A week ago Peter and I had our third game so far this year (we are aiming for a total of five for 2010). We had both earlier agreed to try recreating some of the actions that comprised ‘Operation Citadel’ (Unternehmen Zitadelle) and I had selected the assault on Cherkasskoye, which commenced on 5 July 1943 along with the rest of the Operation.

The scenario was Attack/Defense, with myself attacking. I was fielding a platoon of Panthers, a platoon of Tigers and a platoon of StuGs, with the company HQ’s also being Panthers. Here’s the main photo of the board or map for the night’s game: – you can see the road heading North and going through the town of Cherkasskoye. This was the same direction I was heading. More photos of the board/map for the night:  .

The town itself was actually on a slight plateau. I don’t have enough hills to replicate this, so instead it is nestled in a valley between three sets of hills. Hmm, maybe there’s a future project there, make some more hills so plateaus can be used?

We rolled for Weather and got historic results that might actually match the real weather for that day – Clear weather; a Light wind and the wind was heading East.

TURN ONE: The Germans came onto the board: . As they were about to assume their combat formations (in this case, wedges), things immediately started to go wrong. The platoon of Panthers with the Company HQ Panthers were all deployed on the left wing and they immediately drove into a camouflaged minefield. Three of seven were lost: . The StuGs were on the right wing and one of them set off some mines but luckily it wasn’t damaged. The Panthers destroyed by mines was a direct parallel to history…General Otto von Knobelsdorff’s 10 Panzer Brigade (‘Brigade Decker’) were all Panthers and 36 of the 200 were lost to a minefield as they left the town Butovo for Cherkasskoye that morning.

With the Russians well aware that the Germans  were advancing, they brought out their artillery: with the ZIS-3’s on the left flank, directly opposite the Panthers, letting fly with anti-armour shells and knocking out a fourth Panther: . Since I’d spent the turn moving at full speed I couldn’t fire back, which meant it was time for me to face a Morale Check. This was going to be hard as my Company HQ Panthers were both destroyed and they are very important in maintaining Company Morale! I fully expected the roll to be low and the game to be over here at Turn One. In an amazing dice roll my Morale for the Panther Platoon was low causing the surviving three vehicles were going to retreat, but the Company Morale was very high so amazingly my advance could continue!

TURN TWO: The Germans slowed or stopped completely and used Area Fire on as many Russian guns as they could target. Half were destroyed: .

TURN THREE: My Tiger Platoon HQ vehicle was tracked by the Soviets:  but more were chewed up by the Tigers’ 88mm guns which enjoyed deadly accuracy: . A StuG was hit and lost its main gun, but it could still be important in helping seize the objective…it had armour and an LMG so it was ordered to continue its advance.

TURN FOUR: All AFVs moved off at full speed – they had to. They weren’t going to reach their objective, the first house in the town closest to the road, if they did not: . The guns on the left flank let fly at the Tigers and hit but fail to penetrate.

TURN FIVE: The Germans remained moving at full speed: . A Tiger was Shaken by 75mm fire…over on the right, the previously damaged StuG was hit hard and its crew bailed out. This forced a Morale Check – I rolled a 5 and all the StuGs were Shaken for 5 turns. Damnit! They could fire but wouldn’t advance.

TURN SIX: A Tiger was knocked out by some of the surviving 75mm guns:  One was destroyed in reply.

TURN SEVEN: A Tiger sacrificed its advance to swivel and target the field guns. In concert with the StuGs, all remaining Soviet artillery was wiped out. The Russians fall silent!

More importantly, Peter and I had completed Turn Seven and the game was still going! We couldn’t recall this happening before. A truly remarkable night’s gaming!

TURN EIGHT: The advance could now continue and the objective was clearly in sight: . Smoke is laid down on the thickets close to the road & the objective in case there are some remaining small AT guns or PTRD anti-tank rifles. The two fully operational Tigers advance but, as they reached the edge of the fields, Soviet infantry with Molotovs leap out of concealed foxholes and lob their missiles at the Tigers’ engine decks: . They aim was average – one lands on one Tiger’s engine deck but doesn’t stall it’s engine.

TURN NINE: The Tigers have to push past the infantry or they won’t reach the objective in time – risky but I had to press forwards at all costs. A second Molotov landed on the same Tiger that was hit before. This time Peter rolled well and the engine stalled – another Tiger out of action. My three Shaken StuGs, still one turn away from changing status, joined in Area Fire laid down by the HQ Tiger upon the Eastern flank Molotov teams, killing some and forcing the remainder to surrender to the closest StuG.

TURN TEN: The last Tiger, racing for the objective, was set on fire by a Molotov: .

TURN ELEVEN: More Molotovs land on it and it’s engine fails:  All Tigers are immobilised and I only have a few StuGs remaining. Morale fails – it’s the end of the game. If that fourth Tiger hadn’t been immobilised, it would have reached the objective in two more turns:  …so close and yet so far. Peter reminded me that although it may have got to the objective, the objective had to be secured…and he had troops defending it. Here’s another photo of the death of the last “big cat”:  .

CONCLUSION Peter had deployed all his forces very historically, placing two very large and thick minefields forward and on my flanks to force me to go straight down the middle of the board. This meant I would then have to run a gauntlet of his artillery.

I deployed my forces  historically and tried to get them into wedge formation, but the hurriedly-mounting immobilisations and losses never saw a perfect wedge for any platoon achieved.

Peter won the game but historically the Germans were eventually able to take Cherkasskoye late that afternoon.

The book I used as my source for planning the game and in assisting me writing this AAR was “Kursk 1943: the tide turns in the East” by Mark Healy, published by Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 1993.

Here are my Panthers with their star aerials which were endorsed on the night:  .