Monday, 17 September 2018

Tank Clash, with Battlegroup Kursk

Back to the start, with a BG Kursk game. It was always my plan that BG would provide a range of books for WW2 so that players could select a period or theatre and play a game, knowing the core rules, but that still felt like it was different part of the war to any other. That battles on the eastern front in 1941 would feel different to those in 1943, to those in Normandy in 1944 or at the end of the war in 1945 - same game, but different character and feel, and always with the ‘right’ forces on the tabletop. I think, now BG has 10 books, we have got to that point. I can now decide to play a game and think, ‘hmm.. which theatre today, err today will be Kursk’, and know I’ll get a game that looks and feels like that battle.

Today’s game would be a straight meeting engagement, a tank brawl on the steppes of Russia. 600 points each (platoon-sized), Panzer Division vs counter-attacking Tank Corps.

The German battlegroup consisted of, roughly:

FHQ in SdKfz 251/3
Armoured Panzer Grenadier Platoon, all with AT grenades
Pz IV H Platoon
Tiger
Recce HQ in SdKfz 250/11
2 snipers
supply truck
off-table 120mm mortar battery
2 2nd Priority Artillery Request (4+)
4 officers, 36 BR, 3 scouts

Russians:
FHQ in Gaz Jeep
Forward Observer Team in Gaz Jeep
Motor Rifle Platoon (tank riding), all with AT grenades
T-34 Platoon
T-34 Platoon
T-70 Platoon
SU-152
BA-64 armoured car
Sniper
off-table 120mm mortar battery
2 1st Priority artillery requests (2+)
2 Officers, 37 BR, 2 scouts

With the scouts deployed (chit taken by the Russians for being out scouted), it was time to start, the Germans taking turn 1.

The snipers traded shots, the Russian one winning out by pinning one of his enemy having avoided the fire trying to pick him off. The SdKfz 250/11 moved through the woods on the hill on the left (German PoV), to get a good line of sight for mortars and artillery spotting as the Russians arrived. The BA-64, hiding down by the farm, was watching up the field track (obvious German approach route) to do the same with his 120mm mortars.

The German reinforcements arrived, keen for the fight, with a max 6 units - hurrah! On came the first panzers with their infantry carriers behind. The Russians were more tardy - 1 unit (a T-34 and riding infantry) responded (oops). The Germans pressed forwards, and the first 120mm mortars targeted the farm, missing wildly and hitting nothing (adjust your fire!). The snipers lined each other up, and this time the Russia was pinned, cowering under a bush after a close call that nearly took his head off.

4 more German units arrived, the last Pz IV, the FHQ track and the supply truck. They were all in by turn 3. Only 2 Russian arrived again, T-70s moving right to take cover at a hedge. As yet, no tanks had opened fire, but if the Russians didn’t get a move on the Germans would be in the farm and have the objectives.

The Russian plan was (post-battle interrogations revealed this), to hold the farm and demonstrate on their right, holding the bulk of the German armour, so their main attack could sweep round on their left, a left hook by 3 T-34s and the faster 3 T-70s, coming round and behind the German armour as it attacked the farm. They would only face a German right flank guard, 1 Pz-IV, supporting grenadier squad and half track and the FHQ who was over their to use the hillock as a position for spotting (between him and recce HQ they could see the entire tabletop). They would be hard pressed when the Russian attack came. They had to arrive first, and were very slow about it.

For the Russians the plan sort-off worked, the farm was secured, if under incoming mortar fire, and 3 T-34 and the SU-152 drew the attention of the Tiger and 2 Pz -IVs. The first of which up the track was hit by a 120mm mortar bomb and unlucky KO’d… meanwhile the Tiger opened fire at long range but could not score a hit on the T-34s down by the farm. Russian HE shells came back, but no pinning thankfully.

The Russian finally showed up in numbers, T-34s and tank riders moving right (German POV form now on, this is getting confusing). With the T-70s. The German FHQ could see them coming straight at him and called in a Corps battery of 150mm guns. They rained in shells and scored pinning and left one T-70 smoking. The Pz-IV opened up and missed… he was the main defence against five enemy tanks. Target rich environment.

As the skirmishing around the farm continued, and the SU-152 wasted all 3 of its ammo on missing (no supply truck either, so now useless), the main Russian attack tried to get rolling. T-70 HE rounds pinned the Pz IV (ot-oh) and the T-34s raced through the hedge and into the cornfield at full speed. HE shells where flying all over (and doing little).  It looked bad for the Germans, the flank guard would surely be overrun… except the T-70s had a bad turn, pinned by mortar fire, they were also now almost out of ammo (wasteful earlier suppressing fire having cost them), only 1 rushed forwards. The lurking Tiger moved position to help out with some long ranging shooting across the fields.

At the farm it was a stalemate, German grenadiers had deployed and were firing MGs down at Russian riflemen now occupying the objective. A T-34 came forwards to try and hit the Tiger, and paid next turn when the beast’s turret turned and boom! - 88 shell through the front - first dead T-34. More T-34s followed, the flank guard Pz-IV - tactical co-ordinated (in desperate need), and smashed a high velocity 75mm round through another T-34. Grenadiers sneaked up through the corn field, AT grenades in hand. Suddenly the Russian positioned didn’t look so good, and the chits were mounting. On the plus-side for Uncle Joe’s boys, the Tiger was now out of AP shells and withdrew to the resupply truck to get some more.

But Pz-IVs do the job well too.. after an utterly rubbish turn for the Russians in which they hit nothing, failed to get any artillery fire down (needing 2+), their mortars quit in them and they managed to remove a single pinned marker, the flank guard Pz-IV scored another T-34 kill, and the Tiger was back in action, moving right to help out the hard pressed (but doing well) flank guard. The German’s second artillery request again came through and this time more 150mm shells hit the farm, wrecking the BA-64 in the process (mortar spotter gone). That chit taken produced an air attack, and next turn (rolling a 6) an IL-2 Sturmovik buzzed in with 4 bombs - could it swing the day?

The answer was - well, no, not really. Its bombs pinned a Pz-IV, but German infantry MG fire turned skywards and three MG teams just hammered it, pinning it and damaging it. The pilot wasn’t happy!

The German CO had a narrow escape as T-34 AP shells winged passed his track, and his driver turned it around and sped away as fast as he could - wise move. T-70 HE shells followed him, and missed as well. Things were too hot, time to go!. That T-70 was also now ammo-less, so just a rolling single MG. 

By now the chit stacks had built up, the Russians significantly more than the Germans. Russian luck continued to be poor, when the returning, unpinned Sturmovik came in strafing the re-supply truck and rolled a 1, failing to spot it, only for another torrent of MG fire to pin and damage it again -   it was close to being shot down! German grenadiers, more AT grenades in hand, moved across the orchard towards the farm, threatening the useless hunk of metal that was the SU-152 - which reversed away, helpless (it really is large white elephant). When the Tiger, now fully gunned up, targeted the T-70 and smashed it into scrap with another 88 hit, that was it and the Russian were done. Their messy counter-attack had been repelled. German loses had been light, 1 Pz-IV and about 6 men, but their BR total had reached 26 for 36 (tactical co-ordination can be costly). Russian loses for the day were 4 T-34s, 2 T-70s, a BA-64 and about 12 men, and almost a Sturmovik…now looking more like a collander.

Cracking game, the Germans hung tough and the Tiger, well… they’re just so mean… 2 kills, never pinned - no dramas… easy day at the office. It had not been the Russian's day, slow reinforcements, no supply truck, twice failing to get 1st priority artillery support through, and not great orders rolls either, it had been a struggle. I'm still don’t know how they are supposed to kill a Tiger tank! 

Here are some shots of the game, on rubbish camera phone though. Hopefully not too bad.

Hmm, what to play next time? My friend has almost completed painting his Crusaders army, so time for some serious Soldiers of God action over the winter… I think we’ll play through the mini-campaign.


 The Russians waiting to hit the tabletop

 BA-64, mortar spotter, waiting for the German thrust up the track

 Here they come.

 120mm mortar, direct hit - KO'd Panzer - good start. Note Tiger in firing position behind. 

First Russian armour, hiding and using harrassing HE fire

The rest of the kampfgruppe speeds onto the board. Keen today...

First T-34 risks a peak at the Tiger, and incoming 88 shells. A diversion to keep it busy.

 Main Russian attack, hit by a timely 150mm barrage.

 T-34s race into the corn, infantry off. Germans are worried now.

 Reinforcements at the farm

 Panzer IV scores first kill. 

 Then second

 Sturmovik dives in, bombing. German AA MG fire was very heavy and accurate. 

 King of this battlefield...

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