Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Christmas Offensive: 1st May Collective at Ponyri BIG BATTLE!

Dave came over to participate in my annual "Christmas Offensive" game and this year's titanic Eastern Front clash was not to disappoint!  I posted the points, map, and OOB here. [CLICK]

We played a continuation of the Kursk Ponyri Battles with the Soviet 3rd Tank Corps attack against the 1st May Collective Farm, located to the Northeast of Ponyri [CLICK] itself.

The battle we gamed was as faithful attempt as possible on a 6 x 4 table to recreate the Soviet 57th Motorized Brigade and 27th Guards Heavy Tank assault into the 507th IR's perimeter on the morning of July 9th. 

We used Battlegroup: Kursk rules with an epic 968 points on my modest 6 x 4 table.  The result was a meatgrinder of a clash with desperate tank and anti tank duels, infantry thrusts, and brutal counter attacks!
Picture from the battle

Looking to the north.  The "Polevaya Snova" is an intermittent stream which was barely difficult terrain but important for me to put on the table to guide other terrain placement.
 The Soviets started out with their recce (scout patrol and a T-70 light tank) as well as 3 x T-34s.  The Germans start with an AT gun and their Stug-IIIs and an infantry squad in trenches. 

Ivan gets reinforcements on turn 3 and Fritz gets them on turn 5!  I know to Dave, who played the Germans, it must have been an eternity to watch that red tide of armor pour onto the table knowing he didn't have any friends coming until turn 5.  But his Stugs gave an excellent and honorable account of themselves and there were many Iron Crosses to go around (posthumously).

Soviet armor probes forward towards the collective.

T-70 edges closer to the Collective farm.

T-34s probing forward

Scouts moving through the creek bed between the cropfields.

 We tracked our ammo this time, which is unusual for us since we normally do not but we thought it would add a new element to the game.  It definitely makes you consider your options when ammo is finite, and it also forces you to use coax/bow MGs against infantry!  5xshot Stugs!  Mein Gott!  Where are my supply trucks?!?!?

The first of many victims of the accurate Stug Battery burn!  Dave would eventually scratch 8 out of 9 T-34s.  And the only reason #9 survived was because I pulled him off the line to resupply.
Situation on the Soviet left
 I start to get a mountain of reinforcements and they pour over the table with the infantry huffing and puffing to keep up.  Meanwhile Dave's Stug's are earning their pay and keeping me from advancing more on the left.

knife fight breaks out with the recce and the T-70 gains the upper hand with a shot.  The blue beads mean I activated them this turn.

Advancing up to the fruit orchard and into the German lines!  Dave had a killing field prepared beyond the orchard and it would become a graveyard for many of my squads.

reinforcing Soviet armor.  Note the already-destroyed tanks burning.  Another great tactic was to put the AT guns on "ambush" 

STAL STAL STAL!  Order would be used to rapidly close with the AT gun at the treeline.  The only way to deal with an ambush - assault through!
 The Soviet armor charges the treeline on the right through the cornfields and Dave's AT fire is nasty.  He also earns more than a few "BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY" rolls and ends up shooting more and more AT guns than I bargained for....pulling chits like crazy!

If you're wondering about the labels, they're based for CROSSFIRE...

Stug in a hide site taking out Russian tanks!

view from the German side.  
 Worth mentioning here that my SU122s were also thrown into the battle.  I brought them straight up to the trenches on the left but their abysmal rolling really made them "meh" for much of the battle.  More on this later.
note the SU122s on the left at the edge of the wheatfield, infantry moving up the center, and the long parade of destroyed T-34s on the left.

On the left.  

Shooting starts to take its toll on the Stug Battery.

Stal!  Stal!  Stal!  Assault moves up the right to try and get things moving quicker.  Note the AT gun in the prepared positions in the tree line.  

Infantry moving at the double!

Scouts in the orchard!  

Germans in the trenchline

Germans in the houses.  I underestimated all those German units as they started pouring out of the collective!  
 Then Dave brings on the Ferdinands and they start immediately taking long range shots with their 88mm guns!  Looks like the Germans are going to shut the flanks down!  Luckily I keep losing guys and end up pulling a mine strike and it's a catastrophic kill on the first Ferdinand.  What a nail biter!

Soviet FO stand.

Another AT gun goes down and another one takes its place!
 With most of our Armor KIA, the fight takes on a new dimension as the infantry start to close with one another.  I quickly realize I'm not going to win going toe to toe with the firepower of the German teams and their dedicated 105mm battery so I try and close the distance to close assault.

waves of infantry coming forward.

Artillery strike nails a bunch of German teams.
 With the slowness of the Ferdinand, I find a useful tactic is to sprint my SU-122 around from hide side to hide site and this buys me a turn or 2 before Dave can get a good shot on them!  I need that big gun!

The small cabin in the center would become an objective for both sides as Soviet squads would take it, and draw fire from every German rifle in range!  Not to mention Stug fire.  

German forward HQs on the scene - company commander sets up shot along with a host of rifle squads and an AT gun.  This is the target for the Russian infantry to over run and my hopes are to swing left and move through the farm.  It was an ambitious goal....

Soviets in the cabin in front of the German main positions.  Note the casualty dice and pinned marker.  

Dave starts hurling artillery at my advancing infantry to break up the attack.

Hey look at all these dead scouts.  Mused the next Russian infantry squad that occupied the fruit orchard. 
 Dave decides to keep his FO team in the orchard and my infantry squad over runs them in close assault combat.  Then my squad is taken out by rifle and MG fire.  It's a bloody mess!

wife snapped a rare picture of the generals in action

SU76s swing into action at the farm!  This poor one would get into a losing fight with the Stug but neither of them could find their target for turns.

going to make something happen!  It's time to over run that gun!
 I pull an aircraft chit and get an Sturmovik!  Time to put it to good use.  Oh wait...I got rockets....

first pass he tries to take out the Stug III and it's a wash.  2 x misses.
 My close assault on the right is successful and Dave noted that I almost have an objectives secured victory but I reminded him that he still got his turn to counter attack (which he did to great effect!).  Dave moves his remaining Ferdinand up to the objective.  How the hell do we get rid of this thing now???

Soviets reach the trenchline on the left.

Germans standing their ground!
 So far the battle has been a grind with tons of casualties each turn.  We're both holding on by our fingernails but the German infantry has lots of tricks up their sleeve!  Like LMG teams in the buildings!

I move up the HMG team.  Dave concentrates ALL his fire on the squad in the cabin.  They're taken out.  Then the 3 man loader team for the HMG is taken out.  

view from the German positions

creeping up the left flank.  Dave's got me stuck in his first line of trenches.  If I come out, he'll mow me down.  So i stick to my 4+ cover save!

A miraculous opportunity for a flank shot against the Ferdinand!  Surely a 122mm Howitzer ought to have a killing chance to take out this beast in the flank right????  RIGHT?
 I need an 11+ to penetrate.  I roll an 11 flat so it forces a pin/morale check.  Dave's "veteran" crews pass!!  My nerves can't take many more turns!  It's pretty obvious where my IL-2 will focus on next.

Close assault into the woodline goes well but Ivan gets greedy.
 My AT guns have made it up to the fighting and I put them to good use.  I also send all my infantry forward on the right to over run those Germans in the small wheatfield beyond the treeline and the company command post.

stay put!

Dave's got the objective contested!

ADVANCE! ATTACK!  ASSAULT!  Close assaulting the Germans.

More close assault

I over ran Dave's command post here and killed "old wooden hand" company commander who lost his hand in a previous battle...  Dave stabilizes the assault with more of his battle-hardened infantry.  This is a real brutal slugfest with teams and squads going down on both sides.  Dave gains the upper hand but his force is a shell of its former self, just like mine!

We get close to our battle rating and a final 122mm artillery strike settles the game and the Germans reach their BP of 68 and withdraw.  I was at 57, a mere 6 BPs away from breaking.  I would not have lasted another turn.  The battle took just under 6 hours to complete.  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Wow what a battle.  The infantry fight was exciting as was the armor fighting and all of the extra toys on the table.  I love battlegroup for the narrative it produces and both Dave an I were exhausted from the fighting.  (worth mentioning we both had full work days prior to the fighting).  On my table, I think the "Sweet Spot" for Battlegroup games is probably 450 to 500 points or a platoon sized game in 15mm.  Playing larger games than that we could have used more people where everyone could command "something."

The one thing I will say is that the Battlegroup: Kursk battle shaped out almost exactly as it did in real life and frankly that's the gold standard of wargaming right there in my humble opinion.  In real life at the 1st May, the 3rd Tank Corps' assault pushed the Germans back, temporarily, and the 507th IR bled itself recapturing the collective farm.  So picking up where we left off last Christmas, the 1st May Collective is recaptured by tired, worn Soviet forces!  (and true to history, will be recaptured by reinforcements from the 507th and 653rd the very next day).

I want to fight this battle, in its entirety again, but with Alex's "Up the Blue!" rules and see how they handle a mess of a game like this with exactly the same forces and parameters.  (reinforced attack with troops arriving on turns 3 and 5).  Might be fun from an OOB perspective as I'll have roughly a battalion on both sides of the creekbed.  Stay tuned and MERRY CHRISTMAS!


  1. What an epic clash! Fantastic reading. My eyes went wide when the Sturmovik appeared. Nowhere to hide and a great encounter. Will be very interesting to see how Up the Blue compares.

    Those T34s look fantastic advancing in the pics too.
    Have a great Christmas mate.

    1. Darren,
      Epic is a good word for it. There were burning vehicles littering the table and knocked out infantry squads lining our trays.

      I was thinking of trying out the same game with the UP THE BLUE forces, which conveniently would "Scale up" the game to where there were roughly 2 battalions on the table.

    2. And a very Merry Christmas to you as well!

  2. This looks like one of those games in which both sides walk away having enjoyed the fun and excitement of it all.

    1. It was a blast and that's exactly how everyone felt walking away! I think we were both marveling at all the hardware and toys on the table. 88mn guns, airpower, resupply trucks, cool recce tanks and armored cars all had a go on the table!

  3. What a great battle and a great narrative AAR too. Very true to the real Life accounts of the game and a testament to the BG ruleset.

    I too like the limited ammo mechanic- makes you think about what to fire on and tactical tesupply is critical to keeping those SP guns in action!

    Great stuff! Merry Christmas Steve!

    1. It was a blast, Paul. The Battlegroup system is definitely one of my favorites. Always produces credible results and just a lot of fun to play. Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!

  4. What a tense and intense game. Great write up and good to have such a wargame every now and then. Thanks for a year of sharing a ton of gaming pleasure and of course having a go at some of my stuff. Best wishes for Christmas.

  5. Phewwww... I'm exhausted just reading it..! :o) I'm struck by how close to the histories I have read the game was... smaller technically/morally/equipment superior German fore versus bigger more basic Russian forces.. war of attrition indeed.. excellent report..