South Flank Preview:
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
I think I’ve figured out what I like best about Panzer Grenadier: Kursk, South Flank: I didn’t design it. I still had plenty of work to do (that sort of comes with the territory) but Mike Perryman did an outstanding job. The great creative contributions this series has received from people like Mike and many others make it enjoyable to keep putting out new games and supplements. I’ve come to realize that this game series represents my life’s work, whether I want it to or not, so I’d better make damned sure it’s something of which I can be proud. And with their contributions, it certainly is.
For South Flank, Mike Perryman crafted any exceptionally fine Panzer Grenadier game. Here’s why, as the scenario preview continues with its second installment:
Strongpoint Yakovlevo II
7 July 1943
First SS Lifeguard Division had pushed through Yakovlevo yesterday and left light forces for its defense. The records are not very clear on the details, but a large number of Soviets infiltrated back into the village sometime during the night. This presented major problems with communications between II SS Panzer Corps and 4th Panzer Army headquarters. To alleviate this problem, an attack was ordered in at first light.
By 0850, 1st SS Lifeguard Division declared Yakovlevo secured. This brought the weary panzer grenadiers no rest, as they spent the rest of the day marching toward Prokhorovka. On the Soviet side, the defenders fell back in some disarray while Sixth Guards Army’s command debated whether the time had come to commit their last armored reserves to hold the lines.
A pretty straight-ahead scenario and one of the smaller ones in the set: the Soviets must hold Yakovlevo with an outnumbered infantry force, no artillery and only some light tanks in support. The Germans have to take it, and they’re going to have to do it with infantry. Neither side cares much about the losses they’ll sustain in doing so.
7 July 1943
Second SS Panzer Corps’ progress over the last two days had been stunning. They had penetrated 15 miles through two heavily fortified defensive belts, but some problems still persisted. Chief among them were the Soviet diehards holding out in Bol’shoe Maiachki and Pokrovka. Even the open German flank took a back seat to them, as they were hampering communications and supplies to the fighting men on the front line. Second SS Panzergrenadier Regiment was sent to eradicate that problem first thing in the morning, at all costs
By 0900 hours, Pokrovka was under the German boot but Bol'shoe Maiachki still held out. In an effort to restore the situation, Lieutenant Colonel A.F. Burda flung his 49th Tank Brigade at Pokrovka directly from the march. In short order Pokrovka was back in Soviet hands, but the Germans refused to leave so the battle continued. It was not until the light was fading from the western sky that the Germans prevailed in the savage fighting. At Bol’shoe Maiachki, the best the Germans could do was to pocket the Soviets in the northwest side of town. There they continued causing untold grief for Mother Russia’s violators.
We’re back to a massive scenario, as a large SS force tries to wrest two towns from the Soviets while inflicting sizable casualties on the defenders. The Red Army is initially outnumbered, but two waves of tank reinforcements will help the defenders immensely. This is one of the game’s “real man’s wargames” scenarios.
Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?
7 July 1943
As the rest of the SS Lifeguard Division fought to secure the three fortified cities to the south, its Tiger company assisted SS Reich Division at the tip of the spearhead. If they could clear the Prokhorovka-Tomarovka road in conjunction with clearing Gresnoe, it would go a long way toward securing II SS Panzer Corps’ open left flank. Hopefully, it would also pressure Soviet 3rd Mechanized Corps, which was currently holding up XXXXVIII Panzer Corps and actually causing some of their units to fall back.
After the Germans secured the towns along the Prokhorovka-Tomarovka road, forces had to be diverted from the drive on Komsomolets State Farm to deal with problems developing in areas already thought pacified. This blunted the spearhead, and when the Soviet 31st Tank Corps arrived the German advance faltered. At that point it appeared as if the advance would stall completely until a way could be found to free up some infantry. Many were left to ponder whether things might have gone better had so many men not been sacrificed at Stalingrad.
The last scenario is pretty big, but this one is a true massive tank battle: 27 German tank units (including five Tigers) square off with 22 Soviet ones. Oh yeah, there are also gobs of infantry running around plus lots of support weapons. The Germans have stiff victory conditions to meet, clearing a huge chunk of the board of Soviet troops, and this time the German player does care about casualties, but not enough to sing 60’s protest ditties.
July 7, 1943
Morning saw the Death’s Head Division again trying to drive the Soviet defenders over the Lipouyi-Donets River. With the Red Army’s 375th Rifle Division having proved too tough a nut to crack, the brunt of today’s attack fell on the 2nd Guards Tank Corps farther to the north.
In sixteen hours of methodical combat, the Soviets were pushed over the Lipouyi-Donets River. With the conclusion of this action, II SS Panzer Corps would finally find some relief from the constant attacks on its flanks.
This one’s not nearly as large as the last couple of scenarios, but it’s a pretty intense fight as the Soviets are on the defense and start out with strong tank support. They don’t have enough infantry to really cover the front, but the Germans have such far-reaching goals that they really don’t have to.
Stopping the Onslaught
7 July 1943
With its panzer grenadier regiments busy elsewhere, SS Lifeguard Division’s panzer regiment was forced to gather what infantry it could scrounge up in its effort to clear Malye Maiachki. The defeated Guardsmen had left the defenses there to the fresh 31st Tank Corps, which ordered Lt. Col V.P. Sokolov to deploy his 242nd Tank Brigade directly in front of the rampaging panzers.
While 242nd Tank Brigade proved unable to stop the Germans, they did a magnificent job of slowing them down. Becoming frustrated in their inability to drive the defenders from the village, the Germans simply went around it. It didn’t help as the defenders refused to be leveraged from the village, so the Germans called it a day. This performance by the Red Army was all the more impressive because 31st Tank Corps was just forming and contained no supporting arms for the tank brigades. This normally would put them at a terrific disadvantage, and shortly after Operation Citadel they would be pulled out of line to have support units attached.
A knife fight in a closet: eight German tank units, 10 Soviet ones, plus infantry, plus artillery, support weapons and transport, all thrashing it out on just one board. It’s a pretty intense brawl, one of those scenarios that’s hard to design but immense fun to play.
The Naked Warrior
8 July 1943
Stavka had decided that II SS Panzer Corps had come far enough, and worked out a complicated dawn attack to stop the German advance. Only one of the four tank corps involved on paper would actually be ready at dawn, but it made little difference as the Germans struck well before then.
The high ground around Belenikhino controlled the only decent road for miles, and therefore the supply capabilities of the combatants. SS Reich Division managed to push its way into the town before Company 10 encountered a well-fortified Soviet position and the men went to ground. At that point (according to the German version of events), Untersturmfurher Kruger rose and led Company 10 into the enemy positions, where the Germans emerged victorious in hand-to-hand fighting. The company then was forced to ground again and the company commander wounded. The unflappable Kruger then assumed command and attacked a T-34 tank blocking the company’s advance. In the fight he was hit by a rifle bullet in his pants pocket, setting off an incendiary grenade he was carrying. He promptly discarded his pants and underwear to keep things from getting even worse. Forgetting the war for a moment, he stopped to inspect things and thankfully found everything intact but a little worse for wear. This being his second wound of the day, he could have easily gone to the aid station but instead decided he really was one tough S.O.B. He led his men forward naked below the waist (except for socks and boots) to secure their objective. Just six days later he would die in the closing stages of Operation Citadel. The Soviet account of the day differs, so all that is really known is that when all was said and done the Soviets still controlled Belenikhino but 5th Guards Tank Corps had taken heavy losses while achieving little else.
While we’ve been promoting this game as “history’s greatest tank battle," this scenario is almost exclusively an infantry fight, with just one tank unit on each side. I’m also fairly sure this is the only Panzer Grenadier scenario with nudity as its theme. You can play it clothed or naked as you prefer.
And that wraps up the second preview. Come back and see more.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.