|The Germans roll out toward the Soviet lines.|
Hello once again to everyone on the Analogue Hobbies blog. I recently visited founding conscript Curt C in Regina for a weekend jam-packed with gaming. The weekend's main feature was a massive 28mm Napoleonic game (see here for the report and pictures), but we also sat down to play Spearhead, the wonderful WW2 division-level rules. The scenario was set in the opening days of the Kursk offensive in the summer of 1943 on the Eastern Front, and pitted the elite troops of the Grossdeutschland Panzer Grenadier Division against the vast defensive reserves of the Red Army.
|German forces pre-game.|
|"Quality of Quantity" for the Russians.|
|View of the table pre-game. The German entry is at the top right of the photo, and the Russian table edge is at the lower left.|
The table was a 6' x 6' set up, bisected by a road and a rail line, and also a small stream. Some areas of rough going dotted the table, along with a couple of hills and a few forested areas/copses. Built-up areas were limited to a number of collective farms and one-sector town. The Germans had 20 turns to exit the majority of their battalions (they had four) from the opposite edge. Any other outcome was a Russian victory. Curt took command of the Panzers while I took control of the Russians.
|Stug IIIs give the German foot sloggers some armoured support.|
|Russian 76.2mm guns take defensive position behind the rail line.|
The Russians got to start two infantry battalions with some attached AT guns dug in on the table. They had voluminous reserves in the form of two Guards tank brigades, an independent heavy tank regiment, and an independent heavy assault gun regiment. They also had slim hopes that the Red Air Force could intervene.
|The Russian infantry await the German assault.|
The German forces were comprised of two panzer battalions, a gerpanzert panzer grenadier battalion and a battalion of regular grunts. They had support from off-table 10.5cn howitzers and the Luftwaffe.
This was a variation on a scenario I last played in 2007 with the gang here in Winnipeg. I switched it up to better reflect the elite status of the GD Panzer Grenadier division, giving them more Mark IVs in place of the late model Mark III panzers that filled the Panzer battalions of most other line units in this period. Besides I had just painted a bunch of Mark IVs and wanted to get them on to the table...
One of the aspects of Spearhead I enjoy so much is how well it reflects the relative flexibility (or lack thereof) of the different nations' command and control. Curt put the German flexibility to good use, creating four different Kampfgruppen by cross-attaching companies among his battalions, so all the tanks had infantry support, and the infantry had some big guns to help. The Russians can't really do this kind of thing (or they can't in 1943). On the other hand, you have lots and lots of them.
|Germans prepare to run over the Russian infantry.|
|The German engineers punch a hole in the Russian lines.|
Curt's troops demolished the on-table Russian infantry with clinical precision. The Russian infantry gave the German mechanized troops a little trouble at first, but once the German engineer platoons got involved (hello, flamethrowers) it didn't last long. The destruction of the initial Russian forces brought the reserves on to the table.
|Here come the Russian reinforcements....|
|A Russian tank brigade races to engage the Germans.|
|Light tanks (aka "ablative armour") lead the Russian advance.|
|KV-1s rumble into battle.|
|It starts to go pear-shaped - T-34s fan out, but can't find the range...perhaps all of the burning wreckage obscures the view...|
The tide of Russian armour looked dramatic, but it simply did not have the range needed to match the gun power of all those 75mm (and a few 88mm) guns on the German side. The high-velocity 75s engaged at a range band the Russians could not match, and the Russians were not able to get very close in order to counter-punch. The steady stream of visits from the Luftwaffe did not help. And while the KV-1 might have been scary in 1941-42, it was pretty lame in 1943. Even the ISU-152s had only a pop-gun range with their weapons.
|Luftwaffe makes a visit - the KV-1s are no match for the twin 37mm cannons on the wings.|
|ISU-152s deal a small check to the Germans.|
|This Russian brigade is on fire - but not in the good way...|
End result was a ton of burning Russian tanks, and a win for the German side. The Russian did achieve a Thorpian Moral Win with a last-turn air strike by the Sturmoviks that mowed down most of a heavy tank company, but the fact is the Russian defences were going to need a lot more "depth" to stop the GD Panzer Grenadiers that day....
While the game went a little pants for my side, it was a real thrill to play another big Spearhead game. The rules are outstanding. Sadly the scenario books available for the game are chock full of unplayable encounters (a problem not limited to Spearhead, unfortunately), but the rules themselves are simple, elegant and fun.
|Thorpian Moral Victory as the IL-23s light up some Tiger Tanks....|
Big thanks to Curt C and his wife for their incredible hospitality in Regina. Can't wait to game with the group out west again!
Before I leave, one more quick note. I believe Juan M had asked at one point for a photo comparing these models to a coin - here is a shot of some stuff beside a Canadian dime.
|From top to bottom - a Russian 76.2mm gun team, a German Pz IVH, a German Pz IVG, a German Tiger 1E.|