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.