Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Skirmish at Żywiec - Bolt Action AAR

Before I went off for a week of vacation, the South Jersey Gamers Association got together for its first in-person meeting since March of 2020! 

Way back in the Before Times, the club had started to plan a series of campaign games to refight platoon-level games during the Invasion of Poland in 1939. Books were read, minis were assembled and painted, scenarios were thought out. And then the pandemic hit and in-person gaming wasn't an option. 

The campaign was postponed indefinitely until such a time that enough club members could gather again to play. We decided to use July's SJGA meeting to break out the miniatures, terrain, and Bolt Action rules to dip our toes in, and then start the campaign proper in September.

We kept the scenario simple. We made two forces from our German and Polish collections, each consisting of an infantry and a tank platoon. At 1275 points we had a lot to chose from, since Early War units and vehicles are relatively cheap. 

We used the Meeting Engagement scenario from the rulebook, with both sides deploying along the short table edges. We laid out the scenery starting the river and adding on from there, with fields on one side and a lightly wooded forest on the other. The banks of the river provided light cover to infantry units willing to stand in the water.

The game would last for 6 turns, with a potential 7th. To keep the game moving, both sides would be limited to 9 order dice in the bag, instead of the 15 that the Germans could bring and the 17 the Polish had. Both sides also had an off-table medium mortar. 

Bill, John and Tim commanded the Polish forces, while Chris, Brandon and I commanded the Germans. 

The Polish starter the game with a heavy armored presence, deploying all three of their 7TP's and the scouting armored car, as well as a motorcycle platoon and a towed anti-tank gun. 

The Germans ordered their infantry forward to the train station, while a single 38(t) and a 222 armored car moved along the road. 

The Poles continued to push forward, with the motorcycle platoon (ignoring their dismounts back by the disabled armored train) racing up the to river. 

The Germans continued to bring units on, with more tanks rolling  through the outskirts of the town. 

By this point, the snipers and mortar observers that both sides brought had mutually destroyed each other, with only the Polish sniper team remaining!

While the Polish motorcycle squad were able to reach the cover of the riverbed, their rifles and single Browning Automatic Rifle weren't able to compete with the multiple LMG's and MMG's that the Germans were firing with. 

The armored battle in the town was proceeding cautiously. The single Polish smoke round that they managed to land before losing their spotter had landed in front of the bridge, so Brandon used it to cover a 38(t) that took up a position behind a stone wall. Hoping to get a return angle, Bill and Tim pushed a 7TP out of a hedgerow. Both sides couldn't land a hit, however. 

The skirmish was developing nicely by this point, with both sides engaging around 2/3's up the table-length. 

Both sides of the tank battle had taken up defensive positions, engaging potshots. The 222 that had rushed up onto the bridge got the worst of it, with a stunned crew from a lucky 7TP hit. 

Another 7TP and a machine gun crew were rushing up to help out the battered motorcycle platoon. Seeing the lone Polish tank, the Germans had deployed a 38(t) to the train station as a counter. 

With the game nearing its end, Brandon summoned his inner panzer ace and pushed his tanks forward. Unfortunately the 222 suffered a hit from a 7TP and was destroyed. 

And even more unfortunately, the gambit didn't pay off. Tim and Bill  were free to use their 7TP's to return fire at the lead 38(t) which ended up battered, if not brewed up. 

Not content to let their armor do all the work, the Polish commanders brought on their infantry squads for a late game appearance. 

By then, however, the spearpoints had run themselves out of steam and the two sides withdrew to regroup. When the dust settled, the Poles had a slight advantage in victory points, gained mostly from their sniper that had survived the initial fighting. 

All-in-all, it was a great game for the club to return to. The limited order dice kept the game moving and forced both sides to consider where they needed their command resources most. We can also adjust the number of dice to show once side having a better command initiative. 

If I could change anything, it would have been to have the two forces deploy along the long edges instead of the short edges. With the scenario only lasting 6-7 turns, only a few infantry units managed to see any action before the game ended. Had we included more transports that might have been a problem, but the foot-bound infantry found themselves ignored in favor of the faster tanks, armored cars, and motorcycle troops. 

I do, however, think we can call the first in-person meeting of the year a success, and we're set up for the campaign to start properly in September. 

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