Battleground: Iron Wedge 1943 Scenario

KurskT34sOur 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.

IMG_6214

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.

IMG_6239Battlefield layout with German infantry and anti-tank guns in dug in positions

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.

IMG_6233The first T-34s take position at the top of the hill

IMG_6234The second T-34s and tank riders move to the middle

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.

IMG_6231The center German Pak-38 position

IMG_6236T-34s race to engage German foxholes at close range in the center

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.

IMG_6235Close engagements between T-34s and German infantry in foxholes

IMG_6232The second Pak-38 on the German left

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.

IMG_6237T-34s are destroyed and immobilized as they push forward

IMG_6240T-70s provide cover in the center as surviving T-34s move to the river

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.

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I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: West Of The Oktiabrski State Farm July 12, 1943 Scenario

t34OktiabrskiThis past week, two of us at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY headed back to the summer of 1943 and the opening days of what would become known as the Battle of Kursk. The German offensive in Soviet territory, known as “Operation Citadel,” took place southwest of Moscow and led to one of the largest tank battles of all time, the Battle of Prokhorovka. It was south of Prokhorovka at the Oktiabrski State Farm where our game began.

BKCover‘Battlegroup Kursk’ from Iron Fist Publishing

Our 15mm battle was a mash-up of game systems, using Flames of War models, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules and a scenario lifted from the Battlegroup Kursk book by Iron Fist Publishing. Aside from its own set of tabletop rules, the Battlegroup Kursk book offers some well-drawn scenarios easily adaptable to a variety of gaming systems and scales. Our scenario, “West Of The Oktiabrski State Farm,” was the second of seven scenarios from the section entitled “The Inglorious 12th July.”

oktMAPMap of the West Of The Oktiabrski State Farm scenario

IMG_5577Soviet blinds deploy and move as T-34s are spotted pushing on the left

Our first Eastern Front and largest IABSM game to date started with the German infantry, Pak 40 anti-tank guns and two StuG III units deployed in hidden on a third of the table. Across a wide field, the Soviets deployed on blinds along the table edge in and around a collective farm complex. The initial Soviet blinds featured three infantry platoons at the center, a T-34 tank platoon to the left flank and one more tank platoon arriving on blinds in the second and third turns. Each side also featured off board artillery and the German side also had air fire to draw on throughout the game, although none of it would play a measurable role during the battle.

IMG_5547Soviet armor rumbles toward their first objective

IMG_5578A Pak 40 reveals itself to the approaching Soviet T-34s

IMG_5569The T-34s and Pak 40 exchange fire across the open field

IMG_5571The Soviet commander exposes Germans dug into the field just as his tank is destroyed

IMG_5575The first wave of Soviet armor burns in the field as reinforcements arrive on a blind to the rear

Soviet objectives sat at the German-defended crossroads, and so the T-34s pushed hard in the initial turns toward the road entry at the edge of the table at the Soviet left. Rolling quickly toward the road, the T-34s encountered a Pak 40 position at a hedge dominating a field of fire at the center of the table. The Pak 40s immediately hit the tanks, damaging the turrets, sights and mobility of the T-34s. Over several turns, fire was exchanged between the T-34s and the German anti-tank crews, leaving several burning tanks and a partially destroyed German gun position. Mid-game, a reinforcing platoon of T-34s moved to support the first wave of nearly-destroyed Soviet armor but were likewise halted in a crossfire from the surviving Pak 40s and three StuGs moving out their hidden positions and toward the road. The Soviet tank commander managed to close gloriously on the objective, but the StuGs and hidden German infantry positions stalled the advance and his tank went up in flames with those of his comrades, too.

IMG_5570Mid-game with Soviet blinds arriving on each flank, infantry at the middle and thick lines of German defenders in the distance

IMG_5572German Pak 40s and MG42s hold the center

With the Soviet attack on the left completely at a standstill, infantry moved from the farm complex toward the crossroads objective in the distance as T-34s maneuvered to their right using a forested area to cover their advance. The Germans moved to strengthen their center with the deployment of MG42s which laid fire into the Soviet infantry. German infantry deployed across the crossroads objective and were buoyed by the support of another StuG platoon on the opposite side of the trees.

IMG_5573T-34s try to push from the right using the forest as cover

IMG_5574T-34s and StuGs duel at the edge of the forest as infantry begins to take heavy casualties on both sides

Between the road and forest, the battle for crossroads began. Soviet infantry were cut down in the open and the Soviet armor moved cautiously around the woods to fire into the German infantry and armor. As the T-34s rounded the edge of the forest, a crossfire of Pak 40 and StuG shots stalled the Soviet tank advance with the Germans suffering a loss of only one StuG in the firefight. With the objectives at the crossroads and road at the table edge still secure, the day tipped to a German win effectively repelling the Soviet attack.

I hardly ever play Soviets, and in a look at the battle afterward I reasoned a consolidated attack to the road on the German right may have provided the critical mass of armor needed to sway the victory. The German anti-tank guns had effectively pinned the center, and a replay with T-34s massing to one side may have provided just enough of a steel wall to allow the other tanks to move to the objective instead of dying in the open. With our largest IABSM battle played out over several hours, we thought having a crack at one of the other Eastern Front scenarios would be worth it to test if Soviet metal might prevail over the German invaders on another day.