Saturday, 11 May 2013

Battlegroup Kursk (BGK) first game and thoughts

Andy and I played our first game of Battlegroup Kursk (BGK) at the club in mid-April.  We both got the rules in December last year but this was the first opportunity to play it.  It was also the first time I had been at the local club since 1995 playing DBM, and the first time since, I think, 2005 that I have played a WW2 game face to face.  I am hoping that the time between trips to the club and face to face games gets shorter in the future!

It has taken a while to post this as I have been short of time to prioritise to gaming in the last month.
I will start by saying what I think of BGK and then a short description of the game.  I was too busy playing to take too many pictures!

Verdict on the rules
Are they good? Yes and no. No in that they are not THAT good. they are good, but did not set my world on fire.  But yes: it was an enjoyable game, I had fun, I think the rules are good at recreating what they are trying to portray and would more than happily play again.  Note that I do not think there is a perfect set of WW2 rules for me anywhere, including ones I have written, so it is unlikely any rules are going to get a pure yes anyway!  And it was an intro game on a same table so did not get the full impact of playing either, so I believe my opinion will go upwards when playing on a larger table.

We played on a small table (6'x4') and I can see it would shine on a 8'x6'. As the table was small and even though we only used a few forces, the depth meant there was not a lot of manoeuvre so the game was a line them up and go. And that was also as a result of poor tactics and focussing on trying to capture two objectives when concentration on one would have been a lot better.

It does play well, the mechanisms are well thought out and fairly smooth (although artillery fire has lots of steps and it was a little tedious for our first outing with it) and there was lots of book flicking for the first few hours. You are often throwing 7-10 dice for hits and I am not a bucket of dice person. The game does have the feeling of ww2 as units are pinned and it is trying to unpin them to move them into position to fire back before getting pinned again.

My only quibble on mechanics is that BGK has a unit choosing between Aimed fire (focussing on casualties) and pinning fire (focussing on preventing enemy actions). While I like the fact that casualties is differentiated from action limitations, I like to have them both rolled into one so that a unit does not have to chose (i.e. a unit fires and the result may be casualties, or pinning, or both). I prefer to think troops just fired for suppression/pinning and casualties were a bonus.

In summary, jury still out. I like it, do not love it (yet, but may never do). Need a few more bigger games to see how good it is . Again, the mechanisms are sound and the feeling it there. Is it worth the expense? Don't know but I am a rules junkie and the book is beautiful and the army lists are very extensive.

The game overview
We played the introductory scenario on page 170 on a 6'x4' table. Basically an engagement scenario with a  platoon of infantry, some armoured scouts and a tank each.  We were sparse with the terrain, just laying out the pieces as per the scenario map and using the painted game board  as a base.  We just wanted to get stuck in to learn.  The good news is that you do not seem to need as much terrain as in some other WW2 games.  Of course, more terrain always looks good.

I was the Russians with Andy the Germans.  As the Germans are outscouted in this scenario, the Germans have to pick out a battle counter.

Me: "I hope it is not an aircraft chit.  I haven't looked at the aircraft rules at all.  Have you?"
Andy: "Not really. By the way, if it is an aircraft chit, when do I show you?"
Me: "I think you would show me after we deploy and it takes effect next turn, which would be the first turn."

So, after deployment Andy shows me the Aircraft counter.  I think it took an hour to go through to resolution as we had never read them and you also need to go through the artillery rules (which both of us have only skimmed also!), which for the first time is interesting.  But this really helped...because the second counter that Andy was forced to draw aircraft!  This went a lot faster to resolve.

View of the board from one side after deploying scouts.  Russians on the left - BA-64 on the road; Germans to the left - a destroyed halftrack near the junction.  The red marker is an objective, but also very near the point of attack for the German aircraft bombs.
 After deployment of scout forces, The German halftracks were in sight of my BA-64 and T-70.  Russians win the initiative and two actions later, the Germans have lost their scout forces.  That was quick and unexpected.  Good in that it was easy to perform.  And now we know a bit more about how the rules work and initiative being important.

My T-70 that managed to control my left flank for a few turns, until destroyed a German reinforcement - a Panzer IV.
 We found we did a lot of firing to pin during the first 5 or so turns.

The view of most of the Russian infantry forces from the German end of the table. 

Another view of the forces but slightly to the left, just to give an idea where they are. The hill and the woods really put a stop to trying to press the advantage.
Neither of us had sufficient forces in a particular place to strike forward, and after unpinning, they just got pinned again.

A shot form the Russian side of two units =on ein the woods and one near the hill.  The one near the hill is pinned, the one in woods is about to be.

And this is what caused the pinning of the troops in the woods.  The PanzerIV came in on the right flank and promptly took out the only Russian armour - a T-34 and T-70, then pinned a unit of infantry on the the German right flank before turning towards the centre.

But then looking over the rules, I can see than  for aimed fire, scoring a casualty will result in a morale test that has a 1 in 3 chance of pinning most units.  So I started aimed fire to good effect.  But then so did Andy start using aimed fire with the Germans to good effect as well.  Eventually I went over my battle rating and lost the game.  I think all my units were pinned by this stage and Andy have about half of his pinned.  Neither of us had lost an infantry unit.  It was a game of attrition due to the terrain and limited board size, and I think Andy played the attrition game better than me, but only after I knocked out all his half-tracks on turn 1!


  1. Choosing between aimed and surpression fire seems a little artificial to me as well.

    1. While artificial to me, and it may not be as I have not been a soldier, it does portray the difference between suppressive fire and aimed fire quite well. So it has that going for it.

  2. Interesting. My issue with the games coming out is the price. They seem to be going towards high production value but I wonder if the game is really worth it in the end.

  3. The game may not be worth the price. If I was 20 years younger, I would not buy it. But I am now a rules junkie and see no reforming in the future. And I have at least played it once after buying it, which is more than I can say for a lot of the other WW2 rules I have bought. So from that perspective, it is a winner.

    I am not sure that the big glossy rules are a trend or not. There certainly have been a lot of them in the last few years but wonder if that is just that production costs make them more affordable to publish now (i.e. $50 rather than $100 that it may have been in the past). Who knows?