bertrand d
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Von Lugbar is in charge of Army Group South, while Pyotr was just allowed out of the Gulag to manage Soviet interests in southern Russia.
Explain the rules to the Soviet player will take 30 to 45 minutes despite the rigidity of his communist spirit, still slightly frozen by the ice of Siberia.

We will eventually have only 3 or 4 questions during the game, all answered by the rules. I do not think we have omitted any rules, so very good points for the simplicity of these rules. The player aid (home made) has been very useful, among other for the results of the fighting.

As the cards play creates the progress of time, we can distinguish distinct phases in the game

Act I: FALL BLAU German offensive at all costs. With his initiative and a large stock of resources, the initial idea of the offensive is to sweep the whole front south of Voronezh to Rostov inflicting the greatest possible losses to Russians in a limited time (without German card game )

In game terms, this phase is long because there are many activities for the Germans and limited cards played. There must be a morally superior opponent during this phase because you may find him in this state ...

"How will I be able to avoid going back to the gulag with this hand?"

Back to events.

First remark, Fall Blau is not a walkover for the Germans! The Soviets may respond with cards like "Traffic Jam" "Poor Logistics" "Strategic Withdrawal" and the fighting can cause loss and disorganization of the Axis rather easily.
The problem is that refitting units uses the precious resources of the Axis! And thus threatens the power of future attacks.

Act I scene 1
Offensive of the 4th Panzer Army from Kursk (classic) with attempts of double encirclement.

The first surprise is when my two PzKorps tried to liquidate the pocket formed by the 40th and 13th Soviet armies, they were violently pushed back. The 13th Army escaped and I had to rebuild my Panzer Army in Kursk.

Several consequences: any offensive on Voronezh is abandoned, many resources are spent to rebuild the 4. PzA and valuable cards are played quickly (too much for my taste) to give weight to the offensive (reinforcement of the LVII. PzKorps, VIII Fliegerkorps support)

Act I, Scene 2:Axis resume the offensive toward the southeast.
After several reorganisations, the offensive resumed with stealth and strong support from Stukas.

The 13th and 28th armies are encircled. But still a surprising Soviet! His armies went on the offensive! They tried to seize my logistic points, including the one guarded by the Italians at Stalino. All their attacks were repulsed, but unfortunately still caused losses. The value of Soviet tactics is still very weak. The warning has been hot around Stalino.

While my new 4. PzA leads finally the reduction of the pocket, the Soviet has the luxury of taking the initiative and rearranges his front.

Act I Scene 3: Offensive on Rostow
We'll have to play tight, my ressources are running out but I can not allow the Soviets to regain the initiative.
Milerovo is taken and Rostov on Don is invested in the North.

I still have barely enough time to launch the last 2 offensives. The Soviets challenge me to launch their own operations, but every time I win the initiative.
A first attempt at encircling Rostov is repulsed, leaving my armored spearheads in disorganized and depleted state. With my last ressource point, 2 reduced and disorganized Pzkorps finally succeed to close the circle ! Mass distribution of the Iron Cross is planned.

Remains to reduce Rostow which now includes five Soviet armies!
XL.PzK, IV.AK and IL.AK are tasked for the kill. After furious fighting, destruction of Soviets in Rostow is complete but the city remains temporarily in Soviet hands.
My units are exhausted! But 10 Soviet armies are destroyed at the end of my offensive!

Act II: the strategic pause
No resources left, disorganized and depleted Korps, no rail workers available and I am totally paralyzed.
The few resources that I can get disembark in Taganrog and are dedicated to refitting my units.
Stalin orders the two armies Tikhorest to retake Rostov taking advantage of my logistical weakness. They will reach the south bank of the Don, but eventually will be destroyed by encirclement!

Only after this last catastrophe will Stalin finally allow the first reinforcements to reach the southern front, much to the relief of General Pyotr!

We lose a lot of time(card play), the Axis to demand more efficient rail teams, the Soviet to request reinforcements and equipment.
It was only in getting the cards that allow choosing a card in remaining deck that the German gets "Railhead advance" and the Soviet Order 227 from Stalin!
Time flows, the autumn is already advanced!

Act III strategic offensive
It's decision time. With the final weeks of good weather, I must choose a strategic axis. Logically, I chose the Caucasus and reject any attempt to reach the Volga. Hitler did not seem to focus on Stalingrad. So everything starts with supplies flowing to Rostov.

I first push back the Soviets who tried to return to the outskirts of Rostov during my reorganization. The Soviets remained very agressive despite their limited ressources.

Then came the rush, a real blitzkrieg with no real opposition. Salks, Tikhorest, Maikop and Pyatigork fall to Panzer operations! All trains and trucks are requisitioned for forward refueling.

Unfortunately the rush stopped there. Massive Soviet replacements and reinforcements arrive. 2 armies settled down in Grozny while Rostov becomes the target of renewed attacks by new Tank armies. Only the interdiction efforts of the Luftwaffe prevent them from cutting our units from Rostow.

The 4th Romanian Army reinforces the Rostov region with support from the XIV. PzK coming from Millerovo. But the fall of Salk requires the strategic redeployment from the Panzers back from Caucasus. Italians are also sent to Millerovo.

Winter comes suddenly, the Hungarian troops will suffer the most from under equipment, and soon after the initiative goes to the Soviet side.

Act IV:winter
Soviet pressure becomes tremendous especially with increasingly powerful artillery and the emergence of the Soviet air force!

Their main objective remains Rostov.

However, the early winter battles are victorious for the Germans, with the unexpected counterattack from Von Manstein and Romanian Cavalry Corps in support of 2 Romanian Infantry Corps destroying three Soviet Tank Armies !

note the razing light of winter sun

Yet this respite is short lived as the Tank forces are replenished almost immediately by the replacements and reinforcements pouring into Elista, Kotelnikovo and Morozovsk. Salk is taken in the back of Von Manstein's troops.

The Germans reallign the front and Salk is back in their hands. Millerovo falls despite strong resistance from the Italians.

Then the catastrophe occurs.
Several Soviet attacks are repulsed, but the Russians seem to go on attacking my strongest Panzers ...
Von Manstein's group is first attacked by 2 Tank Armies, they are repelled. However my Panzers are reduced. Then the Popov Group and the 70th Army attack ! A tremendous artillery preparation is unleashed. I am forced to give ground, but I did not realize that my back is totally cut off by the 26th Armored Corps and the retreating troops are massacred. Von Manstein is captured!
The 7 VP lost are the VP equivalent earned by the 15 Soviet armies destroyed since the start of the campaign

I am only waiting the arrival of the spring thaw(raspoutitsa). 5 more cards before we get there and still no Directive 45 in the game (giving 6 more VP for Stalingrad to the Soviet) My last offensive to regain Salsk is a failure against the Soviet fortifications.

Finally it is the debacle of the 18th hour in the 13ème Stratege that ends the game ...


Where are we in terms of victory points at that time?

Tikhorest 2vp, Maikop 4vp, Rostov 3vp, Kharkov 3vp, Kerch 1vp, 15 Soviet armies destroyed 7vp = 20vp

Stalingrad 3vp, Millerovo 2vp, 2 PzK destroyed 4vp, von Manstein captured 3vp = 12pv

8 vp difference in favor of the Axis
Tikorest will be lost, so 6vp max.
Remains a possible madness of Adolf who can still order me to take Stalingrad before Raspoutitsa (Directive 45), 6pv for the Russian. In the Soviet card pool, this card was in 2nd place ... knowing that 5 cards played gives me the opportunity to finish the game.

Also remains the possibility of retaking Millerovo from the Russian or losing one of Maikop, Rostov or Kursk.

A promising tight end game (we will unfortunately not play)
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Francisco Ronco Poce
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What a wonderful AAR!!!!
Pretty well German offensive into the depths of Russia and very furious Soviet fighting; the were not fine tacticians but never lack courage and men.
Thanks for the photos and nice comments.
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