Big Eye of the Tiger – A Crossfire Scenario with Barrie Lovell

I’ve been talking to Barrie Lovell about the Eye of the Tiger Crossfire Scenario. Barrie made a few changes to the scenario. Well, a lot of changes. He increased the forces involved and created a table based on satellite imagery of the outskirts of Tuckums, which includes a factory estate and a railway line and station.

I have turned Barrie’s description of his game into a Crossfire Scenario, including a map for a 6’x6′ table, so others can give it a try. I then went further and (1) added some new special rules and (2) provided a set of alternative maps, mainly so people with a 6’x4′ table can play the game.

Historical situation

Setting: Tuckum, Latvia; 20 August 1944

As the Soviet offensive of 1944 swept through Belorussia, it soon reached the borders of Poland and the Baltic countries. A dangerous bulge was soon forming between the German armies of Army Group north and Army Group Mitte. On 1 August 1944 the 3rd Russian Mechanised Corps of the 51st Army broke through the weakly held German defence lines between Auz and Mitau. The Russians quickly overcame the scattered German delaying units and reached the town of Tuckum, just a few kilometres away from the Gulf of Riga. Army Group North was effectively cut off from the rest of the German armies fighting in the east.

At this critical moment in the summer of 1944, Generaloberrst Ferdinand Schorner, commander of Army Group North, began scraping together emergency combat units for a counterattack that he hoped would restore land communications between both army groups. One of these emergency units was SS Panzer Brigade Gross, consisting of two weak tank companies made up of old PzIII and IV tanks, the 103rd Heavy Tank Battalion (Tiger tanks) with Panzergrenadier support plus the ad hoc 1 SS Armoured Recon battalion. As was common practice in the Waffen-SS, this emergency unit was named after its commander, SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Martin Gross.

On 8 August, SS Panzer Brigade Gross was momentarily committed to battle against a Soviet Cavalry Corps south of Libau, Latvia. Used as a fire brigade, Brigade Gross with the combined efforts of some Wehrmacht units held back the Russian attack. Nineteen days after the Soviets had severed land communications between Army Group North and Mitte, the Germans had finally amassed a sizeable force that they hoped would be able to restore the German front between both armies by fightin their way through the Soviet 3rd Mechanised Corps.

On 20 August, SS Panzer Brigade Gross (which was attached Panzer Division Strachwitz, another ad hoc units) attacked towards the village of Tuckum. Soon a murderous firefight erupted in and around the village with Tiger tanks and T-34s stalking each other in the streets of Tuckum. The cruiser Prinz Eugen, which was off shore, threw its weight into the attack exacting a heavy tool on the Russian defenders. By 1700 hours, the Soviet defenders were routed from the village and had lost over 48 tanks. The Germans reestablished contact with Army Gorup Mitte.

Mission

The scenario simulates the breakthrough attempt on 20 August 1944. SS Panzer Brigade Gross is trying to seize Tuckum and link up with Army Group Mitte.

Map/Terrain

To create his table Barrie looked at Google maps for Tuckums Latvia.

Barrie reduced the size of the built up areas as most of the ones shown on Google would have been post war construction. In the late 80’s Barrie spent some time working on WW2 maps. When comparing these to modern maps and aerial photos of the same area taken in the 80’s the WW2 towns and villages appeared to be about 25% the size of the modern towns etc, with the buildings generally jumbled together around the town or village square etc. For this game Barrie used quite a few building for the old town, with only a few smaller cluster of buildings for the surrounding area/villages. This provided a reasonable amount of cover but didn’t fill up the table.

Barrie used the Show Terrain option of Google Maps to understand the general lie of the land – elevations show up a grey shading. At Tuckum there is a low ridge running approx west-east to the north of the railway line. It is a fairly gentle slope and not very high, but Barrie felt it would be high enough to affect line of sight etc.

Big Eye of the Tiger Map A 6'x6'

Big Eye of the Tiger Map A 6’x6′

Key features are:

  • Terrain typical of northern Europe, i.e. buildings, woods, roads, and hedges.
  • A ridge line running from south-west to north-east
  • A dual railway line from south-west to north-east, south of the ridge liine.
  • A railway station towards the west on a side loop of rail
  • The town of Tuckum in the north-west corner, north of the ridge line and railway line
  • A factory complex in the south-west corner, south of the railway line
  • The Russian defenders deploy in Tuckum vicinity, i.e. west of line A-A
  • Germans arrive on the eastern table edge (Edge B-B)

Pre-game preparation

The Germans get 6 Preplanned Bombardment Fire Missions.

Russians decide how to distribute their anti-tank rifles.

Russian deploy hidden.

Russian Player (Defending)

Objective

Hold the majority of Tuckum.

Forces Available

Elements of the 3rd Russian Mechanised Corps of the 51st Army including two infantry companies with HMG, antitank and mortar support, plus a full company (10) T34/85.

Defender Order of Battle

  • 2 x Rifle Companies
    • 1 x CC (+2)
    • 2 x HMG
    • 1 x FO for off-table 82 mm Mortar (12 FM)
    • 1 x on-table 50 mm Mortar (12 FM)
    • 3 x Rifle Platoons: PC (+1)1; 3 x Rifle Squads; optional antitank rifles2
  • 2 x FO for 81 mm Mortar (12 FM)
  • 2 x 45mm Anti-tank gun with optional tow
  • 10 x T34-85 (Veteran)3
  • 1 x off-table cruiser Prinz Eugen – treat as Heavy Artillery (variable FM; HE only)4
  • Command & Control: Poor
  • Morale: Regular

Notes:
(1) All modifiers are for both rallying and close combat. The normal rule that Russian PCs get +1 for close combat but not for rallying, does NOT apply.
(2) Three rifle squads per company can have Anti-Tank Rifles, either one per platoon for combined into a single platoon
(3) Because the HTD Special Rule 7, indirect fire on vehicles rule is in use, all armour needs a morale rating. The Soviet armour is Veteran.
(4) As the off German naval bombardment was random, each Prinz Eugen FM the Germans call in gives the Soviets a Prinz Eugen FM of their own to use. The fire from Prinz Eugen can be called in by any Soviet FO; the FO cannot call in their normal indirect fire in the same initiative.

Deployment

Deploys first, hidden, in the area of Tuckum, i.e. west of line A-A.

Reinforcements

None

German Player (Attacking)

Begins scenario with initiative.

Objective

Capture the majority of Tuckum.

Forces Available

Elements of SS Panzer Brigade Gross including three companies of Panzer Grenadiers, four Panzer III/IV and three Tigers.

Attacker Order of Battle

  • 1 x BC (+2)
  • 1 x SMG Squad
  • 1 x Heavy Weapons Company
    • 1 x FO for off-table 120 mm Mortar (10 FM)
    • 1 x FO for off-table 75 mm Infantry Gun on 251/9 Halftrack (12 FM)
  • 3 x Panzer Grenadier Companies
    • 1 x CC (+2)
    • 1 x HMG
    • 1 x FO for off-table 81 mm Mortar on 251/2 Halftrack (12 FM)
    • 1 x FO for off-table 75 mm Infantry Gun on 251/9 Halftrack (12 FM)
    • 3 x Rifle Platoons: PC (+1); 3 x Rifle Squads; one squad has Panzerfaust
  • 1 x off-table cruiser Prinz Eugen – treat as Heavy Artillery (3 FM; HE only)2
  • 3 x Tiger I (Veteran)1
  • 2 x Pz IV H (Veteran)1
  • 2 x Pz III M (Veteran)1
  • Command & Control: Good
  • Morale: Regular

Notes:
(1) Because the HTD Special Rule 7, indirect fire on vehicles rule is in use, all armour needs a morale rating. The German armour is Veteran.
(2) The fire from Prinz Eugen can be called in by any German FO; the FO cannot call in their normal indirect fire in the same initiative. As the German naval bombardment was random, each Prinz Eugen FM the Germans call in gives the Soviets a Prinz Eugen FM of their own to use.

Deployment

The German force arrives on first German initiative from east table edge (Edge B-B).

Reinforcements

None.

Victory Conditions

Terrain objectives.

The game starts at 1000 hours and the German players must clear the town by 1800 hours. If the Soviets were still holding at 1800 then the Germans lose.

The Germans clear the town by controlling 75% of the building sectors. A player controls a terrain objective if their stand occupies the feature or was the last to occupy it, and the feature is/was not physically contested by the enemy.

Scenario Special Rules

  • HTD Special Rule 4: The Moving Clock is in use. The Scenario begins at 1000 hours and ends 1800 hours. The clock advances 60 minutes on 5+ at the end of each defender initiative.
  • HTD Special Rule 5: Bogging down is in use. Armoured vehicles bog down when attempted a move action in difficult terrain on 4- on 1d6; difficult terrain includes woods, rough ground, walls and hedges. They unbog on 5+, becoming permanently mired on 1. (Note: I play a house rule that vehicles cannot enter buildings; if you allow vehicles to enter buildings they should bog there too.)
  • HTD Special Rule 7: indirect fire on vehicles rule is in use. An indirect fire weapon of 80mm or more can target a stationary enemy vehicles. A vehicle is stationary if it has not attempted a move action in its last two initiative phases. Vehicles get the advantage of cover, even in the open. Armoured vehicles targets incur the -1 pip penalty and 1 die cover penalty of bunkers. Unarmoured vehicles get only the 1 die cover penalty, like a building. Indirect fire on a vehicle can pin, suppress or kill the target; by implication the vehicles can rally from pin and suppress. The indirect fire weapons are treated as infantry squads for determining target priority.
  • The German navy bombarded the town, nominally in support of the attacking SS, but in practice fire was random and took out an entire Panzer company. So the Germans get 3 FM of Prinz Eugen fire, however each Prinz Eugen FM the Germans call in gives the Soviets a Prinz Eugen FM of their own to use. The fire from Prinz Eugen can be called in by any friendly FO; the FO cannot call in their normal indirect fire in the same initiative. Prinz Eugen fire ignores normal target priorities.

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
T34-85 5/3 0 1 4 5/2 2 +3
Panzerfaust -1 +1 0
Tiger I 5/3 0 +2 4 5/2 Yes 2 +3
Pz IV H 4/2 0 +1 4 4/2 Yes 2 +3
Pz III M 3/1 0 -1 4 2/1 Yes 2 +3

Variant Maps

The map above is based on Barrie’s table but I wanted a variant for a couple of reasons:

  • Barrie used a 6’x6′ table but I don’t have one. I have a 4’x4′ or 6’x4′ or 8’x4′ but not 6’x6′.
  • Barrie generally uses 4″x4″ building sectors but mine are generally 3″x3″

That meant I wanted a different shape of table and on a compressed ground scale.

The variant I’m most likely to use is a slice across Barrie’s table. But replacing his building sectors with my smaller ones.

Big Eye of the Tiger Map  B 6'x4' Slice

Big Eye of the Tiger Map B 6’x4′ Slice

The second variant is Barrie’s table but squashed north-south so that it fits on my 6’x4′ table. Again with my 3″x3″ building sectors.

Big Eye of the Tiger Map C 6'x4' Squashed

Big Eye of the Tiger Map C 6’x4′ Squashed

The last variant is really for my original Eye of the Tiger Crossfire Scenario with a smaller order of battle. Essentially it gives a more historical game, via a more historical map.

Big Eye of the Tiger Map  D 4'x4'

Big Eye of the Tiger Map D 4’x4′

References

Barrie pointed me at a few references for the battle …

Jurmala Airport

The nearby airfield had been used by the Luftwaffe up until 1944

Landwehr, R. (2007). Spanish Volunteers of the Waffen-SS. Siegrunen 79

Mentioned the battle on page 22

Wikipedia: Operation Doppelkopf

Wikipedia: Siauliai Offensive

Wikipedia: SS Panzer Brigade Gross

Wikiwand: Soviet Re-occupation of Latvia in 1944

Wikiwand: SS Panzer Brigade Gross

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