This weekend I finally got around to try out my Polish armored train for my early war Polish army. The initial idea was to play one of the scenarios from my campaign book which included the Polish train as a featured unit. I actually built my army with the idea of playing the "Modlin Fortress" scenario which is part of the siege of Warsaw operation. But on location we realized that the desert train I had figured would be a nice proxy for the old medieval fort was not present, and there were not enough rivers for the scenario either so it ended with me and my buddy Thomas just playing a regular "Breakthrough" scenario from the main rulebook. Both armies were 1500pts.
My armylists was not really made for a generic battle, it was a pretty poor list to be honest. 3 infantry platoons with anti tank rifle add-ons, the Polish armored train with 1 light and 1 heavy artillery car and a platoon of FT-17 tanks. My infantry battalion HQ had the two mortars attached to it.
My opponent had a Schützen company, with 1 platoon of Pz38t's and 1 platoon of Panzerjägers, 2 platoons of infantry riding in trucks, 1 small platoon of AT Pak36 guns and a pretty large mortar platoon (6 mortars).
I kept my crappy FT-17 platoon in reserve, no way I was going to have the train wait as a delayed reserve when it was both my only artillery and AT gun platform. My opponent kept a platoon of infantry in reserve.
I messed up in the deployment phase without even reflecting upon it, placing two platoons along the edge of my deployment so close to the enemy lines was pretty stupid. I ended facing the entire German armor force with a single infantry platoon which had a single anti tank rifle ....
Germans had first turn, so they beat the crap out of my lonely platoon on the northern flank with a nice tank assault. I decided to fall back rather than stay in the fight and pulled what remained of my platoon (8 out of 14 stands) across the railway line, I had to leave 1 rifle stand behind as they were out of coherency due to enemy fire. The rest of the German army drove at full speed along the road and started to cross the train tracks, using stormtrooper move they dismounted their trucks and AT guns.
Polish turn 1 provided me with two choices. Either enter the train from the south, which would mean at least 3 turns of driving along the tracks before making contact - with poor visibility among the trees and unable to fire artillery bombardments due to lack of LoS and spotter teams. Or - I could enter from the north right in the middle of the German force.
I figured option 2 would be pretty dangerous to the train, but I thought I would at least knock out 2 tanks with each artillery car, all I needed to do was to hit the Germans and they would be destroyed by my AT8 firepower 2/3+ guns. Also this was a unique opportunity of making a armoured train "drive by" and blast enemy infantry up close with all the machineguns lining the sides, front/back and the roof of the train!
The train arrives, one funny thing that we both realized now was that the train created a shield cutting of half of the table from the advancing German army - it also cut off the enemy C.O.!
Machineguns rattled to the sides, managing to wipe out the AT guns belonging to the Pak36 platoon, 1 transport truck and bailed 1 Panzerjäger. It also pinned down the nearby infantry platoon. However... when time came for the big guns to open fire the light artillery car failed to hit anything, and the heavy artillery car had 1 turret without LoS to the enemy tank teams, and the turret which could see enemy tanks failed to hit anything. The most depressing and pathetic moment of the entire battle was that one of the heavy artillery turrets opened fire out of sheer frustration at a nearby truck column - hit one truck - which managed to save and remained unharmed.... W..T...F.....
During this turn all my infantry failed to hit anything and my mortar teams failed to range in. My infantry also performed a failed assault, lost 4 teams and became pinned down.
Turn 2, with the train blocking the way for my opponents tanks he naturally tried to rid himself off the threat imposed by the artillery cars. His 2 armored platoons opened fire at the train which took several hits, somehow it only lost 1 light artillery car - so there was still a bit of hope left.
The German infantry decided to dig in to avoid being massacred by the next shower of Polish train mounted MG's.
Time for the Polish again, down in the south a single platoon was moving towards the German objectives to set up some sort of defense against the German reinforcements which would be arriving shortly, while in the north both infantry and mortars excelled at firing blindly towards the enemy - hitting nothing. The mortars actually ranged in but made absolutely nothing except inflicting a "pinned down" result on the infantry. The train was still in a awkward position with the small forest blocking LoS, so it moved forward a little to be able to fire both heavy guns at the enemy tanks. This ended in 1 destroyed 38t tank, the MG's did not inflict any casualties at all....
German turn 3, Germans failed to enter with any reinforcements, so they entertained themselves by shooting up Polish infantry teams with absurd accuracy and efficiency - and topped the turn by blowing up the remaining artillery car and the locomotive, leaving the assault car locked in place.
The Polish too fail to bring in their reserves, not that I think a platoon of FT-17 tanks would be of much use at this point. The only thing I could really hope for was to delay the Germans and hope for them to fuck up somewhere up in the north because I was sure I could handle a single German platoon with my Polish platoon that had just arrived and set up a nice defense of the two German objectives. The Assault car platoon jumped out of the train and moved away, not that there were anything to shoot at on this "safe side" of the train. At least they would not be blown up with the assault car.
As turn 4 starts, the Germans roll for their reinforcements and move their infantry platoon onto the table. They moved straight towards the Polish infantry, managed to pin them down - killing 4 teams in the process and then assaulted them killing another 4 teams....
My infantry held their ground, I wished they would have fled off table at this point. In their counter assault they killed 1 German stand.
At this point the whole situation would have made a nice explanatory picture for the acronym FUBAR. So I gave up. The whole battle was a clusterfuck for the Polish side, not only did I roll piss poor with everything - my opponent rolled such surrealistic results that it gave me a headache. Stuff like rolling 5 hits, which became 4 kills at least 3 times with his infantry (at one point his lonely C.O. killed 3 stands by himself firing his SMG...). Granted my deployment and army list sucked but the absurd die rolls pretty much killed the entire game. I'm OK with shitty rolls now and again. But when each roll is crap, it breaks the immersion and you realize you are just rolling dice and feel like stupid when everything fails no matter what you try to pull off.
As nice as it was to hang out with Thomas and the rest of the gang down in the FoW "bunker" in Lund, this particular game was an epic fail. I think the train deserved better than this, even though it is a really expensive and fickle unit. I think the train is better for specific scenarios and/or larger battles. Playing a train in a 1500pts game is just crippling.
At least I took a bunch of pictures of the game and table which looked good, so that's always something. Oh, and Patrik will be holding another Early War tournament on the 18th this month - really looking forward to that as the last tournament was great fun :-)
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