Kursk. Many historians believe it was the turning point of World War II. Kursk. Witness to the largest tank battle of the entire war. Kursk. The end of the myth of German invincibility. Kursk. Just one hell of a lot of fun to game with 1” square cardboard counters representing platoons of infantry and tanks and batteries of anti-tank guns, mortars, and stuff. And that is what you get with Platoon Commander Deluxe: Kursk.
As of today at noon, the Platoon Commander Deluxe: Kursk (PDC:K) Kickstarter from Flying Pig Games is active. PCD:K is the port of Tiny Battles’ well-known Platoon Commander system to Flying Pig’s big box, mounted map, large counter method of game publishing. Each game includes two mounted 22” x 17” geomorphic maps, and four sheets of thick (as in 2mm thick, wow these counters are so easy to pick up, thick, why haven’t wargames been like this forever, thick), 1” square counters. There are Tiger tanks, Panther tanks, Mk IV tanks, T-34/76 tanks, KV-1 tanks, SU-152 assault guns, infantry (rifle, guards, pioneers, submachine gun), mortar batteries, Stukas, IL-2, and more. The battles play out using an easy-to-learn, fast-playing system with a unique sequence of play.
The Kickstarter will include stretch goals for Kursk mouse pads (see picture at the end of the interview), an additional mounted map, additional counters, more scenarios, and additional action cards. Some of this stretch goal merchandise will only and ever be available to those that pledge for the Kickstarter. If you are interested in the Kickstarter, here is a link to the page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1408460255/the-battle-of-kursk-fast-and-fun-ww2-platoon-level
We were lucky enough to get a few words in with Mark Holt Walker about the game and have the following short interview to whet your appetite for the game and hopefully answer some basic questions:
Grant: First off, Platoon Commander Deluxe: Kursk is a tactical platoon level game. Why do we need another tactical game in our lives?
Mark: That’s fair. Why do we need anymore wargames at all? For example, there are 213 games that simulate the battles of the East Front in World War 2. There have been 13 more released this year. Catch my drift? So, why NOT make another tactical game? (BTW, I made those numbers up.)
Grant: Hahaha. That is awesome! We need more wargmes in our lives. Of that we can all assuredly agree upon. Along those same lines, what differentiates Platoon Commander Deluxe: Kursk from other tactical games on the market?
Mark: Oh, so flipping much. That isn’t to say that there aren’t some great games out there now. One game’s shine doesn’t diminish anothers’. I knew this question would come up. Not only from you guys, but others as well. So I wrote seven reasons that I think Kursk is different:
1. Clutterless counters. PCD:K uses color to determine a weapon’s range. For example, an Armor Piercing factor printed on gold indicates that the weapon can fire normally at a target up to four hexes away.
2. Unique phasing. Players alternate attacking in the Fire Phase, but move all their units at once during the Movement Phase.
3. Flanking Friendly Close Assault Phase. Units do not enter the hex of the Close Assault target, but rather attack from adjacent hexes. This allows the attacker to not only amass the overwhelming odds needed to take that key position, but also attack from multiple directions, which provide a flanking bonus. Additionally, alternating attacks in the Close Assault phase allow defenders to conduct true spoiling attacks.
4. Ranged combat results are based not only an the target’s armor factor and terrain, which determine the column on which the attack is executed, but also the target unit’s morale which determines how many hits affect the target.
5. Artillery is card driven. Neither player knows the other’s artillery capability by glancing at a scenario card. Artillery barrages are determined by Action Cards, which also allow counter battery.
6. Action Cards. PCD:K is not card driven, but rather card assisted. The Action Cards provide artillery, rally units, provide combat bonuses, and even unexpected Opportunity Fire shots.
7. Focus and Aid Markers. These markers allow players to influence the battle much as their real life counterparts would. Players may choose to focus on a specific area, providing combat bonuses, or provide additional aid to those disrupted by fire.
Grant: I love the painting that you have used for the rule book cover. What is the story behind this image? Why did you choose it to be used?
Mark: Our artist, who is Russian, found it. It’s a Soviet WW2 Propoganda poster. I wanted a different look. I think he got it.
Grant: For those that don’t know, why was Kursk important during World War II and why did you choose this as the focus for a tactical game?
Mark: Historians claim that Kursk was Germany’s last attempt to gain the strategic initiative on the East Front in WW2. It was also the largest tank battle of WW2. Of course this wan’t just one, big tank scrum. There were many engagements, and the 14 scenarios included with the game depict those engagements. Why did I choose Kursk? It’s a natural. The battle is monumental, the battle includes every type of engagement — assaults, runs and guns, breakthrough attempts, etc– and the battle has Tigers and Panthers.
Grant: I know this is a combined arms game. What different rules or parameters are needed when you include a mix of small arms and tanks/vehicles into a tactical game design in order to make it flow and work well?
Mark: Scale is one of the keys. One of Panzer Leader’s failings was the one-hex movement factor on the infantry. Hence you need to nerf ranges, terrain effects, and movement so that infantry can be relevant.
Grant: I love your large counters. Why do you use the larger 1″ counters? Is it because most of us grognards need glasses and this is easier on our eyes?
Mark: Two words, Uwe Eickert. Back in my LNLP days I frequently shared booth space with the nascent Academy Games. I heard folks rave about the Clash of Heroes counters. I knew that my illustrations in LNL were every bit as good as his, but didn’t draw the same attention. Why? It was those BIG, HUNKING, THICK counters. So, when I founded Flying Pig, I decided we would only use BIG, HUNKING, THICK counters (and maps).
Grant: I noticed on the counters you have various designations for type of ammunition, including Armor Piercing and High Explosive Fire. How did you come up with combat values? What did you have to keep in mind when designing these elements? I also see that these designations have color codes that have to do with range. Talk about this as well.
Mark: There are people/designers that have equations for that type of stuff. I’m not one of them, never have been. I understand relative gun ranges and potency and nerf them to make a good game with a realistic feel. Colored Ranges. Well, using colored range codes takes a superscript off the counter, which allows us to make the firepower factors larger.
Grant: What is the Aid and Focus step as this seems to be a new concept I haven’t seen? What roles does it play in the game?
Mark: I wanted to get away from the leader counter or formation HQ on the board. Tactical wargames are strange. Although you might be controlling two battalions of tanks (usually a colonel with a staff’s job), you also direct fire of each platoon as if you were a junior lieutenant. That’s fine. It’s fun. Aid and Focus, however, is an attempt to allow the gamer to act like an overall commander. The gamer can determine where his personal schwerpunkt is and use the Aid (to assist in rallying) and Focus (to more effectively direct fire) by placing them on the map, to ensure his forces succeed.
Grant: Is there anything unique in your take on movement, transport or loading/unloading of units?
Mark: As I alluded to previously, we have slightly faster infantry that are impacted less by terrain, than many other tactical simulations. We also have special scenario rules for tank riders…just cause folks love to put Russians on tanks. There are unique action cards that allow AFVs that win an assault to move and attack again, and other action cards that allow Soviet units to ignore zones of control (ZOC) (they’r sneaky). ZOCs in a tactical game? Yep. If a unit isn’t Disrupted it costs one extra movement point to move adjacent to the unit. We figure that even if a unit is fired, even if you don’t have an action card that will let you fire again, the unit will cause you to proceed with caution.
Thanks to Mark Holt Walker for his time and effort in providing answers to our questions about the game and I wish him luck on the Kickstarter campaign. I have been interested in this game since I first saw the information earlier this year and really want to get it on my gaming table. Mark also wants to thank David K. van Hoose. He designed every, single scenario in the game. David and Mark have worked together to develop them, but David did all the research and the initial scenario design. This game wouldn’t have happened without him.
Thanks for taking the time to put up this article. A couple of things that I would like to mention. First, the base game only comes with two maps (you probably have corrected that before I get this reply up :-)). That’s my fault, I had some old copy on the web site.
Secondly, I want to thank David K. van Hoose. He designed every, single scenario in the game. We have worked together to develop them, but David did all the research and the initial scenario design. This game wouldn’t have happened without him.
Hmm… I wonder what the difference will be between this game and Old School Tactical. I think that would have been a good question to put to Mark (or not, maybe it’s obvious and I’m just a lazy dullard)
Nope, not a dullard, but they honestly have nothing in common other than the theater. Different scale, completely different mechanics, both cover different times in the war.