Tuesday, November 14, 2017

HEXBLITZ approximately.

Assault on Apresski, early morning.
Yesterday I finally got round to trying out a version of Bob Cordery's HEXBLITZ game, very slightly adapted, on my hex-grid game board. This purported to be an early autumn 1943 action, in which part of the Soviet 6th Shock Army were making a drive on an important road centre at Apresski.  Barring the road and railway line northwest stood the strong and well-equipped 222nd Infantry Division.  Concerned about his open flanks, General Klutzmann has been assured that 17th Panzer Division is on its way with help.
Assault on Apresski - dawn.
This rather thrown together action rather subconsciously turned out to be a version of C.S. Grant's 'On Table Reinforcement'.  The Soviet objective was the small town you see in the northwest corner of board, north being off to the right of the picture; the camera facing west.

I was rather taken with Bob Cordery's 66th Army, which seemed to stand either as the OPFOR Asiatic Myrmidons against which the gallant Teutons strive; or, perhaps more likely, the heroic band of brothers defending Little Mother Russia against the Horrible Hitlerite Horde...

It was whilst glancing through my copy of John Erickson's Road to Berlin, I lit upon the creation of 5th Shock Army.  I might have passed it by, but then looked at its composition:
  • 7th Tank Corps
  • 4th Mechanised Corps
  • 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps
  • 87th, 258th, 300th and 315th Rifle Divisions.
When something ups and smacks one in the eye, one is apt to take notice.  I mean: it has everything!  Those Mechanised Corps are formidable formations, and all.  Further investigation suggested add-ons:
  • 274th, 331st Howitzer and 1162nd Gun Artillery Regiments (18 pieces each?)
  • 507th and 764th Tank Destroyer Regiments (SP or Towed anti-tank weapons?)
  • 21st Guards mortar Regiment
  • 1068th AA Artillery Regiment
  • 258th, 827th Engineer Battalions.

In the above action, the elements of 6th Shock Army comprised;

6th Shock Army (Elements)

5th Mechanised Corps
  • HQ:  GoC, staffs, sigs, vehicles etc SP=1
  • Supply Column (1 medium half-track truck LOG=3)
  • 2 Medium Tank Brigades (T34/76 plus integral infantry stand) each SP=4
  • 1 Heavy Tank Brigade (KV85 plus integral infantry stand) SP=5
  • Corps infantry (consolidated; 6 rifle stands) SP=6
  • Corps artillery (SP 152mm assault arty) SP=3
316th Rifle Division:
  • Consolidated 6 rifle stands, SP=5...
    The formidable 5th Mechanised Corps
4th Guards Cavalry Corps:
  • HQ: Mounted GoC, staff, sigs etc SP=1
  • Supply Column (3 pack horses) LOG=3
  • 2 Cavalry Brigades (3 Cavalry stands) each SP=3
  • 1 Light tank regiment (T26 tank only) SP=2
  • 1 Field artillery brigade (76L39 field artillery) SP=2...
    4th Guards Cavalry Corps.  Seems that 316th Rifle
    Division is still moving up, and not yet arrived.
Total units, including HQs and supply columns: 14.
Strength points: 39? (I miscounted this as 41, probably adding a 2SP element twice.  In the following account I supposed that the Russians had been given 41 strength points.  This did make a differemce)

Defence of Apresski

222nd Infantry Division

  • HQ: Generalmajor Heinrich Klutzmann SP=1
  • Supply Column (3.5ton Opel truck) LOG=3
  • 3 Rifle Regiments (3 stands) each SP=3
  • 1 StuG Battalion (StuGIIIG) SP=2
  • 1 Marder Battalion (Marder II) SP=2
  • 1 Anti-tank gun battalion (towed PaK40) SP=2
  • 1 Artillery Regiment (10,5cm howitzer) SP=2.
    222nd Infantry Division awaiting the onslaught.

17th Panzer Division 

  • HQ: Generalleutnant  von der Meden SP=1
  • Supply Column (Wespe ammo carrier) LOG=2
  • I/39th Panzer Battalion (PzIVG) SP=4
  • II/39th Panzer Battalion (PzIIIM) SP=3
  • 40th Panzergrenadier Regiment (consolidated 4 rifle stands, half track) SP=5
  • 27th Panzer Artillery Regiment (Wespe 10.5 cm SP howitzer) SP=2.
    17th Panzer Division about to move up.  Apologies for
    poor photo quality...
Total Units, including HQs and supply columns: 15
Strength Points: 32...
Early morning: the Soviets advance.

A number of comments on organisation:
  1. Most of the tank brigades (represented by 1 tank) have been given an integral infantry stand.  The infantry adds 1 to the strength point value.  They represent the whole infantry element of the tank brigade, not just the tank riders.  I don't add the infantry component to independent armoured regiments.  Apart from the SP thing, there is no real significance to this idea.
  2. Apart from the Soviet Tank and Mechanised brigades, and (probably, though I haven't thought it through yet) the armoured regiment/motor battalion combinations in British Armoured Formations, the infantry are consolidated by regiment, brigade or (Soviet) division into one grid area. Their 'real' frontage is represented by their 'zone of control' into adjacent grid areas.
  3. You will notice various elements associated with formation HQs, e.g the Quad AA in 222nd Division. I have some ideas about using the HQ element as a kind of catch-all for Divisional, Corps or Army troops (depending on Formation) that can not be otherwise represented in the scale we are looking at, and that can for some reason not be subsumed under the overall command level.  
  4. Apart from the Formation Commanders, who may move freely among and be stacked with any subordinate element, I did not permit stacking in this game.  HEXBLITZ permits it only insofar as the stands are all accommodated inside the grid area.  The reason for this is my allocating SPs to multi-stand groups, rather than to individual stands.
  5. I am considering adding a single figure command to the 1-grid-area Divisions, mainly, I think, to distinguish them from smaller Formations or units.  It will not add to their Strength points.
  6. I am also considering including among the 6 stands of a stand-alone 1-grid-area Rifle Division a mortar or infantry gun stand to represent its organic artillery firepower.  It will shoot at a rate of 1 SP out to a range of, say, 4 grid areas, if, and only if, the Division is in 'Defend' mode (see infra), and not itself under immediate attack from an adjacent grid area.  That stand will still be included in the Divisional SP when in combat with enemy in an adjacent grid area, in whatever mode the Division is in. However, I did not include this idea for this battle.
    General attack plan of the Soviets.
The rule set used was a rather loose application of HEXBLITZ, with the following 'interpretations':

  1. In any given turn, an artillery unit may fire more than once in support of ONE defended grid area.  In other words, artillery may add its SP to the defenders of one grid area against each attack in turn.
  2. In any given turn, artillery may shoot in support of each attack conducted against ONE grid area that is being carried out by units of the artillery's parent Formation.
  3. If using the M-S-D (Move-Stationary-Defend) order or 'mode' system, artillery may fire in support only when in 'Defend' mode.  If artillery are moving, they cannot shoot, because they are limbered up and moving.  If artillery are in 'Stationary' mode, they have stopped moving and are preparing battery positions, OR, they have completed their fire missions, and are about to move off.
  4. Although I have yet to bring in rules anent the logistics aspects, I do intend that each shoot depletes the ammo supply by 1 ammo supply unit (i.e. unit's SP value per 2-hour game turn).  I have in mind an immediately available daily supply sufficient to shoot (? a whole SP allowance) once per turn for 8 turns (that is to say, one period of summer daylight hours).  I have no idea at this stage whether that is under-generous, about right or over-generous an allocation.
  5. I rather forgot about command radius considerations.  A 6-grid area frontage might be a bit of a stretch for a single Division, even a strong one like the 222nd, here.  It is probably valid in 'Defence' mode, but if a unit was forced, or chose, to withdraw, it probably ought to be in the direction of the Division's HQ, rather than its own side's table edge.  Something to think about at least.
To be continued...


  1. Archduke Piccolo,

    You seem to have really got the bit between your teeth with this project, and I like that way you have selected and organised your forces.

    I look forward to seeing your battle report. I expect that you will learn a lot from fighting this battle, and will do doubt have quite a few conclusions to draw from it.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      Well, the battle had been fought when I posted this article. Whether I learnt anything from it is hard to say, I'll be honest with you there. It was pretty exciting, very bloody ... and gave rise to a few questions.

      From a tactical perspective, no doubt 222 Division could have been more effectively deployed. I did consider changing it, but decided to leave it as is.

      The result, by the way, does set up a possible sequel, involving the unengaged elements of 6th Shock Army, 17th Panzer Division, and possibly another German infantry Division but one less powerful than the 222nd ... erm ... was.

    2. Archduke Piccolo,

      I had a feeling that was the case, but it seems as though you enjoyed using the rules ... and your minor changes seem to be totally in keeping with the spirit of the original rules.

      It is interesting that this battle has set the scene for a further one. I often find this, as is the case with my current spate of Colonial battles. What started as a one-off to see how well the Heroscape terrain worked has turned into a mini-campaign ... and I am currently taking a break from fighting the third - and possibly decisive - battle. Hopefully it will be appearing as a blog entry tomorrow or on Saturday.

      All the best,


    3. Looking forward to it!

      I was reading over the HEXBLITZ stuff - especially the battle - a couple of nights back, and discovered I had overlooked or forgotten something. It was that a battalion stand could sit astride an edge or point, which gave it coverage for the two or three hexes it 'occupied'.

      Now I had toyed with allowing the splitting of my '1-hex' formations, but decided it would overcomplicate things or else lead to the reversion of SPs for each battalion (which, for certain practical reasons I wished to avoid).

      But that edge and point occupation might well provide the solution I'm looking for. The 'zones of control' and firepower presumably will extend to all 9 surrounding hexes. Any attacks upon any of the occupied hexes will be an attack against the formation as a whole. I think that would work.


    4. Ion,

      It's an idea that I 'nicked' from the British Army 1956 wargame. It allows for single units from a formation to be deployed as a tripwire or crust defence. When they come into contact with the enemy, the formation commander can then deploy their counter-attack force to meet it.

      All the best,