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Operation Citadel: Clash of Steel
by Paul Rohrbaugh

General Heinz Guderian: It is a matter of profound indifference to the world whether we hold Kursk or not. I repeat my question. Why do we want to attack in the East at all this year?

Adolf Hitler: You’re quite right. Whenever I think of this attack my stomach turns over.
--Exchange in Berlin on May 10th, 1943.

Historical Background

Following the defeat and surrender of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, and the devastating battles for both sides that followed, a lull settled along the Eastern Front in the Spring of 1943. The massive salient the Soviets carved out of the German lines centered on the town of Kursk became the focus for the planned German counter attack, codenamed Operation Citadel. Both sides prepared for the coming fight that was postponed twice before being launched by the Germans on July 5th, 1943. The climax of the campaign was reached along the southern front of the Kursk salient when the vanguards of the German attack; the 1st and 3rd SS as well as the Grossdeutschland Panzergrenadier fought to achieve a breakthrough on July 12th. The largest tank battles of World War Two were about to be fought…

Playing the Game

Operation Citadel: Clash of Steel is a set of three scenarios. Players agree as to the order the three battles will be fought and write down, in secret, the deployment of any reserve forces that they will commit to play in these battles. Each of the three matches is fought and the victory points earned by each side, if any, are recorded. The player with the highest victory point total is declared the overall winner. It is possible for a player to “lose” two of the three matches and still win the overall game if a “big win” is scored in the third scenario. Players who can best fight their forces on each battlefield, as well as managing their reserves, will have the best chances of winning.

Note: The three scenarios contained in Operation Citadel can be played independently. When doing so, do NOT use any of the reserve forces, just those listed for the particular scenario.

Scenario 1: Prokhorovka Station

The bursts of gunfire merged into one continuous roar. The Soviet tanks thrust into the German advanced formation at full speed and penetrated the German tank screen…The tanks of both sides were in the closest possible contact. There was neither time nor room to disengage from the enemy and reform in battle order or operate in formation.
--Account from the 9th Guards Airborne Division archive on the fighting at Kursk.

The July 12th fight with Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler was a costly a bloody slug-fest. The Soviet tank crews drove their tanks at top speed and with sometimes reckless abandon to close the gaps against the longer-ranged guns of their SS opponents, as well as to give the German gunners more difficult targets. Accounts exist of Soviet tanks ramming the Tigers and Panzers, and fighting raging with point-blank and hand-to-hand intensity. Some Soviet formations suffered staggering 70% to 80% losses. By the end of the day the LAH’s drive was halted. The Germans would never again advance. The war’s path would turn west to finally end in Berlin.

Scenario 2: The Fight for the Red October Farm Collective

Everywhere, there were the shells of burning tanks, standing in a sector about 1,500 meters wide; about ten or twelve artillery pieces were smoldering there, too. One hundred twenty were supposed to have been in the attack, but there could well have been more. Who counted!?
--Crew member account from the 3rd Panzerjager battalion, Totenkopf Division.

The Totenkopf Division was charged with protecting the left (northern) flank of Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler in its drive through the Soviet’s defensive works. It became entangled in its own fight when it crossed the Psel River and encountered the determined defenders lurking amid the Red October Farm Collective. Fighting raged back and forth throughout the day as both sides diverted more troops and tanks to the savage fighting. The lack of support for LAH by Totenkopf proved decisive as the German offensive bogged down as the day ended.

Scenario 3: The Fight for the Oboyan Hills

Suffering great losses, the enemy was forced to fall back, abandoning the burning tanks and the bodies of his dead soldiers and officers.
--General P. A. Rotmitstrov, evening of July 12th, south of Oboyan.

The fight for the Oboyan Hills was a sideshow to the main event emerging to the south at Prokhorovka, but the Gross Deutschland division very nearly made the breakthrough the German offensive set out to achieve. News of the German’s near success here sent the Soviet High Command into near panic as all available reserves had been dispatched earlier to deal with the SS. The valor and sacrifice of the tankers from the 6th and 10th Tank Corps, who were savaged in fighting leading up to July 12th, saved the day. But it was close.

Campaign Special Rule: Reserve Forces

The Reserve forces represent those held back by both sides’ High Commands to exploit opportunities, deal with threats elsewhere along the front, as well as conduct further operations in the coming days. Indeed, the Germans were shocked at how quickly their Soviet opponents were able to launch an offensive following the bloodbaths fought on July 12th. Following Kursk the long march to the “lair of the facist beast” would be delayed, but not stopped.

The battle fought in the Kursk, Orel, and Belgorod area was one of the most important engagements of the Great Patriotic War and the Second World War as a whole. Not only were the picked and most powerful groupings of the Germans destroyed here, but the faith of the German Army and the German people in the Nazi leadership and Germany’s ability to withstand the growing might of the Soviet Union was irrevocably shattered.
--General Zhukov, Marshal of the Soviet Union.

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