Silk for Calde!
Hello! This is my first post here, and a bit longish. In style it is similar to the one already posted Giles D, but in outcome somewhat different. This is also based on solo play; I found it impossible to make detailed notes during our two two-player games (first of which was also introductory for the other player), but might try it later, since I won't aim to make it THIS detailed.
Here I might also note, that this game is very good for solo play, AND excellent for beginners. My friend had NEVER played ANY hex-and-counter games and was not very familiar with the historical concept either. But already during the first game she grasped the mechanics very well (better than me at some points) and managed to beat me. OK, that was our first game, and I wasn't that determined... but to the second game I came with a vengeance. And lost. It is also interesting to note that she played NATO both times, since in one thread someone said that NATO is the harder party to play (I think that it is the Pact that requires more strategy and cunning AND luck). All in all, there may have been some flaws in my strategy, but it was also the game's elegant simplicity that enabled her to play very well, although unaccustomed to this kind of game. Combined with the fact that this is about the only game situated in the North German Plain (THE ultimate setting in my mind), I find this just the game I've been waiting for for years.
Anyway, here's the report. Just a few clarifications: main points of contest were the Stahlhammer AFB (attacked by 1st GTD), and the bridge (the "bridge" referred to in the report) south of the mountains. Before the AFB, Germans fought at Eben line, and Americans tried to held the road junction (the "junction" in the report) at hex I15.
When the Soviets struck into Germany in the spring of 1985, NATO defenses were as follows. US 1st brigade, 5th Division, held the junction (I15) with its armor, supported by an infantry battalion right behind it. One armored battalion was at the bridge west of the junction, holding hex I9. 2nd brigade was at Eisenbach, infantry holding the city and armor outside it. Divisional cavalry was camped at the woods east of Eisenbach.
Germans’ advanced defense was laid out at Eben, with 1st Brigade, 1st Panzer division, holding the perimeter. Infantry was in the city, and armored battalions north and south of the city. 2nd brigade was supporting the 1st, with its infantry battalion in the woods southwest of Eben, an armored battalion on the road to Hagenstadt, and the remaining armored battalion as resereve in the Stahlhammer AFB.
Soviet assault was spearheaded by two regiments from the 1st Guards Tank Division in line speeding towards Eben, and two regiments of 47th Guards Tank Division moving to break through south of the mountains. 47th regiment of the 47th division moved on the road westwards, while the 48th regiment thrusted southwestward.
The morning found the Germans fast asleep, or at least their headquarters was not able to react to the coming onslaught. Some units were alert enough to destroy some of the incoming armor (Soviet infantry battalions were left behind in the first wave of the assault), but caving in. German recon battalion in the woods south of Eben was engaged by Soviet armor, and lost some of its vehicles and men. In the south the 47th division executes its plan. 47th regiment speeds through a hole in the NATO line, towards the bridge, while 48th regiment engages US armor at the junction mauling it badly but not destroying it completely.
Americans react incredibly fast, having prepared carefully for the invasion, and armed with intelligence which the Germans obviously missed. The Americans deploy the 13th Air Cavalry Regiment, which starts moving towards the front lines. Its gunships however speed through the crisp morning air, and fire their Hellfire missiles at the advancing Soviet armor, crippling one forward battalion. 2nd brigade is alerted and its armor moves to the crisis spots developing; one battalion takes the road northeast to aid 1st brigade armor, which is taking casualties at the critical road junction. At this time, 1st brigade infantry takes defensive positions in the woods northwest of the junction. Another armored battalion from the 2nd brigade moves north to cover the bridge, which is the obvious target for Soviets’ thrust.
At midday US forces strengthen their defense at the road junction with the divisional cavalry squadron, and at the bridge the armored battalion from the 2nd brigade arrives in carefully prepared defensive positions. 13th ACR continues to move towards the front. Germans finally wake up and attack the Soviet armor at the outskirts of Eben. In the north this succeeds, and tens of T-80s fall prey to antitank missiles, but casualties in these attacks are unacceptably high for the defenders.
Pact forces press on, their armored units supported by gunships and artillery. A US battalion at the road junction is destroyed by this combined force and defenders of the bridge also suffer casualties. Furious battle rages outside Eben, and the defense finally collapses in the early afternoon, with Soviet artillery reducing the suburbs with their defenders’ positions to smoking ruin. Strong German armor remains in the north and south of Eben, however, and the Soviet tanks milling about are easy prey to the Leopards’ guns.
As the afternoon draws on, one battalion of the 13th ACR reaches the bridge (hex I9) and enters the battle. Two battalions of the same regiment enter Eisenbach in the south, preparing for the possibility that Soviets might try to take the city. Divisional reserve in the form of the 3rd brigade is committed, but only its armored battalion is ready to move. ACR gunships fail to appear due to maintenance problems, and American armor stays out of the battle on the road to Eisenbach, awaiting Soviets’ next move. In the north, Germans have built a wall of steel around Eben, which is now occupied by Soviet troops. Advancing pact forces are pounded heavily. German reinforcements (3rd brigade) rush forward to stop the Soviet attempts to break the line around Eben. Soviets are locked in, casualties are mounting and the road out of the town blocked by heavy German armor, which relentlessly hunts the T-80s trying to break out.
In the late afternoon the Soviet 47th regiment assaults bridge defenders and destroy one US battalion. At the road junction the 48th regiment battles with the Americans, who see more red armor streaming from the east the 49th regiment has arrived on the scene!
Spring evening is heavy with smoke from burning wrecks and flesh as the Germans reinforce the Eben line and strike out, destroying one Soviet battalion completely and battering another badly. US defends the bridge and the road junction to Eisenbach with ACR support, waiting for the 3rd brigade infantry, which is still preparing its too-carefully stored vehicles and equipment for action.
The Eben line holds, with Soviets suffering horribly, unable to escape the Leopards. Last regiment from the 1st Guards Division enter the field, rushing towards Eben to help their comrades trapped there. 47th division continues its attacks; 47th regiment assaults the bridge with minor success, and 48th and 49th regiments managing to destroy US infantry in the woods near the junction, but 2nd brigade armor holds the road, causing casualties to Soviets. 164th regiment is the last unit of the division to enter the field.
Night falls. In the light of burning buildings and vehicles Soviets assault all along the line. This causes a breakthrough south of Eben, and in the north a lone infantry battalion sneaks forward in the rough terrain. Most of the German line still holds, and one Soviet infantry battalion is destroyed by Leopards. Night attack at the bridge south of the mountains by the Soviet 47th regiment is successful, but US 1st brigade armor still has some tanks left, supported by a battalion of the 13th ACR. With their thermal sights these finish off one Soviet armored battalion. US 5th division cavalry holds out in the woods destroying tens of attacking T-80s and BMPs. The same happens south on the road towards Eisenbach, and burning steel litters the fields, giving ghastly light to the spring night. An armored battalion from the 3rd brigade drives through Eisenbach at night, turning north to support the defense of the bridge. 3rd brigade infantry finally moves out of its barracks under cover of night.
The second day of the war dawns with Soviets attacking relentlessly in all points of contact. US 3rd brigade armor which moved north from Eisenbach during the night strikes at an unprepared Soviet infantry battalion, destroying it completely. Around Eben Germans destroy Soviet tanks in the south, while their recon battalion and infantry try to lure Soviet armor into the woods. At the same time, Soviet paratroopers drop from Ilyushins behind Germans’ main defense line, straight into Hagenstadt. At the bridge, an US armored battalion sees its last Abramses destroyed by masses of Soviet fire from all directions and collapses. The US Cavalry still holds the woods at the road junction, but Soviet forces pour around it towards the bridge and the prized breakthrough into the German heartland.
Noon finds Pact units destroyed north and south, and their reinforcements are stuck due to communication and organization problems. Nevertheless, Soviets begin their breakout from Eben. Massed tanks assaults supported by motorized infantry finally weaken the Germans sufficiently, and the 1st Guards armor advances into the Hagenstadt road. Some Soviet infantry battalions get through in the rough terrain in the north; the German line has dissolved, even though several battalions still fight around Eben. In the woods southwest of Eben Soviet armor engages German infantry causing heavy casualties, but not completely destroying them.
Soviets engage the dangerous US 3rd brigade armor east of the bridge destroying about half of their tanks. US 2nd brigade armor stands steadfast on the Eisenbach road, endangering Soviets’ southern flank.
Late afternoon. 1st Guards’ tanks breaking out from Eben engage German infantry, which finds itself surrounded, with Soviet paratroopers massing behind them. The Germans are almost annihilated on the Hagenstadt road. A counterattack manages to shatter the Soviet armored battalion, however. German Territorial units are called in, and begin to deploy in the backlines, west of Falkenborn.
47th division destroys American armor at the bridge crossing and poises itself for the kill. The only unit holding the bridge now is a battalion from the ACR. Other points of resistance on the Eisenbach road hold, though US armor is battered by Soviet airstrikes, when the few Sukhois passing through NATO air defenses leave several Abrams tanks burning. The reserve, two battalions of the 3rd brigade infantry move north on the west side of the river, preparing to reinforce the bridge defense. With the same intention, one ACR battalion moves north from Eisenbach and destroys a Soviet infantry battalion. The bridge defense starts to look a bit more powerful, but the stream of Soviet reinforcements seem almost endless.
In the evening battle strain is beginning to show. Only a few Pact units are active, but those few make gains. A battalion of the 117th regiment with an alert CO who manages to rally his men, destroys the German recce battalion in the woods south of Eben. A Soviet recon unit strikes at German armor south of the Eben-Hagenstadt road, destroying some Leopards and causing general havoc. Airstrikes continue, this time targeting the American reserve infantry west of the river.
Germans finally react to the dissolution of their line, and move some units to engage enemy infantry that has penetrated it. One Soviet battalion loses most of its men and BMPs. Americans lose men and material in counterattacks, and reserves move in painfully slowly.
Night finds NATO making some moves. Eisenbach road is abandoned, the US armor moving west to flank Soviets. The only unit near the road is the Cav squadron in the woods near the junction. US units at the bridge repel several Soviet night attacks, and the defenders finally receive one infantry battalion as reinforcement (the last 3rd brigade infantry stays on the west side of the river as a final reserve). At the German area of operations the night is full of gunfire. As Soviets advance towards Hagenstadt, still held by Soviet airborne, their infantry suffer casualties. Airborne strikes out from positions south of Hagenstadt and kill some German Territorials who moved in as reinforcements. Near Eben there are still three German armored battalions (two of them half-strength), one of which finishes off one Soviet infantry battalion south of the city.
As dawn breaks NATO finally seems to have won at least part of the air war. Pact combat aircraft are not seen again, and US A-10s and british Tornados are seen at the frontline, to the joy of the troops on the ground. Apache gunships also materialize, and their low attacks with Hellfires devastate Soviet armor at the bridge. Lines of communication are momentarily broken, and the Soviets there are paralyzed and unable to take action.
On the German sector Soviets are active, though. Germans withdraw closer to the Stahlhammer AFB, and one unit near Eben start backwards to the same direction. Soviets press on, engaging German territorials north of the Airbase. South of Eben some Soviet units are still locked in against a lone German armored battalion. 33rd Motorized Infantry Division moves in to help 47th division to break through at the bridge crossing.
The good start of day takes a turn backward with all NATO airstrikes missing their target and gunships unable to take to the air due to very adverse weather. Soviet casualties mount at and near Hagenstadt, though one German territorial battalion folds and dissolves. German infantry enters the city and Soviet forces thin out and find themselves almost surrounded. They storm the Airbase despite their losses and manage to destroy some Leopards on the outer perimeter. The fight at the bridge is at stalemate, but more units from the 33rd division move in.
Afternoon sees the weather clearing, and the Soviets press on causing the demise of another German reservist unit. Battle rages in Hagenstadt with German armor burning in the sreets. There are an awful few of Soviet units left to take the Stahlhammer AFB, so the High Command is forced to alter its plan: some of the regiments from the 33rd Motorized Division will be sent to the German sector, for without assistance, the 1st Guards will die there. There is also talk about the reservist 87th regiment, which has been training in East Germany for some time; it was meant to be active in the morning, but it seems very slow to take orders. This must also be corrected.
First two regiments from the 33rd division rush towards the bridge south of the mountains unaware of the reorganizations in the deployment of the rest of the division. They obliterate the long-standing US cavalry unit on their way. Defense at the bridge falters, with the US infantry battalion destroyed. Desperate attacks by the American units (the ACR battalion and the last 3rd brigade infantry "reserve") leave hundreds of Soviet fallen and vehicles destroyed.
Germans crush Soviets at the gates of Stahlhammer, and only weak infantry remains inside Hagenstadt, plus some airborne south of the Airbase. New Soviets are on their way, but their progress is hampered by renewed NATO airstrikes.
It is the evening of the third day of the war, and Soviets are exhausted by their effort. Fresh armor is flung forward however, and at the bridge the last US infantry suffers horrible casualties, but holds on. NATO answers swiftly. Apaches destroy most of the T-80 formations near the bridge, and at the back, reinforcement columns suffer heavily from the day’s last airstrikes. Near Stahlhammer Soviets die one by one in the German armor crossfire. Bloody night falls.
Germans attack Soviet airborne positions under cover of night, and another parachutist formation disappears, but in counterattack the remaining airborne manages to surprise and destroy some Leopards between Hagenstadt and the Airbase. One German armored battalion moves to meet fresh Soviet tanks south of the Eben-Hagenstadt road, but is ambushed, and loses many of its tanks. The few US units left make weak attacks, but are battered heavily by Soviets, and give way. Only a weak battalion from the ACR remains. The cost to the Soviets is high, but fresh troops move forwards in the darkness
By dawn’s early light the Soviets crush the remaining bridge defenders and move over. A-10s appear over the speeding columns and tens of T-80s are left burning in the roadsides. At Stahlhammer Germans give and take; one German armored battalion is destroyed while many Soviets suffer the same fate. More Soviets are coming, due to High Commands decision to reroute two regiments from the 33rd division towards Stahlhammer, and the reservist 87th regiment is also on its way. The remaining German reservist Territorial battalion, still west of the river moves south to interfere with the Soviet advance, should they try to break through the exit lanes west of the mountains.
Noon approaches and the Germans’ lines of communication are severed, and their initiative stunted. Soviets feel no remorse when they attack fatigued Germans, but fail to penetrate into the airfield. South of the mountains, Soviets move to the breakthrough.
As afternoon progresses, NATO situation seems dire indeed. Soviets are pouring through, and Germans at Stahlhammer are thinning out. They have only two damaged armored battalions left. NATO gunships fail to appear and airstrikes miss their targets in an uncharacteristic show of bad coordination of air assets.
NATO’s nightmares come true when Hinds appear and engage the German armor inside the Airbase. All Leopards are wiped out with the help of some fresh T-80s, which quickly occupy the airfield. The time is running short for the Soviets as well. The NATO reserves are mobilized in the German heartland, and American Reforger is in progress. The Soviets have only so much time to exploit their breakthough, and by next morning, sufficient amount of forces should have passed deep into Germany to take the critical airfields and cities. Thus, the High Command notes that as commendable as the taking of the Stahlhammer was, forces there cannot move fast enough over the bridge south of Falkenborn to be in the critical areas in time. The responsibility of delivering the final blow falls therefore to the units which have already crossed the bridge south of the mountains. They are ordered to turn south and press on with maximum speed. They do so, but the order does not reach the few remaining units of the 47th division.
Evening falls fast, and Soviets rush south over the north German plain. They are easy targets for the few NATO ground attack aircraft mustered for the purpose of halting Soviet breakthough. Despite the casualties, Soviets press on. The last remaining unit of the German 1st Panzer Division moves west and sets a blocking position behind the bridge south of Falkenborn. The Soviets are not eager to engage, but 87th regiment moves toward Falkenborn itself, but is unable to cross the river in the last light of the day, and in any case is too far from the possible entry routes into the critical areas inside Germany to reach them in time.
As night falls, NATO generals are sure of defeat, as Soviet columns of the 33rd division thrust southward in the area between Jungweiler and Schneiderburg. But, by a stroke of luck or something else, they are saved. The speedy advance of the Soviets has caused some serious problems in communications, and Soviet units either misintepret orders or receive wrong ones. Nevermind the reason, they stop for the night and prepare defenses! Thus, the breakthrough is not exploited in time, and during the night NATO manages to cook up sufficient defenses along the critical entry lines into the Ruhr, and in the morning first American Reforger troops arrive. The Soviets have the Stahlhammer AFB, but alone it is not enough, because US infantry still holds Eisenbach, which can be used as a base of operations in the coming days, with considerable stocks of supplies.
Pact gains 1 VP. NATO wins.