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Subject: AVL AAR rss

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Ryan D
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Here is an AAR of a game I recently finished. I commanded the Soviets against a well-lead German force (commanded by the winner of the last AVL tournament, I believe).

Opening assault
The opening free attack activated 6A. The Italian division holding the road to Millerovo was blown away on a 7:1 attack. Near Rossoh, two 2:1 attacks by Soviet rifle divisions pushed a Hungarian and Itallin corps off of the Don river defenses.

Turn 1: Hollidt
First chit out of the cup was Hollidt for the Germans; a less than desirable pull as 4PzA armor was not able to re-position into range of the Hollidt HQ prior to its activation. My opponent conducts a tactical withdrawal, with a Luftwaffe ID forming a strong point behind the river at Tsimlinskaia. East of the Donets, in range of Hollidt, another Luftwaffe division and a Romanian corps spread out to cover the main road over the Manych to Rostov.



Next came 5TkA. Given Hollidt's retreat, all 5Tk could accomplish was to sweep Soviet forces forward to close with the new defense line.

Stavka activated next. In the south, 5Tk, 5Shk, and 2GdA bring up more forces against the German defenders. A predominantly rifle force is left east of the Don to screen 4PzA, while the armor heads west, save one mechanized corps.

5Tk and 5Shk concentrate forces against the weak Luftwaffe divisions, hoping to crack the line near Morozovsk.

North of here, 1GdA exploits south, though half the armor peals west to zoc surround two Italian divisions holding the Don. 6A moreover strengthens its bridgehead to further push back the Hungarian river defenses. Map below is before combats:



Most of the combats succeed, except for one 2:1 attack in 6A sector. The Luftwaffe divisions are pushed back, and one is flipped, having to retreat through zoc. Exploiting armor keeps it encircled, near Morozovsk.

The two Italian divisions near the Don are destroyed by zoc surround from 1GdA units, the southern arm of which was formed by two Soviet tank corps.

Against the Hungarians, 6A makes no further progress. I will stop here for now. Map below shows advances after combat.

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Terry Lewis
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Looking forward to seeing and reading the "rest of the story"!
 
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Neil Moore
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Excellent start Ryan, thanks for the inclusion of the maps. They'll be crucial in keeping track of events. Hollidt is less than an ideal start coming before 4th PzrA but it has at least allowed the Germans to get two vital German units, the 11th pzr and 336th inf div back from inevitable death (as happens so often to the 336th with early Russian activation's). They're also both now in range of 4thPzrA HQ meaning if 4th PzrA comes out soon that valuable inf div will survive intact into T2. It'll also allow Balcks 11th to shore up the defence in front of Hollidt who would be otherwise be pretty exposed. Handy.

On the down side for the Germans is how 4th PzrA can now do nothing to impede a Russian Milerovo vectored drive, as is developing early on here. Especially one that might receive support from 1st Gds armor that is even now lurking ominously 4 hexes to the north of that town. Andrew used his Russians to good effect attacking this way on the way to winning the title in last years tourney. His opinion at the time was that so vulnerable were the Germans to such an undertaking by the Russians that he preferred choosing the Rumanian 3rd HQ over the Hungarian 2nd HQ, leaving the northerners to their fate in order to extract the central German defenders. I look forward to the next post and seeing if he put his money where his mouth was!

Thanks so much for doing this... I'm hungry for more!
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Ryan D
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Back to it.

5 Shk comes out next. This enables the Soviets to further exploit their progress, though the thin line of Gernam ZOC prevents a full exploitation. Here are the moves of 5Shk:



18 Rumanian against the river is attacked first, so a successful advance after combat can bring full zocs around 336 ID, which is dangerously exposed. At 11:1, it is an auto=-kill.

Next assault is against 336 ID at 3:1 odds. They hold on a roll of 1.

7LW is next on the plate, and die in an auto-kill/surround situation. 8 LW is pushed back a hex and a 2:1 attack against 62 ID also fails, but with no friendly casualties.



4 PzA is next out of the cup, allowing the Germans to react with their panzerkorps reserve east of the Don.

The mobile divisions and one Luftwaffe division move northwest, staying roadbound. They form a powerful screen against any drive directly west to the Don bridges.

At this point, the fate of Rumanian 3A hangs in the balance. 1Gds out of the cup next will allow for the full encirclement of the Rumanians and a full German corps (including a PD).

It is 3A that activates first. A German ID and 22PD extract themselves from the salient and take up strong positions along the minor river near Millerovo.



More to follow...
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Neil Moore
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So Andrew did stick with his favoured German opening HQ selection going with the 3rd Rumanian HQ in the center over the Hungarians in the north. Just as well on this occasion as you looked set to rip thru him in the middle Ryan, bagging early German armor in the process. I'm surprised to see how far forward he's defending with the 11th panzer division, knowing that the Russians will likely activate once more in the south this turn. The 11th could easily find itself threatened with early T2 Russian activation's so maybe this suggests one of the reinforcing German HQs is headed this way at the end of the turn allowing him 3 T2 activation's in the south? Knowing his penchant for extracting the central Germans early in the game, my monies on him doing this. It will also allow the Germans to conduct a more measured retreat to the Don/Donets line... an I know much he hates giving up quick territory.

All this means the Russians will have a completely free hand in the north this turn and maybe will only face one German activating HQ in T2? Again, if this turns out to be the case it will back up the forward defence strategy Andrew favours utilising early on in the north, sacrificing German infantry for time. In the tourney this was such a fascinating gambit for me to discover (being a more run for the hills kinda guy myself...) and I'm very interested in seeing how it pans out in practice, IF indeed this is what happens.
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Ryan D
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Neil,

Sounds like you know his methods well. More to follow.
 
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Ryan D
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Next to activate is 1GdA. A quick note on my operational plan.

The initial tasking of forces was for combined breakthroughs north and south of R3A, with the goal of linking up behind this army and encircling all of the Romanian divisions and the German corps "corseted" with them. Notably on this occasion, not all of 1GdA was employed towards this task in the northern pincer. This has ramifications for turn 2. Back to the move.


With R3A coming out of the cup before 1GdA, significant loss for the Germans is avoided. Nevertheless, the Soviets push forward and achieve what they can. The two tank corps drive into the Romanian motorized division, while rifle divisions echelon themselves to guard the left flank of the army. The Romanian division is destroyed in a zoc-surround forced retreat. The advances after combat complete the encirclement of R3A, but it is a hollow victory with a German ID and PD escaping the pincers.

Next, a tank corps and rifle division from 1GdA, in 6A sector, strike at the northernmost Italian divisions anchoring the H2A south flank. However, a 3:1 attacks fails on a roll of 1.

Reinforcements are placed. Soviet reinforcements follow the only rail line available into 6A sector (a single tank corps). A German HQ and two ID's move into the Hollidt/4PzA sector, far east, looking to match Soviet activations east of the bend of the Donetz and deny the Soviets any quick passage over the river and to Rostov. Kempf and an ID move into reserve behind H2A. The two German divisions near Starobilsk remain out of command.



4PzA is the first out of the cup, allowing for the Germans to retreat and re-position before the Soviets can force another break-in.
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Neil Moore
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It's an intriguing looking board Ryan, with 1st Gds armor already linking up with their southern counterparts, as indeed happened historically near Milerovo. But it's not something I've actually seen before in AVL with so many Russian players preferring to send their 1st Guardsmen directly west towards Kharkov. The jaws of your northern and southern pincer movement snap shut on a relatively paltry force of Rumanians and just the one German ID, (tho bagging that pesky Rumanian motorised division is always handy). But it's clear how much more you'd have got had Andrew gone with a T1 H2A activation over the R3A activation he actually chose. Against a determined central effort like your Russians have made Ryan, such a choice has proven wise indeed.

With three southern German activation's in T2, it's gonna be hard to catch them out here as they make an orderly retreat to the Don/Dneiper line beginning with 4th PzrAs first T2 activation. And while this naturally leaves the northern Germans in a bit of a pickle I know for a fact this won't be troubling Andrew overly. The four German ID's now residing up there will all no doubt die defending the rail line between the Dneiper and Valuyki, not a small price to pay. But if the Germans can hold Valuyki and curtail 3rd TkAs often volatile entry onto the map, they'll have sold their lives well.
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Ryan D
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Back to it after considerable delay.

The 4PzA activation allows the Germans to generally withdraw to the Tatsinskaia line, with the north wing above the Donetz bend strengthened by minor river defenses. This is a good activation for the Germans; with 3 HQ's in the south and first activation, the Soviets will have difficulty breaking through behind the German defenders. A Romanian corps and 336 ID are left relatively forward and exposed. Here is the map after 4PzA activation.




Next to activate is 5ShA. With the initial operational plan having netted fewer than the hoped for German forces, the bulk of the Soviet armor (6 armored corps), is shifted north towards Millerovo, falling under the command of 1GdA.

62ID, which is now deeply pocketed, is attacked at 4:1 by follow up Soviet forces. A roll of 1 results in the division holding its ground.

336 ID is zoc encircled by two Soviet armored corps and two rifle divisions. A 3:1 attack forces a DR result, and the division loses a step.

Stavka activates next. Map prior to Stavka below:



28A marches onto the map and crosses the eastern Manych. There are no German forces here, but the distance is long and 28A is only a corps sized force with no mechanized units.

51A south of Stalingrad with 9 rifle divisions, a cavalry corps, and a mechanized corp close with the Romanians at Kotelnikovo.

Two mechanized corps re-encircle reduce 336ID.

In the centre, three Soviet armored corps push into the gap north of Millerovo, in 1GdA sector. The Soviets are spending their activations mostly on movement, but it is imperative that they press to get behind the Germans somewhere. A tank corps is sent north to 6A sector, while the reinforcing 2 tank corps moves opposite the Hungarians on the Soviet side of the Don. Badanov's 24 tank corps cuts north behind the Rossoh position, looking to begin to unhinge Hungarian 2A from the south. Here is the map before the attacks but after movement.




In the south, 4 Rom division is drive back, allowing a two hex advance for 6 mech corps to throw zocs around two Romanian divisions. A roll of one on the next attack however ensures that the Romanian divisions survive for now, with this sizable Soviet force stalled for another activation.

With better luck, 336ID succumbs in a 3:1 attack, and 62ID is obliterated in a 5:1 assault, with no retreat path (two zocs in all potential retreat paths).

6A in the north has some success, with attacks over the Don eliminated two Italian divisions, and more importantly, giving a bridgehead to another tank corps. The map below depicts the situation after combats.



Pico activates next. The Germans sensibly withdraw and shorten their bridgehead around the Millerovo salient, recognizing the potential threat for 1GdA armor. 5Tk activates next. The latter is more of an 'administrative' activation, which just pushes some Soviet foot units closer to the front line.

Kempf in the north, which has taken over H2A sector, activates next. The army withdraws locally, but ensures that enough units are left behind to gum up the approach over the Don to the vital Liski rail line. The two German ID's zoc encircle 24 tank corps and launch a counterattack, but a roll of 1 results in a German step loss; very fortunate for the Soviets. Kempf also moves south a little, to bring the Starobilsk grouping under command. The map shows the map after Kempf movements and attack.



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Ryan D
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And the next activation is: 6A. This was a beginning-game stratagem that I hoped would have some success. The general operational scheme was to begin with a south/central drive, destroy German forces in those areas, attract German HQ strength, and then shift adequate armor to 6A sector in time to open up this sector for the 3TkA arrival. Here is the map after 6A movement.



The Soviets have good luck in their attacks, with the only poor roll occurring on a 7:1 attack near Liski (so eliminated the defending Hungarian division anyway. Both German ID's near Rossoh are destroyed, the full strength division due to a 1DR2 result followed by a retreat through zoc. Below is the map after combats.



Hollidt's activation finishes the turn and shrinks its bridgehead over the Don. This powerful force has successfully fought a delaying action, with its units either safely behind the Donetz, or soon to be. The lack of attrition against German forces in this sector will cause the Soviets difficulty later in the game.

The Germans react to the 6A offensive by railing 7PD and 68 ID in Kempf/H2A sector. These forces add depth to the position, and ensure that there will be more fighting if 6A wants to speedily open up the north map. Soviet forces, meanwhile, pile up behind Liski (another tank corps and a rifle division).

The end of turn 2, with reinforcements placed, is shown below.


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Neil Moore
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Thanks for the continued updates Ryan, I see much has happened...

Given the way the chits fell, it wasn't surprising to see the Germans in the south make such an orderly retreat to the Don/Donets line. With three German activating HQs down there the only hope for the Russkies was for them to go on an activation streak early in the turn or see the Germans do that instead. But with the chits falling 4thPzrA, 5th ShA,
Stavka, Pico, 5th TkA, Kempf, 6A, Hollidt, there was no chance of either event happening. Activation streaks for the Russians early on can be so effective for them in catching, pinning and killing Germans. But an "I go, you go" kinda sequence as has happened, really plays into the Germans hands especially when they've three HQs orchestrating things.

A few general comments:

1) Don't you hate how often 4 to 1 attacks in this game and TRC fail?!? Especially if they're important.

2) I thought it interesting seeing the German line post 4thPzrA virtually "gapless" as it lined up against the great bulk of Russian forces facing them. There was never going to be any "oozing" through this line were the Russians to get on an activation streak, they were always going to have to fight their way through this line. As a result the Russian assault heads more centrally across the board where greater opportunities beckon.

3) Kempfs early turn northern activation confirms Andrews intent on fighting forward. In fact he actually counterattacks flipping one of his own inf divs in a risky 2 to 1 attack. But on closer examination the merits of this attack bear up. The two IDs at Rossoh were never earmarked for withdrawal so why not counterattack with them? There was a 50% chance this 2 to 1 attack would flip a valuable Russian armored corps and only a 1 in 6 chance one of them would flip, the result that did in fact happen. AVL rewards well timed aggression, that it didn't on this occasion doesn't lessen that maxim IMHO.

4) The Germans provide further evidence of their intent to hold Valuyki by making no attempt to withdraw a lowly Hungarian division into a rail blocking position at Staryi Oskol. Holding V town up to and beyond the arrival of 3TkA and Popov's arrival simply negates any need to block the rail in this manner.

Given this, the fortunes for the Russians seemed to rise by the end of the turn with the quick demise of the two Germans IDs initially stationed at Rossoh. Andrew of course abetted the destruction of one of them courtesy of the failed 2 to 1 attack discussed above. Andrews strategy in defending forward would have depended to some extent on these units dying slowly as they held back the Russian tide, but with a stroke both units are gone. But as this happens in the Russians final activation they aren't able to exploit the gap opened in front of Valuyki before the arrival of German reinforcements that now shore up the line.

A few more points:

1) T2 ends with the Germans comfortably in control of the Don/Donets line. The ordered retreat of the Germans this turn has given the Russians no easy territorial gain meaning they'll still need another turn to close on the Germans here before trying to force passage across in T4, if indeed the Russians proceed this way.

2) The Germans make no attempt to redeploy an activating HQ from this area of the board to a more central or northern one. Kempf will again play a lone wolf role in T3, selling the lives of his northern Germans as dearly as he can while the southern German HQs ensure no easy passage across the Don and Donets. In this the Germans intent is to ensure the Russians find no quick route to Rostov this way. This is probably the Germans highest priority in the early game, but in using no less than three activating HQs to achieve this begs the question will they find themselves catastrophically exposed elsewhere?

3) The lack of an activating Russian HQ south of the Don would seem to indicate the Russians don't intend on approaching Rostov via this route. As they'll begin turn 3 ensnared by Romanian zoc's, they'll not get far on just Stavka's orders, this all but destroying any hopes of pressuring Rostov from the south.

4) At the beginning of T3 no German armor is in immediate danger. While the loss of German armor is significant in terms of their ability to counter in the "blow" turns of 6 and 7, losing the VPs of such units is perhaps even more important in determining whether the Russians will ultimately end up needing 2 or 3 VP cities in order to win. As a rule of thumb I reckon on needing to bag 4 or 5 German panzer divisions as the Russian, if I want to take and hold just 2 VP cities by games end. In seeking to preserve his armor at all costs Andrew appears to me to be setting up a situation whereby the Russians will require the retention of no less than 3 VP cities by games end... no easy task in the face of a relatively intact German armored pool.

In assigning just the single German activating HQ up north, and with the Russians seemingly intent on exploiting this via a drive through the center, the fight for Valuyki is no doubt set to ignite in T3. I know Andrew sets great stock in holding this place, yet his desire to ensure Rostov and the greater bulk of his armor in the south is kept safe means he'll have difficulty achieving both. If the Russians up north can break through this turn, exploiting the disparity in activating HQs, the resultant mayhem of their reinforcing tank armies should have a major impact on the game.

All eyes therefore turn to Valuyki...

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Ryan D
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With 6A revealing itself as an HQ last turn, the Germans can safely surmise that the remaining HQ is mostly likely 3Tk, or less likely, 2GA. As such, the Soviet ability to bring about operational surprise is lessened, and speed needs to take its place if significant groupings of Axis forces are to be destroyed.

The first activation of T3 is Hollidt. This is a good activation for the Germans, as it lets them organize the Donetz bend line west of hte river, and shift mobile divisions farther west and north, to counter the most dangerous Soviet thrusts. I will also note that at this point my opponent commented on the fact that numerous Soviet rifle divisions were falling well behind the Soviet spearheads, weakening the latter's offensive potential. The map after Hollidt's move is below:



1GA activates next. Importantly, Axis units to the west hold the major crossroads, and the refused flank near Starobilsk is not without risk for the Soviets, if they should advance too far and be counterattacked by one or two favorable German chit pulls.

1GA deploys screening elements to block German attempts to cross the Donetz and raid the Soviet rear areas. However, Soviet units are much too weak to actually contemplate forcing a crossing of the river themselves.

Meanwhile, the main body of 1GA, consisting of 4 mobile corps pushes west, gaining a bridgehead over the minor river south of Starobilsk. But strong German positions deny the opportunity for any worthwhile attacks. The map below shows the situation after 1GA movement.



The German command continues to show good flexibility, with Kempf coming out of the cup next. German forces pull back to the minor river near Valuyki, recognizing that a more forward defense would likely result in high German losses without necessarily denying 3TkA much space.

The decision to defend near Valuyki therefore appears to be a sound one, as the line along the minor river in conjunction with forward, sacrificial Hungarian divisions (3 infantry and the 1 Hungarian Tank Division) will ensure that pursuing Soviet units will be delayed another activation or two, before being able to make serious inroads into the German defenses. So the 6A plan to unhinge the north German line through swift envelopments is now looking to become more of a broad front shove.

The map below shows the German line after Kempf's activation.

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Neil Moore
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The northernmost (168th?) German ID, tucked in as it is behind a screen of Hungarians, adequately protects the rail line from the northern board edge down to Valuyki. With just 6A and Stavkas activation's available to the Russians to destroy all the Hungarians and drive back this German ID, there's little chance their 3rd TkA is going to be making a dramatic entry onto the board this turn. Once again Andrews choice in T1 choosing the Rumanian HQ over the Hungarian, bears fruit. Recalling that 1st Gds in T1 headed south with the intention of linking up with their southern counterparts in a gigantic pincer movement to entrap the central German defenders, their failure to achieve that end lessened the impact the northernmost Russians had on clearing the rail there of axis forces. 6A's impressive efforts last turn weren't sufficient to redress this situation and it now looks like the Russians are set to pay a heavy price for their failed opening gambit.

The other finalist in last years AVL tourney Tony Rogers (or General Balls of Steel as I affectionately anointed him) is a big fan of this central centric opening for the Russians. Successfully employed there's little the Germans can do to save their not inconsiderable central forces including a vital Panzer division. It might be remembered Ryan in this game was unlucky in the T1 activation sequence when the R3A HQ activated in the nick of time to ensure the central axis forces timely escape. But in making this T1 Axis activation choice, Andrew has enacted what I've now reluctantly come to believe is the optimum T1 choice for the Germans. This choice not only forces the northern axis forces to stay forward, a situation which we're now seeing helps protect Valuyki, it also counters the worst effects of a Russian attempt to envelop the central Axis defenders from north and south.

I'm interested to see what the Russians can do the rest of this turn in paving the way for 3rdTkA's entry, my suspicions unfortunately for them being not much. If that's the case they'll still have Popov's T4 arrival to burst through Valuyki if they can take it next turn, but that's no given with the arrival of so many German defenders already gravitating to this area of the board. Once again it should be pointed out that Andrew won last years AVL tourney against a field of talented AVL vets. He's good, as any who've crossed swords with him will attest. But I'm also coming to the belief that this one simple T1 stratagem for the Axis, choosing the R3A HQ over their H2A counterpart, can do much to counter early Russian play in AVL. I'm interested to see how Ryans Russians respond in the next few activation's. But whatever happens, this opening Axis HQ choice and forward defence of Valuyki is now officially going into my German AVL playbook.
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Maik L.
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Just soloed AVL yesterday for the first time to get the rules right and started to think about some basic strategies and how to use the landscape etc.. This is already much more advanced but an interesting reading nevertheless.
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Neil Moore
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I agree Maik, AAR's make such interesting reads particularly with respect to learning the strategies favoured by other players. In the case of this particular AAR one of the players, Andrew Shallue is no less than the current AVL champ. In last years tourney, Andrew advanced a couple of new strategies that played out quite differently to most other games of AVL I'd experienced. Even during the tourney he was surprisingly open about discussing these, and doing so certainly didn't trouble him in dispatching anyone crossing his path (including yours truly). So I have more than a passing interest in following this AAR as we get to see him putting his money where his mouth is. But I also empathise with Ryan, writing an AAR of this quality with it's many observations and maps, takes serious time. Hopefully Ryan will be able to get back to it at some stage.

If you're interested Maik I wrote a series of AAR's on games from last years AVL tourney and posted them on the AVL page on Consimworld. As someone starting out in AVL you might pick up a trick or two from them.
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Ryan D
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Hi Neil and Maik,

I let it slip away from me again, but do plan on finishing this, even if it does take longer than the actual campaigns of 1942/43 itself! Apologies for the delay for those that were following. I will be uploading the next segment over the next few days hopefully.
 
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Ryan D
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A small bone:

Stavka activates next. With Axis formations safely across the lower and mid-Dontetz, the area of action naturally shifts to the sector east of Kharkov. Kempf's activation was timely, allowing quality German formations to retreat and establish a line of defense along the minor river west of Valuyki. The remaining Hungarians are positioned well forward, doomed to die, but have nevertheless done their duty in slowing the 6A attack. The map below shows the map after Stavka's move:



As visible on the map, immediate Soviet objectives are as follows:

6A: Expedite the destruction of Hungarian 2A asap. ZOC's and advances after combat will be utilized to destroy as many of these units as quick as possible, so the Soviets can drive into the second line of German defenses before they solidify even more.

1GA: Attack and hopefully destroy (or at least cause a step loss) on the exposed 298ID. This army can threaten either the southern German line along the minor river, or swing south with some force and try to force a crossing on the middle Donetz.

5ShA/2GA: The formations are to attack the east face of the Donetz bend, attracting German reserves and hopefully gaining some sort of bridgehead, just to expand the threats the Germans need to contend with.

51A: Continue clearing the Kotelnikovo area of Romanian delaying forces. As this army clearly will not be an activating HQ and given its position well east of Rostov, it poses little concern to the German commander.

Combats and their results to follow in the next installment.
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Neil Moore
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Interestingly I'd missed Kempfs withdrawal in the north, bringing the northernmost German infantry division, the 168th back from rail guarding duties north of Valuyki. Maybe I was so convinced of Andrews determination to hold this line I couldn't conceive of him doing otherwise. In comments made on this subject during last years tourney he'd opined that the loss of 4 German inf divs was worth the price for delaying the Russian reinforcing tank armies passage through Valuyki. As it stands the Germans have so far only lost two, the original defenders of Rossoh. In withdrawing any more German inf divs from harm in this area the Germans have provided a chance for the Russians to at least close up to Valuyki with 3rdTkA IF 6A also activates this turn and IF Stavkas combat die rolls (not yet revealed) go their way.

I suppose it's fair to say that in this case Andrew is following Moltke's maxim that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Or in other words he's confident that either 6A isn't in the mix this turn or that the 1.5 to 1 attack the Russians need to succeed against the Hungarian 12th stack (behind it's parent HQ) will fail. In any event the 4 defensive combat factors of the panzer division nicely sat in the river bend behind Valuyki should see the rail through there safe for the rest of this turn. Still, I'm a little surprised he's risking the Russians closing on this vital town at all in T3 given his earlier comments on the subject.

I am, or rather was, an ardent runner in AVL and this is something that can be confounding to the Russians as they try and get in some knock out blows of their own prior to the Manstein directed Blow turns of 6 and 7. But my tourney was undone by the hemorrhaging of German infantry and armor in the turns just before this time when I found I simply had retreated too far and needed to hold in somewhat risky places. The answer appeared to be the forward defence of Valuyki, something I expected to see in this game. But it would appear Andrew has left the door here ever so slightly ajar for the Russians!

The map suggests to me at any rate that the schwerpunkt of this game of AVL is looming in the center between Valuyki in the north and Lisichansk further south and just north of the Donetz. The Don bend across from Rostov looks too strong for the Russians to force before the 1st PzrAs arrival and the Rumanians around Kotelnikovo have done brilliantly in ensuring there'll be no Russian southern drive on Rostov this game. So I'm thinking the burden of effort coming up will fall on 6A and 1st Gds operating in tandem, maybe with an activating 3rd TkA HQ also driving the bulk of Russian armor forward in the middle. In any event, glad to see you back in the saddle Ryan, lookin forward to seeing more!
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Ryan D
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Stavka Combats:

A 5:1 attack destroys 4 Romanian division in south of the Don. 6 Mechanized Corps advances back onto the main road. The two encircled Romanian divisions north of Kotelnikovo are destroyed next, being fully encircled and struck at 6:1 odds.

1st Hungarian Tank is destroyed next in an autokill attack; two Soviet tank corps then exploit farther west down the road from Rossoh. Likewise, 20th and 7th Hungarian ID's are destroyed in high odds, encirclement battles. This finally opens the bridge over Liski, though two remaining Hungarian divisions sit of the rail line, to hold up Soviet reinforcements.

Next attack is delivered vs the pocketed 298 ID, near Svatov. A tank and mech corps deliver the attack at 2:1 odds, hoping not to take a step loss. A roll of 6 forces the German ID back two hexes, losing a step. The map below shows the map after combats and advances from Stavka.



4Pz.A activates next. Units are merely reshuffled, with 6PD moving north and trading spots with 294ID, to bolster the defense of the northeast Donetz, opposite of which the Soviets of 2GdA are visibly concentrating.

6A is out of the cup next. The remaining two Hungarian divisions in the centre are enveloped and destroyed. A 2:1 attack lead by three tank corps find some luck and force a crossing opposite Valuyki.

Map below shows new positions of 6A and 4Pz.A after 6A combats (2).



Pico is the last chit to activate, but hasn't much to do. The HQ shifts west to add command span in what is becoming the decisive sector, north of the Donetz and east of Kharkov.

During the reinforcement phase, GD arrive to bolster the south flank opposite 5TkA. An ID takes up residence in Kharkov, in case of a rapid Soviet breakthrough. 3TkA, meanwhile, piles up as far west as possible, opposite the German north wing. The map shows the board after the end of Turn 3.

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Ryan D
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Turn 4 is an important one in AVL. Not only does it bring in the best wave of Soviet reinforcements (3TkA), but it is the last turn the Soviets get to play with a significant initiative advantage. Beginning Turn 5, 1Pz.A comes out of the Caucasus; if not trapped in Rostov, this forms a significant reserve for the Germans.

Pico activates first, followed by Hollidt. The map below shows their movements.



Pico shifts another panzer division farther west (23 PD), to help backstop 7PD. The HQ takes up residence in Chuguev, to add command span to the western Axis wing.

Hollidt's activation is largely wasted, as its units are already in position and have no threats to counterattack. The HQ also moves west, to bring more mobile divisions in the decisive sector under command.

1GdA is out of the cup next.



Mechanized units on the south wing (north of the Donetz) push into the gap year Izyum, hoping to wedge around the German flank. GD however presents a powerful refused flank. A single guards mechanized corps also gains a bridgehead south over the Donetz near Izyum. If left unchecked, this could become a threat to the Germans, but so far only one corps is over the river and no other units can exploit.

In the centre, units in reach from 3TkA and 6A push west against 7PD and 3GJ division. 3GJ and Kempf are attacked at 2:1 odds and pushed back a hex. The 298ID (step-reduced) is eliminated in another attack. Map below shows advances after combat.



6A activates next. They continue the action in the centre and north, bring up more rifle divisions opposite the German frontline divisions, while tanks corps continue to infiltrate behind enemy lines. Map below shows movements before combat.



168ID at the north end of the line is hit at 6:1 odds, ensuring a kill on anything but a roll of 1. A roll of 3 destroys the division.

7PD is attacked next at 4:1 odds. It suffers a DR2 and loses a step retreating through zoc, but is otherwise intact. That is it for combats, though 68ID's days are numbered, with both flanking divisions having been driven in.

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Neil Moore
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Ryans Russians finally catch a break with some handy chit activations seeing the Germans forced to go early (and largely ineffectively) with 1st Gds and 6A then able to follow in a useful double activation. The final map illustrates the outcome of this with German armor now imperiled to the east of Kharkov and a genuine foothold across the Donetz gained. With German infantry dying and another division about to follow suit, this is shaping up to be a good turn for the Russian's. Stavka out next could prove devastating for the Germans seeing the Russians consolidate their gains across the Donetz even as they destroy one flipped panzer division and flip/ensnare several others.

I agree with Ryans assessment on the importance of T4. Once 1stPzrA is aboard in T5 and through Rostov, something Ryans going to find hard to prevent, the Germans tactical flexibility will rise exponentially. The Russians last tank Army in Popov will already have deployed allowing the Germans the freedom to abandon the rail north of the Donetz that they're now so doggedly defending. I'm actually a little surprised to see how much German armor Andrew has thrown forward in the defence of the rail running down through Valuyki, especially after he elected to go against his own mantra last turn by pulling out German infantry and allowing the Russians an easier passage to that town. Sacrificing just one more German infantry then could have done much to eliminate the peril his armor now faces and I'm thinking I might have to flick him an email and ask why he chose to do this? At any rate the run of activations so far this turn has set up a tantalising situation should Stavka come out next.
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Neil Moore
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For those interested I elicited this response from Andrew Shallue, Ryans German opponent in this AAR. In response to my question as to why he pulled the 168th back from it's suicidal rail guarding position above Valuyki in T3, he replied...

"As for your question about 168 inf, I think I got cocky and decided I was so far ahead I could afford to try to rescue everyone."

This pretty much confirms what I suspected at the time, that he felt strongly enough in his position to abandon his 4 inf div sacrifice gambit designed at holding the Russians in the north, prior to their tank armies deployment onto the board. But a nice run of chit activations coupled with aggressive Russian play catches and destroys this unit anyway in a far more dangerous position for the Germans.

AVL is such a classic game for burning anyone who gets complacent, even the current champ who's ability to anticipate and forward think this game saw him unbeaten in last years tourney. The fact that we now see a situation in this game where the Russians could destroy a panzer division and potentially set up the destruction of a couple more, highlights just how quickly the game can change.

The Russians continue to enjoy the edge in AVL despite evolution's in German play. The results in the group stage of last years tourney roughly equated to a 50/50 win loss ratio for the Russians, though crucially the two semi final and final games were all reasonably comfortable Russian wins. Key to this Russian dominance in the finals was their ability to catch and kill German armor, precisely as Ryan has set up to do in this game. Given the nigh inevitability in virtually every game of AVL of the Russians getting on a devastating activation streak at some point in the opening four turns, finding a way for the Germans to not only hold the key road, rail and river junctions whilst simultaneously protecting their armor, would outwardly appear an impossible task. But I've come to believe this can be done with a more ruthless approach to sacrificing German infantry early in the north, precisely as Andrew began to do before shying away from the stratagem. He's set to pay a heavy price for this should the AVL gods now favour Ryan with Stavka out next and early T5 Russian activations in the north. Time will tell what indeed happens!
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Ryan D
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4 PzA activates next and responds by shifting two divisions towards the west (23 Pz. and 15 Luftwaffe). Kempf is out of the cup next, beating 3TkA and Stavka to the punch. The Germans also had Manstein chit, so it was a 50 /50 chance that either side would move first.

Kempf pulls back, blocking all crossings over the Donetz, except opposite Belgorod, in the north. GD and 17 Pz. also deliver a 3:1 counterattack against 1GM near Izyum, but achieve no result.

The map below shows the German movements.



3TkA comes out of the cup next. It sets up a surround attack on the ensnared German ID left in the north as a sacrificial speed-bump. Mechanized formations not needed for the attack push west and southwest, with the main effort now directed through Belgorod, as the Germans hold all crossings farther south. The map below shows the movement of 3TkA and the advance after combat.



Manstein is out next. The Germans cleverly activate Kempf, choosing a bolder course rather than throwing the chit back in to see what a Stavka activation might do. Four panzer divisions are assembled to counterattack 1GMC, with one division even pushing across the river to cut off the only retreat route. GD smartly advances east, blocking a potential river infiltration behind 11 PD, which would have resulted in a 2:1 attack. Remaining divisions shuffle east to hold key bridges over the Donetz while Kharkov holds with a skeleton garrison. It is an exemplary display of economy of force.

The assembled German counterattackers are enough for a 5:1 autokill. The map below shows German movements and advances after the single combat against 1GMC (which was eliminated).

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Neil Moore
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Ryans measured commentary belies how close the Russians came to pulverising German armor this turn. In my comments above, musing on the destructive potential of a timely T4 Stavka activation I completely forgot about 3rdTkA that was all but assured a T4 call up in a game so focused in the north. In the end tho Kempf activates in a timely manner allowing the Germans to get away by the skin of their teeth. German infantry is paying the price for the Russians "all in" northern gambit which is of course far preferable to the loss of German armor. But this will have rattled Andrew who only a turn ago felt things in the north to be well in hand.

As things stand Popov is set to deploy deep onto the board, tho crucially for the Germans this won't entail breaching the Dnieper anywhere significant. This pretty much ends the Russians chances of winning this game via a rail to victory option with either of their reinforcing tank armies. They'll now have to win the old fashioned way, duking it out with German armor when it turns to wrest initiative from the Russians. Knowing this, Andrew spends a Manstein chit in order to begin that process, taking out the Russian 1st Guards motorised corps. This is one of their most powerful units especially when employed as Ryan has done, thrust forward to secure vital bridgeheads. But where it was once positioned to create mayhem in the German rear around Izyum, it now moves to the dead pool courtesy of the vagaries of AVLs chit pull system.

The Germans are clearly set to abandon Kharkov this game as they wisely did historically. This would have been unthinkable for the Germans prior to the containment of the reinforcing Russian tank armies, but that achieved, Kharkov's importance to them reduces exponentially. It's 5 VPs will of course make it a worthy jewel for the Russians to pursue but it's procurement will matter little if German armor isn't soon brought to heel. The all in commitment of the northern Russians in clearing the Valuyki rail line, driving on Kharkov and the western Dnieper means little to no pressure has developed on Rostov. This only amplifies the insignificance Kharkov now holds for the Germans. The simple fact is the Russians will be looking to secure at least two VP cities if they can get amongst German armor and wrack up some VPs there. Failing that, they'll be looking to secure no less than three VP cities meaning the Germans can absolutely afford to abandon the most vulnerable of these (Kharkov in this instance) without much pause for thought. For my money though the Russians best chances of winning this game now lie with the destruction of at least three panzer divisions while also securing a minimum of two VP cities. With 1st PzrA set to deploy unimpeded through Rostov next turn, time is fast running out for the Russians to do this. And there's also the not insignificant matter of breaching the Dneiper in strength now that their one major bridgehead has been eliminated so summarily.
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Ryan D
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Ok, back at it.

Stavka is out of the cup last, which is too late unfortunately. The Soviets shift forces northwest, crossing more forces over the Donetz near Belgorod, as this is the only undefended route available. German defenses have congealed everywhere else behind the river line and need to be assaulted to form any bridgehead.

6PD is pushed one hex back in the northeast corner of the Donetz bend with a 2:1 attack, allowing two mechanized corps to cross the river for a small bridgehead. An attack in 5TkA sector at 2:1 odds against 27PD fails, but without loss.

That closes out turn 4. The map below shows the final disposition of forces, with reinforcements placed.



Popov (not an active HQ) concentrates mostly in 5TkA sector, hopefully to help force another crossing of the Donetz, or to reinforce near the Kharkov front.

All German forces are part of 1PzA. As is clearly visible, the lack of Soviet threat in the Donetz bend means that these forces will make it through the Rostov corridor, significantly strengthening German forces.
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