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!


  1. Excellent results and commentary. really like the sound of Alex's new rules. I must get a try of these when he publishes.

    Also playing BGPzG next week actually, for the Christmas bash, so will get plenty of pics.

    1. Cheers Darren. I was giving BG PanzerGrenadier a spin today.
      They're quite a nice set of rules and perfect for what I'm looking for.

      Alex's rules are quite far removed from the original One Hour Wargames version. They've become a separate game in their own right and much fun.

    2. Hey Darren, if you want to give them a playtest, do contact me at my gmail.

      best, Alex

  2. Looks nice, very nice (except for the poor Panzers!) your beautiful hills!

  3. Looks like a great game (unless you are Panzertruppen of course!)

    We are planning on playing the BG: Barbarossa mini campaign early in the new year, which will be fun. I have elected to defend the Motherland from the Fascist invaders, just so as I can play as Comrade Commander Stepan Patrovitch!

    Would love your ideas on force composition for this campaign - will be challenging to build from a Rifle Division with no T-34 or KV-1/2 options!

    1. Definitely, Paul, a great game for sure.

      I will follow your BG Barbarossa mini campaign with marked interest. I broke down and bought BG Tobruk (after an outstanding FB post last week) seeing as how I have so much desert kit laying around. It's good incentive to finish it all.

    2. You need to get BG: Market Garden too - its very good indeed!

      I haven't even started on all the desert kits lying around so dont feel too bad!

  4. Looked good.
    I think with a larger table you can easily fit in the original 3x3 map, you can just give each side deeper starting points. You can also add a few inches to the base move which will make up for the longer distances. Or you can add to the number of turns. Lots of options.

    As for the tactics, I think you got it right. I guess we'll start calling you "No-shovel Steve!"

    1. I really enjoyed fighting on the bigger table as it opens up so many more options and gives you the opportunity for maneuver. I added 5 turns onto the game but the issue was decided pretty quickly with no need to use the extra turns.

      Yes I hate digging in if I can avoid it but it really seems to be a necessary evil. If Ivan would have dug in on the hilltop he might still be holding the hill right now! (figuratively...)