On Memorial Day, Alexander and I were together at a family BBQ and felt the need to play a scenario of Combat Commander: Europe. It seemed the perfect game to play on one of my favorite holidays! We chose to continue in our numerical play order and played Scenario #3 Bonfire of the NKVD. First off, a slight history lesson. The NKVD or People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs was closely associated with the secret police and was in charge of law enforcement and directly executing the will of the All Union Communist Party. On February 3, 1941, the sections of the NKVD responsible for military counterintelligence became integrated with the Army and they were in charge of rear area security, including preventing the retreat of Soviet army divisions. This is the most familiar image of the NKVD with Commissars equipped with pistols to shoot their own men for retreating or for not advancing. So in this scenario, the NKVD (we can assume that the NKVD Commissar is Cpt. Egorov as he is overseeing the destruction of equipment and documents) are making sure that the plans and military documents contained in the area are destroyed as the Germans swept into Russia in the opening movements of Operation Barbarossa.
From the scenario text in the playbook we read:
Outside Brest-Litovsk, June 24, 1941 – A Soviet forward CP belonging to the retreating 133rd Infantry Regiment is to be abandoned by noon, but not before all communications equipment is smashed and all documents are burned – including detailed plans of much of the frontier fortifications in and around Brest-Litovsk several miles to the east.
A battered company of Russian militia must halt the German juggernaut long enough to affect withdrawal to the relative safety of the Brest-Litovsk citadel.
In this scenario, the Surrender conditions were set at 10 units for the Russians and 7 units for the Germans, which has been consistent as the Russians have plenty of soldiers to sacrifice! I played as the Russians (defender) and Alexander chose the Germans (attacker). I feel that the goal of the Russians is to simply survive the attack and make it to the end of Time at Round 7. The reason I feel this way is that the Russians available troops are extremely weak Militia units (FP 5, Range 2, Movement 3 and Morale 7) while the German troops are Rifle units (FP 5, Range 5, Movement 4 and Morale 7) and Weapon units (FP 2 (8 or 4 with MG’s), Range 2 (16 or 8 with MG’s), Movement 4 and Morale 8) which are decidedly better units.
The scenario required the Russians to set up first in the 12 hexes from the back of the map. I also was required to set up my best leader (Cpt. Egorov Command 2, Morale 10) in the CP located at the back of the map. The scenario doesn’t however state that he has to remain there (unless I am mistaken – won’t be the first time). I am then allowed to setup the 12 Wire obstructions after the Axis has finished their initial setup. With this in mind, I placed two teams on the map, one with Sgt. Maisky (Command 1) leading a Militia unit equipped with the Heavy MG camped out in the building located at Objective #4 surrounded by 2 Militia units on the right and one on the left and the other led by Cpl. Gordov (Command 1) set up in the woods on the east side of the map adjacent to a Wire obstacle with a Green team unit equipped with the Light MG and a Militia unit with 3 additional Militia spread out to the south and east of this position taking up positions in the woods in order to potentially move into melee if the Germans moved through the area. The range of the units is my biggest problem as they cannot fire until the Germans reach the wire which I was hoping would happen and I could take advantage of that situation to get some good coordinated fire attacks on them.
The Germans set up around Objective #3 in and around the building with a Heavy MG and Light MG team led by Sgt. Ganz (Command 2) and Lt. Shrader (Command 1). He looked like he planned to avoid the woods and move through the fields toward Objective #4. This played into my plan but didn’t really work out for me as you will see. I then deployed the 12 Wire obstacles in 2 lines, one guarding the approach through the woods to the east side of the map and the other protecting the middle of the map which was open and would offer easier movement. If you notice in the picture above, I didn’t place wire in hex E8 which is woods hoping that he would try to move through there as I had a crossfire on that hex with the Light MG team to the east (although I didn’t think about the hindrance of -3 for firing through the brush) and the Heavy MG team in the building as they moved into hex F8. This set me up for what I thought was a good “killing lane” as they tried to move ahead.
In the first 3-4 rounds, the Germans simply fired from their positions on my Militia units that were out in the open leading to all 3 of them being either broken or suppressed, further making them ineffective. He didn’t move up though which was what I wanted him to do and I realized that I couldn’t continue to stand out in the open with little protection. I was lucky and drew a few Dig In action cards so at the first Time check I was able to offer some better protection to several of my units. He never looked to move into the woods to take on my Militia there which I believe was a huge mistake on his part as time was definitely on my side. Due to the high volume of Fire orders he was playing on me, I ran through my deck pretty fast and hit the 1st Time check about 20 cards in and then the 2nd Time check about 18 cards in after the reshuffle. At this point, I had lost no units and we were already in round 3.
The Germans finally decided to get aggressive and moved their Heavy MG team up on the left flank in order to get into good range to fire on my Heavy MG team in the buildings at Objective #4. I was unable to hit him with any Fire actions as he moved (really bad rolling on most of my Fire orders and actions all game) so he made it to the Wire with only losing one unit, the broken Rifle squad left in the woods. I kept hoping for a Sniper event, which came fairly often, but never broke any of his units. The random hexes for the events were always hexes either behind me or in the woods area where there were almost no troops. As the situation worsened for me, I had to move Cpt. Egorov up to the building to try and offer some defense against the advancing Germans. I also tried about 3 times to move a Militia into the building to pick up the Heavy MG but each time the German Heavy MG cut them down and I couldn’t draw a Recover order to save my life!
In a last ditch effort to slow the German Heavy MG from advancing too far on the left flank and begin threatening the CP, I moved Cpl. Gordov and his team from the cover of the woods toward the CP and the embattled house where Maisky and Egorov were hold up. But, true to form for the game I took fire, rolled terribly on my Fire defense roll and broke all of the units making them useless!
At this point of the scenario, we hit Time marker 6 and I felt I was going to be able to hold on for the win….unless he somehow killed off 5 more of my units (as I had lost 5 to that point). I was finally able to get a Militia into the building unscathed and began to return fire but as I mentioned earlier, just couldn’t roll well at all. I missed by no more than 1 or 2 in at least 3 consecutive Fire orders/actions. But always in the back of my mind was to simply hold on as we were nearing the end of Time.
The Germans continued to pour fire in Objective #4 and I was tearing through my deck at a pretty good clip, when I drew a Time and moved to Time marker 7 where we entered Sudden Death. I rolled too high the first time but the next Sudden Death check came around pretty quickly and I drew a 5 ending the game! I had done it. Defeated all odds that were stacked against me and held out for 8 rounds. The CP was fully engulfed in flames, all papers were burned up and the mission was a complete success! I lost 5 units and had many broken units scattered across the board, with at least 2 that were within 2 hexes of being pushed off of the map! Great end to a great scenario. Not my favorite of the 3 scenarios we have played thus far but definitely one that was difficult and tested my tactical ability. Until next time, keep playing this great game!