3rd Battle of Kharkov – A Crossfire Scenario

A Crossfire scenario set during the last major German victory of WW2 – the 3rd battle of Kharkov 11-14 March 1943. See also my Battle Report.

Historical Situation

Setting: Kharkov, USSR; 11-14 March 1943

Kharkov had originally been captured in 1942 (1st Battle), but had been taken by the Soviets following the German defeat at Stalingrad (2nd Battle).

Kampfgruppe Witt

In March 1943 Hausser’s SS Panzerkorps was given the task of retaking the city. By this stage of the war Hausser’s men were hardened veterans, and his Panzerkorps consisted of:

1. SS-Panzer-Division “Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler”
2. SS-Panzer-Division “Das Reich”
3. SS-Panzer-Division “Totenkopf”

Rybalko’s Soviet 3rd Tank Army were waiting for them, with the 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Corps and the 48th, 104th, 305th and 307th Rifle Divisions inside the city.

The German assault troops were formed into Kampfgruppes and each was given a road to attack down. SS Das Reich attacked from the west (Kampfgruppe Harmel) and SS Leibstandarte from the north (Kampfgruppes Krass, Sandig, Hansen, Witt, Meyer), while SS Totenkopf screened the Northwest.

SS Recon

Four days of bitter house to house fighting ensued. As the days progressed the German force broke into smaller company sized groups, each supported by a few Panzers. Soviet machine-guns and anti-tank gun were everywhere and in every lane and courtyard a tank lay in wait. Each block had to be cleared building by building with artillery sweeping the bridges and approaches.

Hausser’s SS Panzerkorps retook the city of Kharkov after fierce fighting, however, the Third Battle of Kharkov left the city only temporarily in Axis hands. The Germans were soon driven out once again (4th Battle of Kharkov) – this time for good.

This scenario represents the typical house to house fighting that went on. All the attacking forces encountered situations like this, but nominally the scenario follows Kampfgruppe Witt’s approach to Dzerzhinsky Square in the centre of the city on 12 March.

Knocked out Soviet Tanks

The BattleFront: 3rd Battle of Kharkov has more details on the battle.

You can also check out the Battle Report.


Map produced in CC2
Click this map to get the full size map

Map

The table should be 6’x4′ used length ways; North is toward the top, short end. Key features are:

  • Buildings. Lots of them, but in a rough grid pattern. There should be enough space for tanks to rove around on the roads, although not so much space that there is more than 1 squad width on either side of a tank when in the middle of any particular road.
  • Rough ground represents bombed out buildings, back gardens, and vacant lots. The rough ground is in rectangular / angular shapes to reflect its urban nature.
  • Hedges represent any tall linear features, most probably large walls.
  • The Germans deploy north of the line A-A.
  • The Soviets deploy south of the line A-A.
  • The Terrain Objectives are all south of the line B-B.

Pre-game preparation

After the terrain is set up

  1. The German player publicly nominates two terrain features to be used for Victory Objectives.
  2. Similarly the Soviet player publicly nominates two terrain objectives.
  3. The German secretly records which one of the four terrain features is “vital”- this is worth more toward the victory conditions.
  4. The Soviet player records his hidden deployment.

All terrain objectives must be in the sector of the table south of the line B-B.

Soviet Player (Defending)

Objective

The Soviets are trying to hold the approach to Dzerzhinsky Square. They do this by preventing the German capturing and holding terrain objectives.

Forces Available

Elements of 3rd Tank Army

Initial Russian Order of Battle

  • 1 x HMG
  • 1 x FO for off table 82mm Mortar (12 FM)
  • 1 x Under-strength Infantry Company (Company 1)
    • 1 x CC (+1)
    • 1 x HMG
    • 2 x Rifle Platoons: PC (+1/0), 3 x Rifle (one with ATR)
  • 1 x Under-strength Infantry Company (Company 2)
    • 1 x CC (+1)
    • 1 x on-table 50mm Mortar (12 FM)
    • 2 x Rifle Platoon: PC (+1/0), 3 x Rifle (one with ATR)
  • 2 x Sniper
  • 3 x 45mm ATG (optional trucks) + PC
  • 1 x 76mm Divisional ATG (optional truck)
  • 1 x T-34 C
  • 1 x KV-1 E
  • Morale: Regular
  • Russian PCs get +1 for close combat but not for rallying.

Deployment

Deploys first south of the line A-A. All defenders can deploy hidden.

Reinforcements

The reinforcements arrive on a 5+ at the start of each friendly initiative after the attacker gets
LOS to any of the terrain objectives.

Russian Reinforcements

  • 1 x HMG
  • 1 x FO for off table 82 mm Mortar (12 FM)
  • Reinforcements for Infantry Company 1
    • 1 x on-table 50 mm Mortar (12 FM)
    • 1 x Rifle Platoon: PC (+1/0), 3 x Rifle (one with ATR)
  • Reinforcements for Infantry Company 2
    • 1 x HMG
    • 1 x Rifle Platoon: PC (+1/0), 3 x Rifle (one with ATR)
  • 1 x T-34 C
  • Morale: Regular

German Player (Attacking)

Begins scenario with initiative.

Objective

The German player is attempting to capture and hold terrain objectives on the approach to Dzerzhinsky Square.

Forces Available

Elements III Battalion, 1st SS Panzergrenadier Regiment supported by elements of II Abteilung SS-Panzer Regiment 1. Both part of Kampfgruppe Witt, 1 SS-Panzer-Division “Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler”..

German Order of Battle

  • Headquarters (Veteran), comprising:
    • 1 BC (+2)
    • 1 SMG Squad
    • 2 x FO for off table 120mm Mortar (12 FM)
    • 1 x FO for off table Heavy Artillery (4 FM)
    • 1 x on-table 251/9 half-track with 75mm IG
    • 1 x 75 mm Pak40 Anti-tank Gun (optional tractor)
  • 2 x Panzergrenadier Companies (Veteran), comprising:
    • 1 x CC (+2)
    • 1 x HMG
    • 1 x 251/1 Half-track with MG only
    • 1 x FO for off table 251/2 half-track with 81 mm Mortar (12 FM)
    • 1 x Rifle Platoon: PC (+2), 3 x Rifle (one with ATR)
    • 2 x Rifle Platoons: PC (+1), 2 x Rifle (one with ATR)
  • 3 x Panzer IV G

Deployment

Deploys second, visible, and north of the line A-A.

Reinforcements

None

Victory Conditions

Type of Scenario: Hasty Defence with
Terrain objectives. The game ends after twelve hours of combat. The German player wins if they attain three victory points (VP) without sustaining 50% causalities in stands (13+); any other result means the defender wins. Capturing each normal terrain objective is worth one VP. The “vital” terrain objective is worth two VP. A terrain feature is captured if occupied and undisputed; it can be subsequent abandoned by the occupier, but still counts for victory points unless occupied by the enemy. PCs & FOs do not count toward casualties.

Scenario Special Rules

This scenario was originally an opportunity to try out a few rules. Notably:

  • A moving clock is in use, using clock ticks. The scenario starts at 0600 and ends at 1800. The clock advances 30 min on 5+ on one die, rolled at the end of each defender initiative.
  • Direct Fire HE against buildings rule. Stands in buildings don’t get the -1d6 protective cover bonus when shot at by Direct Fire HE.
  • Vehicles and Buildings. Vehicles can’t enter buildings, and don’t get their close combat bonus in or near buildings.
  • Towed Guns and Man handling. Can man handle 1 move action per initiative, or do a towed move of up to three move actions once limbered. Limbering and unlimbering takes one initiative.
  • Close Support Infantry Guns. On table Infantry Guns and Anti-tank guns can group fire with any firing infantry, even if not attached to that platoon at the start of the game.
  • APC in group fire. APCs attach and group fire like HMG.
  • Use Planned Operational Zones if running as a multi-player game. This scenario is suitable for two players per team.

Weapon stats

Type When ARM ACC PEN MG HE/EFF Smoke HD Spd CC Comment
Anti-Tank Rifle -1 -3 0
45 mm ATG +1 -1 1/1 1 -2
76 mm ATG +1 0 4/2 1 -2
KV-1 6/3 0 0 4 4/2 1 +3
T34-76 4/3 -1 0 4 4/2 3 +3
7.5 cm Pak40 +1 +1 4/2 1 -2
Pz IV G 4/2 0 +1 4 4/2 2 +3
251/9 half-track with 75mm IG 1/1 0 +1 4 4/2 3 +1
251/1 Half-track 1/1 4 3 +1

Notes

  • Play tested this three times. One German victory and two Russian.
  • Optional Rule: All Hedges count as Bocage, i.e. block vehicle movement. Not that Kharkov had Bocage, or even Hedges necessarily, but the effect is the channel tanks along the roads.

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