German infantry moving past a knocked out KV
The battle of Ponyri was our second game of the day. It was different from the Assault of Cherasskoye in that the deployment was set from the beginning. The players got to determine where their reinforcements went, but beyond that they were pretty much stuck with the scenario as written.
But, to go back to Ponyri for a moment. This battle was like the first taking place in the northern axis of attack, the Germans had advanced deep into the Soviet positions, but kept running into yet more lines of defences. Ponyri or more particularly Ponyri station was a vital rail link between Kursk and Orel. The XLI Panzer Corps was tasked with taking the town, while the Soviet 307th Infantry Division heavily supported with artillery and other assets, had to hold it. The fighting was fierce and the town changed hands over a dozen times. The fighting was compared to Stalingrad in intensity.
Combat Pioneers advance
The German advance in the centre was spearheaded by four units of Combat Pioneers armed with flamethrowers, demolition charges and harsh language. The seven hexes of the town were a majority medal objective for the Germans, if they could control more of the town than the Soviets they would gain two medals.
Meanwhile on the right...
...the Panzers are revving their engines. This was a different kettle of fish from the last game. While the attackers would have to advance into the teeth of the Soviet defences hidden in the fields and woods around the town, this time the Soviets would have a mobile reserve of armour to counter any breakthroughs.
On the German left, the advance was led by two units of Tigers.
I was not looking forward to this one little bit as unlike Sydney on our left, I didn't have an armoured reserve. All I could do was hang tough and try and outlast the Germans, doing as much damage as I could before they ground me into powder. As it happened, I managed to nail one of the big cats with a lucky shot in the first turn, much to Krisztians dismay.
The Red Air Force gets it's act together
After it's poor showing in the first scenario, the Red Air Force pulled its collective socks up and set to laying about the German armoured reserves in fine style, hitting them before they could get into the fight. This weakened the German armoured thrust on the German right and made it difficult to convert their superiority in armour into a decisive advantage.
Not to be outdone, the Luftwaffe attempted to return the favour, but poor dice rolling and a canny Soviet dispersal of their armoured reserves prevented the Germans from causing too much damage.
General Von Kerrigan moves forward in the centre
The Germans pushed hard in the centre, while the Soviets held back, letting the Germans spend their momentum while they shelled them with mortars and artillery. The Germans bought ground, but at terrible cost and the casualty list was rising in the Soviets favour.
General Von Kerrigan pushes forward, just before the Germans make a fatal mistake
General Von Kerrigan took the town of Ponyri, albeit at great cost. Unfortunately, his success was undone by a breach in operational security. General Von Kerrigan had quite rightly divined that the Soviet players had no idea that the German objective was the town and had been remaining very tight lipped about it. While the Soviet players had some inkling, one of the German generals who shall remain nameless, blurted out the German objective. This led to an immediate and concentrated Soviet counterattack, which not only cost the Germans badly in casualties, but also lost them their extra victory points.
The German advance stalls
On the Soviet right, with no reserves and a seemingly unstoppable tidal wave of German armour coming at me, I had battened down the hatches and determined that my lads would sell their lives as dearly as possible. Curiously enough, with some luck as the Panzers tried to penetrate my minefields, I was able to hold them at bay.
Here comes the Red Army
With the German advance on the Soviet right stalled - the Soviet counter punch on the left started. It had just started going wrong for the Germans at this point - but this was really where the wheels began to come off the wagon. Comrade Sydney, never the most offensively minded of generals, confounded expectations, by just putting his head down and going bald headed for the enemy.
In the fields the Panzers are burning.
The battle on the Soviet left raged for several turns, but the Germans were unable to recapture their previous momentum and were reduced to tried to contain the Soviet counter attack. Even though the Soviet infantry wasn't able to get into the fight, they prevented the German armour outflanking the main position. Meanwhile the artillery kept firing and that made all the difference.
The final German push
In the centre, General Von Kerrigan attempted to wrest possession of the town from the Soviets in a last gasp attempt to wrestle victory from the jaws of defeat. Von Kerrigan pushed his Ferdinands forward supported by the remainder of his infantry, but it was too little too late. The defenders concentrated their fire on the infantry, stripping the armour of its support, and then a swift counter attack did the rest.
This was a tough game and hard fought. The Germans did so much lose as the Soviets won it. We improved our play, bringing combined arms to bear, relying more on our artillery and making much more inteligent use of our airpower. The tighter Soviet play meant that the Germans had far fewer weaknesses to exploit and that and a little bad luck ultimately cost them the game.