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Tactics in 'Panzer Grenadier: Eastern Front'
Scenario #5: 'The Crossing at Alytus'
By Doug McNair
June 2006

Having just completed a set of tactics articles on the “First Day” battle scenarios in our War of the States: Gettysburg and Chickamauga and Chattanooga games, it seems appropriate that my first article on Panzer Grenadier: Eastern Front should analyze a battle that took place on the first day of Hitler’s attack on Soviet Russia.

Scenario #5: “The Crossing at Alytus” starts on the afternoon of June 22nd, 1941, and depicts the Soviet 5th Tank Division’s attempt to block 7th Panzer Division’s advance from its bridgehead on the Neiman River at Alytus, Lithuania. The sturdy bridge at Alytus had withstood Soviet demolition charges, and the Germans needed to clear the Soviets from the area so they could use the bridge to speed their troops and supply lines across the river and toward Mother Russia.

Tactical Situation

The scenario starts at 1515 hours and runs for 36 turns, with visibility decreasing after turn 1945. It is played on four boards set up in a vertically oriented rectangle, with boards 7 (upright) and 1 (inverted) placed left-to-right north of boards 3 and 5 (both upright). The bridge on Board 7 has been destroyed while the bridge on Board 3 east of the town (Alytus) has not.

The Germans start on the west bank of the river on Board 3 while the Soviets may set up anywhere on boards 1 and 5 to the east, no more than two units per hex. At the game’s start the Soviets have a two-to-one numerical advantage in infantry-type units and nearly that in tanks, and the Germans have no artillery support. However, German morale is 8 to the Soviets’ 7, the Germans have heavy air support (they get to draw two air units each turn while visibility is eight hexes or more), and they receive six more tank platoons as reinforcements on the first turn in which they roll a 5 or 6 on one die.

Objectives

The German objective is to have eliminated twice as many Soviet steps at game’s end as German steps eliminated (tanks count double, trucks and prime movers don’t count). Any other result is a Soviet victory.

Soviet Tactics

The Soviets have numerical superiority and need only keep their troops alive to win, so they can start off using a “Come and get me!” strategy, setting up their units in limiting terrain so they’re concealed and can get the first shot on the advancing Germans.

The Soviet 45mm anti-tank guns and T26 tanks should set up in forward, adjacent hexes so they can activate all at once and hit the German Pz38t tanks with devastating fire before they can fire back. They should also set up in more than one location on opposite sides of the German line of approach so they can get crossfire bonuses on the German tanks.

Each setup location should have plenty of infantry support so the Germans will have to either split their forces or concentrate on one location at a time, giving the Soviets a shot at flanking attacks. But the Soviet player must be careful not to charge out of his defensive positions until German units have been weakened by Soviet fire. Charging full-strength, higher-morale German units is a very risky business, and the Soviets need to be prepared to call off the attack and retreat back to cover if the first rush doesn’t go well.

German Tactics

The Germans must act aggressively to win in this scenario, but they must also be very careful not to waltz into Soviet traps or otherwise risk being outflanked and overrun by Urrah charges.

They should therefore start by crossing the river and advancing eastward with caution, letting their air support pound the Soviet position for a few turns. They should keep their forces together and pick one Soviet position to assault, and not attack it until the German tank reinforcements are on the board and due to cross the river soon.

At that point, the German player should advance on the Soviet position with his infantry, keeping his tanks outside Soviet anti-tank fire range. He should let the infantry draw fire from the Soviet tanks there (thus allowing the German tanks to spot them), then use the panzers’ superior AT fire range to take out the Soviet tanks before the German infantry moves in to assault the lower-morale Soviet infantry. The Germans should repeat this process with each Soviet position, hitting one after another while guarding their flanks against counterattacks from other Soviet positions.

Game Summary

Here’s what happened in a recent game.

Setup

The Soviets set up their forces on Board 5 around the southern road. They concentrate forces in the woods north of the road, in a field just north of the road to the east, and on a hill just south of the road near the field. This gives all Soviet units a wide open field of fire on the advancing Germans, and keeps them close enough to each other that they can support each other with AT crossfire and Urrah charges at the German flanks. They have six infantry leaders and four tank leaders, which is just barely enough to lead their forces effectively.

The Germans set up just west of the river, in and around Alytus. The INF, HMG and ENG platoons set up on and around the road east of town, keeping off the trucks for fear of long-range Russian AT fire. The tanks and armored cars set up behind them in town and will stay behind them as the German column advances and waits for its reinforcements to arrive. The 37mm AT gun sets up on the east end of town to cover the German rear against Soviet tanks and armored cars moving down the road from the east.

Turn 1 — 1515 Hours

The German player starts with an initiative of 4 while the Russians have a 2. On the first initiative roll, both players roll a natural 3, meaning a Random Event occurs. The players roll on the Random Events table and get a 5, meaning German units in one hex to take a second action this turn. This is great news because it allows the two HMG platoons in the lead to advance close enough to the Soviets to fire on them long-range next turn.

The players roll for initiative again and the German player wins by one activation. First he rolls to see if his armored reinforcements show up, but he rolls a 4 and they don’t. He then draws his two aircraft units for the turn and gets one flight each of He111 and Bf109 aircraft, both of which have relatively weak ground-attack capability. He sends both of them to strike the Soviet 45mm AT gun position in the woods north of the road . . . and rolls a 1 and a 2, meaning both miss their target! The major commanding the column decides not to include this bad omen in his action report.

The very weak Soviet offboard artillery (it has a fire strength of 8) misses the German infantry west of the bridge, and then the entire German column (except for the armored cars in the rear) activates through subordinate activation and crosses the bridge. The INF, ENG and panzer platoons end up bunched around the bridge, with the panzers just outside the range of the Soviet 45mm AT gun in the woods north of the road.

The HMGs and a lieutenant then take their second action to move farther eastward. They end up where a Soviet T26 in the woods north of the road can fire on them but where they can fire on the two Soviet HMGs there and not be hit by them in return. The T26 declines to use opportunity fire on them, not wanting to expose itself to AT fire from the panzers which are too far away for the T26 to answer.

Soviet mortars in the hills to the east open fire on the German HMGs but miss. The Germans send the armored cars to join the 37mm AT gun in the east part of town, covering the German rear and the bridge. The Soviets units in the fields and hills to the east start digging-in, and the turn ends.

1530

Both players roll a natural 2 for initiative and another random event occurs. The roll on the Random Events Table is a 7, yielding one more aircraft unit for the Germans this turn. The Germans win initiative by one activation, and also roll a 5, meaning their armored reinforcements show up. Their air support this turn is one flight each of Stukas, Hs129s and Bf110s, which all attack the woods north of the road. The Stukas miss the two Soviet HMG platoons, but the other aircraft hit the Soviet 45mm AT gun position, rolling a 2 and destroying the AT gun (one Soviet step loss) and forcing a morale check on the T26 tank unit with it (it makes morale).

Soviet mortar fire disrupts the two German HMGs and their Lieutenant south of the woods, but they immediately recover morale. The Soviets pass, and the Germans bring in their tank reinforcements, which start moving south toward Alytus from the road on Board 7 to the north. Soviet offboard artillery is ineffective on the HMGs, and then the German INF and ENG platoons move northeast from the bridge toward the woods to take the pressure off the HMGs. The Soviets in the fields east to the east finish digging in, then the panzers by the bridge move north (now that the 45mm AT gun is gone) and put themselves just outside the normal T26 AT fire range of four hexes. The Soviets in the hills to the east finish digging in, and the turn ends with units relocating.

The Soviets have taken one step loss and the Germans have taken none.

1545

The Germans win by two activations and draw one flight each of Stukas and Hs129s. The Stukas miss the Soviet mortars, but the Hs129s disrupt one Soviet HMG platoon in the woods north of the road and demoralize its Lieutenant. Then the German HMGs south of the woods move two hexes northeast, putting them within the three-hex spotting range of the Soviets in the woods. Soviet opportunity fire from the woods is ineffective.

Soviet mortars hit a northbound INF and ENG platoon, disrupting the ENG. The rest of the German foot units move north to draw fire from the Soviets in the woods, while the ENG fails to recover morale. The Soviet infantry in the woods use opportunity fire on the Germans, with the tanks lying low, but the fire is ineffective. Soviet OBA is ineffective on the closest German INF units, and the reinforcing panzers head south.

Units relocate and recover, panzers blow up some Soviet prime movers and trucks, and then two T26 platoons in the woods decide to open fire at long range/half strength now that the panzers have fired. They know they’ll have to fire and expose their positions when the German infantry move adjacent to them next turn, so they fire on the panzers now to get the first shot. Each T26 unit can fire only once and needs an 11 to hit a Pz38t at 5 hexes. They roll a 9 and a 5, both missing.

The Germans pass, and then the Soviet colonel in the fields to the east decides to charge the strung-out German east flank before the panzer reinforcements arrive. He sends three T26 platoons and six INF platoons west to engage the German HMGs south of the woods, keeping them just outside the range of the panzers. The turn then ends on a Fog of War roll.

1600

The Soviets win initiative by one activation, and Soviet mortar fire on the HMGs south of the woods is ineffective. The Panzers east of the river and west of the woods then activate, with three of them firing on the T26s in the woods and the rest moving southeast to engage the T26s that charged out of the field. The moving panzers end up five hexes away from the T26s (outside their range), and the others pour six AT shots into the woods (they can fire twice per turn due to Armor Efficiency). They need an 11 to hit a T26 in the woods, but the closest they get is two tens.

Two charging T26s fire on the German HMGs south of the woods, disrupting their Lieutenant. One flight each of Ju88s and Bf109s then attack the Soviets charging the HMGs, disrupting an INF unit. Fire into and out of the woods is ineffective, German tank reinforcements move south, and then the Soviets in the hills to the east follow the colonel’s example and head west to block the German tank reinforcements from crossing the river. Fire from the German HMGs is ineffective, and then six Soviet infantry platoons surround their position from three sides. The turn then ends with more ineffective fire and repositioning of forces.

1615

The Germans win initiative by one activation, and the three panzers and one ENG just north of the road near the bridge activate, with one panzer and the ENG moving back to the bridge to guard it while the other two panzers blast away at the three T26s that just charged out of the hills to the east. They need to roll 10s to hit, but their best they do on six rolls a 9. The Soviet colonel has his five INF units fire on the adjacent German HMGs while his T26 fires at the panzers by the road. All fire is ineffective. Panzer fire on the T26s in the woods all misses, and then the T26s from the hills to the east move west onto the road and within range of the panzers north of the road.

German air support again hits the Soviet units attacking the German HMGs. The Ju88s disrupt one INF unit, and the Hx129s score an X result, doing one step loss on an INF unit and demoralizing it and the other INF unit in the hex plus their lieutenant!

Soviet fire is ineffective as the German infantry rushes the woods north of the road, and the German tank reinforcements move south. Then two T26s fire at the two panzers just north of the road, and one rolls a 10 and scores one step loss, demoralizing the other panzer step. Point-blank fire from the German HMGs scores an M2 result but the Soviets make morale. The rest of the Soviets from the hills move west on the road, and the German armored cars head out of Alytus and cross the bridge to take up position in the woods south of the road. They’ll fire on Soviet infantry moving west. The turn then ends with more repositioning of forces.

Both sides have now taken 2 step losses (tank steps count double).

1630

The Germans draw very weak air support this turn and win initiative by one activation, so the only panzer platoon that’s in a position to hit the T26s leading the charge west activates (along with the demoralized, reduced Panzer unit in the same hex). It misses on both shots, and the demoralized unit flees west across the river and past Alytus. The Soviets on the road then activate, with the T26s missing the Panzers and the foot units moving west. The German armored cars in the woods south of the road open fire and demoralize one HMG unit leading the advance west on the road.

The panzers west of the woods blast away one more time at the T26s there, rolling two 10s and two 9s, but scoring no hits. The Soviets in the woods fire point-blank on the German infantry but have no effect, and then the infantry assault two Soviet-held woods hexes. In the northern hex, both sides roll on the 18 column on the Assault Table, and the Germans get a 1 result while the Soviets get a 2. One German INF unit is eliminated but the other two and their lieutenant hold morale. A Soviet INF unit takes one step loss and is disrupted, and both T26 platoons in the hex are demoralized (the captain with them is OK). The assault on the southern hex gets a bloody nose, with the Soviets getting a 1 result while the Germans score only an M2. One German INF unit takes a step loss but holds morale, and the other INF unit becomes demoralized. Both Soviets are disrupted.

Two T26 platoons from the fields enter the road and drive west to the point of the westward advance (and just outside the range of the German 37mm AT gun in the town). German air units miss their target, and then the Soviets counterassault the southern German woods assault, sending in a lieutenant and an INF unit and disrupting a half-strength German INF unit there.

The German HMGs score an X result on the hex with the Soviet Colonel plus one T26 and an INF unit. The INF takes one step loss and is demoralized. The colonel rightly surmises that the attack on the German HMGs has been halted, and orders a withdrawal. This happens in a far less orderly fashion than desired, with three demoralized units and a lieutenant failing to recover and fleeing northeast.

The panzer platoon guarding the bridge then fires on the T26s at the point of the westward road advance and scores one step loss, and the battered but brave Soviet tank unit holds morale! Soviet mortar fire hits the German HMGs (it had been holding off since so many Soviets were around the HMGs, exposing themselves to friendly fire) and rolls a 12, disrupting one of the HMGs and demoralizing the other. The leading German armored reinforcements make it to just west of Alytus (the rest are back in the town), and then the T26s who were attacking the HMGs fire on the Panzers north of the road, just missing on a roll of 8. The Germans pass, and the Soviets in the northern woods assault hex fail to recover morale, with the two demoralized T26 platoons exiting the hex and the Soviet captain deciding to go with them (the half-strength, disrupted INF covers their retreat). The turn ends with more retreats and failed recoveries.

The Germans have now taken seven step losses and the Soviets have taken six, with several demoralized Soviet units fleeing and scattered around the board.

1645

German initiative drops to 3 while Soviet initiative holds at 2. The Germans win initiative by one activation and the three panzer platoons west of the woods miss the T26s spearheading the westward road advance. T26 fire from the road replies but misses, and the infantry with them decide to hold position rather than advance into point-blank opportunity fire from panzers by the road. A demoralized Soviet HMG unit flees southeast, and the panzer reinforcements cross the bridge and join their fellow tankers, while all remaining T26s in the area fire at the panzers and miss.

German air power hits the middle of the Soviet road advance, disrupting the captain leading it. Then the Soviet counterassault in the southern woods hex demoralizes the remaining good-order German unit there, and the Germans just to their north fail to harm the half-strength Soviet unit that guarded the retreat of the fleeing, demoralized T26s and the captain. The captain spots the two Soviet HMGs to the south and tells them to follow him back into the assault hex — can’t leave those incredibly brave infantrymen to die . . . It’s not a smart move. The Germans roll a 6 on the 18 table and score a 2 result, while the lower morale Soviets roll a 1 on the 13 column and get nothing but shot to pieces. The half-strength INF unit dies defending its captain, one HMG unit takes a step loss and the other is disrupted. The two demoralized T26s that exited the assault with the captain keep fleeing northeast.

The last unactivated panzers north of the road miss the T26s on the road, the Soviet mortars demoralize the Lieutenant with the German HMGs, and he and one demoralized HMG fail to recover and flee west (the other HMG recovers to good-order). The Soviet Colonel orders his infantry to turn back and attack the HMG position again, and the turn ends with more ineffective fire, missed recoveries and repositioning of forces.

The Germans are holding steady at six step losses and the Soviets have now taken eight.

1700

Soviet initiative drops to 1, and the Germans win initiative by one activation. The seven panzer platoons on the road east of the bridge all open fire. The fourth platoon destroys one step of T26s stacked with the Colonel and about to assault the last HMGs. The other step is demoralized. That’s all the panzers manage to do.

The lead T26s on the road destroy one German armored car step in the woods (the other step is demoralized), and then all three panzer platoons west of the woods miss the T26s on the road. The lieutenant takes over for the disrupted captain on the road and activates the column, but all three T26 platoons miss the panzers again. The infantry is tired of waiting around and advances, and one of them gets disrupted by opportunity fire from the undemoralized armored car in the woods. The Soviet captain on the road recovers but the demoralized HMG keeps fleeing for the hills.

The leaderless HMG fires on the Soviet colonel and his units before they can assault, disrupting one INF unit and demoralizing the other. The Soviet assault on the HMG position is once again repelled, and the T26 that was going to join it fires on a panzer and scores one step loss, disrupting the other step. The German assault in the northern woods hex gets a bloody nose, taking one step loss but holding morale. But both Soviet units there become demoralized, and the reduced-strength German INF that fled from the assault recovers morale.

Soviet mortar fire disrupts the German HMG that repelled two assaults, and then panzer fire from the bridge destroys one step loss from the lead Soviet tank unit on the road. This one contains a tank leader, and he holds morale!

Soviet fire on the lone disrupted German HMG is ineffective, and then a massive German airstrike composed of Stukas and Ju88s attacks a three-high stacked hex on the road. The Ju88s miss the target, but the Stukas hit and score a 2X result, eliminating a disrupted full-strength INF unit, demoralizing the lieutenant and an HMG and disrupting an INF unit. Then the Soviet counterassault in the southern woods hex demoralizes the German major there, leaving him and his INF unit both demoralized. The major recovers morale but the unit doesn’t and flees the hex, taking one step loss from the Soviet “free shot.” The Soviet colonel next to the indomitable HMG gets one INF unit with him to recover morale, but the demoralized INF and tank unit with him both fail and flee northeast.

Both Soviet units in the northern woods assault hex fail to recover from demoralization and flee the hex, and the German “free shot” does 1 step loss and eliminates a reduced HMG unit. The turn ends after more recoveries.

The Germans have now taken 10 step losses and the Soviets have taken 15, with significantly more Soviet units than German demoralized and fleeing.

1715

German initiative drops to 2 and Soviet initiative holds at 1. The Germans win initiative by one activation. The seven tank platoons on the bridge and the road open fire again, eliminating the last two steps of T26s leading the advance. All remaining T26s on the road miss their targets, and another demoralized Soviet HMG on the road flees. The panzers west of the woods miss the Soviet tanks, and more T26 fire misses.

The Germans in the northern woods hex assault the fleeing demoralized Soviets north of them, doing two step losses, eliminating an HMG unit and disrupting and ejecting the now lone captain. But the lieutenant leading the assault and one of his INF units become disrupted. The Soviet lieutenant who repelled the southern German woods assault returns the favor and assaults the fleeing Germans, but he becomes demoralized and his INF unit becomes disrupted. German airpower demoralizes the INF unit with the Soviet colonel, and Soviet OBA demoralizes the German lieutenant who just chased the Soviet HMGs out of the woods. Recoveries occur, Soviet mortar fire demoralizes the hitherto brave German HMG, and the turn ends on a Fog of War roll after more recoveries.

The Germans have still taken only 10 step losses while the Soviets have now taken 21 and are scattered willy-nilly.

1730

Soviet initiative drops to 0 while German initiative remains at 2. The Germans win by one activation and the panzers open fire, killing three more Soviet tank steps and disrupting a fourth. Returned fire from the last good-order T26 on the board is ineffective, German airpower demoralizes the last good-order Soviet INF unit on the entire board, and the Soviets surrender, having taken way more than twice the German step losses and having nothing left to fight back with.

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