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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Siege Of Küstrin

In their latest website update, Battlefront has posted an article detailing the Soviet siege of the city of Küstrin on the banks of the Oder River in 1945.  In addition to the article, there is a scenario which allows you to recreate this desperate struggle on the tabletop.  I'm really happy to see that both of these have finally seen the light of day as I originally wrote them for Desperate Measures, but they didn't have room for them in the final book.

The Siege of Küstrin was an interesting battle for a lot of reasons.  First, though the city served as a major rail hub, Allied bombing raids largely ignored it and as a result Küstrin had largely been spared the ravages of war.  All of that changed dramatically as a result of Zhukov's Vistula-Oder offensive.  Küstrin was essentially the last German held territory on the eastern bank of the Oder, and as such it became a fortress city.  The Soviets tried to reduce what was essentially a German "bridgehead" across the river for months before continuing on to Berlin.  Ultimately the city was completely destroyed and the Soviets resumed their March to Berlin.

For the scenario, I tried my best to accurately represent the both the German and Soviet forces present at Küstrin with the available units in existing publications.  The forces themselves don't stick to a single available list, and instead represent a combination of forces to best represent the troops actually involved in the final push. 

The Germans are based around a Pioneerkompanie with infantry support.  The Volkssturm (which apparently will make their debut in the upcoming Remagen book) were not available, so I substituted other units which should have similar ratings.  By this point, there were no tanks available, so the German force has no armor. 

The Soviet forces are split into Guards and Regular forces.  The regular forces had pressured the Germans for weeks and pushed from the eastern approaches to the city.  The Guards forces had encircled the city from the Western approaches and attacked across the bridges.  Soviet artillery in the area consisted mostly of the lighter guns and Katyusha.  Stalin tanks and T34's typically operated together in small battle groups.

Though this scenario represents the final push into the city, the overall siege went through many stages.  For most of the siege, a corridor was open to the German positions in the West which was savagely contested by Soviet and German forces including 25. Panzergrenadierregiment (including Panzer Abteilung 5), 21. Panzerdivision, and Panzerdivision 'Münchenberg.'  Many of these battles could be accurately depicted using lists straight out of Desperate Measures and would make an interesting campaign.

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