Thursday 29 November 2012

2012-11-17 Battle Group Kursk - First Charge at Hill 252.2

The first charge at hill 252.2 is a campaign scenario in the Battle Group Kursk rules and covers the approximately the first hour of the largest tank battle of WW2. It pits the Soviet 32nd Tank Brigade against 1st SS Panzer Regiment.

The scenario was classed as Company sized as per the rules. I set up the board as per the scenario(ish) allowing for the constraints of my terrain collection.
The board with everyone set up ready to go.

I've described the set up and the figure substitutions I needed to make  in my previous post, however we played everything as per the scenario requirements.

The game was played over an afternoon and evening, and would easily have been completed in our usual day game time of 5 hours 30 minutes. Once we'd grasped the rules things moved on at quite a pace (Huzzagh).

I played the Germans and Chris and Guy played the Soviets.

We marked on a map where the timed Katyusha barrages and Stuka air strike would take place. The Soviets also marked where their 3 waves would come on. The Germans didn't think to do this, oops.

Turn 1

The Germans start the game deployed on the board. I chose to occupy the Oktiabrski State Farm with my SS Panzer Grenadiers. These were supported by a squadron of Panzer IV H's at the hedge line of the farm's fields to the south.
The 2/1st SS Panzer Grenadier platoon. A squad and MG34 are in the fox holes.

Roofs off to see the rest of the platoon. The HQ platoon is in the farm building bottom right.

Zoom out view of farm.

View from the man high fields towards the western side of the farm.

Panzer IV H's (L PzII, C PzIV, R PzIII) waiting in ambush south of the farm.

Deployed to the left of the road T junction were 1st SS Panzer regiments 6th company made up of Tiger tanks. This placed the Tigers in the centre, which I added the senior officer in his Tiger dominating the open ground between the farm on Hill 252.2.
6th Co 1st SS Panzer Regiment.

On the hill it self I deployed the PAK40 battery on the southern slopes supported by the other SS Panzer Grenadier platoon defending the anti tank ditch.
The 20mm AA truck masquerading as quad 37mm Flakvierling on a halfttrack.

Hill 252.2, the tank ditch behind and the railway track.

PAK40 battery on the southern slopes of Hill 252.2.

To the right of the T junction the Luftwaffe Air Control Officer parked is half track in sight of the Forward Observation Officer in his Panzer II who was across the road tucked behind the anti tank ditch and a hedge. Behind the anti tank ditch was a cottage which provided cover for the Flakvierling on the truck. Moving north on the left of the railway line was a trio of Panzer IV G's.
The east west road. The western side is an objective.

Panzer IV G's  move up the right flank (PzIV closest led by 2 x PzIII)
The Soviets go first as per the scenario. They go first anyway as they have a scout and the Germans don't. I therefore took a Battle Rating token. I picked a 4 which took my 74 down to 70 before the Soviets had even fired a shot.

The Soviet's deploy their 1st wave to attack the State farm. Their first action was to call the first timed Katyusha barrage on the farm.
Northern slops of Hill 252.2 with destroyed vehicles from previous fighting.

Soviet 1st wave.

View from the Soviet scout plane. Rather than a PO 2 a newly arrived lend lease plane  was in  use. So new the white star hadn't been painted red yet!

Last minute rule checking before battle commences.
Since it was a timed barrage the Soviets didn't need to use an order to request an artillery strike, or check for priority or roll for a communication check. It was straight in to placing the spotter round marker in the middle of the State Farm and then rolling for deviation which landed on the squads in the fox holes. The Soviets then followed this up with great dice for effect, which combined with poor cover saves by me left me with multiple dead and 3 pinned units.
Stal, Stal, Stal

Next the Soviet commander ordered a 'stal.stal,stal' special order allowing them to throw a D6 and see how many tanks responded to a double move ending in a single area effect shot. 4 T34's surged forward and blasted the farm, or would have done if I hadn't interrupted the first tank and began firing with my Panzer IV H's who'd been on ambush orders. 6 misses later the T34's resumed and blasted the farm. The cream of Germany continued to have wonderful luck and lost more men and their commander and the HQ squad melted away to the rear. I take a Battle Rating token for the lost unit and draw an airstrike, things are looking up.

Lots of smoke for pinned units suffering from HE and Katyusha rockets.

The farm now only holds 2 functioning MG's and a very depleted squad of infantry. The Soviets pin 1 MG and the infantry. As the infantry take a casualty they take a morale test and fail. I take a second Battle rating token and pull out an out of ammo counter that I play on the newly disembarked Soviet SMG squad of the 1st Battalion Guards Airborne Rifle Regiment.
The ambush fire dice have been removed from the Panzer IV's but no smoke  on the Reds.

Plane BR token gives me a Stuka strike!

Strike done and no smoke on the Soviets. Well there is always the other bombs.

The farm now only has 1 functioning MG with everyone else pinned, dead or run away. This ends the Soviet turn and the Germans get their first turn.

The first thing the Germans do is roll for the air strike. As I have a Luftwaffe air controller I successfully roll for the plane to come on with a score of 3+ on a D6. I then roll for the kind of aircraft that is available for the strike. The aircraft I rolled for is a Stuka which I decide to unload it's big bomb on to the tanks attacking the farm. My deviation dice land the bombs on my infantry. Since I'm pretty sure they've almost had a enough I call off the air strike.

I them call in timed airstrike. Unfortunately for the Germans I thought the Soviets would go for the hill so my bombs blew up the wood north of the hill with no impact on the Reds.

The Panzer IV H's supporting the SS infantry open up on the advancing T34's opting to remain stationary and fire twice. The T34's didn't even blink with a combination of failing to be seen and then failing to hit. The Panzers achieved nothing a part from reduce their ammo supply. The T34's were moving and had cover from the tall crop field, one of these advantages was cancelled because they'd fired but it still didn't help the Germans.

The Senior Officer in his Tiger decided to show his men how it was done and fired at long range. The vision of T34's exploding miles away from the firer was shattered with a miss and a realisation the Tigers needed to be closer. The Soviets were moving making them difficulty to hit at extreme range.

The artillery forward observer called in 150mm barrage on the T34's attacking the farm. All the checks were successful but again the target round deviated on to the German infantry and the strike was called off.

The PAK40 battery defending the hill had no targets in front of it, but the gun nearest the far could get an angle if it moved. The gun fired once it had re-positioned and missed. This was becoming a habit.

I opted to keep the platoon defending the anti tank ditch in place as I was concerned the 2nd Soviet tank wave would go for the hill and catch them out in the open as they sprinted for the abandoned Soviet defences. Since the hill was an objective I swung my right hand Panzer IVG's towards the summit and ended my turn.

Turn 2

The Soviet 2nd wave streams on to the board behind the 1st. More 'stal, stal, stal' orders and HE on the farm. Surprisingly some Germans held out for close assault from the disembarked Soviet Paras. As more and more Germans streamed to the rear and died I pulled a Mine and an Out of Ammo token from the Battle Rating token pool. Being generous we diced to see if the Mine was hit by the senior Soviet officer. It wasn't and the mine duly failed to do any damage. The Out of Ammo was played on 1 squad of the assaulting paras. These then decided not to charge in (not a result of a dice test as per the rules, we'd missed this key action during the early turns). Their comrades had not such worries and assaulted the German survivors. After a brief scuffle it was all over the farm had fallen and the Soviet turn was over. (Another error crept in caused by my reasoned argument  at this point, where the pinned Germans fought back in the assault. My reasoning being that they'd stand their ground. None of us thought that they'd run away, which is what they should have done.   On reflection pinned troops who are assaulted should run away. The timely FAQ that came out confirmed this.)
The farm occupied by elements of the 1/23 Guards Airborne Rifle  Regiment. The solid T34 line is the 2nd wave. The 1st wave is to the rear (north) of the farm and on the edge of the red poppy field.

Soviet 1st and 2nd wave mass west of the farm. 1st wave paras disembark from their tanks.
The Germans started with their Stuka. It hit nothing and flew off. Next an artillery bombardment was called in on the farm. Deviation landed it on to the last remaining pinned German squad hunkering in their fox holes. (Note we had decided that since they were pinned the Soviets had taken the objective even though these Germans were within 10"). I saved them all with my cover saves! Phew! But failed to hurt the Soviets.
Soviet paras clear out the last of the SS in the farm
The Panzer IV H's that had supported the SS grenadiers in the farm decided their job was done. They double moved down the road to regroup behind the hill. This placed them behind the Tigers who continued to move up to engage the Red hordes.
6th Company Tigers move up. Panzer IV's retire to conserve ammo and avoid  destruction.

The German centre starting to become the German left.

View from the south road exit objective.

My Panzer IV G's on the right continued their hook right on to the hill and took the objective. This left the defenders of the hill and the AA half track on ambush orders.

I take 2 Battle Rating tokens to ensure my remaining infantry is unpinned.

Turn 3

The Soviet 3rd wave arrives and dew to poor command dice doesn't quite storm the hill. The majority of command dice going to the 1st and 2nd waves. The 3rd wave does claim the first German panzer victim by knocking out the Panzer IV G  flank guard on the hill. I am rewarded with a breakdown token which I play on cheeky T34 that did the damage.
The PAK40 battery on Ambush Fire now supported by the remains of the Panzer IV G platoon
The Soviet 1st wave continues to advance past the farm taking the west road objective and pinning a retreating Panzer IV H. A couple of bold T34 advance and take on the Tigers that had moved to the edge of the field to no effect, but they do force a morale test for hitting one. I roll a 6 which meant I could make a Beyond the Call of Duty action. 2 shots later there is pinned T34. Another T34 from the 1st wave advances to the east of the farm looking for a side shot on the advanced Tigers but is itself shot at from a PAK40 on the hill. A shot that proves deadly and the first T34 brews up.

The German turn sees me completely forgetting to bring on my reserve 3 Panzer IV H's, which I now need quite badly. My dream of blowing up T34's at a distance has failed partly due to me being over optimistic and bad dice for good measure.

I pull back my remaining Panzer IV G's on the hill, as where they were exposes them to side and rear shots from the Soviet 3rd wave. They pull back to the PAK40 gun line. A gun line that can't see the 3rd wave as it's hiding behind the hill. Boooooo!

The PAK40 that had scored the first tank kill has another shot at long range at the T34's now appearing from behind the farm. It misses.

The artillery hits the farm again and kills and pins some of the numerous Soviet para's occupying it. This is a result for the artillery which had been performing badly. However the Soviets weren't forced to take any Battle Rating tokens.

Finally it was the Tigers opportunity to shine. As the Senior Officer was in one I had him order a Tactical Rally. (I'd hoped that meant I unpinned my retreating Panzer IV H on the road immediately so I could give it an order. However after discussion we decided that this happened in the Rally phase. So 3 Tigers left.) The Tiger covering the central open ground east of the farm failed to see the creeping T34's peaking around the farm. The Tigers covering the southern edge of the farm could see their victims clearly. The officer's Tiger kills his target and his subordinate kills and the other. So the Soviets take 3 Battle Tokens to my 1.
Southern slopes of Hill 252.2 with its combined tank and gun line.

Soviet 3rd wave and 1st German tank casualty

1st and 2nd wave keep moving

Close up of 1st and 2nd wave

T34's meet Tigers. Ouch. Soviet paras continue to advance

I end the turn leaving the infantry, remaining PAK's, and AA half track on ambush. I also chose to take 2 Battle Rating tokens which allowed me 2 D6 units to recover from pinned. I chose 2 to make sure I definitely unpinned the PAK40's.

Turn 4

No more Soviet waves left so they need to do the best they can with what they've got. At this point their roll for command dice did not go well. After the 2 commanders pointed out each others failings they discussed how to best use what commands they had.

First thing to do was resolve the last timed Katyusha strike. This nicely landed on the PAK40 gun line. The German tanks survived but 2 guns were pinned.

Next 2 of the Battle Rating tokens taken last turn were aircraft. The Soviets rolled a Sturmovik with 2 37mm autocannons and a fighter. The fighter flew in and went for the PAK40 gun line, with deviation the SS Grenadiers HQ platoon was obliterated. That was both HQ platoons taken out first from each platoon. The loss of officers is starting to impact the number of commands I can make. I had started out with 8 so I can add that to the 3D6 roll for command orders I can use. I am now down to 6 officers I can add to this roll.

The Sturmovik went for a Tiger and shocked the Reds with the resounding ping on it's thick top armour. Lesson learnt next time they'd hunt the Panzer IV's. It was after all this that I remembered I had a quad 37mm AA gun, which to rub it in was on ambush fire!
Attacking Sturmovik

Sturmovik from another angle

Having remembered my AA gun was on Ambush Fire I successfully shot down the Soviet spotter plane. I confess going for the easier target as I was now very conscious that I had taken 40 plus points in Battle Ratings out of 74, and I had only forced the Soviets to take 10 tokens, the majority being this turn. By shooting down a plane I forced the Soviets to take 2 tokens, and by golly I needed that.

The T34's on the hill blaze away and pin the last PAK40 and then turn on the Panzer IV H's in the PAK40 line and miss, and when they didn't miss then they couldn't see. I blame all the smoke from the bombing and rocket strikes.
T34 on the road to the right catches the last Panzer IV in the rear.

T34s streaming round the east side of the farm

The 1st and 2nd wave T34's moved up to the Tigers. What shooting there was had no effect. The new danger was from the advancing Soviet infantry. On the road a T34 rushed up to shoot the Panzer IV that had been pinned then unpinned in the rear. At point blank range there was a satisfying boom!

2 Soviet aircraft arrive. So quick one has already shot up it's target and flown off.

The Hill and centre

Hill 252.2

East side of Hill 252.2

Tank ditch and SS grenadiers (actually Britannia Mountain troops)

German centre and left
The Germans finally bring on their reinforcements. As mentioned earlier I had forgotten to mark there entrance on the plan but I argued that their delay meant they had time to position themselves where they were needed. In this case south of the farm to take the advancing T34's in flank.
German reinforcements

That should slow the Soviets down

Sturmovik takes on the Tigers from the rear

All the reinforcements were allowed 1 command once they had come on to the board. My new Panzer IV H's opened fire destroying the T34 that had picked on the Panzer IV on the road and pinning the T34 which had just arrived to take the east road objective, it's comrade having been destroyed earlier.
A lot of Soviet tanks and infantry

Target Tigers

Moving through the farm

Infantry supporting their tanks

Soviet 1st and 2nd wave right hook

My artillery strike did wonders pinning a couple of T34's and a Soviet para squad. My Tigers now began to fall back firing as they went pinning another T34. I would have preferred to have kept my Tigers in place as they could now be supported by the newly arrived Panzer IV's but the threat of the infantry made it prudent to fall back. Since my Tigers didn't have any supporting infantry themselves they could end up being abandoned on a bad morale score. I was taking morale rolls every time the Soviets scored a  hit, with the amount of shots they were firing meant this was a  regular occurrence.
Moving through the State Farm.

The PAK40's opened up on the advancing T34's which had taken the hill and pinned one. The Panzer IV's killed one. Which sounds great but left me facing 2 squads of disembarked Soviet tank riders, more Guard Paras.
The gun line supported by infantry in the anti tank ditch. The platoon seems to be missing it's HQ?

Northern slopes of Hill 252.2 which now as a broken down tank and some new destroyed ones.
I opened fire on the Sturmovik  and missed which was rather disappointing.

AA truck behind cottage missing the Sturmovik!

I ended the turn leaving my infantry on ambush fire. The Panzer IV H's that had previously supported the farm and ten subsequently retreated down the road turned around to support the Tigers and also given ambush fire orders.

I think this was the only turn I didn't need to take Battle Rating tokens to unpin any units.Phew!

Turn 5

The Soviets began firing their remaining auto cannon shots from the Sturmovik, this time aimed at a Panzer IV which blew up.
Panzer IV destroyed by Sturmovik

Once that was done focus returned to the hill. The Soviet infantry charged the PAK40 guns and destroyed 2 of them. The mass of tanks silenced the last gun and 1 of the valiant Panzer IV's.
Soviet 1st and 2nd waves advance

Panzer IV H reinforcements take the pressure of the Tiger company

Soviet right hook reacting to German reinforcements but still advancing

Germans reeling from the Soviet blows

Now a further 3 units down the rest of the firing at the Tigers and newly arrived Panzer IV's were not rewarded with further brewed up tanks. Lots of good German dice here for saves and morale.

Next the T34's moved towards the Tigers in the centre between the farm and the hill. 2 Panzer IV H's on Ambush Fire took aim and fired at their front glacis. 2 T34's died.

The German turn focused on the hill. The last PAK40 killed a T34. The last Panzer IV pinned another. Only 3 more to go! The SS grenadier MG34 teams opened up with area fire on the Soviet squads occupying the PAK40 defenses and pinned them. A good result but not good enough.

Successful Guards Airborne Rifles and their newly captured guns

Hill 252.2 and the Soviet infantry assault the guns

The Tiger that for so long had single handedly defended the open centre fired it's 2 MG's at the threatening Soviet infantry but failed to pin them or make them fail a morale for their casualties. These Soviet paras are tough.
Tiger holding the centre

Destroyed Panzer IV and it's destroyer killed by a side shot from off camera German reinforcements.

Soviet right hook blunted by the arrival of German reinforcements off camera at bottom of picture.

The Tigers retreating from the hedge fired and pulled back, but rubbish dice meant nice high D6 scores to be minused off the reversing move. The shooting however resulted in another dead T34.
The hotly contested Hill 252.2

The remaining Panzer IV's south of the farm failed to pin or kill anything, and I placed the previously lucky Panzer IV's by the tank ditch on Ambush Fire.

The Germans are now down to the last 15 of their Battle Rating. Once this is reached then the Soviets have won. Chris and Guy know I've taken a lot of tokens from destroyed or run away units plus the tokens I've needed to take to unpin my units. However they don't know how close I am to retreating from  the board.

Turn 6 

The Soviets roll great command dice and begin to act. Hill 252.2 is again the focus. The last Panzer IV and PAK40 are knocked out and the T34's move up to threaten the SS Grenadiers the last squads between them and the final objective the southern road exit.

Moving to the centre more T34's move through their burning comrades to threaten the Tiger commanding the space between the hill and the farm. The Panzer IV's try their trick again on Ambush Fire and kill 1 more T34. The surviving T34 hidden from the centre Tiger engages one of its platoon retreating from the hedge. The side shot does not penetrate, and the Tiger passes its moral.
Panzer IV H's (actually PzIIIa) on Ambush Fire

The Soviet infantry that had been stalking the Tigers leap up and charge. To my disappointment they make it and to their joy pepper the unfortunate Tiger with anti tank grenades resulting in a satisfying knock out!

The Tiger platoon's officer gets shot out but the trusty front armour does its job.
German senior officer in his Tiger on the right.

Tigers trying to form a defensive line and fall back at the same time.

1 Tiger holding it's own, 1 Tiger feeling the effect of anti tank grenades. 

The Soviet T34's that had moved to the southern boundry decide to split up. 1 remains to shoot at the German reinforcement Panzers, the other moves to a side shot position on the Tiger platoon. The T34 remaining at the hedge takes careful aim and kills a Panzer IV H with it's first shot, then misses. Another T34 shoots forward around the farms hedge to get within optimum killing distance and knocks out the last of the German's reinforcements.
A great sight. For the Germans lots of smoking T34s. For the Soviets more T34s and infantry, plus a smoking Tiger!

My Panxer IV reinforcements go up in smoke

Calmly I take my Battle Rating token. The Soviets are looking pleased with themselves and are debating their next moves and wondering what damage my Tigers can do. However it's not to be, I've reached my 74 Battle Rating. The Germans are now in full retreat!
Hill 252.2

What a great game. Similar to Kampgruppe Normandy it's not just about destroying units but about pinning the enemy and forcing them to take tokens to keep fighting. I hadn't pinned many Soviet units and didn't get my artillery advantage working for me.
The end

So what had the Soviets suffered? Well they had taken 39 points, just under 50% as they had a Battle Rating of 80.


We all enjoyed it. We'd all played Kampfgruppe Normandy and loved it and felt this was just as good. Definitely need to mix up the tokens better, but at least it meant we played a lot more of the rules than we'd planned for. In fact I feel the rule changes between the 2 rules mean that Battle Group Kursk provides a better game.

Would I play this scenario again?
Definitely. I learnt a lot and I'd most definitely play the Germans differentlt. I think I would have the Tigers further forward to begin hurting the Soviet tanks earlier. I would perhaps not occupy the farm, although placing the Tiger platoon in it could be a nasty surprise. I would support the tanks with infantry as well. I'd also place the FOO in a better position to lay artillery strikes on the hordes.

I'd like to play the Soviets. Good command rolls were crucial to keep everything moving. Chris and Guy's tactics were pretty good. The only thing different I would try would be keep using the 'stal, stal, stal' order to really get among the German tanks.

Now which game to play next?