Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ukraine '43 (GMT) ~ "Campaign Game" Part 3

Game: Ukraine '43 (GMT)
Scenario: Campaign Game
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Sunday, Mar 20th ~ 2.30PM - 5.45PM

One of the challenges we have in a game like this is knowing how we are doing against the victory conditions. The scenario (the CG) is 20 turns long. Each turn there is a min/max number of VP's needed (for the Russian player) in order to win or lose. We also have the historical record to compare against. Neither one of us has a real clear memory of the last time we played the CG so we are left with the above metrics to guide us in know how we are doing in the over all context of winning or loosing the game. When I sat down to do my turn prior to Bobs arrival, I found that I was starting to have doubts. When we finished for the day, I was pretty sure that the game is still in the air, however Bob is certainly doing better after this last session then in his prior two.

Turn 6
Kharkov Sector, start of RT6

The line West of Kharkov is turning into Bobs main effort as he's given up in the far North and will do the same at the end of this turn following a disastrous attack lead by Zhukov in the South. Lets start in the South. I had been able to extract the two Infantry Divisions from the Donets pocket at the end of the last session due to the 3PDs stubborn defense in a key hex. I pull the 3PD back into the main line and slip one of the withdrawing ID's into the hex to maintain the fortifications. Bobs attacks in the Primary combat phase are uneventful (EX & C), except that he's slowly grinding me down. The 3PD takes a hit and I am happy that I moved the two divisions that arrived on turn 5 as reinforcements into the area as I now need them to hold the line. Bobs attack on hex 5323 during the secondary combat phase was a disaster. Zhukov was leading it, thus we had a 1-1 / 2 attack. The first result was a EX + 1/1, the 2nd roll (Z allows re-rolls on EX and C results) yielded a AR + 1/-. Thus Bob lost 5 steps and was Disrupted with the rest of his attacking forces (those that were left at least).

Southern Russian Subsequent Combat phase, RT6

I see an opportunity to hit back here. I line up the 2SS along with some supporting units and make a 3-1/1 attack. It fails miserably with a C. However as we shall see next turn, Bob at least is done for now in the South.
The line breaks, West of Kharkov

Meanwhile in the North the situation is still very fluid. Bob has made penetrations 5-6 hexes in and I have holes in my line that I cannot fill, Bob is having a little trouble keeping his mechanized units in fuel. Bobs attacks in this region are good (DR + 1/1, DRX, EX, EX) bleeding me dry. My line looks good behind a river but Bob cracks that line and I am again forced to fall back. Near Kharkov Bob continues to grind me down getting a hex or two closer.

2SS fails to push Zhukov back

Counter-attack to keep the line open near Kharkov
Bob's Comments:

I continue my attacks in the South with Zhukov in an attempt to grind the Germans down, the initial attack goes well but the exploitation attack with Zhukov is a disaster with the loss of 5 steps.  I'm disappointed but low odds attacks using Zhukov will be bloody.  North West of Karkov the German line seems to be week and I decide to go all out.  I breakthrough in this area and get across the river line.  Unfortunately this area is devoid of rail lines and this will come back to haunt me but at the time i felt that a major breakout had been achieved.  I continue my attrition attacks North of Kharkov with some success.  In the South 3rd SS counter attacks but a poor roll limits there advance.  I was surprised at the ability of 3rd SS to get a 3-1 attack but with my sucess in the North it didn't register in my pea brain.

Turn 7

I now have one division isolated in the South. The sector quiets down this turn quite a bit as Bob pulls Zhukov out and gets him on the road to Kharkov. I shorten my line and lose a couple of VP cites while I too start to pull some mech units out of the line to send them North to help stem the mounting disaster West of Kharkov.

Start of RT7
Bob is able to put together an amazing string of attacks this turn. He makes six attacks over the course of the turn (4P, 2S) and all but one are either DR1s or DRXs, the one was an EX (a win for him). It's worth noting that only the first two were 3-1 or better, the rest of the attacks this turn are 2-1 to 1-1, all forcing me to yield ground, lose troops and at almost no cost to Bob. I lose 5 steps to Bobs 1 this turn (the dice gods are repaying me for turn 1).

Despite this I am able to move an impressive force into the Kharkov sector in my half of the turn. Bob has clearly lost interest in the South for now, instead focusing all of his replacements/reinforcements and artillery and air into the Kharkov front. I continue to fall back, shrinking my line and getting some units out of harms way (reducing the threat of them being cut off) around the city.

A big counter stroke by the Germans to keep Kharkov from encirclement

The 1TK is far in front of Bobs supporting troops and I think long and hard on counter attacking it. In the end I have no choice, I am down to a three hex depth in back of Kharkov, I can't let him cut the city off (yet at least) as I still have too many steps there that I cannot afford to lose. The attack is a failure, 4-1/2, I roll a 1 (EX & -/-), and we trade steps. At least I didn't lose more units as I am very thin now and need every step.

Turn 8

I'm sure Bobs mouth was watering as he did his turn 8. I had assembled a huge force of mechanized units to relieve Kharkov and they totally gacked the attack. Now Bob is able to set up his counter attack. The turns are not taking as long now as we both are really only fighting in this one sector and the rest of the map sees little action. The weather turns overcast, causing more drama in the air game. I might add that this is the first time we had to look up and use the weather rules and I really like what Mr. S has done here with us rolling for each air unit. A very snappy rules mechanic that feels very right.

Russian Attacks, turn 8 (Primary)
Bobs troops are in fine form again this turn (he's rolled nothing but 5s or 6s) and he again pushes me back with losses I cannot afford to lose. All four attacks are either DR/DR1 or EX. I flee, loosing three steps to his two. We stopped here and for some reason I didn't take pictures, but I know that my line is a mess and I am gonna have a hard time keeping Kharkov open. Here are the results of the last two turns of combats:

An Impressive couple of turns for Bobs Russians

Bob's Comments:

Because of my success NW of Kharkov I move Zhukov North to reinforce what I believe to be a major breakthrough and because of the enormous losses suffered last turn I need to rebuild in this area.  I continue to attack North and West of Kharkov and get some very good die rolls, I believe that I am one or two turns from ripping the entire front open and racing to the Dneiper.  During his turn Steve sends most of his mobile forces to the North to deal with my two Tank armies.  He does counter attack 1st Tank Army with little effect, once again he is able to get good odds against my spearhead.

So now, getting back to the point I raised at the top of the post, how are we doing? Both of us would say that while these last two turns have seen some impressive advances for Bob, I'm not sure that I feel like I am totally out of it. According to the VP maker (and the sudden death VC's) Bob is right in the middle. We assume that this near historical performance. From what we know of the campaign we are at some point soon going to see me having to abandon this line and make a run for the Dnieper. Knowing this is helping me keep my spirits up along with not knowing if one side or the other is in the process of a blowout. Both of us are still very much engaged in the game and can't wait to sit down at the table again.

Current step losses are 64 lost for the Russians to 44 lost for the Germans.