Blue Division
A Scenario Preview
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
October 2013

Blue Division, our supplement for Panzer Grenadier, has 20 scenarios. The bulk of the scenarios require Eastern Front and Road to Berlin; a handful draw on Red Warriors (for Soviet Guards pieces and Penal units), Arctic Front (for sledges to help the Spanish Ski Company pull its weapons in two scenarios) and Sinister Forces (one scenario features partisans).

The Blue Division was an infantry unit, and so there are no sweeping tank battles in this scenario set. Infantry rules to day, in the close-quarters fighting between foot soldiers that this game system models so well.

Here’s what we have:

Los Novios de La Muerte

28 October 1941

Ordered across the Volkhov River, the Blue Division soon established a small bridgehead on the eastern bank. Heavy Soviet counterattacks threatened to throw the Spaniards back across the cold but still-flowing stream, and division command ordered the foothold expanded. To achieve this, they sent a key reinforcement to Col. Jose Martinez Esparza; the division’s replacement battalion. Unlike German practice, Spanish divisions (and those of some other armies) formed their toughest fighters into a special assault battalion to spearhead important advances. Agustin Munoz Grandes had quietly created one for the Blue Division, and instead of raw recruits the 250th Replacement Battalion was made up of tough, older veterans of the Army of Morocco with long service both against the Arabs of North Africa and in the Spanish Civil War. Esparza planned to use them to seize the village of Dubrovka.


The Spanish Legion veterans outflanked the fortified village and attacked from three sides. Becoming tangled in a minefield, they simply rushed forward heedless of casualties to engage the startled Soviets in hand-to-hand combat. Following the practice of the Moroccan campaigns, they slung their rifles and relied on knives and grenades, slashing or stabbing to death anyone trying to surrender and slaughtering the Soviet wounded. A direct order from Esparza kept the battalion from rushing headlong into the Soviet lines unsupported; Blue Division veterans would later claim that the minefield they struck had been laid behind the Soviet positions to keep Red Army soldiers from deserting.

Design notes: A smaller force with much higher morale (9/8) takes on a larger force with fewer leaders. Should be a players’ favorite.

Muravevskiia Barracks

29 October 1941

Recruiting ardent Falangists for the Blue Division had a number of political advantages for the Franco regime: it gave these activists an outlet for their hatred of Communism, and sent them far away from Spain while they did it. While the high percentage of long-service professional officers made the division a crack force, some of them fought with a suicidal fanaticism that defied military logic. The worst of these was Comandate Fernando Oses Armesto, commander of the 250th Replacement Battalion. Ordered not to attack the heavily-fortified Muravevskiia Barracks, but granted permission to “improve his position,” he promptly launched his elite assault force directly at the modern concrete-and-steel fortress.


Repeated attacks killed or wounded almost all the officers in the elite battalion, and it never recovered its fighting ability from Oses’ incompetent misuse in these early days of the Spanish commitment. The Spanish never managed to take the barracks and within a week the roles had shifted, with the Soviets now trying to drive the Spaniards back over the Volkhov River line.

Design note: The second and final appearance of Spaniards with 9/8 morale (at least at battalion strength), thanks to the suicidal nature of this assault. It’s a tough one for Spain.

Falangist Honor

12 November 1941

Three days after relieving a battalion of the German 18th Motorized Division, the Blue Division’s 269th Infantry Regiment came under furious assault.The line south of Leningrad had to be held to maintain pressure on the Soviet Union’s cultural center. Heavy air and artillery support preceded the waves of infantry backed by tanks that poured across the Vishera River.


Backed by two newly-arrived batteries of 155mm French-made artillery (the awesome weapon known to the U.S. Army as the “Long Tom”), the Spanish gave ground slowly and claimed their morale actually rose as they took casualties. Col. Jose Martinez Esparza sent his regimental cyclist company to the key town of Posad . “I expect,” he radioed ahead to 1st Battalion commander Augustin Molinello Luque, “that the Falangist honor of your battalion will be demonstrated by the energetic defense of Posad.” Sending his message in clear text, he also claimed he would arrive personally with a full battalion of reserves (reserves he did not possess). The Red Army was not fooled, and continued its assaults until the following afternoon, when the offensive finally shifted to another sector.

Design note: I’ve always enjoyed naming scenarios after mythical creatures. The Spanish are on the defensive here, with higher morale and lesser numbers.

Ispanskii Kaput!

13 November 1941

Having held the Muravevskiia Barracks for over two weeks, the Soviets now used the fortified post as a jumping-off point for their own offensive against the Spaniards. The tough Africanistas of 250th Replacement Battalion, known throughout the division as “the buggers” from their service in Morocco, did not await the attackers in their emplacements like normal infantry. Led by their officers, they charged at them with knives and bayonets to engage them hand-to-hand.


The near-total replacement of the battalion’s officers and a levy of fresh recruits received since the October debacle had taken off some of the battalion’s fighting edge, but it remained a potent force led by fanatics: Sgt. Candido Cabezas Mendez, his body shattered by a grenade blast, dragged himself upright against a tree and screamed Spanish Legion war cries until he died.

Design note: I’ve always enjoyed writing bizarre special rules for unusual situations, and this scenario has one of my favorites in the series: if a Spanish unit does too well on a morale check, it has to leave its position and assault the nearest Soviet unit.

“Defend Posad as though it were Spain.”

5 December 1941

The town of Posad, the deepest point of the Blue Division’s bridgehead over the Volkhov River, came under repeated Soviet attack once the Axis advance ground to a halt. The corps commander had already reported that Blue Division’s commander, Agustin Munoz Grandes, “seems to me ready to sustain any number of casualties, so that his force will be pulled out.” But the Spanish general had his orders from Madrid to demonstrate Spanish resolve to the Germans: if they would accept any number of dead and wounded to hold a worthless town in the Russian taiga, what would be the cost should Germany invade Spain? At Posad, three depleted Spanish battalions (one from each of the division’s regiments) prepared to resist to the last man.


Munoz Grandes got the political victory his Caudillo had demanded: a lengthy butcher’s bill, and a direct order from the German 16th Army instructing him to abandon Posad. Operation Felix, the German plan to force their way across Spain to take Gibraltar from the British, would be indefinitely shelved. Spain now could negotiate her entry into the war, or refusal to do so, on her own terms.

Design note: Here the Spanish player not only can ignore his casualty levels, he can’t win unless he loses troops in assault combat (and takes lots of Russians with him).

Una Gesta Heroica

14 January, 1942

During their first winter on the Eastern Front, the Spanish expeditionary division set up a ski company as a mobile reserve and reconnaissance force. When the German 81st Infantry Division was shattered by the Soviet 11th Army’s offensive south of Lake Ilmen, no German unit could provide reinforcements. Sixteenth Army command ordered the Spanish division to send a relief force across the large frozen lake. Only the ski company could be spared. After a 22-hour trek through the ice, the Spanish found the Germans surrounded. Pausing to evacuate frostbite cases and warm the remaining men, the Spanish company went on the offensive against a Soviet division.


Though suffering badly in the cold, the Spaniards were at least better equipped for it than the Germans they relieved. They pushed through the Soviet lines to relieve the village of Shishimorovo, but there the attack halted thanks to stiffening Soviet resistance. The Germans trapped at Vsvad continued to beg for aid. Capt. Jose Manuel Ordas Rodrigues and his rapidly-dwindling company would continue trying.

Design note: A small but elite force, weighed down by the presence of less-than-elite Germans, fighting in bitter weather against overwhelming numbers. What could be better? If you liked the Winter War scenarios in Arctic Front, this one’s for you.

“We know how to die as Spaniards!”

19 January 1942

Having re-established contact with the German lost battalion, the Spanish skiers dug in to await the inevitable counter-attack. It would not be long in coming; the Soviet 11th Army had orders to clear the southern shore of Lake Ilmen, and no small outposts could be left behind the lines. Men and weapons froze, while the fighting became hand-to-hand.


Lacking anti-tank weapons, and with the Germans refusing to leave the warmth of their battered shelter, the Spanish skiers glided out of the town to attack the Soviet tanks with Molotov cocktails. Fierce fighting erupted all around the town, and the Spaniards repelled multiple attacks throughout the day. At nightfall the outpost still held, and on the next morning they broke out.

Design note: Another ski scenario; this time the skiers have to leave their positions and engage the Soviets out in the open. It’s not a large scenario but plays very well.

Beast of Prey

14 March 1942

The Soviet 2nd Shock Army’s offensive across the Volkhov River south of Leningrad had gone horribly wrong. Charging across the river, they made gains but could not widen the breach in the German lines. Among the Axis units detailed to close up the lines and trap the Soviets on the wrong side of the Volkhov was 58th Infantry Division, reinforced by parts of the Blue Division. As soon as the weather cleared enough to allow German air support, the Spaniards and Germans moved forward to begin “Operation Raubtier.”


The Spanish assault went forward with great spirit, and Miguel Roman Garrido’s battalion took its objectives and prepared to stand off Soviet counter-attacks. However, the German units on either flank failed miserably and left the Spaniards’ flanks hanging open, eventually forcing a withdrawal. But within four days the Volkhov Pocket would be sealed and Second Shock Army doomed.

Design note: The Spanish on the attack, an infantry fight in nasty terrain.

Holy Thursday

2 April 1942

Desperate to free the trapped divisions, Gen. Kirill Afanasievich Meretskov, commander of the Volkhov Front, ordered four rifle divisions from 52nd Army, with tank support, to attack the southern shoulder of the corridor leading to 2nd Shock Army. Meretskov had served on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil war and spoke Spanish, but does not seem to have been aware that the blow would fall on his hated Spanish Fascist enemies.


With the help of five German tanks and a tank-killing battery of heavy anti-aircraft guns, the Spaniards managed to halt the Soviet attack. Second Shock Army’s situation remained perilous and Meretskov would continue to seek salvation for his troops while the Spanish filtered off the battlefield in small groups for Easter Mass.

Design note: Desperate measures on the part of the Soviets; now it’s the turn of the Spanish to defend the swamps and woods.

Valley of Death

19 June 1942

As the Soviet troops trapped in the Volkhov Pocket began to fall from starvation, Meretskov ordered ever more desperate attacks to break them out. Gen. Mu_oz Grandes was ordered to detach his reconnaissance battalion, ski company and an anti-tank company. The battle group, led by Maj. Nemiso Merelo Cuesta Fernandez, would join a motley assortment of German units trying to keep the Soviets from escaping. While the sick and hungry men of 2nd Shock Army tried to fight their way out of what they called the “Valley of Death,” troops of 59th Army tried to spring them free.


Several hundred Soviet soldiers managed to make their way across the Spanish-held corridor, despite the Recon battalion’s self-proclaimed elite status. Inside the pocket, conditions had deteriorated far beyond the limits of human endurance. “We ate everything that could be eaten,” wrote rifleman A. Baziuk. “Any insects, worms and frogs were used as food. Birch sap was of great help, but in the middle of May it disappeared.”

Design note: One of the quirkier scenarios in the Panzer Grenadier series. The Spanish recon battalion has to use its speed to patrol a large board and keep the Soviets from crossing it and escaping. The Soviets entering on the west side have low morale and are reduced in strength, but there’s a cavalry division that enters from the east to help them.

Los Tigres

25 June 1942

The Spanish were not alone in trying to score political points on the battlefield. Several detached Spanish battalions joined the effort to eliminate the Soviet 2nd Shock Army trapped in the Volkhov Pocket. Two Spanish battalions were detailed to attack the Soviet-held town of Maloye Samoshie, to drive the wedge between the trapped Soviets and their comrades to the east even deeper. Very deliberately, Col. Gen. George Lindemann of 18th Army assigned them armored support: four new Tiger tanks, the only ones at the front. The Spanish had shown their suicidal bravery; now the Germans would prove their technical superiority.


Suitably impressed by the giant beasts, the Spanish successfully took the town and further reduced the Volkhov Pocket. Steadily denied shelter and food supplies, the Second Shock Army withered away. In seven days of operations, the two Spanish battalions logged over 5,000 prisoners and 46 artillery pieces taken. Lindemann extended special congratulations to the Spaniards for their part in the German victory.

Design note: Blue Division troops fighting alongside Tiger tanks — hard to pass this one up. The Soviets are outnumbered and outgunned, but trapped in the pocket they have nothing to lose.

Trench Raid

13 September 1942

Redeployed southeast of Leningrad in preparation to assault the great city, the Spanish division soon came to the attention of the defending Red Army. Like most of the fighting on the Eastrern Front, that around Leningrad resembled the savage trench warfare of the First World War. The supplemental rations sent from Spain to the Blue Division (cognac, chocolates, sardines, olive oil) made the expeditionary force a favorite target for Soviet raiders. The first night the Spaniards spent in the trenches, the Red Army came to snatch a share of their treats.


Fierce hand-to-hand fighting developed at several points in the Spanish trenches. The Soviets had achieved surprise but the raid faltered when the troops stopped to consume their booty on the spot instead of hauling it back to their own lines. The Spanish rallied and ejected the Soviets, finding 14 dead left in the Spanish emplacements.

Design note: The battlefields of the Second World War resembled those of the First more often than popular histories make out. This is a very typical action of both wars: the Soviets must break into the Spanish trench line, sow confusion, and get away. The Spanish, of course, must stop them.

La Segunda

22 January 1943

Assigned to the siege of Leningrad, the Blue Division ended up covering a front of 34 kilometers as more and more German units were pulled out of the line to meet crises elsewhere. Division Command managed to hold back only one battalion in reserve, the greatly depleted 2nd Battalion of the 269th Infantry Regiment, known as La Segunda. Learning of this unit’s removal from the front line, the German LIV Corps command promptly ordered it assigned to corps reserve. Sent to reinforce the German 162nd Grenadier Regiment of 61st Infantry Division, the Spaniards wandered about in the darkness before discovering that the German unit had disintegrated under Soviet attack. La Segunda was now the front line in this sector of the Sinenovo Heights, just south of Leningrad, with the second phase of the Soviet attack about to begin.


A furious day of hand-to-hand fighting cost the battalion about one-fifth of its men, and the Spanish regimental command moved it out of the line. Over the next week, detachments of company- or platoon-strength would be rushed to plug gaps in the Spanish line or spearhead counter-attacks. At the end of that week, a single truck arrived to take the remainder of the battalion back to the Blue Division: one officer and 26 men.

Design note: This is a deadly meeting engagement in the dark. The Spanish enter from the south, the Soviets from the north, into heavy woods. The Spanish need to establish a line and keep the Soviets from exiting the board; the Soviets are trying to exploit the breach they’ve torn in the German line.

Cara al Sol

10 February 1943

The “Black Day of the Blue Division” came on a Wednesday, when three Soviet divisions took aim at part of the division’s lines in front of Krasni Bor, southeast of Leningrad. On the Spanish left flank, a reinforced Soviet rifle division faced two reinforced Spanish battalions. After an enormous artillery bombardment, the Red Army came forward, led by “punishment companies” of released prisoners to help clear the Spanish minefields.


Steady personnel rotation had given the Blue Division a very different character than the professional force that entered the Soviet Union in the late summer of 1941. The new troops, little more than conscripts, proved willing enough to fight as long as their officers led them by example. When Soviets broke into his trench lines, the portly Capt. Alfredo Miranda Labrador of Replacement Battalion 250 grabbed a submachine gun and led his headquarters staff in a doomed counter-attack while bellowing the Falangist hymn, “Face to the Sun.” Miranda and his orderlies were mown down, and by nightfall only two platoons of the once-proud battalion still resisted.

Design note: This is a massive assault by huge numbers of Soviet units backed by tanks against a fortified Spanish line. The Soviets will breach that line; the scenario’s outcome hinges on how well the Spanish can seal the breach and restore their position.

Las Tropas me Abandonan!

10 February 1943

The far right flank of the Blue Division’s position adjoined that of the SS Police Division, one of the worst formations in the German armed forces but one much better equipped than the Spaniards to resist armored attack. Here the Soviets planned a massive attack to overwhelm the Spanish with the sheer weight of men and metal, and finally end the siege of Leningrad. The Spanish had slightly better defenses here than to the west, but still lacked all the heavy weapons they needed to stop Soviet armor.


Overwhelmed by masses of hard-fighting Red Army troops, the Spanish fought furiously for several hours but as their officers fell one-by-one, their will to resist likewise dropped. By mid-day Spanish soldiers were streaming off the battlefield and total collapse appeared imminent. A German regiment had been alerted just fifteen minutes before the assault began to reinforce the weakly-held Spanish sector, but it was still gathering for the march. The Blue Division’s commander, Brig. Gen. Emilio Esteban Infantes, picked up the telephone to urge corps command to hurry the Germans along, and uttered the phrase that would relegate the Spaniards to second-rate status with their German peers for the rest of the war: !Las tropas me abandonan! he cried. “The troops are abandoning me!”

Design note: We believe this is still the largest scenario we’ve published for Panzer Grenadier: 12 boards are in play, and the Soviet player deploys over a hundred infantry-type units (pretty much tossing all of them from Eastern Front, Road to Berlin and Red Warriors on the game table). Two Soviet divisions strike three Spanish battalions and a German regiment arriving later; no wonder the troops abandoned their general.

!No Somos Italianos!

19 March 1943

Despite a good fighting record for most of its stay at the front, the disaster at Krasni Bor had marked out the Spanish volunteers as a weak link in the minds of both Soviet and German generals. The Germans moved a division behind the 250th as a “corset stay,” while the Soviets planned a new assault. The Moscow-Leningrad Highway needed to be reopened before the spring rains turned the landscape into mud, and after a short “hurricane bombardment” the Red infantry surged forward.


Determined to prove (especially to any potential German invaders) that Spanish soldiers would fight and die for any position once ordered, the regiment’s officers exhorted their men to fanatical efforts. The Soviets came on in repeated waves, equally determined to punish the mercenaries. They overran part of the road and seemed on the verge of rolling back the Spanish line and taking the bridge over the Izhora River , but a prompt counterattack led by Capt. Merry Gordon (one of many descendants of Wild Geese serving in the Blue Division) restored the front. The Blue Division remained a potent fighting force despite its losses at Krasni Bor and the replacement of many of its hardened professionals with unemployed Spanish workers.

Design note: Another mass assault with Spanish counterattack; this one takes place on just a segment of the Cara al Sol layout and thus plays much more quickly.

El Dedo

17 June 1943

With the German offensive at Kursk a clear failure and Allied troops firmly ashore on the island of Sicily, morale among the Blue Division troops began to drop. New recruits became harder and harder to find, and Spain’s political leaders began planning to withdraw the unit from the front. Well-informed as always, the Red Army gave the Spanish more to think about with the first assault on their positions in months. Led by a company of penal troops, the Soviets attacked the hill known as “The Finger.”


The Spanish held their lines in a furious close-quarters brawl, but the Red Army had made its point: the war might still drag on for years, but the Spanish had backed the losing side. Within a week the Spanish government was sounding out the Western Allies about moving from non-belligerency back to true neutrality. The Blue Division had several months of existence left, but from this point on the only question remaining was the timing of its dissolution.

Design note: A Spanish fortified line with an exposed salient attracts a mass assault. The Spanish aren’t as good as they were a year ago, and the Soviets have gotten better.

Sin Novedad

4 October 1943

The Blue Division remained a favorite target of Soviet probes, thanks to the healthy extra rations its troops received from Spain . Heavy artillery fire usually heralded the attacks, designed to maximize stress on the Axis defenders and keep the Red Army’s troops sharp. While the division commander was receiving the Knight’s Cross a few miles away “for reasons no one at the front could fathom,” a small-scale raid was underway against one of his rifle companies.


The Soviets broke into the Spanish positions and made off with a fair amount of coffee, tobacco and chocolate. The Spanish drove them out in a close-quarters assault, and by lunchtime the front was quiet again. Within a few days, the first withdrawals of the Blue Division would begin and most of its troops would return to Spain.

Design note: We balance out the giant scenarios with a small, one-map fight with very few units on either side.

El Dia de la Raza

12 October 1943

The Blue Division’s last action came just a few hours before its commander, Gen. Emilio Esteban Infantes, officially turned over its sector to two German divisions. A few days later the troops would be on their way home to Spain, except for a handful that remained as the Blue Legion. Detecting the Spanish switch, the Soviets launched a final attack to bid adios to the mercenaries and seize an important rail line known as “The Finger” before the new units could consolidate their hold.


The pre-dawn attack failed to catch the Spanish by surprise, and they ended their commitment to the Eastern Front with another defensive success. Within five days the first trainloads of veterans had started on their way back towards the Peninsula; with the Allies successful on all fronts, wily dictator Francisco Franco was not going to be caught with his troops still serving under the swastika.

Design note: One last assault on the trenches, with the Spanish now eager to get away from Russia altogether.

A Mi la Legion!

31 January 1944

The Blue Division left the Eastern Front in late October, 1943, leaving behind a 1,500-man “Legion Espanola de Voluntarios” in its place. Made up of some hardened fascists and the final “march battalion” of replacements from Spain (mostly petty criminals swept out of Spanish prisons), the Legion entered the front lines along the Volkhov River on 15 December. A month later, a Soviet offensive saw it retreating toward Estonia. At the small town of Oredesh, a partisan brigade made a bid to keep the Spaniards in Russia a little longer.


The partisans, sensing victory now that the 900-day siege of Leningrad had been broken, ambushed the Spanish continually on their trek to the west. The Legion, composed of Spanish legion veterans experienced in the no-quarter atmosphere of Morocco plus criminals with no desire to fight at all, lost most of its heavy equipment during the retreat and was declared incapable of combat when it arrived in the “Panther” fortified line on the old Estonian border. A number of the new recruits had attempted to desert, but found no welcome among the bitterly resentful partisan bands.

Design note: This technically isn’t a “Blue Division” scenario, but I wanted to include one battle of the Blue Legion and it turns out there just aren’t that many of them. This was their most extensive fight, one against a partisan brigade. It also let us include the partisan pieces and rules from Sinister Forces.

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