Tuesday 20 November 2018

Less Than 60 Miles - Playtest Session 13 (1)

Some details on our internal playtest session 13 for Less Than 60 MilesFor a change, I'm US V Corps Commander in charge - Better Dead Than Red!

Playtest is made on Vassal, using the final production map and counters art you will find in the box. One of the main consequences of the previous playtest sessions has been the change of the time scale, now at three hours per turn.

In this AAR, I'll try to give some hints on several mechanisms of the "C3" system, keeping a fast narrative without excessive details.

More info on Less Than 60 Miles can be found on the official Thin Red Line Games site!

Scenario Overview

At 0600 Central European Time of July, 24 1985 Warsaw Pact forces cross the Inner German Border. Western intelligence and politician screwed up, and the order to move to battle positions is issued only 10 hours before the beginning of the attack.

Warsaw Pact attacking forces are composed by:
  • Soviet 1st Guards Tank Army
    9th Tank Division
    20th Guards Motorized Rifle Division
    11th Guards Tank Division
  • Soviet 8th Guards Army
    27th Guards Motorized Rifle Division
    39th Guards Motorized Rifle Division
    57th Guards Motorized Rifle Division
    79th Guards Tank Division
  • East German III Military District
    7th Panzer Division
    4th Motorized Rifle Division
    11th Motorized Rifle Division
Forces available to US V Corps are:
  • US 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
  • US 3rd Armored Division
  • US 8th Infantry Division
  • West German 5th Panzer Division

Battle Plans

The main goal of this playtest session is to verify NATO's capabilities to counterattack effectively at Brigade level, if offered a decent chance. Consequently, Warsaw Pact battle plan is voluntarily quite different from a masterpiece of military art. 

1st GTA and 8th GA will advance along the main roads toward Frankfurt, leaving a convenient gap between them that could be used by NATO for a flank counterattack. East German Division will put pressure on NATO flanks and support the Soviet advance if needed.

As in any typical Soviet-era plan, everything goes as smooth as silk and the Glorious Armies of the Socialist People will control Frankfurt at D+3 (H+72)

NATO plan has three distinct phases:
  1. Establish a solid defense line, keeping at least one brigade for each division in reserve
  2. Slowly retreat along the two main WP advance axis
  3. As soon as losses and attrition force Warsaw Pact to commit its Operational Maneuver Groups, counterattack with reserve brigades.

D+0, 0600 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Warsaw Pact obtains some HUMINT on the exact location of West German's Attack Helicopter squadrons, and proceed to attack them with a combined air + SS-23 strike. WG 1/5 AH squadron is completely destroyed during the attack.

Warsaw Pact Divisions cross the Inner German Border, mostly using doctrinal deployment as follows: 
  • 1x Reconnaissance Battalion, in Recon Posture
  • 2x Tank / Motorized Rifle Regiments, in Assault From March Posture
  • Regiment Artillery Group, mostly Self-Propelled artillery, in Close Support Posture
  • 1x Tank / Motorized Rifle Regiment, in Assault From March Posture
  • Division Artillery Group, reinforced by Army / Front artillery assets, in Close Support Posture for SP Artillery and Tactical Posture for Towed Artillery.
Assault From March Posture gives WP divisions good mobility and attack strength, by sacrificing defense capabilities and Blocking capabilities (similar to ZOC).

NATO executes several Air Interdiction missions along WP axis of advance, while covering forces try their best to slow down the Communist mechanized columns.

D+0, 0600 ZT - NATO Phase

Biggest problem for NATO is the lack of time for getting US 3AD and WG 5Pz Divisions into position.

The only option is moving in Road Mode toward the FEBA, hoping that enemy air strikes will not obliterate the vulnerable columns in the process. Moreover, troops could be exposed to enemy ground attacks during final passage into Tactical / Defense Posture as covering forces could be heavily engaged and unable to protect the deployment areas.

For now, covering forces North of Fulda succeed in disengaging from the enemy and move to the next battle position.

D+0, 0900 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

NATO executes more interdiction missions, slowing down Soviet 1GTA progress.

A couple of Ground Strike Missions target WP Artillery battalions right behind the leading regiments, as their forward position and Close Support Posture give NATO good intelligence on their location. After incurring in some serious losses, Warsaw Pact Front Commander orders all the RAG battalions to stay at least 5 km behind the FEBA.

9th Tank Division quickly crosses the upper Fulda river using amphibious equipment, at the cost of some recon vehicles and T-80s lost during fording operations.

More South, three Soviet Divisions approach Fulda from different directions.

D+0, 0900 ZT - NATO Phase

Warsaw Pact interdicts roads used by 1/3AD and 3/3AD, slowing down their movement to the FEBA.

D+0, 1200 ZT - WP Phase

Thanks to 95th Tank Regiment established bridgehead across Fulda river, WP engineers can start setting up a Ribbon Bridge near Bad Hersfeld. At the same time, more Combat Engineers support WP troops crossing Fulda river at three different locations.

Attacks against NATO covering forces along the whole front are successful, forcing them to disengage or retreat West. 1/11ACR is practically encircled in the western outskirts of Fulda.

D+0, 1200 ZT - NATO Phase

NATO Brigades are now more or less in position, but helpless as most Battalions are still in Road Posture. Covering forces must hold in place and keep enemy away for six more hours, or the main defense line could be unable to withstand the initial impact.

US 3AD also starts setting up improved defense positions near Steinau.

D+0, 1500 ZT - WP Phase

Preliminary artillery bombardments pin in place most of NATO covering forces, followed shortly by furious assaults by WP advanced Divisions.

In the end, most of covering troops must retreat with heavy losses, and in a couple of areas Pact's Divisions are able to make contact with NATO main defense forces. Luckily, Soviet 27th Guards MRD paid the price for destroying 1/11 ACR and is now somewhat fatigued.

D+0, 1500 ZT - NATO Phase

Orders are frantically issued and executed by NATO brigades, but despite the urgency several US 8ID units will not be ready for combat before H2100. US 3AD and WG 5Pz are able to assume a mix of Defense and Tactical Postures, not optimal but maybe enough for stopping the first assaults.

The main problem is the absence of most attack helicopter squadrons, still busy setting up FARPs away from airfields with firing coordinates well known to Warsaw Pact. This delay is partially imputable to wrong orders issued to AH units during the first, chaotic hours of the conflict.

D+0, 1800 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Remaining NATO covering forces are attacked repeatedly, with most of them finally succumbing to losses. 

In particular, 9th Tank Division is able to drive a wedge between US 3AD and WG 5Pz Divisions, putting US 2-36 Battalion in a dangerous position.

Detail of Soviet 1st Guards Tank Army + EG III Military District sector

D+0 1800 ZT - NATO Phase

NATO main defense line is finally almost in place, even though several weak spots still remain, particularly in US 8ID sector.

D+0, 2100 ZT - WP Phase

Successful Intelligence allows Warsaw Pact to pinpoint WG 14/5Pz HQ exact location, and in a matter of minutes a heavy bombardment by SS-21 and SS-23 missiles almost destroys it. This could have a heavy impact on WG brigade's combat capabilities in the next few hours, but luckily night is approaching.

Pact's forces begin assaulting the main NATO defense line, with immediate local successes in US 1/8ID sector.

Meanwhile, permanent Panel Bridges over Fulda river are completed, allowing Warsaw Pact to disassemble the previously used Ribbon Bridges and free combat engineers for other tasks.

D+0, 2100 ZT - NATO Phase

NATO is forced to move 3/3AD brigade near the FEBA, risking to have it engaged by Pact's forces. Hopefully, Soviet 8th Guards Army will continue to move along the East - West autobahn, ignoring it.

US 8ID should finally be fully deployed by D+1, H0000 ZT.

Now, two night game turns are approaching. We will see if Warsaw Pact Commander wants to press on, conceding no rest to NATO and his own troops. Part two of this AAR will follow!


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