Scenario Preview, Part Four
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Panzer Grenadier: Slovakia’s War is an artifact of an earlier age of Avalanche Press (and me, the designer/publisher) when I seemed determined to discover the most obscure aspects of military history, and make games about them. I suppose I wanted to show off the research prowess conferred by those Ph.D. letters. And it made the topic all my very own.
We’re moving away from that self-destructive pattern, toward games and topics that gamers actually recognize. We’ll revisit the lesser-known on occasion, but not nearly as often.
And with that, let’s wrap up our look at the scenarios from Slovakia’s War:
9 September 1944
While the Slovak National Uprising achieved some surprise, the Slovaks had never had the Germans’ total trust. Bratislava, the Slovak capital, had been garrisoned by a regimental-size SS battle group that immediately provided a strong mobile force for crushing the insurgency. The group disarmed the Bratislava garrison and quickly captured a string of key towns in southern Slovakia. The insurgent command gathered a large force to counterattack them, but instead of striking the SS in their camps found them already on the attack themselves.
The Slovaks had numbers, but few other advantages and the Germans ran over them in short order. The Germans captured the Slovak commander as well as most of their heavy weapons. “The men sit in the shade and play cards, while they should be building defensive positions,” raged Czechoslovak Army Headquarters, which was attempting to coordinate the uprising. “They often do not know why they are fighting, the commanders have no reserves and no plans about what to do if the defense is breached.”
It’s a meeting engagement, and while the Slovaks have good numbers they’re facing an unusually competent mass of white supremacist scum. The Slovaks are on foot and the SS are in trucks or half-tracks, which grants a serious advantage to the side of evil, but the Slovak bar of victory isn’t set nearly as high.
Retreat from Turiec
21 September 1944
German attacks slowed as they gathered more force and repressed partisan activity in their rear areas, but the Slovaks took little advantage of the reprieve. The Tatra Division absorbed several new battalions and then pushed forward against the unprepared Slovaks around Sucany. Though the Slovaks fought hard, their position crumbled and a disorganized retreat began. Only the tough partisans of the Communist 1st Czech Brigade kept their heads.
Only the intervention of the partisans, who included Red Army cadres, saved the Slovaks from annihilation. Slowed by ambushes, the Germans methodically reduced the guerillas and inflicted heavy casualties on them, but the Slovaks had the chance to rally and set up a new defense line. The 5th Tactical Group was soon disbanded, its men and weapons assigned to other units.
This is an unusual scenario, with a motorized but low-morale German force with tank support attacks a large but very low-morale force of Slovak defenders. Yet somewhere on the board, tough NKVD cadres and their Partisan comrades are waiting in ambush. The Slovaks are trying to slip away from the Germans under the cover provided by the Communists.
4 October 1944
Supplied with more tanks and crews, the German Tatra Division pushed into the Raksa Valley where the Slovaks dug in for a determined defense. The valley’s good roads led to Sviaty Martin, home of the Slovak Army’s armored training center and most of its technical workshops. Slovak maintenance crews were rapidly refurbishing tanks and artillery pieces there; loss of the vital center would doom the uprising.
The Tatra Division had been issued a large number of outdated Czech-made tanks from the Arsenal in Vienna. Though useless against the Red Army, they proved very effective against the Slovaks - as did the handful of Tiger tanks. The Germans broke through the first line of the Slovak defense but their offensive stalled thanks to the timely arrival of the armored train Hurban and a company with modern German-made anti-tank guns.
The Germans are on the attack, with tanks and motorized infantry against a Slovak defense that finally has enough troops to cover all of its front. The Slovak anti-tank guns can handle anything except the Tiger tanks, but fortunately there’s just a half-platoon of those monsters.
22 October 1944
The Horst Wessel Division, composed mostly of Hungarian ethnic Germans, went into action against the Slovaks as soon as it arrived from Hungary. The Slovaks committed most of their remaining armored forces to trying to stop the SS men, whose advance on Slovak army headquarters appeared unstoppable.
Though the Horst Wessel Division was not a particularly good combat formation, the Slovaks were nothing like the Red Army and the SS rolled over them after some hard fighting. The Slovak forces now began to fall apart, with the partisans directed to return to their hiding places and prepare to wage guerilla warfare while the regular troops made their final stands.
This is a big scenario, with a swarm of motorized murderers trying to overcome a pretty stout Slovak defense (stout by Slovak standards, anyway). There are tanks on both sides and the Slovaks get an armored train to help fend off the felons.
22 October 1944
For their “final offensive” against the Slovak Uprising, the Germans brought in several new formations. Among them stood the most loathsome group of criminals in an organization devoted to racism and murder: the SS Dirlewanger Brigade. Recruited from rapists and other felons by convicted child molester Oskar Dirlewanger, the brigade had been busily raping and murdering civilians in Poland when summoned to fight the Slovaks.
The Germans had numbers and firepower on their side, but were not used to fighting enemies who actually shot back at them. The Slovaks held their ground and inflicted heavy casualties on the poorly trained Germans, who fell back in some disarray. Dirlewanger was undoubtedly one of the most evil men serving an evil regime, but was not a physical coward and fought in the front lines with his men – doing little to improve his unit’s overall coordination. It would take several more tries and many more dead before the Ploska Height fell to the SS men.
And that wraps up the scenarios of Slovakia’s War. You won’t find their like anywhere else.
The Germans are on the attack, with a horde of poorly-led, cowardly white nationalists assaulting dug-in Slovak defenders, who this time are a bit more into this whole defending-their-country thing. Waffen SS morale is simply awful, and their leadership is worse. The Slovaks have to wipe out most of these scum in order to win.
Send the Slovaks into battle! Click here to order Slovakia’s War.
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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.