Kursk 43 Gold - Tough Fighting

Turn 1: "Bleed Them White" scenario. A 9 turn slugfest.

I have to admit with the release of Panzer Campaigns Kursk Gold I was a little curious.  I don't typically like scenarios where the battlefield resembles a small slice of WWI hell and Kursk doesn't disappoint in this regard as evidenced by the map above.

To test my likes and dislikes, I chose a small 9 turn scenario called "Bleed Them White."

The scenario description sounds promising:

Southern Front, July 5th 1943: The 52nd Guards Rifle Division, of the 23rd Guards Rifle Corps, was deployed at the most critical point in the corps sector. It was astride the road which ran from Tomarovka to Oboyan and eventually to Kursk. Its defenses had been painstakingly constructed and were 8-12 Kms in depth, with sizable anti-tank and armor support from Corps and Army reserves. A very formidable defensive region indeed. In fact, its 8,000 plus men were facing the cream of the German Army, three superbly equipped SS Panzer-Grenadier Divisions of the II SS Pz Korps. The defense was based on the premise that the entire 52GRD would be sacrificed after inflicting as much damage as possible on the advancing Germans, to "bleed them white". [Size, small]

And in truth everything the scenario designer promised, happened to my German units.  The depth of the Soviet defenses is insane.  There are layers of obstacles and mines, improved positions and trenches.  The Soviet artillery is stacked so deeply behind the 52 Guards Division that just as you try to assault a position, you can suffer through multiple barrages and watch your units "disrupt" before your eyes.  That causes you to delay the assault as the sands in this particular hellish hour glass slip away.

That said, in the middle of this scenario I started to see a beauty in it.  There is a strategy inside this small torture chamber that can help you progress forward. 

1. Breakdown your Pioneer units so they can open up a wider breach in the defenses.  Units suffer if they try to cross the field on their own.
2.  Assault forward positions in threes.  By that I mean, assault with a battalion at a time, and see if you can open the hole in successive assaults.  The first battalion drives a unit back, and the second follow on battalion assaults the retreating unit again.  If the third battalion in your stack is an armor unit you might just have a small breakthrough.
3. Isolate units wherever possible.  Isolated units suffer catastrophic losses.  The unit in the image to the right was reduced to 8% of it's establishment after becoming surrounded by SS Totenkopf's pincer movement.
4.  Don't get isolated.  Isolated units run short of fuel and ammo.  At Kursk, there is no dashing forward to grab objectives.  There is only isolation and surrender/defeat.
5. Use your artillery wisely.  Nothing is more annoying than at the height of an attack, your artillery tubes run dry.

This German tank unit ran dry 4kms short of the 250 point Nepkhayevo objective.

In the end though, I learned all of these things too late.  I didn't have enough Pioneer units to open up a wide front and had to start small.  I attacked with LSSAH and Totenkopf and kept Das Reich in reserve in the center.  I thought I could isolate the vast majority of the Russian defense in the battlefield's center by rolling up the flanks.  I did achieve breakthroughs which were hard fought but I never got to close the gap between the two wings.

The Totenkopf breach was 8kms wide and 8-9kms deep.  The LSSAH breach was as deep but narrower.  Night fell on the battlefield and I was 1-2 kms short of the objectives.

The result:  a hard fought "Major Defeat" in game terms with almost 2,000 German casualties.  I did feel though as if I had achieved something.  Had there been a Day 2, I might have been able to reach the objectives and drive deeper.  That's the allure I think of hard gaming like this.  You hang your hat on the small things (a stretch of woods cleared, a breach made and reinforced, etc), not the mad dashes across the map which I tend to prefer.

Final Thoughts

So is Kursk Gold worth buying/upgrading to?
If you own Kursk already, the upgrade is free and you should definitely upgrade for the better graphics, unit card details and the new user interface. Is it worth plopping down $39.99 for?  If you like Eastern Front gaming, you need this title.

Is it challenging? Yes, very.  The battlefield was a meat grinder in real life and the John Tiller version doesn't disappoint.  The AI seems fine, but it doesn't have to be brilliant.  The terrain, seeming air parity and the layered Soviet defenses are all you need to recreate this battlefield.

Will I play it again?  I can't believe I am saying this (given my recent gaming preferences)...but yes I will, and I am going to choose one of the massive scenarios.

Overall, I think the siren's song for this type of gaming is the nitty-gritty of the small successes won.  Had I reached Ternovka in the 9 turns or one of the other objectives I think I would have felt elated.  The fighting was that hard. Give me more time, and more room to maneuver and I think I am going to be really satisfied. Games like this take a really long time, and feel more like a tabletop wargame than a digital version of the battlefield, but that I think now, is their charm. 


Daniel Cohen said…
Hum la belle vie Sans soucis Sans problème.

I had a good life!!!!
Then I have read your post about Tough Fighting
and my problems started
2 days trying a draw or at least a minor victory nothing!!!
the best result was 1 hex away from 250 points objective but with a major defeat

I will make it!!!
I will try 1 or 2 things more
Let me say one thing this is one of the toughest scenarios I have played in Panzer Campaigns, Excellent!!!

I will post my progress if any!!!!

Thank you for the finding


Dani Cohen
Chris said…
Hi Dani! I am glad you are enjoying the scenario. It is a tough one and a very manageable length!

Most of this scenario (and Kursk as a whole) is a mental game.
You WILL take casualties getting through the initial fortifications.
There is simply no way around this.
Once you accept that, you'll realize that the faster you can get through the crust, the better your life will be.
So you need to be a little callous with your troops initially.

Specifically for this scenario, you're on a very tight time-table.
Everything you do has to take you forward, otherwise you'll never make it.
This means bypassing strong-points that doesn't interfere with your advance, and it also means that it's not necessarily a good idea to surround enemy units to defeat them. If you can brush them aside and continue the advance, that's much better.
If you can keep the casualties even, and take all the VPs, you've won.
Granted, that's probably impossible, so you do need some casualty VPs, but killing units takes time.....which you don't have.
Note the two bunkers in the line. These are going to be bypassed, and just ZOC-locked with follow-up troops so they can't escape.
Killing units in bunkers takes a ton of resources and time, so bypassing them outright saves you both.
Okay, so we're attacking between the strong-points. Since there's an enemy unit every other hex, we'll need to dislodge two of them to make a ZOC-free gap.
For each SS-division, pick two enemy units and use your artillery before moving anything. Pour everything you have into these two hexes. Mortars, rockets, airplanes, rocks if you have them. If you're playing without Disruption Delay, keep on one of them until it Disrupts, then switch. With Delay, concentrate on one hex on Turn 1 then switch to the other on Turn 2.
Next challenge is the minefields and the reaction-fire from the Russians.
This is where you have to be a little cold-hearted, and you need a little luck.
You can't risk your engineers getting disrupted, so someone else will have to take the reaction-fire. Tanks are harder to disrupt than infantry, so they go first.
Right into the minefield, despite their protestations. :)
After they've soaked up some fire, a battalion of infantry follows, you need their firepower to keep the Russians disrupted.
Note that you also have to pin the enemies bordering your break-through point, so they can't move through the trenches to reinforce. Just use armor for this, no need to risk infantry on a pinning attack.
Same goes for the bunkers. Even though we have no plans to attack them, you still have to lock the units in place otherwise you'll simply have to fight them further down the line.
Finally, split the engineers into companies, and move them into three consecutive minefields so you get a decent gap to move through.
On Turn 2, any enemies who are disrupted gets assaulted immediately. Any of your units who are disrupted gets pulled out of the line, and replaced with fresh cannon-fod.....er, units.
And keep pouring arty onto those breakthrough hexes, nowhere else. The faster you can break into the open, the less casualties you'll end up taking, so you have to keep pounding the same spots.
Nobody else moves until the mine-fields have been cleared, and then you can pour through the gaps made in the initial assault.

Once you've cleared the initial line, it gets a little easier.
Same principles apply, use ZOC to make the enemy retreat away from the direction of advance, use artillery mercilessly to disrupt anyone who can't be bypassed then assault them pronto. Anyone who isn't a) in the way or b) a flanking threat, shouldn't even be in your planning.
Don't be afraid to use Travel-mode to get forward faster. Yes, you'll take casualties, but if you can keep out of sight in the gullies they can't hit you with arty. Use hot-key S to check which hexes the Russians can see, and which are safe.
Nine-turn scenario, so don't even look at the fatigue-levels, unless they're red.
Hustle, hustle, hustle.
Haven't quite managed a major victory yet, but it should be doable.
Chris said…
Wow! Thanks for that comment. Will take a crack at it again! Feeling inspired.
Happy to help. :)
Two somewhat minor/less used rules that most people forget are pretty important in this one.
1) AT guns and HQs on their own do not exert ZOC. In the 2nd and 3rd lines there are bunkers with just AT-guns that you can simply bypass. They may take a few pot-shots, but that's about it.
2) Once your engineers have started clearing the minefields, it's Penetrated.
Meaning anyone else can move through it in Travel-mode without taking attacks.
Moving in Travel-mode within sight of the enemy is usually a bad idea, but with only 9 turns you have to push hard.
Do note that it's not enough for the engineers to simply enter the minefield, they have to start the turn Deployed in it (The 'clearing minefields' note has to be in black, not red), so you still have wait for Turn 2. Turn Three for the middle division, since their engineers start too far back to get going on Turn 1.
Just tried again and finally made it.

So it can be done.
Though granted, those three SS divisions are pretty much shot.
Gawd, you have to push in this one!

Oh, and watch out for the village of Bykovka (250pts marker just south of the 500pts)
There's a bunch of KV-2s mucking around down there. ;)