Monday, December 11, 2017

Ponyri Mini Campaign: Game 2

A rare day off today so I spent the afternoon playing Game 2 of my Ponyri Station Mini Campaign with the German 292nd Infantry Division (the Pomeranian Division) seizing and holding a crossing site over the Ochka River on its way to Ponyri.  This is the second battle in an ongoing drive towards the initial day 5th July objectives for the 507th Infanterie Regiment, the "KastenWald," or Box Forest, as the Germans called it.  (the forested terrain features, based on aerial reconnaissance photos, were named by clever staff officers after whatever object they resembled.  The 507th's objective for the first day was a large forest in the shape of a box...)

While the Germans got a rough start on the initial push, things start moving quickly in 507th's sector!  The 507th led off with their tanks forward and soon PANZER ALARM was yelled throughout the leading infantry and armor platoons of the assault as Soviet T-34s surged forward to meet the Germans over the river crossing and push them back.  It was not to be!

The German long barrel 75mm guns (the 507th actually had StugIII assault guns in support during the real battle) eviscerated the Soviet armor long before it arrived at the crossing sites, giving the Germans enough time to dig in and await the eventual attack.
Panzer IVs move up!

Burning T-34s

German Infantry hustling over the bridge!

They didn't have to wait long.  This scenario was actually Scenario #5 "Bridgehead" in the One Hour Wargames book and the Soviets arrive from up to 3 different sites.  In this instance, all but 1 platoon arrive at the exact same spot and a straggler platoon arrived close to the bridgehead.

This game was packed with excitement as the German early tank gunner obliterated the T-34s early, and a well timed German ambush knocked out a Soviet infantry platoon who had infiltrated close to their positions!  The remaining German infantry took up positions along the orchard awaiting the Soviet infantry who were reportedly not far behind those burning tanks.  There could be only 1 place they were headed to!  The Ochka River Bridge!

 THe Soviets arrive at the orchard in time to see Germans already starting to crawl through it.  A firefight breaks out among the platoons embroiled in the orchard.  The Germans take a turn to dig in as Soviet mortars start to fall.  Miraculously, the Soviet mortars fall long or short and dont do any damage this turn to the Landsers.

Things heating up.  All of the German platoons are across now and the Soviets are trying to overrun the orchard on the right.

German 3rd Platoon moves up to reinforce but they're in a bad way.  In the open with a Soviet platoon bearing down on them.
 The Soviets begin shelling the German 3rd platoon while moving up additional infantry reinforcements to capture the orchard.  It's hot work in the orchard as 2 platoons, with more on the way, are starting to fight for control of the neatly lined trees.

German 1st Platoon digs in while the Soviets take up positions and start shooting.

The Germans still have a platoon in reserve but are about to commit them soon!

 The Germans swing their armor around and catch the Soviet platoon in the open, who promptly take up positions in the woods.  Now it's a matter of mopping up.

German second platoon, currently waiting in a culvert along the road start reinforcing the orchard across the woods.  OK SECOND PLATOON!  ON YOUR FEET LETS GO!

Germans are firmly in control of the orchard and the battle is over!  
Second battle in my mini campaign is complete now and the Germans are right on schedule.  They'll swoop into the KastenWald and have to hold it against Soviet counterattacks at the end of the first day and into the night.  A couple things I've been thinking about introducing for the campaign:

Mines.  There were lots of them and mines were the reason for many units reporting agonizingly slow progress during the Kursk battles.

Up-Gunned Panzers.  The German 75mm long barrel tank gun was an outstanding piece of equipment and I feel like the German tanks should have a little more "oomph" to them in these battles.

Heavy Artillery.  Some of the heaviest German concentrations of firepower were used during the Kursk battles.  I feel like there should be some additional fire support options like nebelwerfers or the big 150cm guns.  If you have to stick with the 1HW construct, then perhaps if the player gets a force structure that includes mortars, then you roll on an additional table that tells you what you get (mortars, 105mm artillery, heavy mortars, 150cm artillery, rocket artillery to name some)  naturally these assets wouldn't all be available each turn.  Some of them, like rockets, would have considerable reload time.

Tactical Air Support.  Who doesn't want a Stuka or Sturmovik crashing down on the other guys' troops?

Interestingly, I had meant to play these battles with the terrific "Battlegroup: Kursk" rules but having found myself extremely short on time and energy the past 6 months, Alex's UP THE BLUE rules, his variations on the One Hour Wargames World War II rules, have done the job nicely.  While I still plan on playing these with Battlegroup, that will have to wait.

Anyways that's all for now.  The third objective will be the end of the first day, with the Germans right on schedule, historically, to where they were during the northern Kursk battles.  Next stop - the Kastenwald!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Ponyri Mini Campaign: Game 1

First snowfall of the season outside and that means wargaming!  I played the first game of a small mini campaign for the Ponyri Station battles during the Kursk offensive using a pre-selected scenario from the One Hour Wargames book (Take the High Ground #4) and Alex's modified One Hour Wargames rules which are roughly company-battalion scaled rules.

My campaign idea, originally from the abandoned "Summer of Battlegroup" campaign, features linked battles from the German 507th Infantry Regiment of the 292nd Infantry Division (the Pomeranian Division) drive on Ponyri itself and the battles for the town and Hill 253 to the northeast.

I thought Take the High Ground was appropriate for the unit to attempt to capture jumping off points for the bigger attack.  This assault is on a fictional hill, but the scenario is still similar to the real thing, with understrength Soviet infantry formations dug-in to slow down the German onslaught while counterattack forces prepare themselves.  (as well as exploitation forces to the rear from the famous 653rd Heavy AT)

While I hate using pre-canned forces from a random selector, I did for this battle just to see how things shook out, and ended up with:

German OOB:
3 x Infantry Platoons
2 x Mortar Platoons
1 x Tank Platoon

Soviet OOB:
4 x Infantry Platoons
1 x Mortar Platoon
1 x Tank Platoon

While I winced at the thought of the Germans having 2 mortar assets to draw from, it does technically make sense to give the attackers lots of fire support with which to use in an assault.  Plus the Soviets have a mortar platoon of their own to use.

North to South (reversed from the actual scenario but the Germans came in the from the north)  The Armor on the right, and the infantry company on the left.  Mortars in the rear with the gear.  Hill 128 looms!
 Hill 128 as it's called in this scenario, has 2 x platoons of dug-in Russians on it awaiting the onslaught from the Germans.  I've added some pieces of cover and additional decoration on the table because I think it looks cool and there should be more terrain on the table than 1 forest and 1 hill, even if the militarily significant terrain is abstracted, I still like a nicely decorated table.

My "Steven's Balagan" style Crossfire Soviets.

 The Soviets get all of their reinforcements on Turn 2 and guess where they headed towards?  The Armor moves at road speed to head off the German armor and the infantry double-time it to Hill 128!

Soviet mortars

Reinforcements ready to go sir!  

The Germans focus all of their energy on the right most platoon and 2 volleys of mortars are falling on them every turn.  They're quickly up to 6 hits.  Their first rally attempt fails.

German assault shaping up.  3 platoon (unflocked) on the right would take the worst of the punishment from Ivan while 1st and 2nd platoons approach Hill 128 from the northwest.

German armor attempts an end-run to outflank the defenders and cut off reinforcements but is it enough?

A German infantry company coming straight towards them!

Reinforcements arrived just in time as a Soviet platoon bugs out from mortar fire.
 The Soviets can't get a shot on the Germans but instead make themselves "ready" and attempt an ambush as the German armor comes out.  It works a charm and the Germans get handled roughly in the close-up T-34 ambush!

Armor duel to the top of the picture and the infantry fight just getting started as the Germans halt and open fire on the hill.  The remaining Soviet platoon that is dug in is starting to waver.  More bodies fill in the dugouts and rifle pits of their comrades!  Hill 128 is looking like a fortress.
 A few key things that could turn the tide of the battle now.  The Soviets have ample reinforcements with which to stop the Germans but they're not dug in.  Do you let Fritz get a toe hold on the backside of the hill and fight him at the top?  Or do you push everything to the edge and attrit him downhill?  If it's the former, your first course of action is to dig in Ivan right where he stands and let the Germans come to you like a reverse slope defense.  The other option is to push forward and continue to keep the pressure on.

The Soviets chose to move up their infantry to the edge of the hill and keep the fight further away from Hill 128.  This was a flawed decision for this situation for a number of reasons.  For starters, moving up took precious time and opportunities away from the Soviets to dig in their platoons.  They needed to be the sole, remaining force atop Hill 128 at the end of game to win.  By moving, they opened themselves up to 3 shots from small arms and mortars and bled themselves out much more quickly.

Additionally, at the edge of the hill, they were easily spotted by German FOs and assailed by the powerful indirect fire that the Germans could bring to bear.  I also failed to take into consideration that the Germans were already within small arms and LMG range so they take fire from 2 German platoons while another moves even closer to the hill.

Taking a page out of Jack's playbook.  I used orange pipe cleaner to show the shots!
 The German tanks never really recovered from the T-34 ambush and get a permanent red die!  They're toast!

My Zvezda Panzer IVF2s.  Love how they turned out even if i didn't paint the running gear!

Ivan's sitting pretty for now but lost the opportunity to dig in.  That would prove fatal for them.

combined mortars and small arms waxes another Russian platoon as the Germans creep closer.

Yellow 6.  Permanent hits and another platoon lost!  Defending at the edge was the wrong call this time!

The last reserves are fed into the trenches and foxholes!

snazzy new KO'd markers from litko.

even when burning i still think they turned out great!  :)

Gerry makes his move!  The Germans have a toe-hold on hill 128 now.

Soviet mortars pound them and the T-34 platoon can still see them and begins trading shots with them.  
 The German 1st Platoon is forced off of Hill 128 but the 2nd Platoon comes in behind them and spots for mortar fires against the T-34 platoon, which is eventually driven off by the barrages.  The Germans win the game and are 1 step closer to Ponyri.

Second Platoon would attract the attention of the T-34 platoon!

Those Panzer IVs are still burning!

Post Game Thoughts:
So, a fun game played and differed from the book in that I played on a full table (6 x 4) not the prescribed 3 x 3.  I found the distances to not affect or impact the game too much, and the addition of a few more key terrain pieces also did not dramatically impact game play to the extent that any side had an unfair advantage.

I would like to play this with somewhat more historical forces instead of the 6 unit army lists as I think Alex's rules can handle the additional forces and still come out Ok.  This game would have been interesting to play with Crossfire or another company level rules to see how it turned out.  The mortars in both Alex's modified rules and with the original One Hour Wargames are extremely powerful and any unit have more than 1 platoon has a distinct advantage over their opponent.  Without the additional mortars, I'm not sure the Germans would have been able to take Hill 128.

I'm still looking for "my" rules to use for Company sized actions but Alex's rules fit nicely into the debate, delivering solid, historically plausible results in a very short amount of time.  They're also superbly suited to solo play, which I find most of my gaming to be in (despite what you read on this blog).

Still want to give Battlegroup PanzerGrenadier Deluxe a go but until then I'll continue in my quest for the perfect company level rules.  Cheers!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

One Hour Wargames "Freestyle" Edition: Hasty Attack & DAK WIP

I wanted to try out Alex's One Hour Wargames (1HW) in "freestyle" mode on a 6 x 4 table and not playing one of Neil Thomas' 30 missions in the book.  After the disaster of Friday night (TottenFreitag?) I wanted to try out some scenarios where forces built from the force table in the book went head to head with simple military objectives on a "standard" playing surface ie my table.

In this instance, a German infantry company is defending a wooded ridgeline from a Soviet assault.  The Soviets must break through and seize the bridge to the rear.  The Soviets, built from the NT 1HW book, have 3 x infantry platoons, 2 x tank platoons, and 1 x Anti Tank Gun platoon.

The Germans have a company consisting of 3 x infantry platoons, 1 x tank platoon, and 2 x mortar platoons (sections).  I take this to represent not only the German company mortars, but battalion and possible regimental fires that have been allocated to the defense.  So the Germans have lots of indirect fire.

Game One I have the infantry company assaulting across relatively open ground on the right, and the armor assaulting on the left.  The Germans are evenly distributed along the ridgeline with dug-in infantry platoons.  The Armor is along the road in reserve and the mortars are "in the rear with the gear."

Soviet Infantry Company on the right.  These are my Crossfire platoons.

Armor on the left.
 I should mention the table was set up to play Teugen Hausen 1809 using my 10mm Naps and Black Powder but the players bailed on me so, not being one to waste a setup table, I figured I'd play.

Infantry pushes off.  It's a long way to those Germans in the woodline up the hill.  And the German FO is already calling out targets!

Liberating a Prussian town.

Armor pushes past the town, eager to close with the Germans.

The AT guns push on, powered solely by human beings and patriotic fervor.
The mortar barrages are brutal against the attackers in the first couple rounds and the attack is losing steam.
First platoon almost had it.

Third platoon gets some nasty attention as they move through the gap in the ridgeline.  Permanent hits!

Note the German armor moving forward to engage the Soviet armor.

Another Soviet platoon has had it.  
 The attack runs out of steam as the infantry literally melts away from the devastating mortar fire.  I want to try the attack again but on a more narrow frontage and in more cooperation with the armor.  This time the shrewd Soviet battalion commander brings up his reserve company and tries again using the endless manpower reserves of the Russian Army!

The assault grinds forward, shoulder to shoulder!
 I want this time to concentrate my force on a very narrow point, with close cooperation with the tanks.  It's also easy to forget, when on the offensive, that you have AT guns!

platoons closely packed together along with the armor moving up to the Germans.

a beautiful sight!
 The Soviets get incredibly lucky as the Germans must have one of my relatives commanding the mortars.  unbelievably only 1 hit from 2 x barrages in the opening turn.  The second turn was more of the same as the infantry move up along with the tanks.

The Germans note the main effort and throw their armor forward quickly.  
 The German commander sees trouble on his left and pulls the right-most platoon out of position to get them in a reserve behind his left-most platoon.  The middle platoon adjusts to cover the killing field in front of the left.

The mortars find their targets now as permanent hits befall the Soviet 3rd Platoon (yellow die.  Means minus 1 die for shooting from now on...)  Press on comrades!

German 3rd Platoon re-positions itself

Note the Soviet thrust against the German left.  The German armor sallies forth!

Soviet tankers start trading shots with the dug in infantry and a tank battle is shaping up now as well.  Note here I totally forgot the AT guns which would have been a huge help!

Third platoon moving in behind 1st and 2nd in reserve.  This attack is looking serious!

German 2nd Platoon dug in along the roadway re-positions themselves slightly to the left.

The mortars and infantry are finding their targets now.  The Tank platoon and infantrymen behind them are starting to feel the heat!  permanent hit on Soviet 3rd Platoon

Ouch!  6 hits!  3rd Platoon will stop to rally.

Ivan's AT guns!  The Soviets get lucky and march them rolling box cars to the hilltop.  (no doubt a result of the commissar's urging!)

 Ivan's T-34s close with the Germans in the treeline and start trading shots but the dug-in and wooded cover means he'll only get 1 shot in!  Close range makes it a 3+ shot.  At least the Germans are taking some casualties!

The attack is making decent progress but they haven't even closed yet!

German reserve platoon moving into position.  Schneller Schneller!  
 The Soviets get another lucky break with the AT guns and are able to get 3 permanent hits on the Panzer IV's in the open.  It's a good thing, too because they were planning on slicing into Ivan's flank as her advanced!

Good shooting Ivan!

The Soviet infantry are crawling forward.
 The next turn is a disaster as the Germans wrest the initiative away from the Soviets.  The tank platoons evaporate from German tank guns and close range AT devices.  The infantry will have to go in alone!

 The Russians do what any self respecting totalitarian army would do in this situation....attack!!  Soviet infantry close with the Germans at super close range.

Third platoon rallies itself down to 4 hits and First platoon remains at 4 hits.  The Second Platoon, with 2 hits, advances up to the muzzle of the German rifles.

 The Germans throw in all their mortar shots at the Soviet platoon who is close assaulting them, effectively wiping them out.  Then they shift fires to the next platoon pinned down in the crop field. 

and then there were none....
 I had to call it at this point in the interest of humanity.  2.5 Soviet platoons were destroyed and the best the Russians were able to do was come to grips with literally one of their platoons.


AT Guns without a scratch!
So boy what a fun but brutal series of games.  The consolidated approach certainly worked a little better for Ivan but with all that completely open ground to cover and 2 x German mortar platoons working against them, it came down to simple math(s).  The Neil Thomas rules are meant to have 3 foot square battlefields so maybe chalk it up to that?

I think if you're going to play on a bigger surface with more area to cover, the attackers need some kind of help like smoke or artillery or mortars themselves.  In this instance, for both sides I used the force selector but with 2 x mortar platoons on the German side and almost completely observed movement throughout, that task, which was close with the Germans, break through and capture a crossing point, namely the bridge, proved impossible.

I'd like to play this a couple more times but it seems to me that, when playing on a bigger table, that the attackers need smoke or more cover or the battles will be more reminiscent of World War I instead of World War II!

That's still a great testament to Alex's modifications of NT's rules, which I think work remarkably well and really capture the scope of the Company Commander's fight.


So if you read this far congratulations!  You made it to the bonus!  Here are the rest of my Work-In-Progress Afrika Korps for the OPERATION CRUSADER MEGA GAME in 2 weeks.  Enjoy!  These are my support platoons, and objective markers:

Support Platoons.  2 x Mortar Platoons and 2 x ATG Platoons

German supply dump and "Sidi Rezegh" sign!

Rommel's Morning Briefing!  Complete with topographical map, Rommel's staff, and you're looking at the back of the man himself!  I love this stand!