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Subject: from Central Texas Historical Wargamers, one game AAR rss

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Steve Duke
United States
Georgetown
Texas
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This was posted today by Matt Shostak to our Yahoo email group but it is probably of more value here where people are interested in the game.

Last Thursday I was lucky enough to get in a game of "A Victory Lost" with 2 of my buddies from the ASL group. We had planned on playing a tag-team style for the game. Since the game revolves around chit draws for command activation, we thought it might be fun to play it as a team, where the players on each side alternate making the move when their side's chit is drawn.

Unfortunately we only had the three of us, so they took the Russians and I took the Germans. The game depicts the Russian offensives on the Don after Stalingrad had already been encircled, 17 Dec. 1942 - 8 March 1942.

It's a game on points: there are 5 victory cities worth 5 points apiece that the Germans initially control (Rostov, Stalino, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and Zaporozhe. In addition each side gets points for enemy units eliminated: the Russians get 3 pts. per German armor unit eliminated and 1 pt. per German infantry eliminated, whereas the Germans get 1 pt. per Russian armor eliminated. All other units do not count toward victory points. If at the end of any turn, one side has 30 pts. more than the other, it's a sudden death win.


The first chit pull was 4PzA, which is good for the Germans. These are the forces to the south of Stalingrad around Kotelnikovo. It includes 3 German panzer divisions, a German infantry division, and a few Rumanian infantry divisions. This group faces a potential assault from very powerful Russian units arrayed just to the south of Stalingrad, chiefly the 2 GdsA, 5TkA, and 5ShA. So it seemed to me the best thing to do was to pull back these units so they wouldn't get destroyed for big points for the Russians. I shifted the German panzers west to the lower Don crossing, so that they could be ready when the Hollidt HQ was activated later in the turn. The Rumanians simply pulled back a bit to do their job as a speed bump. Naturally the Russians blew through the weak Italian units at the upper Don crossing of Boguchar, and units started pushing into the open spaces north of Millerovo and around Kantemirovka. The rest of the turn unfolded with a strong Russian push to the south of Stalingrad, and another push just east of Millerovo, with the intention to put the Rumanian 3rd Army area out of supply and threaten German units on the minor river there (due west of Stalingrad) with annihilation. There was one panzer division and 2 German infantry divisions in this area, which I did not want to lose. Therefore the remaining German chit draws (Hollidt and R3A) were used to reposition the panzers (as many as possible from 4th Panzer Army and Hollidt) to the area in the open gap between Millerovo and Morozovsk. They counterattacked as they could as the Germans in Rumanian 3rd Army pulled back. Some were already out of supply and very much in danger, although not completely surrounded.


In the second turn, favorable chit draws allowed these German units to break out to the south and west. A couple of Russian infantry units that stuck their necks out too far just north of Millerovo were eliminated by a sharp German counterattack. Although Russian infantry does not count for points, I think it is still worth it to eliminate them when possible, because they can be a real pain in the neck for the Germans, but the Germans have to be careful not to get drawn into battles too far forward and getting cut off and destroyed.


The rest of the early game revealed that the Russians were going with a southern strategy, as nearly all of their command chit activations were with the southern group. The way was wide open to Rostov and they pushed hard down this road. In the northern part of the Don, the Hungarians and remaining Italians proved hard to dislodge off the river line, because the Soviets simply weren't making that area a high priority. The danger that began to develop for the Germans was that the bulk of their early forces might get trapped north of the Donets around Millerovo and Kamesk-Shakhtinskii, while at the same time Rostov was in grave danger, threatening to trap the 1st Panzer Army south of the Manych with no easy escape, and likely be put entirely out of supply. This army arrives for the Germans at the end of turn 4 at the south edge of the map, and therefore cannot be used until turn 5.


Rostov fell and a sea of red units formed a bulge south of the Donets river bend, north of Rostov. The Soviets tried to occupy the Donets crossing points so as to trap the Germans on the wrong side of the River. As an added bonus, Stalino was now looking ripe for the picking.


By not taking any losses early, however, the Germans were able to keep their panzers together with multiple overlapping HQs, and they were a very powerful mobile fire brigade. They had not been idle north of the Donets, opportunistically eliminating Soviet units (usually infantry). But with time running out on their escape and that of the 1st Panzer Army in the Caucasus, They had to try to open the door at Rostov. First they had to force their way south across the Donets. Again, a favorable command activation sequence for the Germans allowed them to roll up Russian blocking forces end-on, from Voroshilovgrad to the Kamesk-Shakhtinskii area, and also start working some panzers to the Krasnyi-Luch area east of Stalino (NW of Rostov) to do battle with the large Russian forces in that area. 1st Panzer Army drove north toward Rostov hoping to escape, and the large battle north of Rostov developed very well for the Germans, as the chit pulls seemed to go their way frequently, and Rostov was recaptured just in the nick of time. 1st PzA eventually escaped through Rostov, and now the massed German panzers (by now quite a few divisions, including the very powerful Grossdeutschland, Das Reich, and Leibstandardt just recently arrived) were an unstoppable force, erasing more and more units in the Donets river bend.


The Russians did break through in the north, smashed the Hungarians, and eliminated a few German infantry divisions. In the massive tank battles in the south the Germans had a few of their panzer units battered (flipped) but none eliminated. They had eliminated several Russian tank units. At this point we called the game because it seemed clear that the Russians just didn't have enough power left to press an offensive, and it was getting late in the day anyhow. The Germans were only a couple of points shy of a sudden death win. I played the last turn out solitaire just to be sure, and that is what happened, with a score of 33-3 for the required automatic victory margin.


AVL is a really good game. It's very easy to play, achieving a nice design for effect at very low cost in rules. Apart from a few quirks regarding supply and guarding your rail lines (a necessary trade-off to achieve such a simple design) the game produces a really good feel. It can be intense for both sides, never knowing who will gain the initiative at the right time due to the command activation chit pull mechanic. The Russians in this one very nearly succeeded in a huge victory by trapping the 1st Panzer Army south of Rostov and taking Rostov and Stalino. It was a very close-run thing, and as the German commander it was pretty intimidating to watch that Russian sweep clear down to Rostov nearly unopposed.

This playing has given me some ideas for other strategies to pursue for both sides, as we discussed at length in our post-game wrap-up. If I were the Germans again, I'd be very leery of letting Rostov fall. I'd make more of an effort to hold it. If I were the Russians and managed to take Rostov, I'd be tempted to form as tough a hedgehog around it as I could muster, and close off the Manych river crossings to strand the German 1st Panzer Army. With 3 armor and 3 infantry units, this army is potentially worth 12 victory points, and it's worth noting that at game end, out-of-supply units are eliminated. So a southern strategy aimed at destroying this group might be viable. But at the same time, there was very little operational tempo in the north, which hurt the Russian attack by slowing down their reinforcements on turns 3 and 4 (3rd Tank Army and Popov) which must enter in the north.
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Will Green
United States
Alameda
California
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Thanks for the AAR. I've played this game a few times and really enjoyed it. I am curious as to how much time it took to complete your game? The longest for us was 7.5 hours, the shortest 5.75.
 
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surmik
Poland
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Thanks for AAR. As a AVD player I\m still looking forward my first AVL game I hope I'l manage to play it this year
 
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