Thursday, May 3, 2012

DUST: Warfare BatRep 1

Hauptmann Rustung scanned the ruins through the mist. Somewhere, lost in the hollow brick shells reaching like skeletal hands into the lowering clouds, a force of Allied Rangers was moving through the contested Icelandic town of Oskjuvatn. Not far off to the west the Hofsjokull Glacier marked the center of a much larger battlefield as the Allies, the Axis, and the SSU all struggled to claim the deposits buried beneath the ice.
But those were concerns being dealt with at a much higher pay grade than a mere Hauptmann. Generalmajor Kreider wanted this push by the Americans blunted, and it was Hauptmann Rustung’s job to see that it was so. The officer replaced his binoculars in their hip case, hands clumsy within their heavy gloves, and activated the small radio built into the gorget of his Schwer-Sturmgrenadier armor.
“Heckenschutze, what do you see?”
Far above, on the fourth floor of a shattered tenement overlooking the town square, the platoon sniper crouched with his spotter, Franz. The Hauptman’s earpiece crackled slightly and then “some vague movements across the way, sir. No clear targets yet, but someone is moving in.”

Blutkreuz Grenadiers and 'Gretchen' hold the flank.

Rustung grunted. His entire Schwere Platoon was established in the buildings along this side of the square, while Leutnant Leiche and his troop of fanatic nihilists were spread out along his left flank, facing the large stone church in the center of town. Rustung could never get used to the pale faces and haunted eyes of the Blutkreuz men, marked by the terrible serum they volunteered to take that might, in the event of their deaths, reanimate them in the service of the Reich. Duty was all well and good . . . but duty was served TO the point of death, was it not? The thought of service beyond that violated everything Rustung was comfortable believing. Of course, belief was easier, with the mewling pack of undead monstrosities that Leiche had brought with him – not to mention the creature with the circular saw . . .
Hauptmann Rustung had also assigned Leutnant Alena Engel and her MPW II-B Ludwig Gretchen to cover the left flank, while the Schwer Laser Grenadiers braced to hunt for any Allied Armor that might make an appearance on the right flank. His platoon was rounded out by Feldwebel Reiniger’s Fliegerfaust squad, and Feldwebel Fleischer’s Schwer Sturmgrenadiers, scanning into the cold morning mist for infantry targets.

Battle lines are drawn.


The battle started, as most do, with a sudden and shocking adrenal rush, surprising no matter how experienced a soldier becomes. One moment there was no visible movement in the ruins across the blasted street, no sound in the dulled, muffled morning air, and then a faint shudder worked through the ground. A staccato series of impacts echoed confusingly through the fog, and the wireless exploded with a frantic report, Heckenschutze’s voice high with surprise.
“Schwer Roboter!”
“Damn,” was all Hauptmann Rustung had time to utter before the entire fourth floor of the tenement holding Heckenschutze’s team detonated in a chalky gray blast wave that rained down across the platoon’s entire front. The lethal snap as the wireless signal cut out told Rustung all he needed to know, but even as he spun forward to call through one of the windows at the Schwer Laser Grenadiers, a further volcanic blast swept through the building, a plume of gray smoke, sand, and bits better left unidentified erupted out of the ground floor windows, including the one Rustung was looking through. Coughing and sputtering, cursing the armored gloves that kept him from wiping the dust and tears from his eyes, he squinted into the drifting dust and a gaping hole in the building’s front. The Hauptmann could just make out the massive shape of an Allied M6 assault walker, its crab-like gait bringing it out of the morning fog like some great sea monster sounding before a helpless ship.

An Army of one . . .

Rustung knew that, with the deaths of his Schwer Laser squad, there was literally nothing left to his entire flank that could so much as scratch the behemoth’s armored hide. Crouching behind the stump of the tenement, he cursed the luck or skill that had erased so much of his offensive capability before he’d even known the enemy was upon him. The thin, attenuated popping of Allied M1 assault rifles rattled off in the fog, as Feldwebel Reiniger’s calm report, “Contact,” buzzed over the wireless.
“Hauptmann, we have movement as well. Advance?” Feldwebel Fleischer’s voice betrayed no tone of eagerness or hesitation.
“Nien. Hold.” Rustung tapped his collar radio control to access the Blutkreuz frequency. “Leutnant Leiche, we’re pinned down here, an M6 opposite. Sweep around the church and apply pressure to their flank.”
The curt response, “Ja, Herr Hauptmann,” was barely audible over the faint hum of static, but as he glanced to the left, Rustung saw Leutnant Leiche’s Sturmpioniere platoon begin to move out of a ruined mansion and off behind the main hall of the large church. Lurching along further down the flank Rustung could see Leiche’s foul creatures. He hoped the grenadiers anchoring the flank were moving as well. The hulk of the walker Greta could just barely be seen among buildings nearly lost in the mist.
A faint roar sounded off behind the crouching gothic building, and Rustung looked up in time to see a small squad of Allied Rangers equipped with rocket packs redeploying away from his left flank. He grinned around his soggy cigar, chewing with anticipation.
Off to the left Greta’s 8.8s barked, their shells’ passage swirling the mist downrange, where some armored Allied target must be hidden by the church. “Leutnant Engel, what is your situation?”
Alliled M2 hull down in a ruined building.
“Here Hauptmann. One M2 hull down at extreme range. Advancing Blutkreuz grenadiers reporting an M1 approaching from behind the church. Sounds like a Blackhawk.” Her response was difficult to understand from the echoing interior of her walker, but he cursed. If it was a Blackhawk, and the pilot got it into range of Greta and unloaded all of its Piat launchers in one salvo . . .
“Leiche, if you encounter an Allied Blackhawk, it must die.” The Blutkreuz grenadiers would be the only units in position to protect his armor from the M1.
“Jawohl, Herr Hauptmann.” Was the only response, but the sudden cough of Panzerfausts and the dull boom of Panzerschreck’s firing immediately after, followed by a dull thud and a rising cloud of burning fuel lighting the left facing of the church tower, told him his order had been followed. “Target neutralized, Herr Hauptmann.”
“Danke, Leiche. Continue your advance.”
Hauptmann Rustung did not hear Leiche’s reply as he was distracted by the growl of the Allied jump troops as they sailed back over the church towards his charging left flank. He began to warn Leutnant Leiche when he was interrupted by the sudden rasp of three Fliegerfausts rattling into the mist. “Nein!” the Hauptmann called out; spinning to glare at his Schwer Flak squad, but it was too late.
Again the paired howitzers of the Allied heavy roared out, and the building holding the flak squad shook under the punishment. Dust and flame washed out from the impact, and when the smoke cleared Rustung ‘s heart gave a start as he saw two of his men signaling to him that they were alright. But then they looked around them in sudden concern, and Rustung saw the still form of Obersoldat Steiner, half buried in pulverized brick, on the floor of the ruined townhouse.
“Arzte!” Rustung turned to his squad medic, “Schnell, schnell!” Ducking from the mere threat of the assault walker stalking the street, Rustung and his command squad made for the rickety protection of the flak squad’s blind.
A victorious shout over the wireless distracted Rustung from his mortal peril, and he hit the wall hard, waving the medic in to see after the fallen trooper while tapping to access the general frequency again. “Report!”
Leutnant Engel’s voice, as if from the belly of an iron beast, echoed back. “Direct hit on Allied M2. Enemy still functional, but he knows he’s been kissed!”
Hauptmann grinned, then barked back, “the Blutkreuz?”
“The Heroes of the Fatherland have swept around the church. Incoming Allied jump rangers were met with massed grenadier fire as they landed, and then overwhelmed by the Heroes.” Rustung chuckled lightly at the new slang term the regular sturmgrenadiers and pilots had started using to refer to the Untertoten of the Blutkreuz. “Several Heroes have died . . . again . . . for the cause, closing with the M2. They disappeared behind the enemy walker’s cover.”
It sounded like things were proceeding according to plan on the left flank, anyway. Now if only he could convince the M6 to head out. The Hauptmann peered out from behind his cover to assess the situation, and could not repress a gasp of surprise as he saw the massive walker slowly backing down its alley and turning towards the left flank, leaving the lightly armored Allied infantry unsupported. Before he could give the order, his well-trained men responded to the changing situation with their own initiative, as re-loaded Fliegerfausts burred out into the hidden Ranger squad directly across the street while another squad, hiding further down, were brought under fire by his emerging recon grenadiers’ MG 44 Zweis.

In the buildings opposite his platoon’s position Allied troopers were struck by the hail of bullets and 20mm rockets, slumping in place or spinning away out of cover to land gracelessly in the dust. Only desultory fire came flashing back, silenced by a second volley from his advancing teams. Rustung looked down to where his medic was still working on the fallen flak trooper. The medic shook his head but continued to work.

Blutkreuz Grenadiers cover the withdrawing flank.

Hauptmann Rustung tapped his wireless for the general frequency. “All squads, fall back. Incoming M6 on your flank. Leutnant Leiche, pull your men and . . . creatures back. We’ve taken our toll. We’ll go back and contact Generalmajor Kreider for reinforcements. There’s no way the Allies can hold Oskjuvatn with what they have left.”
“Jawohl, Herr Hauptmann.”
“Blutkreuz units are pulling back,” Leutnant Engel’s voice was marked with the harsh buzz of a private channel. “That ghost with the buzz saw has been shot half again to death, the rest of his Heroes seem unharmed . . . all things considered. The other Heroes must have been successful, the M2 has not moved for several minutes. A single Untertoten is returning under cover of the Blutkreuz grenadiers.”
A dull explosion sounded from behind the church, a geyser of dirt and dust rising up into the air beyond the retreating flank.
“Never mind. Another Hero of the Fatherland returns to his natural state. The M6 has arrived. Pulling back myself, now.”

The Rangers preside over the smoking wreckage of their survivin command.

“Right flank secure.” Feldwebel Fleischer’s voice was crisp and businesslike. “One runner.”
A coughing startled Hauptmann back to his surroundings and he looked down to see Steiner sitting up, supported by the medic.
He continued on the main frequency. “Exemplary work, troopers. Fall back to rally point Drei in staggered formation. Fleischer to cover the rear as we pull out.”
As the gray ghosts of the Axis forces disappeared into the mists the Allied forces, too thin to advance into hostile territory, pulled back to their own lines to reassess the importance of the small, isolated hamlet.  

6 comments:

  1. That was a fun read - Loved it! wish more folks wrote after action reports like this I cant wait for the movie now..LOL

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  2. Simply awesome!!! :D Well written!!! (And well played!)

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  3. [pedant mode]About 2/3 done with ep. 102. "Blutkreuz" is pronounced bloot-kroytz. At least it is in German.[/pedant mode]

    I can see the appeal of the game. It's not really for me at this time in my life, but I could see liking it if things were different. I'm more into 15mm, now, for example. If the stuff were 15mm I'd be on it like ugly on an ape.

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  4. Thanks, Gents! (and thanks for the pronounciation guide, Jay . . . was wondering how I could word that crowd sourcing . . . :) ).

    Loving the game still, can't wait to get some more paint on models now . . . although I'm currently wrapped up in a big SG project at the moment that's about to suck all the extra time out of my hobby schedule for a little bit . . .

    Thanks again, guys!

    ~Craig

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  5. Good thing about German is the words are pronounced they they're spelled. You just have to know what sounds the letters make. German dipthongs can get weird, but they're consistent.

    Finished the ep on my way in to work today. If you and Herr Wakelin are into interrupting actions, you may want to check out Tomorrow's War from Ambush Alley Games/Osprey Publishing and Chain Reaction/5150 from Two-Hour Wargames. Both are generic, so can use any figures. Full disclosure, I'm on the AAG play-test team.

    Also, best game review in a while. Some true criticism rather than the usual sunshine and rainbows.

    I keed, I keed.

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