Thursday, December 12, 2013
Project Kursk 27: First Company-Level Game
As I may have mentioned before, I think Battle Group Kursk is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling games I've ever played, and certainly my standout WWII game. Well, that feeling was reinforced still further today when I got together with Conan the Librarian and Laurentius the Year 12 Club Warlord for a holiday game. We were able to devote a good 5 or so hours to the game, on a 6X6 table. We played 1000 points, which was a large Company-Level Game. Conan and I took a Soviet Rifle Division force, Laurentius a Panzer Division battlegroup, and we played the defence line scenario.
I tried something different for this game, the largest I've yet played with the rules. My battlegroup was made up of the following:
2 Infantry platoons (one in foxholes)
1 Maxim MG in reinforced cover
1 AT Rifle in Reinforced cover
1 Dug-in KV1
1 Platoon of KV1Es
2 Platoons of T34s
2 Zis 3 batteries (one with loaders)
1 Off-table battery of 152mm howitzers
1 Battery of 82mm mortars
5 Pre-registered aiming points
This gave a force with a Battle Rating of 53 + D6 for the NKVD officer, with three officers. So essentially, I thought I'd try playing with the traditional Soviet strength in artillery, and see what happened. In response, Laurentius went for a vehicle-heavy Panzer force with a Battle Rating of 60, including two platoons in half-tracks, a Platoon each of Pz IIIs, IVs, Tigers and StuGs and no artillery support.
In our initial deployment, Conan and I deliberately sited our strongest defenses (the dug-in infantry and KV1) to encourage funnelling the attackers into some obvious lines of attack, then sited our pre-registered target points where we expected the Germans would mass for their attacks. It was important we got this right, as our force included no artillery observers, so we weren't going to be able to change our fire plan.
Generally we got our tactics pretty right. We started hammering the Germans with artillery from turn 1, which didn't destroy much apart from a couple of spectacular hits on halftracks full of infantry and a PzIII, but it did cause a steady attrition on the German battle rating, as Laurentius had to keep taking battle counters to unpin units.
Pinning a steady stream of German units, combined with Laurentius' propensity for excessive caution, meant that the German attack took a while to get started, and when it did it developed in two main thrusts down the flanks on very narrow fronts, as the Germans tried to avoid all the incoming hate. The biggest threat was on our left flank, but by the time the Germans were pushing through the woods there our tanks which were in reserve started arriving, and we were able to smash the attack at the cost of three T34s. The highlight was causing a Tiger crew to pail out of its tank after first pinning it with area fire, then hitting it with a couple of shells that couldn't possibly penetrate its armour. Indeed, the game confirmed a suspicion that has been steadily growing in me, which is this: Tigers are rubbish. Laurentius' big cats contributed little to his effort, despite being big and scary, and habitually failed their morale tests.
When we called the game at 4pm, Laurentius' Battle Rating was down to 16, but the Soviets still had 33, so a clear victory. All of us had a great day, and were really impressed by the way that scaling up the game means that different ways of playing it become possible, as one would expect in a real engagement. With 1000 points, it becomes possible to decide to emphasise artillery, or tanks, but still highlights the need to maintain a well-balanced force. In short, BGK continues to impress with its ability to produce a really fun and engaging game that rewards realistic force composition and tactics.