Monday, February 7, 2011

Ukraine '43 (GMT) ~ "Crisis on the Dnieper", Part 1

Game: Ukraine '43
Scenario: Scenario #4 "Crisis on the Dnieper"
Participants: Bob "The Marshal" H, Myself
Time: Sunday, Feb 6th ~ 2.00PM - 4.30PM

After completing our excellent game of Ardennes '44, we decided to travel to the Eastern Front to finally play a complete game of U43. One of my goals this year is to 'complete' games, that is to play them to the end, not just to the point where I or both of us think one side or the other is going to win. The games I play with Bob are typically these sorts of games, i.e. longer more involved games that can take 10-30 hours to finish as opposed to some of the games I play with HeavyD and YJ. One thing I noticed was that I was starting to get the bad habit of deciding I was done with a game long before we finished. Often this was because I thought one side or the other had an advantage, sometime so much of an advantage that I didn't see the point of finishing. But the main reason for my wanting to finish was that I wanted to get a hold of my 'attention span' issue in games where we will have it set up on the table for a month. Thus our just finished game of A44 went down to the last turn, took about 10+ hours and was very satisfying, so I feel like I am getting some good returns on my goal for this year already.

Bob and I had played U43 two or three times in the past couple of years. We had one or two trainer games, where we would play perhaps 4-5 turns, or even one of the shorter scenarios. Then we took a shot at the Campaign game, which is 21 turns long. I believe that we called that CG around a third of the way into it, again thinking that one side was steamrolling the other. So the plan for our second go round with U43 is to play this scenario (7 turns) as a refresher and then play the CG, keeping the same sides. As I was the Germans attacking in A44 we thought that it was Bobs turn to attack, so he is playing the Russians this time around and I am the hard pressed Germans.

This game was my first Simonich game and one that I happened to get in my early days as a rabid GMT customer/fan. It is long out of print, having been published in 2001 I think. It is certainly one of my prized possessions as I have become a big fan of Mr. Simonitch's designs over the years. The mechanics of the game display some of the same things he's done in his later designs, thus we have things like ZOC bonds. The game though has many unique mechanics that feel very right for this setting. The game is a division level game for the Germans and usually two divisions or a Corps (similar in strength to a German Division) of mechanized units for the Russians. 

One of the rules I really like are the German Armored Corps and their Russian equivalent, Tank/Shock Armies. These units represent a corps sized unit and allow each player to legally overstack. Additionaly they provide a bonus to each side when they are attacking. The Germans get a column shift while the Russians get a raw addition to their combat strength. Having read a lot of Eastern Front History (Col. David Glantz is a favorite) we both really like how these rules capture the nature of combat at this scale and the importance of these units to the success or failure of a campaign.

The scenario we are playing starts in October of 43 when the Germans have been pushed off the Donnets River and have lost Kharkov. Now they are sheltered behind the Dnieper River and hanging on with a much depleted force. The Russians start with three bridgeheads across the Dnieper, one North of Kiev (the Lyutezh bridgehead) and the other two South of that city. The scenario gives us some very nice historical details around the importance of these bridgeheads and the efforts both sides exerted to contain (or eliminate) them. The Russian player has to gain 13 Victory points worth of cities in order to win. Its clear from the map that I need to get used to getting beat up and losing a lot of territory, just not enough to give Bob the win.

Setting up for this one was tough. I have to set up first, then Bob sets up, then I can deploy four motorized units after I see his set up. Nearly all of my units have to start within three hexes of the front line, which is printed on the map. Since nearly 80% of the line is behind a river, sans the bridgeheads, I paid close attention to the rules on river assaults and ZOC Bonds. That being said I'm sure both of us would have set up differently (better) were we to play this one again. As we were going to watch the Super Bowl soon we only got a turn in this afternoon, this didn't prevent the one turn from being exciting however.

Here are some pictures of our starting set up:

My Left and Center

My Southern Flank

A look at most of the map, while Bob does his first turn

Bobs opening attacks went well, especially near Melitopol in the South. He had one attack at each of the middle bridgeheads, pushing me back. In the South though, he killed three steps with of units in Melitopol with the help of Marshal Zhukov and took that city. I had poorly placed my mobile units at set up and I was in trouble with this breakthrough, as he used his Exploitation Movement phase to trap two more of my Divisions in the South. The next three photos show the situation after his turn.

Breakout from the Bukrin Bridgehead

Bob expands the Kremenchug Bridgehead

Here you can see my two units that he has cut off

In the South I was able to use the 2SS to counter attack and relieve my two surrounded units, killing both of Bobs Tank Corps. In the Middle bridgehead I counterattacked but we only traded step losses with Bob hanging on to the hex.

Counter Attack North of Melitopol

GD fails to reduce the Kremenchug Bridgehead
So we stopped after my first turn and will resume again with Bobs second turn. Things will get ugly in the South as I am short of units to form a line there and he is already moving more mechanized units in to the area. Here is a final shot of the entire map at the end of turn 1.

End of the first turn

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