After-Action Report: Active Armor WWII Games at Historicon 2018

Javier has supplied some additional photos, which can be found here.

This is a quick after-action report for those who participated in the Active Armor WWII games at this year's Historicon. There were three games, all set on the Eastern Front - the Moonsund scenario was played first and last, with a Kursk-era meeting engagement in between.

A PE-2 provides ground support for the Soviet advance.

The first game was hard-fought - it had the Germans conducting a desperate defense against the advancing Soviet hordes, buying time for the rest of the German army as they pulled back onto the Sõrve Peninsula, surrendering the island of Ísel to their foes. The Germans conducted a very proactive defense, in keeping with historical precedent, and retiring only at the end of the day when the Soviets threatened to breach their fortified lines. This included an early capture of the village in the center of the table, providing a safe refuge for the withdrawing infantry units which had been cut off at the day's start by the rapid Soviet approach.

The Night Witches punish their Nazi foes from primitive Polikarpov biplanes.

The Soviet attack was well-conducted, with the 917th Infantry in the center taking the brunt of the punishment, and buying time for their comrades to push rapidly forward on the right flank. The plan was a cunning one - rather than fight a losing battle pitting masses of Estonian conscripts in a frontal assault against a veteran German foe, the 917th was sacrificed, allowing an attack to be made on the German lines on the right flank. The game played all the way to day's end, with a decision only happening on the final turn. Although technically a German victory, it was only a minor one, with Soviet troops temporarily breaching the German fortifications as the light faded.

Several Estonian patriots of the 917th became Heroes of the Soviet Union during the fighting.
(It's a good thing that the Gold Star can be awarded posthumously!)

The second game matched a Soviet tank corps against a German panzer division - lots of armor, with airpower on both sides. The battle was a meeting engagement, the goal being the possession of Kharkovichka, a previously destroyed city in the center of the table. As ever, the Soviets had the advantage in terms of quantity, while the Germans had superior quality on their side.

German armor pushes forward against the Soviets.

As we already knew from Stalingrad, we learned that mixing it up with the enemy in an urban area is a great formula for a deadlocked struggle featuring massive casualties. Both sides pushed hard to be the first to occupy the rubble, with a German recon battalion winning the race shortly before being annihilated. The subsequent fighting within the city was intense. The armor clashed in the open ground on the German left, with Tigers, T-34/85s, and 88mm AT guns all putting in a showing. At the end of the game there was no clear winner - the fighting was slated to continue for a while...

The Luftwaffe launches an attack on the T-34s of the Soviet vanguard.

The final game was a re-play of the Moonsund scenario with a new cast of commanders. We did not have time to play the game to completion, but the Soviets were pushing forward to surround the village, where Soviet and German infantry were locked in combat. If successful, the encirclement would have given victory to the Soviets.

Soviet infantry defend the village from German assaults on both sides.

The Soviet tanks were ambushed by the Germans, and looked to be in a bad way, but elsewhere the Soviets were pushing past the German advanced defenses. As usual, the Soviets benefitted from an abundance of artillery.

Soviet 120mm mortars and 76mm guns provide support for the maneuvering infantry.

Our thanks go to all the participants of the three games! We had great fun running them. You can look for us at the next HMGS convention - we are having some thoughts about the post-Normandy fighting around Caen, and a scenario taken from the never-executed Operation Unthinkable, pitting Patton against the Ruskies!

The Active Armor WWII rules and documentation can be run on any Windows machine with Internet Explorer 5.* or later on it (a device-enabled version is in the works). It can be downloaded for free at the Wargaming Machines website - scroll down until you see the entry. (There's also a piece on one of the Night Witches in the "Women in (Wargaming) History" section.) The Moonsund scenario and executable AA file for it are available as a ZIP file. Unzip these into the "ActiveArmorWWII" directory once you have the software on your machine, and double-click the file "Moonsund.hta" to play. The scenario itself is in "Moonsund_final.pdf".

If you have any questions or comments you can e-mail me. I know it is a bit of a haul for some of you mid-Atlantic flatlanders, but I will be running Active Armor WWII games (as well as other computer-assisted and non-computer-assisted wargaming madness) at my place in New Hampshire, and Richard Henkus, the instigator of our games at Historicon, will likely be running Active Armor WWII games in Philadelphia. Get in touch if you are interested!

Thanks again to everybody who played in these games - we had a blast! I will leave you with a few additional pictures...

- Arofan Gregory

The village gets hammered by the Soviet PE-2...

And again!

Another shot of the action around the village.