Actions on the Eastern Front

Many weekends ago, I’ve been very slack with my blogging, our little group of gamers were all lined up to play a Western Europe I Ain’t Been Shot game at the League of Ancients, when the guy with all the figures found he couldn’t turn up. So instead of that I took my Russians along, and we played two games of Chain of Command.

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Setting up the two games

On my table, two Andrews played the first scenario out of the ‘Storming the Citadel’ Pint-Sized campaign. The campaign book provides five linked scenarios on the Gross Deutschland division’s attacks toward Cherkasskoy in the opening stages of the battle of Kursk. I had been planning on making the Skirmish Campaigns scenario book on GD at Kursk more realistic, to play using CoC, but the Lardies beat me to it.

This scenario, set on 4 July 1943, the day before Citadel was launched, covers the limited attacks made by XLVIII Panzer Korps to secure better jumping off points for the big push. The terrain consists of a table that slopes gently up toward the Soviet edge, with a scattering of brush patches. The ridge in question, to the west of Butovo, is very gentle and even, so I had no problem with just leaving the table flat. I’m not sure that the brush was a real thing, but aerial photos of the Kursk battlefield show quite clearly that the grass had been mown to get improve fields of fire from entrenched positions, so there was clearly some cover.

Capture

The terrain to the west of Butovo.

Andrew K, playing the Soviets, deployed first, in a line along the Soviet edge. I was helping Andrew V, who hasn’t played many Chain of Command games. In our first phase, we got two squads into the long grass on the right of the Soviet line. They started shooting up the squad in front of them, but the Soviets responded in kind. Lots of phases and dice rolling later, the Soviets and Germans had both lost two squads to fire, which left the Soviets with two surviving squads to the Germans’ one. So it was time to call it a day.

Kursk

The Kursk game: the Germans have been hurting the Soviet squad to their front, but have begun taking losses.

Depending on your attitude this scenario is either an unplayable bloodbath or an opportunity to brush up on your tactics. Certainly I’d like to go back and try a few variations. Two of Andrew K’s squads were pretty close together, so maybe covering fire would have been the go there, who knows? Certainly fire and movement.

Quibbles, I have a couple of minor ones; think of them more as potential variants on the scenarios:

The operations to clear the outskirts of Butovo were a prepared attack, rather than patrol actions: the advance was preceded by a Stuka attack, and both sides used artillery. So the game should maybe use Scenario 3, Attack and Defense, rather than Scenario 1 from the main book, and maybe with StuG support, perhaps off table, as StuG Bn GD was supporting this attack.

The weather during July in the Kursk region is actually pretty oppressive: hot and humid with temperatures in the low 30s, and frequent thunderstorms. The 4 July operation took place in driving rain, so you could add in a maximum visibility range.

On the other table, Chip and Noah played the fifth scenario of the Operation Winter Storm book, with Chip’s panzergrenadiers ambushing Noahs troops as they leave a village, in trucks, along a road. Or that’s what was supposed to happen, sadly the bit about the ambush was in a sentence that the guys failed to read, so it was more of an encounter battle. Chip lined his troops up along the ridgeline and shot up Noah’s troops as they entered from the other side of the table.

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The German firing squad lined up on the ridge

Noah brought his 45mm gun into action but he wasn’t able to score any damaging hits on Chip’s Panzer IIIs. In the end he tried an Urraah! charge, but his men died heroically.

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The Russians attempt a charge. One squad is already shot to pieces.

These were very interesting games. Clearly our experience with Western Europe games has made us all a little hazy on what to do if there isn’t plenty of cover on the table. There is latitude in the Winter Storm scenarios to add some minor dips and rises, but there wasn’t much in the way of cover on the Kursk battlefield.

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