Saturday, February 4, 2012

Kursk: Drive on Prokhorovka Playtest 2.2

 This will be an ongoing record of my second play test of my Kursk: Drive on Prokhorovka  scenario using the Field of Battle: WW2 (FOBWW2) rules from Piquet.  The units are companies, the commands are battalions and brigades, and 3 turns (AM, PM, and Night) make up a complete day of fighting.

In FOBWW2, each side activates based on the cards in its deck.  To start a turn, each player rolls an initiative die (Germans D12, Soviets D10).  The difference is the number of face down cards each player draws from their deck for the upcoming phase.  The winner of the die roll decides who goes first.  The active player then flips his first card and acts on it.

Cards in this scenario are Move, Move 1 Command, Airpower, Command and Control, Indirect Fire, Close Assault, Morale, Firepower, Lull (other side gets a card), and Superior Firepower (German only).  The decks are set according to the quality of the armies.  The Germans have a good deck.  The Soviets have a poor deck.  The German deck allows them to move a bit more often, gives them better rallying and recovery, and allows them to seize the initiative more often from the Soviets.

For example, Move cards allow every command to move.  Each command rolls its command die vs an opposed D6.  For every multiple of 3 the command stands wins by, their subordinate units get an extra movement segment (max 3).  A "1" result means no movement. 

The rules are really great.  There is so much built into the game.

A great example of this is the EVEN die roll effect.  Whenever you roll a natural EVEN die roll, something positive happens.  If you roll EVEN during movement, you can ignore some terrain penalties, make a hasty close assault, or even call up the engineers and lay or clear minefields/cross obstacles/entrench.  If you roll EVEN during direct fire, you suppress the enemy and force them to fall back.  If you roll EVEN during Close Assault, you can bring reinforcing units into the close combat.

This battle report is for Turns 5 and 6, the Night turn of July 11, 1943 and the AM turn of July 12, 1943.  If you want to get more information on this battle and the scenario, search this blog for other articles with the same tags.
After we ended the playtest of my Kursk: Drive for Prokhorovka game a week ago, I decided to finish the playtest by myself.  The guys left at the end of the July 11 PM turn.  The July 11 Night turn saw the arrival of 5 Soviet tank brigades, a Guards Rifle regiment, and some assault gun units.  The Germans had to make do with the units they had on the table. The Soviets held a tank brigade, a separate tank regiment, and two motorized rifle brigades in reserve.  The Guards Rifle regiment garrisoned Prokhorovka.

11 July Night

The July 11 Night turn ended after only one card was flipped by each side.  On the second phase, a tied initiative die roll led to an early turn finish.  It's so hard to accomplish anything during the night turns.  A player is fortunate to achieve much and you definitely count yourself lucky if you get a few good cards.  The Germans were hoping to dig in with their infantry during the night, but the exhausted infantry just laid down and slept.

12 July AM

The July 12 AM turn began with a Soviet artillery prep bombardment of the Germans south of the railroad embankment.  Six D12 artillery templates with no drift!  Front level artillery support, but the Soviet artillery dice were terrible and only a few German infantry companies were damaged.

This is the beginning of the Soviet counterattack by 5th Guards Tank Army that made this battle famous.

At the start of the turn, the Soviets won initiative and flipped a Move card.  Despite some dismal movement rolls, the Soviet counterattack got underway.  As typically happens with poor commands in FOBWW2, it was difficult for the different commands to  stay together and coordinate their attacks.  The Soviet brigades began to separate as they advanced.  And they advanced into a hail of fire.

The Soviets thought the Germans were tough before, but the heavy German AT firepower was even more devastating when the SS were on the defensive.  South of the railroad embankment, the Tiger company and assault guns hammered away at the advancing Soviet T-34 companies.

The German panzergrenadiers had pushed across the minefields the day before and seized the town of Iamki on the Soviet side of the tank defenses.  This German strongpoint was destined to become a serious pain in the ass for the attacking Soviets.  The veteran German infantry were  dug into the town and the Soviet armor companies had to expose their flanks to the German infantry as they attempted to close the range with the German tanks across the tank barriers.

Once the Soviet movement was done, the Germans flipped the Firepower card (reloads all Germans), the Superior Firepower card (reloads all dismounted panzer grenadiers), and 2 Airpower cards!  After the valley exploded in flame and dust and the Stukas finished their dive runs, the lead Soviet 25th Tank Brigade had lost 8 strength points, was shattered and teetering on a Morale failure.

(ABOVE)  The town of Iamki and its German infantry defenders are in the top center.  A thorn in the side of the Soviets.  The anti-tank ditch and minefields bisect the picture.

(ABOVE) A close-up of the damaged tank companies of the 25th Tank Brigade.

(ABOVE)  South of the railroad embankment mid-way through the AM turn.  The fighting was vicious, but the Soviet tanks were having trouble getting close enough to the German tank companies to damage them.

(ABOVE) North of the railroad embankment, the lead Soviet 170th Tank Brigade ran into the German defenders in the Psel River villages.  The 170th's motorized rifle battalion then deployed into the unoccupied Oktiabrskii State Farm (top left).  The other tank brigades of the 18th Tank Corps are attempting to catch up with them.

(ABOVE) Near Prokhorovka, German artillery caught the 25th Tank Brigade's motorized infantry out in the open.

(ABOVE)  The Soviets eventually pulled a Morale card.  The shattered 58th Motor Rifle Brigade and 57th Guards Tank Regiment failed and routed off the table.  The 25th Tank Brigade passed its Morale check and continued to fight.  Concerned about the lack of progress south of the railroad embankment, the Soviets brought on the 53rd Guards Tank Regiment and declared that the 32nd Tank Brigade would conduct a flank attack on the south side of the table.  The 32nd TB would appear on the next Move card.

Bloggers note: This is one of those classic problems that epitomizes why I play Piquet-family rules.  My intent was: 
  • to push the 31st Soviet Tank Brigade through the battered 25th TB and engage the unloaded Germans with fresh armor.  
  • At the same time, my 32nd TB (5 tank companies and 3 infantry companies) would explode into their flank from off board and swamp the Germans with close assaults.  
  • And then the 53rd GTR's 4 T-34 companies would move up and support the 31st Tank Brigade.  
The only thing I needed to do to make this cunning plan happen was to flip the Goddamned "Move" card (also known in my games as the GDM card) from the Soviet deck.

(ABOVE) Unfortunately, the next Soviet Move card never seemed to come.  Looking at the picture, the flanking Soviet tank brigade has to come in east (right) of the blue chip that marks the progress of the Das Reich Division south of the Germans.  Flanking with reinforcements can be a very effective tactic if the Soviets can get a quick second Move card to move them onto the flank and surprise the Germans.  This could really disrupt the German defenders while they were still dealing with the Soviet attackers to their front.  It would also catch the Germans between the flanking Soviet armor and the anti-tank ditch.

The Das Reich Division made unusually good progress moving its marker along the table edge ( it has a chance to advance one foot at the end of each turn.  Soviet reinforcements can't appear behind (west of) the marker).  The delay in pulling a Soviet Move card gave the German 1st SS Panzergrenadier Regiment a chance to flip their own Move card, pull back some infantry companies, and wait for the attackers.

Obviously German recon detected the flanking Soviet brigade as it moved into position.  Violet smoke was popped everywhere.  Achtung Panzer!  Anti-tank guns were wheeled to the right and camouflaged.

Once the Germans pulled back to defend the flank, the two sides tied on their initiative die rolls again.  A quick turn end midway through both decks and we're on to the July 12 PM turn!  The Germans are down to 12 morale points out of their starting 48.  Once they reach zero morale points, the 1st SS PG Division has to make Morale checks to avoid calling off the operation and losing the game.  This game will go down to the wire.

(ABOVE) Fighting around the Oktiabrskii State Farm at the end of the turn.

(ABOVE) View from behind the Soviet forces counterattacking north of the railroad embankment.

(ABOVE) View from behind the Soviet forces counterattacking south of the railroad embankment.  In the foreground is the 53rd Guards Tank Regiment.  They would be a real help to the counterattack in this sector if their command stand would stop rolling a "1" for movement!


  1. Great stuff and impressive looking games


  2. You don't just play this game. You live it! Thanks and if you're ever out this way, look me up. I'll run it for you.

  3. It will be interesting to see how it plays out; looks like a scenario with outstanding replay value, though!


  4. @Gonsalvo

    I agree. The choices available to the players are realistic, numerous, and all can have an impact on the scenario. This campaign really falls into the sweet spot that FOBWW2 creates. The rules are perfect for this type of division vs. division struggle.

    I tell the players: "If you get too wrapped up in shooting this unit at that unit, you will miss the real pace of this game." The true decisions are made when players move battalions and brigades in and out of the front lines to apply combat pressure or refit for later turns. The players need to focus on the fact that they operating at the division command level.

  5. "Thanks and if you're ever out this way, look me up. I'll run it for you."

    Unlikely as I believe I am several thousand miles and a great big pond away BUT if you ever hear a knock on your door in middle of the night it might just be a bedraggled and desperate wargamer taking up your kind offer. You have been warned :-)