Monday, November 30, 2015

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT62

Game Turn 62 brings clear weather and the Axis move forward.  The Soviets forfeit more VPs to bring on further reinforcements.

The northern sector, the 3rd panzer corps has pushed forward, the Soviet's have retreated.  Will their new lines hold?

North of Stalino and the Axis may soon be able to renew their attack.

South of Stalino and the 48th panzer corps needs
 to link up with the supply line to the north of Stalino.

The Melitopol pocket.  It's continued resistance is tying down 
Axis forces that are needed for the southern attack on Stalino.

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT60 and GT61

What a difference two turns of mud and storms make.

End of GT60 and the success of the surrender of Kharkov is yet to make its impact on Axis supply lines.

End of GT61 and the Soviets have brought in reinforcements (at the cost of some VPs) to build new defensive lines.  The Soviets have been very successful in removing the immediate threat to Stalino and in contrast to Kharkov, Melitopol is still refusing to surrender (and with turn 62 the chance for surrender decreases - the Axis have got wind of this and are moving in some forces with the intent to make an assault).

I can now almost get the main theatre of operations on to one screen.  I've noted the position of the two panzer corps.  The northern one (roughly III Corps) is in good shape and in supply, but the southern one (XXXXVIII Corps) is almost spent and in a very poor supply situation.  The Axis troops before Stalino have been wiped out (it was only three brigade/regiment level formations) and those to the north, while now in supply, are bogged down.  However there is a massive force coming down into the Donbas that has been freed up by the surprise quick surrender of Kharkov.  I had determined that Kharkov needed to be attacked and had allocated significant forces to that effect so it was only a matter of time.

It was with the end of GT61 that Richard and I finished our face to face game.  Playing solitaire, with the benefit of having played the game and seen how some strategies worked out has given this game, using Vassal, a different outcome at this stage.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT59

This turn started out bad for the Soviets when the weather cleared up, then it got worse...

Kharkov is surrounded.

But that is the least of the Soviet's worries, at the end of the Axis phase of GT59 there are three Axis armoured divisions ready to strike into the north region of the Donbas.

Down south things were a little better.  The Axis attacks were held after inflicting significant losses, but there are gaps all over the Soviet lines.

In the north the Soviets pulled as far as they dare.  However Kharkov decided to surrender (two rolls on a D10 that required a 1 each time for this to happen).  This will open up the northern supply line as well as freeing all those Axis formations.

The Soviets launch a counterattack in front of Stalino, destroying the Italian cavalry that had ventured too close.  The Melitopol pocket continues to shrink, but not surrender.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT57 and GT58

Well, GT57 was mud and storms.  Only thing of note was the Axis finally completed exiting troops to the Crimea.  The tardiness cost them 4VPs.

Situation end GT57.  The Soviets are feeling more confidant now the have General Mud on their side...

But, what nature gives, she can take away.  The next turn was frost and the Axis rolled forward.

The Axis are able to surround Kiev while continuing to push east.

The Axis launch their first attacks in an attempt to break into the Donbas.

What a difference frosty weather makes.  

The Soviets have been able to pull back most of the armour from Kharkov, just in time to face the Axis troops attacking into the Donbas (where they successfully took Konstantinovka).

The Melitopol pocket is holding out well.  The Axis need the Soviets to surrender so they can move their much need troops east before the Soviets are able to build up a new defensive position.  Soviets can avoid surrender rolls by pulling back outside Axis zones of control.

The Kharkov pocket did not have such ability to shy away from the Axis and suffered a number of surrenders.

While not ideal, the Axis seem to have got the hang of managing their supply lines.  I've plotted out both fair and bad weather supply points on the main roads.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT56

It never rains but it pours.  Yep, wet muddy weather.  Maybe the Soviets should have hung on...

However they have made a good escape and didn't suffer too many surrenders and have started to build a front to defend Stalino.

The Axis have been able to repair the Dnepropetrovsk rail bridge and while rail conversion takes twice as long in the mud, they might just be able to build a supply line to support a push on Stalino.

The big picture, not something I can readily see using Vassal.

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT55

With the return to dry weather the Axis were able to capture Belgorod, making the defense of Kharkov very problematic for the Soviets.  Most of the line is held by their armoured reserve and if they lose that their ability to counterattack, not to mention the VPs associated with the loss of armoured units, would put them at a disadvantage, out weighed by the loss of Kharkov (possibly... It's three hexes are currently worth six VP each).

The Soviets have decided to pull back.

Not only did the fall of Belgorod contribute to this decision, but the Axis were able to surround the initial blocking force before Stalino and had fully secured the Melitopol pocket.  Just to top off a bad turn for the Soviets, Dnepropetrovsk surrendered.

It might not be all bad as the muddy season is almost here.  Maybe they could have held out a bit longer?

North, note Soviet forces withdrawing to the south east from Kharkov.

South, with Soviet forces also withdrawing from their failed attempt to relieve the Melitopol pocket.

The two pictures well show the shrinking front (both in terms of physical space and troop availability).

Double Chariots

Dave B hosted another session of chariot races at the NWS last night.  With four players we each got to control two chariots.

And they're off!  Literally in the case of my Gaulish charioteer.  I also have the one in red (which of course goes faster, or so I hope).

The crowd boos a few slow chariots and in the turmoil two riders are lost.

The leaders, Simon with the white horse and Brendan in the other two horse chariot.  My boys are doing well.

The pressures on...

Simon comfortably crosses the finish line while we were no where close.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT54

Time to fess up - it appears I have been making a number of mistakes... Doh!  Nothing surprising there I guess with a game of this size.  Some that I have found so far (putting aside the unit withdrawal fiasco for the Crimea noted in my last post) include armoured formations do not get their integrity bonus if not using attack supply [on a closer reading that might only be if they are OoS to start with] and cavalry do not have their movement reduced when out of supply.  Most of the attacks by the Axis armoured formations did not have good results and so I think I can live with that first mistake.  The cavalry mistake affects both sides and as the Soviets have generally been in supply it is not an issue for them and the Axis have very little cavalry.

I found these little mistakes while checking on the rules relating to the northern railroads.  It is possible I have been extending these beyond the intended limit.  The set up for a different scenario seems to indicate this, but if this is the case the Axis attack route is quite different (as it may well be with an early capture of Dnepropetrovsk.

And GT54 is mud.

The north, nothing much happened except for a bloody attack on Belgorod where the Axis have now advanced their supply line to.  It's just about the maximum rail travel in a turn meaning the Axis can rail in Attack Supply each turn.  The red line is the rail line that the Axis have converted.  I just hope I'm playing right in having extended the line and using the northern map edge as a supply source.

The centre showing the main supply line.
The south and its pitiful supply situation.  However the Soviets have not been able to breakout of the Melitopol pocket and suffered a small surrender which has further tightened the Axis noose.  In this situation the mud is as bad for the Soviets as it is for the Axis.

On the southern map I've circled in blue the three units dashing (ha ha) to the Crimea exit.  It is about ten percent of the force.  The way the rules are written, just the tiniest missing unit will cost the Axis a VP per turn.  To put that in perspective, if the Axis capture Belgorod they get one VP.  Same for the capture of Melitopol.

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT53

This may well be the turning point.

GT53 turned out bright and dry, except for lingering mud in the forests. Both sides had to make further withdrawals.  With all my careful planning I found I had stuffed up both.  The Soviets had the use of a unit for one or two turns longer than they should (it was busy defending Belgorod).  The Axis should have exited an additional three units to the Crimea (these have to be "walked" off unlike the other withdrawals that are just removed, the bad thing being is that the units, minor in the scheme of things, are not positioned to make a quick exit).

The end of the Axis phase saw them smash the defenses to the north of Belgorod and also create a small gap in the Soviet line to the south of Kharkov.  But that is not the big problem. 

With the return to dry weather and critical Axis armoured formations avoiding fuel shortages, the Melitopol pocket has been closed.

The Soviets could not afford to send any reinforcements to Kharkov.

The Axis have left the Italians to besiege Dnepropetrovsk.

The Soviets are desperately trying to breakout of the Melitopol pocket.  They have abandoned their defensive lines and troops have been sent to try and break the thin Axis line near the coast.

The big picture.  Kharkov is at the centre top.  Dnepropetrovsk is on the left, centre.  Note the Axis forces now heading east.  Melitopol is to the south.  One aspect of this game, unlike other Eastern Front games, is that the front actually shrinks as you go east.  The south is bordered by the Sea of Azov and the north is part of Army Group Centre's operations.  Rostov can be seen in the lower right hand corner.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT52


It's a mixed blessing.  It stopped the Axis, but also slows the Soviet's ability to respond.

The mud meant the Axis could only manage three attacks around Belgorod.  These were at three to one mostly.  They met with mixed success, however the Soviets would have trouble responding, especially given what happened down south.

The Melitopol pocket, almost closed, the Axis had command of a good road, but just couldn't quiet close the trap.

Kharkov is stable, but the Soviets are trying hard to patch up their line to the north of Belgorod.

The best the Soviets could do for Melitopol (aside from abandoning their lines which might have been a bit premature) was to rail in some troops and hope that they will be able to create some openings.  What the Soviets know is that the Axis are planning to withdraw at least two of the divisions that are forming the pocket.  It is also possible that with the supply situation, regardless of the weather, the Axis troops might find themselves immobilized due to fuel shortages.  All they need to do is close one hex...

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT51

The going gets tough, but the weather remains fine.

The Axis finally achieved something of a breakthrough down south.

While massing their panzers for an attack on Belgorod.  An attack south of Kharkov was repulsed, but with few casualties to either side, the Axis forces falling back.

The Soviets could do little about the situation in the south, particularly when some of their forces surrendered.  The Dnepropetrovsk pocket is also shrinking a bit.

But in the north the Soviets launched a counterattack and also rushed forces to defend Belgorod.

While the Axis continue to withdraw troops to Army Group Centre, their overall supply situation is improving, so it is something of a swings and roundabouts situation for them.  Kharkov will be the blockage and is therefor critical for the Axis to capture.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kiev to Rostov via Vassal - GT50

The Axis are getting concerned about the weather breaking, but it continued dry.

Before even more troops are withdrawn the Axis thought they better have a go at Kharkov.

Eight attacks were declared.  The Axis lost five steps to the Soviet's eight.  More importantly they pushed the Soviets out of the fortified position in the hills.

This has left the Soviets with a challenge.  Should the Guards continue to counterattack to the north of the city, or quickly move to secure a new defense perimeter around Kharkov?

Crisis averted.  Soviet's have pulled back and been able to establish a new defensive line.  The race is now to fortify this before the Axis can launch new attacks.  The only disaster was the quick surrender of forces cutoff on the road to Sumy. 

The Dnepropetrovsk pocket remains under siege, but did not suffer any further surrender.  While further south, the Axis attempt to break through the flank of the Soviet position was bloodily repulsed.  The Axis lost five steps to the Soviet's two and this may well put an end to Axis attacks on this front until reinforcements arrive.  The only place they can come from is the forces besieging Dnepropetrovsk.

This game is playing really well solitaire.  The end of each side's phase leaves a challenge that requires carefully planning to overcome.

It is interesting to compare with the game I played with Richard.

Some things have developed quiet differently.  In my new game the Soviets brought in a corps of Guards.  It cost them victory points, but has meant the position north of Kharkov is holding out better.  With Richard the Axis had done much better down South, not that it ultimately gave them much.  We've also had a different approach to Dnepropetrovsk.