South Flank Preview:
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
It’s the scenarios that make the game, and Mike Perryman designed an outstanding set of 40 for Panzer Grenadier: Kursk, South Flank. Let me tell you about them . . .
Live and Let Die
8 July 1943
Having failed to take Malye Maiachki from its defenders, German staff officers spent the night of the 7th desperately searching for additional infantry to support the panzers. Very few were found and this did not bode well for the effort on the 8th. Nevertheless, at daylight the few panzer grenadiers available went in with great confidence in their own hard- won ability to get the job done.
All the worrying proved for naught, as the addition of the Tiger tanks allowed the grenadiers to prevail in the struggle for the village. Knowing that a counterattack could prove disastrous after the village was taken, the attack was relentlessly pressed forward and slow progress made northward. This relieved the pressure on Malye Maiachki and gave the Germans a jumping-off point for tomorrow’s operations.
The Germans bring a mixed but tank-heavy battle group to the attack, facing a mixed Soviet battle group of almost exactly the same size. But the odds aren’t exactly even: the Red Army’s Lend-Lease Grant tanks are no match for the SS Tigers. There’s only one platoon of them but they are well-nigh unstoppable.
Slip Sliding Away
8 July 1943
Orders came down on the night of the 7th for SS Lifeguard Division to reorient its attack back towards Kursk and eliminate the troublesome Guardsmen at Bol'shoe Maiachki. This would allow the Lifeguards to establish contact with XXXXVIII Panzer Corps and finally secure one of their flanks. Leading the way would be 1st SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment.
First SS Lifeguards Division suffered 66 dead and 189 other causalities on this day alone, while Soviet loses were probably significantly higher but have never been released. Second SS Panzer Corps claimed 121 Soviet tanks destroyed for the day, offsetting their own losses in Operation Citadel to-date of 17 tanks written off and 100 awaiting repair. Despite achieving an overwhelming tactical victory at Bol'shoe Maiachki, the pivotal linkup with XXXXVII Panzer Corps was still another day away. This left Kursk a very long way off, with the window for victory closing rapidly.
There’s just one board in play, on which a regiment-sized SS force assaults a much smaller set of Soviet defenders. Neither side has a lot of armor, so this is going to be a tough infantry fight. Blame the designer for the scenario title.
8 July 1943
Stavka had decided the time was right to stop the rampaging panzers of SS Obergruppenfueher Paul Hausser. They were to be hit in the nose by General V.G. Burkov’s full-strength 10th Tank Corps, supported by 2nd Tank Corps. Once this attack had drawn the Germans’ attention, two more tank corps supported by elements of two rifle divisions would strike the Germans’ already weak right flank. It sure looked good on paper.
Battles are not won on paper, and things went wrong for the Soviets from the start. The Germans pre-empted the Soviet attack, and General Burkov’s response was poor. Throughout the day his brigades launched piecemeal attacks with no coordination between themselves or with the supporting infantry. By the time 2nd Tank Corps arrived, 10th Tank Corps had already shot its bolt. With such a clumsy effort, the Soviets were slaughtered for no appreciable gain. Meanwhile Unterscharfurher Staudegger’s Tiger tank of 1st SS Lifeguard Division destroyed 17 Soviet tanks and would add five more in the afternoon. A Knight’s Cross awaited him the following day.
This is a big scenario, with all four boards in play as a large Soviet tank-heavy force crashes into a defending force of mostly infantry and a platoon of Tiger tanks. The Germans will eventually see tank reinforcements of their own to restore their lines, including T-34 tanks in German service.
Misfire II: Nepkhaevo
8 July 1943
In sixteen hours of fighting on July 7th, 2nd Guards Tank Corps had been forced east of the Lipouyi Donets River. Today they were ordered to turn the tables on their tormentors with a dawn attack. It was noon before they managed to start their advance.
The Luftwaffe pulled off a first on this day when they blunted an enemy armor attack without ground support. In less than an hour, 50 Soviet tanks were left smoldering and their supporting infantry scattered. To add insult to injury, Death’s Head Division managed to run 2nd Guards Tank Corps out of Nepkhaevo during the day’s fighting. To say the least, Stavka was not pleased.
This is another massive scenario, with all four boards in play. The Soviets are on the attack, bringing a full regiment of infantry, huge numbers of support weapons, and 28 tank units onto the battlefield. The Germans respond with an armored counter-attack spearheaded by a dozen tank units including the awesome Tigers. This is real wargaming.
Misfire III: Fortune Favors the Bold (or not)
8 July 1943
Arriving too late to support 10th Tank Corps didn’t deter General Popov from doing his patriotic duty. Hoping to salvage a bad situation, he immediately ordered his units forward as they arrived. He didn’t even wait for the units to consolidate before launching them into battle.
General Popov’s boldness caught the Germans off guard, as they were busy congratulating themselves on beating off the earlier attack. Unfortunately, fortune doesn't always favor the bold, and the Germans rallied to win in a short but vicious firefight. The day’s counterattacks saw four Soviet tank corps savaged for little appreciable gain.
Yet another excursion into real wargaming: the Germans are dug in with an infantry-heavy force eventually backed by a “fire brigade” of tanks. The Red Army advances on them in waves, as first an infantry force attacks and then four separate groups of tanks carrying supporting tank riders join the assault.
Then the Moment’s Gone
9 July 1943
Death’s Head Division was ordered to advance alone towards the Psel River with flank protection from its sister divisions. The Soviets were in the midst of reorganizing, and only a light screening force contested the advance. On the Soviet side, General Katukov was disillusioned after watching his carefully forged 1st Tank Army squandered piecemeal in a passive role. Thankfully for the Soviets, he would recover.
Lady Luck smiled on Death’s Head today when the division hit a reorganizing enemy and drove them back over the Psel River while suffering only light loses. When Krasnyi Oktiabr was wrestled from some guardsmen late in the afternoon, it appeared the long-awaited German breakthrough was at hand. But eventually they advance ran out of steam, and the moment was gone as strong reinforcements were transferred in during the night.
A smaller scenario, with the Germans on the attack against a fairly thin line of Soviet infantry supported by a strong force of tanks and tank riders. It’s a classic example of a good game scenario, with both players having the chance to attack and both wielding the cool weapons of war. Even if it does carry one of Mike Perryman’s beloved 70’s song titles.
And that brings us through our third installment!
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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. Leopold can pluck bugs out of the air.