Saturday, 20 October 2018

Ponyri July 1943

As I wanted to get my Zvezda Elephants out to play, I dug out the old Memoir 44 'Ponyri' scenario. I've made a few tweaks to my Memoir 45 variant - modifying artillery so that it is less effective against armour or troops who are dug in and adding in leaders and visibility for artillery spotting.
So, off we go to the northern shoulder of the Kursk salient once again... John and Jerry took the Germans, while Tim C took the Russians.

View from the north. Hill 235 and Ponyri are visible in the centre. I've modified the standard scenario, tweaking the OB and terrain to be bit a bit closer to the Command Decision scenario of the same battle (which features 18th Panzer Div). The extra ridges and woods don't have a vast effect on gameplay, but look much nicer. I also scattered a lot of fields around, which allow infantry to ignore one flag result.

Russian right wing. I spread the Russian defences around a bit more than the standard scenario, with a garrison on Hill 235 and some wire entanglements. The Russians also had four heavy weapons options (2 x AT guns, 1 x mortar and 1 x MG) plus a leader in Ponyri. The massive gap in the defences was rationalised s the result of the opening barrage.

Over on the Russian left, much of the armour was pulled back to the baseline with just a dug in tank battalion and some infantry on a ridge behind some wire. The minefields were left as per the original scenario. The T70s are 'light tanks', firepower reduced to two dice at range 2 and 3, and they have light armour, so any AT weapon hits them on stars.

18th Panzer Regiment. irl it was a sngle battalion regiment with two light and two medium companies so I gave it 2 x Pz III and 2 x Pz IV. As per the original scenario they also had two heavy tank companies, in this case Elefants from the 656th. I gave these heavy AT weapons but didn't score grenade hits in assault (as they had no MGs).  The tank commander is a leader, giving a morale and combat bonus. 

52nd Panzergrenadier Regiment (dismounted). I gave the Germans some support options and they took a unit each of engineers, mortars, MGs and AT guns. They also have a leader in the woods in front of Hill 235. As per the original scenario they have a 'tank' in support, which I modelled as a Stug but on reflection should probably have been a SiG33b or similar. I added the railway line as it was a key terrain feature in the battle, and designated Ponyri station as a city hex.

The action opened with a German preliminary bombardment, followed up by a frontal infantry assault on Hill 235. The Germans led with their engineers but the numerous Russian artillery inflicted heavy losses.

After bloody fighting the Germans managed to break through the defences and the Stugs tried to overrun the remaining defenders.

Hill 235 was eventually cleared with heavy losses to both sides, and the Stugs were driven back by artillery fire.

The Russians promptly counterattacked with the best part of two infantry battalions and retook the Hill.

The Germans neatly sidestepped this and pressed on into the heart of Ponyri, taking control of most of the village and gaining two VPs. The Stugs provided support from the edge of the hill.

The Russians succeeded in pushing the first waves of Germans back, again with heavy losses on both sides. They didn't have the strength to retake the critical centre hex though.

The Russian counterattack on their right bogged own in heavy fighting around the cornfields.

Over on the left, the minefields precluded much armoured action. Some of the reserve Russian tanks moved up, and one of the Elefants moved up to support the assault on the village.

The Germans tried to overrun the Russians in the fields with their Stug company.

Whilst it overran the first company, both sides (with exactly 1SP left each) managed to roll exactly the wrong dice and the attack bogged down.

Meanwhile a sneaky German company had managed to take Ponyri station. The Russians counterattacked with only forces available,  an unsupported mixed tank battalion. Not the ideal forces to use in an urban environment.

Although the T70s took a battering, the T34s managed to bludgeon their way into the town, although once again the movement restrictions meant they failed to retake control of the village.

Sadly the German infantry counterattacked in the dense terrain and managed to destroy the T34s in close assault. Coupled with retaining control of the village, this gave them the last VP they needed for victory.

That was a real bloodbath, with repeated infantry assaults from both sides. The Russians were handicapped with a low hand size which limited their scope for manouvre and managed what they did have very well, and the Germans were very pleased to have kept 18th Panzer Regiment intact (irl they performed so badly that the division was disbanded and converted into an artillery division!). I was pleased with the new artillery rules as it prevented some of the silly long range sniping which standard Memoir 44 encourages, and the players agreed that the leaders also added some colour. Amazingly my shiny new Elefants didn't suffer the fate of most new kit and blow up at the first shot either, which was a nice bonus.


  1. Nice scenario conversion. Ponyri is such a classic action.

    1. It is certainly very varied and as it was fought over a number of days there are various scenarios you can do.

  2. Nice AAR
    I might have to take a look at Memoir '44
    My larger scale WWII actions fall back on Spearhead and Command Decision

    I was interested in Paul Alan's Mission Command Game at CoW but yet another system left me cold
    His extension of Airfix Battles in Open Battles but that again seems lower down the OrBat level

    1. I thikn SH and CD are both fine for larger scale actions (I'm a huge fan of SH in particular, although I wish Arty had kept his original design concept of company sized stands and not platoons). Memoir 44 is very 'wargame lite' but has the huge advantage of having a bunch of canned scenarios, looks really nice when played with toys, and lets you shove a large amount of stuff around in a short space of time.

  3. I reckon I will have to take a look at the Ponyri Station battle some time. Trouble is, I have no Elefants! By the way, the StuG support could conceivably be StuH 105s - just the thing for urban fighting...

    1. I don't think the Elephants are strictly necessary. Some of the assaults over the many days of the battle used Elephants but many didn't. The Memoir 44 scenario just specifies 'elite tanks' - I've used Tigers in the past, or they could just be veteran Pz IVs. The CD scenario doesn't have any Elephants at all (but the Rapid Fire one does - depends which day of the battle you pick.

  4. Interesting. I've played the original scenario quite a bit.

    1. Yes, it warrants replay as there are many tactical options. This is the first time I've seen the Germans go with an infantry assault, it usually degenerates in to a huge tank battle. For all the chrome, it isn't hugely different to the original scenario.