Steve Foren played the defending Italians, struggling to hold a town at the tail end of their retreat before the furious onslaught of Russian troops, led by Mike Lembke. All directions (left, right, etc) are viewed from the Italian side of the boards.
The Eyties set up screening forces forward to slow up the Russians, with heavy weapons further back in the town on the hills and near the church. The 47mm ATG was set up in the brush on top of the central hill, hoping for a flank shot as a tank rolled by, either on the hill or in the streets, with the two artillery pieces set even further back on the rear hill covering the forward hill and the left flank stream-side buildings. The Italian CDR neglected to read the Russian set up areas which stated a flanking force of up to 5 squads could enter from the left flank, and so had only 1 squad set up on that side of the stream to face that flanking action.
The Russkies set up spread along the front, but mostly concentrated on the Italian left where the most cover is, and he did indeed send 5 squads on a flanking march to the Italian left.
First turn saw movement to the streamside on the left flank, and a fair advance through the woods on the left, though a large dummy stack caused some caution, but was revealed/removed in the advance phase. In the center, the Russian on map CDR was slowed by the unwieldy MMG stack and the ground snow causing additional MP to go up hill, so he didn’t get very far, and an elite squad humping an LMG got casualty reduced in the open as it tried to gain the central hill, though a T34 did make it to the hill adjacent, but out of CA and with its front facing, the hidden ATG, so the ATG held fire hoping for a flank shot in the future, and the 2nd T34 advanced up the central street to be ready to place fire on Italian-occupied buildings. Not much Italian activity on turn 1, staying hidden and looking for good shots.
Turn 2 saw the T34 on the hill turning to face to the left in prep for driving down the hill, and the ATG saw the opportunity and changed its CA to shoot at point blank range, made an ineffectual hit but lost rate, so the T34 lumbered off the hill down through the buildings to the central road, and then turned towards the church. The other T34 then reversed course back towards its own lines, to drive around to the Italian right flank to support half the partisans that entered into the woods beside the road. The other half of the partisans entered from the Italian rear to the right of the rearmost hill, and took some fire that sent some to ground, and the snow covered hill stymied the efforts of the rest to gain the heights right away. The Italian hmg opened up with little result, and the ldr/squad were promptly broken in the next turn by mg and 76mm fire from the T34, and forced to leave the hmg behind. 2 Russian squads from the main force moved quickly on the far side of the stream, but were ambushed in CC by a concealed squad, to no avail, unfortunately. The 5 squad flanking force moved into the frozen streambed deep in the Italian rear near the board edge, approaching the same rearmost hill that the partisans were trying to sale on the opposite side.
Next turn, the right side T34 was hit by the ATG in the flank as it drove down the right side road into the location of defenders shooting up the partisans, and apparently a weak spot in the turret ring was hit, because the tank was engulfed in flames, heartening the defenders who could see, and warm themselves on, the flames. The partisans scrambled up onto level 1 in the far rear to be met by the rallied ldr/squad who had left the hmg on the other side of the road, and in the following turn the poorly armed partisans were engaged in cc and killed. The other Partisans on the right flank were all broken by concentrated fire of a squad and lmg, and then in the subsequent 2 turns were surrounded and removed for failure to rout, solidifying that flank for the remainder of the game. However, all was not rosy for the Italians, as the left flank collapsed, and the squad/lmg in the church were broken and killed, and the 5 squad flanking force moved slowly out of the stream into the streamside buildings, to be taken under fire by the artillery piece, but with no effect. The Russians concentrated infantry on the left side of the forward hill out of view of the ATG, but when they moved forward to recover the Italian hmg and prepare to cross the road, they were broken and driven back by several shots from the other artillery piece which was located to shoot right across the saddle between the hills.
As the Italian reinforcements entered from the right rear of the rearmost hill, the Russians reached their high water mark of occupying 16 buildings and having a 4-5 building foothold on the rear hill. A third of the reinforcements went straight to towards the forward hill with the ranking officer, while the MMGs and remaining squads, including a hero with a demo charge, slowly crawled up the snow covered slopes.
The Russians were driven back from the buildings on the front hill beside the road between the two hills by the artillery fire. A heroic Demo Charge attack against the forward elements of the Russians on the rear hill, followed by concentrated fire from the fire support element in level 2 buildings, eliminated half of 3 squads, and broke the remainder and sent them scurrying back to the left, covered by the 2 squads remaining unbroken in their foothold on the rear hill, facing 2 8-1s, 6 squads, a hero , an artillery piece and 2 mmgs. There were still 3-4 squads and a leader/mmg in the streamside buildings, but not in a position to directly help their comrades yet.
On the forward hill the ATG was still king of the hill, and now being supported by 3 squads and 10-2 on the near(Italian) side, and a squad, lmg and 7-0 on the far side, opposed by several squads, a Russian MMG, and the 9-2, but the Russians were not organized for defense from that flank, and still recovering from the artillery fire that had driven them back the turn before.
The remaining T34 was being very cautious in its actions in the middle turns of the game assisted in capturing the church, and then moved to cover the far left flank in case the Italian reinforcements came in across the stream, but then returned to the main fight, locating itself in the crossroads beside the church facing the rear hill preparing to fire at advancing Italians when they came into view.
At this point, the fight took a decidedly un-Italian turn (read: the dice deserted the Italian player completely for all of turn 6).
The T34 chugged into motion and moved to the left of the rear hill to face the Italian arty piece entrenched on the left rear of that hill, but even a point blank shot.hit proved no match for the tanks armor, and it climbed the hill into an orchard hex occupied by 2 squads, an 8-1 and the hero to menace the rear of the Italian position from point blank range. The CCRF attack proved to be well done, as it immobilized the tank. Several squads from the streamside buildings moved cautiously up into the buildings on the far left of the rear hill, and the remaining Russian in the church moved into the first building on the forward hill, where he engaged an Italian stack on the same hill in the AFPh, a 2 fp +1(CX) shot that caused a 1MC, followed by the Italian 10-2 rolling boxcars and a 6 on the wound roll, then the 2 squads with him failed both their 1 MC and the 2MC LLMC. So the attack on the forward hill was reduced to a single squad and 7-0 facing unknown concealed Russians and a couple of broken squads and the death dealing CX squad. During that same turn, the T34 was attacked in the CC phase with the hero/squad combo needing a 9 to kill the immobilized vehicle, and rolling an 11, followed by the tank rolling a kill on both units. During the Italian turn, a similar attack by an 8-1/squad combo also needed a 9, and again rolled an 11. <sigh>
The Italians did better against the Russian infantry, pushing all but 2 squads off of the rear hill, capturing and throwing the Russian DC in an effective attack on the last turn, but even with that and a concerted effort to gain ground back on the forward hill, the Italians failed to re-capture enough of the buildings to win. The two melee’s that continued after the game ended were both 1-1 each way, and in both the Italian and Russian last turns, no losses were rolled, so the Russian ended owning 12 buildings, 2 of which were in melee.
Good game Mike..thanks!