South Flank Preview:
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
I used to know a game designer who bragged about his ability to create what he called the “one weekend wargame.” As long as you had pretty art, he bloviated, the rest of the game really didn’t matter.
While we try to have nice artwork, we like to think of the scenarios as the heart of our Panzer Grenadier games. And the amount of work that goes into them is pretty staggering. I know a lot of players have had fun with Mike Perryman’s 40 scenarios in Panzer Grenadier: Kursk, South Flank. But I doubt many of them realize just how much effort Mike poured into them.
Having designed a huge number of them myself, I have a pretty good idea. And I am amazed by their fine quality of design and research, Here’s a look at some of them; you can see more here, here and here.
9 July 1943
While the rest of the corps was to continue attacking, SS Reich Division was detailed to protect the corps’ troublesome right flank. This was far from optimal, since with Operation Citadel stagnating SS Reich was needed in the vanguard of the attack. But Stavka had no intention of letting that happen, and applied steady pressure all morning to pin them in place.
SS Reich Division was engaged in heavy fighting all morning. The division finally won a hollow victory over its adversaries by managing to keep its supply road open. With the Soviets transferring in reinforcements all day long, it appeared the chance of a German victory was rapidly slipping away.
This is a fairly big scenario, with all four maps in play as a large Guards tank-infantry force crashes into SS defenders. The Germans have mostly infantry with a strong array of support weapons including a good number of anti-tank guns. The Soviets may not care: they get 22 tank units, including slow but tough Lend-Lease Churchills. German reinforcements bring a strong tank force including their own T-34’s in German colors to make for a fun back-and-forth engagement.
9 July 1943
First SS Lifeguard Division received orders on the night of the 8th to pivot westward and make contact with 11th Panzer Division, which would be advancing eastward to meet it. If successful, this would secure at least one of the corps’ flanks. All it took was one look at the various Soviet formations that had been pushed into the Sukho-Solotino region to realize that this would not be easy.
After the 9th of July, no matter how valiantly their soldiers fought or how many tactical victories they won, strategic victory was out of Germany’s reach. A lack of infantry had doomed Operation Citadel to failure. Had the two SS divisions been relieved of flank duty and sent to spearhead the main effort, there would have been a chance for Germany to emerge victorious. How much of a chance is unknown to history, but what is known is that Stalingrad had denied the Germans any chance of total victory.
The Germans wield a strong and balanced tank-infantry battle group including a company of Tiger tanks. They greatly out-number and out-gun the Red Army, even counting the tank brigade that arrives on the first turn. Plus they have good artillery support against none for the Soviets. They’re going to need every one of those advantages and then some, for the German victory conditions are very tough and the Soviets can eke out a win here by just grimly hanging on.
9 July 1943
Second SS Panzer Corps’ attempt to secure its left flank seemed to be working. As soon as 1st SS Lifeguard Division joined with 11th Panzer Division, the troublesome flank would become XXXXVIII Panzer Corps’ problem. As a bonus, the advance on Kochetovka was proceeding nicely. Just outside of the town the regrouped Soviet 10th Tank Corps challenged the Germans.
Tenth Tank Corps proved to be a fast learner after the previous day’s fiasco. Today its attack was well-coordinated and Kochetovka remained in Soviet hands. Nevertheless,1st SS Lifeguard Division had enjoyed a good day, and not taking Kochetovka was of no great importance. But the strain on the German soldiers after four days of intense combat had begun to tell.
This is an odd little one-map scenario: a German infantry force, on foot, is trying to cross the board in the teeth of a Soviet tank-heavy force. The Germans can’t go to ground, since they are on the march.
Death’s Head Stymied
10 July 1943
For the rest of the corps to advance towards the Prokhorovka road, it was imperative that Death’s Head Division secure the north bank of the Psel River. At dawn, Panzergrenadier Regiment Eicke crossed the river in an effort to force the Soviets from the dominating Hill 226.6.
The Soviets were driven from the south side of the hill but clung to the north side. This prevented Death’s Head from advancing along the north bank of the river, throwing German plans into disarray.
Infantry clashes with infantry, with each side well-supported by heavy weapons but no artillery for the Soviets. The Germans have a heavy task, to pretty much drive the Soviets off the board, while the Soviets care little how many casualties they endure as long as they can cling to the high ground.
Who’ll Stop the Rain?
10 July 1943
Second SS Panzer Corps had been ordered to position itself so that it could intervene if the Soviet armor reserves now concentrating at Prokhorovka became aggressive. Despite the terrible toll on men and machines that the Soviet defenders were inflicting, SS morale remained high and most still felt victory was well within their grasp. First SS Lifeguard Division decided the most effective way of fulfilling their orders was just to advance straight towards Prokhorovka and not wait for the enemy to become aggressive.
With Death’s Head Division unable to clear the north side of the Psel River, 1st SS Lifeguard Division’s attack had to be delayed. Finally a little before 1100 hours, Lifeguard Division took the fight to the enemy. Brushing aside all resistance, they entered the Komsomolets State Farm by 1300 and continued advancing until meeting heavy resistance at Hill 241.6. There amongst intermittent heavy thunderstorms the two sides struggled until late in the evening, with the Germans finally prevailing. Lifeguard Division reported 26 dead and 168 wounded in addition to 3 missing in the day’s fighting. Offsetting this was 60 prisoners along with 130 deserters taken. Destroyed where 23 antitank guns and 53 enemy tanks.
The Germans are on the attack in heavy rain, with a strong infantry-tank force, high morale and strong artillery support. The Soviets pack a passel of anti-tank guns (a dozen batteries all told) and have good armor support but no artillery. The Germans have a tough task ahead of them, despite their powerful forces.
11 July 1943
While the majority of Death’s Head Division attacked farther to the north, a small force was sent out to secure Kliuchi. As long as the village remained in enemy hands, the bridgehead over the Psel River couldn't be considered secured. As ordered, the grenadiers moved out at dawn.
The Guardsmen yielded Kliuchi but refused to yield any more ground. While not what the Germans were hoping for, it was reluctantly accepted as it secured the bridgehead. It also enabled them to regroup and concentrate all their resources on the northern push.
A one-board scenario (can’t believe I didn’t change its name) in which a German infantry-based force is trying to take a town from Soviet infantry-based defenders. Each side has some artillery and the Germans, curiously, have a couple of motorcycle platoons they can use for unusual gambits.
And that concludes the fourth segment of scenario previews. You can see more here, here and here.
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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.