Friday, 6 September 2019

Firestorm Kursk: Game 5 - The Panthers are burning!

This was the fifth game in our Firestorm Kursk campaign, where we have played two games for each day of battle, representing action on both the Northern and Southern fronts. So this was the first game of Day 3 – 7th July 1943. So far the campaign has run fairly historically, with stout Soviet defences eventually, gradually being penetrated by the German onslaught, with the last game reflecting the first German inroads into the Soviet second line of defence.
The Germans: Colin (L) and Peter
Could they repeat that performance again and increase offensive momentum?

Peter designed the scenario based on the Counter attack scenario. The terrain was suitably historical for the northern sector – rolling hills, interspersed with small, open copses, the odd watercourse, and centered on a village. 

His German force was built around 3 Panthers – you don’t get much more than that with 60 points, with his infantry commander Colin bringing his usual versatile mix of armoured Panzer Grenadiers and a variety of half-track borne guns and mortars – all surprisingly effective.

I had prepared a list for Bryan of the usual suspects – T34’s and T34-57s backed up by SU-76s, but he had been working feverishly to build a Scouting force actually centred on 3 ‘lend-lease’ Churchill tanks – their guns were no better than on the trusty Tridsadverika, but their armour was impressive! And the scout platoons had an impressive amount of firepower with their PPSh’s, albeit of short range, and he had enough points remaining for a battery of ZIS-3 AT guns, so useful in ambush. 

Since Bryan had sorted himself out, instead of the Hero Rifle Bn I was expecting to bring, I adopted the force I had prepared for Bryan. So the two Soviet formations between them had a fair amount of armour for 120 points.

A close reading of the Spearhead rules nixed our original cunning plan of spearheading a scout platoon onto one of the objectives in no-man’s-land. D'oh!

A great plan - spearhead onto the objective - but completely illegal!
With the Panthers dominating the terrain right from the start, our defensive deployment was, well, very defensive!

We settled for hunkering down around our own objective and hiding everything else behind hills! 

The German deployment seemed to suggest they were going to concentrate on the objective out in the open in no-man’s-land, leaving only some Marders and Mortars to cover our objective.

The Germans duly opened with a drive toward the open objective, the mighty Panthers creating a 40inch wide forcefield around them from which T-34s scattered and hid. 

Somewhat rattled, on our first move we sprang the ZIS-3 ambush, which accounted for a couple of half-tracks and disrupted the German Panzer Grenadier advance on the objective slightly. 

Similarly the opening salvo from my SU-76s after they moved up to the crest of the ridge they had been hiding behind brewed a Marder and bailed another. 

My reinforcement roll brought in a platoon of T-34-76s to join the formation commander...

and these scurried to the cover of a convenient copse, allowing them to add their fire to that laid down on the Panzer Grenadiers resolutely advancing on the objective.

With the Panthers moving swiftly around on the deep flank of the objective, Bryan’s next reinforcement roll rather handily brought on his Churchill troop not too far away from the Panther’s flank and a shot at their vulnerable side armour...

With impressive results - no matter what the outcome, Bryan and I were going home happy! However the Germans soon got their revenge on our right flank, the remaining Marders and AT half tracks soon finding the range of my SU-76 Sukas...little bitches indeed!

Similarly on our left flank Peter's sole remaining Panther commander lost no time in extracting a terrible revenge for the loss of his command:

By this time the Panzer Grenadiers were closing on the objective in the open, so despite the Panther on the loose, desperate measures were called for to get them off the objective...

T34's on one side, and on the other:

An infantry assault!

However, the resolute Pz Grenadiers, whilst taking heavy casualties, could not be forced entirely off the objective - it was still constented.

Back over on our left flank, things werent going too well either - my Sukas were no more, and an assault was shaping up on our infantry holding the objective...

And, pinned by heavy fire, our heroic infantry defenders of the Motherland fought to the last man - game over, another painful gain by the invader!

This game was thrilling right to the end, and could have gone either way right up until about move 5 – the victory conditions come into play at move 6. 

Despite losing, I was pleased that the outcome reflected the historical drift of the actual battle – the Germans are now starting to gain some traction against the grudgingly retreating Soviet defence – but its hardly the heady days of blitzkrieg!