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.

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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.

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.

Flames of War: “Desperate Measures” Tanks On The Steppe

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Late in 2013, Flames of War re-launched their Late War Eastern European Front books and models with the release of Desperate Measures. The slim guide to the German and Soviet forces of 1945 is packed with lots of fun and flexibility in fielding tons of armor and mechanized troops slugging it out in the final months of World War II.

My usual FOW gaming opponent at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY has made a sizable investment in Soviet models and Eastern Front terrain. His rural church model in particular looks fantastic on the table with real gold leaf applied to the classic onion dome. Playing from the Desperate Measures book for the first time this past week allowed me to field a bunch of German armor which has mostly sat idle for a year or two as I’ve focused on playing Allied forces in Western Europe.

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My German list was a Confident-Trained Panzer Kampfgruppe with a Panther G HQ, two Jagdpanthers, two Panzer IVs and a Confident/Veteran Schwere Panzer platoon of three Tiger I Es. The Soviets rolled out a Confident-Trained Tankavoy Batalon with a T-34/84 obr 1944 HQ tank, a platoon of seven T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks, a ten-tank T-34 obr 1942 platoon and two four-gun platoons of the heavy SU-100 tank killers. At 1500-points on a side, there was a ton of Soviet hardware sitting on the tabletop against a small, but diverse German force.

FFAMission

This was my first time playing these lists, so we went with a straight-forward Free-For-All from the basic FOW missions list. The table presented a mix of woods and buildings for cover, and roads and a railway cutting across the table. We placed out objectives, deployed our lines of tanks and the Soviets rolled for the first turn.

IMG_3092Following deployment, Soviet tanks roll forward on turn one

IMG_3094T-34s reach the railway and center with SU-100s in support

IMG_3093Panzer IV’s lie idling in the woods with Panther command tanks nearby

IMG_3096Tigers defend the objective at the middle of the table

With the Soviets beginning the game as having moved, they weren’t able to take any valid shots. The T-34s pressed to the edge of the railroad tracks on their left and the central forested area at the middle of the table. On either flank, the SU-100s sat parked and looked to take advantage of their ability to re-roll misses by firing from stationary positions. I perched my Jagdpanthers in a wood at my left flank and aimed at one platoon of SU-100s in the distance. The Tigers sat at the middle of the table, looking to attack from behind two huts and defend an objective. My Panthers and Panzer IVs took up position on my right, hoping to stall the massed T-34 assault over the railway.

IMG_3097T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks take up position around the central woods

IMG_3099The T-34 obr 1942 platoon is lit up by  fire from the Panzer IVs and Panthers

IMG_3098A Panther explodes with returned fire from the surviving T-34s

IMG_3102With one Panzer IV crew bailed out, the T-34s press the attack

IMG_3104Surviving T-34s burn after closing on the Panzer IVs

The game quickly divided into three main fronts. The Panzer IVs and Panthers dueled over the railroad with the T-34 obr 1942s. In three successive turns, the advancing Russian tanks were hit twice and then fled the field with a failed morale test. Along the way, the Germans lost a Panther from the command HQ and a Panzer IV, cutting German tank force in half on that end of the table.

IMG_3103T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks roll to the center and engage the Tigers

IMG_3105Tigers burn on the field

At the table’s center, the T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks moved into position around the central forest and fields. The Tigers moved in and out of cover, taking deadly shots. By the third turn, two of the Tigers had been bailed by combined fire from the T-34/84 obr 1944s and the SU-100s on either side. Struggling to remount their tanks, two Tigers were destroyed and the remaining tank fled the field.

IMG_3101Jagdpanthers blaze away at SU-100s in the distance

Beyond the church at the German left, the two Jagdpanthers destroyed the SU-100 guns in front of them in two turns. With the flank open and the rest of the table locked in mobile tank duels, the Jagdpanthers fired their engines at the double to occupy the objective beyond the burning SU-100s. With the Germans below half-strength following the destruction of the final Panzer IV, the game came down to one company morale check which the Germans passed to win.

We were both pretty pleased with how evenly matched the game had been on the Eastern Front. The sheer number of tanks kept the Soviets in the game even as the Germans rolled devastating hits in almost every turn. The SU-100s at the railroad, on the other hand, managed to miss most of the game until their combined fire with the T-34/84 obr 1944 platoon ran the Tigers off the table.

I’ve spent the past couple years gaming back and forth across Western Europe from D-Day onward, so a new front and some new forces was a great change of pace. Leafing through the rest of Desperate Measures, I can see there’s plenty of opportunity to run around more tanks and maybe even some poor, unlucky troops on the Eastern Front again soon.