PHASE FIVE: COUNTERATTACK
With most of the enemy forces destroyed, it's time to counterattack. The first force to strike out will be Willmars' garrison, that will try to destroy any survivor of the enemy flanking formation and its HQ, that has been presumed to be along the road.
I plan to make a full-blown sortie with Nordheim's garrison too, with two prongs: one toward Fladungen and one toward Stedtlingen. But for this I want to wait another hour, since if i'm not mistaken there should be a couple more units heading southward from Fladungen and if I can I want to fight them from my comfy defensive positions. It's 20:10 and i still have 3h50' so no need to rush.
The hunt for the enemy HQ is succesfull, but enemy artillery busts open 4 BMP and the troops inside, making killing the enemy commander a costly effort. I send the Hind toward the NW corner of the map, and it spots a lot of enemy units (at least 4) in Fladungen. The town is heavily defended, so i assign more units to the assault. It will take a while to concentrate enough firepower to take it, so i order my artillery to shell the town.
My Hind finds the enemy SPAs in the NW corner, but it's promptly shot down by them. Don't ask me how.
Despite the nighfall and 500m visibility, the fight for Fladungen is mostly fought at medium to long ranges. Losses are mounting for both sides. I rush some units toward the VP hexes in the northwest while my tanks pin the Fladungen's defenders.
In the end, Fladungen was not taken, thanks to a remarkable defense by NATO infantry and the low readiness (and poor coordination) of my attacking units. Tanks and mech infantry, however, has crossed the Streu river westward of the city and thus taking another VP there.
By the end of the battle, NATO troops have been almost destroyed and will be forced to leave Fladungen sooner or later.
The battle sort of followed my plan, but could have ended in disaster if I didn't take time to resupply around Willmars. If I advanced from the city too soon, the NATO flaking force could have taken me in the open, on the road. Thanks to the military intelligence and the brave martyrs of my first Hind, i spotted the potential danger, and the defensive positions I took around Willmars destroyed the enemy thrust.
Nordheim wasn't the theater of any battle, contrary of my expectations. Instead, the enemy decided to strike at Sondheim, and got slaughtered by my reverse-slope defenses there. But much of the success may be due to my second Hind, that decimated two mechanized platoons, that then could not partecipate in the attack at Sondheim and instead went to defend Fladungen.
Enemy artillery proved to be very strong and accurate, destroying a lot of my units, both tanks, IFVs and infantry. My own artillery killed some HQ; given that it consisted of only 2 Gvozdika, it's not a terrible performance.
The AI, however, did not impress me. It tends to faceplants into strong defensive positions: even if it correctly sends scouts first, it then sends its main force in a frontal assault nonetheless. Since the scouts usually spot how strong my defenses are there, it would be smart to try to maneuver or call off the attack altogather. It may be luck on my side: the AI sees the danger, but has already ordered its units to attack down that route. But I'm not convinced: the frontal assaults go on during several NATO command cycles, so even if the first wave wasn't intentionally sent to die, the others were.