1979: Czechoslovakians versus Americans

This page last modified: 22 September 2013

This was another game using Keith McNelly's scenario generator against Rhys Batchelor. The year was again 1979, and with him again using Americans from the 3rd Armored Division IIRC, and me using Czechoslovakians drawn the 3rd Motor Rifle Division, meaning mostly Regular troops, but with a significant number of Green units as well. After setting up the terrain, the game turned out to be a Mutual Encounter using Defend lists - so 600 points each. As it turned out, Rhys used a B option, while I chose an A option, so I was 2 victory points up from the start without even knowing it! The A option I chose was essentially providing vehicles to the troops that started out dismounted in the base defend list - those from the OT-64 units in other words (my BVP units keep their vehicles even in a defend list, so they can be used as mobile reserves). The list I was working with was rather different to that of our previous game, which was more tank-heavy; this list emphasised the infantry.

Accordingly, I fielded essentially a full Regular OT-64 regiment (missing just the regimental AA company), with the tanks pre-attached out, plus a weakened Green BVP regiment of only two battalions, with only the HQ, recon and MRL elements (so no tanks here), for 5 fighting battalions in total. Still, not too shabby for 660 points!

In setting up the board, we (or mostly me!) went for a theme, of fighting along the foothills of a range of higher hills, so one short edge of the table was chock-full of rolling hills. As it turned out, Rhys got the side of table with 3 of the 5 objectives, with the odd one being on the short side away from the hills, on my left. I decided to throw my entire weight on the right, and ignore that lone objective. So one OT battalion, with attached regimental AT and Engineering assets advanced to the central objective on my side, and deployed defensively, as it tuned out, never to advance again.

The next OT battalion, along with the attached regimental recon company, deployed immediately to its right, into an on-table reserve position. To its right went the 3rd OT battalion, along with attached RHQ and regimental NBC platoon. It was tasked with taking the right-hand objective on my side of the table, advancing on towards the one on Rhys' side of the board, and then swinging in, to the rear-centre of his side, to the 4th objective in his middle rear sector. Accompanying this unit was one of the BVP battalions, along with attached RHQ, regimental NBC and engineering assets,and some divisional AA; only this unit was to aim deeper into his half, which is why it was BVP unit that was chosen for the job.

Here's how the table looked at the end of the first turn, with me at the bottom, the objectives marked with orange dots, and my initial command arrows drawn in, save for that of my flanking battalion (for which, read on below!):

1st turn

The second BVP battalion, with attached recon company and a single divisional AA element, was tasked with a flank march - on the right, to further reinforce this sector, and to keep Rhys guessing, which worked quite well: he thought initially it was heading for the other flank. As it turned out, Rhys flank-marched on the same flank (hence his need for a B-option, to get enough gear to make this viable). This led to all sorts of merriment when his battalion turned up on turn 3... According to Keith's system, his got displaced 300 mm closer to his side than its intended arrival point - putting it just in front of one of my battalions, and not cunningly behind, as he had intended. Of course, my battalion that was also flank marching still had to dice for its own arrival - which, although scheduled to arrive on turn 2, didn't actually make it on table until turn 12...

Here's how the table looked at the end of the third turn. Rhys' two initial on-table battalions have taken two of his objectives, and deployed into defensive positions while awaiting his flank march, now coming on-table in a rather worrying position...

3rd turn

A right royal battle went on on my right flank. His position was poor, but M60s make for a much better combatant than T-55s... I am not sure why Keith's system calls battalions that "win" a mutual flank march to be displaced somewhat rearwards if they arrive near enemy, given the position they get displaced to can have even more enemy!

Rhys' flank march arrives

You can appreciate Rhys' predicament much better from this shot. As it was it took a long time to clear his battalion away - much smoke ammunition was expended by both sides, and my BVP battalion was eventually broken having taken heavy losses in the process. As the fight was going on, my rockets and artillery had been eliminated by his M107s (the rules make these the epitome of counterbattery awesomeness), but his artillery had also expended their ammunition (Brigade M109s in addition to his M107s), just leaving just our mortars available for pot-shotting each other, of which I had far more...

9th turn

By turn 9, the way forward had finally been cleared, and I committed my reserve battalion into the fray, aiming up to the half-way line, and then angling in toward the central objective, where I was now engaging his central defensively-deployed battalion.

11th turn

By turn 11, I was starting to close assault elements of his central battalion, with my T-55s doing sterling work drawing fire from his M60s while my OT-64s rushed in and picked off his outnumbered M113 infantry teams, action which heated up in the next turn.

13th turn

By the 13th turn I had broken and cleared his central battalion, and was whittling down his other battalion that had been slowly feeding units across into the fight as I came into spotting range. My belated flank march, repositioned on to my own edge of side of the board under Keith's system, was now also moving ominously up the road toward the central objective.

14th turn

The end of the game came in the next turn, when his final battalion cracked: I thought it would have hung around a bit longer, but Rhys had had to detach a significant portion of it to garrison the far objective, due to the awkward fit of the terrain with the unit's command radius, leaving it weakened.

So I had lost one battalion (and had another beaten up quite badly, but not enough to force a morale check), plus had chosen an "A option", but had seized 4 out of 5 objectives. Rhys had only one objective by this stage, had lost all 3 battalions, and had taken a "B option" as well, so the score was 13 to 1 in my favour... A trouncing, but it took a long while to play out, because of the kerfuffle with the flank-marching units. If the game had been played to some sort of time limit, it would have been a low-scoring draw: from turns 2 to 8, inclusive, the score was 3 to 1 in my favour.

This game really brought home the value of T-55s as tank-bait while rushing forward with OTs in preparation for close assaults. Even though my tanks were positioned well back, they attracted shots away from my infantry vehicles - it's an aspect of combined arms warfare that MSH replicated quite well (although it's not visually quite right, because the tanks, as "support" elements, have to be to the rear if they want to shoot, whereas in real life, they would be in the front, more literally protecting the infantry with their armour).

This game was notable for one other reason: Rhys convinced me to give the "normal" ground scale a go. Until this game, all my MSH games had been played using the alternative (two-thirds) ground scale. I found the "normal" scale to give a much superior game, and will not be playing the alternative ground scale again if I can help it. I think I only played the alternative scale because that is how I was introduced to the game by Keith - and since he puts down rather little terrain on his gaming tables, using the normal scale would result in overly-long lines of sight for him.

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