Thanks for joining us for the Red Banner/Ghost Panzers Live Launch.
We hope you enjoyed all the bits and pieces we got up to during the launch, and be sure to enter the competition on the Flames of War Facebook group to be in to win a copy of either of the new Kursk books and its corresponding army deal.
It’s been a pleasure, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first Live Launch.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about my terrain and what is useful for playing a Kursk (or even Eastern Front) themed game. Looking through what we have in the office as well as my collection at home I found that I had quite a few great options for creating themed tables.
This week just for fun we thought we come up with a arcade style mission using Borgwards in a new way. The main idea is you grab a friend or two and some tanks and you defend the supply route from an onslaught of German demolition carriers in a Space Invaders style game. This was put together especially for the launch and we thought we would release it as a Beta test for everyone to play around with.
From the mid-1930s until the late 1950s, U.S. Army infantry regiments in each division contained an Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) platoon as part of the regimental headquarters company. In 1939, the I&R platoon Table of Organization & Equipment (TO&E) authorized 10 infantrymen to make up the unit. This was expanded to 18 infantrymen in 1940 and the platoon TO&E, in 1941, was authorized to include 1/4-ton vehicles (Jeeps).
The I&R platoon consists of a platoon headquarters and two reconnaissance squads. Platoon headquarters consists of the platoon leader, platoon sergeant, driver, topographic draftsman, radio operator, and scouts and observers. Each squad consists of a squad leader, assistant squad leader, radio operator, drivers, scouts and observers. The platoon headquarters had one jeep while each squad had three jeeps, some of which carried radios.
The soldiers that made up the platoon are all infantrymen, given additional training by the regimental S-2, as there was no institutional military intelligence school at the time. Training of the platoon members focused on operating as scouts along with map and aerial photograph reading, conventional signs, military symbols and abbreviations, sketching, oral and written reporting, scouting and patrolling, theory and practice of observation, camouflage and the art of concealment, and the collection of information.
Individual equipment for members of the I&R platoon include standard infantry small arms and equipment, though individuals in the field often supplemented the standard issue as they saw fit. Each squad also had a prismatic compass, a 20-power monocular telescope and/or a pair of field glasses, and a watch. The platoon members carried notebooks and writing materials and colored pencils to pass along information and mark maps.
War Department FM 7-25, Headquarters Company, Intelligence and Signal Communication, Rifle Regiment, October 7, 1942 states:
“The principle mission of the regimental intelligence platoon is to serve as the special intelligence agency of the regimental commander, for the collection, recording, evaluation and dissemination of information, under the supervision of the regimental intelligence officer (S-2). The platoon is also charged with counterintelligence measures and surveillance. Actual operations of this platoon are conducted under the immediate control of the platoon leader. He may receive his orders directly from the regimental commander, S-2, or S-3. During training periods, it may be required to assist the S-2 in conducting intelligence and counterintelligence instruction within the regiment.”
The main function of the I&R platoon was to be the ears and eyes of the regimental commander. FM 7-25 describes the principle functions of the platoon as:
Gathering detailed information about the enemy and terrain in locations that are not readily accessible to the rifle companies of the battalions or regiment.
Assemble, evaluate and distribute information and intelligence gathered by the platoon and by subordinate, higher, or adjacent friendly units.
Provide early warning to the regiment on the presence, disposition, composition, and approach of enemy forces of all types. Operate well in advance of the regiment in order to gain and maintain contact with the enemy.
Maintain contact with reconnaissance and security formations of other, larger formations that are operating forward or to the flanks of the regiment.
Regain lost contact with adjacent, attached and assigned friendly units. Locate and maintain contact with the flanks of an enemy force when contact is gained by dismounted combat elements of the regiment.
Reconnoiter avenues of approach, routes, river crossings and complex enemy obstacles. Search suspicious, dominating and critical areas along the route of march to identify possible ambush sites, defended roadblocks, route classification and contaminated areas.
Establish and operate 24-hour observation and listening posts.
Conduct dismounted patrolling to the front, flanks, and rear of the regiment when terrain or enemy situation precludes the use of mounted patrolling.
Assist the regimental S-2 at the command post or at a tactical observation/tactical command post by maintaining the intelligence situation map, and/or keeping an intelligence log, taking and preparing reports, messages and sketches.
Carry out such counterintelligence measures as directed by the regimental commander or S-2. Provide instruction on the subject to other units of the regiment. Search undefended or captured towns and villages and captured enemy equipment and positions.
Some other missions performed by the platoon that were not specifically included in standard doctrine were;
Liaison between regiments of the division.
Messenger duties between battalions of the regiment.
Escort and security for the regimental commander as he moved forward of the main command post.
Serving as radio-telephone operators for regimental command in dismounted offensive operations.
Marking of route of march for the regiment and providing guides at traffic control points.
Accompanying a combat or reconnaissance patrol conducted by rifle platoons or companies from subordinate infantry battalions of the regiment in order to report on tactical progress of intelligence acquired directly to the regimental commander.
Conduct economy of force operations on a flank of the regiment in order to provide early warning and prevent the regiment from being surprised.
While being trained infantrymen, thus capable of getting involved in direct fighting against enemy forces, the primary duty of the I&R platoon is to support the front-line infantry and regimental commander by carrying out the above type of missions and not get directly into a firefight. The MTOE did vary during the war but we will go with the 1942 organization.
In Flames of War: The I&R platoon is an additional platoon in the Rifle Company formation diagram. To model the platoon, we will use the organization from V3 North Africa with a command carbine team of 3 figures and 2 carbine teams of 4 figures. I used the dismounted armored recon platoon to build the unit. As the pick of the litter they are a little better trained than most of the rest of the guys in the regiment. Very useful for calling in fire. For points we will use the rifle platoon as a benchmark. We will be adding recon and spearhead skills, but in compensation we will have worse Rally and Counter Attack ratings. At slightly less than one point per rifle team we, rounding up we get 1 point for the platoon.
I’ve decided to put together a StuG Assault Gun Company for the Kursk period from Ghost Panzers. By June 1943 many Assault Gun Battalions (Sturmgeschütz Abteilungen) had started to be equipped with the latest version of the StuG assault gun, the StuG III G armed with the long 7.5cm StuK40 gun. The 301. Panzer Battalion chosen as the theme unit in Ghost Panzers is a radio control unit that also contains Borgward demolition carriers, but by not taking the Borgward options it can also be used to represent any of the Assault Gun Companies or Batteries that served on the eastern front.
At Kursk in particular there are a number of Assault Gun Battalion or Brigades involved in the operations. Sturmgeschütz Abteilungen 904 (31 x StuG III) and 245 (22 x StuG III and 9 x StuH 42) served with XXXXVII Panzer Korps on the north side of the salient. Sturmgeschütz Abteilungen 177 (22 x StuG III and 9 x StuH 42) and 244 (22 x StuG III and 9 x StuH 42) served under command of XXXXI. Panzerkorps.
In addition a number of divisions had their own assault gun units. 78. Sturm Division had Sturmgeschütz Abteilung 189, Panzergrenadierdivision ‘Grossdeutchland’ had Sturmgeschütz Abteilung ‘Grossdeutchland’, 7. Infanteriedivision’s Panzerjäger Abteilung 7 contained one company equipped with StuG III, and 6. Infanteriedivision’s Panzerjäger Abteilung 6 contained one company equipped with StuG III.
To be a bit different I’m going to base my StuG force on 6. Infanteriedivision, representing the Sturmgeschütz Kompanie (Assault Gun Company) of Panzerjäger Abteilung 6 (6th Tank-hunter Detachment/Battalion). 6. Infanteriedivision fought in the middle of the 9thArmy’s attack on the north of the Kursk Salient and pushed as far as Olkhovatka during the battle along with the Panzertruppen. During the fighting the divisions also has the 1st and 2nd Companies of Heavy Panzer Battalion 505 (Tiger IE heavy tanks) and Panzerkompanie (Fkl) 312 attached.
Victor and I decided to sit down for a quick TANKS battle while we work on our larger Flames Of War forces during the live launch.
We decided to do the battle of Prokhorovka, which ended up being one of the largest tank battles in military history. We were playing a themed game, and to this end we put as many tanks as we could into our 100 point lists. We chose King of the Hill as our battle to force the action to be in the middle of the table.
I put together some Factory Fresh T-34s and a pair of KV-1s.
We started setting up terrain; I wanted to make sure there was a forest near the middle and Victor wanted to put some houses up so he could advance in cover. Next we rolled for Attacker and Defender, Victor became the attacker and I became the Defender. I chose the side that gave me a forest through which to advance my KV 1s.
Moving to deployment, I deployed my T-34s first. With the Factory Fresh upgrade these three tanks were only initiative 1! Yikes. I placed my tanks in the centre of my table, planning on using my fast speed to move into the centre woods and gain a foothold near the objective. Victor Deploys the rest of his tanks next, he places them along his table edge in a wide spread, hoping to spread out and surround me. My KV-1s are placed last, I place them within pouncing distance of the small forest, with the plans to move into the forest to gain cover during the first turn.
Turn One Movement Both Victor and I stuck to our plans, Victor getting cover in and around the buildings and me moving all my tanks into the forests.
Turn One Shooting Well this was lucky, for me, I opened up with my KV-1s and managed to do 1 normal damage and an Ammo Explosion to one of Victor’s Panzer III (Number 14), this was enough to kill him at the end of the turn. First Blood goes to the KV 1s!
Due to the high movement and defence the Germans fail to land a hit during this turn. One of the T-34s managed to get one cheeky damage of on one of Victor’s Panzer III (Number 11).
Turn One Command The Germans used their Blitzkrieg to move towards the objective and get into good positions for the next turn.
Turn Two Movement The T-34s move deeper into the forest, getting within an arrow of the objective and forming a firing line. Two of the Panzer IIIs make moves for the objective, while the other two move down my flanks. The Tiger stays still as do the KV-1s tanks.
Turn Two Shooting Once again my KV-1s focus on one of Victors Panzer III tanks (Number 12) and they deal 4 damage, killing it at the end of the turn. All the Panzer IIIs shoot at various targets each having their shots bounced against my armour and high movement. The Tiger fires last and scores three hits against one of my T-34s (Number 17). In retaliation all my T-34s shoot back but blinded by rage they were not able to score even a single hit.
Turn Two Command The Germans used their Blitzkrieg to get into good positions for the next turn.
Turn Three Movement The T-34s did some ducking and weaving in the forest to maximise their defence. Two of the Panzer IIIs stayed stationary. Victor moves the Tiger closer to the objective and the remaining Panzer III moves into the woods flanking my KV-1s tanks. The KV-1s, in their arrogance choose to ignore the Panzer sneaking up their flanks and remain stationary.
Turn Three Shooting Once again my KV-1s focus on the Tiger only scoring one hit in the end. The Panzer III on the flank of my KV 1s tanks fires and scores 3 damage on one of them. The rest of Victor’s tanks try to take out some of my T-34s and all their shots missed. My T-34s focus on the Tiger tank, and they only score one hit.
Turn Three Command The Germans decide to skip their movement Blitzkrieg.
Turn Four Movement The T-34s moved into a more tactical position. Victor moves his Tiger into the forest to counter some of my movement decisions. The Panzers III tanks stay stationary. I moved the KV-1s once to destroy the tank that flanked them in the previous turn.
Turn Four Shooting The KV-1s deal enough damage to kill the Panzer III (Number 15) in the small woods at the end of the turn. The The Tiger and a Panzer III both shoot at one of my T-34s (Number 16) and score enough hits to destroy it at the end of the turn. The remaining Panzer III tanks fail to hit their targets. The T-34s fire on one of the Panzer IIIs (Number 11), scoring only one hit in total.
Turn Four Command The Tiger and a Panzer III (Number 13) Blitz closer to the objective.
Turn Five Movement I move my T-34s three times to get them in a better position, the Tiger stays stationary, while the Panzer III (Number 13) moves two times to the flank of one of my T-34s. Fresh from their kill last turn the KV-1s are out of of the woods to threaten another Panzer III.
Turn Five Shooting Once again my KV-1s focus on a Panzer III (Number 13), the first tank scoring enough hits to leave it with only one damage left, they also manage to bail it, preventing it from shooting this turn. Victor’s Remaining tanks fire on one of my T-34s (Number 20) only scoring one damage.
Turn Five Command The bailed Panzer III (Number 13) fails to repair its Bailed Out damage, and the remaining Panzer III (Number 11) Blitzes back a bit to get nearer the objective.
Turn Six Movement The T-34s stay still, as does the Tiger. The unbailed Panzer III moves to a more defensible position while the KV-1s moves twice to get into range to contest the objectives.
Turn Six Shooting Seeing the damaged Panzer III (Number 13) only had one health left, I thought it would be quick work to dispatch it with my KV-1s—but I was wrong. I failed to score even a single hit. The remaining Panzer III and Tiger shot at one of my T-34s (Number 17) scoring one hit and bailing it out, it survives with only one hit left. My unbailed T-34 (Number 20) fails to land a hit.
Turn Six Command Nether tank was able to repair the bailed damage, and Victor decides he likes his tanks’ placement and choose not to Blitz move.
Turn Seven Movement No movement, every tank decides to remain stationary.
Turn Seven Shooting The KV-1s manage to do four damage to the Tiger, leaving it with one damage point left. The Panzer III and Tiger shoot and destroy one of my T-34s (Number 20). My unbailed T-34(Number 20) unleashes its final shots scoring no hits.Turn Seven Command Nether tank was able to repair the bailed damage, and Victor decides he likes his tanks’ placement and choose not to Blitz move.
Turn Eight Movement No movement, every tank decides to remain stationary.
Turn Eight Shooting The KV-1s managed enough damage to kill Victor’s Tiger and one of his Panzer IIIs (Number 11). In retaliation, Number 11 kills my bailed out T-34. The Tiger’s final shots deal 3 damage to my already damage KV-1s almost knocking it out.
Turn Eight Command Victor was was able to repair the bailed damage on his Panzer III (Number 13) Finally!
Turn Nine Movement 13 moves into cover, the KV-1s stay stationary.
Turn Nine Shooting. The KV-1s was able to deliver the final hit on the last Panzer III (Number 13). Before it dies the Panzer III fires back and manages to destroy my damaged KV-1s, leaving just one of my KV-1s tanks still alive at the end of the game. Soviet Victory!
Man, that was close game; I got some lucky shoots right away with my cool KV-1s tanks and Victor getting the constant damage throughout with his Panzer III Long horde! I really like the factory fresh card, in this game the downsides didn’t come in and it gave me the points I needed to add my two KV-1s tanks that did most of the damage I dealt in the game.
When Enemy at the Gates came out, I backdated my Kursk T-34 company to the earlier model and added some KV-1 tanks to create a Mixed Tank Battalion [Article Reference Here]. Now that Red Banner is out, I’m in the process of updating it to the latest and greatest for Kursk.
The first step is simple, I just replace the T-34 (early) turrets with the later ‘Mickey Mouse Ear’ turrets (so called because when the two circular hatches are open, they look like Mickey mouse’s ears!) that I originally painted.
While the differences between the early and late T-34 are subtle, they are much appreciated by a speed freak like me. The later model is 2”/5cm faster through terrain and 4”/10cm faster across country, and has a Cross rating of 2+. This makes my preferred tactic of racing a mass of T-34s into the middle of an enemy tank group and engaging in a short-range firefight even more effective. At that range, and shooting into the flank of the enemy, the 76mm gun is very effective, while even the side armour is still good enough to bounce plenty of shots! It takes a Panzer IV (long) to match me in that firefight – anything less and I’ve got the advantage tank-on-tank.
The next step is sort of the reverse – painting the late-model turrets for my Valentines. Fortunately, the kit has the parts for both early and late turrets, so I just grabbed the leftover bits and made three late 2 pdr turrets and four 6 pdr turrets. The late 2 pdr turrets with their space for an extra crewman get rid of the Overworked penalty (+1 to hit when I move), while the 6 pdr guns give me Anti-tank 10 (rather than 7) instead – but at the cost of no MG. This makes my Valentines quite a bit more shooty, although less effective against infantry and guns.
While I love the Valentine (it’s sooo ugly!), its slow speed makes it difficult to use with the T-34, so I’d rather something faster, so I’m painting a company of T-70 light tanks as well. These are like a T-60 on steroids. They mount a 45mm gun (even if it only has one shot!) and have decent armour and speed, but are still dirt cheap. While they are way faster than the Valentines (and at least as fast as any opposing tank), they still feel slow compared with my T-34s, but with ten for less than the price of three T-34s, they make a nice cheap flanking or distraction force.
Finally on the tank side, I’m adding a company of Churchill tanks. Like the Valentine, they are so ugly that they are beautiful, and I just had to make some of the new plastic kit. Fortunately for my not-so-inner geek, the heavy tanks supporting the tank corps at Kursk were Churchills, so they go well with my T-34s. The Churchill is like a slightly faster and less armoured KV-1 (a bit more armour than the way faster KV-1s). Its gun has similar performance against tanks (slightly higher Anti-Tank, but worse Firepower mean more Bailed Out, but roughly the same number of destroyed enemy tanks), but with No HE, it’s way worse against enemy guns. The price is cheaper, but they’ll need some support to come out on top.
Between the two forces, I now have most of the Soviet and British Lend-Lease tanks to choose from, so that’s a plus when I want a bit of variety.
Katyusha The new plastic Katyusha rocket launcher is too cool to leave out, so I’ve grabbed four of them as well. Now I’m not convinced of the need for artillery in a hard-hitting tank force, so it’ll be a bit different for me. On the other hand, having a big Salvo template means that their ability to pin down targets quickly and reduce their threat to my tanks is going to come in handy. Having built one in the Enemy at the Gates launch event, I wasn’t surprised by how easily they go together for such a complicated looking model, but it was nice when it came time to make four of them.
SMG Company I haven’t picked it up yet, but I’d also like to paint up an SMG company to go with my tanks. I love the image of tanks covered in infantry racing forward, with the infantry dismounting and unleashing a hail of fire as they roll over the enemy in a combined-arms assault! Once the tanks are done, they’ll be next on the painting table.
The Force So, with all of these toys, what will I field? Without the Valentines, its 143 points, so great for a bigger game! For a 100-point force though, I’ll have to trim something back. If I leave out the Churchills, I have a nice T-34 Tank Battalion:
For the remaining two points I could have Partisans to slow down enemy Reserves, Reconnaissance by Combat to start the game with my Katyushas Ranged In where I need them, ot Guards and Lucky together to make my tanks Remount better and counter a bad die roll. At present I’m liking Partisans to give my tanks an edge in numbers.
Alternatively, I could add in three Churchill tanks to support the infantry and drop the T-34 and T-70 companies to six tanks each. It would be a very different force with a much slower strategy. The infantry and Churchills would be the lead elements, with the tanks tanking the role of Reserves or a flanking force stalking the enemy rather than the spearpoint of a headlong rush.
The Proof of the Pudding The only way to prove whether this particular pudding is worth eating will be to try it out in battle. It’ll be interesting to see which version has the most success.