Wednesday 11 September 2013

2013-08-26 Battle Group Kursk - Operation Kutuzov

On the last August Bank Holiday Guy kindly hosted a WW2 game using the Battle Group Kursk rules. We were joined again by Andy and Robin. Guy as umpire kindly joined the Soviets (bias!!) as commissar and Andy as commander. Robin and I took the part of the exhausted Germans. We used Guy's collection of 15mm figures.

All the photos are from my phone so are not as clear as my usual camera pictures. Which may be due to how I hold my phone rather than the quality of the camera inside it!

Situation Report (as supplied by Guy)

The Scenario is based on the aftermath of Kursk, (a number of days have passed since both sides claimed victory in the largest armoured clash that the world has yet to see). The Soviet operation Kutuzov has begun releasing the Soviet reserves in a counter attack.

The "Victorious" Germans are now beginning to realise that the cost of the last few weeks has been tremendous in terms of machinery munitions and of course men. Russia is a big place and there are less of them to go round than there was.

The scenario is set around a small natural salient that is defined by a small river. At the head of the Salient is a small hamlet that has grown round the crossing of the mud track that passes as a road around these parts. This back water is were the remnants of the 2nd Panzer Division has been sent to lick its wounds and regroup. A Platoon of the 2nd Battalion of the 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment ho defend the crossing and during the lull has created an Anti Tank gun Dug out, a HMG Dug out and Fortified one of the Local Hovels. (All count as reinforced cover).
The last few days have been overcast with low cloud and no reconnaissance flights have been possible, but its quiet.... way too quiet.
There is little in the way of support immediately available however Divisional HQ has promised it will mobilise both Panzer and Infantry support should the need arise and has assigned the part of the 3rd Battery of the Divisions Artillery Battalion to be available for fire support if Required.
You are worried as you are well aware that the Panzers were heavily engaged in the previous week and much of what remains is second line.
The German aim is to hold up any attack long enough to allow the reserves to be fed into this sector and engage the enemy. After all you saw how many casualties you and your comrades inflicted so there can not be that many of them left, can there ............
Reinforcements will be fed in on a dice driven system (yet to be defined) but you will start with the Panzer Grenadier Platoon on the table with its supports and also 120mm Mortar Battery (where it goes it stays for the duration of the game)
There is no need for a map, with the exception of the Mortar Battery your deployment is defined.
The Battle
The game was on a 7 x 4ft table. Set deployments for the Germans are:
A German platoon is deployed in the village 2 ft from the Soviet start point. 2 x 120mm mortars deployed in the village on the German base line. A FOO in the woods in the centre. 
The Soviets enter on the table edge.
German reinforcements come on from the village on the base line and the road behind the village 2ft from the Soviet start line (the road is therefore roughly central).

The Battlefield
German base line looking towards the Soviet start line. The German platoon is in the far village. The mortars are seen behind the village bottom right.The stream is the dark line on the board. 
  1. The village on the stream
  2. The road entry point behind the village
  3. The village on the German start line
Germans cannot claim an 'all objectives secured' victory.
Special Rules
Roll for command as normal but only add the number of officers on table to the score.
The Soviets come on in 6 waves. 1 wave per turn
The Germans will dice for their reinforcements. This was quite add hock on the day with shouts of fix and bias from the Germans. However it didn't unbalance the game and kept he narrative. The Germans didn't know what they were dicing for or what score they needed which I personally found frustrating. The idea was that we would not know what a reinforcements were, from that view point the system worked perfectly. Roughly the system we used was:
  • 1d6 for location to arrive 1,2,3 arrive on the road behind the baseline village or 4,5,6 arrive on the road behind the village on the stream.
  • 1 d6 was rolled and the Germans were allocated reinforcements. High quality units needed a 5 or 6 and low quality units needed a 3, 4 or 6.We had to declare whether we wanted a better quality unity e.g. tanks before rolling. So if we asked for high and didn't get the right score no reinforcement.
Due to poor dice by the Germans, blamed on not knowing what we were rolling for we switched to rolling 2 dice. 1 for low quality and 1 for high.
The Germans are on Ambush Fire turn 1
German Panzer Division Points: 1096 points BR: 67 Officers: 6 Army Size: Company
Turn 1:
Infantry Units
  • Panzer Grenadier Platoon with 50mm PaK 38 AT gun and 80mm medium mortar. Squad MGs are bipod MG34s. No anti tank grenades
  • MG dug out
  • AT gun dug out
  • fortified building
Reinforcements to be diced for:
Forward HQ units
  • Forward HQ in sdfKz 251/3
  • Luftwaffe ACO in kubelwagon
Tank Units
  • Panzer III squadron
  • StuG III F Squadron
  • StuG III G Panzer Ace
Infantry Units
  • Armoured Panzer Grenadier Platoon. Squad MGs are bipod MG34s. No anti tank grenades. Tripod MG34 HMG. 75mm PaK 40 AT gun with Opel Maultier. 80mm medium mortar in SdkFz 251/2. Self propelled infantry gun in SdkFz 251/9.
Specialist Support Units
  • StuH 42 F assault howitzer
Artillery Units
  • FO team in kubelwagon
  • 120mm heavy mortar x 2
  • Off table 105mm howitzer battery (2 guns) 

 Soviet Tank Corps Points: 1200 points BR: 80 Officers: 6 Army Size: Company

Turn 1:
Tank Units
  • T34/43 squadron x 2

Infantry Units
  • Tank rider squad x 4

Artillery Units
  • Off table Katyusha strike
Turn 2
Tank Units
  • T70 platoon x 2
Infantry Units
  • Tank rider squad x 3

Turn 3
Forward HQ units
  • Forward HQ in T34/43
  • VVS Air Controller in jeep
  • NKVD Officer in Gaz jeep
Specialist Support Units
  • SU122 Heavy assault gun x 2
Turn 4
Infantry Units
  • Motorised Infantry platoon in trucks and HQ in jeep. 76.2mm horse drawn Infantry gun. Maxim MG team. AT Rifle. Light Mortar 
Artillery Units
  • Off table Katyusha strike
Turn 5
Tank Units
  • T34/43 squadron
  • T34/43 x 1

Specialist Support Units
  • Supply truck
  • Anti Aircraft GAz truck with quad Maxim MGs
Turn 6
Infantry Units
  • Motorised Infantry platoon in trucks and HQ in jeep. 45mm L46 AT gun with Komsomolyets tractor. Maxim MG team. AT Rifle. Light Mortar 

Both sides as per the rules needed to allocate the ammo mix to their guns where they had a choice. Rather than list it all the Germans went for a 80/20 mix of AP and HE and the Soviets for 60/40 AP and HE mix.

Turn 1

The Soviets go first as the attackers and call in a katyusha barrage on the village on the stream. Luckily for the Germans they get away unscathed pinning 1 squad.

German mortars quite happy that the katyusha barrage is not landing on them

The key to the German defence is the village on the stream

The German platoon deployed in the village. The troops were placed beside the building they were in. Left to right in the front buildings were an MG in reinforced cover, squad, AT gun in reinforced cover and another MG in reinforced cover. Behind them left to right were a squad, command squad, and another squad

By the hedge can be seen the AT gun 1/2 track and the platoon 80mm mortar

The Soviets arrive and 'stal,stal, stal' towards their first objective.

The German ambush fire hoses the tanks forcing the tank riders off 2 and pinning them. The AT gun did not live up to its name!

A closer view of the action

Soviet SMG armed assault troops fail to take the MG post

The Germans made no moves and kept firing destroying the pinned infantry but not pinning any more. The Soviets have to take 2 BR tokens. The average token value is approx. 3 so in theory the Soviets 80 BR was now down to 71.

The Germans took a token to unpin their units. Using the same average for a token their 67 BR was now down to 64. Once either side was down to 0 then game over.

Turn 2

The Soviets new wave arrived while the old continued to shell and assault the village with no great success. The German AT gun however was knocked out. 1 token taken by the Germans.

The Soviet T70s get themselves on to the road leading to the German held village on their base line. The road naturally helped them move faster. There was laughter all round at the fact the T70 light tank is slower than the T34/43 medium tank.

The surviving Soviet Tank Riders successfully take 2 houses in the village.
T70's arrive on the base edge

The white dice mean the Germans are on ambush fire
The Germans successfully roll for a reinforcement and bring on the forward HQ Senior officer in a half track and the Luftwaffe officer.

The German FOO can't see anything so no artillery is requested. The other problem facing the Germans is that the Soviets are too close to risk artillery fire even when they appear on the base edge. At a minimum there is a 1d6 scatter with a 10" radius barrage zone which gives a high likelihood of shelling the village. Since we'd already flummoxed the Soviets by surviving the katyushas and the first assault we clearly didn't want to give them any extra help.

This meant that with the AT gun gone the Germans had nothing left they could use to hurt the Soviet tanks so all fire was directed at the infantry they could see.

The German reinforcements arrive on the road behind the village.

The Germans roll low for reinforcement and the Luftwaffe officer rocks up in his kubelwagon.

Poor command rolls mean that the Germans focus on firing from the infantry platoon who successfully pin a tank rider squad marked by the white smoke

Turn 3

More Soviets arrive and the Germans are still holding the village. The 1st wave T34s machine gun the last remaining German held houses at the front of the village pinning the units in them. The tank riders then charge in to close combat from the previously German AT bunker. Since the Germans are pinned they can't fight back.

This is how you clear a village. 1st pin the defenders

2nd charge the pinned defenders who can't fight back. Nice blurred action shot as the tank riders sprint across the village road

3rd throw enough dice to wipe the defenders out.

Then try the victory shot with the flash on

Meanwhile the T70s charge up the road and are hit by German ambush fire from the village. This fire dismounts and pins a tank rider squad.

The SU122s move up from the baseline, centre of picture. The Soviet senior commander is skulking on the baseline nice and safe.

The Germans now hold on 1 house in the front row of the village but still hold all the rear houses.

Another view of the mainly German held village. This gallant defence has taken the Soviets by surprise who thought they would storm through it.

The T70 column before the artillery strike. Post strike the Soviets remember  they hadn't fired their HE shots at the end of the 'stal,stal,stal' move. A 'stal,stal.stal' move is where this order is declared for a platoon or company and a D6 is rolled to see how many tanks move up to 2 moves and fore 1 HE shot. The Germans agreed the T70s could keep their HE ammo the Soviets hadn't used.

The T70 column in the distance after the strike. 2 T70's fail their morale and break and after further small arms fire the rest of the tank riders are dismounted and pinned. The previously pinned Soviet tank riders were rallied by the Soviets taking a token which turned out to be a Beyond the Call of Duty token allowing them to take a free action. This was played on the tank riders who fired on the German squads opposite. In the German turn they returned the favour and saw the Soviets off. Another token for the Soviets and this time it reduced their BR.

The Germans in the village are being whittled down. Only the MG squad holds the building bottom right of the village. The platoon HQ is still on ambush fire in the middle building. 1 token taken by the Germans for the now deceased infantry squad, and that token turned out to be a breakdown token. The Germans played this on a T34. The Soviets rolled their dice for effect and survived but were made immobilised.

A closer look at the devastated T70 column.

At last some StuGs arrive!

The StuGs cautiously move up waiting for the continued charge.

The German senior officer moves to a safer position.

1 token that turn and 1 from turn 2 for the Germans takes their 64 BR to approx 58. The Soviets 71 BR to moves down to approx 62.

Turn 4

More Soviets turn up in trucks who dismount sending the transport to the rear.
Newly arrived Soviet motorised platoon

The T34 between the wood and the village was immobilised by the breakdown token played earlier.

The Soviet T34's break off their attack on  the village and move around to support the T70s. A lone T70 sprints through the village and halts to the confusion of the Germans who expected it to move to take out their senior officer or mortar team. The answer comes ion the form of a second kayusha strike on the T junction behind the village. Crucially this strike takes out the German FOO. 1 token taken for the Germans.

The lone T70 with the T34s in the back ground bypassing the village and thus avoiding their own artillery.

The T70 takes fails to take out the mortar and half track which mount up and retreat towards the German base line

The advancing T34's. Using a 'stal,stal,stal' order they fire HE in to the village as they pass it.

The T34's pass the T70s

The German MG team are routed from their prepared position. The T34's HE fire has successfully pinned a German infantry squad.

German mortar fire destroys a pinned Soviet infantry squad


German reinforcements come on next to the base line village. The Panzer Ace moves behind the stream to cover the road through the stream village and offer side shots on T34s heading for the second village. In addition the assault howitzer arrives and moves to the outskirts of the village bottom left.

The German senior officer falls back further to safety followed by the German platoon mortar.

The StuG III F's move up towards the advancing T34s but do no damage with their shots.
A token for the Soviets this turn sees the approx BR score reduced to 68.

Turn 5

Surprise, surprise more Soviets poor on the board. The newly arrived T34s race up the left flank shelling the village and the pesky Germans at the end of the 'stal,stal,stal' move, the command of choice for the Soviet tankies.
Kaboom! A T70 takes out a StuG III F making up for the T34 misses.

The Soviet infantry get ready to move into the woods and village

Clear picture of the immobilised T34

T34 reinforcements rush up the left flank

The T70s head straight for the second German village followed up by the SU122s. The T34 stay still to make their shots count and avoid the Panzer Ace.

The Soviet tank riders storm the German infantry squad house and fail to take it, but whittle the defenders down.
The Soviets take a token at the end of their go to roll a D6 to rally their pinned troops.
The German StuGs take revenge pinning 1 and destroying 1 T34, a 3rd rolls for morale from a hit and scores a Beyond the Call of Duty token which it uses to destroy the nearest StuG. A token each to reduce the BR ratings.

We use MDF tokens purchased from Commission Figurines.

More German fire pins some recently rallied Soviet infantry. The T70 that destroyed the StuG in the previous turn can't take anymore hits and flees the board after a failed morale roll. A Beyond the Call of Duty token is taken and played on the it's brother in arms but it doesn't get lucky. In hindsight this could have been played on the pinned T34 which would have unpinned it.

The Germans roll low for reinforcements and gain an armoured grenadier squad in a half track which races up the road behind the first village and debusses it's infantry in to the wood.

Half track at the T junction behind the first village.

The Panzer Ace punishes the T34's previous beyond the call of duty action by destroying it. Token for the Soviets.

View of turn 4's Soviet infantry platoon with it's infantry advanced and the supports still in the base line due to lack of command dice to get them moving. Command is a challenge for the Soviets due to their numerous units and poor ratio of officers.

The Soviet platoon supports, the senior officers T34 and supply trucks
Turn 6

Due to congestion on the Soviet start line the last motorised infantry platoon does not come on. The Soviet focus is on the first village and the left flank tank attack.

The Soviet tanks keep advancing and take out the final StuG III F. As can be clearly seen the Germans finally roll high and gain their missing Panzer III platoon. However I'd have preferred it arriving by the first village.

Another benefit of rolling high for reinforcements was the arrival of the rest of the German armoured grenadier platoon. Unfortunately it arrived behind the first village and was a little exposed. The red dice means a unit has been allocated an order action. I find this the best way to track how many orders have been used.

The half track that had arrived to deliver the German grenadiers in to the woods is taken out by the T70.

Finally the Soviet infantry move up, triggering ambush fire from  the Germans which pins a squad.

Soviet T34s use their favourite order and HE the woods at the end of their move pinning the newly arrived Germans.

In taking a token to unpin their units the Soviets pick up a confusion token which they play on the Panzer Ace forcing him to take a morale test. He passes. phew!

The Panzer III's ready to strike

SU122's tank out by the Panzer III's and the Panzer Ace in the StuG

In the background you can see the 50mm Pak38 armed half track takes out the T70 threatening the T junction. A panzer grenadier infantry and MG squads debus by the hedge.

The white smoke of pinned units in the background show the results of a mortar strike and MG fire from the newly arrived panzer grenadiers.
At the end of this final turn the Soviets have taken no objectives from the Germans. Both villages are held, one more strongly than the other. The Soviets have 8 mobile tanks left and a full infantry platoon more than the Germans. The Germans still have 4 tanks left including their Panzer Ace and a PaK40 has just arrived that can kill anything on the board, if it can hit it, which it didn't this turn. Plus they have all their mortars intact to suppress infantry. Having said that the Soviets have their horse drawn AT gun which is good, and they too have their mortars but they are not as powerful as the German's.

So who won. Based on objectives achieved the Germans, but the rules state that when times up the side who has the most BR remaining wins. The Germans had 32 BR left and the Soviets 43. This makes the Soviets the winners.


It was a great game with loads of tension as the Germans didn't know what was coming on when or where. The idea behind the scenario was that the Germans were in exhausted and in confusion being hit by the counter offensive of the Soviets. The design expected the first village to fall quickly and the rest of the game for the Germans made up of disjointed counter attacks as they extracted their troops from the Soviet onslaught. As you've just read this didn't play out like this, although the Soviets still won.

As a positive for the Germans the Soviets had lost 53% of their BR while the Germans still had 51% on the board.  Since the Germans still held all the objectives and the Soviets offensive was slowing down the  game was very close to becoming a German victory. This fact in itself illustrates how successful the Germans were in buying time.

I'd like to thank Guy for hosting, Karl for his unerring luck in winning Beyond the Call of Duty events and Robin for ensuring that not all the German dice rolls were rubbish.