TITLE: Battlegroup Kursk
AUTHOR: Warwick Kinrade
PUBLISHER: Iron Fist Publishing
PUBLICATION DATE: 2012
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
PRICE (with date): $45.00 (in 2016). There is also a PDF option as well as a “mini” rule book in paperback priced at $18.00
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: World War II
Battlegroup Kursk (BK) is a large, hard cover book in full color throughout. BK contains the base rules for the game system, and is necessary for using the follow on supplements that have been released. The book weighs in at a massive 240 pages. The rules themselves only run 54 pages, and much of that is given over to diagrams, vintage photos, etc.
Besides the rules the book includes a history of the Kursk battles, modeling guides for several vehicles, seven generic scenarios, army lists, and a narrative campaign game. Also included is a sheet of counters to be cut out, as well as a Quick Reference Sheet (one page, double sided) for players.
SCOPE: BK is suitable for small squad level skirmish games, up to battalion level engagements. All figures and vehicles are based individually.
ARMY SIZE: Highly variable depending on the size of game played. Can be played with a couple dozen figures and a vehicle or two per side, up to games involving hundreds of figures. Armies are built with points, so can be as large as players desire.
BASE UNIT: The base unit is a squad. A squad may be several infantry, a support weapon with crew, a vehicle, or a deployed gun with crew.
- Ground Scale: Not stated (ranges are noted as being deliberately distorted)
- Time scale 1 turn = Not stated (probably no more than a few minutes)
- Figure/Base Ratio 1:1
- Recommended Figure Size: 20 or 15mm
- Table Size: Recommended 6x4 for small games, up to 6x10 for battalion level engagements.
- Game Length: Variable, depending on the size of game played. Squad level games should be playable in 2 hours.
BASING SIZES: Not applicable.
TURN SEQUENCE: BK uses a You-Go-I-Go turn. All of the action in BK revolves around issuing Orders to units. Everything that happens in the game is resolved through Orders. The one exception is Rally. This may occur after a player has completed their turn.
The number of orders available to each player is diced for. The first player carries out his orders one at a time, followed by the second player. The rules do not specify how to share orders if playing with more than one player per side (our club simply assigns dice to each player).
The Orders System:
Everything that happens in the game revolves around orders. Players roll for the number of available orders each turn. Players roll one die for a squad level game, 4 dice for a battalion level game. They may get bonuses for officers, etc. For each point rolled the player may issue one order. The four most common orders are (i) Fire and Move (ii) Move and Fire (iii) Top Speed (move twice) and (iv) Open Fire (fire twice). There are a number of other possible orders such as Re-arm (resupply a unit with ammunition), Close Assault, Ambush Fire and Reserve Move.
When a unit is issued an order, that order is fully resolved. Thus a unit may move, then open fire. Casualties are assessed. If the shooting triggers a Morale Check, it is carried out immediately, and any effects take place then. Once an order has been fully resolved the player moves on to issuing the next order.
Each unit type in BK has a given movement allowance, one for Off-Road, and one for Road. Terrain is categorized as Difficult, Obstacle, Dangerous or Impassable. Terrain effects are variable and determined by die roll. An obstacle, for example, reduces movement by 1D6 inches. Road movement rates only apply if the entire move is along roads.
Fire Combat: BK features two different kinds of shooting. Area Fire and Aimed Fire.
Area Fire: Area Fire is just what it sounds like - sending fire down range in order to pin and suppress the enemy. Unlike Aimed Fire, no Spotting is required. To resolve Area Fire, cross reference the firer’s Rate of Fire with the range. This will give a To Hit number. A roll of that score or higher on one D6 is a hit. The target now makes a Cover Save. Depending on the type of target and cover, the target rolsl to negate the hit. If the save is successful the fire had no effect. If the save was not successful, the target unit is pinned.
Aimed Fire is used to cause casualties. Aimed Fire requires a spotting check before every shot. Depending on the range and type of target a Spotting number must be rolled to target that enemy. A unit firing twice must make a spotting roll for each shot. If the Spotting roll is successful, the firer attempts to hit the target. In some cases, spotting is automatic.
As with Area Fire, cross reference the range with the type of weapon firing. This yields a To Hit number. The firer now rolls one die for every rate of fire, getting hits on the indicated score. A cover save is made for each hit. Failed saves mean the target figure was killed and is removed. A unit may be required to take a Morale Check.
Infantry units that take 2 or more casualties have the option to Fall Back. In this case they suffer just one casualty, but the enemy player retreats them up to 10” and the unit is marked as pinned.
When firing at armored vehicles, there is no cover save. Instead, there is a penetration test. Each vehicle is rated for front, side and rear armor. Each weapon has a Penetration value which diminishes with range. If a hit is scored, cross reference the weapon’s Penentration at that range with the target’s armor value on the Armour Penetration Table. The resulting number must be rolled on 2D6 to kill the target. If the dice exactly equal the score needed, the target is pinned instead. Regardless of damage, if a hit was scored, the target must take a Morale Check.
Close Assault: When enemy units are within 5” they may be the target of a Close Assault. A unit is given the Close Assault order. It must first pass an Experience Test to close with the enemy. If they fail the test they are pinned. An assault is resolved exactly like Aimed Fire. However, in addition to the dice for Rate of Fire, each side may get bonus dice for certain weapons (SMGs for example) and the attacker may get bonus dice for grenades. Fire is simultaneous and normal cover saves apply.
Pinned: Units in BK can become pinned for a number of reasons, either to enemy area fire, failure to launch an assault, or as a result of a morale check. Pinned units may not be issued an order until rallied. In addition, if a pinned unit takes a morale check, a second pin is treated as a rout/surrender and the unit is removed from play! Thus a sound tactic is to use Area Fire to pin units, then Aimed Fire to cause morale checks.
In order to rally pinned units, a player must use Battle Rating (see below) to rally his troops. At the end of issuing orders, a player may opt to pull a Battle Rating chit. For each chit drawn he rolls a D6 and may remove the pinned marker from that many units.
Army Morale in BK is modeled through the Battle Rating system. There are a sheet of chits in the rule book to be cut out, and kept in an opaque container. The chits are numbered from 1 to 5 and include a variety of random events. Certain events require a player to draw a chit. These chits form a running total. Once the value of your drawn chits equals your army’s Battle Rating, your army has broken, and the game is over. Your army’s Battle Rating (BR) is determined by its makeup. Each unit has a BR associated with it. Simply add up the BR of all your units - this is your total Battle Rating.
Some of the chits have a random event that is played immediately. These may be to put an enemy unit out of ammunition, cause a vehicle to break down or induce a Morale Check on an enemy unit.
Battle Rating chits are drawn for a number of reasons. Primarily a chit is drawn for each destroyed unit or vehicle (including transports!). Other causes are being under flamethrower attack, loss of your commander, or the first time you come under air attack.
Artillery fire in BK represents smaller “reactive” fires. Calling in artillery requires the use of orders. First, an eligible spotter is issued a Call Artillery order. The artillery may be available or not (some artillery requires a die roll for availability). Then the spotter must be given a Communication order, to direct the guns. A die roll is required for success. If successful, a spotter round is placed. Accuracy is checked with a die roll and then scatter/drift determined. Artillery drifts between 1D6 and 4D6 depending on the accuracy.
Once the barrage arrives, roll one die for each shot (each gun fires twice, so 2D6 per gun). Each shot may miss, pin, or cause a casualty. The barrage has a 10” diameter centered on the spotter round. Hits and pins are assigned to the closest enemy units. Hits are resolved like aimed fire and pins like area fire - check the firer’s rating, rolling and defender attempting cover saves as normal.
There are a number of other rules included in the game. There are special unit rules that apply only to specific types of units (Air Spotters, Engineers, Scouts, etc). Aircraft are treated as a random event using the Battle Rating chits, but attack using the normal combat rules.
One very important rule is actually hidden in the army lists: ammunition. Each vehicle has a limited number of shots. Before play starts, each vehicle’s ammunition must be detailed as to how many shots are Armor Piercing and how many are high explosive. When the unit runs out of ammo it must move adjacent to a Resupply Unit. When the Resupply unit is given a Rearm order, any adjacent units or vehicles are given a new load of ammo.
The book includes seven generic scenario types. In common with many game systems, the rules and army lists are sold separately. The BK book includes some army lists for Germans and Soviets during the Kursk campaign. Additional supplements must be purchased to obtain lists for other theaters/armies.
Overall the BK book is visually impressive. Filled with artwork it is a hefty tome. It could use some editing with regard to organization however. Rules that apply to certain situations are not all in the same section of the rule book. The ammunition rules are not in the rules at all, but in the “how to build an army” section. Likewise, the Close Assault order requires an experience check. This is detailed in the first chapter that describe all the orders. However, in the later chapter on resolving assaults, no mention is made of this test. Likewise, the Quick Reference Sheet has all the combat charts but no notes about orders. Our club resorted to making our own, detailed QRS.
My game club has played BK several times, and I have played at least 4 games. Ours are large, multi-player games. Our normal set up is 8 players on a 6x12 foot table, so we get a lot of troops involved.
Overall the mechanics of BK are simple. However there are a lot of them and they all work different. Plus many of the mechanisms require lots of sequential die rolls (barrages are especially thick with them). So the game can bog down in some cases. For example: a tank wants to fire at another tank twice. You cannot just roll all the dice at the same time. So you roll the first spot, then the to hit, then the penetrate, then repeat for the second shot. Contrasted with other games that allow you to just roll all the hits at once.
I do enjoy the Battle Rating system. It is an interesting twist on “Army Morale” and having the chits hidden avoids the gamey “if I kill one more platoon he has to test” kinds of situations. Plus the random events add spice to the game.