Sunday, June 14, 2009

War Without Mercy, Final Kursk AAR, Nov '43

Frost blanket the entire theater, except for the Crimea, in November. This caused a slight reduction in armored, motorized and transportation movement (-1 movement point and reducing supply lines from 6 to 5 hexes). Winter was rapidly approaching...

The Soviets advanced across the sunny Crimea wiping out a Romanian infantry corps in the peninsula's rugged hills. Meanwhile on the mainland, OKH ordered units of AGS to surge across the Dnepr in a massive spoiling movement to delay the Soviet advance.

Heavy fighting occurred along AGC. As AGS attempted to consolidate along the Dnepr River, AGC's southern flank became exposed and subjected to a massive attack by 9 Soviet Guards Infantry Corps. Two Guards Corps achieved a 30 mile-wide breakthrough, 90 miles due west of Orel.

The preponderance of armor wielded by Koniev forced Kleist to retreat south across the Dnepr. The Dnepr-Dvina Gap was blasted wide open as Soviet tanks overran a Hungarian infantry division. (In game terms, armor units stacked with leaders can conduct attacks in addition to move during the exploitation phase).

Despite the successes on other fronts STAVKA insisted on another offensive to retake Leningrad. In addition to naval gunfire, 4 squadrons of bombers appeared over the skies of Lenin's City and released their ordnance on the both the defenders and Russian civilians. Heavy anti-aircraft fire caused one squadron to veer off course, missing the city altogether.

OKH sent a German infantry corps into Leningrad to reinforce the Finns. The Germans arrived just in time. Once the bombers returned to base and the naval bombardment lifted, the Soviets launched another all-out assault.

While the Germans and Finns were outnumbered they were dug-in throughout the city. Three infantry and 3 Guards corps were thrown into the city only to be cut-down by the entrenched occupiers. This attack, as in last month's assault, was thrown back with heavy casualties.

The frost had a minimal affect on the supply lines of both the Russians or Finns north of Leningrad.

Severe snowstorms roared out of Siberia as November came to a close. OKH took advantage of the inclement weather to disengage from the Soviets across most of the theater. Hampered by heavy snow, the Soviets were unable to pursue. STAVKA decided to wait for a break in the weather in order to resume the advance.

Okay, in real-life terms the weather event described in the above paragraph didn't really happen. It was Sunday morning and the last day of the Expo Convention so Joe & I had to pick up the game. This session ended two turns short of it's historical conclusion (December '43).

However, Joe felt the strategic situation was looking grim for Nazi Germany. According to his assessment, about 1/3 of his infantry was wiped out while another 1/3 was depleted. (That is, the counters flipped to the reverse/reduced side). The panzers on the other hand, were at full strength, but that was only due to the recent reconstitution of 3 Panzer Corps.

In short, Germany couldn't replace combat losses fast enough to stop the growing Soviet juggernaut.

As I mentioned in my initial post on this scenario, I didn't fully grasp all the facets of this strategic monster-game. For the first two months I concentrated only on the fighting capabilities (attack & defense factors) of my combat units. I also didn't realize that destroyed units could be replaced. Then it was another turn before I came across "intelligence" (ie the scenario booklet) and read Germany's Order of Battle (OOB) versus my own. By this time I understood how dominant Soviet industrial capacity was over Germany's.

As the "campaign season" drew to a close, I initiated a more aggressive strategy. Sometimes too aggressive. I tried going head-to-head with Hoth and Kleist in order to deplete their precious panzers. That didn't work (due to low combat odds and poor die-rolling). So I ended up losing tanks in droves and at one point I nearly lost Zhukov. But I could replace my tank losses within a month or two, whereas Joe could not.

Losing Leningrad was embarrassing (another bad die-roll on my part), so I threw everything I could into attacks against the city before the game ended. That didn't work out either. (Joe had his fair share of die rolls too. Throughout this narrative any time I used the phrase "attack faltered," I meant bad die rolls).

The last time I played a monster-game was SPI's War in Europe back in the early '80s. While still large, the map and unit scale make War Without Mercy a "handier" game to play the War in Europe. The easy rules, once learned, make for a smooth-running game that can be played to an actual conclusion.

So if I ever decide to buy a World War II monster game, I'd choose this Struggle for Europe Series.

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