Monday, October 8, 2012

Kursk Battles--5 July 1943 6 Guards Army

Our gaming group played out the 5 July day of battle in the II SS Panzer Corps vs. 6th Guards Army sector of the Kursk Battles.  5 July was the first day of the German assault.  It was all they could muster in 1943 and the German generals had planned for success.

Opposing the German II SS Panzer Corps were elements of the Soviet 22nd and 23rd Guard Rifle Corps of their 6th Guards Army.  The 6th Guards Army was arrayed mainly along two fortified defensive lines; one defined the front lines and the other lay about 10km to the rear.  The German plans for the first day called for rupturing both these.

Historically, two of the three SS Panzergrenadier Divsions carried the brunt of the 5 July fighting and succeeding in nearly reaching the second line but could not create a breach on 5 July.   The terrain forced the II SS Panzercorps into a narrow corridor that allowed for great concentration but limited maneuver.   Tank losses were light for Germans but their panzergrenadiers took noticeable casualties.

The game we played used Megablitz rules system by Tim Gow.  These rules are simple in layout and I hoped they would allow the players to wrestle with the problems of large-scale coordinated attacks instead of getting caught up in the glamor of heavy armor and machine-guns.  I chose the Kursk battles because in testing the Megablitz rules I wanted to see how well the attrition combat model worked.  I have run other division-level games (one stand = one battalion, for example) and the combat model tends to suck up all the game time and not leave players feeling they had choices other than an indecisive grind.  A "Kursk-type" battle should test the combat system of Megablitz and we would see if the players "feel" the casualties but still leave them with options of rotating in fresh units or sitting back and pounding with artillery.  Or if the players persist in head-banging, then a very sore head at the end of the day.

 I, as well as the players, felt the rules worked well.  The combat model produced a realistic outcome.  The Soviet front-line rifle divisions were pounded down to small battlegroups and sent fleeing to the rear.  But the Soviet player did mount a couple of limited counter attacks into the German flank that caused even more irreplaceable German casualties.  Of the two German panzergrenadiers divisions doing the assaulting, the division in the center took a severe beating and most of the panzergrenadiers were down 2, 1 or 0 strength (from 5 or 6 strength points).  The other division took more moderate losses.  Both German divisions breached the fortified lines (strongpoints, minefields, AT ditches) in multiple places and on the last turn had their vehicles across and racing for the second line.

I'll continue the fight to the 6th of July in our next game.  The Germans will be holding their beat up division in reserve and the two other divisions will carry the assault.  The 6th July will also see the mobile corps of 1st Tank Army and the 6th Guards Army reserve tank corps come rolling onto the battlefield.  I'll let the players do a very limited refit of infantry and tank losses in the overnight phase and bring up their logistics and fuel.

Couple of photos attached.  One shows the battlefield just before the Soviets deployed.  The black strips are the Soviet defensive lines.  The second photo shows the battlefield on the last turn of the day.

Please excuse the "improvised" nature of the battlefied as it was indeed improvised.  Future games should be a little more presentable, hopefully.
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