World at War: Chieftains on the Warpath Session Report

April 1, 2011

25 May, 0800 hours: Colonel Rickanov hurled the small handheld radioset at the interior wall of his command BMP. Between the pouring rain and the change in orders, he knew he would have to drive extra hard to achieve his new objective, the shattered remains of the West German village of Faulbach. As he barked orders to his subcommanders, his IFV was rocked by explosions. The colonel peered through the viewport and saw a platoon of T-80s smoldering not 100 yards away. “Report! Where did that come from?” he shouted over the radio network, but the confused replies from his division were drowned out by the shrieking roar of enemy aircraft…

With our wives away at their book club, Rick and I sat down last week to immerse ourselves in the sixth scenario in Mark Walker’s World at War: Blood and Bridges game. The Soviet and British forces start at opposite ends of the map, and both are charging hard for Anhausen. As the British player, I was in command of three platoons of powerful but slow Chieftain tanks, a unit of Scimitar recon vehicles, and a mortar carrier. One airstrike and jamming equipment served as early reinforcements. After taking a look at the map, I planned to head not for Anhausen (my Chieftains wouldn’t make it in time), but for a screen of trees northeast, then to a large, wooded hill about a kilometer from the town. From there I would set my Chieftains up in good cover to rain death down on Rick’s forces as they sped up the road to Anhausen. If they made it to the town, I planned on swinging east, using the hill as cover, and leapfrogging between tree cover to destroy the rest of his force. I faced a relatively strong force of T-80s, BMPs, infantry, and various missile systems.

On the first turn, Rick cruised north, turned west at the village of Haln, and started heading for his objective. Unfortunately for me, the Chaos table came into play and a heavy downpour started, dropping movement by one hex. I began to sweat at this point, as that meant my ponderous Chieftains were even worse off, while his speedy T-80s weren’t hurt too much. But his cautious approach gave me time to get my forces in position on the wooded hill. My Tornado air support came in and destroyed…well, nothing, before it got chased off by Soviet missile fire.

My luck turned for the better about five turns in. With my tanks in position, I began directing plunging fire into the Soviet lead tank platoons, disrupting and reducing a few. Then disaster struck for Rick–a special scenario event rolled meant his objective had changed entirely! He now had to take Faulbach instead. Slowly his entire formation halted, turned around, and headed northeast in sight of my guns. By the time he was out of range, most of his tanks were gone. I quickly shifted my small force from the south to the north edge of the hill and waited. Eventually the Soviet infantry dismounted and began firing missiles at my tanks, causing me to lose half a platoon, but by then it was too late; my Brit tankers destroyed the rest of his units and headed back to base whistling merrily.

Rick’s dice were definitely against him in this game. He fired at my Chieftains several times and only managed to score a disrupt and a reduction on one of my platoons, while it seemed like my tanks couldn’t miss. However, I will say that it would have been a much different and bloodier outcome for my Brits had I not set up on the wooded hill. This gave my force two extra defense dice (1 for being at a higher elevation than the enemy forces, 1 for the woods) and thus a much better chance of ignoring hits. I think my use of the hill to slow down his force, then shifting positions to keep that good cover underscored one of the things I like about this game–that the terrain really matters and you need to plan ahead and use it to your advantage. Using it to mask or protect forces from enemy fire is key, but so is knowing when to move out of it.

Stay tuned for more World at War action on here in the near future. Russ and I will probably be playing again soon, and we’re talking about creating a campaign of sorts.

Even Wittmann’s Ghost Couldn’t Save Them

March 6, 2011

Today we played the fourth scenario in the World At War: Death of the First Panzer game. It was titled “Wittmann’s Ghost,” a homage to the most famous German tank ace of WWII. On one side was Oberst Russell, trying to take back the town of Walkerburg from the Soviets with his West German forces. On the other side was Polkovnik John (me) and my commissar Comrade Kateri, defending the town with the glorious troops of Mother Russia.

The West Germans had two separate forces, a few platoons of Leopards coming from the north and a company of mechanized infantry heading in from the west. Standing in their way were elements of a Soviet airborne division, complete with a platoon of air-dropped self-propelled guns (ASU-85s). The three forces made contact early as Soviet Sagger teams and anti-tank guns opened fire on the German panzers and infantry fighting vehicles alike, but then inflicted little damage. Soon a company of T-72s arrived on the scene, taking light losses as they charged across the map to engage a rush of infantry fighting vehicles.

Things descended into a whirling melee during the mid-game, with T-72s and Soviet infantry slugging it out at close quarters with the West Germans. The Soviet tanks took pretty heavy losses, but they got the job done and eventually obliterated the West German mechanized infantry company, leaving only smoking hulks on the hill south of Walkerburg. Russ’s Leopards came on strong, eliminating and disrupting a few platoons of Soviet infantry, but after a short while, the combined firepower of the Soviets was too much for the Deutsche, and they quit the field.

This short, small scenario was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I thought early on that I would be turned into mincemeat, but soon realized that there was only a small area of open terrain that my T-72s would have to cross before making it to a long ridge on the south edge of the map. I used this to shield my tanks from Russ’s deadly Leopards for as long as possible, which allowed me to concentrate the majority of my forces on the mechanized infantry, destroying them outright before the whole lot turned on the Leopards.

I was reminded tonight why I enjoy the World at War system so much–it’s a simple ruleset that I can not touch for months, then pick up in fifteen minutes and feel competent with. Plus, the carnage on the field after a scenario is just great to see!

Unfortunately, the Black Baron's ghost did not aid the West Germans.