Communal Combat Mission: Turn 11

Every year I run a communal Combat Mission skirmish in which RPS readers attempt to outwit and outfight CM’s decidedly dangerous AI. Turns span 60 seconds and rarely go according to plan. Late-war and Eastern Front, this year’s scrap takes place in a German-held Baltic port. Ten turns after leaving their deployment zone, the commenter-controlled Soviets have lost two of their most important AFVs and seem on the verge of losing a third – Flare Path, the gung-ho flamethrower tank.

The fingertip that dabs the mouse button that flicks the GUI ‘GO’ switch at the start of Turn 11 is damper than usual. The cause of the anxiety, a battered OT-34 flame tank deep behind enemy lines and threatened from three separate directions, comes out fighting.

Unconstrained by orders (As no-one was willing to offer unequivocal instructions I decided to let her triage targets as she saw fit) ‘Flare Path’ has obliterated the AT gun to her front within three seconds.

Fortunately, as the Pak (?) and its crew are being flung from their gun pit by a point-blank blast of 76.2mm HE, the Pz IV around the corner is pausing to plaster the pioneers bullying the artillery tractor at the east end of the square.

Flare Path uses the breathing space to put two AP shells through the front hull of the SPW 251 halftrack. The second emission turns the German APC into a raging funeral pyre.

About halfway through the turn, someone inside the bullet-pecked Pz IV spots the source of much of the harassment – a faintly comical armoured car on the far side of West Bridge. The medium tank’s 75mm gun sweeps clockwise but is fractionally too slow to catch the reversing BA-64B before it disappears around the corner of the house at w14.

Annoyed, the skirted bruiser decides to vent its wrath on the three knots of Ivans who happen to be dashing across West Bridge at the time. Ryumin’s lead squad is raked by several bursts of co-axial MG fire. Men drop onto the slushy cobbles, five never to rise.

At the close of turn 11…

Ryumin’s platoon is in real trouble on West Bridge. The most northerly squad is down to six men and panicking. The HQ and the other squad are pinned like Ixion on his fiery wheel.

At the west end of the square, Flare Path’s crewmen are pinching themselves and celebrating, probably unaware of the scatter of iron cross icons to the west that suggest German infantry are moving south from the direction of the castle.

Further east, unaffected by the Pz IV attack, two squads of Myshkov’s pioneers survey recent handiwork – a bullet-riddled abandoned artillery tractor – while the riflemen newly arrived at s23 pepper the occupied church (p23) opposite.

Myshkov himself, together with the other pioneer squad, have decided to approach q25 via p26.

Exhausted, the rest of Lapshin’s men should make s23 by the end of the next turn.

270m north of the resting Renko, the inscrutable StuG remains motionless.

On the spit, the 57mm AT gun has disembarked and is heading to the patch of woodland at aa10.

Batrakov’s mortar barrage continues.

37 Comments

  1. Tim Stone says:

    Turn 12 orders here, please. Commenters are cordially invited to suggest moves for the following 10 units (a maximum of one unit per commenter)

    *BA-64B armoured car
    *Lt. Ryumin’s recon platoon (two splitable squads + HQ)
    *Lt. Batrakov (mortar spotter)
    *OT-34 flame tank
    *Lt Myshkov’s pioneer platoon (three splitable squads + HQ)
    *Renko, the sniper
    *SU-122
    *Lt. Lapshin’s rifle platoon (three splitable squads + HQ)
    *Tank hunter team
    *M5 halftrack & AT gun

    Assuming orders are forthcoming, the summary of turn 12 will appear on the RPS front-page at this time tomorrow morning.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Good show everyone.

      The way I see it, Ryumin’s boys have put their lives on the line and the Motherland can’t let them down. Flare Path to turn its turret West, bring as much of its frontal armour to bear South West as possible, and poke its nose into q16 in hopes of catching the pzIV in a soft spot at point blank.

      (I’m assuming it still has AP loaded, but if not it’d probably be best to get one in the chamber first.)

      I’ll be willing to countermand these orders if fellow commenters find them too objectionable.

      • alh_p says:

        See my point below, I think we should let the SU122 have a howitzer sized pop at the arse-end of the Pz4 first. At worst, if not totaled, that would cause the Pz4 to reverse and hide, at best it would charge the SU122 and leave itself open to a shot in the flank by the Flare Path.

        I think the best option for Flare Path is to turn to face South or South west with it’s gun loaded with AP and wait – at least until the SU122 has a shot. I’d be interested in whether we could flame the building at P15 to bar the infantry from occupying it and threatening Flare Path with grenades, but it might be a distraction.

        • BooleanBob says:

          Hmm.

          I’m aware of the risk, but I think Flare Path has a better chance of success. My feeling is that a tank gun at close range should have a much better chance of actually hitting the pzIV than an artillery piece at distance. I’m also wondering which of the two could get in a firing position quickest – the SU122 doesn’t have a turret – as every second is of vital importance while the pzIV is distracted and the Ryumin platoon is exposed to its anger.

          Tim, perhaps could you weigh in on this?

          • Tim Stone says:

            It’s hard to say who has the better chance of killing the Pz IV. The ‘regular’ SU-122 carries hollow-charge ammo in addition to HE and really shouldn’t miss with its first shot (unless its accosted by the inf in the church?). The ‘veteran’ OT-34 is one crewman short, but that doesn’t seem to be causing it too many problems at the moment. Time to engage would be roughly similar I suspect.

          • BooleanBob says:

            All right, let’s play it safe.

            OT-34 to stay put and point its gun Southwards toward the West Bridge in anticipation of the pzIV. I want to say to keep the hull facing East, though, so it can light up anything hostile approaching from that direction.

          • BooleanBob says:

            Actually – just re-read that bit about the iron cross icons. So it’s more likely that OT34 might acquire infantry targets from the South than the East, is that right? In that case we definitely want the front of the tank pointing South/SW. Then back it up so that its rear armour is as unexposed as poss.

            In fact the tank might very soon be in danger of attack from the windows of the buildings directly West of it.

          • Dogshevik says:

            Personally I would try to go for both, safety and a chance for a tank kill.
            Like slowly rolling south-east into p17 with the gun aimed SW, then turning the chassis SW too. As it is we are pointing our tank´s stern towards buildings possibly crawling with krauts. At point blank range. :-S

    • alh_p says:

      I’m calling shotgun on the SU122 (sorry!).

      Please move the SU122 far enough round the corner at s/r25 to see the rear half of the Panzer4, turn to the WNW, target the rear flank of the Pz4 and стрелять*!

      *fire, just to be clear, less my enthusiasm get the better of clear communication…

    • Wilson says:

      Change of plan for Myshkov – with the enemy in the church, his HQ and the squad with them should stop and take up positions on the second floor of P26 to bring more fire on the church. The other two squads in R26 should advance to Q25, one of them taking first floor and one taking the second floor.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Once the 57mm AT gun reaches the trees at aa10 it should have a look for targets on the new wharf. Assuming it spots something it should open fire. Is there a choice of ammo? If there is an AT gun on the end of that wharf, I guess that HE might be more useful than AP.

      I’m assuming the halftrack has negligible offensive capability, so it would probably be best if it moved to bb12 to hide behind the small house at aa12, unless anyone thinks it would make a handy diversion?

      • BooleanBob says:

        It looks from the last screenshot as though the m5 might have a machine gun or two. Tim, can you confirm? Could be useful in a pinch.

        • alh_p says:

          It could be very useful against infantry in the open, but vulnerable to even weak AT weapons such the AA gun on the wharf, grenades or AT rifles.

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          Let’s keep it out of harms way for now. It’s pretty close to the west bridge if we need to move it up in a hurry.

    • AbyssUK says:

      I vote OT-34 goes for glory, point blank that distracted panzer, with any luck it’ll head for the car and we’ll get it right in the backside. I don’t think the AI was expecting the flare paths wild early charge.

      Perhaps we should distract the panzer by making the BB-64B make a mad dash to x16 simultaneously as the OT-34 pops out?

    • AbyssUK says:

      Can the mortars get that wharf gun ? If not perhaps they should start raining down on o15,n14 ?

      • Dogshevik says:

        The mortars could aim for the wharf AA gun. Batrakov is on the second floor in w16 if i am not mistaken. He should have LOS.
        I am also contemplating if switching targets for that german infantry counter-attack would be good. Like targeting o15. But keep in mind we have a 4 turn delay until the shells hit home.

        In any case make sure to issue a definite command at the end of the day. Deliberating is good, but decisions have to be made eventually.

        • alh_p says:

          I second the encouragement to make an order, it’s time to shift the barrage. That suspected infantry is currently in the open but presumably won’t be by the time the shells come in (apparently a 1 or 2 turn delay). So bear that in mind when you aim.

    • opowell says:

      Tank hunter team* to sprint as quickly as possible (while avoiding direct line-of-sight with the PZ IV) to W14.

      * Where are they currently? If it’s not too much trouble, please include the coordinates of each unit in the order comment. Thanks for doing this, Tim, lots of fun!

      • Dogshevik says:

        They were at gg16 at the start of last turn and received orders to go to x16. I guess they are somewhere on that route.

      • Tim Stone says:

        The tank hunters are at z17. They are top-right in the final image.

        • opowell says:

          OK, then if not too late, please change destination to W16 instead of W14.

    • Axolotl says:

      Go Flare Path! And also Ryumin and his brave men, who prevented the Panzer from blowing our tank to bits.
      Where is Baratkov at the moment? We might have to find him something new to spot soon.

    • Dogshevik says:

      Taking command of Lapshin´s platoon once more.

      Forward squad: Two tiles to the west, (s23 to s21) staying inside the buildings if possible. Keep firing at the hostiles in the church. Priority is firing, not speed.*
      Other two squads: One is heading inside S23 one aims for s22. Both take positions at the windows looking north. Priority is moving.
      Command squad: Go to t22 and hit the dirt. Priority is moving.

      *Should it not be possible to move inside the buildings please choose a route south of the houses (t-lane) and not directly in full view of the hostiles at the church.

    • xcopy says:

      Wow, what a fight!

      Renko looks north and aims for the commander of the Stug.

      Mother Russia will award him a medal, if he can eliminate the commander! For the Motherland!

    • Axolotl says:

      Please have Batrakov center a barrage on the building at p15. This should seal the entrance to the square and prevent enemy infantry from taking up positions in the buildings at p15 and o15 for too long.

    • Electricfox says:

      Comrade BA-64B to hold position, he’s done his job. I can only barely believe it worked! Flare Path, Su-122, it’s up to you guys now, take that Panzer out!

  2. alh_p says:

    Oof. Ryumin’s squads took the brunt of what could have been a much worse turn for us. Things don’t look great for them unless the Pz4 is distracted/dispatched. Options for doing that seem mostly to be:
    The AT gun
    The SU122
    Flare Path

    Even emplaced (which will take this turn at least), the AT gun’s sight of the Pz4 will be blocked unless it moves to the end of the bridge. So no dice.

    The SU122 could ahve a pop this turn. The Pz4 is facing away and the angle might allow the SU 122 to have a pop at the rear of the Pz4 without exposing itself to the turret. The SU122 would have to move forwards, then turn to face the target – which could be slow ish.

    Flare path would struggle in a 1:1 with the Pz4 but at close range could inflict serious damage – especially on the side/rear. It also could peep forwards with its turret facing West – but that would block the SU122’s shot and would expose the OT34 to the Panzer, which at close range would also not be good for flare path. What might happen if the SU122 had a shot from cover is that the Pz4 moves to engage it (it’s been aggressive so far), which would allow Flare path to spring a trap and shoot the passing Panzer in the flank.

  3. phlebas says:

    I won’t risk any order suggestions, but here’s some music:

  4. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    This is riveting! I’ve been following every day and I’m on tenterhooks. Fantastic series Tim, and well reported. I feel like I’m on the front line in the Baltic. Good luck to plucky Ivan!

  5. xcopy says:

    Wow, what a fight!

    Renko looks north and aims for the commander of the Stug.

    Mother Russia will award him a medal, if he can eliminate the commander! For the Motherland!

  6. Stugle says:

    Fantastic stuff! I really thought Flare Path would succumb to Kraut fire from all directions – that was quite the stellar performance. I’m alarmed at the state of Ryumin’s platoon. I hope one of our tracked vehicles takes care of the Pz IV, before all our soldiers are slaughtered.

    I’ll leave the strategizing and ordering to others, but had to pop in to leave a comment. The playthrough is exciting and the write-up is of the high standard that I’ve come to expect from Tim. If this keeps up, I might just end up buying CMBB once I’m flush with birthday cash (too bad that you can only buy it bundled with Afrika Korps. They’re both clearly great games, but $40.00 plus $5.00 for the Vista patch is a bit steep).

  7. Tim Stone says:

    Appreciated. Thanks.

    The CDV version of CMBB – ‘Combat Mission 2’ – can still be picked up here and there pretty cheaply. It can’t be patched up to 1.04 (the ‘Vista patch’) but that’s not necessarily a problem:

    link to community.battlefront.com

    • Stugle says:

      Ah, thanks for the advice! I’ll have to look into that option!