Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Semi-Epic Kursk Action: WWII Spearhead Again

I vowed on my day off I would get a game of something in.  I was leaning towards Disposable Heroes WWII or Sci Fi because you don't need alot of terrain for that.  As I was packing up my 15mm T34s, I thought, "here's a novel idea- I have a whole big gaggle of mid war German tanks and a ton of T34s, I'll play some eastern front stuff."  And the battle just kind of happened.

Both sides are on attack orders - so both sides have to keep moving pending an orders change.  This game featured my first use of tactical air support (ahem..) and different artillery with mixed results...

Southern half of the Kursk Salient - 48th Panzer Korps advancing North with a nice sized Soviet tank brigade thrown in to stop them.  Soviets have pre-planned fires to trip as soon as the Germans reach the woods in the center.  Nice plowed farm fields to the Northwest.  About to be churned up by Soviet tanks!
Soviet Battalion moving through the collective farm...

Soviet tanks continue the advance to victory

German Panthers and Tigers wait...  The enemy has not been spotted yet.

Soviet KV-1s.

Meanwhile Tanks of the GrossDeutschland Division grind forward.  Little do they know they're under the watchful eye of the Soviet Tank Brigade Reconnaissance Company.

STUG-III's in the center.  They were the only company from the Kampfgruppe that were not rated as "Veteran"

Soviet T-70 Recon platoon in cover.

Soviets advance through the orchard.  reaching the collective farm.
The attack got off without a hitch for the Germans.  All companies moved until the enemy was spotted bursting through a cornfield to the immediate North, facing the German Panzer IVs.  An orders change would have been nice at this point but the Germans kept advancing.  They would have at least 2 turns to use their long-range gunnery to their advantage.  It only paid off slightly...knocking out 1 T34 platoon before closing into mutual gunnery range.  It was clearly going to be a long day.

Germans wasted their air support on a spotted recon platoon in the treeline to their front...it was part of the plan.  The sortie arrived. The bombs missed..."another glorious day for the Luftwaffe!"

The Soviet air didn't even arrive.  Like at all!  German artillery meanwhile began pounding the recon platoon but to no avail.  Bad rolling plagued the German FO's..

darkness fell on the battlefield as clouds moved in.
Soviet Tank Battalion moves through the cornfield.
 Long range gunnery was nice to have at this point as the German companies were facing down 2 fresh battalions of T-34s with only 3 companies of advanced, veteran armor.  The Recon company opened up with their lone SU-76 platoon and suppressed a STUG platoon so the recon tank platoon joined in, knocking out the Stug with some VERY lucky shooting.  German return fire was deadly and the recon platoon would lose its morale check that turn and leave the battlefield.

As the T34s exit the cornfield they are met by the Panzers and the shooting starts in earnest, with both sides failing to achieve an orders change - madness ensues with both sides advancing towards each other in some kind of medieval duel...
A T34 platoon burns in the distance.  The small yellow bead means that platoon is suppressed.  The small red bead means the Recon platoon is outta here!

The panthers begin to slice through the enemy.  The only damage done to a Panther was a suppression result from Russian 122mm artillery....sometimes there when you need it!

Soviet recon platoon leaves the field.

Panthers moving up through the Soviet line.  Burned out SU to their left.  3 KO'd T34 platoons to their front.

 The duel on the German left ends with the destruction of more T34 platoons, but also of 3 more Panzer IV platoons.  If only they could have gotten a halt order approved!!  But on the bright side, both sides fail their morale and break off from the fighting.  I think that's pretty realistic of a result from a battle like this.  especially during the battle of kursk.

Well everyone looks forward to this part in which I tell you all how to avoid making a fool out of yourself at the next game.  The Tiger / Panther Kampfgruppe was left pretty much unaffected by the fighting, and thanks to their veteran morale, they continue the fight, although the scenario's objectives could not be met now (exit 2 KG's off the northern edge).  Had the Soviets had infantry in the fighting, it would have taken alot longer and probably not been as "clean."  Here are some AAR comments from lessons I learned about this Spearhead Battle:

Plan Your Advance Thoroughly:  If you can build in "Support By Fire" positions where Battalions (Companies in my games) halt and suppress / kill the enemy all the better.  You can make alot of money off of stationary vehicle fire and avoid meatgrinders like I had today.

Pre Register your Artillery!  especially if you're Russian or early war British.  It falls automatically, just make sure you arrange for it in the right place.

Airpower Wont Save You!  It's nice to knock out some tanks here and there, but you aren't guaranteed it will show up, and you're definitely not guaranteed it will kill anything.

"Combat Speed" slows things down:  Once the enemy is spotted, you are forced to move at half speed.  Which slows things down considerably.

All in all, a fun and FAST game.  Spearhead is brutally fast, especially at the level I like to play at.  I like the nice, clean 1D6 rolls for combat and not too many different, various levels of suppression, neutralization to deal with.  It's nice as I can have big, BIG battles and still get a slightly tactical feel to it.  I would like to play some larger infantry battles with smaller armor to see how that goes, but I recommend Spearhead to anyone who likes 1:4 "platoon level" games.  Probably better played with microarmour, lest your games get that "parking lot effect" like the larger scales, but there is something fun about 15mm or even 20mm.

What's everyone's thoughts about who won?  Victory conditions aside, the Russians were in no shape to halt the heavies on the right side.  Then again, the heavies probably would have stopped at the treeline and waited for new orders.

"Gratifying progress, but scarcely blitzkrieg"



  1. Your Spearhead reports have caused me to dig out my old copy of Spearhead. Maybe I will, maybe I won't... play it.

    1. John,
      My Copy of spearhead was sitting around for almost 9 before I played it. You definitely should. Even with a handful of infantry on each side its a very fun game. Same with Shako. Its taken me a few years to really appreciate the arty conliffe experience but I am beginning to understand why his games have an almost cult like following...

  2. Nice game - good to see you're still up on Spearhead. I've been very tempted by WW2 Spearhead but have too many other games in the mix these days, plus I've only scratched the surface of MSH. I have a feeling that if done right, MSH could last me forever.

    1. Ski,
      I'm def sold. No haggling with the rules too much. I also like how combat is handled. Everything is very straightforward. My situation is opposite yours. I am still building up my modern 15mm so the first MSH game I play will either be 20mm or 6mm.. Until zvezda comes out with their modern plastics I am literally buying 2 modern 15mm vehicles per month. Up to 2 m113 and 2 t80s and a t62. Thats it! I like the CED values in MSH. It answers the ATGM question rather elegantly.

  3. Looks like it was a fun battle, and the solo seems to be working okay.

    1. Sean,
      The solo isn't working out bad. I think what I most enjoy is the simplicity. Overall it's a very enjoyable system - i will be using it for many more battles in the future.

  4. Very cool. Been wanting to try this out since I saw the articles on it in WARGAMING. Thansk for the post!