Grogheads AAR! JTS Kiev ’43

frontier wars 728x90 KS

After the Battle of Kursk in July of 1943, the Russians launched a number of successive campaigns to once and for all kick the Germans out of Russia. One of the major objectives of these campaigns was to cross the Dnepr River line and liberate Kiev, the third largest city in the Soviet Union.  Intent on proving that the proud legacy of John Tiller will carry on,  JTS has released its latest title in the long running Panzer Campaigns series: Kiev ’43.

Take command of the depleted 4th Panzerarmee and the 8th Army forces to defend against the Soviet onslaught. On the allied side, as the commander of the Russian 1st Ukrainian Front, players will have several armies at their disposal to defeat the German Wehrmacht.  Included are scenarios that let you recreate all four phases of the campaign from the battle in the Bukrin bridgehead to the final battle near Korosten where the Germans made one last attempt to destroy the Russian forces and roll on to victory.

Mount up with Boggit as he takes command of the Soviet forces in this exciting after action report!


By: Boggit

This battle is from John Tiller Software’s brand new Panzer Campaigns Kiev ‘43. It covers the battles to take Kiev during October to December 1943 following the climactic Operation Zitadelle offensive and the Russian counter-offensive.

As ever the game retains the high quality historical research and solid gameplay characteristic of games from John Tiller Software. As I’ve said previously regarding JTS games; it’s enjoyable as a single player game, but is perhaps best played against as another human player as the single player AI opponent is not particularly strong. Play by email is fully supported, and from my experience of playing many games in the series, multiplayer is easy to use.

I chose to play the Russians in the scenario Bukrin Bridgehead as the first action in this campaign. The Russians had the 27th and 40th Armies and the 3rd Guards Tank Army available to crack the German defenses against the German 48th Panzer Korps. Historically the Russians had some initial success before their offensive bogged down and stalled. A couple of weeks later they resumed the battle at the Liutezh bridgehead with success.


Panzer Campaigns:  Kiev ‘43 has 59 standalone scenarios, which include all 4 major operations taking place between 12th October to 22nd December1943. The Kiev November Operations campaign is the largest at 234 turns, and the Liutezh Break-in is the smallest at 16 turns.


Here is the starting situation for the Russian Player (played by me). Here is my initial thinking as I formulate my strategic plan for the operation. I doubt it will survive contact with the enemy, but “failing to plan is planning to fail…”

To get a major victory I need at least 2,400 victory points. I gain and lose points on casualties, but have a permanent gain from objective victory points.

So what are the issues to consider?  I have a strong force facing a defensive line of a mix of panzers and infantry dug in behind minefields. Fortunately, the Germans don’t appear to have been in place long enough to build bunkers and pill boxes, and for the most part seem to be entrenched. Not great, but it could be worse. On the left only, units are in improved positions, but my main attack force is in the center. In all cases, the Germans are able to hold their lines without being outflanked, so I’m stuck with the unpleasant task of having to make a frontal assault to break the line before I can exploit and maneuver.

Ground conditions are normal, which is good for me. I have just 37 turns to break through and push far enough to capture sufficient objectives without taking excessive casualties, as this will harm my score significantly. I am far from convinced that limited front offensives, over minefields defended by entrenched infantry, tanks and AT guns will be anything but brutal.

I have to breach the line and exploit, whereupon I need to re-evaluate the situation.


So here we go at turn 1. I will bombard with my artillery, and then send in the engineers to clear minefields supported by the infantry to keep the defender occupied. Unfortunately, my tanks are stuck at the back of my main force in a very congested area. This will not be fun for any of them. I shall make a note to put in a big medal request for Orders of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union to encourage the troops!


This is the situation at the start of turn 6 focusing on the main attack. On the left the 57th Rifle Corps is still stuck on the minefields with no prospect of clearing them as all the engineer units have been wiped out. On the right the troops are still trying to break through. They are not as fragged as the 57th Corps, so may yet make a difference. In the center we have broken through at the left of the line and one hex in the center. To give an idea of the intensity of the fighting, so far we have taken around 4,000 infantry casualties and the Germans around 2,500. My artillery has been absolutely key here. Thank goodness that the Germans haven’t built bunkers or pillboxes, as whilst far from good, we would be looking at a hopeless situation. My plan is very Soviet… keep attacking until I can force a breakthrough and exploit. Will I get lucky?


Daylight (turn 11) on the left flank shows zero progress. One unit has even been pushed back by intense enemy fire. I’m really tempted to pull back as any exchange of fire results in disproportionate losses. The only thing really keeping me from doing so is the proximity of German armor reserves, and the vague possibility that one or two of the target breakthrough hexes will get a disrupt or break from artillery fire. I am happier for the German reserves to stay here rather than confront my main push.


The center is where most progress has been made since turn 6. Thanks to heavy artillery support and some costly assaults, we have basically taken the trenches of the front line. It has been very bloody, and I am now trying to filter fresh units to the front and rest the assaulting units as a reserve. The problem now is getting things moving as the weather has been raining resulting in a soft ground condition. My plans to encircle the defenders are perhaps a little ambitious given the weather and the tenacious defense experienced so far. With the poor weather, I also risk losing out on air support. Once again my artillery support is vital to grind the defenders down.


On the right flank things have developed quite nicely. Some of my mechanized infantry have pushed through the German right flank and are poised to start an encirclement. The problem is that they will be exposed and I need to bring up fresh troops in sufficient numbers to avoid having them cut off.  After some tough fighting in the center, most of the mines have been cleared and we have pushed into the German front-line. They still have a strong point in the center with armor and infantry, but once this falls the advance will be easier.


Night falls after a very bloody fight. On the left flank I continue to fail to capture the left most German position! Just before this turn I’d moved up 3 battalions to assault, which then all disrupted either due to fire or minefields. To add to my misery, the German armored reserves are counterattacking to destroy the bridgehead.

In the center we see the crack in the dam as I make a modest advance. I was lucky to catch several German units in travel mode and they were severely punished by my artillery. On the flip side, trying to move forward has led to severe traffic jams, which attract a lot of German artillery fire on the over stacked hexes. I’m now trying to reorganize my assault divisions and hold their positions as the second wave moves to keep up the pressure on the cracking Germans. My chief concern is that my artillery is firing close to their maximum range and bringing the guns forward is going to be both time consuming and risky. The Russian artillery has been so important so far, and I dare not be without it for long.

On the right I have connected one small bridgehead with the main attack, and am getting close to linking up with the main force. I have had little luck flanking as I planned. The fighting has been ferocious, and losses are comparable.


Turn 25 and I’m still grinding forward. On my left I’m pushing an open flank, but the damp ground means the going is slow, and my reserves are stuck in the center and right of my main attack and cannot effectively support any exploit. In the center, I’m grinding forward slowly, but must bring up my guns as many are out of range now. This is a major problem as I need them to support attacks on victory hexes. On the right the small bridgehead is now linked up to the main attack. This has had the fortuitous benefit of isolating a couple of German strong points and victory hexes. All the same, despite comparable high losses for both sides, I’m losing unless I can grab more victory hexes in the next 12 turns.


The next few turns put a crack in the apparent German dam, and it then collapses. After destroying the German strong points on my right, I unleash my tank reserves through the gap and they drive deep to the south and east getting behind the main German line and attacking HQ and artillery units. This enables the force behind them to march unimpeded a couple of hexes at a time to ensure that the ground remains held. The traffic jams now start moving, but it is still doubtful that many of the slower units will ever get to see any combat other than as artillery or Luftwaffe targets. Divisional and Corps cohesion is a mess as the units often mix just to advance within stacking limits.

The tank exploitation is combined with main force attacks on the center and the right. This causes a collapse in the center. Important German victory point hexes here are then isolated, pounded by artillery and assaulted resulting in capture. The German center is overrun.

On the left the Germans try to dominate the battle and counterattack in three areas. On the far left, they try to destroy the bridgehead and this gets very bloody, as I have two battalions isolated and destroyed before the Germans are pushed back. At the hill between the small bridgehead and my main attack, they counter attack and stop my advance. Finally, on the left flank of my main attack, they counterattack, breakthrough my lines and threaten the division attacking the aforementioned hill. These in turn are then isolated as their flanks are exposed by the general collapse of the German line. I now have reached the point of a major Russian victory, with no chance of the Germans having sufficient troops to reverse that situation.


By the end of the game I have achieved a major victory. In fact, I have nearly twice the victory points required for a major victory, and all in the last 12 turns. This was a brutal fight. Throughout the game I tried to take the village where the Iron Crosses grow, wiping out 92% of the defending unit. As you’ll see from the casualties, this whole battle was hard fought!

The Bukrin Bridgehead scenario is a challenge. It is a hard initial slog, and even when you start to make progress the enemy is not passive, making local counterattacks and trying more serious counterattacks to try to wipe out the smaller bridgeheads. The collapse of the German line in the last eight or nine turns came almost as a surprise with its suddenness. Their defense up to that point was absolutely tenacious.

This is a good game, with some subtle twists. The Bukrin Bridgehead is one of the smaller scenarios, concerned about the early failed attempt to break out from the Dnepr River bridgeheads, and was intense.  I can only imagine that the game gets even more epic and intense in some of the larger operations.

On the basis of my experience playing one of the smaller scenarios, I can thoroughly recommend this game.

Panzer Campaigns:  Kiev ‘43

Developed by John Tiller Software

The Bukrin Bridgehead – The first Russian offensive to break the Dnepr river line 12th – 15 th October 1943

Dedicated to the late John Tiller

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