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Subject: Scenario 5.1A: Soviet Strategy and Scenario Analysis rss

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I'm curious to know what winning strategies you have for the Soviets in this scenario, as they seem to be the harder side to play. On the plus side, this scenario is "short" (in OCS terms), and so could potentially provide some replay value and much practice for beginners. However, winning as the Soviet player seems daunting.

POPularity Contest
The problem stems largely from time and VP, and this is a key lesson of this scenario that will no doubt carry over into the larger ones. To score VP, the Soviet side must take POP locations greater than the POP threshold for each turn.

The 2 POP locations most likely up for an possibility of seizure in this 4-turn scenario are Polotsk (2 POP) and Glubkoye (1 POP). Hex 18.11 is worth 1 full VP. Taking any of these will prove sufficient challenge in the time given, and going further west will be difficult unless the German retreats or collapses.

For each turn, then, the Soviet will need to take some combination of these hexes, as such:

Turn 1 (26-6-44): 0 POP target (Highly unlikely that anything will be taken this turn)
Turn 2 (29-6-44): 0 POP target (Taking either Polotsk or Glubkoye will grant 1 VP)
Turn 3 (1-7-44): 2 POP target (Taking Polotsk plus Glubkoye is the only way to exceed this to score a VP)
Turn 4 (5-7-44): 4 POP target (Probably impossible in this time frame, as the other POP locations are too far west for this to happen in 4 turns, even assuming the German forces have allowed this kind of breakthrough).

So, this means that the Soviet player will most likely need to take Polotsk and Glubkoye by turn 3 (1-7-44) of the scenario. Taking 18.11 will also help, but could be difficult, due to resources. Some of the various combinations of locations looks like this:

1. Taking Polotsk and Glubkoye by turn 3, and 18.11 at any time, would secure the Soviet 2 VP. If the German gets a VP on turn 4, the Soviet would then be left with 1 VP and a scenario win.
2. Taking 18.11 but no POP locations would mean that the Soviet player would lose VP on 1-7 and 5-7, and thus lose the scenario.
3. Taking 18.11, and Glubkoye by turn 3, would mean that the German player would gain 1 VP on 1-7, and another on 5-7, for a Soviet defeat.
4. Taking 18.11, and Polotsk by turn 3, would mean that the German scores a VP on 5-7 and the game ends in a technical "draw" (the "no draw" provision of the revised rules are a little ambiguous for these smaller scenarios, but most likely would mean the Soviet would win just for being the last to take a POP location).
5. Taking Polotsk and Glubkoye by turn 3, but nothing else at no other time, would also end in a technical draw, as the German would get 1 VP on turn 4. As noted above, this would most likely result in a Soviet win for being the last to take a POP location, barring a successful German counterattack somewhere.

Note that if the Soviet player takes Polotsk and Glubkoye on turn 4, that is no good: The German player would score 1 VP for no POP taken on turn 3, and Polotsk and Glubkoye are 3 total POP, so that would yield a German VP on turn 4, for 2 VP total, and a German win even if the Soviet holds 18.11. Thus, the Soviet player needs to take both Polotsk and Glubkoye by turn 3 to have any chance of winning.

The problem with this POP schedule may be that it is based on the campaign. Taking 3 POP (for example, 3 1-POP towns) to score a VP on turn 3 may be possible in the campaign, but more difficult here, where the number of POP are limited. This may also be true for taking 5 POP by turn 4, which may be easier to do across the entire front than in this sector alone. Nevertheless, that is the precisely the challenge presented here.



The 9.05 local train to Polotsk

The Soviet, then, will need to take Polotsk. Not only is the town 2 POP, but through it runs the major double-track railroad upon which vital supplies can travel. Also, the narrow-gauge railroad runs through the woods from here to Rossony, and so taking the town can cut off the Germans north of this point.

However, the hedgehog in 9.05 will prove a strong obstacle to the Soviet advance to Polotsk. The 4-4-3 in 9.04 will slow the Soviet down, and unless the Soviets are successful in pushing a number of German units back, the Soviet player will be confined to a one-or-two hex advance against 9.05. The river makes surrounding Polotsk, or approaching it separately and directly, impossible. A smart German player will spend some SP on artillery barrages to DG any forces approaching 9.05, halving the strength of those units in the attack. Reinforcing 9.05 with whatever can be spared from 9.07 will probably be key to victory in most playings.

When the Soviets do attack, they should rely on their planes to deliver SP-less DG results on 9.05 and 9.07 (Polotsk itself). The artillery units are impressive (144? Two 90s? Really?). However, they can burn up supplies quickly, even with the special Arty point. Bad supply rolls can also hurt the Soviet advance, so best hoard them for this short scenario for critical attacks.

The Germans can and should trade casualties for time, and turn any Do1 or similar result into a casualty. Taking the step loss and keeping a unit in the hex delays the next Soviet attack for a turn, and thereby brings victory that much closer, as the Soviet hasn't even gotten to Polotsk yet. In case he does, the German should make sure to put a hedgehog received as a variable reinforcement there, and keep the town well supplied from Daugavpils, using this supply for defense and pre-emptive barrages, and again trade casualties for time (sorry, German mothers). The Soviet should consider using some of his planes to conduct trainbusting near the town, to restrict anything shipped with the German's 1 Rail cap.

A Bridge Too Far
So, what are the Soviet options? The mobile forces that enter on 2.01 may provide a tantalizing solution, one that is undercut by reality.

They can try to take Glubkoye, and Polotsk. Polotsk has a rail bridge on its southwestern side, and an HQ could try to bridge the river (across 9.09-10.08, for example), and thus cut the railroad. Such an indirect attack has the potential to cripple the German defense. However, doing this may prove difficult, as trace supply will be a challenge to connect from 9.09 back to the area of 2.06, to the pontoon in 3.01, and then back even further to 7.01. It may be an option to combine the various trucks into extenders to support this route, but some of the terrain (especially impassible woods-bogs) probably makes this unlikely. Attacking across the rail bridge itself does seem like a good option. However, because any units doing so will be halved or worse, such an attack realistically needs to be combined with an attack from the 9.05 area to be successful.

Glubkoye may make the better target for the hex 2.01 entrants. The Soviet HQ has a 7-10 rating on its Move Mode side, which can help supply a force going in this direction. However, if the German wins the initiative roll, the town can be reinforced before the Soviet may have a chance to attack here. And again, the German can trade casualties for time if needed.

Attacking hex 18.11 (1 VP) is tempting, as this sector is comparatively lightly defended. However, barring a German retreat, there doesn't seem to be enough resources (ie, SP), to warrant a simultaneous attack in this direction and toward Polotsk. Rather, it may be better to take Polotsk and cut the supply route from that direction. The Germans around Rossony will need to fall back, as the Marginal Supply offered by the narrow gauge railroad will choke most of these units. However, they will also probably defend 18.11 (again, trading losses for time with the bigger units), and so make taking even this hex difficult. It is also far away and in the other direction from Polotsk, and so the Soviet may be spread in too many directions to pursue all of these Victory locations all at once; focusing on Polotsk and Glubkoye seems to be challenging enough.

The Bitter End
In conclusion, this scenario provides a snapshot of the Soviet difficulties in this sector, and good preparation for playing the campaign. It also provides solid training in OCS mechanics. Unfortunately, it may be a humbling experience for the Soviet: a 144-point barrage may provide a DG or even a step loss, but ultimately, infantry take terrain, and they need to march into Polotsk to win.

Never did a few hexes seem so far away.
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Angela Sutton
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In front of Polotsk, use your infantry in waves - exploit, regular combat, and in certain circumstances, overrun. Don't be afraid to use the artillery counter to reduce barrage costs and smash into the city. Proper use of reserves to generate the attacking waves with support is necessary. Just keep hammering!

In the south, you need to plan out where to place a wagon extender and an HQ to maximize trace supply range. It is possible, if you are a gambler, to throw the independent armor arriving on July 26 forward in exploitation (units can outrun trace supply in exploit without penalty) to knock out the Glubokoye defenders at the end of turn 1 for a VP. Otherwise, the followon troops can grab it. Again, proper use of reserves is important. Also, don't be afraid to supply the tip of the spear by "eating off the map" if trace supply can't keep up. Stripping out some trucks from in front of Polotsk can help with this.
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groggal wrote:
It is possible, if you are a gambler, to throw the independent armor arriving on July 26 forward in exploitation (units can outrun trace supply in exploit without penalty) to knock out the Glubokoye defenders at the end of turn 1 for a VP. Otherwise, the followon troops can grab it. Again, proper use of reserves is important.


I like that thought, but I’d like to see how that can work, because E3.16 is difficult to take off the march.

The Germans start with the following there:

16-4-3 Inf Div (212)
3-2-3 Koruck Rgt (590)
Truck Point
1 SP

The Soviets enter the following mobile units at E2.01 (in addition to infantry and other, slower units):

9-4-8 Gd Tank Bde (10 Gd, 39 Gd)
3-4-6 Gd AG Bn (377 Gd)
3-2-8 Tank Bn (105)

In order to move in the Exploitation Phase, they would have to enter in Reserve Mode, which reduces their MA to 25% in the prior Movement Phase. If they enter in Move Mode, they could reach the E3.16 area, but then their combat power is halved in the Exploitation Phase combat segment; they can't change mode again until their next Movement Phase. They could also enter the game in Reserve Mode while in Combat Mode, but then their movement is slower.

Even if the Soviets get there and mount an overrun or other attack on turn 1 or 2, and assuming successful air barrages that force a DG result on the defenders, the Germans can take a few casualties to prevent Soviet entry.

To do this with the mobile units in Move Mode and Exploiting on turn 1, the Soviet would really be hoping for an air-induced DG on the defenders, followed by an overrun, surprise, and a high roll with combat units in Move Mode, probably at about 1:1 base odds in Close terrain. Otherwise, the Soviets there will be facing German reinforcements, which arrive in that area on 26 June, plus more in the next turn, which can arrive before the Soviets move again if the German wins initiative for turn 2.

Barring unusual luck, I don’t see the Soviets taking E3.16 on turn 1 or 2, which makes beating the POP requirement on those turns difficult.
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Nolan Hudgens
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One thing the Russians arriving on the road from Vitebsk should attend to is advancing their infantry. Infantry can be in Strat Mode and stack with a mobile unit in Move Mode. (even if using an optional rule limiting the number of SM units per hex) That protects the infantry to a fair extent. If the stack becomes DG (odds naturally enhanced by the SM marker) the SM marker is removed, so that the infantry isn't helpless if the Germans counterattack. While Glubokoye may be out of reach on GT 1, it won't be afterward. Still Groggal's right that it's a gamble.

Infantry advancing in that way can also curl up behind Polotsk to threaten its rail link. The city, however, will still need the multi- wave treatment to reduce it. The Russians need not be shy about sacrificing AR4 AG steps in their attacks, since these have a good chance of replacement. The biggest hurdle, for the chance to take the place early, is reducing the Panter Line. The Russians would really like to break through on the first turn.
 
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