Operation Uranus - an Army Level Game for one (or more) players.

by Martin Rapier

This is a daft game I ran at the club in January 2000. It is heavily based on Ian Drurys 'Hit the Beach', a game of WW2 Pacific Island Invasions, although in that the stands are companies, not battalions. The game mechanisms are intentionally highly simplified, and it is intended to play this with the vast majority of the players on one side (the Red Army), you may wish to assign a player to run the Rumanians, but it is a fairly thankless task. In our game we managed the optimum ratio of on eplayer per Red Army division, plus and Army commander and a commisar. The latter two were sat at a table some ten feet from the main table, connected by an intercom and a small telescope to the divisional commanders. Breifings for both sides are provided below, although the Rumanian one is largely redundant, the Russians may find it amusing to read afterwards.

Operation Uranus - Rumanian briefing

To: Gen Lascar, Cmdr 14th Vanatori Div/ 3rd Army, Seramifovitch 0500, 19.11.42.

There are strong indications that the enemy is preparing to attack. You must hold your positions at all costs for the honour of the Rumanian Army, in particular you must delay or damage any enemy motorised formations to enable armoured reserves to move up and deal with them.

14th Vanatori Div

1 x Div HQ

6 x Infantry Battalion (3 regiments)

1 x Inf Battalion, 1 x Cavalry Battalion (recce & jager)

1 x Engineer Battalion

1 x 47mm AT gun (AT Bn)

1 x 120mm mortar (mortar companies)

2 x 100mm howitzer, 2 x 75mm gun (artillery regiments)

6 x barbed wire/entrenchment

4 x minefields

25 x dummy counters

Units deployed (as inverted counters) in rows 2-4.

 

Operation Uranus - Russian briefing

From: Gen Zhukov, Stavka representative to the Southern Front, Seramifovitch, 1300, 19.11.42

To: General Bagramyan, 5th Tank Army

The 5th Guards Tank Army will spearhead our thrust south to sieze Kalach and surround the Nazis in Stalingrad. Use your attached rifle divisions to enable 3rd Tank Corps to pass through the lines of the Rumanian hitlerite running dogs to your front. The armour must be got through the lines in the maximum possible strength before nightfall.

124th Gds Rifle Div

1 x HQ

9 x Rifle Bn

1 x SMG Bn

1 x AT gun

1 x 120mm mortar

1 x Engineer Bn

2 x 76mm guns

1 x 122mm gun

16th Rifle Div

1 x HQ

9 x Rifle Bn

1 x AT gun

1 x 120mm mortar

1 x Engineer Bn

2 x 76mm guns

3rd Tank Corps

1 x HQ

3 x Tank Brigade (2 x T34, 1 x Mot Inf Bn ea)

1 x Mot Inf Bde (3 x Mot Inf)

1 x Mot SMG Bn

1 x Mot Engineer Bn

1 x Amd Recce Bn

1 x Gds Mortar Bn (Katayushas)

 

Plus air/artillery support as detailed in the rules.

Victory Levels. Based on number of Tank Corps units exited by the end of the day. NOTE: the maximum victory level is only attainable if the entire tank corps leaves the table intact.

17: Order of Lenin all around. The Fascists in Stalingrad will be utterly annihilated as the mighty 3rd Tank Corps sweeps aside all opposition

15-16: Your mission has been achieved, and it is likely the enemy in Stalingrad will be surrounded by our powerful armoured forces.

13-14: 3rd Tank Corps has penetrated the enemy line, but will have a stiff fight to defeat the enemy armoured reserves and complete the breakthrough. Strict adherence to Stalinist principles will be necessary in future to avoid disgrace.

Less: The crippled 3rd Tank Corps is highly unlikely to defeat 1st Rumanian Armoured Division, and the success of our offensive now hangs by a thread. Report to Moscow immediately for reassignment to a peoples mine clearing battalion.

Operation Uranus - Rules

Intro.

Each stand is a battalion, turns approx 3 hours (6 turns in a day), each square approx 2km. Battle lasts a single day. Battlefield 4 zones wide, 6 zones deep.

Defender deploys counters face down in his area (rows B,C,D,E). Russians do recce (roll 2D6 for row/col, pick two counters three times). Russians plan and fire bombardment, have 16 points to fire initially (max 2 per zone), plus a further 8 on call (max 4 per turn). Place fire points and plot 4 Target Registration Points (TRP) for on call fire. Roll D6 for each counter in a square per fire point, kill on ‘6’.

Move units: Infantry/artillery move 1 zone, motorised move 2 zones (3 if not into combat). Rumanians may move D6 mobile units (half D6 if HQ destroyed). Maximum of 6 units per zone at any time.

Combat.

Artillery fire: allocate and resolve support points vs squares (only vs TRPs)… NOTE: this hits everyone! Resolve as initial barrage (roll per unit in target area, 6 kills). This includes airstrikes generated by random events.

Support fire (mortars 1 square, artillery/rockets 2 squares). This may be into friendly squares, Rumanians fire first, unmasked batteries cannot be targeted turn they are revealed. Fire once, 6 kills.

Close Combat (in same zone): Fight three rounds, rolls of 6 kill. Defender fires first on first round. All roll 1D6 except. Engineer/SMG Inf 2D6 vs soft, but die first. AT 2D6 vs armoured, NE vs inf. Tanks 2D6. Artillery 2D6. Each barbed wire gives one defender an extra D6, each minefield gives one defender extra 2D6. Undefended wire does not impede movement in any way. Undefended minefields kill one unit on a ‘6’, may be cleared by engineers spending a turn in zone. Units may not withdraw from close combat apart from direction they came – defenders allowed 1 free shot with 1 unit.

Terrain has no effect, it just looks pretty at this scale (it is the rolling Steppe after all!).

Command and Control.

In real life Red Army attacks were carefully orchestrated. Each rifle division must have a divisional sector, and its forces must be divided into echelons (1st & 2nd). The 1st echelon components are allocated an axis in the divisional sector and must move forwards along it (it may halt). Divisional units may move around freely in the Div sector. The 2nd echelon is held off table and may be committed to an axis in the divisional sector only on the say so of the CinC. Units may not move off their axis (line of squares) at any time. The Tank Corps may be held in reserve and allocated a divisional sector & brigade axes when it is committed. All calls for support fire are also routed via Army HQ, against the TRPs.

Random events (D6, +1 per turn elapsed). Roll at the start of each turn.

1-4 Thick fog, artillery and support fire may only be directed against squares adjacent to friendly units. Event is cancelled whenever 5+ rolled.

5 Russian Air Strike. One support point available against any square.

6 Rumanian Air Strike. One support point available against any square.

7 Extra Ammo. Add one support point to pool of available Russian points.

8+ No effect

The Game

An enthusiastic crowd of Russians was assembled: 16th Rifle (Daniel), 124th Guards (Steve Bridden), 3rd Tank (John Armatys), all under the watchful eye of Comrade General Nick Murray and Commisar Tim Gow.

The Russians deployed as follows:

Basically the 124th Guards was attacking on a narrow (1 zone) front, whilst 16th Rifle had three zones to cover. The Tank Corps was kept in third echelon reserve so its divisional sector and brigade axes could be determined once the initial attacks had gone in.

The Rumanians deployed as piles of inverted counters, although in fact it was a very conventional defence - four battalions in column E with wire/mines, mortars and two reserve battalions in column D, divisional artillery and a few more obstacles in row C, and divisional reserves (cavalry, engineers, jager battalion, anti-tank and Div HQ) in col B.

General Murray rolled the three recon attempts, two of which either missed the table altogether or landed on empty squares. The final one turned up a mortar battalion in D2. The Russians plotted four target registration points for their on-call artillery, mainly along the 124th Guards axis, and allocated their 16 point barrage in quite a deep fireplan, again favouring the Guards.

The barrage was resolved and numerous counters removed, the Hill in E4 was completely cleared, much to the Guards delight, and one hidden loss the Russians were not aware of was the Rumanian divisional HQ. Only two of four Rumanian front line battalions survived the barrage, and of them, only one (in E1) had any fortifications left intact.

The Red horde rolled forward, and General Murray proceeded to stick pins in his map and shout down the telephone. As might be expected, 16th Rifle ran into opposition along its entire front, the regiment from F1 eventually totally destroying itself in fruitless attacks on the surviving Rumanian battalion hiding behind its minefield. Progress further south was better, although again it was 16th Rifle with ran into most opposition, and lacking sufficient concentration of force along its attack axes, suffered brutally, its attack eventually petering out as indicated on the map.

The lack of opposition to the Guards prompted the Tank Corps to move into 2nd echelon reserve on turn 2, and then to enter the table on turn three, most of its briagdes routed along row 4, while one motor brigade moved along row 3. Unfortunately, Corps Commander Armatys had been ordered to 'follow the Guards infantry closely', and like a good Marxist-Leninist, that is exactly what they did - the loaded tanks, trucks and batteries of Katyushas bumping slowly over the Steppe, following the plodding infantry in front.

By the fifth turn, the 124th had actually reached column A, but General Murrays map pins were not indicating any armoured breakthrough, so Commisar Gow came to investigate. He found the tank corps motoring slowly along behind the infantry. A certain amount of political reorientation took place, and by shifting infantry units back and forth, it was found to be possible to move the vast bulk of the Tank Corps up at a more rapid rate. Despite firing 3 ammo loads at B3 (on top of an unfortunate regiment of the 16th Rifle), all of which missed (raising shouts of sabotage) in an effort to clear the way, the last Rumanian reserve, their AT battalion, slipped into A4 on the last turn. This prevented the Tank Corps from simply driving off the table, and altough the T34s crunched the Rumanian 47mms under their tracks easily, as night fell, the Tank Corps was still on the field and not motoring off to its destiny at Kalach.

Fortunately, their was still at least one defended minefield left for the Division and Army commanders to clear in their new assignment to a Shtraf battalion.....

So, not a good day for the Red Army, although the Rumanians were largely obliterated, significant portions were still holding out at nightfall, and had delayed the Russian Tank Corps significantly. Interestingly one of the operational problems Red Army commanders strove to resolve (with increasing success) was at what point to commit their Army and Front level deep operational manouvre groups. Too soon and they would get chewed up in breakthrough fighting, too late and the enemy would have time to bring up reserves. In this case, time to revisit those Pu-36 Field Regulations I think!

While these rules are incredibly simple, they do actually work, even for a large battle like the one described above - mainly through the uncertainty the attacker faces, and they work even better with a proper command structure superimposed. I hope to use them for other set piece modern battles, although probably at the lower company base scale.