Monday, October 21, 2019


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


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


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!)

Saturday, October 12, 2019


Lots more action coming this week as we have even more battles being fought by wargamers who expressed interest in joining the campaign!

Right now I'm putting the finishing touches on the campaign orders and the battles that will be fought this weekend but as you can see, the German XXXXI Corps is keeping up the pressure on Ivan.

Just like in the real battle, the 292nd Infanterie Division moved to assault their original D+1 Objective the Shirokoye Bulotev.  This was a major jumping off point for seizing Ponyri.  However the Soviets don't just intend on letting them walk in through the front door!

Also, of major importance - the Soviets are assaulting Buzuluk to recapture it from the Germans!  If they can pull it off, it will open up Tank Hill and Kleninskoye to resupply and would put a thorn in the Germans' side by enabling stronger counter attacks later in the game.

I will have none other than the Duc de Gobin fighting the "Second Battle of Buzuluk" for us across the pond playing the Soviet counterattack against Buzuluk.  Additionally, "Just Jack" will be fighting out the battle for the "Bunkerwald" featuring the German assault against the wooded objective on the Corps' left flank.

I am really digging this linked battle campaign so far!  I'll make sure I re-link to all of the battles that are occurring this week!  Also hoping next week to get Brian and Rich to fight out a Memoir 44 battle in support of the campaign.  Stay tuned!  Lots of Kursk fighting on the way!

Sunday, October 6, 2019


This week both Alex and Ken turned in their orders to me for the Ponyri Campaign game we're playing.  Today I hosted the first tabletop game of the campaign at my house - the Battle of Buzuluk, which is a strategically located sliver of ground on the way to Ponryi.  Control of it isolates an entire Soviet regimental sector to the north of it and brings the Germans one step closer to Ponyri.  Fighting in person were Ken, Alex, Brian, and Mark.
The Orel-Kursk rail line and road.  The house on the right would be the scene of bitter fighting.

While there were 3 other battles being fought (Hill 242.2, Kastenwald, and the Soviet thrust against Maslovo) I decided to play out Buzuluk due to more "parity" between both sides.  Alex committed his Pioniere platoon and heavy artillery, both firestorm resources, to Buzuluk.  Ken committed his T-34 tank company to Buzuluk and given that Ken did not commit elsewhere, this was the closest battle in terms of combat power.

The field overall - typical terrain of the Kursk battlefields.
Small cottage in the sleepy village of Buzuluk.  Things are about to get alot less sleepy!
 It's interesting that in this battle, the exact opposite of what I thought would happen...happened.  Teh Germans defended while the Soviets tried their luck at assaulting!

Germans dug-in and waiting for an opportunity to move forward!  

Soviet "Hero" Battalion in 3 x companies across the front.  Note the rune markings denoting German objective.

Alex and Mark conferring 
Germans taking up fighting positions in Buzuluk

 The Germans got a steady stream of reinforcements.  The Soviets didn't begin rolling until turn 3 but afterward, seemed to get all of their reinforcements including the infantry "assault group" dressed up like Naval Infantry, the tank company, and the AT gun company.
Naval Infantry move out!

 T-34s taking losses!  I told Ken "dont lose these, wahtever you do!"

Stugs of the 244th StuG Abteilung move up along the rail line!

Meanwhile the German Pioniere lurk in a nearby woods!

Soviet assault group passing the objective (remember that)

Germans dug in.  

Soviets moving up to assault the Germans in the wheatfield
 Alex and Mark were good at massing their fires and using indirect fire and crew-served weapons to lock down the open areas on the table.  Wherever the Soviets went they got pinned.  A lucky break in a turn enabled a Soviet "Hero" Rifle Company to move forward!

Soviet advance on their left flank is stopped dead in its tracks by indirect fire!

A bailed Stug along the rail line!

German landsers holding out under the Soviet 76mm barrage!  on your feet, men!

Soviet guns punishing the German invaders!

Soviet reinforcements making their way up to the stone wall into the German positions

Soviet attack against the left of the German platoon is beated back!  they are mosre successful on the right!
 The assault on the far right was stopped dead in its tracks by the Germans who destroyed a number of teams.  In the center, the Soviets pushed into the German positions and forced a platoon back.
Ken had to leave at this point and transferred command to me....we all know what happens then!

Alex, who noticed the Assault Group Naval troops had advanced up to the house, decided this was the moment ot win the game.  A Soviet objective was undefended and only a 1 turn march at dash speed from the Pioneer troops, who won battle honors by rendering the entire Soviet position untenable today!  While they couldn't occupy at dash speed, they were literally a turn away from contesting and my troops would not have made it in time.  Sorry, Ken!

heroes of the battle - the German pioniere!

So Buzuluk went to the Germans today as did their other attack objectives as well - Hill 242, Kastenwald, and Maslovo, which we diced for.  The Germans won all of their Day 1 battles on schedule.  Interestingly, they also lost a mixed Panzer III/Panzer IV platoon in the Maslovo fight.  They were the only ones to lose a firestorm unit this week.

The map has been updated and is below.  I'm really hoping Brian and his crew play out one of the games over the next few weeks.  The more games being played, the happier I'll be (and then someone's fate won't rest on ME rolling a D6!)  Note that Tank Hill and Kleninskoye are cut off an have an "S" in them for supply check reminders.  So far, I'm very happy with how the campaign has gone on turn 1.

Flames of War worked well but I'm still keen to try some other games in the mix as well, like Battlegroup, the Neil Thomas rules from "Wargaming: An Introduction" which to me is like "Battlegroup Lite", Alex's Up the Blue rules, and even Bolt Action.  The sky is the limit!

 Looking forward to more games coming up!  Wanted to also extend a hearty thanks to Ken, Alex, Brian, and Mark for stopping by today and for their patience as we relearned all of the nuances of Flames of War again.  I hope the teams had fun today.