Last weekend I have the privilege of playing in the Shifting Sands 2014 Kursk event. Shifting Sands is an annual Flames of War tournament hosted by the Arizona Desert Rats Flames of War group. These are 2 day, 5 game events that have a theme and frequently include a strategic campaign. This year was Kursk and the event included a modified Firestorm campaign.
Ideally, an event of this size and scope should get a very in depth report. Frankly, I forgot to take pictures of most of the event and without the pictures the report just isn't the same. Instead of the detailed blow by blow I will cover this at a high level.
There were 38 players for the even an there was almost and exact balance between Germans and Soviets. One German player volunteered to play on the Soviet side to even things out. This, of course, resulted in some blue on blue games.
Before the first game each side divided up and nominated their general. This turned out to be an exercise in avoidance for most of the German players. I might have been willing to be the general if I had had any idea what they might entail. Having never played in a Firestorm campaign I really had no idea how this would work. As it turns out the campaign aspect was one of the weaker parts of the event. So much so that after the first round I had no idea what was happening and very little concern for it. I just focused on my games.
Being a Firestorm campaign, there were, naturally, Firestorm units. This was a cool part of the event as these Firestorm units were provided by the event organizers. Each one was on a paper plate with the unit details glued to the bottom. This made a nice carrying tray as stat sheet in one. The types of units available ran the gamut from armored trains, Heavy Tanks, air support and dice roll bonus.
The assignment of these units was a bit of a mystery. There was no rhyme or reason to it. The decisions were more or less arbitrary decisions by the General. There was a rule (for the Germans, not sure if it was an event rule) that you could not have the same unit more than once in the event. Fair enough but it was not universally observed. Oh well. For me these units were of little consequence and I will get into that more later.
Another cool aspect of the event is how air support was handled. Air power was a big part of the Kursk battle but our 1500 point lists could not include any air support. Instead, in the 4 of 5 games that included air support each player rolled on a chart provided by the TO to determine what level of support. This would be a basic air asset such as a Stuka. If you had a Firestorm unit that was air it was an upgrade and you rolled to see the support level. This was really cool as it basically gave everyone an extra 100+ points to their force. I would end up having mixed luck with air all weekend but anything it did was a bonus.
As some of you may know I took a Panther Company to the event. At 1500 points there is really only one way to build this army.
HQ - CO Panther and 2iC Panther
Combat Platoon - Three Panther
Combat Platoon - Three Panther
That is it, exactly 1500 points. I wanted to take this list as it really fit the theme as Kursk was the combat debut of the Panther and I did not want to spend a bunch of money on a new army. I was advised by several good players that I might want to stay away from such a one dimensional list. This seemed like good advice but I really wanted to play this army. After my first couple of test games I started to feel like 'that guy.' This list just eats Soviet armor for lunch. It seemed like the army was almost unfair even with only 8 tanks. Then I tested against some Soviet infantry armies and realized that things would be MUCH tougher than I thought. I did not beat any infantry armies in testing. This thing was far from automatic and now I was worried.
As fate (or the TO) would have it my first match up was against a huge Soviet Strelkovy Battalion. I don't remember exactly what was in it other than a BUNCH of troops and a full Artillery Battalion! The mission was No Retreat with the Germans attacking. This was the only game where I would get a proper Firestorm unit - Gepanzert Pioneer Platoon with Otto-Ernst Remer. A nice little 350 point bump to my force but, unfortunately, I had no idea what to do with these guys and ended up wasting them. In the end I lost this game 1-6 but really felt I should have been able to get one or two of his units.
Because the Germans had done so poorly in game one game two had the Russians attacking in Breakthrough. I was up against a Rota Razvedki company. This was going to be very tough. To make matters worse the Russians got a full battery of 85mm Heavy AA guns for the Firestorm unit. My Firestorm was +1 to reserve rolls - yeah! The Soviets started with both scout platoons on the table dismounted along with the 85mm AA and a battery of heavy mortars. In reserve was an M3 Stuart company, an SU-122 company and a company of Sappers.
My plan was to use my air support to pin down the Soviets and maybe take out the guns and mortars while I fell back onto the objectives. Once out of range of the immobile guns I would be able to take on the Soviet reserves. The fight was epic! and as it would turnout my plan worked - 6-1 win.
Game three was against a Soviet Assault Gun Battalion, which was one of the custom lists for the event. The scenario was a modified version of the Blind Domination scenario (found here). I will not spend much time on this one. I lost and manage one Soviet platoon destroyed 2-5. Good opponent but not a very good scenario. Oh yeah and I didn't get a Firestorm unit for this game.
After the first day I was sitting at 1-2 with 9 points and about 900 kill points (total value of enemy units destroyed). Not a bad showing but not quite as good as I had hoped. All in all it was a great first day and I was excited about day two but I really had no expectations of placing.
Game four turned out to be Surrounded with the Soviets defending (good!). This was due to the fact that the Germans had managed to regain the strategic initiative after games 2 and 3. This time I would play against a Guards Heavy Tank Regiment with Churchills! This was a match up I could really do well against. The Soviets did have a Sapper company as well as a Firestorm unit of Cossacks (dismounted). Once again I has no Firestorm unit. No worries. I killed the CO and everything on wheels and won 6-1!
Game 5 would be Fighting Withdrawal with Soviets defending. For this game I was matched against a Tankovy Battalion. This would be a very interesting. We both got air upgrades for Firestorm units and these would be key to the game. Conscript T-34's are really no match for Panthers and I was able to methodically destroy the Soviet force. I did loose one Panther to air strikes (and might have lost the game if I had lost any more) and one platoon to a well placed Soviet ambush. German win 5-2!
After 5 games I was beat but happy with a 3-2 showing. I really had no idea how everyone else was doing but I was sure that with 38 players 3-2 was not going to be good enough to place. The first place, best overall, was a German player but I did not see his results. Then places 2-11 were all Soviet players! Wow, the Germans got punked. I was in 12th place overall and as luck would have it I was the second place German and since German won best overall I won Best Axis! Wow, not at all sure how that happened. Pretty damn cool!
I played 5 fun games against 5 good guys I had never played against. Then I won some Soviet tanks and basically had a great time.
These are the games I dream of playing or am building forces for.
Empire of the Dead Clash of Empires The Great War Waterloo Kings of War
Then there are the games that have been retired. Not all of these are bad. In fact some are really great. The reasons for retirement are varied.
Legends of the Old West Lord of the Rings:SBG Warhammer Ancient Battles Battleground World War 2 Arc of Fire Jahnny Reb III Crossfire Rules of Engagement Rate of Fire Legends of the High Seas Necromunda Warhammer 40,000