Red Storm, Grey Steel

Dean called over for a game on Saturday night, I had suggested a game of Wings of Glory, but he poo-pooed it and wanted something more 'land based', so we settled on Rapid Fire! instead. I figured it was time to use a lot of the scenery I have been collecting for the past few years and filled the board with ruins; go big or go home and all that. This would be a battle set in the early days of Operation Bagration in 1944, with the Soviets attacking a defending German force.

The Russians were equipped with a full Rifle Brigade, consisting of three battalions and supporting elements which totalled about 161 figures, with several support soft-skin vehicles. I also threw in some tanks for armoured support; three T-70s, three T-34/76s, two T-34/85s along with a armoured car battalion of four BA-10s and one BA-64. The Soviet forces were also augmented by air support from a Stormovik.

The German defenders consisted of a battalion of Panzergrenadiers, supported by a company of Engineers in two halftracks. German armour support came in the form of two Tigers and two StuG IIIs along with two independent PAK 40s. The Soviet objectives were the town hall in the centre of the board and three of the factories towards the German rear areas (marked by the swastikas). We were all set for a titanic struggle...

As defender I set up in the ruins. I decided on two lines of defence, the first one was centred around the town hall and the stronger one to the rear using the bridge as a natural bottleneck. The basic plan was to draw the attackers in like a defence in depth tactic and smash them with the heavy ordnance of my artillery and Tigers.

The Soviets set up with the tanks screened by the armoured cars and rest of the Rifle Brigade spread across the field.

My second line of defence was heavily covered by two PAK 40s and two Tigers. They were watching the long road that ran down the centre of the board and was the obvious entry point into the town.

My rear areas bristled with German armour, waiting for a shot at the Russians.

Up front I had a PAK 40 in the town hall along with a company of Engineers supported by a handful of halftracks.

Amongst the ruins I also sited other halftracks and the rest of the Panzergrenadier battalion.

It made for what looked like a formidable defence although it was a relativity small force.

The Russians lined up for a three pronged attack, the strongest one being in the centre down the road, where most of his armour was concentrated.

A company of Panzergrenadiers waited in the ruins covering the main road into town with their supporting vehicles as the Russians rumbled forward.

Dean's first trick was to lay down a cover of smoke across the road entrance; this protected his movement against the Tigers waiting over the bridge.

The Germans knew the attack had now begun and gunned up their engines in preparation for the assault.

However, the initial smoke barrage drifted and allowed for a shot against one of the BA-10s, which promptly brewed up.

Using more smoke shells allowed the Russians to penetrate into the town proper, which in turn forced the Panzergrenadiers to fall back across the square into the safety of another building. 

The German defence waited as the Soviets inched forward and packed the road with armour.

On the left flank a single Sd.Kfz 251/10 stood against three T-70s, a shot from one managing to heavily damage the halftrack.

Meanwhile a battalion and the Rifle Brigade HQ followed more tanks into the safety of the ruins.

Similarly on the right flank, what seemed like thousands of Russians took positions in the damaged buildings on the edge of town and some shots were exchanged with the German Engineers in the houses opposite.

Soviets were all over the town edge now and things were looking bleak for the two Sd.Kfz 251s on my right flank, they were faced by two T-34s and three T-70s.

The Soviet artillery, meanwhile, limbered up ready to move to where support would be needed.

The covering smoke cleared and the central T-34s launched their assault down the main road, right into the paws of the Tigers, with the inevitable results!

The other two T-34s managed to get to the end of the road despite the fire from my AT guns and the second Tiger.

However, I also lost the two halftracks to the Soviet guns on my right flank.

I evened the score by brewing up another T-34 at the crossroads. A road block of burning metal was quickly forming in the centre of town.

Another BA-10 was destroyed as it tried to cross the bridge and enter the industrial part of town.

Back on my left flank, the engineers had been ousted from their positions by Soviet small arms fire, they had also destroyed the AT gun in the town hall and had captured the building as their first objective.

The cavalry recce unit was making its way across the river on my right and I was beginning to feel the pinch of the Soviet attacks.

The Tigers and PAK 40s in the centre were still making mincemeat of the Russian tanks as they tried to cross the bridge in order to get a clear shot back.

The Soviets threatened my left flank and his two 45mm AT guns destroyed my engineers transport whilst it tried to ford the river to safety.

The strength of my deep defence was showing as the streets were filled with burning Soviet tanks and armoured cars whilst my Tigers had received hardly a scratch.

It wasn't all going my way though, as the town hall was well and truly in Soviet hands along with the part of town across the river and the Russians started making plans to ford the water.

A T-34/85 and a BA-10 cowered behind cover in the central area, they knew that showing themselves would give the inevitable results that the other tanks had suffered.

With half of the town in Soviet hands Dean began bringing his T-70s forward, past the smoking hulks of my transports.

Miraculously, they made it across the bridge with no casualties and joined their cowering comrades.

Then the Soviet air support arrived in the form of a Stormovik, which blasted its rockets into my defenders in the factories with deadly effect.

This caused a lot of casualties amongst the soldiers and some consternation to me as I knew he could hit me anywhere with the arrival of the aircraft.

And then the unthinkable occurred, one of my Tigers took a hit, causing heavy damage when the remaining T-34/85 nosed out from behind cover and took a shot.

To try and even the score I attacked with my StuGs and destroyed a T-70! This was an attempt by me to oust him from his position before the air attacks took too much of a toll.

But overall things were now looking grim for me, the Soviets were pressing home their attacks and had air cover.

The tide definitely turned when the previously damaged Tiger brewed up from another hit!

Also, the StuGs were fired on from the air as the Stormovik returned for another attack run.

This was the point that the morale of the Germans collapsed. The StuGs fell back, despite causing the T-70s to do the same. The sole remaining Tiger stood his ground, but the Panzergrenadier battalion had had enough casualties to cause it to rout off table.

It was all over, the German defence had been valiant in the face of such an onslaught, but Soviet numbers won the day.

Although I lost, the game was really good and exciting, which is all you can ask really. I did think that the result would be weighted in favour of the Russians when I picked the units at the start, but I decided that it would be a holding action rather than anything else and the aim was to see how long the Germans could hold out. The few against the many. 

The man of the match had to be the Tigers who destroyed most of the Soviet armour on their own and still stood their ground when one was destroyed. It was pleasing to use all of my city scenery for once and a full Soviet rifle Brigade as well, so that was two achievements unlocked.


  1. Looked and sounded like a great blast!

    1. Cheers Fran, it really was!! a great game despite the fact I lost!

  2. A great looking game, the batlefield is really impressive!

    1. Thanks Phil, it's not often that I get to use all my scenery!!


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