19 January 2013

Across the Polish border: Belorussian Front operation

The desperate defense of the Polish Border Protection Corps (KOP) continued last week as me and David started the "Belorussian Front" operation from my "Poland in Flames" campaign book.

The date is still September 17th just like in our last battle, but this time we had a custom scenario as opposed to running something
out of the main FoW rulebook.

"Across the Polish border" is the first scenario in the Belorussian Front operation, and it's really the most vulnerable flank of the Polish backyard at this point on the timeline. The reserves which had been stationed there had already been shipped to the western front to face the German armies, most of the best equipment had also been stripped from the KOP formations. Cities such as Grodno and Wilno were barely defended at all, and certainly not prepared and reinforced for battle the same way such as Lwów in south-east Poland. In fact, military personnel and equipment had been stripped from the north-east and taken down to the south-eastern parts of the country shortly prior to the Soviet invasion.

Another aspect that made the situation even more impossible along the Belorussian front was the lack of any larger regular army formations left in the area, whereas the south-eastern parts of the country still had the withdrawing remnants of the "Krakow" army and general Kleeberg's "Independent Operational Group Polesie" had already begun its fighting withdrawal south towards Lwów due to German attacks on Brześć.

If you wonder about the lack of Polish commitment in the north-eastern part of the country, it was due to the Polish plan to - in case the shit hit the fan - withdraw whatever forces remained towards the mountainous regions of southern Poland along the shared border with Romania and Hungary, and in that favorable terrain make their stand while waiting for the Allied troops. When the Soviet Union invaded, this plan completely fell apart and Polish troops started to receive orders to evacuate the country instead.

The scenario "Across the Polish border" is quite simple, Polish troops are hit by a Soviet surprise attack at 4AM in the morning. The Soviet player deploys his entire army, the Polish player has 75% on the table, and the rest in Reserve (assuming those units are out on patrol duty). The first turn of the game is played in darkness. The terrain is sparse, it's the outback with wilderness, a road and a solitary farm. Not much cover for the attacker, but neither that much to hide behind for the defender. The Soviet goal is to crush the KOP force and drive onwards into Poland - so the Soviet player wins by breaking the Polish force morale. The Polish player must hold out for 7 turns in order to win, being the only line of defense you have to win time for other forces to prepare their defenses.

1500 points per side, the armies looked like this:

Polish Border Protection Corps (KOP units = Confident/Trained)

2 KOP infantry companies, with 2 infantry platoons each
1 KOP HMG company, with 2 platoons
1 KOP Cavalry squadron, with a single platoon
1 KOP Bunker section (1x 75mm, 2x HMG bunkers)
1 Piechoty AT-gun platoon (Fearless/Trained)
1 Piechoty Light artillery battery (Fearless/Trained)

Soviet Fast tank company

HQ (BT-5)
BT-5 platoon (4 tanks)
BT-5 platoon (4 tanks)
BA-10 armoured car platoon (5 cars)
Motorized infantry company (with attached HMG, 2 infantry platoons)
45mm AT gun platoon
82mm Mortar platoon

Prior to the battle starting, I placed  "2nd Platoon" and the KOP Cavalry squadron in Reserve. I also combat attached 1 HMG platoon to the Sailors holding the center, and 1 HMG platoon to "3rd platoon" guarding my light artillery battery. Bunkers were placed in the center, 75mm artillery on the left flank, and AT gun platoon off center to the right. I made sure all guns had some kind of cover.

Soviet player had first turn, using the cover of the dark the BT-5 tanks quickly drove up to the Polish weak right flank, BA-10 cars drive up on the center. Soviet infantry advanced on the Polish left flank and in the center. Soviet mortars and tank fire officially started the attack, instantly destroying one Polish AT-gun and some unfortunate infantry. Polish "1st Platoon" was hit pretty bad by the Soviet tank attack and lost a lot of men and started falling back in panic.

Poles fired back with the remaining 2 AT guns and knocked out two armored cars and bailed two, the nighttime limited visibility for the remainder of the Polish units. The panicking "1st Platoon" tried to dig in but failed, and soon got massacred by Soviet tanks. What men remained fled. As if that wasn't bad enough Soviet mortars and tanks finished off the remaining 2 AT guns, leaving half of the Polish line without any Anti-tank support.

Dawn broke on turn 2, this made things more dangerous for the attacker, Soviet infantry moved into concealing terrain but Polish machineguns, small arms and artillery fired with everything they had at anything that moved. The Soviet infantry took some casualties but nothing they couldn't handle, they did however become pinned down, and the Soviet troops on the left flank were pretty much cut off and isolated in a small grove.

The Soviet armor now launched an attack on the crumbling right flank, held by the Polish sailors, driving up to the tree line the BT-5 tanks blasted the defensive positions and drove right into the Polish foxholes, the sailors receiving the charge were forced to fall back, and the Soviet tanks consolidated into the trees in pursuit. It was at this moment when the Polish force finally received their first reinforcements, "2nd platoon" had returned from their patrol, and now moved up to support the sailors against the BT-5 platoons. Half of the new arrivals supported the sailors in a counterattack that was thwarted by defensive fire. The new arrivals lost several teams and had to fall back - it was only when the Soviet armor came after them when the Poles launched another - now successful - counterattack.

The men of "2nd platoon" destroyed 3 tanks and made the last 1 flee, reducing the Soviet armour by 1 platoon. When the remaining BT-5 tanks attacked, it decimated the remaining men of the "2nd platoon" with machinegun fire on its way in, but ran into trouble with the sailors who counterattacked en masse, surrounding and destroying one tank and forcing the other two to flee, the sailors went after them in crazed momentum and the members of "2nd platoon" went with them.

Halfway out in the field they came under fire by Soviet infantry and armoured cars, reducind "2nd platoon" down to two teams. Nevertheless the Poles stayed in the fight, and another assault was launched by the Sailors and remaining two teams of "2nd platoon". This assault destroyed the remaining enemy tanks, including their company commander. The assault also caught the BA-10 cars, who bailed out and were abandoned by their crews.

The Soviet center was on fire, but the battlefield was littered with Polish troops. Soviet infantry had been stopped by the bunkers and other machinegun teams still operational, and the KOP cavalry squadron had arrived on the right flank and charged the Soviet mortars through a direct fire barrage and killed 2 teams forcing the enemy artillery to fall back.

"2nd platoon", when the dust settled, was down to a single team (out of 13), it had lost its platoon commander just before the battle ended. The sailors were down to 4 teams (out of 13). Both platoons were truly worthy of a "Virtuti Militari"award. They had held the flank, destroyed the enemy, and despite being massacred, remained in the fight. Had any of them run away I would need to roll a company morale check with the risk of fleeing with the entire army.

It was a great game, I'm really having a blast playing this stripped down Confident/Trained army against the historical counterparts of the Confident/Trained Soviets David has. Both games we have played so far have been super exciting and on the knife until the very end. My troops have too little AT guns to stop his tanks, but his units are small and only trained making assaults risky so it evens out quite nicely.

Next scenario in line is the desperate defense of Wilno.


  1. Gah! Awesome as always. Those Zvezda BTs and armored cars look awesome! Great report!

  2. Dont you worry Alex. tomorrow ill get you. A fresh new commander is on site to lead the glorious peoples army to victory (perhaps because you killed the last two before the commisars hade the chance)

  3. Thanks, we had a fantastic time playing this (and the last) battle – really some of the best FoW games I have played to date and I’ve played some really good one’s against my buddy Thomas and his Leichte Panzerkompanie. Playing a Confident/Trained vs another Confident/Trained army is really exciting as it turns out. I also think the historical matchup of the Border Protection Corps vs the Soviet army makes it even more exciting and I'm happy that it works out on multiple levels, both being "balanced" in terms of army lists and also making it fun to play and play against both forces in this historical matchup.

    I also suspect that playing less historical matchups, such as the Fearless/Veteran "10th motorized cavalry brigade" vs the Soviets would be a lot easier and less "on the knife". But then again, I wrote these army lists and the campaign with the intention of being able to play historical matchups of forces and not cheese out making optimal lists to crush the opponent.


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