Sunday, 14 April 2019

Ambush of a T-70 Company

A 'snapshot' post taken from the boardgame, Platoon Commander Kursk, by Flying Pig.
We interrupt turn 3 of scenario 7: 'Every Available Stuka', to dig into a slice of action.

Viewed by Storyboard.
Operation Citadel (Kursk) had been in full and desperate momentum for five days. With intense fighting on the rain soaked and muddy battlefield, casualties had been horrendous and the men were exhausted. There were some commanders who were already privately thinking that the offensive should be called off, but for 2nd Panzer, the task on the morning of 10th July was to ensure another day of bitter fighting with the objective of breaking through the enemy defences and securing the Olkhovatka road.
The right side of this panzerkeil will break away and
attack to the right of the map.

The Panzer III’s on the right hand side of the panzerkeil, together with halftracks carrying pioneers, peeled away, turning eastwards towards nearby woodland, the last Soviet defensive position that blocked access to the road to Olkhovatka.

The Panzer III’s halted 300 metres short of the woods and furiously pumped high explosive shells into the Soviet positions, while the pioneers dismounted their vehicles and moved forwards, preparing for their assault.
Immediately to the north, Captain Ivan Sokolov, company commander of three platoons of T-70 light tanks, had been hiding on the reverse side of a small rise in the ground, with orders to attack as soon as the Olkhovatka road came under direct threat. That time was now!

With the Germans fully preoccupied with their assault on the woods, Sokolov intended that his full compliment of ten tanks, including his own command vehicle, should break cover and take up firing positions against the German left flank, disrupting their assault.

As the little T-70’s darted forwards to bring the enemy Panzer III’s into their gun line, suddenly the first T-70 violently exploded, followed by another. Sokalov, his tank hatch already open, desperately scanned the ground before him ... then he saw it, ambush! too late, his company was fully exposed.

Oberleutnant Otto Müller, had carefully sited his StuG III platoon of five vehicles, to give cover to the left flank of the German attack. His experienced crews had rehearsed and lived the art of ambush a dozen times. One after another, the T-70’s were stopped dead in their tracks, their numbers halved in an instant.

Viewed by system and game play
This situation came about because at this point in the turn, the Germans had mostly fired and moved with everything in that sector and so units were marked with Fire or Moved markers (in effect they are used). The Soviet side saw it as a good moment to be able to break from cover and try a bit of moving fire with the fresh T-70's to disrupt lead elements of the German attack towards the woods, safe in the knowledge that the heavier enemy tanks would not be able to respond because they had already been used that turn.

What of course they could not anticipate was that the German player had not one, but two action cards that allowed for opportunity fire to be made without regard for Fire / Moved marker status and in effect this gave the ‘used’ StuG III two lots of additional fire in that phase. Ouch!

There isn't a facing rule in the game and so to reflect the limitations of assault guns (the StuG III’s) which were turretless, they may only fire or move, not both. Here, the platoon had just moved into position and had a Moved marker placed upon them. The players Action Cards (no more than two allowed to be played in any given turn) in this instance are a good example of how the design deliberately introduces variables to ‘mix it’ for the other player. A player really cannot take anything for granted.

Of course there are other cards in the deck that could equally be used to strike out of the blue, such as Air Strike or Artillery attack. In this scenario, any artillery card played by the German player is converted to an air strike, as part of the representation that all Stuka sorties on this day were diverted to the break through attempts of the panzer divisions on the northern shoulder of the Kursk salient - hence the title of the scenario.

A detailed look at this game and an examination of the sequence of play was made in a previous post at this LINK.

My sister web space is the COMMANDERS page, which has more frequent postings than here and is more snippet based. LINK


  1. Exciting stuff Norm, might put that game on my Xmas list if it's even slightly solo friendly.

    1. It s holding my attention quite a bit at the moment, mainly I think, from the playability perspective.

  2. Excellent account. You had me hooked in at the beginning. Were there action cards that the Soviet could have played to mitigate this well timed ambush?

    1. After the 7000 word previous posting, it was a relief just to do something a bit more 'normal'!

      Yes, there are other cards that may have helped, that the Soviet player did not have to hand in this instance. Having regard for the fact that the fire phase is interactive, when the StuG III first fired, the fire phase flipped back to the Soviet player, who might have played an artillery or air strike card that could have put the StuG out of action, so that they could not have made the second fire.

      More importantly, there are a couple of cards that you can play immediately on the other player that cancel THAT fire or cancel a card JUST played and that would have saved them from the first attack.

      You can only play a max of 2 cards per turn, so you also need to not have exhausted that allowance.

      The fact that the Germans have two of these 'opportunity fire' type cards is probably to help reflect their tactical superiority that they still had at this stage, though it was narrowing.

    2. Thanks, Norm. It is good to see that the Russians could have responded to mitigate this system shock if the a viable response was “in the cards.”

  3. Oh I love games where things like this happen:).

    1. I enjoy games that prise total control from the players, but not everyone likes that.

  4. I agree that sounds like war. But it also sounds like ‘gotcha’ card play mechanics. Not my favorite style of play but suited for wargames. How much ‘gotcha’ there is of course depends on the context and other game factors.
    I did like the narrative for the game situation (or vice versa). 😀

    1. Stew, I had the same feeling that the play of the card seemed a bit gamey.

    2. I pretty much agree. I dislike card driven games, but think cards that 'support' games can be useful. Here the game blurb stresses that the game supports rather than drives the games, but for me, the nature of the cards means that some of the things that I dislike about card driven games are present here, namely the 'take that' element.

      I think the multiple D10 system delivers enough chaos and uncertainty, the cards would have been better without some of the power cards and would make solitaire play easier, not that the latter should necessarily be should be a designers aim.

  5. Norm, I did read - and enjoy - your previous post, but not in a single sitting, you obviously put a lot of work into that. This 'snapshot' was equally good, once again you really bring the action to life with your description, I found myself visualising the engagement, especially when the T 70's suddenly began to go up in flames. I also like the graphics of the game, the tank counters are rather nicely done, might have to think abut this one myself.

    1. Thanks Lee, unusually after that last post, I found myself a bit jaded by the whole 'long post' thing, so I am trying the 'snapshot' type of thing and seeing how that goes.

      As you know, I am a fan of the idea that all wargamers should have an accessible boardgame or two tucked away for occasions that a quick, easy and small footprint game is needed.

      I do like your idea on the concentration and focus of the 40mm project and I am giving similar thought to something similar, perhaps Wars of the Roses.

  6. Sounds good,very cinematic moment with your T 70s! A bit of card play sounds okay,you don't want it taking over though!
    Best Iain

  7. Iain, I think that is exactly right and my feeling at the moment is that this system has it mostly right, but it needs reigning in a little.

  8. Great action, Norm. Sounds like a good TAM scenario! Steve (sound officers call)

  9. Good idea, I must check out my own gun / armour penetration stats to see how the T-70 Vs Pz III looks on the table.

  10. You had me hooked from the start Norm. A great advert for the game which I have yet to try.

  11. Thanks, I am hugely enjoying the visuals of your bolg. Norm



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