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'Road to Berlin' Scenario Preview
Part One
By Mike Bennighof
July 2006

Panzer Grenadier: Road to Berlin features 75 scenarios, the most we’ve ever put in a new product (Eastern Front Deluxe Edition has 112 scenarios, but 48 of those are revised versions of those in the first edition). All are set in 1945.

Here’s a look at the background of the first 25 of them. (You can see the second 25 here.)

Scenario One: Red Danube
1 January 1945

With Budapest surrounded, the Axis prepared a counter-offensive to relieve the Hungarian capital. As the first element in the planned attack, a German infantry division and a Hungarian airborne division would each force bridgeheads across the Danube River. These diversions, the German command hoped, would draw off Soviet reserves before the real attack opened along the river’s south bank.

Conclusion

The Szt. Laszlo Division had only one battalion of actual paratroopers, but was considered an elite formation and fought well during the few months of its existence. The river crossing had its desired effect on the overall scheme, but the division command considered the crossing a failure as they could not take any of their objectives and had to pull back across the river with heavy casualties.

Scenario Two: Heading Downstream
1 January 1945

With Soviet armies marching on Berlin and the outcome of a massive counter-offensive against the Americans still in the balance, Adolf Hitler, self-proclaimed “Greatest General of All Times,” decided to send several full-strength panzer divisions to . . . Hungary. The IV SS Panzer Corps had the mission of relieving the siege of Budapest with an attack along the southern bank of the mighty Danube River. The attackers hoped to break through and strike the besiegers from the rear, but the Soviets had greatly improved their operational art over the preceding 42 months.

Conclusion

As would happen often in the war’s last year, the sheer insanity of the German moves caught the Soviets by surprise and badly deployed for defense. The SS men drove between the two formations, isolating the tank brigade against the river bank and pushing the rifle regiment south. Years of war had provided the schooling the SS had sorely lacked early in the conflict, and they had become formidable opponents.

Scenario Three: Viking Attack
1 January 1945

On the right flank of the Death’s Head division, the “Germanic” volunteers of the SS “Viking” Panzer Division struck at the town of Agostyan. As with the other attacks, Hungarian military intelligence had done excellent work identifying Soviet formations, and once again the attack went in at the junction between two enemy sectors.

Conclusion

Thanks to greater force concentration and more defensible terrain, 34th Guards Rifle held its lines. But Viking’s attack shredded the Guards regiment on the 34th’s northern flank, and the SS men plunged forward toward Budapest. It was an auspicious beginning to an ultimately fruitless offensive.

Scenario Four: Cavalry Reborn
2 January 1945

Unable to match the Allies’ growing output of tanks and other vehicles, or to fuel those they had, the German Army had rebuilt its cavalry arm during the course of 1944. When the first attempt to relieve the siege of Budapest bogged down along the Danube, I Cavalry Corps also saw action at Pustavár just south of the main attack axis. Both Soviet and German sources claim to have counterattacked an enemy assult; apparently a skirmish between patrols got out of hand.

Conclusion

A confused fight developed, and both sides claimed to have repelled enemy attacks and held their lines. Each suffered serious losses, but otherwise the front did not change. Five days later the German I Cavalry Corps launched an intentional offensive over the same ground that unforgivably caught the Soviets by surprise.

Scenario Five: Tank Battle at Bajna
3 January 1945

The Soviet 2nd Ukrainian Front reacted to the German Operation Konrad by bringing up reserves to meet the panzer columns head-on. Eighteenth Tank Corps chose to await the enemy in the rough ground of the Pilis Hills. One of the corps’ three tank brigades had been crushed on the offensive’s opening day, but the others stood at full strength.

Conclusion

The Soviet tankers stopped the German advance cold, in a savage tank battle fought at close quarters. But the SS had made more progress than the Soviets or their own immediate superiors thought possible (though much less than their supreme warlord desired), and a fresh attempt to relieve Budapest would be mounted as soon as possible.

Scenario Six: Viking Halted
3 January 1945

The initial attacks by IV SS Panzer Corps showed great promise for the relief of Budapest, as the Nazi tanks rolled through the Soviet front lines. But the Red Army had fresh troops in supporting positions, and soon the Germans ran into both these and reserves moving promptly to counter-attack. The collision took place near the town of Tarjan.

Conclusion

The SS attack broke the 93rd Rifle’s lines, but the cavalry restored the positions and halted the Nazi advance. The Viking Division’s attack had gone about as well as anyone could reasonably expect; unfortunately for the Germans, they needed unreasonable achievements to stop the Soviet offensive. Three years earlier a weak Soviet line unit could not have stood up to an elite, rested and full-strength panzer division.

Scenario Seven: Viking Renewed
4 January 1945

Stopped by the 93rd Rifle Division, 5th SS “Viking” Panzer Division regrouped overnight and renewed its offensive the next morning. While the SS unit was starting to wear down and had lost a number of tanks and other vehicles, a fresh Red Army division was trying to form a line in front of it.

Conclusion

Fourth Guards Army command had good reason to think the veteran divisions of 5th Cavalry Corps could stop the depleted panzer division and hold the line. Perhaps surprising everyone, the SS unit blew past the horsemen and continued to advance southward, as the cavalry reeled off to the southwest. The improbable German advance continued, and many more miles of strategically useless Hungarian hills came under German control.

Scenario Eight: Gran River
6 January 1945

In response to the German offensive launched along the south bank of the Danube River, the Red Army unleashed one of its own on the north bank to threaten the German rear. The 6th Guards Tank Army assaulted the German and Hungarian forces dug in along the Gran River, a tributary of the Danube and a fine defensive position. The Szent László Parachute Division, one of only two Royal Hungarian Army divisions still fighting as a distinctive force, was an infantry division with a grand title - its only battalion of paratroopers was trapped inside the besieged capital of Budapest.

Conclusion

The Hungarians had excellent defensive terrain manned by their best regular infantry and had been well-prepared for an assault. Despite these advantages, the Soviets pushed two of their best brigades across and shattered the Hungarian lines. Soon they would be racing along the north bank with little to keep them from separating the Germans on the south bank from their supply sources.

Scenario Nine: Cavalry Again
7 January 1945

When the German cavalry went back on the attack five days after their skirmish with the Soviets, it was part of the second phase of Operation Konrad. The target area shifted north of Pustavar, and this time the Germans would be supported by tanks from 3rd Panzer Division plus some Royal Tigers in an attempt to mimic the successful Soviet cavalry-mechanized doctrine.

Conclusion

Despite the warning the German horsemen gave the Soviets less than a week earlier, the new attack caught the Red Army unawares. The cavalry and supporting tanks pushed 52nd Rifle back just far enough to the northeast so that the Soviet division’s administrative elements got tangled with reinforcements rushing to plug the gaps torn by the SS armored offensive along the Danube.

Scenario Ten: Panzer Feint
7 January 1945

To aid the renewed German attack along the Danube toward Budapest, the German command directed its I Cavalry and III Panzer Corps to make a demonstration toward the city of Székesfehérvár. The idea was to relieve pressure on the SS armored divisions making the main thrust, but when the depleted army panzer divisions broke through the 5th Guards Airborne Division the high command ordered them to press on. Closely behind the paratroopers’ lines, the panzers ran into 7th Tank Corps.

Conclusion

More unexpected success greeted the Germans, who rolled over the Soviet tankers to continue their drive to the northeast. The Soviets had plenty of warning and had their reserves where they wanted them, but despite their weak armor strength (three panzer divisions totalled 120 tanks between them) the Germans had started the year by rolling back their enemies.

Scenario Eleven: Gates of Komorn
8 January 1945

The successful Soviet forcing of the Gran line brought the German supply center of Komorn under direct threat. The only bridges over the Danube for 100 kilometers were sited here. The city possessed formidable 19th-century defensive works — it had been the site of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s gold reserve. But these would avail it little against modern weapons; even less so as there were no troops to man them. At the last moment, Adolf Hitler released a fully-equipped and rested panzer division from the general reserve to meet the threat. A tank battle developed just east of the city.

Conclusion

Fifth Guards Tank Corps was one of the Red Army’s best combat formations, and had captured and put to use a handful of German tanks, but 20th Panzer Division had been out of the line since August and had been restored to full fighting capacity. After savage fighting the Guards had to fall back and Komorn was secured for the Axis.

Scenario Twelve: Tigers at Zamoly
11 January 1945

Seeing their attempt to relieve Budapest falter, the Germans converted Operation Konrad into a two-pronged pincer attack to cut off the Soviet 68th Rifle Corps. The southern arm jumped off several days after the northern wing, which was aimed primarily at reaching the besieged Hungarian capital. But just as the first attempt had failed, so did things began to come apart on the other wing when the Soviets fought fiercely to hold Zamoly.

Conclusion

After a tough fight in which the Germans claimed to have knocked out 21 tanks and destroyed 28 anti-tank guns, Zamoly fell to the panzer grenadiers. But they were now badly behind schedule and the Soviets had rushed in sufficient reserves to prevent the two pincers from linking up.

Scenario Thirteen: Red Rampage
12 January 1945

The Soviet offensive across the Vistula flung thousands of tanks, backed by powerful artillery barrages, against the German defenders. Near Kielce in southern Poland, XXIV Panzer Corps had two relatively strong divisions placed to counter-attack any Soviet advances. But the tank units could not be moved without an express order from Adolf Hitler, an order that was slow in coming. By the time the Greatest General of All Times gave his permission, Soviet tanks were on top of the panzer troops’ bivouac areas.

Conclusion

Seventeenth Panzer Division had been built up to near full strength in anticipation of the coming Soviet offensive, but Hitler’s micro-management destroyed this valuable asset within a few hours. By the time the division began to move, it was in retreat rather than counter-attacking, and during the night straggling would become even worse with the division’s headquarters effectively destroyed and its commander wounded and captured.

Scenario Fourteen: Teutonic Soil
13 January 1945

The Soviet invasion of Germany opened with a terrific artillery bombardment, most of which fell on abandoned positions.The Germans filed out of the front lines just before the shelling began and occupied new lines a few kilometers back which remained untouched. Some of the deadliest combat took place around Gumbinnen, where the Imperial German and Russian armies had bled heavily in 1914.

Conclusion

The initial German trick spared them heavy casualties from the pre-attack shelling. But when the Soviets came forward, they still had a great advantage in numbers and in armored support, with several heavy tank and assault gun regiments assigned to each rifle division in the first wave. They shattered the 549th, and began rolling toward the fabled fortress-city of Königsberg.

Scenario Fifteen: Panzers in Prussia
14 January 1945

The Soviet breakthrough alarmed the Germans more than it probably should have, as they’d had plentiful warning and had prepared themselves as best they could. But they apparently expected to stop the attack cold and prevent any breaches, and when this did not happen Army Group Center ordered its only mobile reserve to seal off the breach and drive the Red Army back out of East Prussia. The panzers collided with the advancing Soviets southwest of Kattenau.

Conclusion

Both sides agree that a destructive tank battle took place outside Kattenau; the Germans claim to have taken the town while the Soviets disagree. Whatever the result, the German approach in two isolated groups did not help their cause. Ultimately it meant nothing either way, as the Germans were soon pulling back and would be cut off in several pockets along the Baltic Sea coast.

Scenario Sixteen: South of Warsaw
15-16 January 1945

Bursting out of the Magnuszew Bridgehead over the Vistula River south of Warsaw, the 1st Guards Tank Army drove toward the Polish cities of Lodz and Poznan. The German 4th Panzer Army, having lost the Vistula line, hoped to halt the Soviet advance along the Pilica River. But they would have to reach the river and form a line before XI Guards Tank Corps got there in strength.

Conclusion

The Germans launched repeated counter-attacks, hitting the Soviets at least five times during the course of the night. But heedless of losses, the Guards plunged into the icy Pilica and fought their way across. Barely holding onto the west bank as daylight came, fresh troops from the corps’ second tank brigade provided both a material and spiritual lift. With renewed energy, the Soviets forced the Germans into full retreat.

Scenario Seventeen: Evil Magyars
18 January 1945

Having failed to break into Budapest from the northwest, the Germans shifted their armored divisions to the southwest axis for a new attempt. By now the panzer units had suffered enormous losses in men and equipment, so that despite commiting several more divisions to this new operation the Germans moved forward with far less striking power than at the start of the month. To make up for these losses, the German Panzergruppe Breith added a newly-raised regiment of Hungarian SS volunteers to the assault.

Conclusion

The Army division’s command expected little of the SS regiment, raised a month earlier and having little training. But most of its men were veterans of the Royal Hungarian Army and fought surprisingly well. The Germans penetrated the Soviet lines and advanced on their objective, the city of Székesfehérvár, inflicting serious losses on the Soviet tank brigade and pushing the 252nd Rifle back to the city’s outskirts.

Scenario Eighteen: Tiger Trap
18 January 1945

Detecting the movement of German armored columns - one from the northern approach to Budapest and one from the southwest - the Red Army placed its own reserves in their path. Between the big lakes Balaton and Velencze, they prepared one of the fortified zones the Germans called “pakfronts,” studded with anti-tank guns and backed by plenty of artillery. Though the Hungarians issued warnings, the Germans ignored them and plunged forward anyway.

Conclusion

The German tanks, both SS and Army, became bogged down in the Soviet minefields. Trapped in the killing zone, they suffered heavy losses as entrenched anti-tank guns shot them to pieces and artillery and rocket fire rained down on them from the 9th Guards Breakthrough Artillery Division arrayed behind the Soviet lines. The 509th lost 11 tanks, claiming 20 Soviet ones destroyed (twice the 1st Fortified Region’s inventory). Slowly, the Germans ground through the Soviet defense and took both hills. The offensive would continue at all costs.

Scenario Nineteen: Székesfehérvár Airport
20 January 1945

Székesfehérvár, known to the Germans as Stuhlweisenburg, was the largest city between the German lines and Budapest. Capture of its airport was considered a top priority to both deny the facilities to the Red Air Force and make them available for Luftwaffe air support. Just where the Luftwaffe would find the planes to fly from Székesfehérvár, no one could say for certain, but the airport remained a major objective of the Konrad III offensive.

Conclusion

With the aid of the Tigers, moving very slowly through the snow, the Germans captured the airfield. The Soviets fought bitterly for every foot of ground, and the German offensive was already losing steam. With the garrison of Budapest near collapse, the German high command pushed their panzer divisions forward heedless of losses.

Scenario Twenty: Drive on Baraska
22 January 1945

The 509th Heavy Tank Battalion had a rough start to the “Konrad III” offensive, losing its commander to wounds on the opening day and suffering numerous mechanical losses. Though one of the company commanders had taken charge, the 3rd SS “Totenkopf” Panzer Division sent one of its own officers to relieve him. The new commander then ordered the Tigers forward, informing the Army officers that their requests for reconnaissance and infantry support were signs of cowardice that would be dealt with severely.

Conclusion

The attack was an utter disaster for the Germans, whether one accepts the German version of events (several tanks lost to swampy ground) or the Soviet ones (the lost tanks were knocked out by a combination of anti-tank fire and close assaults). Over half of the Tigers sent into the battle had “broken down” along the way as tank commanders feigned mechanical problems rather than execute their idiotic orders. The battalion commander, Major Burmester, checked himself out of his hospital bed and ordered SS Hauptsturmführer Leibel away from his tanks, raging to the corps command staff that his tank crews had been murdered by SS incompetence.

Scenario Twenty-One: Quiet Sector
23 January 1945

To help meet the German attack around Székesfehérvár, the Soviet 4th Ukrainian Front pulled back its troops at several points along the line. The Germans and Hungarians followed up slowly. When Soviet scouts identified elements of a panzer division advancing on Bicske, a key junction on the road to Budapest, the front command decided not to take any chances. Strong armored forces were ordered to restore the positions abandoned the night before.

Conclusion

The 6th Panzer Division had been ordered to detach all of its remaining tanks to the divisions making the main attack to the south, and the attachment of three battalions from a shattered Hungarian division did not compensate for the lost fighting power. A handful of tanks conveniently listed as “under repair” remained with the division, and the motley force gave a surprisingly good account of itself and actually held onto some of its gains.

Scenario Twenty-Two: Guards and Tigers
24 January 1945

Having repelled the attacking Tigers, the Soviet 5th Guards Cavalry Corps called on nearby formations to aid in their counterattack. The 1st “Lenin” Guards Mechanized Corps, one of the Red Army’s elite formations, filtered through the cavalry’s lines to strike the SS spearheads. The spoiling attack was designed to disrupt the Germans and prevent further offensive action.

Conclusion

The Guards came on three times, but the Germans gave little ground and the Tiger battalion claimed to have destroyed many enemy tanks. However, 1st Guards Mechanized Brigade remained combat-ready afterwards and the Guards had achieved their mission: after one final attempt the Germans went over to the defensive and remained in that posture for over a week, ending the threat to the Budapest siege lines from the south.

Scenario Twenty-Three: Night of the Tiger
25 January 1945

Disordered by the Guards’ attack, the 3rd SS “Death’s Head” Panzer Division’s command staff ordered all available tanks to make one final attempt to re-start the offensive. New Soviet formations had already taken up positions along the German axis of advance.

Conclusion

Still seething over the disaster from several days before, the Tiger crews once again found their tanks reluctant to start up and follow the SS panzers. The attack failed miserably in the darkness, with the Soviets holding their lines and inflicting tank losses on the Germans they could not afford. By the 29th, 3rd SS Panzer would be down to nine running tanks.

Scenario Twenty-Four: Second Kunersdorf
27 January 1945

Surging along the highway from Schwiebus toward Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, Gen. M.I. Katukov’s 1st Guard Tank Army’s spearhead, the tough 1st Guards Tank Brigade, led the Soviet drive toward Berlin. On the Kunersdorf battlefield, site of Frederick the Great’s 1759 defeat at Russian hands, the Kurmark Panzer Grenadier Division met them head-on in an attempt to blunt the Red Army’s advance.

Conclusion

Though the Kurmark division had been thrown together only days before, it included many veteran formations and troops from the crack Grossdeutschland Panzer Grenadier Division. The attack stopped the Guards, though at a serious cost. Although the Soviets held the battlefield, they had to halt their advance for lack of fuel and disorganization in the wake of the tank battle. They would be attacked again before they could leave the historic Prussian site.

Scenario Twenty-Five: Fritz’s Heirs
1 February 1945

As Gen. M.E. Katukov’s 1st Guards Tank Army marched on Berlin, they captured the old battlefield at Kunersdorf, where in 1759 Frederick the Great’s Prussians had fought a bloody battle with a combined Russian-Austrian army. Given their leader’s obsession with the “Miracle of Brandenburg” that saved Frederick from the Russians, the German commanders on the spot knew they had to try to take back the historic ground. V SS Mountain Corps ordered an Army division to counterattack the advancing Soviets.

Conclusion

The fury of the German attack caught the Soviets by surprise, and for some hours 1st Guards Tank Brigade — Katukov’s old unit, widely considered the toughest in the Red Army — was surrounded and in grave danger of being overrun. But with the aid of massed rocket batteries they eventually fought back the Germans, many of them teenaged conscripts (regular army troops, misidentified by the Soviets). “The fields around Kunersdorf were littered with the scorched corpses of the Hitlerites,” Katukov wrote. “Our tank crews, when they had run out of ammunition, opened their hatches and beat off the attacks of the SS with grenades.”

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