Stumbling Colossi: Tankovy vs Leichte Panzerkompanie

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Germans and Soviets tankers locked in deadly combat.

There is hardly anything more iconic about World War 2 more than the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The biggest and baddest conflict in human history erupted when two legendary shoot firsters – Stalin and Hitler, came to blows. This time two tyrannical neck beards will attempt the same on the tabletop. The mission we rolled up was Encounter, which could represent a German armored breakthrough colliding with a Soviet counter attack aiming to restore the line. As both forces get entangled, reserves are thrown in and the battle escalates.

Armies

Skärmklipp
My red levies ready to defend their lebensraum. I have big expectations on the KV-1 as my opponents tanks can’t hurt it at all.

The Germans assembled their army on the spot and had:

Leichte Panzerkompanie (Confident/Veteran)

1 Panzer III E

2 Panzer III E
2 Panzer IV D
3 Panzer II F
Infantry platoon, 7 teams with panzerknacker
Limited StuKa air support

Deployment

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Somewhere in Eastern Ukraine 1941. The big bushes and craters were very difficult going, the fields would conceal infantry and tanks. Otherwise we played the terrain by the Book.
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My opponent picked the North and I ended up with the rail station. I put my home objective a little to the left in the crop field. The away objective ended up as far as possible from where my opponent put his. Hopefully, the reserves could reach it from the flanks. I put my T26s and KV in reserves to either counter attack or advance on the objectives.

Early Turns

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The Panzers take the initiative by getting the first turn and advance into the village.  With successful stormtrooper rolls, they stay out of sight behind the buildings.
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The T-34s scout the horizon for targets but don’t to find any.  Sappers fail to dig in during the whole game. So much for being “dedicated specialists”. The Soviets call for air support but no aircraft show up.
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Panzer vorwärtz! StuKas roar into view. I choose not to intercept them.
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Which prove to be a mistake. After the smoke clears, the HQ and some infantry teams are taken out by the wailing dive bombers. A really bad start for the Soviets.
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The Panzer IVs close in from the other flank. On occasion they bombard my infantry. I was dreading their direct fire smoke that could make the T-34s totally ineffective by forcing movement.
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The infantry gets bombed by planes and hosed with bullets from the tanks. Their large platoon size means every German tanker has plenty to shoot at. Without being properly dug in, casualties are severe.

 

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The Panzers push forward. The T-34 fired upon the Panzer IVs last turn and presents side armor to one of the incoming Panzer IIIs.

 

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The shots punches through the “impenetrable” front armor and the crew bails out. The Soviets with only one functioning tank, are about to get overwhelmed by Panzers.
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The crew gets in and I redeploy my tanks to get better shots. And finally the T-34 gunner finds his mark. But the hit only shakes the German crew. BLYAAAAT!
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Being flanked from both sides, the T-34s are bailed out repeatedly. Limited vision means I hit on 5+ after the crews sort themselves out.
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On the right flank, the Panzer IV Ds are pouring in shot after shot. With worst skill ratings (i.e. feudal levied), every shot finds its mark. Only a October Revolution miracle can save my hide now.

Late Turns

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And praise Lenin here it comes! The T-26s arrive from reserve in the right spot. But their shooting does not even scratch the paint of the Panzers. PIZDEC! The German rush their Panzer IIs into action from reserves. The Panzer gunners take their time to line up the shots.
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A lone Top Gunski flies past German fighter interception and spews hot lead on the Schützen. An infantry team is taken out and they become pinned down from the sudden attack. The flyer returns home for chicks, medals and vodka, taking no more part in the game. Panzer IIs can be seen in the background, rolling towards my lines.
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The T-26s take out a single Panzer IIIE and lose many of their own number. I even tried an infantry assault on the left flank, but the Sappers failed their tank terror checks.
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The KV-1 comes in from reserves, misses its shots and is quickly blown up by dive bombers. But my ego takes the worst beating and I begin to sulk.
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The T-26s shoot at the Panzers IIs and destroy two of them. The last one flees, and the Panzer commander does not attempt to rally them. In the next German turn, the entire Soviet force is destroyed by tank gun fire. The surviving Sappers are rounded up and begin Ramadan fasting permanently in German camps.

Result: 2-5 to the Panzers!

Conclusions
I am not really sure why this army fails spectacularly but two things stand out. It lacks options in a given situation and response times are too long. It become outmaneuvered by an infantry army in the last game, and the German tank mobility gave it no chance in this one. Once it is deployed, it moves very slowly  like an infantry army. It lacks the attentiveness typical of a Flames of War Tank Company. Making sweeping maneuvers like dashing from one flank to the next to exploit holes in the defense, is not possible.

Next challenge were the negative special rules combined with ratings and point costs of the tanks. Every unit I brought to the table had some kind serious defect that made it quite passive in the game. The T-34s don’t do enough damage and the T-26s don’t survive getting shot.

As for the Germans, I’ve heard opinion that anything heavier than a Panzer II is too expensive to be playable. In this game, that turned out not to be the case. Their armor held, guns were deadly and they were able to easily deal with Soviet tanks. Of course, ambushing AT guns and artillery will give them trouble. They are still top armor 1. But the German MVP was the Stuka, the Luftwaffe took out the third of my army all alone.

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Not really the King Tiger of Early War.

I’ve been discussing the games with my opponents who said I didn’t roll high enough, but blaming dice makes for a lazy analysis. I think the replay-ability of this army is quite low. Maybe solo gaming is a better idea for the T-34s. The player takes the side of Axis and lets the game play the Soviets with simple move or shoot activations. If I was to play the EW Tankovy again, it would be either Land Lease Valentines or T-26 spam.

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3 thoughts on “Stumbling Colossi: Tankovy vs Leichte Panzerkompanie

  1. Nice use of Russian swearing! Quite authentic! 🙂

    Considering the game I see some very typical mistakes and overlooks, some of which are forced and some are not.

    First of all, T-34’s tankovy is a tricky list, and definitely not the best tank list available to Soviets in EW. Not only that, but your composition is seriously lacking. On the first glance everything seems to be fine as you pick either mandatory or some good, cost-efficient units. But look beyond that and you’ll see that the synergy is nowhere to be found. By picking Tankovy with T-34’s as one of mandatory (and expensive) units you base your list on survivability and toughness first, and deadliness and firepower second. In other words, you have potentially quite tough tanks which are hard to shift, but they are to outlast the enemy, not to swiftly kill him, as your tanks are few and further handicapped by H&C and their firing capabilities are quite low.

    With such setting in mind, let’s look critically at your list.

    Firstly, Guards option, especially at lower point formats, is hardly worth it in such list. Being Fearless is good for assaults or enduring casualties – two things you don’t really looking for with your few Conscript tanks. So drop it for a standard Red Army option – that would save you A LOT of points.

    Secondly, neither T-26 nor KV-1 are good picks in such list. T-26 is a tank which works in numbers – thing that you don’t really have. They look great on paper, but as with oh so many Soviet options their strength is deceiving, as being Slow, Conscript tanks with H&C and paper-thin armour is nearly guarantees their demise unless they are used in great numbers (or out of ambush). KV-1, despite being cool, is also a poor choice as its functionality overlaps too much with T-34’s and further lowers the number of hulls in your list without providing anything substantial.

    It’s hard to pass by extremely cheap Sappers, but remember that they are purely support option, good for sitting on objective or some diversion attack, but little less. Moreover, they come with a few strings attached. As an infantry in tank list they have to be placed on table in Mobile missions – thing you frequently try to avoid, as it forces you to put much more expensive and capable units in reserve. Secondly, they share the same slot with AA guns, which are very important when you have expensive Conscript tanks on table, most of which have only TA1. These two thing might sound as small inconveniences, but both played the pivotal role in your defeat. And don’t forget that if you take infantry in a tank list, no matter how good and cost-efficient it seems to be, it presents the perfect target to those enemy units which can’t hurt your tanks. Most nations forced to pick infantry to get some reliable assault capability, but Soviets blessed with plenty of cheap assault-oriented tanks (like T-28, T-60 or flame tanks), so IMO they are a better choice.
    Finally, while Chaika is a nice cost-efficient play, like all aviation it’s very unpredictable and usually runs against general gameplay of Soviet tanks when you try to close the distance ASAP to start actually hitting targets.
    All in all, even with all these issues covered, T-34’s tankovy is still far from the best Soviet tank list around. Now, I suggest you propose a rematch to your friend and use this list instead  :

    INOMAROCHNIKIY TANKOVY BATALON (RED ARMY), 1470 pts

    HQ Valentine II
    4 Valentine II
    10 T-60
    4 37mm obr 1939 gun with trucks
    1 KV-1, 1 KV-2

    Mind you that it’s not a tailored list to fight against German tanks and it will fare well against most opposition. Good luck!

    • Thanks for the very thorough list analysis and the compliment on the swearing. As for the list, well it has the problems you mentioned but I used bad tactics in this battle and let my tanks be outmaneuvered. Putting them close to the train station meant my opponent could use it to mask his advance and then pounce on my flanks. This was a huge error from my part. Putting the T-34s in more open position would let them at least get more shooting off.

      I wouldn’t dismiss the Chaika, my opponents Stukas blew up the KV-1 and the HQ T-34, two very important pieces for my army.

      Switching the T-34s out for Valentines is an idea but those are a bit late for EW and my local opponents preferred to face Valentines in Mid War. I am not going to give up on the T-34s yet but focus right now will be to finish the EW strelkovy.

      • “I wouldn’t dismiss the Chaika, my opponents Stukas blew up the KV-1 and the HQ T-34, two very important pieces for my army.”

        Yeah, but there’s a huge difference in role of airpower in German and Soviet tank lists. Gemans use their Stukas to kill Soviet heavies, which are easy to hit being Conscript, but otherwise present a problem for German tanks because of their thick armour. Germans have a few assets in EW to deal with them, with air being the most popular one. Moreover, Germans rarely rush the objectives – they concentrate on force destruction and frequently stay behind and in concealment to win fire duels with the enemy. Thus their air has no problem operating, with no friendly units in a way.

        Soviets on the other hand tend to nearly always focus on objectives: driving around with Conscript tanks with H&C and frequently being Slow and Unreliable, trying to catch some small and slippery Veteran units to kill is hardly a path to victory. You go for objectives or concentrations of enemy’s static units (infantry, AT guns, artillery) to limit opponent’s maneuve and to force to face you right here, right now. This usually means that you close the distance very quickly and your air is quickly out of targets. Moreover, unlike the Germans, the Soviets usually capable to defeat heavy tanks with their own, so air isn’t as essential for them.

        Thus while picking Chaika in Soviet tank list is viable, one has to be aware of its limitations. On the other hand, picking Chaika or Il-2 in Strelkovy is usually a good idea, as it gives you a much neede “reach” in an otherwise very static list. That might be very helful for pinning enemy’s artillery, strafing his reserves, etc.

        “Switching the T-34s out for Valentines is an idea but those are a bit late for EW and my local opponents preferred to face Valentines in Mid War.”
        Actually, Valentines are perfectly viable for EW and played quite important role in Battle for Moscow, as they were part of a very few number of “quality” tanks Soviets had in during this drastic time – their arrival by Lend-Lease agreement alond with a few Matildas was very helpful, despite limited numbers.

        And they are actually more historical than T-34 obr 1940, as the latter were the trial batch of very limited quantity: even in 1941 the majority of all T-34’s were obr. 1941 (with different gun).

        “…but focus right now will be to finish the EW strelkovy.”
        I’m glad to hear that. Strelkovy is definitely the Soviet “strong suit” in EW and MW. Also, the most of my gaming experience came from playing Strelkovy.

        In EW I suggest either Red Banner Strelkovy (Fearless Trained) if you’re planning an agressive, assault-oriented approach, or standard Red Army Strelkovy (Confident Conscript) if you prefer a more defensive stance with plenty of support like artillery, tanks, etc.

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