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.
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.
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.