Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Battlegroup Kursk - Ponyri Station AAR - July 7/43


This scenario is our group's first big test of how well the Battlegroup Kursk rules will handle a historical scenario. We are currently gaming Kursk scenarios and I just happen to have these two Ferdinands and some Borgwards, hmmm... And Battlegroup Panzergrenadier's 'Battles For The East' scenario booklet by Dave Brown has this appetizing Ponyri scenario so off we go! Never being shy about jumping in with both feet, I figure that a big battalion level game with the optional Street Fighting rules is the only way to go.

Our 6x4 table in 15mm scale is only half the size recommended for a battalion level game, but it is all we have so it will be cramped. Our units are one squad = 1 stand based on mainly Flames of War sized stands so that will help. Just had to base some separate German LMG teams. We use a red marker to denote a unit's order is complete, green for on Ambush Fire, blue for on Reserve Move, yellow for pinned, and a white numbered marker for the number of men left in a unit.

This AAR is rather detailed and lengthy so bring a favourite beverage and snack if you plan to read through it all. Or, for a shorter viewing, the photos will tell the story well enough. :-)

Ponyri Station - July 7-10, 1943
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Scenario Design:
The scenario is loosely based on BGK's Attack/Defend scenario. I started out by assigning the OOB for each side as per the 'Battles For The East' scenario and it felt about right. The German attack strength looked to be a good match against a much hardened Russian defence. The Battlegroup Kursk system is based on assigning about equal points per side to achieve a balanced game, so then I applied the points system to the OOBs to see how many points each side had. Turned out they both landed in the mid-1800s for points on each side, so it looked like it should make for a relatively balanced game! Just lucky I guess!

However, a major game balance concern arose. The German force's Battle Rating total is 117 BR and the Soviet's BR just in the mid 50s. This seemed terribly wrong! The Russian have 600 odd points of defences and off-board artillery yielding very low BR for their points cost, only adding 8 to their Battle Rating. From past experience the forces vs defences looked fairly balanced, but my fear is the Russians must break first.

Other rule sets have mechanisms to end the game such as percent of units lost or failing to take objectives by a certain game turn. One of the major pillars of the BGK system is the Battle Rating system so, being a newbie to BGK, I had to decide to hold my skepticism and go with the OOBs 'as is' based on equal points.

To even the BR spread a bit did I add a Forward Aid Post to the Russians for 5 more and a 'For The Motherland' option to boost their Battle Rating to the mid 60s. The Germans are required to pull an initial battle counter for each of the 4 objectives that start in Russian control so that should bring them down a bit at game start.

Moving past that first hurdle I found we needed some additional custom rules for our group. BGK mostly leaves LOS up to the players so first I needed to define our group's past experiences and expectations for LOS by creating a new Terrain Effects and LOS Table for BGK. After that I needed to meld the basic rule effects for demolitions vs buildings with the optional Street Fighting rules so they were more consistent. Seeing the massive amount of infantry I also decided to use 5D6 for orders rolls instead of the 4D6 standard. Then, always the tinkerer, in addition to the ones used on our last game report,Oboyan Road, I added a few more custom rules for us to try out. These are detailed at the end of the AAR.

Historical Overview:
The battle for Ponyri occurred from July 7th to 10th, 1943. During this period the Germans pitted elements of 86th and 292 Infantry Division, 78th Sturm Division, and Heavy PanzerJager Regiment 653 against the prepared defences around Ponyri. The Soviet 307th Infantry Division initially defended Ponyri and were reinforced by elements of 129th Tank Brigade, 1442nd Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment, and 4th Guards Airborne Division. The German attacks over these 4 days did not secure Ponyri to allow further advance southward.

References:
'German Failure At Kursk' by Pat McTaggart.
'Kursk '43 - The Northern Front' by Robert Forczyk

Scenario Setup:
This scenario represents the fighting at Ponyri over 4 days. Here is the map of Ponyri showing the terrain and table edge for each side.


The Germans face a tough defence, a belt of defences with no easy route of advance. To the east on the German left flank lies a minefield and road block (train block?) with the woods and steep hill impassable to vehicles.


In the centre more minefields, some barbed wire, and another roadblock.


On the German right flank to the west more barbed wire, minefields, and a roadblock plus a nasty bunker on the hill.


Downtown Ponyri shows the four German objectives, the water tower and tractor depot, each with 3 structure points, and the station and schoolhouse which have been fortified so 4 structure points each. The remaining wooden buildings are all 2 structure points. The shell craters are hard cover.


Rick (Kapitan Lowellski) and I (Kapitan Chappov) take the Russian side (Russian hats) while Tim (Hauptmann Millander) along with Brent (Hauptmann Pollsteiner) take the German side (German hats).


From Left: Gary, Tim, Rick, & Brent.

Russian Battlegroup & Deployment: (Kapitan Lowellski & Kapitan Chappov)
Initial forces plus reinforcements staged by turn of arrival or triggered by objectives lost. I stuck with understrength Russian platoons with only 3 squads as per the printed scenario OOB and prorated the platoon's points.
At Start:
Forward HQ: Forward HQ (Sr. Officer)
Frontline Assets:
  Infantry: Rifle Company: Company Command Squad (Officer)
                                          4x Rifle platoons (each with)
                                               Rifle Platoon Command Squad (Officer) + AT grenades
                                               3x Squads (7 rifle, 1 DP LMG) + AT grenades
  Artillery: Off-Table Artillery: 2x 122 Howitzers (only at 122mm PRTs) + Forward Observer Team
                Off-Table Mortars: 3x 82mm Mortars (only at 82mm PRTs) + Forward Observer Team
  Defences: For the Motherland! (add 1D6 to Battle Rating)
                16x Foxholes
                2x Maxim MMG Gun Dugouts + Loaders
                3x AT Gun Dugouts
                1x MG Pillbox (Maxim + Loader)
                2x Sniper Hideouts + Spotters
                3x AT Rifle Hideouts
                5x Minefields
                2x Fortified Buildings
                3x Barbed Wire
                3x Improvised Roadblocks
  Logistics: 1x Forward Aid Post
  Special Units: 1x 76L54 Zis 3 AT Gun + Loader 
                 1x 57L73 Zis 2 AT Gun + Loader
                 1x 45L68 AT Gun + Loader

                 1x DshK AA HMG + Loader
  Additional Fire Support: 3x Pre-registered Target Points (122mm only),
                                        3x Pre-registered Target Points (82mm only)

Reinforcements:
Turn 3 (or 1+ objectives lost)
  Infantry: 1x Rifle platoon
                Rifle Platoon Command Squad (Officer) + AT grenades
                3x Squads (7 rifle, 1 DP LMG) + AT grenades
Turn 7 (or 1+ objectives lost)
  Infantry: 1x SMG platoon
                SMG Platoon Command Squad (Officer) + AT grenades
                3x Squads (8 SMG) + AT grenades
Turn 8 (or 2+ objectives lost)
  Infantry: 1x SMG platoon
                SMG Platoon Command Squad (Officer) + AT grenades
                3x Squads (8 SMG) + AT grenades
Turn 8 (or 2+ objectives lost)
  Armour: Heavy Tank Platoon: 1x KV1-E Command (Officer), 1x KV1-E 
                Heavy Assault Gun: 1x SU-152
Turn ? (if 2+ objectives lost)
  Infantry: 1x SMG platoon
                SMG Platoon Command Squad (Officer) + AT grenades
                3x Squads (8 SMG) + AT grenades

Total Points: 1856   Battle Rating: 64+1D6   Total Officers: 12   Total Scouts: 2

The Russians deploy first. Starting forces are already deployed hidden with positions recorded on a secret paper map. The locations of Russian artillery PRTs were assigned at this time, not within 12" of the German board edge, and recorded on the paper map. D6 Russian units were marked on the map as being given an ambush fire order. Reinforcements will enter anywhere on the south edge on the turn indicated.

Here is the deployment of Russian forces and the location of the PRTs. Russian artillery can only fire at PRTs. Deployment is hidden so the German will only see an indication of Russian defences at game start.


German Battlegroup: (Hauptmann Millander and Hauptmann Pollsteiner)
At Start:
Forward HQ: Forward HQ (Sr. Officer), PzIIF
                      Luftwaffe Air Control Officer, 1x Kubelwagon
Frontline Assets:
  Infantry: Pioneer Company (overstrength)
                     Company Command Squad (Officer)
                         1x Assault Pioneer Platoon (in 251/1s)
                              Platoon Command Squad (Officer) +AT
                              2x Squad (5 Rifle, 2Satchel) + AT)
                              1x Squad (5 Rifle, 1Flamethrower, 2Satchel +AT)
                              1x Squad (5 Rifle,2Satchel, 2MS+AT)
                              4x LMG34Teams (1 to each squad)
                         1x Assault Pioneer Platoon (on foot)
                              Platoon Command Squad (Officer) +AT
                              2x Squad (5 Rifle, 2Satchel) + AT)
                              1x Squad (5 Rifle, 1Flamethrower, 2Satchel +AT)
                              3x LMG34 Teams (1 to each squad)
                         2x MMG - MG42 Teams + Loaders
  Armour: 1x PzIIIL
                1x 251/10 37mm (armoured assault platoon commander transport)
                4x 251/1 (armoured assault platoon transport)   
  Artillery: Off-Table Artillery: 2x 105mm Howitzers + 2x 105mm Forward Observer Teams
                On- Table Artillery: 75mm Infantry Gun + Loader + Infantry Gun Observer Team (custom addition)
  Special Units: Heavy Tank Hunter: 2x Ferdinand
  Engineer: Borgward Demolition Squadron - 3x Borgward B-IVs + 1x PzIIIL (Officer)
  Additional Fire Support: 1x Timed Ju-87 Air Strike
                4x Timed 105mm Barrage(pre-bombard) - 105mm Battery – 4 Guns

Reinforcements:
Turn 3
  Infantry: Grenadier Company
                   Company Command Squad (Officer)
                        3x Grenadier Platoons (each with)
                             Platoon Command Squad (Officer) + AT
                             3x Squads (5 rifle + AT)
                             3x LMG34 Teams
  Armour: Assault Howitzer: 1x Brummbar
                Assault Gun: 1x StuG IIIG, 1x StuH42* (* added to the scenario at the end of Turn 2)
Turn 5
  Infantry: Grenadier Company
                    Company Command Squad (Officer)
                         2x Grenadier Platoons (each with)
                              Platoon Command Squad (Officer) + AT
                              3x Squads (5 rifle + AT)
                              3x LMG34 Teams

Total Points: 1894 (*1990)   Battle Rating: 117 (*123)   Total Officers: 12   Total Scouts: 0

There has already been previous German reconnaissance of the area by both aerial and probing patrols. Therefore the approximate indications of the Russian first line of defence and major prepared positions have been observed so the Russians now place blinds there. Here is what the German sees.


German Deployment & Pre-Bombardment:
Hpts. Millander and Pollsteiner deploy the German starting forces within 6" of the north edge. No Russian vehicles were revealed so none are in LOS so far (there isn't any Russian armour until about Turn 8 but the Germans don't know that).

The Germans will move first, but before game start the Germans place 4 markers on the table where the 4 timed pre-bombardment PRTs will land and a marker where the timed Ju-87 airstrike will land (since they decide to use it now). These are all in the centre and east so that is some indication of where the main blow will fall! Then the Russians remove all the blinds. Hpts. Millander and Pollsteiner perform the artillery/air strikes and manage to pin 4 Russian units with casualties, so the Russians reveal those units by placing the models on the table. The Ju-87 bomb hits but somehow the Russian squad on the steep hill manages to hug the bottoms of their foxholes and only loses one man! The +1 cover save for being hidden means only a 1 cover save roll will affect a squad in a foxhole! A wooden building suffers one point of structural damage from a direct hit by an artillery shell.

After the pre-bombardment Kaps. Lowellski & Chappov place generic markers (blue beads) on the table at the exact locations of all remaining hidden Russian units in LOS of any German units along with any defensive cover (foxholes) they are in.  Here is the map showing the German deployment and the results of the pre-bombardment.


Game Play:

Turn 1 German:
Hpts. Millander and Pollsteiner decide to bash through the centre with a frontal attack! They order a Borgward to move up the road and explode it, taking out the roadblock and one section of mines leaving a large crater! The Russian defence is blown open here!


The assault pioneers on foot to the east and the platoon in their 251 halftracks are all given reserve move orders. The 75mm IG gun pins the sniper on the east hill. The 105mm artillery fails comm. The MMGs both move up into cover. The west Ferdinand suppresses the bunker Maxim with casualties! Ouch! A good start for the Germans! Here is the map at the end of German Turn 1.


Turn 1 Russian:
Russian 122mm artillery drops on the west crop PRT and pins the German artillery observer in the wooden building with a casualty! The Russians have a lot of extra orders with no targets so they give everything on the table that is not pinned an ambush fire order.

At the end of the Russian turn the Germans use their reaction moves to race the five 251s into the gap left by the Borgward explosion. The lead 251 is hit by an ATR's ambush fire and knocked out! The passengers suffer casualty checks wiping out the LMG section while the squad limps to the nearby woods with 3 casualties and is pinned. The Russian squad on the steep hill uses ambush fire to shoot at the pinned squad and it routs! The remaining four 251s move up and two are pinned by accurate ambush fire from the squads in the wooden building and in foxholes to the west! A bunch of lucky rolls for the Russians!


Then the east pioneer platoon uses reserve moves to advance from the woods into the crop. They are fired at by the squad near the minefield and the platoon commander but they both miss.  Rally: The Russians roll 2D6 and unpin all. Here is the table at the end of Russian Turn 1.


Turn 2 German:
No reinforcements. The Germans get a very low roll for orders. They spend their single reroll option and still roll very low! The 75mm IG gun strike lands near the sniper but he ducks. The 105mm guns pound three Russian defenders near the station but all make their cover saves.

With the absence of any serious AT weapons in sight Hpts. Millander and Pollsteiner confer and decide to send the whole veteran armoured pioneer platoon on a bold and risky thrust into the centre of Ponyri, into the heart of the Russian defence, to cause mayhem there.

To see if this is feasible the Germans give the HQ a Tactical Co-ordination order to try and unpin one of the 251s. It is successful so the plan is on! The 251 is given a disembark order and moves straight up the road into downtown Ponyri. However, when it is beside the water tower a hidden 76mm ZiS 3 in a gun pit on the west hill suddenly reveals itself and with ambush fire, destroys it! The passenger casualty roll eliminates the LMG team and pins the squad which disembarks into a nearby shell crater. Knowing the pesky 76mm AT gun has fired, a second 251 is ordered down the same road but as it moves beyond the first wreck is also ambushed by a hidden 45mm AT gun behind the water tower and the second 251 goes up in smoke! The first 251's pinned squad didn't see the 45mm AT gun because the first wreck blocks LOS. Again the passenger casualty roll eliminates the LMG team and the squad disembarks pinned into the wooden building to the south. The nearby Russian Maxim notices the enemy squad and uses ambush fire to rout the pinned squad in the building. The Russian hidden secondary AT gun defence line comes through! The Germans draw a low ammo chit and place it on the 76mm AT gun so it only has one shot left.


With the road now blocked by wreckage the third 251 moves near the schoolhouse so the pioneers can attack into that objective. An ATR team to the east reveals itself and fires but misses. The LMG team disembarks into a shell hole and fires at the 45mm AT gun causing a casualty and pinning the gun crew. The squad disembarks toward the schoolhouse but is fired on by the three-man platoon command in the water tower, causing a casualty and pinning it as it moves into the west end of the schoolhouse (the schoolhouse is divided into two areas so the hidden Russian platoon commander in the east end is out of LOS and not revealed).


After the halftracks have moved, Hpts. Millander and Pollsteiner order a second Borgward to move near the centre wooden building using top speed, so it can't be blown this turn. Fire from a Ferdinand pins the Russian squad in that wooden building. The MMG on the west side shoots at the sniper on the west hill and causes a casualty and pin.

To the east, a pioneer squad in the crop starts to move forward into a shell hole and is fired on by the 2-man ATR team with rifles, pinning it! Another squad is given a close assault order and starts to move across to the woods. A 57mm AT gun reveals at the back stone wall but fails to observe the squad which continues on to assault the ATR team. Amazingly one man survives the assault unpinned and return fire even manages to cause a casualty to the German squad. Another LMG team moves up into a shell crater and fires at the ATR team, wiping it out! A German squad in a shell crater fires at the Russian squad behind the minefield and pins it.


In the rally phase the Germans draw a chit and just roll a one so only unpin the pioneer squad with the flamethrower in the schoolhouse. Here is the table at the end of German Turn 2.


Turn 2 Russian:
No Reinforcements. Near the schoolhouse the ATR on the west hill fires at the halftrack and pins it. Two of the squads in the centre platoon fire behind them into the schoolhouse and rout the pinned German pioneer squad there! The 3rd squad fires at the other pinned squad in the shell crater just west of the schoolhouse and routs it as well! The Russian squad in the damaged wooden building decides the building looks too shaky so withdraws into the schoolhouse east end. So far the Russians are rolling hot and the Germans are rolling low on cover saves and morale checks!


To the east the squad on the steep hill fires on a pioneer LMG in the crop causing casualties and it routs. The Russian 122mm barrage lands near the east PRT pinning an LMG and a squad in a shell crater with casualties. In the centre the two squads near the steep hill fire, one misses the observer and the other pins the MMG with enough casualties to eliminate the loader crew! The Germans draw an airplane chit! The bunker Maxim fires on the German MMG and pins it. All the rest of the units that did not fire went on ambush fire (76mm & 57mm guns, Maxim at station, etc.)

In Rally, The Russians draw one chit to unpin two units. The chit is an aircraft! Here is the table at the end of Russian Turn 2.


The Germans in Turn 2 had terrible dice luck rolling for orders and rolled low on cover saves and morale checks (lots of 1s and 2s) while the Russians rolled high on firing and cover saves, so Lady Luck favoured the Russians in Turn 2.

[Since this is our first big game with BGK at this point we had a "how is it going" discussion. In general and given our new house rules, the game and rule set seemed to be be working OK so far and everyone is having fun (main goal!). My concern that the Russian BR was too low (half the Germans) and would cause a premature game end for the Russians appears unfounded. It looks like defences can more than make up for a low BR!

One question was about the scenario design, not the rules. "Where are the support PzIVs?" Upon reflection this did seem weird. Ferdinands were AT killers. Since we were between game sessions I re-read some of the historical records of the German attacks on Ponyri and it appears that 18th Panzer's tanks were mostly engaged in the effort outside of Ponyri to surround it, clashing with mainly T-34s. However, the addition of just one Brummbar indicated in the BGPG scenario book to represent the assault guns used in the attack into Ponyri is pretty light. I read that historically Stug. Abt. 244 definitely supported the attack into Ponyri and lost five StuG IIIs there.

Therefore, to correct the design to make this scenario more historical I made a 'god' decision and added 2 more StuG assault guns to the German reinforcements on Turn 3. That will make 2 Ferdinands, 2 PzIIILs, 1 Brummbar, 1 StuG IIIG, and 1 StuH42 to support the infantry. It bumps the German points to 1990, still pretty close to the Russian 1836, and provides 6 more German BR for a 123 BR total. I hope the Russian defences will compensate!]

Turn 3 German:
The Germans get big reinforcements! One company of infantry (3 platoons) and much needed assault gun support with a Brummbar, a StuH42 and a StuG IIIG. The 105mm artillery spotting round drifts behind the steep hill and is lost behind the hill.

Hpts. Millander and Pollsteiner order the Borgward around the east side of the wooden building and blow it. However, using the Borgward's attack value on the building according to the Street Fighting rules it only rolls one structure point of damage so the building does not collapse [we decided later that it did collapse]. The blast does eliminate the Russian squad inside and the nearest squad in a foxhole is mangled down to just one man left, while the one further to the east takes two casualties and is pinned.


To the east the Brummbar and StuG fire at the squad behind the roadblock and both miss! But the PzIII finally pins the squad. The pioneer squad in the woods moves up to the foxhole to close assault the newly pinned squad and rolls a nasty 1 for experience test so it fails, stays behind, and is pinned!

The German poor luck with fire dice continues. All the remaining small arms and ordinance fire has no effect! German die rolls were low and Russian covers saves good. The Germans use the rest of their orders to move up the three reinforcement platoons of infantry.

In Rally phase the Germans unpin the halftrack, a squad at the east, the pioneer in foxhole on east side, and the MMG in the centre.

Turn 3 Russian:
Reinforcements: One rifle platoon arrives in the woods to the east. The airplane chit roll provides a Sturmovik which drops two PTAB bombs near the StuG on the east side but misses. The 122mm artillery lands on the east PRT and pins the PzIII.


The centre platoon by the schoolhouse all take ambush fire orders. The observers retreat off the table after we discover in the rules they are not needed for fire on PRTs. [we decided later we wanted them on table even for PRTs so put them back on in Turn 5] . Kap. Lowellski orders two of the reinforcement rifle squads to move up into shell holes and the third squad into the station. The fragile platoon commander stays behind in the woods.


The platoon commander by the steep hill fires at a squad in the crop and routs it. The squad on the steep hill fires on a German squad in the open and causes several casualties so the squad uses Fallback to withdraw back into the woods pinned.

All 5 pinned units unpin in Rally phase. End of Russian Turn 3.


Turn 4 German:
No Reinforcements. The 105mm arty barrage near the schoolhouse, miraculously has no effect due to high cover save rolls. The Ferdinand, StuG, and PzIII armour in the centre move up and fire with no effect due to low German rolls and good Russian cover saves.

In the east the infantry moves up and fires, eliminating the Russian platoon commander behind the steep hill. Then it takes all of the fire from the PzIII, Brummbar, StuG, and some squad fire from the crop to finally pin the roadblock squad again! In the east the pioneer commander moves up to put the lead squad back in command cohesion. An LMG team moves over to the woods. The pioneer squad in the foxhole close assaults the pinned roadblock squad for the second time and again rolls a 1 for experience test so it fails and stays pinned! That is two German rolls of 1 for experience tests in two pioneer assault attempts! The centre MMG fires at the squad just west of the steep hill and pins it. Rally: All unpin except the Fallback squad.


[In German Turn 3 when the Borgward blew up it only did one Structure Point of damage to the building. We felt a ton of explosives should have blown the wooden house to flinders. So we revised the blend of the main rules and the Street Fighting rules so a Borgward always does a minimum of two SP damage to a building and a pioneer satchel charge does a minimum of 1 SP. Since the wooden building has 2 SP it had been destroyed and we replaced the wooden building with a ruin.]

Turn 4 Russian:
The dreaded Russian Sturmovik comes in to strafe the 251 with 20mm cannon and misses!


The 122mm artillery on the east side PRT causes casualties to a squad in the crop. The squad on the steep hill fires at the same German squad and routs it. The Maxim on the east hill eliminates an LMG team in a shell crater.


Now the curious saga of the 'Refuse-To-Stay-Down Halftrack': In the centre the ATR team opens fire at the 251 by the schoolhouse and the first shot hits with a pin but the halftrack rolls Beyond The Call Of Duty, unpins and declares a manoeuvre and fire order! But just before moving, the nearest Russian squad uses ambush fire and pins it again! Then the ATR team's second shot pins it a third time causing a morale check! The 251 rolls Beyond The Call Of Duty again! Again the halftrack unpins and declares a manoeuvre and fire order, moves over by the water tower, and fires at the 45mm AT gun but causes no damage. However, the charmed life of the 251 ends when the 76mm AT gun suddenly notices the halftrack in its sights and uses its last shot of ammo to destroy it!


The Maxim in the bunker routs the German MMG in the west building. The Maxim at the water tower fires at the centre German MG42 and also routs it. Rally: The Russians unpin all three units.

Certainly it is time for Lady Luck to give the Germans a break. The last two game turns have seen the whole weight of the German Battlegroup small arms and ordinance fire only causing one Russian eliminated and a few pins! The Borgward explosion caused one more Russian eliminated.

Turn 5 German:
Reinforcements: The Germans get two more platoons of infantry. The 105mm artillery misses comm check. The StuH42 pins the squad by the roadblock and the pioneer squad finally assaults it and eliminates it. The Brummbar and units in the east crop fire at the squad on the steep hill with no effect. A squad moving up through the crop is eliminated with ambush fire by the Russian squads in the rear shell holes.

The last 251 in the rear is given a disembark order, moves up and drops off the minesweeper squad who attempts to remove the minefield but fails, while the LMG team pins the squad on the steep hill with casualties. Troops in the centre crop finish off the squad on the steep hill and the StuG wipes out the 57mm AT gun with a lucky gun hit! The LMG near the schoolhouse eliminates the Russian platoon commander in the water tower. The west Ferdinand moves up and suppresses a squad near the stone wall. The last Borgward is ordered to move up to the wooden buildings, ready to blow something sky high next turn! Remaining orders put the platoon behind the centre hill on reserve move, poised to advance.

Here is the table at the end of German Turn 5. German luck has improved with 4 Russian units eliminated this turn!


Turn 5 Russian:
No reinforcements. The Sturmovik strafes a squad in the centre crop and eliminates it. The outflanked squad near the ruin pulls back to a shellhole near the Maxim to clear the area for an 82mm mortar stike, but it lands on the steep hill with no effect. However, the 122mm artillery lands near the German armour and destroys the StuH42 and pins the Brummbar!


The Russian squad in the schoolhouse moves out into a shell crater and fires at the LMG and misses. One centre Russian squad fires at the LMG squad and misses, then moves into the schoolhouse. The other two squads just move back into the schoolhouse. The Maxim by the water tower fires on a German squad in the crop and routs it. The rest of the Russians go on ambush fire.
At the end of the Russian actions phase the Germans use reserve moves to advance their centre squad. As the squads come over the hill the sniper, the bunker Maxim, and west squads use ambush fire to pin two. No Rally.

At the end of Russian Turn 5.


Turn 6 German:
The comm check fails for artillery (again!). No more reinforcements for the rest of the game. Fire from the west crop causes further casualties to the pinned Russian squad and kills the ATR team. The Russians draw a Breakdown chit and play it on the last Borgward, immobilizing it. Whew! The west Ferdinand moves up and shoots at the bunker and misses. The centre Ferdinand fires HE on the west end of the schoolhouse and scores 3 SP of building damage against it! That area of the building is now poised to collapse on the Russians inside! The LMG by the schoolhouse fires at the Russian squad in the adjacent shell hole and causes huge casualties leaving only 1 man left but miraculously not pinned. The LMG in the ruins fires at the same squad and misses.


In the east the PzIII fires at a Russian squad in the shell holes but no effect. Fire from a squad in the east crop at the other Russian misses. The east pioneer places a satchel demo charge on the east minefield. The pioneer minesweeper clears the minefield near the ruin. The last 251 moves up beside the wooden building to get closer to the Russian squad in the shellhole and pins it.


The centre reinforcement platoon moves up to crestline positions on the hill. End of German orders. Since the Germans are out of orders, the Russians decide to use up all their ambush fire. The east Maxim hits the squad in the corner of the crop by the track with one casualty. The platoon commander in the schoolhouse fires at a squad on the hill and causes one casualty and pins it. Rally: The Germans unpin 6 units with 1 chit pull. Nice! At the end of the German Turn 6.


Turn 6 Russian:
No reinforcements. The Sturmovik does not observe a German squad in the open on the hill. The pilot has gotta be blind! The 122mm artillery pins the Ferdinand and a nearby squad on the hill. The 82mm mortars land on the steep hill but all squads make their cover saves.


The whole Russian platoon in the west feels suddenly way too exposed so pulls back into the crop area. The platoon in the schoolhouse feels the same way facing massive German platoon fire, so quickly fires at the enemy squads on the hill and the LMG in the nearby shell crater but misses all, and then retreats back into the street behind the schoolhouse, staying nearby to contest the objective if the Germans move in. The lone man in the squad in the shell crater by the LMG beats a hasty double time retreat to safety behind the tractor depot.


The rest of the Russian units take ambush fire orders. No rally. End Russian Turn 6.

Turn 7 German:
The 105mm barrage causes a casualty in the Maxim and squad by the water tower but neither are pinned. Further to the east the rest of the pioneer platoon's squads and LMG teams move up through the east woods with 2 LMG teams firing from the edge of the woods. One LMG fires at the sniper and after joined by platoon fire from the centre crop eliminates the sniper. It takes three MG34s to KIA the sniper! The other LMG fires at a Russian squad in a shell crater but misses. The pioneer squad blows the satchel charge to clear the minefield providing a path for the armour. The PzIII advances and fires at the Maxim but misses. The Brummbar just moves up. An LMG team moving up through the crop is eliminated by Russian squad ambush fire from the back shell crater. The 251 fires again at the pinned squad in the shell hole by the steep hill and causes 4 casualties but the squad passes their morale test.


The lone LMG team moves into the schoolhouse and fires at a squad in the street with many casualties so it uses Fallback to withdraw into the tractor depot with 1 casualty and pinned. The Russians still maintain control of the schoolhouse since it is contested by the rest of the platoon in the street nearby.


In the west a squad in the crop assaults the pinned Russian squad by the stone fence and eliminates it. The Russians draw a Confusion chit and use it on the LMG squad in the ruin which routs. The west Ferdinand pins the Maxim in the bunker. Squad fire from the west crop eliminates the west sniper! The German platoon's remaining units move up into positions along the stone fence. The German rear platoon advances off the centre hill toward the schoolhouse. The DshK AA MG fires causing 2 casualties in a squad moving on the hill, the rest move up into shell craters.


Rally: The Ferdinand and nearby squad rally. Here is the table at the end of German Turn 7.


Turn 7 Russian:
Reinforcements: Finally! An SMG platoon of reinforcements! The Sturmovik's final strafe eliminates the Luftwaffe Officer's kubelwagon in the German rear for a cheap kill. The 122mm arty misses the Borgward, but pins the StuG and the artillery observer. The 82mm arty has an direct hit on a squad with no effect. In the west the platoon pulls back again further into the crop's gun pit and shell craters. In the east the Maxim and one squad by the station and one in a shell hole eliminate an LMG team in the east woods. The new SMG platoon advances into the tractor depot and wooden house to counter what appears to be the main German thrust.

One squad and the platoon commander in the street by the schoolhouse both fire at the LMG in the schoolhouse with no effect before pulling back into the tractor depot. The last squad stays to contest the objective and also opens fire at the LMG with no effect. This German LMG team should be up for an Iron Cross! Rally: Pull one chit (another airplane!) and rally all.

At the end of the Russian Turn.


Turn 8 German:
The heroic LMG in the schoolhouse fires at the squad in the street with many casualties causing him to FallBack into the crop and pinned. The LMG team is now in sole possession of the schoolhouse so that objective becomes German and the Russians draw a chit!


In the east the infantry gun fires at the squad in the back shell hole and misses. The Brummbar fires at the station building structure but causes no damage. A German squad moves into the building beside the 251 and is fired at by the Maxim with ambush fire causing a couple of casualties but not pinned. The squad fires back with no effect. The east PzIII moves up and fires at the squad in the shell hole and misses. The 251 fires on the same squad in the shell hole and eliminates it! The Russians draw a Beyond The Call Of Duty and unpin the west bunker Maxim which shoots at a squad on the centre hill but misses.


To the west, the Ferdinand fires but fails to pin the DshK AA MG. An LMG in the west crop fires at the DshK MG and pins it. The west platoon all advance into the shell craters, foxholes and wooden building abandoned by the retreating Russians.


The remaining German orders are all used to move up the centre Ferdinand, PzIII, and rear infantry units in the centre and east. End German orders. No Rally.
At the end of German Turn 8.


Turn 8 Russian:
Big reinforcements! Another SMG platoon and 2 KV-1Es and 1 SU-152! Finally some armour to counter the German panzers! The SMG platoon comes in behind the tractor depot. One KV-1E in the centre road to support the defence of the schoolhouse and the other KV-1E and SU-152 on the west road to counter the Brummbar and PzIII there. Plus all armour is staying well away from the lethal Ferdinands! The airplane shows up and the type is a 6 roll so the Russians pick a Pe-2 bomber with 6 large bombs. This is represented by a Lend Lease B-25 bomber doing a VERY low level bomb run. The target is German infantry in the centre moving in soft cover and the Russian defences ahead of them are thin. However, the 6 large bombs only eliminate one infantry unit creating a new shell crater there.


The 82mm arty to the west pins a squad with a casualty. The 122mm to the west pins the Ferdinand. The west bunker Maxim fires on an LMG team with casualties but the Germans draw a Beyond The Call Of Duty and pull the LMG team back to safety. SMG squad fire from the house behind the water tower and from a rifle squad in the tractor depot eliminates the brave LMG Team in the schoolhouse! Finally! One Russian squad from the west crop gun pit is immediately ordered to double time back into the schoolhouse reclaiming control of that objective so the Germans draw a chit. Another squad moves up into the vacated gun pit while the platoon commander pulls back to a shell hole.


In the east the Maxim eliminates an LMG in the woods. The freshly arrived KV-1E fires at the PzIII and misses! The SU-152 fires at the Brummbar and misses! First contact jitters! Sheesh!


The centre KV-1E moves up on the road near the tractor depot protected from Ferdinand/StuG fire by the wrecked halftracks and fires at a unit on the centre hill which takes a casualty. The new SMG platoon moves up behind the tractor depot. End Russian Turn, no Rally.

Turn 9 German:
The artillery observer misses his comm check. The 251 opens fire on the squad by the station. The first shot pins it and the second shot routs it! The centre PzIII fires on the Maxim and causes casualties but is not pinned. The squad in the wooden building by the water tower also fires at the Maxim causing a casualty but is not pinned. An LMG team moves up into the same building and fires at the Maxim but misses. An officer squad moves up into the ruins and fires but does not observe a Russian squad in the tractor depot.


In the east, the Brummbar pins the SU-152! The pioneer platoon in the woods charges toward the east hill's First Aid Tent and Maxim. One squad is suppressed by the 45mm AT gun's ambush fire.


In the west the bunker Maxim is taken out by LMG fire! Fire on the pinned squad in the west crop finally eliminates him too.


The German artillery observer moves up into the wooden building. The platoon on the centre hill moves up and fires on the Russian squad in the schoolhouse who makes all cover saves.


Rally. Unpin an east squad, StuG and the west Ferdinand. End German Turn 9.

Turn 9 Russian:
Kaps. Lowellski and Chappov observe that the Russians are pretty close to their breakpoint BR. Time to retreat all the vulnerable units! Both observers pull back out of LOS and into cover. The squad & platoon commander in the west crop withdraw into the tractor depot and wooden building behind. The squads in the tractor depot reposition or take ambush fire orders.


The centre KV-1E moves up a bit to be able to see the west half of schoolhouse to fire for SP damage and hopefully cause a collapse if German units enter. Meanwhile it fires and causes a squad casualty on the hill.

In the east the the KV-1E pins the PzIII! The 45mm fires again at the squad in the open and eliminates it! The Maxim fires once at the squad in the building but misses and pulls back into the station since it is down to two shakey crewmen.


End Russian move. Rally: The Russians unpin the SU-152.

Turn 10 German:
The 105mm artillery spotting round drifts behind the steep hill out of LOS and is lost. In the east the pioneer flamethrower squad moves up into the vacant observer foxhole and toasts the Maxim. An LMG team moves up to shamefully attempt to fire on the first aid station. Hmmm... On a red cross field hospital yet! But the 4 men guarding there are on ambush fire and rightfully eliminate the LMG before it can fire! The pioneer platoon's command squad then moves up and pins the first aid station with one casualty (he won't have far to go to get patched up!).


The Ferdinand fires at the east side of the schoolhouse to try and collapse it but the HE shells have no effect on the building. This in preparation for a major push to re-capture the schoolhouse objective. First, concentrated fire from the centre squads pins the Russian schoolhouse squad. Then the pioneer squad moves to a nearby foxhole and successfully assaults the Russian squad with 4 casualties, but the squad passes morale! A second rifle squad moves up to assault again causing another casualty but still does not eliminate the unit inside since it passes morale again! If the Russian squad had been wiped out the German assaulting squad could have done an after-assault consolidating move into the schoolhouse and re-taken the objective! So the Russians keep control of the schoolhouse! The Order Of Lenin for sure to the three survivors!


The platoon command squad in the ruins of the wooden house fires on the corner squad in the tractor depot and pins it. The LMG team in a foxhole on the west side near the Maxim bunker fires on the same squad and routs it! An LMG by the stone fence pins another squad at the north wall of the tractor depot. A German squad behind the west wooden building advances around the corner and races toward an abandoned foxhole when the Russian HQ in the rear garden suddenly reveals and using ambush fire, pins it! The senior officer in his PzII moves up and tries to pin the HQ but misses.


In action to the east, the Brummbar pins the SU-152 again! Arg! The LMG in the ruins fires at the Maxim in the station and hits but it makes both cover saves. One badly damaged German squad in the east withdraws to safe cover. End of German orders phase. The German players confer and Haupt. Millander indicates there will be no rally for the Germans. What! No rally? Hmmm... Kaps. Lowellski and Chappov agree that the Germans must also be close to their break point!

At this point both sides revealed they were very close to breaking and the game could go either way. The Germans just need 4 more BR to break and Russians need 7 more BR to break. Can the Russians pull out a win in their upcoming move?

At the end of German Turn 10.


Turn 10 Russian:
Kaps. Lowellski and Chappov assess the battlefield and suddenly realize that they have left the water tower objective vacant for the last few game turns! Fortunately the Germans didn't twig to it and send a squad there to control it! So the first action is to double time a squad from the tractor depot into the water tower to secure that objective. Also since the lone brave squad in the schoolhouse is hanging on by a thread, another squad moves up into contact with the building wall, thus preventing the Germans from easily taking control of the schoolhouse. These protection moves were done first in case the Germans roll or draw a Beyond The Call Of Duty from subsequent fire.

The juiciest target is the pinned squad in the open near the wooden building so the Russian HQ opens up on it and hits but the squad gets lucky and makes his cover save. Then the HQ moves back into the building to avoid fire from the threatening PzII. The squad in the tractor depot fires next at full strength and hits and routs the German squad! The Germans draw a chit and Haupt. Millander says "Play on!" We Russians are happy it is not a special chit! The Germans must be very close to breakpoint now. So the KV-1E is ordered to move up and fire at an LMG team but only pins it.


There are not many more easy targets for the Russians and we are getting worried it may go to Turn 11 and a German win! We decide to try the artillery next and call both the 122mm and the 82mm barrages on the west PRTs. There are three damaged units there close to breaking and we may get a lucky hit on the Ferdinand. But the barrages only pin the Ferdinand and the observer.


We Russians are desperate now. We cast about for one last possible kill. In the centre an SMG squad is ordered out of the wooden building into a shell hole and fires at the squad in the building by the water tower. And fails to observe! Arg! Suddenly we see one other possibility. We order the east KV-1E up to the corner of the station and he fires once at the 251. A hit! And the roll for damage smokes the halftrack! The Germans draw a chit with everyone biting their nails and Haupt. Millander announces "The game is over!" The draw puts the German over their battle rating so the Russians win by a thread!


Here is the table at game end showing the last two fires that caused the German break. The closest units to the 'front line' have a red dot for Russian and blue for German.


Tallying The Score:
The Russians drew 27 times to get to 60 BR for an average draw of 2.2 and the Germans drew 49 times to get to 125 BR for an average draw of 2.6. Since the game average is 2.35 the Germans drew higher than average and the Russians lower than average.

Comments On The Scenario:
My initial fears that this would be a German blowout win were entirely unfounded! The points spent on Russian defences held Russian losses down and aggravated the German losses. This was a close game and a nail biter at the end. The schoolhouse objective changed sides twice!

Big factors in the game were the effectiveness of the Russian defences, the hidden unit rules, the Borgwards, and poor German dice rolls near the start. We felt that the Germans would have had an extremely tough go of it if there were no Borgwards in the OOB since they blew open the centre defence. The hidden unit rules really enhanced the game tension but we felt their extra cover save was a bit too strong and will use a normal save in future. Also we liked the Street Fighting rules for building assaults or possible collapse and plan to use them as standard in future games. The German side wanted their first wave of reinforcements to have came on in Turn 2 instead of Turn 3, but I think this might have given the Germans too much at the start. Don't we all say "Where are those bloody reinforcements!" Armour did play a strong supporting role and was a constant threat but this was mainly an infantry slugfest. 

The Germans were constantly extremely short of orders from 'too much' infantry needing 7 orders per platoon, even using 5D6 roll for orders. This was a 2000 point battalion level game. The BG Kursk supplement recommends a maximum of 3 German platoons for a 1500 point game and max 6 German platoons for 3000. At 2000 points the maximum recommended would likely be 4 platoons of infantry, possibly 5. The German OOB had 7 platoons, one of which never left the starting gate, so only 6 were in use, still 1 or 2 over recommended. The recommended level for Russians would have been 7 or 8 platoons so their OOB had an acceptable 8 platoons, but one never even arrived as reinforcements. If we decide to go 'infantry heavy' in a future game we will make some custom rules to accommodate. The small table size and high unit density actually seemed to work well enough, probably since it was a pure attack/defend scenario with heavy defences and our squads are stand based.

This game took about 15 hours to play over five evening sessions. At the beginning we were still learning the game rules and also having to refine our LOS and custom rules during the game. We got faster toward the end, but we are generally slow players at the best of times!

Comments On The Battlegroup Kursk Rules:
We all felt that this was a fun scenario to play using these rules, which is the bottom line! We have definitely wrung out most of the rules and found the areas we like and those few areas where we have applied some custom tweaks. At this point we will continue to use these rules in our next game. The charts are not overly annoying and the game flow will be fast enough once we get more experience.

Additional Custom Rules That We Used In This Scenario:
Being fully aware that "There is no such thing as a perfect set of miniatures rules", following from the comments on the BGK rules in my last post 'Oboyan Road' I've listed below the main additional custom rules we started the game with and some more we added during the game. So far we do not feel that these new 'tweaks' have had any significant effect on the basic core mechanic of the game, but for me, they do enhance game play closer to my 'sweet spot'. These changes are only for our group games in my basement so we can experiment here all we want!

Started the game with:

- Artillery: For mid-war eastern front battles mortar/artillery doctrine was not nearly as advanced as in late war. So we removed the ability for platoon commanders to call in off-board mortar/artillery fire and required dedicated observers, company commanders, and senior officers to perform that. Russian artillery support at close range tactical targets was not generally practiced so the off-board artillery was limited to firing on PRTs only. The observers were given two sniper attributes, a -1 to be observed, and can be one man and pinned. Also to give some variation, artillery PRTs and timed air strike PRTs still roll for accuracy and on a 1-5 have a reduced deviation of the lowest die of a 2D6 roll. And to not have to wrap our heads around using on-board indirect artillery at the tactical ranges involved, the only on-board indirect fire allowed is by mortars and the German 75mm IG (30" min range).

- Platoon Cohesion: After removing their mortar spotting special attribute, without a platoon cohesion rule the best place for Russian 3-man platoon leaders would have been hiding in the rear eating kobassa! So Squads/LMGs must be within 8" of their platoon leader or require 2 orders to do a move related order (unless toward the platoon leader) and must pass an experience test to rally. All other order types still cost 1 order. If a platoon leader is eliminated the nearest squad (LMG if no squads left) automatically assumes command of the platoon.

- Hidden Defenders (attack/defend scenarios only): The defender records the placement of all hidden units on a secret paper map. All defender infantry/guns may begin hidden so their models are not initially placed on the table, just major purchased terrain defences (not foxholes) are placed. Defending vehicles are only placed on the table as 'revealed' if they are in LOS of an enemy unit, otherwise they remain hidden. After any pre-bombardment only the position and any purchased cover (eg. foxholes) for hidden infantry/gun defender units in LOS of an enemy unit are placed on the table, physically marked by a generic 'hidden' marker (eg. glass bead) instead of the model. During game play as additional hidden units come into enemy LOS their positions, cover, and generic markers are added to the table (vehicles are just revealed). Hidden units cannot be targeted with aimed fire from more than 10 inches away until revealed. Until then they may only be targeted with suppression fire or indirect fire with a one level better cover save. [after the game we felt the one level better cover save was too powerful so we will use a normal cover save for future games]. A hidden unit is only revealed if it is pinned, takes casualties, moves, fires, is approached in LOS within 5" by an enemy unit (scout = 10"), or is successfully observed on the observation table by an enemy unit within 10" (using aimed fire vs obscured infantry). When revealed, the hidden marker is replaced with the model.

- Demolitions: The main rules for demolitions were melded with the optional Street Fighting rules, particularly for effects on buildings. The main rules call for a satchel charge or Borgward demo to automatically destroy a building. Instead the Street Fighting rules were applied using the blast strength of each with a minimum damage to a building of 1 SP for a satchel charge and 2 SP for a Borgward Demo. The blast effects also were extended to any nearby units within 2" for a demo and 5" for the Borgward. A satchel charge will remove one section of barbed wire or minefield, and a Borgward demo will remove up to two sections. The effect of aircraft bombs and artillery fire on a building was also included when the spotting round lies on a building.

Added during the game:

- Buildings: A building is controlled by the side that last had a unit inside when no enemy unit was present within 3" of the building. This allows taking control of a building (or building area) when an adjacent building (or area) is controlled by enemy units.

- Close Assault: The attacker may make a free consolidation move into the position held by an eliminated enemy defender after winning a close assault, the same as close assaults vs buildings in the Street Fighting rules. The attacker is subject to ambush fire during this move.

- Minefields: - Instead of the 5" radius active minefield zone around a central marker, the active area will only be that represented by a physical terrain piece. Engineers need to be in contact with the minefield to place a demo or to minesweep. A 10" diameter active zone seemed way too large a benefit for the points cost.

Conclusion:
A good rule set with a solid core mechanic that provides a fun game! Our big historical Ponyri scenario worked very well using these rules and our custom rule additions seemed to fit well. I am looking forward to playing our next scenario with the BGK rules and trying out a few more ideas! More gaming time! Not a problem!

Thanks for taking the time to look at this AAR! Ah well, now it is time for summer break at my little cabin on the lake. Maybe some miniatures painting on rainy days.

See you in the fall...

Gary

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