Several kills and a massive amount of shock "routs" the advanced (or should I say over advanced, aka "out on a limb") off the board. Lesson learned .. short-term gain can be long term pain. Still the Russian and German Force Morales have now levelled off. One thing about well-lead armies with lots of officers, there is plenty for the troops to think about when they start dropping like flies (see below, the Stalingrad "lost squad" memorial, just missing the empty MG42 ammunition casings):
Nevertheless, if at first you don't succeed; try, try again! Another Soviet Squad emerges from the shattered timbers of "Pink Penguin House" utilising the ubiquitous 'smoke grenade' to cover itself from flanking fire (see below):
This time the large empty building is there target. The Russian Squad takes the Senior Leader with them to assist in extra activation commands. He also brings along his support weapon, the flamethrower, something I am itching to use in anger. Even the mention of the word causes a certain amount of disquiet and mutterings in the German ranks. There was some talk of 'leaving the flamethrower off-table as the perfect Russian 'ambush' to defend their exposed jump-off points" (more of that later). At this point both sides were approaching acquisition of their first "Chain of Command Dice" (see below):
Von Paul decided to take the "fools gold" on my right flank. An undefended Russian Jump-Off point. Taking that would trigger a "bad thing happening" Force Morale roll. Dutifully a German Rifle Team moved up to almost overrun (just a little bit of slowing terrain stopped them). This allowed the Russian to (at the third attempt - because with their Senior Leader off table it is 50-50 if the team/squad comes on) deploy. As the Germans are so close, they deploy into a bitter life and death "close combat" with the German Rifle Team. This is a real pity for the Germans have two MG42s on overwatch across the other side of "Heroes Square". The Soviets have the numbers and try to stoke up the odds with a couple of hand grenades but alas they miss and it goes straight to the point of the bayonet (see below):
The German Rifle Team is massacred in the hand-to-hand fighting but before loud songs of jubilation can be started on the Russian side, in taking the German position they find themselves embroiled in a second even deadlier "close combat". This time it is but a small MG42 team that had been powerless to help their fellow rifles because of the close intermingling of bodies. Only three men but they are in "hard cover". The factors are tallied up and both sides will throw lots of dice. The Germans are harder targets (being in hard cover) but the Russians are in the "open street" (see below):
Good German dice and poor Russian dice means that it is the Soviet Squad that is now massacred and a wounded officer left staggering back to the Command Post (to my utter disbelief and astonishment ... argh) and the Germans are barely scratched - statistically it should have been mutual annihilation. That my friends is Stalingrad close quarter fighting turning seemingly on a whim of fate, brutal and attrition. The Force Morale drops for both sides but not sufficient to break either side yet. The game has to be called for the night a brutal draw with the Germans in a slight lead body wise but the flamethrower is being brought up to "torch" something. The Germans only have 'one' Rifle Team active but 'six' (count them) MG42s active. Defensively they are very strong, but small three man MG teams have to be careful if they advance forward. The German Senior Leader is now controlling the baseline Squad's surviving two MG42 teams on the right German flank so it will be hard for him to help push forwards. The Russians have two active Squads in the middle with that 'interesting' support weapon poised to discharge (see below, the last I saw of my fourth Squad before the MG42 gave off a death rattle):
For me it was a night of hard lessons learned and missed opportunities. Deploying your forces early is so tempting but the powerful Germans seemed to be prematurely fixed. If they had thrown caution to the wind the German Patrol could have overrun two of the Russian Jump-Off points. However I was not without fault, a German Rifle Team for a Russian Full Squad is probably a bad trade. It was also pointed out to me afterwards the Soviets had missed a golden opportunity. If the Russian Flamethrower had been kept back it would have been in a perfect place to "Ambush" (Chain of Command style) the German Rifle team out in the open, albeit as they tried to get away they would have had to run the gauntlet of the overwatch German MG42 teams. I think I now appreciate the potential power of the Chain of Command dice. Likewise "keeping a reserve" is a must.
The Stalingrad Campaign awaits ...