1943: Sokolovo, Battle of Kharkiv; Germans v Czechoslovaks

1943: Sokolovo, battle of Kharkiv; Germans v Czechoslovaks

Set up: medium
Game time: medium
Solo play: suitable, but hard work

Historical Background:
During a German counter offensive in February 1943, the Czechoslovak battalion was ordered to defend the frozen river in the vicinity of Kharkov. Otakar Jaroš strengthened 1st Company took position in front of the river in the village of Sokolovo; the rest of the battalion and supporting Soviet units stayed behind the river. 14 German tanks charged Sokolovo to do armed reconnaissance (13:30). Two hours later they started the actual attack. Czechoslovaks postured circle of defence around Sokolovo church (17:00). Commander Ludvík Svoboda (later to be Czechoslovak President, 1968-975) wanted 10 tanks T-34 and a strengthened platoon to be sent, but tanks did not cross the river because of thin ice. At 19:00, Svoboda ordered the 1st company to fall back beyond river. Some of them continued to fight (because of interrupted communication) all night and only arrived on the second day.
Czechoslovak casualties: 86 killed, 56 injured, 1 anti-tank cannon 45 mm, 7 anti-tank guns, 5 heavy machine guns, 16 light machine guns, and 5 mortars destroyed.
Enemy casualties: 300 to 400 soldiers killed, 19 tanks and from 4 to 6 armoured vehicles destroyed.
87 soldiers were awarded Soviet medals. Among them in memoriam was second lieutenant Otakar Jaroš - commander of the 1st company. For especial bravery he was awarded the highest Soviet decoration: Gold Star of a “Hero of the Soviet Union” (the first foreigner to receive it). Further, 87 received the Czechoslovak war cross 1939 and 72 the medal “For gallantry in the face of the enemy”.

Axis 5 cards; move first. Allies 4 cards.

Conditions of Victory:
Allies: 8 medals.
Axis: 8 medals + death of heroic leader.
The village of Sokolovo is a Temporary Medal Objective for the German Forces.

Special Rules:
Axis Special Forces tank units have 4 figures.
The Mza river is a Frozen River, but tanks did not cross the river due to thin ice.
River hex blocks line of sight.
Allied units have only 3 figures, ignore all flags when on terrain hex (trenches, villages, forest, etc.), and also when units reach the edge of the board.
Allied units can move 0-2 hexes and battle.
Allied special units have Anti-Tank Guns.
Allied artillery ignore all flags.
Big Guns fires 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1.
Big Guns with star are rocket launchers (Katyusha BM 13-16, Stalin’s organ): range is 6 hexes with 4 Dice.
Allies play air power card as artillery card.
Air rules are not in effect.

Scenario link

Set up 20 minutes, playing time 40 minutes.
A complex but really interesting scenario. Interesting for me as a Czech resident (and having recently seen an exhibition about the Czechoslovak Legions, who took part in this battle).
The Germans started with a tank attack on the right (1:0), but an Allied Direct From HQ was also successful (1:1). An Axis Counter-Attack saw them take the central trenches (3:1) and a General Advance took another unit (4:1).
The Czechoslovaks were scoring hits, but not enough to take units. German options became limited - they had Medics & Mechanics and Dig In, which are not good attack cards! But the other three cards allowed a Recon in Force to take the last anti-tank gun, and two tank units hit Sokolovo and killed the Hero.
So at 6:1 down the Allies were in trouble. But then a devastating Katyuska attack destroyed a tank unit and an artillery unit finished off a tank unit (6-3).
A German attack on the right took another unit (7:3) but an Allied Firefight struck back (7:4)
There was a bit of a lull in the action so the Germans actually used Medics & Mechanics to revive a tank unit, only to lose one immediately. Then another devastating Katyuska did it again on a tank unit (7-5).
The Germans stepped back and relied on long range tank attacks. Three of their units were down to 2 figures, and one was down to 1, so there was a risk in pushing on with close attacks.
And this change of tactics worked, with a tank attack destroying the left centre gun in the bunker for an 8-5 victory. Closer than it looked a one stage, and maybe it would have turned out differently if those rocket launchers had contributed more.
A lot of special rules to keep an eye on, but a really fun and fast game, probably due to the proximity of opposing units, especially in the centre. Highly recommended if you want something a bit different.

Set up:

Carnage at the end - 13 destroyed units!