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Subject: Playing Russia in the S'43 (Kursk) Scenario rss

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Chris Montgomery
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Just fishing or any strategy advice about how to play the Russians in the S'43 (Kursk) scenario. I just started playing EFII about two weeks ago, and my opponent and I are both new to the game. We followed the suggestion in the rulebook that two beginning players should try to play this scenario.

The problem is, the Germans have won the scenario twice, now. I played the Germans, and the first game was a Decisive Victory while the second game was a Major Victory. My opponent (and I) are perplexed at what the Russians could have done to win the scenario.

In the first game, we did make some mistakes, but even accounting for those errors, the Germans would have won a minor victory at a minimum.

In the second game, neither of us could figure out what the Russian should do.

What have been other players' experiences with this scenario? What are some good Russian strategies, if any?

It just seems like the Germans can't really lose this one... at least the way we've been playing it.

Thanks for any feedback.

Chris
 
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Lin Parkh
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I had the same experience several times. I recommend you try the 41 scenario.
Also there is a computer implementation of this boardgame that allows PBEM.
Vassal too I think.
 
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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What was happening in the games? That is, were the Russians not attacking, or attacking but failing to make progress, or what? Was the Axis playing offensively, or mostly defensively?
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Niko Ruf
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IIRC we played the scenario only once and it lead to a bloody stalemate with no real hope of progress for either side. Certainly not an Axis pushover. Can you describe why they were so successful?
 
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Chris Montgomery
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Sure, fellas.

THE FIRST GAME - ERRORS

The first game we thought might have been an Axis fluke. There were two problems with it. The first one was, the Soviets set up first, THEN the Germans. We figured it out before the game started, though, and the Soviet player was allowed to adjust any number of units he wanted. The second was that I forgot, as the Axis player, that an HQ can only receive ONE CV per production phase. Because of that, I was "re-upping" my HQs every production phase, which, of course, allowed lots of blitzing. All the blitzing resulted in a breakthrough on the last fortnight of the game, eliminating about three or four Russian units and trapping 14 others out of supply. These VPs, of course (18 of them!) pushed the German victory margin over the top. Nonetheless, once we figured out my error, we recalculated the victory points (roughly) assumed that the Soviets would not have lost as many units during the game, that the breakthrough would not have happened, and some other things, but it still resulted in a German victory. During this game, the Soviet player's attacks mainly revolved around Leningrad and trying to breakthrough at LENINGRAD SE, which failed. My opponent, Joe, said he wanted to try again, and had some ideas now that we knew how the system would operate.

THE SECOND GAME - INITIAL STUFF

The second game we played, we did most everything right. During the first game as the Germans, I had set up my corps to attempt to punch a hole in the Russian lines near Kursk, as well as bunching lots of units up near Leningrad (sort-of-semi historical, in other words). For the second game, I set up lines to punch a hole in the southern region, and attempt a breakthrough around south and east into the area fed by Rostov. My opening blitzes went well, and I punched two holes on my first fortnight. The Russian player had set up his lines "two deep" with weaker units (infantry) directly opposite my front lines, and armor and mechanized infantry behind that. It was sort of a good strategy because I was never really able to capitalize on the second movement phase of any of my blitzes. The second movement phase was always spent moving just one more hex forward to engage the next line.

THE SECOND GAME - BATTLE FOR LENINGRAD

My strategy for both games as the Axis was to bleed out the Russians in Leningrad. In each game, Russia put four units in Leningrad with the hope of breaking through my lines southeast of Leningrad. I waited four fortnights each time we played the scenario so that Leningrad would only have one unit in it. While in the first game, the Russian response was a little disheveled and uncoordinated, in the second game, he had planned really well. He used a Supreme Move to move a unit out of Leningrad to attack Leningrad SE. He also moved two more units into there--Russian shock troops. I also recognized this space as the key to keeping Leningrad out of supply, and I had two mechanized units in the space. Over successive turns, the Russians were able increase their combat units there to four and keep rotating units. Eventually, they were able to whittle this defensive force down to 1 CV each, but I was able to pump up the defense by moving in more units (just cannon fodder infantry), because by this time it was not about winning the battle in Leningrad SE, but simply buying time until Leningrad fell. On the fifth fortnight of the game (1st fortnight of September), I attacked Leningrad and the Russian mechanized infantry there held out for three more fortnights, despite my seige guns and a corps of artillery.

SECOND SCENARIO - OTHER MOVEMENTS

This scenario, I had to take my blitzes easy. I could only really use an HQ for blitzing once every two months. In the south, supported by AGA (II CVs) and AGS (III CVs), I blitzed the first fortnight, and the second fortnight, but after that, the southern front was essentially shut down. I was only three hexes away from Stalingrad, but the Russians rebuilt their lines and ground my armor to a halt. He also pumped up Rostov with four units once he figured out where my main thrust was coming from (I had 6 of my 12 armor units within two hexes of Rostov). The Russians did some counterattacks, trying to breakthrough my lone infantry corps at Rostov W, which narrowly failed, and even successfuly attacked one of my low-supply HQs, reducing it to O CVs, but not eliminating it. Largely, though, the Russian effort was a defensive one.

Once the Russians moved their units to enclose my southern salient, it left the central front curiously 1-blocky (where 4 of my remaining 5 armor units were positioned). By this time it was September, and I attempted another breakthrough here with AGC's III CVs, and enjoyed some success, cutting five Russian units out of supply, causing some minor CV reductions, and eliminating a unit. Again, here, the Russians attempted to capitalize by moving through a hole in between the Axis' Central and Southern fronts, but because of rails the Axis had captured in the Central front, he was unable to put any units out of supply. I was very lucky, there, and quickly plugged the hole my next available fortnight (and shot the army group commander for the oversight).

Other than that, though, the Russians seemed to attempt to exploit where they could, but it appeared to me, at least, that except for the Leningrad SE hex, they did not make a concerted effort at an "operation" anywhere. Instead, the moves appeared somewhat reactive.

Despite liking to win games, it was a little frustrating for me to see my opponent's frustration. After the game we discussed some potential Russian strategies, but I was sort seeing what the veteran players had up their sleeves, if anything.

I ended up winning a Major German Victory this time.

Here's what we discussed:

(1) The Russians, in order to make a serious attempt on Leningrad, might need four armor units to hit Leningrad SE. Having a unit attack from Leningrad (with a Supreme Move) was clever, because it negated the River Assault. The Russians would need to make a concerted effort there (maybe even using two HQs) if they wanted to breakthrough.

(2) Leningrad probably shouldn't have four units on it at the beginning of the scenario unless they are planning a breakout. They simply whittle down and waste CVs. My opponent was so frustrated, he suggested that breaking the siege of Leningrad was a virtual impossibility and that he should probably write it off.

(3) Other than the Leningrad issues, though, my opponent and I were at a loss of what he could have done differently. I suggested he could have been a little more aggressive in the Central area of the map, but he pointed out that his HQs are usually too weak to run a successful blitz campaign after he spends CVs plugging holes and fighting for Leningrad SE.

Anyway, there's a lengthly synopsis. Does that help?

Chris
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Niko Ruf
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As I said, I don't have much experience with the scenario, but I believe the problem is that the Russian's can't lift the siege of Leningrad by brute force. The key hex (Leningrad SE) is forest, and trying to retake a forest hex your opponent wants to hold is a recipe for wasting resources. In clear terrain, a massed attack can deal more damage than your opponent can repair easily between turns. In forest, it's pretty hopeless in my experience.

If your friend hat spent those resources for a breakthrough in clear terrain further south (maybe at Kursk ), chances are you could not have sustained the siege, or at least could not have risked storming the city. As you said, the Russians had some chances at breaking through even though they spent a lot on the attempt to retake Leningrad SE.

Also, don't underestimate the VP cost to the Axis for lost blocks. Even if te Soviets fail to exploit a breakthrough, battles with heavy casualties favor them in the end, as they only lose half as many VP per eliminated block.
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Chris Montgomery
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Thanks, Nico. And Kuhrusty. Maybe we'll give it another go in the future. For now, we're switching gears and trying to hit a couple smaller scenarios of 1914: Twilight in the East.

Cheers.

And Thanks again.

Chris
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Niko Ruf
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And thank you for giving me my 1000th thumbs up. cool

Edit: Oops, it was indeed Kuhrusty. I didn't check since you replied so quickly.
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Chris Montgomery
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I was curious, though, does it appear to you, then, that Leningrad is not worth fighting for? If so, I think it is a little silly that the historical outcome is prohibited. I think if we play again, we will just start with Barbarossa and play the game as originally designed.

Chris
 
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Niko Ruf
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I think the problem is going all-out for Leningrad early in the scennario and permitting the Axis to concentrate their reinforcements there as well. If the Germans have to withdraw besieging units to plug gaps in other parts of the front, it might be possible to put the city back in supply.
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Chris Montgomery
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Niko Ruf wrote:
And thank you for giving me my 1000th thumbs up. cool


I think you may need to thank Kuhrusty for that one.

Chris
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Chris Montgomery
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Niko Ruf wrote:
I think the problem is going all-out for Leningrad early in the scennario and permitting the Axis to concentrate their reinforcements there as well. If the Germans have to withdraw besieging units to plug gaps in other parts of the front, it might be possible to put the city back in supply.


I was thinking that perhaps the scenario could be tweaked by either giving Russia more production, or cutting Germany's down.

During this scenario, once Leningrad falls, the Germans have a 32 PP advantage, which directly translates to a 32 VP advantage at the end of the game. Accounting for the handicap, that's a 22 VP advantage.

To gain that back, Russia must hang on to all its other territory, and, on a 1 for 1 casualty exchange, kill 22 German units (about 1/3 of the German corps in the game). Some of this could also be off-set by capturing some of the high-value cities, especially in the South, or by recapturing Leningrad, but even assuming the Russians recapture 6 VPs worth of cities (Leningrad OR a combination of other cities), that puts them at 70 to 80 (with the handicap included), still needing 10 1 for 1 unit exchanges, which is not likely.

Conversely, the Germans start with a Major Victory, and once Leningrad falls, they have a Strategic Victory, even if they do nothing.

That seems like an insurmountable goal.

Hmmmm. Lots to think about there.

Chris

Edits: Grammar, punctuation, etc.
 
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I wrote some notes on breaking the siege of Leningrad in this scenario, but I didn't bother posting them because they were long, boring, and probably a bad idea anyway. (I haven't actually played this scenario.)

I think it's less risky to plan for a drive in the south, and more lucrative anyway. (Unless your opponent is expecting that, and is planning to deploy lightly in the north... then maybe driving there might be worth it.) The terrain is better, and you can capture stuff a piece at a time instead of 6PP in one hex.

cmontgo2 wrote:
I was curious, though, does it appear to you, then, that Leningrad is not worth fighting for? If so, I think it is a little silly that the historical outcome is prohibited.

Well, how do you mean? The historical outcome is that it was still besieged through Jan '44, right? Or do you mean you think the Axis will always be able to take it if they really want to?

If the latter, I don't think you're right. Ideally, the Soviets want to control Novgorod, to bag the Axis units in Volkhov and put Leningrad back in rail supply. Failing that, they at least want to be fighting in Novgorod, as it reduces the Axis' ability to cycle fresh units in & out of Leningrad. To keep that from happening, the Axis needs to take the fight to Novgorod E1 and Staraya Russa, and I'm not sure they can do that if the Soviets are determined to stop them: it'll be a single unit making a river assault into Novgorod E1, and they'll be killed/repulsed if the Soviets put enough guys there.

Like I said, I haven't actually played this scenario, but it seems to me that Leningrad will go to whoever throws more force into the fight... and whoever commits more in the north is endangering his position in the south.

cmontgo2 wrote:
Conversely, the Germans start with a Major Victory, and once Leningrad falls, they have a Strategic Victory, even if they do nothing.

Huh, it looks to me like if both sides do nothing, it's just barely an Axis Marginal victory, not Major. (For the Axis, 90 PP, -10 handicap, +24 HQs, -5 for restricted satellite expeditions = 99; for the Soviets, 64 PP + 28 HQs = 92.)

cmontgo2 wrote:
For now, we're switching gears and trying to hit a couple smaller scenarios of 1914: Twilight in the East.

What!! Switch sides, get back in there, and show the Fascist aggressors that you will prevail no matter which side you're playing, Comrade!
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Niko Ruf
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kuhrusty wrote:
Well, how do you mean? The historical outcome is that it was still besieged through Jan '44, right? Or do you mean you think the Axis will always be able to take it if they really want to?


According to Wikipedia, the Soviets did manage to open a corridor into Leningrad in January '43 which ended the full blockade. However, the corridor was still controlled by German artillery.

The closest you can get to this in-game is probably a change of battlefield control for the Leningrad-SE hex that puts Leningrad back into overland supply but not rail supply. I.e., the Russians have to push the Axis out of the hex for one turn, which admittedly is not very likely.
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Chris Montgomery
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kuhrusty wrote:
cmontgo2 wrote:
Conversely, the Germans start with a Major Victory, and once Leningrad falls, they have a Strategic Victory, even if they do nothing.


Huh, it looks to me like if both sides do nothing, it's just barely an Axis Marginal victory, not Major. (For the Axis, 90 PP, -10 handicap, +24 HQs, -5 for restricted satellite expeditions = 99; for the Soviets, 64 PP + 28 HQs = 92.)


I see your point, here. In our games, the HQ CVs were roughly normal, or even favoring the Axis by a couple VPs at the end. The Soviets also lost a lot more VPs through eliminated units, which I didn't include. And, I realize, I'm not good at math. My calculations were:

Germans: 90 PP - 10 Handicap = 80
Russians: 64 PP = 64

26 VP Axis victory -- that was the problem. It should have been a 16 point Axis lead, even by those calculations! God, that's embarassing. I'm no math genius, but simple subtraction?

After the fall of Leningrad, this number would be increased to a 22 VP Axis victory. Sorry about that.

In any case, your numbers are right.

Now I'm second guessing my addition of the VPs in our last game! Though we did both count them.

Chris
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I haven't played the S'43 scenario, but I have played several campaign games, all of them as the Russians gulp

therefore I can only talk at a general level. In my limited experience I found that the German Army in 1943 is still very dangerous. If the Russians commit to one part of the line for a big push, the Germans can quickly reinforce it and even launch nasty counterattacks with Panzers and the SS.

The key strategy for 1943 is to launch probing attacks all along the line, while keeping a strong 'STAVKA' reserve. The aim of these attacks is to test for week sectors in the line, but also to engage in a battle of attrition. If you do find a weak spot, then send in the Tank Armies (backed with 4 step guard INF units to take the hits) and blow a hole in the German line.

However do not exploit the hole - you want German casualties not space! instead fill the hole with Soviet Mech and Infantry units, and move your STAVKA reserves somewhere else. The German players then has to either commit his reserves counterattack, or to make a new front line. Either way he will have to chew up HQ steps. I'm a happy Russian if I'm trading steps 1:1 with the Germans, as well as forcing him to use HQ steps all across the line.

Once you are confident the German player had run out of reserves and Blitz attacks are risky for him, rip into the German line with your own Blitz attack. This strategy worked in a recent EastFront II game, but it was against a very aggressive German Team. In fact the Germans in that game took Leningrad and nearly surrounded Moscow. They then switched to a Southern strategy in 1943. They blew a hole in the Russian line but didn't have enough HQ steps to follow up. Instead the Russian Southern commander Blitzed through a weak flank and cut out of supply an SS corps and 4 Panzer corps. It was all westward traffic after that.

The beauty of Eastfront II, in my limited experience, is that there is not one 'killer' strategy, and every game is different depnding on the personalities involved. Having that Fog of War really brings the Eastern Front to a new level, as well as being great fun. Thank you Craig for making an awesome game
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SnorriHT wrote:
The beauty of Eastfront II, in my limited experience, is that there is not one 'killer' strategy, and every game is different depnding on the personalities involved. Having that Fog of War really brings the Eastern Front to a new level, as well as being great fun. Thank you Craig for making an awesome game


I second this wholeheartedly. EF and EFII still shine (as do WF, WFII, MF and EuroFront) imho!
 
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