Sunday, August 10, 2014

Charge! Polish cavalry tackles tanks in AAM

When I was in elementary school back in the 1960s I had several of the How and Why Wonder books. One in particular that I still remember vividly was the one on World War II. It had, as I recall, a dramatic illustration of Polish cavalry being attacked by German aircraft.
So when a new player of AAM suggested he’s like to try a few DYO scenarios I thought I’d make it interesting by picking one of the minor Allied powers to face his Germans. I happened to have a bunch of Polish cavalry that had never seen the table, so I designed a build that used them – and almost every other 1939 Pole I owned. Actually a few more, as I bought a few more to fill it out from 12-7 games.

Although not intentional, our mutual OBs ended up being reasonably historical, representing a good facsimile of an encounter between the German 3rd Light Division and a Polish Cavalry brigade. About the only departure was the inclusion of a stray Polish 7TP tank.  The German build was 151 points and the Poles were 174, given the 15% bonus for being an all-Polish build.
So, the Polish force comprised the following elements:
10 x Polish Cavalry
9 x Polish Mauser
5 x TKS Tankette
4 x 37mm ATG
4 Minefields
3 x Polish officer
1 ea 7TP tank, Ammo Dump, HQ, and Pillbox
This approximated a Polish cavalry squadron, an infantry company, an anti-tank battery, a tankette platoon and supports

The German opponents were:

Two infantry platoons, each with 1 SS Leader, 3 Mausers, 1 MG34 and a Lt Mtr.
Two tank platoons, each with a Pz IVA and two Pz 38(t)
Air support with a Disciplined Spotter, one Stuka and one Bf 109E

The Poles had to set up first. We used Map Configuration 1 “Villages” Alternate Map layout from Page 7 of the Expanded Rules. The Poles selected the “Left” edge (the side with the numbers) which placed them closer to the objective and gave them some woods, hills and hedgerows for cover.

The cavalry set up in the left woods, ready to advance through the woods and hills in that sector. The HQ and pillbox were to their rear.
On the ridge and central woods were the Polish armor and two infantry platoons.
In the hedgerow field on the right was the ammo dump, the ATG battery and the remaining infantry platoon.
The minefields were set up to block the gaps between the woods on the German side of the map.

The Germans set up with one infantry platoon on the far right in some woods and the other in the central woods behind the small pond. Each platoon had a Pz. IV in support.
The Pz 38(t) all set up on the German left flank, with the Disciplined Spotter.

The Germans won the initiative, which they generally did through the battle. The Poles advanced all along the front, occupying the central village and taking firing positions. The German armor advanced, while the infantry held back for now.

During the first Air Phase the German fighter targeted a cavalry squad while the Stuka took aim at an ATG. Here the Poles caught a vital break, as excellent shooting by two Mausers attached to the ATG actually shot down the Stuka! The Stuka’s destruction of the ATG didn’t make up for this.  In fact, the Poles continued to have good luck with their rifle fire, twice managing to disrupt the fight later in the battle. As a consequence, out of a theoretical total of 14 air strikes the German player only got to implement six! It’s quite likely that this represented the winning difference in the game.

The Polish cavalry in the town was quite chewed up by the nearby German infantry, tanks and fighter aircraft, prompting the Polish commander to pull back the surviving platoon for the time being.

Near the end
On the right the German Pz. 38s tested their luck against the 37s and came out on the short end of the stick, losing three tanks. A big help in the effort was the ammo dump. Eventually the German player took out the dump with the fighter plane, but by then the damage had been done.

The Polish tank didn’t last long, dying in the first exchange of fire, but the tankettes proved surprisingly robust. While the Germans destroyed four and damaged the last, the TKS managed to swarm and destroy one Pz. IV.

Once the Germans numbers were reduced the surviving Polish horse was able to re-enter the fray and do some damage. Among their highlights was sobering one of the German leaders in the woods and shooting up the rear of the last Pz 38(t) after it was damaged.

The game ended with the Poles in secure command of the objective with most of their surviving infantry and leaders. Also surviving were two cavalry squads and two ATG. The Germans had one infantry platoon and the fighter remaining.

Some good luck against the planes was responsible for a surprising Polish victory.

A few thoughts on the Polish units based on this fight:

The Polish Cavalry’s forte was mobility, but they are very fragile. An overly aggressive opening move cost the Poles half their cavalry on Turn 1. More circumspect usage thereafter resulted in them doing good work. A key tactic was to disrupt the target hex and move in during the following turn’s movement phase when there wouldn’t be defensive fire.

The Polish Mausers are your regular AAM standard infantry platoon.  This worked to their advantage because the more colorful units such as the cavalry, tankettes and officers drew fire. At the end of the day, however,  the Mausers were the key to victory, shooting down the Stuka, disrupting the fighter and capturing the objective

The Polish Officers were a disappointment. While only 1 less initiative than the Germans, they only won initiative a couple of times, and once was on a HQ re-roll. Their Coordinated Fire Ability was only used once all game because the officer only has a range of 1.

The 37mm ATG were killers. Every bit as good as similar weapons in other Early War armies, they were devastating against the light German armor. They really had no drawbacks outside the mobility restrictions of the type.  They achieved a 5-1 kill ratio against the German tanks.

The TKS tankettes were also useful. They proved distracting to the Germans and managed to hold their own against the German armor, destroying on Pz IV and contributing to the death of the other.

The ammo dump was very useful and the Germans made  a mistake by not trying to take it out earlier. The Poles seemed to roll an awful lot of “1s”

The 7TP, in contrast, didn’t accomplish much before it died. It was taken out in the first volley and only managed to disrupt a Pz IV.  A single light tank isn’t very useful.

The HQ also didn’t accomplish a lot. One initiative loss was turned into a win, but the other rerolls failed. The pillbox wasn’t tested, largely because the HQ wasn’t deemed worth killing by the Germans. The minefields created a minor headache for the Germans, but nothing notable.

Overall it was fun to finally get to use my Poles, but they aren’t really a competitive build, even with the 15% bonus. Against a more experienced German -- or one with better luck -- they could be expected to lose more often than they win. It’s a very one-dimensional force and one that is especially vulnerable against an armor/air build.

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