendered.
Upon further reflection, I think the West German forces are badly outmatched in this scenario. Sure they get more activations than their Soviet counterparts, but they have one anti-aircraft asset to fend off the Hinds and SU-25 airstrike. The addition of a Gepard self-prepared anti-aircraft unit would greatly help, as would some rules constraining the Hinds. In most scenarios, helicopters may only a) be on the map for a set number of turns, and/or b) be forced to exit permanently after an “ammo depleted” situation. Doing both of these things would even out this scenario quite a bit.
0815 hours. Colonel Ivan Rogashevsky exhaled slowly. His recon units had quickly found themselves cut off in the rain. But the West Germans had not been prepared for the air support that followed. It wasn’t so much his generalship as it was the superiority of his equipment, but he would still take the victory–and happily, too!