BALTIC GAP REPLAY
Scenario 5.3; The Attrition Battle
I thought I would dip my toe into Baltic Gap by trying one of the shorter scenarios using only half the map. Playing solo I prefer games that take about an hour per player-turn maximum, and I think this one should fit into that category.
The victory conditions are based on the Soviets capturing POP points, which are printed on the map and usually represent towns, cities and ports of strategic value. Each turn has a target number of POP points. If the Soviet player meets or exceeds the target they gain 1 Victory Point. If they fail to reach that target the German gains 1 VP. The Soviet starts with no POP points, and the target for the first turn is 2, rising steadily to 11 by the end of the scenario (16 turns). Obvious targets for turn 1, are the city of Pskov (2 POP), and the towns along the rail line running north through Idritsa. The possibility of progress is going to be dependant on the results of the artillery barrages creating DG hexes, and attacks may have to be shifted accordingly.
8th July 1944
The Soviet automatically goes first on this turn, and the weather is automatically ‘flight’. He gains the maximum 5 SP at each of hexes A and B, and an Eq replacement. Some units move onto the front lines in preparation for attacks. Air units are reserved for possible barrages later in the exploitation phase, to support any breakthrough.
In the barrage segment the Soviet expends his Artillery Ammo marker to allow all units to barrage for a maximum cost of 1SP whatever their strength. Eleven stacks are DG’d by the barrages, but no casualties are caused to the defending Germans. The German 23rd Division is forced back from the Panther Line at the cost of a Soviet AG Battalion. A breakdown regiment is forced back from the line near Pushkinskye Gory. Other attacks result in Soviet losses, with a couple of German stacks also taking a step loss to hold their ground.
In the exploitation phase the reserves in hex 3503 are released and sent to attack the weakened German division to the north, which is now down to a single step. The overrun attack goes in at maximum odds, but the poor die roll is lowered to the minimum possible thanks to the level 3 hedgehog and the 1 AR German superiority. The division is destroyed but at the cost of a Soviet SP AT battalion. The remaining units push forward along the road to Opochka, trying to put Latvian units on the front line out of supply.
The reserve units south of Pushtoshka attempt to overrun the 23rd, which was forced out of the hedgehog line earlier. Surprise and a 1 column shift is gained by the attackers, but the final result is only Ao1 Do1. The Soviet mech retreats rather than be lost.
The German player gets 3 SP and hedgehog construction from his replacement roll. This allows each HQ to construct a free level 1 hedgehog within throw range to represent civilian assistance in creating defensive works.
A division retreats to fill the hole in the line east of Pushkinskye Gory, while units open a supply route to the Latvians by partially surrounding the breakthrough 78th Brigade. Stukas escorted by Fw 190s attack the divisions in hex 3504, and are intercepted by La5s from the nearby airbase. The Soviet fighters abort with no loss, and flak is ineffective. The 2 Soviet divisions are DG’d.
In the reaction phase Soviet aircraft launch spoiling attacks against the units surrounding the 78th, and DG the German AG battalion. Two Sturmovik squadrons attack the German airbase at Krustpils and reduce the Stuka squadron. German artillery gets a DG result against the 87th, which is then attacked at 3 to 1 by the surrounding units with +1 AR differential. No surprise is obtained, but the defender (using internal stocks) is eliminated anyway and the attackers take their option as a retreat.
The Soviets have no POP at the end of the turn, so the German player gains 1 VP. According to the errata this gives the Soviet 2 extra SP, which he takes at Supply Source B.
12th July 1944
The weather remains ‘flight’. The German player wins the initiative and chooses the Soviet player to go first in order to negate the possibility of a Soviet double turn.
5th Tank Corps arrives as reinforcements on the South entry hex, and 3 divisions plus a pair of AG battalions in the north. Two SP are received at each supply source, and there are no variable reinforcements.
Guards divisions pour through the breech towards Opochka, and armoured units are fuelled and shifted rapidly from Porkhov to hold open the base of the gap. 5th Tank Corps is placed in reserve and fuelled, moving to Pustoshka to take advantage of a prepared attack up the road to Idritsa.
An air strike DGs the division holding the Idritsa road, but a second attack fails against the garrison of Opochka.
In the reaction phase, artillery in Idritsa barrages the Soviet stack preparing to attack along the road but rolls a 2 for no effect.
Soviet artillery from Pustoshka gets a step loss on the division defending hex 2405. Another barrage eliminates a breakdown regiment just south of Pskov, allowing an attack on the hex to get adjacent to the city. Attacking divisions lose 2 steps in order to force the remaining German regiment to retreat into the city. The attack on the Idritsa road goes in at 6 to 1, +1. Attacker surprise is gained with a 5 column shift. The followup roll is an 11, and the defending division is reduced to a single step and retreats 3 hexes behind the Velikiya river. Three attacking divisions and the spearhead Assault Brigade advance into the empty hex and all gain exploit markers.
In exploitation units move up to Idritsa, and the 5th Tank Corps surges up the road to Opochka, closing the bag on 6 divisions. An air attack on Opochka fails, and a squadron of Sturmoviks is reduced. A similar attack against Idritsa succeeds in getting a DG, and the adjacent Soviet units attack. With 10 to 1 odds the defending AT Battalion is destroyed and surviving artillery retreats 2 hexes. The Soviets capture Idritsa and their first POP point. No attack is risked on Opochka due to the failure of the air attack.
The Axis air units are unable to refit, as there is no supply within reach of the Krustpils airbase. Whoops!
An Estonian Police Regiment reinforces the garrison of Petseri, east of Pskov. The Germans get 3 SP and no replacements.
The German had been quite happy with the apparently ineffectual 1st Soviet turn, but is now stunned at the damage to his line after the 2nd turn. There is no supply inside the pocket and no reserve of any size capable of relieving the trapped units, and the pocket has no gaps to allow use of the breakout rule.
Units at the southern end of the line pull back to defend the rail link to Sebezh. The Latzian HQ and garrison in Opochka relocate to defend the hedgehog leading north to Ostrov, while 50th Corps HQ begins moving to set up a defence at Rezekne, to backstop Sebezh.
Two German Regiments in the north end of the pocket overrun the adjacent 8th Guards using internal supplies. They are able to kill the remaining step on the unit and retreat, opening a route for other trapped units to advance west through the pocket. Other trapped units move to engage the weakest-looking links in the surrounding cordon, with stacks topped by AR 4 German Regiments to enable them to weather the attrition rolls that will happen before combat.
In the supply phase about half of the trapped units surrendered. I realise that OOS units are unable to use their internals to attack, so moving them to the perimeter was essentially futile.
The requirement for Soviet POP is 3 for the end of this turn, and the player only has 1. The German gains a 2nd VP and the Soviet player adds 1 SP to hex A near Porkov.
15th July 1944
The weather remains ‘flight’. The German wins the initiative roll and chooses the Soviet to go first.
Four more mechanised units are received as reinforcements, split between the 2 entry areas. Only 2 SP are received, and no variable reinforcements.
The Soviet spends 2 SP to fuel all independent units within throw range of the !0th and 3rd Shock Army HQs and throws his mobile units forward. Elements of 5th Tank Corps reach as far as Ludza, taking the 1 POP town and cutting the supply lines to the Axis forces defending Sebezh. Guards infantry take Opochka, giving the Soviet the 2 POP he needs this turn unless the Germans can counter-attack to take one back. An overrun attempt against the OOS German regiment in Novorzhev fails, and results in the loss of a division.
Air attacks DG the German HQ and stack near Ludza. Another attack on the Krustpils airfield wipes out the remaining Stukas.
Two Russian AT and 2 artillery units are lost to attrition, but the remainder are all able to trace or eat off the map.
The 24th Mechanised Brigade attacks the disorganised stack near Ludza at 5 to 1 with equal AR. There is no surprise. The German Assault Battalion is destroyed and the stack retreat north. The 24th also falls back to avoid losses.
The German 227th Division is brought on at Rezekne to stem the Soviet advance. The Germans also get 3SP but no variable replacements.
An Assault Gun Battalion, HQ and Artillery unit join the reinforcing division in Rezekne, while units in the south retire on Sebezh and the track leading to the map edge from which trace supply can be drawn. East of Ostrov more Germans fall back to protect the road leading to that town. The 227th is sent to attack the Russian armour occupying Ludza, in the hope of denying the Soviet his 3rd POP point and a VP for the turn.
In the supply phase the German loses 1 OOS breakdown regiment. The units 3 hexes from Sebezh can now trace to the southern board edge and are back in supply. The 227th attacks Ludza. The defending tanks have to use internal stocks to defend at full strength. The odds are only 2 to 1, +1, but the German achieves surprise and a 4 column shift. The 41st Tank Brigade is eliminated and the remaining units retreat 2 hexes. A non-organic truck is overrun but is able to displace rather than be captured. The German division gets exploitation but settles for occupying Ludza.
The turn ends with the Soviet short of his target by 1 POP. The German gains a third VP, and the Soviet 2 SP.
19th July 1944
The weather remains ‘flight’ and the Germans retain the initiative, asking the Soviet to move first.
The Soviet gets a new Eq replacement, and rebuilds 2 destroyed tank battalions. Six SP are also gained.
The Russians are depressed. The breakthrough by 5th Tank has been stymied and now he is struggling to take Sebezh and open up a line of communication forward to them. Divisions press up against the retreating Germans, and he prepares attacks in the north to get another hex adjacent to Pskov and to attempt a breakthrough against Ostrov.
Transports air-drop 2T to the armour near Ludza. Air strikes destroy an artillery unit adjacent to Sebezh, and a total of 3 stacks are disorganised. One Soviet tank battalion is lost to attrition near Ludza.
German artillery in reserve in Ostrov barrages the Russian 23rd Division stack and succeeds in disorganising them. This will reduce the strength available to attack the German unit hit by the earlier air barrage.
Russian artillery DGs the Luftwaffe breakdown regiment stack next to Pskov.
Three divisions attack the DG Luftwaffe stack, no surprise is obtained, and the odds are 9 to 1, -2, in Very Close terrain. A roll of 4 gives AL1o1 Do1. The Soviets take 2 step losses to force an option on the defender, who chooses to retreat over the river. The DG stack near Ostrov is hit by two Guards divisions. An AT battaion is destroyed, and the Soviets take a step loss to force the surviving bicycle regiment to retreat. The attack against the DG German Division on the road to Sebezh goes badly. A low roll sees the Soviet lose an irreplaceable AR 5 assault Brigade, while the German unit loses a second step and holds its ground.
In the reserve phase, 3 armoured units are released to attempt to overrun the stubborn German division. The defender gets surprise and a 1 column shift, but the attack in the open still goes in at 5 to 1, +1. The German loses another step and is destroyed by being forced to retreat into an enemy ZoC. The Soviets lose a tank battalion, but advance to link up with the armour NW of Sebezh. Unfortunately this has now used up all Soviet supply in the area.
A tank battalion released from reserves attempts an overrun against the DG bicycle battalion near Ostrov. Attacker surprise gets a 2 column shift. The defender is destroyed, and the Russian tanks retire to avoid losses. Two more units follow up the success and get a tank brigade adjacent to Ostrov.
The German player gets 2SP and no variable replacements.
The Germans pull back around Pskov to defend the city itself, Ostrov, and the Velikaya River line. A breakdown regiment is split off from the division defending Ludza to support the garrison of Rezekne.
In the Supply Phase the Germans lose 4 steps from OOS units.
At the end of the turn the Russian is still behind on the POP he needs. The German gains a 4th VP and the Soviet 2 Supply.
Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
Great AAR Russ, keep up the great work!!!
My copy of Baltic Gap is somewhere over the pacific (ordered, and on the way over from the USA) and I can't wait to get it!
After your Korea AAR, I'd follow you anywhere
The Axis air units are unable to refit, as there is no supply within reach of the Krustpils airbase. Whoops!
You're a braver man than I to post that on the geek
Hey, what can I say. I make errors.
I thought I was being aggressive enough with the Soviets early on, but it looks like I was mistaken. It didn't help that the inital bombardment rolls were poor, and Soviet supply rolls have all been average or below so far.
I do think the rule allowing German supply and reinforcements to appear at any POP centre in this scenario gives them a bit of an advantage. It allowed the infantry division to come on exactly where it could retake the POP town and create a 2 VP swing.