Saturday, April 25, 2020

Unquiet Flows the Mius

By mid-July, the German Operation Zitadelle, the attempt to pinch out the Kursk salient dominating the centre of the Eastern Front, was petering out in the face of staunch Soviet resistance, the Soviet counter-offensive in the Orel salient, and disturbing developments in distant Italy. Planning a counter-offensive in the central fronts, STAVKA also ordered attacks to launched at once on the Mius River, with the view of breaking through on that front, or least to draw off substantial Axis fighting units in that direction.

Months earlier, during the far-reaching advances by the Soviet Armies in the wake of the Uranus and Saturn Operations, the Soviets had penetrated the Mius River line, threatening the whole German position in the Donbas region. With great effort, the Germans contained the breakthrough and destroyed the stranded Soviets, but the latter maintained a tenuous bridgehead near the hamlet of Kozhevnya, downriver from Dmitrievka town. By mid July, just as the Russians were gearing up for a major offensive on this front, the Germans were organising a final attempt to eliminate the bridgehead. 

It was whilst tidying up (yeah, right) some loose papers of various ideas I was considering that I came across a scenario designed for the Rommel game system. This looked like fun, so I adapted it for my own set up. Some fairly major surgery was required to fit a system of large squares into my own smaller hex-grid. The TO&E required a fair bit of adjustment, too. I played the game using the Portable Wargame system, but with considerable changes to the Strength Point system. The Germans started first, but thereafter I used my dice roll system for determining the initiative (who goes first in a given turn).  However, this might have been a good scenario for the more random card activation system.

Partly owing to playing the game outdoors, I used my (mostly) resin river sections (weight), which are quite wide enough to occupy a whole hex width. I made a special rule about this river. Passable to foot and tracked or semi-tracked vehicles, but not to wheeled, to cross it, a unit had to move up to the near river bank, next turn enter, and the move following spend exiting onto the far bank. Units in the river could initiate and defend a close assault (with a penalty), but not shoot.  

Finally, the red and blue stars on the map were objective points that I will explain in due course.  

The forces detailed for this operation were:

Soviet Union:

2nd Guards Mechanised Corps: 
-   HQ and staffs, Major-General I. B. Munchkin (6SP)
-   Supply column:
-   4th Mechanised Brigade:
          I/4 Motor Rifle Infantry 6SP
          II/4 Motor Rifle Infantry 6SP
          4th Tank Battalion: 2 T34 medium tank Coys @ 3SP
                      1 T26 light tank Coy 2SP
-   5th Mechanised Brigade:
          I/5 Motor Rifle Infantry 6SP
          II/5 Motor Rifle Infantry 6SP
          5th Tank Battalion: 2 T34 medium tank Coys @ 3SP
                      1 T70 light tank Coy 2SP
          5th Tank Destroyer Unit: 1 45L46 light Anti-Tank, 2SP
-    6th Mechanised Brigade:
          I/6 Motor rifle Infantry 6SP
          II/6 Motor Rifle Infantry 6SP
          6th Tank Battalion: 3 T34 medium tank Coys @ 3SP
-    Corps Support Troops:
          Guards Mortar Battalion: 1 BM-13 Katyusha rocket launcher @ 2SP*
          Medium Artillery Battalion: 1 x 122L22 gun 2SP
          2 x Light Artillery battalions: e@ 1 x 76.2mm field gun @ 2SP
          2 x Assault gun battalions: e@ 1 x SU76 @ 2SP

All troops count as 'average'.

24 units (median 12)
81 strength points (exhaustion point, -27)

Special rule for Katyusha.  Counts as mortars for range.   May shoot ONLY in the artillery fire phase.   Rolls TWO dice instead of one when shooting.  May not shoot in consecutive turns.  I am considering adding a rule for minimum range of 2 hexes.


16th Panzergrenadier Division:
-   HQ and Staff: Oberst G von Manteuffel (6SP)
-   16th Supply Column:
-   Kampfgruppe I
          I/2nd Panzer Battalion: 3 x PzIIIL medium tank @ 3SP
          II/2nd Panzer Battalion: 2 x PzIVG medium tank @ 4SP
          I/60th Panzergrenadier gepanzert: 5SP (counts as elite)
          II/60th Panzergrenadier motorised: 5SP (counts as elite)
-   Kampfgruppe II
          Coy/2nd Panzer: 1 x PzII light tank 2SP
          16th Tank Destroyer Battalion: 3 StuGIIIG medium assault guns @ 3SP
                                                             1 Marder II panzerjager @ 2SP
          I/79th Panzergrenadier motorised: 5SP (counts as elite)
          II/79th Panzergrenadier motorised: 5SP (counts as elite)
-   Elements of 294th Division (under command);
          I/515th Infantry Battalion 6SP (average)
          II/515th Infantry Battalion 6SP (average)
-   Corps support troops:
          2 x Light Artillery Battalions, e@ 1 x 10.5cm howitzer @ 2SP.

All troops, except panzergrenadiers, count as average.

20 units (median 10)
72 strength points (exhaustion point, -24)

In the above map, the blue line indicates the German deployment zone to the west; the red line the permitted Soviet deployment zone to the east. Where that red line cuts off a portion of the west bank of the river is the location of the bridgehead the Soviets seek to expand, the Germans to eliminate.

The blue stars were German objective points, the red stars the Soviets'. To win, the Germans had to take 2 of the red stars whilst retaining at least 2 of their own. The Soviets won if they held at least 3 of their own objectives, and took at least one German. All other results counted as a draw, or indecisive action.

To be continued...



  1. A very nice downsizing of a strategic situation. I think putting a min range on the the katyusha is a good idea. Look forward to unfolding events.

    1. Thanks, Norm. As I was using the Portable Wargame system, I was fudging this quite a bit. I think that using the Hexblitz (or similar) game systems would have suited it better, but I wanted something quick. A month after the equinox, the afternoons aren't very long!

  2. Looking good! I'm not sure I'd bother with a minimum range for the Katyushas in an operational game. I thought at Staling grad they fired direct across the Volga? They are fairly short ranged in any case.

    1. Had I been using the Hexblitz (or similar) game system (which would indeed have been more appropriate), I agree. But in the Portable Wargame system, in which ranges to feature, I think it a good idea. I admit I was playing fast and loose with scales. The distances between the built up areas - which I named from actual places - indicates the hexes represented about a kilometre across. But I was prepared to live with 4000 metre tank gunnery ranges. I think I might do this one again as a Hexblitz game, some time.

  3. Archduke Piccolo,

    I’m currently in the middle of renovating my own collection of Russian WWII stuff, and my interest was just beginning to flag ... and then you wrote this, and my enthusiasm returned big time.

    I’m looking forward to reading your battle report.

    All the best,