Friday evening saw a few hours (2.5 actually) of wargaming entertainment (let’s face it, tele is rubbish and a game – just about any game- is preferable). We had the luxury of a choice of three WWII periods to pick from (Kursk, Overlord or Fall of the Reich). Soon this will be increased to 4 with the arrival Battlegroup Barbarossa in April – which technically we could have played as well I suppose. We decided the period at random, and it came up Kursk. So back to 1943. I would be defending with my Russians, the Germans would be attacking, in a 700 point ‘Defence Line’ scenario.
My force was made up of 3 static Zis 3 AT gun positions, 2 in dug-outs and 1 in an earth bunker, with an infantry platoon deployed to protect the guns, as well as 2 Maxim MG dug-outs, 2 82mm mortars and a few other bits a pieces like 2 off-table 122mm timed barrages and 3 off-table Zis 3 shots. In reserve were my 4 T-34s with tank riding infantry, ready to counter-attack. Unfortunately a battelgroup relying on defences and artillery support pays the price in BR, so my total wasn’t great at just 35.
The Germans when for a rather ‘Soviet’ approach. Tanks and infantry. 2 grenadier platoons tank riding on 7 Pz IVs (G and Hs mixed) a single (but ubiquitous) Tiger and no artillery support at all. Their BR was a decent 48, considerable better than mine, but I had the good cover saves with me, and some good AT guns to hit back with.
Here are some snaps from the evening’s game, and very ‘Kursk-like’ it was. I deployed my little strongpoints of AT guns, infantry and MG support, with the FO Team at the back watching over the lot and ready to call in the bigger guns and mortars. The German attack rolled in (after the scenarios preliminary bombardment which left 2 infantry units pinned), 4 Panzer IVs leading the attack with a platoon riding on the back. Intimidated by my overwatching AT guns they skulked into the woods and this would become the main thrust of their attack, straight up the centre. Soon the woods reverberated to the sounds of rifle and MG fire as the Russian infantry fought a desperately outnumbered firefight, which saw two squads wiped out for little in return. The central AT gun they had been protecting was outflanked and overrun by close assaulting grenadiers throwing grenades which saw the crew and loader team run-off. A bad start but, in the plus column, a Sturmovik had arrived and dropped its bombs, which had disabled 1 tank and pinned some infantry. It now circled round looking for infantry targets to strafe.
Hidden from the air attacks, the Germans pushed on through the woods, and more Panzer IVs arrived with more infantry, moving up in the centre they ran into accurate mortar fire, which disabled another tank and wiped out a squad, which broke and ran. Morale wasn’t good today. The Tiger then arrived along the road and rolled up, lashing the Zis 3 AT gun covering the road with HE area fire, whilst return 76.2mm shells bounced off (as always). The Russian position was looking vulnerable, the centre had crumbled away, and redeploying infantry to the centre didn’t look like it would be enough to stop the panzers.
This was compounded when a FW-190 swooped in, released its single large bomb and it fell right into the middle of my infantry squad in a direct hit that saw 7 of them killed and the last man pinned, and thus removed. The battle counters were stacking up.
It wasn’t one way traffic though, a mine strike disabled another Panzer IV and my last infantry squad shot up an MG team and wiped it out, and then sneaked forward to seize a spare objective (I now had all 3, but, as the defender, couldn’t claim the win). I was in desperate need of my reserves, and 5 turns to fight without them seemed like forever.
By now the panzers were right in the midst of the defence zone, and the Tiger tank drove over the Zis 3 covering the road, how rude! The crew ran off (again).
Turn 5, and the T-34s finally arrived, infantry onboard. Rather than throw them straight into the teeth of the panzers and that Tiger, they went wide right, hoping to cut in and get some flank shots before the panzers could turn to face. Also, a lucky hit from an off-table Zis 3 shot pinned the Tiger tank... hurrah.
But, just as the tank counter-attack was about to strike, the Germans had a fierce turn, maxing out on Orders at 17 on 2D6+5. By comparison, the Russian had just rolled 3+1 = 4 orders. Disaster overwhelmed my last defenders as the German assaulted my mortars teams, wiping them out, and my platoon command squad was shot-up as well. Tank HE fire caused a casualty inside the AT gun bunker, and a rolled 1 for morale saw the rest of the gun crew abandon the bunker and exit out the back! Damn them, the last key position was gone and with it, the tank counter-attack was quickly cancelled. Broken, the Russians got the order to withdraw.
Another grim defeat... the Germans had taken just 26 BR lost from their total...it had gone badly, but I had knocked out 4 Pz IVs (all would no doubt be recovered and back in action tomorrow).
T-34s arrive, prepare to rush in, then get recalled... no counter-attack today, this defence line is given up in turn 6.
Highlights of the game (which was a very characterful one) were the Tiger tank crushing the Zis 3, and the Sturmovik and FW-190 turning their MGs on eachother in a brief dog-fight over the battlefield (inconclusive when the Sturmovik split for home). Also, a timed 122 barrage that scored 3 direct hits on one German MG team, leaving not even a smear. I still have never knocked out a Tiger!