The Hinge of Fate: A Kursk/Husky Scenario – Battle Report
After finishing our campaign game early (see http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/288695) we decided to have a go at one of the Scenarios from the Players handbook. Scenarios are a bit of a novelty for us, as we tend to concentrate on the Campaign game, finding the scenarios generally have all factions with fewer steps on the map than we’d expect.
This scenario is no exception. Indeed as we set it up players in turn bemoaned their lot. Indeed it’s fairly brutal on all three factions. The Germans are spread very thinly in the East, lots of reduced strength units holding a very patchy front line. The Soviet position is even worse. No guard armies, a paper-thin line, and Rostov and the Southern HQ vulnerable to immediate loss. The West aren’t any better. Poised, as they are to invade Sicily and Normandy, which in the second instance the Germans can easily prevent.
It should be noted that before starting we agreed to move the Southern most HQ 1 space SE, so as to prevent it being easily killed in blitz combat – it remains in some considerable danger however, should the Axis player decide to target it.
We kept the same sides as our earlier game.
Doug Massie: Axis, Simon Hornby: Western Allies, Mark Wightman: Soviets
Axis Tide: +2 (Antwerp, Paris, Oslo, Athens, Minsk, Kiev, Sevastopol)
Axis: Citadel, West: Ultra blitz, Soviet: Rumyantsev Offensive
Doug spent some time staring at the map. He knows he should pull back in the East, so as to conserve his army, but the Soviet position is a mess and a couple of bold thrust might just do enough damage to seriously blunt their coming offensive. Two huge thrusts are made. The first is aimed directly at Rostov – with the target being the city and the reduced strength HQ. Rostov falls easily, but the steps escape, the HQ also survives a 2:1 regular combat round. Not quite as lucky as it sounds as I’d stacked one of the optional tank steps with them (Doug rolled a 6 though – so he was happy too, as he could now reserve his armour into a safer position. Doug’s second thrust is aimed at killing the HQ that starts in Vyasma. A 24:3 attack is launched on the 332 that starts due East of Smolensk – this has to be supported by the HQ, and it is duly destroyed. In Regular Doug roughs up the surrounding armies causing quite a lot of damage, but the Germans do not manage to shift all the defenders and two reduced strength armies (one a Panzer army) are thus stuck waiting for the Soviet counter.
In the West Doug sends steps to Italy, reinforces Sicily as best he can and strengthens the North coast of France enough to discourage any invasion.
The Western turn sees a frustrated Simon place the Heavy Bomber on the Eastern end of Sicily. This will prevent any reinforcements being sent by Doug and should enable him to clear a route across the island in one turn. This he achieves, although some Italians hold out on the Southern tip of the island – and one Italian step sits under the Heavy Bomber.
Ultra reveals that the next Axis card is “Mare Nostrum”. The Axis are challenging the West to play Avalanche.
The Soviet counter offensive destroys the two reduced armies trapped near Vyzama and presses forwards in the direction of Smolensk and Kharkov. Near Rostov the HQ scoots behind the line that extends North of the city. In the North the Soviets press forwards around Dno and Velikiye Luki. I’d decided that my best strategy was to press forward and dare Doug to attack me. Every time he did his troops left themselves vulnerable to counterattacks – and one small mistake could result in a disaster for him.
Losses this turn: 4 German + 3 Minor steps, 10 Soviet steps
Despite the pressure building to the North of Rostov Doug launches a number of attacks from the city at the armies he pushed out last turn. These go well and most of the Germans pull back to the safety abandoning the city in the process (A SS corp gets stuck near the Kerch strait – where it is promptly put OOS by the Soviets).
Doug also launches another huge assault around Velikiye Luki. Again the target is a Soviet HQ. A cunning series of attacks punches through the line in blitz, and then kills the HQ in regular. Losses are quite high on both sides – as quite a few 5’s and 3’s are rolled.
In Italy repair work is done where it can be. The PanzerArmee Afrika appears, as does the GE/IT HQ. The HQ stays out of harms way though and defends above Naples.
The Western offensive is stalled somewhat this turn. They clear the island and force a crossing onto the mainland, but the Italian army remains pretty much intact. They’ve got to stand and fight now though.
The Soviet counter thrust in the North is relatively bloodless. A couple of steps are exchanged and the Germans forced back all the way to Minsk.
Losses this turn: 5 German +3 Minor, 2 Western and 6 Soviet steps.
Another turn another reckless assault on the Soviets. This time the target is a potential over stack situation near Barvenkovo. Although the initial attacks go well there’s a final 1:1 unpinning attack that needs to be launched by a 663, 544 and 112 Rumanian – unluckily for them they get a “good” roll of a 1 and thus a Dr1 result – the Soviets have a HQ involved and the Axis troops remain pinned NE of Dnepropetrovsk.
In the North there’s nothing like enough steps to make an attack indeed Doug decides that with Sevastopol lost that there’s no need to throw steps away holding Minsk and the Axis troops fall back completely out of the range of the Soviets.
In Italy the Italians move to the front and arrange themselves to try and limit the Allied thrust – trying everything to prevent them approaching Naples.
The Western turn is quite violent. They place an Air on Naples to prevent it being strengthened and clear the end of the boot – forcing their way into Taranto-Brindisi.
Neither Doug nor Simon is sure if Naples can be held against the expected Avalanche blitz.
The Soviets rumble forwards in the North, reclaiming Minsk, but failing to make any attacks. Things are different in the South and the Soviet Air force makes it’s first appearance and helps to destroy the steps stuck after the last counter-attack. Dnepropetrovsk is also retaken.
Losses this turn: 9 German +3 Minor, and 6 Soviet steps
Axis Tide: +1 (Antwerp, Paris, Oslo, Athens, Kiev)
Axis: Mare Nostrum, Western: Big Three Conference, Soviet: War Production
Not many German steps on Mare Nostrum, so Doug finally goes on the defensive. In the North the army falls back just out of range of the Soviet HQ and starts building Festung Europa forts along the Vistula. In the South a brave Rumanian is left holding Kiev, whilst every body else either heads towards Lvov or the Carpathians.
In Italy the U-Boats sortie, attempting to OOS the 15th Allied HQ, but the RAF intercept. This allows Doug to place an Air unit in Comtanzara to prevent all the allied armies joining the attack on Naples.
Calculations are made, and Naples isn’t secure – a blitz turn would give the Allies a 25% chance of taking the city – but it’s the best Doug can do.
Come the Western turn Doug is relieved to see the Big Three conference, until he realises an Allies Support Nationalists result can ping his GE/IT HQ and effectively ruin his Italian defence – even without the allies blitzing.
Simon’s language turns the Air blue as he rolls up a Pacific Commitment, which costs him his only Air unit and the New Zealand mech corp. His attack is now stalled and he settles for roughing up some of the Italian units instead.
The Soviet turn is a bit a damp squib too. They roll forwards towards the Vistula and Carpathians – destroying the Rumanians holding Kiev on the way.
Losses this turn: 2 German + 2 Minor and 1 Soviet step.
Mud, mud glorious mud. There’s nothing quite like it for cooling the offensive. Except perhaps another Pacific Commitment - which once again allows Simon to show a comprehensive knowledge of Anglo-Saxon adjectives.
No attacks at all this turn. The Soviets do however finally catch the Germans – who are sitting on the Carpathians and along the fortified Vistula.
November / December 43
Axis Tide: +1 (Antwerp, Paris, Oslo, Athens)
Axis: Material Shortages, Western: Ultra, Soviet: Bagration Reserves Formed
A quite turn for the Axis as they hunker down and await the onslaught. Most replacement steps head to Eastern Poland to stack up the Vistula line, which is now almost completely fortified. Italians move to the front in Italy.
The Western turn sees a “blunt object” attack on Naples – 2 steps being exchanged for two Italians. Ultra reveals the next Axis card will be V-Weapons, which we expect will be followed by a Fuhrer Offensive.
In the East the Soviets force their way over the Carpathians and exchange a couple of steps in Eastern Poland, although the Soviets are struggling to mount sensible attacks there.
The Material shortages marker rolls high and will come of the track at the start of the third turn of summer. Will the Axis still have a tide by then?
Losses this turn: 1 German + 2 Minor, 2 Western and 2 Soviet steps
Naples is abandoned as the defence moves northwards to safer ground. A rough line is formed near Debrecen in the East. Space will save the Axis forces in the Balkans for this turn, but they’ll have to stand soon.
The West plod forwards up the Italian mainland. It’s slow going, but the Axis are running out of retreating room.
In the East Bucharest is attacked, but stands firm. Debrecen is reached and the Vistula line is attacked in a couple of places. The Soviets don’t quite have the power to overwhelm the German HQ’s yet, but they can nibble away at the defenders.
Yugoslavian partisans attack some Bulgarians to the South of Belgrade – forcing themselves on to road and thus cutting off the Germans holding Athens and Bucharest – they won’t be getting home.
Losses this turn: 2 German and 2 Minor, 2 Soviet and 1 Partisan step.
Axis Tide: +1 (Antwerp, Paris, Oslo, Athens)
Axis: V-Weapons, Western: Avalanche, Soviet: Production Directive (Air)
V-Weapons produces a Volkstrum result and a U-Boat is melted down to make two, much needed, 022 infantry steps. The Italians head to Gustav line – they are coming off this turn one way or another. The Vistula line is extended now to Budapest, backed up with as many HQ’s as can be spared. France looks under defended now, but there’s nothing like enough German steps to be solid everywhere.
The Western turn sees a landing in Normandy, where the Allies have little trouble forcing themselves ashore. They’d like to have advanced their HQ onto the beachhead in reserve, but daren’t whilst there’s a possibility (1 in 6) that the Axis might hit a Special Weapons Success roll and sink it next turn. The Gustav line isn’t attacked as Simon waits for the Italians to collapse at the end of the turn.
The Soviet turn sees a lot of action. Including a tank army overrunning an OOS panzer step in Rumania (a very rare occurrence), plus the fall of Bucharest and Sofia. Yugoslavia will be next, assuming the Soviet partisans can take Zagreb next turn.
Losses this turn: 7 German and 18 Minor, 1 Western and 4 Soviet steps
The V-Weapons gets a Special Weapons Success result and kill a Soviet Air unit; much to my annoyance it later rolls a 5 for delay and will be missing all summer.
Mostly pinned by the Mud the Axis cobble defences where they can.
Not a great deal of action in the Allied turns a couple of fruitless attacks are lost by both Allies. Rome is captured, as the Axis defence has moved northward.
Belgrade is free of Axis troops and the Western player could reactivate them, but chooses not to, so as not to interfere with the huge Soviet army moving through there.
In the Soviet turn, forces are despatched towards Athens, whilst everybody else heads in the direction of Budapest and Vienna. Zagreb falls to the Communist Partisans and thus Yugoslavia is now liberated.
Losses thus turn: 1 Western and 2 Soviet steps
Axis Tide: +1 (Antwerp, Paris, Oslo, Athens, -Rome)
Axis: Fuhrer Offensive, Western: Overlord, Soviet: Bagration
Despite their considerable losses the Axis are unable to place all 12 of their steps this turn. Mostly because the few steps they do still have are scattered around as single steps. There’s nothing like a sensible attack available so the Germans hunker down. There line runs from Konigsberg, along the Vistula, through a fortified Debrecen, Budapest, Vienna the along the Alps to Switzerland. In the West there’s a line along the French border, just outside the reach of the allied HQ units, but it’s tissue thin.
The Western turn sees the hammer fall in France. Huge Air commitment smashes the Axis position to ribbons. Once both rounds of combat have finished there’s only 8 German steps alive West of Berlin and 5 of them are OOS in the Ardennes. The West recapture Paris, Metz and Antwerp.
In the Alps the Allies launch a scratch attack and push the Germans back some, but they still hold the passes.
In the East the hammer blow falls all along the line, with large amounts of effort being made around Budapest and Vienna. Axis losses are massive, as are Soviet tanks losses. Athens is also liberated.
Losses thus turn: 19 German and 5 Soviet steps.
Doug is faced with a hopeless position. He’s barely got enough steps to make a line in the West and the Vistula line is weakened to provide some manpower. However he spots an opportunity to send some Panzers on a dashing death ride and launches an attack in the direction of Belgrade. There’s a Soviet HQ on the front line here and he has a 2 in 6 shot of being able to force his way into Belgrade – killing a HQ and the Soviet Airborne unit in the process. The attack comes off and the Germans insert themselves into Belgrade, putting a large part of the Soviet armour OOS.
In the West the Allies push forwards. Taking the Ruhr, Frankfurt and Prague. They also force the Alps.
In the East the dashing counterattack is to no avail. The Soviets easily restore their supplies and start a general offensive all along the line. German losses are huge, but they’ve not given up any ground yet.
Losses this turn: 22 German and 8 Soviet steps.
At this point the Military takeover is conducted. Axis Tide is +1, USCL = 3 for a combined drm of -2, so on a 1-3 Hitler will be assassinated.
Doug rolls a 4 and suffers a command supply failure. It’s easy for the Allies to place the marker in such a way as to cover every German step (except for those in Norway). The Axis position is hopeless.
The Germans defend where they can given the restriction on leaving Allied ZOC. The defenders in Hamburg bounce off and hunker down in Berlin.
The Western turn sees Simon mopping up on the mainland and launching a massive Air/Naval operation against Stavangar. Two fleets are used to created beachheads and 4 Air provide convoy support to allow 5 pieces to perform a snap invasion. They grab the port with ease but can’t take Oslo just yet.
More violence along the Eastern front. The Southern end of the line starts to give way as Vienna, Budapest and Prague fall to the Soviets.
Losses this turn: 21 German steps.
Allied Crusade: -3 (Oslo, -Rome, Bucharest, Vienna, Ruhr, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Prague, Budapest)
Axis: ObK Conspiracy, Western: Crusade in Europe, Soviet: Final Offensive reserves formed.
With a -6 drm Hitler is assassinated and Doug decides to place an Armistice on the Western allies. There’s no point in stopping the Soviets, it’s the Allied Air units that need to be stopped.
The few remaining Axis units hunker down around Berlin and behind the Vistula line.
The Western turn passes quickly as they shuffle forward where they can.
The Soviet turn is brutal despite the blitz. Doug’s Southern section of the line consisted of three 123’s in a line backed up by three 2 step HQ’s. The Soviets manage to hit all three at 3:1 final odds, killing all three HQ’s and the taking all three hexes. They also finally breach the Vistula line in two places, one North and one South of Warsaw.
Losses this turn: 9 German and 2 Soviet steps.
At this point we called the game, although I think we could have done it much sooner, had we wanted to.
This is an interesting scenario, which at first glance appears to be brutal on all three factions. In retrospect the Western Allied position is very solid, despite being down maybe 8 Armour 9 Infantry steps from what I’d usually expect. The Soviet starting position is pretty crumby, but they quickly recover. The Axis position is awful. Attacking in the East clearly doesn’t work, although Doug had some bad luck with his combats there, and I suspect running wouldn’t be much of an improvement, but might delay the end.
Attacking is ever so much more fun though ☺