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SS Panzer: Bloodbath at Kursk» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Slam Dance (with photos) rss

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This is a game that I ignored for 17 years, for several reasons. It had lots of errata, and it is ugly. The map looks like a child drawing with crayons, which makes the important slopes hard to see when covered with units. Also, the hexes seem a bit too small. The counters have full colour icons, which nearly everybody likes, but they are low-contrast and fuzzy and drowned by neon glare of the counter colours. In addition the bottom half of each counter has the ratings in Command's huge superfat fonts, and the other half in tiny Times Roman, which not only makes you overlook those ratings, but looks really amateurish and sloppy. A friend recently set it up for solo play, and before I could suggest to him that we try it together, had taken it off the table and sold it as too fiddly.

But, as part of my "play all the company level systems" drive, I decided I would eventually get around to it. Fortunately all the citrus yellow and salmon and electric blue looks a bit less hideous when set up, as the colours lose themselves a bit on the map. Unfortunately the 80 static infantry units not only blend in and get in the way, they also hide virtually all the victory point hexes.

There is no suggestion at all about where units should set up on their side of the line, basically you have to work it out in your head ahead of time or dig out the historical situation yourself.

8:30: Most of the Russian Tank corps activate before the SS divisions, so the Germans get slightly beaten up. The exception is the 29th Tank Corps which is basically in reserve east of the railroad and is waiting to see when Das Reich makes its way through the infantry cordon.

Leibstandarte (henceforth LS) with its exposed Panzergrenadier units in particular suffers, its Tiger platoon is reduced to 2 steps by airstrikes. Visibility remains unchanged. Das Reich (DR) just moves across the railroad berm in force and starts some experimental close combats against Soviet static troops. The two tank corps opposing it (18th and 29th) basically wait to see what will happen.

9:30: At that point, I had started to work out that some of the armored units were actually much stronger against infantry and also started using the rider-equipped T-34s. These are particularly monstrous in effect as the riders are apparently also under armor - the only way to get rid of them is to kill the tanks. Doesn't quite jibe with my expectations. (They are only eclipsed by the StuG units which, as I eventually realised, can kill any infantry from up to 2km away, even in trenches or villages.)

2nd Tk Corps again activates before LS, so does 18th Tk Corps which has worked out that DR will take a long time to get through the fortified lines. As a result LS takes a fearsome beating and most of the spearhead Panzergrenadier units are eliminated. A combined Russian tank/infantry task force even retakes Hill 252. However, when LS activates, it is then quickly eliminated again.

DR, constrained in its corner of the railroad berm, plows forward but far too slowly. Some villages fall and its tanks are brought forward for the imminent clash with 29 Tk Corps. The visibility drops to 2 hexes and four German aircraft arrive, eliminating no less than 3 heavy tank units and one T-34.

On the Russian right, 2nd Guards Tk Corps activates and does some serious damage among the Totenkopf (TK) infantry in their lively blue livery, but this is pretty much its last hurrah, as then TK gets to activate and kills most of its tanks, as well as those of 31st Tk Corps.

10:30: This time the Germans activate generally before their counterparts. TK troops partially break through the positions of 2nd Tank Corps and 31st Tank Corps infantry falls back to try and recapture some of these positions. LS manages to recover its tanks, but they do not eliminate anyone although they suppress many of the tanks from 2nd Tank Corps. Visibility increases to 3 as no less than 5 German air attacks result, killing multiple tanks of 2nd, 29th and 18th Tank Corps.

29th Tank Corps tries to start a counterattack but I set them up too well protected and they cannot really get into position. DR finally closes with them and 29th Tank Corps takes some losses, although the all-important Su-100s (perhaps they are Su-152's - I'm not the expert on Kursk, and the icons are too fuzzy) are still there.

18th Tank Corps is also now a shell, but its infantry still pushes forward to the center positions that the Germans have abandoned.

11:30: 2 Tank Corps activates first, kills some LS units, but the main T-34 stack fails to hit anything. Then the Germans activate in a row. DR lurches forward another three hexes, its artillery eliminates the Su-100 but has not yet broken through 29 Tank Corps and further victory hexes are far away. They do take the village of Storozhevoya in the center, but it is far from further victory hexes. TK fights for a number of victory villages on the map edge but has a hard time bringing these fights to a close. Most of the tanks of 2nd Gds and 31st Tank Corps are now gone. 31st Tank Corps falls back, managing to bring units back into some hexes that had been taken by TK; the fight is going on as the game ends.

LS fails to unsuppress most of its units, but kills some more units 2 Tank Corps and manages to have a stack reach the map edge. (The Prochorovka entry hexes are guarded by the airborne troops and were never in danger.)

2nd Guards Tank eliminates some Totenkopf units but cannot chase the others out of the victory point hexes.

Finally 29 Tank Corps starts the counterattack including some close combats, but loses more tanks to DR than it destroys. The game ends as a draw with both sides far from their geographical victory conditions.

Summary: It would be sort of interesting to play this ftf. I was initially more focused on working out how to eliminate enemy units but that is not the point; I was also attacking too leisurely. To try to win, both sides must try to ram their forces right through the other side's troops. This might recreate some of the type of the close-range struggle, but it doesn't seem to me to recreate the reasons. And some of the research has been corrected by Glantz and others since the game came out, but I play other games despite that, so it's not a real argument. I'm more concerned about the issues with the system, which seem mostly thoughtless oversight, perhaps imposed by Command's trademark development bulldozer, but despite the bulldozer it also remains quite fiddly (just think of 32 Russian artillery barrages per turn). To try this again I would have to get a copy of the Japanese edition with its much nicer map.
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