Winter Storm – A Kursk AAR

For as much Battlegroup as we play, we sometimes forget about the original book, the one that started it all, Battlegroup Kursk. I still kick myself for walking by not one, but two copies in my local hobby-shop. Kursk, published in 2012 by Warwick Kinrade in dedicated to the fighting around the famous salient in July of 1943 and features multiple army list,history, panting guides and scenarios describing the battles. Though focused on the TO&Es of that hot July they can easily be adapted to December of 1942 or as late December of 1944.

For this game I wanted to focus on the winter of 1942 and Manstein’s attempted relief of 6th army. Flipping through the dozen or so canned scenarios I picked out delaying action from Fall of the Reich. Though designed for a German player defending against an Allied attack the scenario captures the feel of strong German force attempting to push though Soviet lines.

The delaying action scenario presents several interesting conditions for both sides and when combined with a six by eight table created a feel of urgency and pressure. For the defender, the main objective is just to survive the nine turns but to add some excitement there is a good chance, randomly determined, only half of your troops will be on board and the rest only arrive on a reserve roll five or more. The attackers have to break the enemy, with the turn limit, but an interesting scenario condition is for every three units the exit the table, the enemy has take a battle counter.  To keep things balanced, the attacker’s forces are off table, except for reconnaissance, and arrive automatically at D6 per turn. Not awful, but the attacker loses some time building up schwerpunkt. One last scenario condition, this one was added by myself to the Soviets to help maintain the feel of the game and that was all the Soviet armor had to be in reserve.

Soviet Right and objective two. 

The two force represented different list building methodologies; the Russian list was very much basics and the German list was the rare stuff. When building list I try and stick to the basic stuff and not get hung up on the rare tanks, troops and equipment but I had 250s painted up and hadn’t used them. The Soviet’s got the basic list, but with some bunkers and trenches, because the scenario condition required all fortifications be placed on board I tossed all of my AT guns into bunkers. I like to keep thing balances on the point’s side at about 1000 points each but 2:1 in BR favoring the attackers.

The Soviets deployed about ¾ of their trench lines and bunkers on a ridgeline covering the road. The remaining trenches were used to make a second line as fallback and covering positions. The Soviets rolled just under half of their forces were deployed, I swapped out my T-34s for more Soviet infantry and the 120mm mortars. For deployment the Initial set up was fast for the Germans, just a few 8 Rads and some recon troops.

Early game; the Germans moved quickly to engage the Soviets, the 8 rads moved up the road firing on the bunkers and the 250 moved in a wide arc around the Soviet right. The Soviets opened up on the armored cars knocking on one out and then another right next to it; blocking the road. German reserve continued to pour in, including a number of Panzer IIIs which were able to push right up onto the first line of Soviet trenches.

Mid Game: Things were starting to lookgrim for the Soviets, with one of the bunkers knocked out, and many troopspinned I finally rolled a 5 and got two reserves in. I picked T-34s, whichshould easily overwhelm the lighter Pz IIIs. Though things were falling aparton the Soviet left; I wanted to create some counter pressure so I placed them on the Soviet right. I hoped that they would live a little longer, thereby taking fewer battle counters and counter the German push on the right. Sadly,this idea ended almost as soon as it started with two breakdown counters being drawn in quick succession.

Soviet Initial reserves on the right flank. 

Late Game: The game was still very close; the Soviets were racking up the BR but the Germans still need to either exit faster or eliminate more units. The Russians were quickly running out of infantry on their left flank, but they had turned the game into a slog, the Soviets were hunkered down in the trench and suffering casualties and the Germans were holding the advance to eliminate them. The Soviets got their second and final batch of reserves, another five T-34s. Two went to the right to resume the gun duel with a platoon of Pz IIIs behind the main line of trenches. The other three went right to bolster the remaining infantry in the trenches. The Germans had also started to realize that chasing down the Soviets, now small teams and not shooting, might not be as effective as getting loaded 251s off the table and they began exit in mass.

250s advance toward the Soviet lines after capturing objective ‘one’

As the final die dropped and the last chit was pulled the NKVD officer pulled his pistol and made sure no one ran. Ah, it wasn’t that dramatic, but it was fun to write, like schwerpunkt. The final tally was 53 BR lost, it was close, and I think I like this scenario. I can see it being used in all sorts of situations, Russian T- 34 attacks on the Germans, or Blitzkrieg style attacks on the Allies in both early and late war.

A few notes on the scenario, I thinkthe attacking forces need to be tailored to the situation and defending forces probablyneed to not be two tailored. I could see buying minefields and other defenses andcompletely stopping up an attacker. The attacker needs to stay focused on theend game and that is exiting loaded halftracks off the board; 251s, with bothunits in the track count as one chit.

Miniatures are mostly Battlefront with some Plastic Solider company mixed in. The ground cloth is Cigar Box with homemade terrain. 

Operation Winter Storm (German: Unternehmen Wintergewitter) was a German offensive in World War II in which the German 4th Panzer Armyunsuccessfully attempted to break the Soviet encirclement of the German 6th Army during the Battle of Stalingrad.


Background:

In late November 1942, the Red Armycompleted Operation Uranus, encircling some 300,000 Axis personnel in andaround the city of Stalingrad. German forces within the Stalingrad pocket anddirectly outside were reorganized under Army Group Don, under the command of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. Meanwhile, the Red Army continued to allocateas many resources as possible to the eventual launch of the planned OperationSaturn, which aimed to isolate Army Group A from the rest of the German Army.To remedy the situation, the Luftwaffe attempted to supply German forces inStalingrad through an air bridge. When the Luftwaffe proved incapable ofcarrying out its mission and it became obvious that a successful breakout couldoccur only if launched as early as possible, Manstein decided on a reliefeffort. Operation Winter Storm (GermanUnternehmen Wintergewitter) wasa German offensive in World War II inwhich the German 4th Panzer Army unsuccessfully attempted tobreak the Soviet encirclement of the German 6th Army during the Battle of Stalingrad.

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