Ponyri Station and Hill 253.5 – A Big Crossfire Scenario during Kursk

I volunteered to run a day long Crossfire multi-player event for my old club in Guildford. This scenario represents one attack and counter-attack cycle of the battle around Ponyri Station and Hill 253.5 on 7 July 1943.

The parameters were:

  • WW2
  • 6-8 players
  • one big table (’cause I wanted to try out the Multi-player Rules with the Guildford chaps)
  • playable by a mix of Crossfire novices and more experienced gamers
  • using the kit I have available (Germans and Russians)
  • must finish in about six hours of gaming (set up and pack up time was in addition)

This is what I came up with …

Historical Situation

Setting: Ponyri, Kursk Region, Russia; 7 July 1943

This scenario represents one attack and counter-attack cycle of the battle around Ponyri Station and Hill 253.5 on 7 July 1943. Nominally it covers the early morning attack by the German 86th Infantry Division (in reality two infantry battalions supported by Tigers, Pz IVs, and Ferdinands) on Hill 253.5 and an assumed simultaneous attack by the 292 Infantry Division on Ponyri Station. The scenario then goes on to represent the counter attack by the Russian 307th Rifle Division supported by 13th Anti-tank Brigade (40 x 76mm + 20 x 45mm towed ATG), the 11th Mortar Brigade, and the 2nd Guards Mortar Brigade (Katusha multiple rockets). The counterattack destroyed 10 Tigers and 12 PzIVs and retook Hill 253.5, but the battle raged on with more attack and counter-attack cycles.

You may also be interested in a more full account of the fighting around Ponyri.


Map produced in CC2
Click the map to see the

full size version

Map

Key features are:

  • 15′ x 5′ table with North-South being the short axis.
  • Village of Ponyri Station in the centre part of table.
  • Railway embankment going across the middle bisecting Ponyri Station
  • Hill 253.5 dominates the eastern part of the table. It is largely covered by woods/orchards.
  • There are seven objectives on the table:
    • Within Ponyri Station there is a schoolhouse, tractor depot, railway station, water tower and two road junctions (west and east).
    • The peak of Hill 253.5.
  • All objectives are marked with an X on the map. In the case of multi-segment buildings, only the marked segment is the objective.
  • Each sector of the the fortified railway station counts as a 2 squad bunker.
  • Otherwise terrain is typical for Kursk area during summer, i.e. in-season fields (lots), woods (lots), depressions, crests, streams (usually sunken), low hills. The Ponyri region was famous for orchards and the battle accounts describe attacks from woodland and the hills around Ponyri being “ablaze”. The Battle of Kursk was fought in high summer so the fields were full grown and orchards in leaf.

Russian Team (Defending)

Briefing

It is the third day of Operation Zitadelle – the Fascists attempt to pinch off the Russian Salient at Kursk. The battles of the last two days bore little resemblance to the crushing defeats of two years ago. The Hitlerites have made slow progress against the strong resistance from your comrades of the 83rd Rifle Division. Thick mine fields and strong HMG and ATG positions have got Fritz into a war of attrition they can not win.

None-the-less the enemy has finally reached your positions at Ponyri Station. Your men – from 1019 Rifle Regiment, 307th Rifle Division – must hold the village thus preventing the Hitlerites from pushing on toward Kursk to the south. But much more importantly, you must gain time. Your strategic reserves have been moving into the salient and it is only a matter of time before they arrive at your positions and help you drive the Fascists back.

Russians Attack

You are strongly fortified, with HMG, ATG, minefields, entrenchments, bunkers, and powerful artillery support. But you also know the Germans are likely to outnumber you and that they have strong armour and air support.

Before the game starts you must allocate the troops to the various players, deploy your troops and fortifications, and lay your minefields. All of your force – men, bunkers, minefields – is initially hidden. You must also decide where the Hidden culvert is located.

Objective

The Russian team is attempting hold its defensive positions and drive the Germans from the table. You win if at the end of the game you hold the majority of terrain objectives (Schoolhouse, Tractor depot, Railway station, Water tower, Western Road Junction, Eastern Road Junction , Peak of Hill 253.5).

Forces Available

Elements of 1019 Rifle Regiment, 307th Rifle Division supported by the 13th Anti-tank Brigade, 3rd Tank Corps, the 129th Separate Tank Brigade, and the 27th Separate Tank Regiment. Each player must control a company; other assets are allocated as desired.

Russian Order of Battle

  • Battalion HQ (Regular)
    • 1 x +1 BC
    • 3 x HMG
    • 1 x FO for off table Heavy Artillery (unlimited FM)
    • 1 x FO for off table 120 mm Mortar (unlimited FM)
    • 3 x FO for off table 82 mm Mortar (unlimited FM)
    • 1 x 45mm ATG (with optional tow)
  • 3 x Under-strength Rifle Companies (Regular)
    • 1 x CC (+1)
    • 1 x HMG
    • 1 x on-table 50 mm Mortar (unlimited FM)
    • 2 x Rifle Platoons: PC ( +1/0), 3 x Rifles, one with ATR
  • 1 x Under-strength SMG Company (Regular)
    • 1 x CC (+1)
    • 1 x HMG
    • 1 x on-table 50 mm Mortar (unlimited FM)
    • 2 x SMG Platoons: PC (+1/0), 3 x SMG, one with ATR
    • Note: These guys get 2d6 shooting normally and 4d6 at point blank range. In close combat these chaps get +1 for being SMG (versus Infantry only).
  • 1 x 45mm Anti-tank Company (Regular)
    • 1 x PC (+1)
    • 3 x 45mm ATG (optional truck)
  • 1 x 76mm Anti-tank Company (Regular)
    • 1 x PC (+1)
    • 3 x 76mm Divisional ATG (optional truck)
  • 4 x Snipers
  • 10 x Minefields
  • 3 x bunkers (2 squad capacity) – in addition to the Railway Station
  • As many entrenchments as desired (up to one per stand).
  • A concealed Culvert in the railway embankment south of the Road. This is a Tunnel as per p. 44 of the rules.

Note: The Anti-tank rifle squads get an additional +1 in close combat versus vehicles.

Deployment

The Russians deploy first with all troops hidden to the south of the line A-A.

Reinforcements

Air support throughout the game

The Russians have the possibility of air support from a a Ilyushin IL-2 aircraft. See the Aircraft Special Rule.

In the Russian counter-attack phase

The game is divided into a German attack phase and a Russian Counter-attack phase. The Russian Counter-attack commences as soon as the Germans capture three objectives (of the seven).

From that moment the Russians can receive reinforcements at the start of any friendly initiative. All Russian reinforcements arrive from the southern table edge. Throw 1d6 for the type of reinforcement. Each type of reinforcement can only appear once, if you’ve already received that reinforcement, then nothing appears that imitative.

1d6 Reinforcements Player Comments
1 1 x Rifle Platoon
1 x FO for off-table heavy artillery. (unlimited FM)
Owner of Rifle Company 1
2 1 x Rifle Platoon
1 x FO for off-table heavy artillery. (unlimited FM)
Owner of Rifle Company 2
3 1 x Rifle Platoon
1 x FO for off-table 120mm mortars. (unlimited FM)
Owner of Rifle Company 3
4 1 x SMG Platoon
3 x T34-76 1943
Owner of SMG Company These chaps are Tank Riders. Each T34-76 can, and must, carry one squad; infantry can dismount as soon as enemy are in LOS. Otherwise normal APC rules apply.
5 1 x Assault Engineer Platoon (Veteran): PC (+1/0), 3 x Assault Engineer Rifle Squads, one with ATR
1 x FO for off-table 120mm mortars. (unlimited FM)
Any Note: The assault engineers get a +2 in Close Combat: +1 for being Assault Engineer and +1 for being Veteran. They can remove minefields.
6 3 x SU-76 M Any

German Team (Attacking)

The Germans begin the scenario with the initiative.

Briefing

It is the third day of Operation Zitadelle – the German attempt to pinch off the Russian Salient at Kursk. The battles of the last two days bore little resemblance to the rapid victories of two years ago. Your men – a battle group comprising elements of 86th and 292nd Infantry Divisions – have made slow progress against unexpectedly strong Russian resistance. They have had to risk their lives in thick mine fields before painfully fighting their way through strong HMG and ATG positions.

None-the-less the fortitude of the German Landser has paid off and you have finally reached the key position at Ponyri Station. Your men must now capture the village before pushing on toward Kursk to the south. But time is short, you must capture the village quickly as the Russian strategic reserves are known to be moving into the salient.

You know the Russians facing you are strongly fortified, with HMG, ATG, minefields, entrenchments, bunkers, and powerful artillery and air support. And you know that this time the Russians will fight hard. Luckily you haven’t seen much enemy armour in the previous two days and see no reason why there should be more today. Your own armour – primarily from Heavy Panzerjäger Regiment 656 and 77th Sturmgeschütz Brigade – will be invaluable when attacking enemy strongpoints, but will also be vulnerable within the confines of the village.

Panzer IVs

Before the game starts you must allocate the troops to the various players. Each player must have at least a rifle company; support platoons can be allocated as you wish. Bear in mind your forces must also be deployed into two groups, with the railway embankment as the dividing line. Each group must contain two rifle companies. All armour of a particular type (Ferdinand, Pz IV G, etc) must be in one or other of the groups.

Objective

The German team is attempting to penetrate the Russian defences and seize the various terrain objectives (Schoolhouse, Tractor depot, Railway station, Water tower, Western Road Junction, Eastern Road Junction, Peak of Hill 253.5). You win if you gain the majority of the objectives.

Forces Available

A battle group comprising elements of 86th and 292nd Infantry Divisions with armoured support – effectively a reinforced battalion. Two infantry companies are assumed to be provided by each Division. Each player must control a company; other assets can be assigned as desired.

German Order of Battle

  • 1 x Battalion HQ (Regular)
    • 1 BC (+2)
      1 SMG Squad
      3 x FO for off table 75mm IG (unlimited FM)
      3 x FO for off table Heavy Artillery (unlimitedFM)
      3 x FO for off table 120mm Mortar (unlimitedFM)
      1 x 75 mm Pak40 Anti-tank Gun (optional tractor)
  • 4 x Infantry Companies (Regular)
  • 1 x CC (+2)
    2 x HMG
    1 x FO for off table 81 mm Mortar (unlimitedFM)
    1 x Rifle Platoon: PC (+2), 3 x Rifle, one with ATR
    2 x Rifle Platoons: PC (+1), 3 x Rifle, one with ATR
  • 1 x Assault Engineer Platoon (Veteran)
    • PC (+2), 3 x Assault Engineer Rifle, one with ATR
    • Note: These chaps get a +2 in Close Combat: +1 for being Assault Engineer and +1 for being Veteran. They can remove minefields.
  • 1 x “Assault Reserve” SMG Platoon (Veteran)
    • PC (+2), 3 x SMG, one with ATR
    • Note: These guys get 2d6 shooting normally and 4d6 at point blank range. These chaps also get a +2 in Close Combat: +1 for being SMG (versus Infantry only) and +1 for being Veteran.
  • 1 x Recon Platoon (Veteran)
    • PC (+2), 3 x Recon Rifle Squad
    • Note: Recon Squads RBF successfully on 5+.
  • 1 x Ferdinand
    1 x Tiger I E
    1 x Platoon of Panzer IV G

    • 3 x Panzer IV G
  • 1 x Platoon of StuG III G
    • 3 x StuG III G

Note: The Anti-tank rifle squads get an additional +1 in close combat versus vehicles.

Deployment

The Germans deploy second to the north of the line A-A. The Germans must be deployed in two groups, with the railway embankment as the dividing line. Each group must contain two rifle companies. All armour of a particular type (Ferdinand, Pz IV G, etc) must be in one or other of the groups.

Reinforcements

The only reinforcements the Germans receive is a Focke Wulf FW 190-A8 aircraft. See the Aircraft Special Rule.

Victory Conditions

Uses Terrain objectives. There are seven terrain objectives on the table:

  • Schoolhouse
  • Tractor depot
  • Railway station
  • Water tower
  • Western Road Junction
  • Eastern Road Junction
  • Peak of Hill 253.5

The side that controls the most terrain objectives at the end of the game is the winner. Control means that the objective is currently undisputed, and that that the side had a combat stand (not PC or FO) in the objective most recently. In the case of multi-segment building features, only the marked segment is an objective.

Weapon stats

Type ARM ACC PEN HE/EFF ** Smoke MG Speed Close Combat
Rifle 3 0
SMG 2 *** 0
HMG 4 -2
Anti-Tank Rifle -1 -3 0 SQ +1 versus AFV
50mm Mortar 3/0 SQ 2
81mm Mortar 4/1 SQ 3
120mm Mortar 4/2 SQ 4
Heavy Artillery 5/3(2) SQ 6
Russian
SU 76 M 2/1 -1 0 4/2 SQ 4 2 +1 / 0 *
T34-76 1943 4/3 0 0 4/2 SQ 4 2 +3 / 0 *
45 mm ATG +1 -1 1/1 SQ 1 -2
76 mm ATG +1 0 4/2 SQ 1 -2
German
Ferdinand 8/4 -1 +3 5/2 SQ 1 +2 / 0 *
StuG III G 4/2 -1 +1 4/2 SQ 4 2 +2 / 0 *
Tiger I E 5/3 0 +2 5/2 SQ 4 1 +3 / 0 *
Pz IV G 4/2 0 +1 4/2 SQ 4 2 +3 / 0 *
7.5 cm Pak40 +1 +1 4/2 SQ 1 -2

* Vehicles receive no Close Combat modifier when in fields, rough or woods. (And they can’t enter buildings.)

** Anti-personnel fire, except an SMG firing 2d6 anyway and a gun firing direct into a structure, is reduced by 1d6 when target is in cover.

*** SMG fire 2d6 unless the target is attempting to move into contact with the SMG, in which case the SMG can reactive fire with 4d6 at point blank range.

Scenario Special Rules

  • In general Steven’s House Rules are in use, although there are a couple of clarifications/exceptions:
    • Use Planned Operational Zones for multi-player.
    • Recon troops Recon by Fire (RBF) on a 5+ rather than the normal 6. (They do not get any special protective cover.)
    • On-table 50mm mortars are equivalent to an FO.
  • Russian ATG can group fire.
  • See also possible Umpire Ploys

Aircraft Special Rule

The skies over Kursk were thick with Aircraft. Fierce dog fights were common however at times the ground troops of both sides had air support. This rule tries to simply simulate this fluctuating situation.

Each side throws 1d6 for air support at the start of their own initiative. On a 6 something happens:

  • If there is already an aircraft (either German or Russian) over the table the aircraft is immediately driven off the table by enemy fighters. It or a replacement, however, can return in subsequent initiatives.
  • If there is no aircraft over the table and the Germans rolled the 6, a FW 190-A8 appears over the table. The FW 190-A8 is a skip bomber – similar to a dive bomber – and has a single heavy bomb (6/3 SQ, 2 EFF in structures) and machine guns.
  • If there is no aircraft over the table and the Russians rolled the 6, a Ilyushin IL-2 appears over the table. This aircraft has four light bombs (4/2 SQ) and machine guns.

Once on-table aircraft act in a similar way to off table artillery. As with artillery fire, failure to suppress or kill with an aircraft’s attacks does not end the phasing player’s initiative.

Each plane has a certain number of bombs, of a certain potency (HE/EFF), plus machine guns for strafing. A plane’s bomb/rocket load is roughly analogous to the FM of artillery. Bombs/rockets are treated as indirect fire for Protective Cover and strafing with machine guns as direct fire. A plane can do one of the following each initiative it is on table:

  • Drop one or more of its remaining bombs (Dive Bombers can only drop one bomb per initiative)
  • Fire a pair of Rockets
  • Strafe with its machine guns

An aircraft may not engage the same target in two consecutive friendly initiatives.

For other related thoughts see my musings on Aircraft.

Notes

  • This game is intended to be played in one day.
  • My original intention was to have a major Russian counter-attack, however, there is not enough time for that in one day. If you’ve got two days (4 x 3 hour sessions) then I’d suggest giving the Germans two full battalions at the start of the game, plus the supporting troops from above. The Russians should have about what they’ve got above, but they should get different/more reinforcements. Basically the Russian counter-attack phase should give the Russians 2+ battalions plus more armour, but the Germans only get the survivors from their attack phase. That feels about right. Germans should not deploy hidden in the counter-attack phase.

Thanks to Bill Rutherford who gave permission for me to base my map on that from Hit the Dirt. Also thanks to the Guildford crew for play testing.

3 comments to Ponyri Station and Hill 253.5 – A Big Crossfire Scenario during Kursk

  • Steven Thomas

    Monte from Italy ran this for his group. Check out his post July 1943 July 2013.

  • Lewis Goldberg

    Mr. Thomas,

    I could have sworn I wrote to you about this a year ago, but cannot find a reply. I have designed a Ponyri Station scenario for MMP’s Panzerblitz system (as seen in the Hill of Death module), using your scenario design as a model, for the upcoming East Front set. I have reengineered everything for the system and it’s geomorphic maps, so nothing is being copied. Just looking for an acknowledgement from you. If possible, I will give you biblio credit in the rulebook.

    Thanks,

    Lewis

    • Steven Thomas

      Lewis

      Sounds very interesting and I glad you could use my material as a basis. Any acknowledgement would be greatly appreciated.

      Cheers

      Steven

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