As some might have noticed, I have hardly gotten to play so far this year. Since it could not remain this way we finally played the next scenario from the SkirmishCampaigns “Großdeutschland at Kursk” book last Sunday. It was also the first chance to use the terrain boards after their makeover earlier this year. While the all green hills felt strange while setting things up, I am pleased with the over all looks in the end!
Again for those of you who are interested in how thing went so far… here are the first 4 games and the grand total results (just click on the tabs). Game numbers 5, 6 and 7can be found on this blog. As usual I am going to tell the story from my (the German) point of view.
The game is set on July 10th 1943. It re-enacts a German assault on a Warehouse near Berezovka by elements of the Panzergrenadierdivision Grossdeutschland and attached tanks from the 10th Panther Brigade. The Germans featured two 12-men Pioneer Squads (one with a flame thrower the other with a mine detector) mounted on SdKfz. 251/5s, a Mortar Team with an 8cm mortar, two PzKw V “Panther” and four PzKw IV. [Note: I will be using the German meaning throughout the report. So please do not be confused, but there is no plural "s" with Panther in German.] The Panther were very early production models and had to roll for a possible breakdown every time they moved. I also had reinforcements in the guise of a PzKw III and a Flammpanzer III, which would arrive on round two (determined by a dice roll). The Soviets had a 9-men Rifle Squad, a Maxim MG Team, an artillery observer who could call in fire from two 12cm mortars, a 76,2mm Field Gun (the famous crash-boom), two SU-76 and one SU-122 assault guns. The Soviets could all start in foxholes and trenches (and they did so), the vehicles dug in and camouflaged.
In addition to the barbed wire cutting the table in half, the Russian player could also deploy a good number of both anti-personel and anti-tank minefields. Not enough to mine all approaches, but enough to give me some serious trouble. None the less, we both agreed that the scenario greatly favoured the Germans and that it would be extremely hard for the Russians to win.
The table featured mainly open plains with a low hill to the left of the German deployment zone and another one on the right flank before it. There were a few light woods and numerous fields on the table, none of the crops being high enough to hide a men. A road ran the length of the table in the middle. Besides the warehouse, a big structure on the right, there were two wooden houses near the Soviet edge of the table, one of them being on fire. A liberal amount of craters dotted the area courtesy of the German artillery and fighter-bomber preparation.
The Russian player chose to deploy his SU-122 and one of the SU-76s on the left flank, the other together with the crash-boom and some infantry on the right. The rest of the infantry was scattered in shell holes along the front and three of them hid behind the warehouse (a sort of counter offensive force should I take it). The HMG team and spotter team hid in foxholes and a trench atop the road.
My deployment was quite simple. The mortar team set up behind the hill in my deployment zone, out of sight of the Soviets, with only the NCO lying atop the hill to direct their fire. The Panzer IVs deployed the whole width of my deployment zone, the Panther one to each flank. Each tank would start the game at full speed. The Pioniere waited in their half-tracks inside the woods on the right. The idea was for the tanks to clear the opposition before they would move forward to take the warehouse. The Panzer IV were meant to breach the barbed wire on the flanks since I hoped that only the direct approaches would be mined (this would prove right on later inspection). Since the dug-out for the field gun was almost touching the right table edge I decided that I would only do so on the left flank. The Panther would only move forward a little, giving fire support with their high velocity 7,5cm guns. The mortar team would support these moves and try to take out the crash-boom and the HMG.
The game was not up to a good start for me. I had hoped that the tanks speed would give them enough protection against the Russian gunners. But when the left hand SU-76 opened fire on one of my PzKw IV it scored a hit anyway. It killed the driver and commander and did heavy damage to the road wheels and tracks. The tank became slower due to the damage and the fact that a dead driver can not keep his foot on the throttle and thus became a far easier target when the self-propelled gun fired off its next shot. That one ruined the wheels and tracks completely and killed rest of the crew. The tank would be salvageable, but was out of the game without ever firing a shot. The Panther on the right flank did not get off to a good start either. It botched its breakdown roll on its first move and would only be able to move at a snail’s pace due to a damaged gearbox. Unfortunately this would mean that it had to end its move with its flank open to the right hand Russian positions. Not a good start!
This was somewhat set off by the fact that my mortar team got in action quiet well. Their first shot landed on the parapet of the field gun position. It only rattled the gun crew, but they were quickly able to adjust their fire and the next two shots landed smack in the middle of the position killing the crew and disabling the gun.
The left flank Panzer IV took revenge for its mate and fired at the SU-76 which had given its position away. Even though it was dug in, the first shot hit true, set off the ammo inside and killed the crew. With half the Russian AT-firepower out of the game things were beginning to look good for the Germans. So the SU-122 felt it was time to add some spice to it all and fired at my limping Panther, but missed it. So the Panther decided to return the favour. It hit, but the shot deflected off the armour. Which was not too bad since it ripped open the fuel tanks and set the assault gun on fire. The crew managed to get out, but there went the Russians biggest gun.
But now the remaining SU-76 took its turn and hit the slowed Panther in its flank. The shot penetrated the armour and hit the engine, setting it and the whole tank alight.
The crew of the SP-gun did not have much time to celebrate. Now that it had given away its position as well, the remaining Panther fired on it. Just like its brother the armour proved to week for the high velocity gun and again it went up in a ball of flames.
With no danger for them left on the table the Panzer all stopped to be more stable firing platforms and reloaded with high explosive ammo to take care of the infantry. The Soviet off-board mortar fire arrived, but the shots scattered wide and did not hit the PzKw IVs it was aimed at.
When the first 7,5cm shell hit a shell hole killing its occupants and the men hiding behind the warehouse started taking losses as well, things did not look too good for the Russians. The approach of the two Panzer III did not make things any more pleasant (especially the prospect of the Flammpanzer). When they saw the Pionier half-tracks moving up as well they lost their nerve and started to run. The Germans had won the day.
So in the end it was a German victory with the loss of one tank and five crew (6 victory points to the Soviets). The Soviets lost three tanks, eight crew, one gun and seven men (including the bonus for the game winner, 25 victory points total). So the first game of the final campaign started with a German win again. But from now on it would get harder… the final two games will always feature more Russian tanks then German ones. So stay tuned!
A last note: I will try to have the whole campaign in this one place. So I will re-post the reports from the first 4 games here as well in coming days. So if you have not read them on our clubs homepage, they will be here soon as well.