Monday, November 11, 2019

FIRESTORM PONYRI STATION: TURN 4 CAMPAIGN *UPDATED*

The campaign grinds on!  The Germans, desperate to seize the operational initiative, threw their major resources from XXXXI Corps into an attack against both Soviet supply sources in an effort to throw Ivan off balance.  While this was unexpected, the Soviets threw their resources into slicing into and expanding the penetration made by Jack last week into the Kastenwald objective, currently held by the Soviets.

Germans attempting to regain the operational initiative, forcing the Soviets to take back their supply sources.  Soviets attempting to expand the penetration into the Kastenwald by attacking Hill 242.2 and Shirokoye.

Le Duc de Gobin, AKA "The Hero of Shirokoye Bulotev," is fought another desperate action although this time further north as he defended with a scratch kampfgruppe against a major Soviet push with heavy armor to break out their comrades isolated on Hill 253.1.  His returns will likely be in today or tomorrow so expect another post as we close out turn 4.  The Duc successfully defended Hill 242.2 against what I can only describe as an onslaught of infantry and armor!  He earns Oak Leaves for his Knights Cross following this successful defense!

I do have the returns from yesterday's battles - another disaster at Shirokoye as the Germans lose their besieged grip on the collective province while the Soviet steamroller charges in.  Although our Rapid Fire battle ended in a "draw" we diced for the outcome after the battle and the Soviets took Shirokoye.

Returns from 8-9 July

We further diced for the Karpunevka and Berezovotskoye battles as well, with the Germans winning both, however losing the Gepanzerte PanzerGrenadiers in the process!

This brings the German firestorm resource casualties up to:

Mixed Panzer III/IV platoon
Tiger I platoon
Armored PanzerGrenadier Platoon

So while the Soviets have opened up the key terrain at Shirokoye, the Germans have also over-extended themselves and it's safe to say almost all of the Soviet and German forces below Ochki are"out of supply" and fight at reduced effectiveness.  More on that later.  I'm expecting both sides to fight viciously to open up their supply sources for the coming battles in Turn 5.

Looking forward to having Jack back next week and some of the commanders will not be available for battles so I anticipate turn 5 will likely last up to 2 weeks.

Remember - Campaign is 7 turns long.  Germans now have 2 attack arrows and so do the Soviets.  Both may commit up to 2 FS resources per engagement.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The First Battle of Ponyri Station: Turn 3 FIRESTORM PONYRI STATION

Wow we finally reached a decision in Turn 3 of the campaign.  Now we can move on to turn 4 when things will really heat up for the Germans.  Coming off of the heels of a crazy and dynamic turn, the Germans and Soviets both saw some very interesting gains as you can see from the map below.


The Soviet gambit into the Kastenwald was wildly successful with no loss of Firestorm resources.  The Germans will have to consider this developing attack into the shoulder of their breakthrough and now with only 2 attack options per turn.  The Soviets also successfully defended Karpunevka from the Germans onslaught!

The Germans captured Shirokoye Bulotev from Ivan, which will also open up attacking options for taking Hill 253 and 1st May.

Today's game was fought using Alex's "UP THE BLUE" rules, themselves a modification of Mr Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames rules.  Each sabot is an infantry platoon.

Ponyri outskirts in the upper right.  Train station up-center.  Alex needed to clear German forces and capture Ponyri
German I Battalion / 508th Infantry Regiment  (stands are platoons)
 The Germans step off onto the attack under the protective cover of 105mm shells whistling overhead.  Meanwhile, dug in Soviets in Ponyri await them.  KV-1s idle in protective cover, awaiting the carefully prepared signal to counterattack!

Soviet company in the train station

We put UP THE BLUE through its paces today with a big urban fight.  Ponyri Village is divided into 3 large sectors, each able to hold a set number of bases (platoons).


KV-1 platoon in a marshalling area.  Mortars are to their right.

Heavy Corps Guns, elite tank killer units, await the German beasts.

Meanwhile Soviet infantry is also awaiting their opportunity to counterattack.

German artillery starts splashing into Ponyri!

The Panzers start to creep up and lob shells into the light anti tank platoon
 The Germans launch a major infantry thrust with 2 x companies worth of ifnantry into the center woods.  This gives them a covered and concealed approach to Ponryi and a jumping off point to assault the closest town sector of the village.  Note the Soviet platoon in the lower left.
Germans advancing into the center woods.  Note the Soviets in lower left.  2 x platoons, a company, are holding onto the town's edge

Another Panzer III platoon enters Ponyri via the road!  

Meanwhile German infantry platoons start laying down a base of fire.  Since they're on the edge of the woods, the Soviets can target the Germans and do so with small arms and mortar fire.  Note the Germans bringing the Ferdinands from Panzer Jaeger Regiment 653!

Germans swarming through the woods!

Meanwhile, the Soviets call out on the radio from Corps HQs "Stal!  Stal!  Stal!"  The counterattack begins!  KV-1s in Ponyri head out to challenge the Panzer IIIs.

A duel!
 Alex brings up Genpanzerte PanzerGrenadiers, part of his Firestorm Resources, to move into the cleared sector of Ponyri.  Alex has a toe-hold in the town and swings over the panzergrenadiers and halftracks to support his assault.  The Soviets in the sector astride them dig in and go "READY", awaiting the Germans who must cross the street to take that sector.

Note the German infantry in the background, massing to take Ponyri.
 The Soviets move up the next KV-1 platoon to make life a little more difficult on the Germans, and to challenge the Ferdinands.  While their guns won't make a big difference, their heavy armor will.


Yellow dice are "order" markers.  Green dice are hits.




Infantry score a permanent hit (hit dice becomes yellow) against the KV-1 platoon along the roadway.  Alex's figure looks on, approvingly at his Landsers' handiwork!

Yellow dice is a permanent hit.  It means they will always shoot at -1 dice for firing and represents significant casualties and disruption.  My scenario was they were caught reloading the ammunition in 2 of their tanks and the crews were mowed down!
 Meanwhile on the right, a Soviet platoon is caught in the open and German indirect fire shreds them.  The go "red" (2 permanent hits!) and will not recover.  I start to shift resources from the fight in the wheatfield over towards Ponryi.  Even a unit from the train station moves up to counterattack.
Note a KV-1 platoon and an infantry platoon in the rubble pile on the left massing to counterattack.  They trade shots with the infantry in the woodline, eventually knocking them out.  The Soviets would seize that wooded area back from the 508th, killing 2 more platoons here!

A massive fight erupts in the center with Soviets charging relentlessly at the woods, the KV-1s providing fire support!  Alex has a huge advantage in firepower but his infantry are his achilles heel.  He can't afford to lose too many infantry units.  The closest wooded sector to Ponyri is turning into a meatgrinder and the Germans pull back to the center sector!
 While the Soviet counter attack in the center is enjoying limited successes, the German thrust into Ponyri is paying off.  German landers are preparing to cut the railway into the village and their armor is supporting.  The Soviets defended far forward and deeper into Ponyri is much more lightly defended.  A classic breakthrough, if Alex can take out that KV-1!

Note the corners touching the boundaries.  That's how Alex figures line of sight into and out of sectors.  These guys can see, and be seen.

KV-1 duel not going so well now, and he's taking fire from multiple platoons and from infantry.  I need to move an infantry platoon over to reinforce but there arent many left!

Coold shot.  Note the KV-1 and the 4 x German platoons to the north. 

The fight in the center.  Alex would eventually lose both of those infantry units in the woods.  Assaulting Ponyri is proving much harder than he thought!



Reinforcements coming in!  Moving up to reinforce the KV-1 platoon who is holding on in the town sector.  Note the Germans straight ahead.  There is a dug-in Soviet platoon to the right holding that town sector.  They never did give it up!





German panzergrenadiers flanking the KV-1 platoon.  Extra firing dice!


Germans break through with another panzer platoon.  Note the Soviets fighting it out along the road to the left.  The Germans are firing 

KV-1 comes up to counter attack but it's too little, too late.  The Germans hold 2 out of 3 town sectors in Ponyri and the Soviets have only 1 platoon left!




Wow what a fun game.  Of note, we played this game "freestyle" meaning with no pre-determined Neil Thomas scenario.  This game was based off of objectives and did not have a set turn limit.  I will also say it was very close.  If I would have kept some resources closer together, the counterattack could have happened against the first town sector, and not the woods.  I wouldn't mind playing UtB again but on a gridded surface.  I'd also like to give Norm's "TIGERS AT MINSK" a go, possibly with a modified version of his Stalingrad scenario.

Remember, next week the Soviets get 2 x attack arrows, and the Germans are reduced to 2 x attack arrows.  Also, 2 more major developments.  The Soviets get a bunch more FIRESTORM assets they can draw on now, and I will roll for initiative at the start of the week.  So while the Germans have a toe-hold in Ponyri, they'll have to hold it!

After some slowing down of momentum, it's great to see the campaign back on!

Monday, October 21, 2019

FIRESTORM PONYRI STATION CAMPAIGN TURN 3 UPDATES!

Wow what a day of campaign returns from the combatant commanders as Darren and Jack both posted incredible battle reports on their respective blogs.  I've taken the liberty of updating the Corps' situation map below, with a caveat that one battle is still left to fight for turn 3 - the entry into Ponyri Station from the west!


I have left the attack arrow into Ponyri since we still need to fight the 292nd ID's clawing their way into the town and will likely fight that this Sunday.

After 2 x punishing assaults, Darren's troops, elements of the 78th Infantry Division, clawed their way into Shirokoye Bulotev from the north and west.  Jack fought 2 battles for us this past weekend, first the German assault of Karpunevka which saw the Germans barely repulsed after savage attacks and local counter attacks.  Jack also participated in the Soviet attack on Kastenwald which was successful as well after a defense by rear-area troops and the Panzers! 

Breakthrough at Shirokoye Bulotev pic by Duc de Gobin!

Jack's assault into Karpunevka looked like a brutal battle with the Soviets giving way, then coming back.  Even the Luftwaffe and Corps Heavy Artillery were not enough in the end to break Ivan!  Jack's got another one coming soon - the attack against the Kastenwald.  I cant wait and will post the results here although as you can see from the map, it's gone red!

Defense of Snava (Ponyri 2) by Just Jack - used without permission.


The hard-earned blues and reds on the map were only possible due to the work on the part of the players.  Thanks guys!  Now everyone has earned some R and R until Sunday, when we finish Turn 3!
Some real nail biting action here as if the Germans lost at Shirokoye and Kastenwald, their forces assaulting Ponyri would be in big trouble.  Luckily they still maintain a tenuous supply situation and can assault Ponyri freely for the time.  Is it me, or do these battles have a lovely, desperate "Kursk" feel to them?!

Hill 253.1 is out of supply here as well, isolated by the German attack against Shirokoye.  Also - no firestorm resources were lost this turn.  The campaign grinds on starting Sunday!  Thinking about a few options for Sunday's battle into Ponyri including Rapid Fire since it worked so well in our big Stalingrad game last summer.  Stay tuned!



Saturday, October 19, 2019

FIRESTORM PONYRI STATION CAMPAIGN TURN 3 ATTACKS

After last week's nail-biting action on the northern shoulder of the Kursk offensive, I have the moves from the commanders plotted out and I have to say I am surprised at how historically accurate this campaign is turning out.

As we speak battles are, or have, raged back and forth across the landscape with almost eerily similar results to what happened in July, 1943.

The German D One objectives proved way too difficult to seize due to Soviet resistance belts and constant counter attacks.  The Germans, not aware historically anyways, of the gathering strength of the Soviet 3rd Tank Army,  continued their contingency planning to seize Ponyri based on encountered resistance.

We are about to reach the dramatic apex and fury of the German assaults before the Soviet counterattacks really begin in earnest.  Can the Germans break the stubborn Soviet defenses?  The campaign is following the progress of the 292 ID, 6th and 18th Panzer Divisions, and to a lesser extent 86th and 78th ID's.

What follows is an excerpt from the  WARNING ORDER sent from XXXXI Panzer Corps on the evening of July 6th to commands of the 292nd, 86th, and 78th Infantry Divisions after the evening orders group....(not real - this is actually from my email to Jack and the Duc de Gobin)

The Germans are struggling to maintain a safe foothold with which to attack Ponyri itself


XXXXI Corps is on the move.  292nd Infanterie, supported by 86th and 78th infanterie divisions, will continue the attack.  

292nd will have the honor of assaulting Ponyri itself however the corps commander with some urging from FM Model has devised an ambitious plan for July 7th.  

We must seize Shirokoye Bulotev at all costs.  

Aerial reconaissance has detected large columns of soviet armor moving north.  This can only be the counterattacks mentioned by the abwehr that could be expected no later than july 8th.  Intelligence anticipates soviet attacks will only grow stronger after today so we must seize Shirokoye Bulotev and with it the ability to strike all of our objectives from the north simultaneously along 3 x axes.

Additionally capturing Shirokoye will cut off an additional soviet battalion from supply.  The Shirokoye assault will be supported by corps rocket artillery and assault pioneers.  

Additionally, the Corps Commander wishes to bypass Butyrki and seize Karpunevka, a Soviet supply source on July 7th.  The luftwaffe will support the karpunevka operation with stukas and corps is providing dedicated heavy guns in support.

As you can see, this turn will be pivotal, almost exactly as July 6th-7th were for the "real" troops of the XXXXI Corps during Kursk.

On our map, the Germans must capture Shirokoye in order to be able to attack the other objectives on the same turn (1 May and Hill 253).  Additionally, the 292nd is advancing into Ponyri just as they did on 6-7 July, also from the west.  Ken committed almost similar resources to what were historically there during the real battle, as did Alex.

Jack is fighting the Karpunevka battle, and while that is for a "supply source" in OUR game, in the real war, the fighting around Snova was to try and outflank what the Germans referred to as "Ponyri 2" in an effort to outflank the Ponyri positions.  What they found, in real life, were dug in T-34s and Guards infantry waiting for them along pre-planned and canalized attack routes that were strewn with mines and pre sighted with heavy artillery.  The Germans committed their panzer reserves here and shot their bolt.  The Soviet generals sensing this, launched savage and bitter counterattacks on subsequent days.

Our campaign is also taking a dramatic turn because the Soviet capabilities for offense will only increase after turn 3 in terms of equipment and attack "arrows" they can place.  Additionally, German initiative is no longer guarunteed after turn 3 which will make winning for the Germans that much more difficult.  My hopes are that the commanders feel the acute pressure their historical counterparts felt to take and hold objectives.  The Germans to advance and win, and the Soviets to hold on long enough for more troops to be thrown into the fight.

Nothing on the timetables can be left to chance!

My other hope is that the readers and participants have enjoyed following the campaign and playing in the campaign as much as I have enjoyed overseeing it.  

Let's see what happens in Karpunevka and Shirkoye this weekend.  The assault on Ponyri from the west may be the subject of a special game next weekend!

Monday, October 14, 2019

FIRESTORM PONYRI STATION CAMPAIGN TURN 3

Wow an incredible weekend of nail-biting action in our Firestorm PONYRI STATION campaign as the German XXXXI Corps moves ever-closer to Ponyri and its initial Kursk objectives!  I have updated the map below but just to bring you up to speed if you are just coming on board:


  • Germans were repulsed at Shirokoye with loss of the Tiger I Platoon but keeping the Pioneers for future operations. (check out my group's battle report here)
    German Landsers rally behind a hedge, preparing to assault Shirokoye
  • Germans captured both the Bunkerwald and the Birnenwald. (check out Jack's battle report at the Bunkerwald here)
    Soviets put up stiff resistance but are eventually worn down at the Bunkerwald (courtesy of JustJack) - this single mounted Lieutenant could earn "the big one" posthumously.
  • Germans successfully defended Buzuluk (check out the Duc de Gobin's battle report here)
    Germans mount a desperate defense of Buzuluk (courtesy of the Duc de Gobin)
The map follows that shows the status at the beginning of campaign turn 3.  I'd love to have a battle or 3 or 4 every weekend but we'll see depending on the availability of the players.

German XXXXI Corps has sliced right down the middle of the Area of Operations.  Unfortunately without seizing Shirokoye they'll have to attack Ponyri from the west, instead of all 3 objectives from the north for turn 3.
Battle Honors so far in the campaign:

German Pioneers (Firestorm Troops) earn a unit citation  as they seize Buzuluk on early 5 July without firing a shot.

Soviet AT crews and an infantry squad at the heroic defense of Shirokoye Bulotev force 2 x Tiger crews to abandon their vehicles, saving the defense of the village.

Soviet Lieutenant with the 676th Rifle Regiment single-handedly defends a flank of the crumbling Soviet defense line and charges a German squad with his team of runners and walking-wounded.

German Infantry Company at the defense of second Buzuluk isolated, successfully defend the flank against roving Russian armor with virtually no support.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Battle of Shirokoye Bulotev: FIRESTORM PONYRI CAMPAIGN

Lots of campaign progress this weekend with the FIRESTORM PONYRI STATION campaign!  With the Duc de Gobin's results in from the Second Battle of Buzuluk [click], and JustJack playing out the action in the Bunkerwald [click]today, I figured I had best get moving on the write up of what happened at Shirokoye Bulotev yesterday.

The results of which will likely be used as evidence in court martial proceedings after the campaign...

Shirokoye Bulotev.  Control of this sector will enable the Germans to assault all 3 of the XXXXI Corps' primary objectives of Ponyri, 1 May Collective, and Hill 253.  Germans coming from the right, soviets from the left.
 We used BATTLEGROUP: KURSK rules, which I thought I knew ALOT better...Roughly 500 points per side with a morale breakpoint of 24 for the Germans and 26 for the Soviets.

Both sides start with recce patrols on the table.

German objective with a security patrol guarding it on "ambush fire" orders.
 To signify the importance of this battle, Alex committed Tigers and Pioneer Firestorm troops to get the job done.

Tigers moving forward.  There are also a ton of infantry coming in behind them.

Herr General Alex and OberFeldwebel Dave, senior advisor!
 The Soviets placed a ton of fortifications on the table that they would occupy.  Ken placed objectives directly behind the trenchlines.


 As Soviet troops come on, Ken moves them into the trenches.

Soviet squad in trenches guarding an objective  The building to their front has the Soviet recon patrol in it.

Germans push the tigers up!
 The Germans have a 105mm timed artillery strike and they place it directly onto the soviet infantry on the objective above!
German landsers getting into position!

Not one but TWO tigers rumbling onto the board!
The first few turns are spent jockeying into position with the troops.  Ken pushes his reinforcing infantry, AT guns, and MMGs up while the Germans do the same.

German Pioneers on the table.  Alex and Dave want to use them to assault the Soviet trenchlines.
 Dave and Alex's 105mm strike comes in a pins everything in reach on the Soviet objective!
Pinned from German artillery!

Also pinned from German artillery

 Ken starts to send an infantry platoon around the flank to occupy the German shooters.  The Germans are deploying in a tight area around their assembly area.


Ken, Alex, and Dave
 As Ken pushes the infantry out, the Germans keep banging away at them in the hopes of pinning them, which they do, using Area Fire to great effect in this game!

Pinned Soviet troops?  Nothing new here...
 The Germans occupy the fenced gardens around the hovels in Shirokoye and start trading long range small arms fire with the Soviets.  Ken dials in his mortar battery on them and tries to keep them pinned.



German company commander watches over the troops.
 My next report takes us back to the Soviet trenchlines where Tiger Is are approaching, spraying MG fire at the Soviet positions.  Ken fires a long-barrel 45mm gun at an approaching tiger which, while it hits, fails to penetrate.  The Germans fail their MC with the big cat PINNED.  The second shot rattles the crew after it hits, they subsequently fail their MC again and abandon the tank!  How could this happen?!?!  Damn rookie crews!

Heroes of the battle?  Perhaps.  Soviet AT gunners cheer as German tankers run for the woods.

A KV-1 rumbles onto the field.
 Ken receives another "BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY" test for the recon troops in the small log house.  They assault the OTHER Tiger I with AT grenades.  Guess what happens?  The Tiger I is destroyed!  The Tigers have been LOST!  Alex, who had to leave a little earlier, is NOT going to be happy!


What the heck is this?!?!  Warlord Games I want a replacement dice!
 The Germans advance to the edge of the woods with the Pioneer squad and Ken sends them packing with a deadly accurate 122mm Artillery strike.  BTW purchasing a forward signals unit for the Soviets are points well spent.  Luckily, the Pioneers fail their morale roll and rout off the field.  Alex will have them available for the next turn!

Pioneers not long for this world.  A Soviet FO team is watching them with his binoculars!

Soviets move up to occupy more houses to trade fire with the Germans in their assembly area.  



we have them on the run, comrades!  Keep firing!

The winning shot as Germans pour out of the hedgeline in the upper right of the picture and accurate Soviet MMG fire takes the entire team out.  The Germans reach their Breakpoint of 24.  The game is over and Shirokoye Bulotev is still in Soviet hands...for now!


Soviet rear area

This was a great and really exciting, tense game but there were lots of things I was doing wrong in Battlegroup which sucks.  I really like the rules but noted that we were all very rusty with them.  One other thing I'll note was the distinct lack of tanks on the table - only 3 total tracked vehicles in all!  The rest were infantry and I have to say the infantry fights give a very interesting and exciting battle.

So far for the firestorm campaign:

Shirokoye Bulotev remains in Soviet hands.  Germans lost the Tiger I platoon but keep the Pioneers. 
The Germans capture the "Birnenwald" (we diced for it) and did not lose any Firestorm Resources. 

In Buzuluk, the Soviet attack was beaten back, but just barely after what looked like an awesome Nail Biter.  I suggest you head over to the Duc de Gobin's blog to read about the Second Battle of Buzuluk!  I love the look of Le Duc's table and I'd like to crack the code on his Rapid Fire modifications and use them myself!

Second Battle of Buzuluk!
"JustJack" is fighting the battle of the Bunkerwald over on the Soviet left flank today and here is a sneak peek at his battlefield.  Man his table looks awesome, too!  

If you rotate this picture 90 degrees to the left, this table mimics the terrain in the Bunkerwald perfectly.  I sent Jack a satellite photo the other day from Google Maps.

I plan on doing another post on the other battles being fought in support this week and will post an updated campaign map once Jack's results are in.  So far this linked campaign business has been ALOT of fun and I am loving incorporating all of the satellite battles into the narrative!  I am enjoying sending these guys "missions" to fight and they send me back the results.

This would work very well for other historical eras, too I think.  (looking at you, Fulda Gap, ACW and Napoleonics!)