Our latest Battleground scenario at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY took us back to one of our club’s sand tables and the area northwest of Ulianovo during Operation Kutuzov in July 1943. The Soviet 11th Guards Army and 1st and 5th Tank Corps led the counteroffensive action against a thin but dug in German force, resulting in some of the heaviest losses to both sides during Operation Citadel and the Battle of Kursk.
Using 20mm miniatures and the scenario from the Red Guards At Kursk book from the Skirmish Campaigns series, the game sets up a 12 turn limit with the Soviet objective of pushing tanks through the German defenders. The German side is tasked with holding off the largely armored Soviet force of T-34s and T-70s with infantry and two Pak 38 anti-tank guns.
The bleak, open table was set up with Germans in foxholes spread over half the field. The two anti-tank gun positions sat at the left rear of the German position with a mine field laid to channel the Soviets toward the river at the other side of the battlefield. Sparse wooded areas and small hill to the Soviet left formed the areas of safer ground for the Red Army’s tanks.
The Soviets quickly ate up two of the game’s turns moving their first T-34 platoon forward toward the hilltop. By turns three and four, the second T-34 platoon entered at the right and the T-70s moved to the center with both groups of tanks carrying tank-riding infantry.
With the German anti-tank guns at too long range to effective hit the Soviet tanks, the Red Army’s armor rolled aggressively to engage the German infantry at close range. Tank riders took some initial hits but the tanks pushed in to fire HE rounds into the German foxholes, quickly causing several casualties. German infantry answered back with several soldiers effectively setting off close assaults with satchel charges being placed and several tank riding Soviets being killed.
By mid-game, one T-34 at the Soviet left had been left in flames and a second at the center had a track blown out and was permanently immobilized. The Pak-38s continued to fire rounds at long range with one more T-34 crew bailed out in a delay while they fixed their tank for a number of turns. In the meantime, the German foxholes were emptied as surviving Soviet tanks and infantry poured fire into the positions.
As the T-34s closed into the German side of the field, one of the anti-tank positions was completely destroyed while another had their crew eliminated. With the Germans scrambling to man their surviving gun, the three functioning T-34s raced to the river at the German right while the light T-70s cleared out resistance in the remaining center German defenses. With only a few crossing checks at the river, the Soviets were assured a victory as they continued to rattle to the German edge of the field and on to a victory by alluding the last German defenders.
With only a sparse historic defense, the Germans performed remarkably well in our replay of the scenario. The German infantry had a tall order holding off the rumble of Soviet tanks but the Red Army’s iron assuredly rammed a wedge through the bleak sandy landscape and rolled on to support the further counterattack.