SPI, KURSK (1971)

KURSK is a two-player game of Russo-German combat on the Eastern Front during the spring and summer of 1943. The game was designed by Sterling S. Hart and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1971. Despite its simple graphics, the game’s clean game mechanics and nail-biting scenarios make this an excellent addition to any East Front game collection.


KURSK is an historical simulation, at the operational (division/corps) level, of the decisive battles between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army that occurred in southern Russia in the spring and summer of 1943. The battle of Kursk, code named: Operation Zitadelle, represented a final tipping point on the Russian Front during World War II; according to the SPI ad for the game: “The destruction of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad decided that the Nazis wouldn’t win the War in the East; the disastrous offensive at Kursk decided they would lose it.”

KURSK clearly shows the strategic dilemma that confronted Hitler and his commanders as Soviet military strength and defensive arrangements steadily increased in the Kursk sector during May and June of 1943. Instead of, as Manstein proposed, launching an early, hastily-organized offensive at Kursk as soon conditions on the ground made a resumption of mobile operations possible in May, the Germans decided to wait to build up their forces before they attacked. The result of this postponement was that, while the Wehrmacht labored to accumulate additional troops and rebuild its armored units in the Kursk sector, the Russians used the German delay to fortify their lines — in some areas to a depth of over 120 kilometers — and to pour new rifle and tank units into the threatened area. In essence, the Germans had, without intending to, stumbled into a reinforcement race with the Russians; a race that subsequent events would convincingly show had actually been lost before the German offensive even began in July, 1943.

KURSK, interestingly enough, was one of the first games published to focus on a single major battle on the Eastern Front. Moreover, Sterling Hart's innovative design has held up extremely well as a game in spite of its age, lack of historical “chrome,” and — judging by contemporary standards — its primitive graphics and awkwardly organized rules. Just as importantly — at least from the perspective of game history and development — KURSK was the first title to launch a ground-breaking new game system (still popularly referred to as the KURSK Game System) to simulate operational-level, mechanized warfare. In fact, many of the design ideas that this title introduced have now become standard features in contemporary games, including, but not limited to: German motorized kampfgruppen; the abstract use of air units to perform multiple missions during both friendly and enemy player turns; and full mechanized movement both before and after combat.

KURSK offers six scenarios: two standard (with historical unit positions) and four hypothetical scenarios (with free unit deployment). These different scenarios not only permit players to examine the possible effects on the battle’s outcome of varying start dates and orders of battle, but also allow the players to experiment with alternative operational plans.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 2 days per game turn (estimated)
  • Map Scale: 10 miles per hex (estimated)
  • Unit Size: division/corps (with some brigades, and battalions as well)
  • Unit Types: panzer/tank, panzer grenadier/mechanized, infantry, cavalry, artillery, anti-tank and air units
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: medium
  • Solitaire Suitability: high
  • Average Playing Time: 3–3½ hours

Game Components:

  • One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
  • 255 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 11” x 14” Combined Set of Rules and Scenario Instructions
  • One 8½” x 11” Combined Combat Results Table and Turn Record Chart
  • One 8½” x 11” Publisher’s Insert (“No Dice” notification)
  • One SPI 12” x 15”x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet

Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; both of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.

THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU

Recommended Links

The Eastern Front


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