I ran a spur of the moment Kampfgruppe Commander game at The Panzer Depot yesterday. Around Thursday, I stopped by to see if there was anything planned for Saturday and on hearing there wasn't, I determined to get a game going.
Because my figures are all Germans and Russians, I didn't have any trouble deciding where the scenario would be set. The big problem was my lack of enough models and figures to pull it off using only my own figures. (Mark "Joe Stalin" Serafin couldn't make the game, so his vast store of Soviets wasn't available—and it slipped my mind to ask Ken Kissling if he had any Russians.) As I've posted before, I have a lot of irons in the fire. Figures I started painting years ago are tucked away unfinished. I knew I had some partly-completed Russian tanks stashed somewhere, so I got to work—rare for a sluggard like me—and finished 11 tanks for the game.
I set the scenario in late 1943, after Kursk about the time the SU-85 appeared in service.
The Germans comprised two SS panzergrenadier battalions, a understrength tank battalion of Pz IVs, and a late-arriving "fire brigade" of a heavy panzer company of Tiger Is with an attached GW 38t "Bison." The German forces would start with a single battalion on the table ensconced in one of two towns (their choice). The remaining German forces would come on piecemeal with the Tiger company arriving last. Chris Craft, Ken Kissling, and Steve Puffenberger played Germans.
|The lone German position at the start: bristling with nastiness|
Victory conditions were points based. Each side got five points for every town block they controlled plus a variable number of points for destroying enemy stands. These points were biased towards German losses being more dear than Russian losses.
I figured that the SU-85s were more than a match for the Pz IVs and that by turn six, when the Tigers came on, the Germans might be on the ropes. As it turned out, the Soviet battle plan didn't match our strength against their weakness.
I came up on the right flank with a mechanized infantry battalion (plus the M3s) and the T-70 battalion. My goals was to occupy the two-block town that was about 2/3 of the way down the table and deny it to the Germans when they came on. Bob went up the center with the T-34s to support my attack on the left, and John was on our far left flank with the other mechanized infantry battalion and the SU-85s to attack the town where Chris had dug in his panzergrenadiers.
|Bob's T-34s take position on a ridge with my Guards infantry behind|
John's attack started to fall apart quickly. Chris plastered him with 120mm mortar fire and opened up on the SU-85s with his PAK 40 causing losses.
|John's Guards dug in during their attack on the town|
|Panzers vor! That's a lot of metal to face sober. It's good that we have vodka!|
|Fear me: Wee T-70s prepare to occupy the woods and face off Pz IVs|
|Russian advance into the town stymied|
|Fear me part deux: T-70s inflicting hits on Chris' precious panzers|
|The town is ours! For now.|
I then attempted my own counterattack with a fresh company backed by engineers with flame throwers, but it got shot to bits by the defending Germans.
By this time, John had come to the conclusion that using the SU-85s to attack the town held by Chris' panzergrenadiers was a wasted effort. He had recovered his earlier losses from the PAK 40 and figured that he should be going after the Pz IVs instead. He shifted the regiment to the center of the board and started exchanging shots.
|Tank destroyers in the center|
|дерьмо! The fascist invaders of the Motherland bring on the big guns!|
By this time, things were looking hopeless for Stalin's minions. Chris' control of the town he started in had never been seriously threatened. John had suffered some losses in his mechanized infantry battalion and it looked very doubtful that he would be able to take the town.
|Still defiant! Chris' panzergrenadiers hold the town|
On the other had, the Soviets had lost only two tanks so far (my M3s—now burning coffins for 14 brothers in the town). We still might have hurt the panzer forces and gotten the better points total in an exchange of losses. But, I don't think we could have taken any town blocks from the Germans. Our infantry strength was shattered. By this time the Germans had about 60% more points than we did: another victory for Deutschland in its losing war on the steppe.
I like the scenario and the other players did too. It needs to be tweaked for balance, however. The choice of units was largely determined by the figures and models I had painted. I would rather have used Pz IIIs for the german tank battalion, which is correct for 1943, but I don't have any painted. Otherwise, I could have used another T-34 battalion, but I only have the one painted. As it was, the T-34s were badly outgunned by an equal number of Pz IVs. But the T-70s were perfect!
I used the alternate Command Decision TO&E for the Russians of a battalion with three two-stand companies instead of the KGC formation of a regiment comprising three four-stand battalions. The battalion formation makes the Russian units too brittle and too weak in firepower. I've used the battalion formation in other games, but I think I'll abandon it. As with the tank units, it's a matter of how many figures I have painted. I only have enough for one regimental formation (12 stands), so I couldn't field more than one formation. I do have enough figures already started (and nearly done) to fill out a Soviet infantry division of three regimental formations.
I think the panzergrenadiers were too strong as well. I might have used two-stand companies instead to make them less resilient and reduce their firepower. If I had PAK 38s painted, I would have used them instead of the PAK 40s, which were still limited in number in 1943.
Another factor was the terrain placement. I intended to enable the Russians to fully occupy by turn 1 or two whichever of the two central towns the Germans didn't occupy at start. Instead, it took too long for the Russians to get there, by which time the Germans had already occupied part of it. Still, the back and forth attacks and counterattacks proved to be the liveliest fight of the game.
I need to get back to the painting table and replay this scenario again.