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Europa Games and Military History

Month: February 2020

1943 APR II Soviet Turn

Narrative: A Tale of Two Cities

Voronezh, Southern Russia: The Soviets attempt to bludgeon their way through to reach their trapped comrades in the city with two parallel attacks. These are low odds 2:1 thrusts, the rightmost with NKVD political support. The left flank makes good progress pushing the defending mixed Axis forces back 16 miles and establishing a bulge into the Axis lines to the southeast of the city. By contrast the right thrust after initial success becomes bogged down by the mud and stiffening enemy resistance. They reach within 5 miles of the city before being halted by massed artillery firing over open sights from German, Hungarian and powerful Italian pieces. The lead tanks are checked and as the already sodden earth is churned to a moonscape they pull back in disarray to the start lines. The fate of the city is sealed.

Turku, Finland: The final assault is launched, and the defenders are eliminated without loss to the attacking forces. The last bastion of organized resistance in the Finnish Area of Operations has fallen. With this defeat which eliminates the last Finnish ground units and secures the last Finnish owned city, peace of a sort, reigns over Finland. The Air force transfers to Sweden and is interned.  Mannerheim and top government representatives are commanded to Helsinki and met by the Soviet Commander in Chief Southern Finland Area of Operations and the Surrender is signed, effective 1 May 1943.

The humiliation of the location and lowliness’ of the Soviet Officials present is not lost on the Finns and almost immediately a resistance movement is formed to continue the fight by other means.

House Rule: I am generally opposed to house rules and have no others in play but it seems to this writer that given the Finn’s love of country, fighting prowess, woodsmanship and mastery of irregular warfare an effective partisan movement would arise to continue to harry the Soviet occupation forces. To represent this I suggest and will use the following House Rules;

New Rule 32.B.3a Finland Garrison; Following the Surrender of Finland the Soviet Union is required to occupy certain hexes in Southern Finland (as defined in 32.B.4c) no later than the end of the second Soviet player turn following Finnish Surrender. Each location must have a RE equivalent of Garrison Forces as follows;

Major/Dot City, 3REs, Reference City/Printed Fortress, 1RE. Garrison forces can be any combat unit with a printed attack strength of 1 or greater.  Failure to establish or maintain the Garrisons has the following effects:

  1. Soviet forces cannot trace supply or rail movement into, out of, or through the location nor use any port or airbase at the location.
  2. Finish Partisan activity is increased (see Rule 32.B.3b)

 

New Rule: 32.B.3b. Finish Partisans: Beginning on the first Finnish initial phase after the Surrender of Finland the Finns may make 2 Partisan attacks per Finnish initial phase in Southern Finland. These follow the same rules as Soviet Partisans (RAW 33.C.)

For each 3 RES or part thereof of Garrison forces missing from the Finnish Garrison Forces requirements (32.B.3a Garrison Forces) the Finnish player may increase the number of Partisan attacks by 1. (e.g. 4 Res missing = 2 additional attacks for a total of 4 that phase.)

New Rule: 32.B.3c. Soviet Anti Partisan Forces; The Soviet has the following Anti-Partisan forces available which operate per RAW Rule 33.C; All NKVD regardless of branch of service, all penal units, all Ski units.

Turn Report

Initial Phase: Increased Partisan activity scores 5 rail hits and 1 Airbase hit.

The 2-8 mtn cadre on the road to Ivalo; starved, surrounded and alone surrenders.

The Soviets expend the single Inf RP trapped at Voronezh to rebuild a 1-2-6 para airborne unit. ¼ ‘ered for lack of supply and support it nevertheless adds a ½ point strength to the defenders thwarting the Axis planned Overrun in the initial phase; much to their chagrin.

Finnish front.  Northern forces continue to inch forward toward the Norwegian border and build against the Murmansk perimeter.

In the south Turku falls to a less than certain 4:1. With no Finnish forces surviving anywhere the surrender has no implications for the fighting in the far north and most Soviets have already begun moving out of theatre, or north. The surrender will therefore be a formality. (But see house rule above).

Leningrad Front: The sacrificial two hex bulge on the corner of the German lines north of Kalinin is attacked but DAS plays its part and the results are favourable to the defenders with one retreat and one NE!

Moscow Front: South of the former capital an attack against the German lines pushes them back 16 miles and eliminates their fort but a well prepared defence allows them to fall back in good order to a pre-positioned fort behind the MLR.

The Soviets fail to relieve Voroneszh

The Soviets fail to relieve Voroneszh

Voronezh Front: In addition to the direct relief attack against Voronezh the Russian forces continue to push against the Axis lines to the south in a move to regain the east bank of the Don. Once again lady luck is with the Axis as where eliminations are needed retreats are obtained and where a retreat would suffice an elimination opens a tempting gap with no forces in place to exploit it. Nevertheless 16 enemy attack points are removed from play.

Stalingrad Front: No ground activity.

Air Combat: The VVS launches a number of sorties against critical road junctions and routes. They change tactics over previous months and while unsupported long-range raids are still made these are supplemented by high intensity short range escorted missions radiating from Moscow and the new forward air bases. These raids hit 6 targets including critical junctions but at a cost. For although 5 Air-Air hits are traded the VVS takes 4E and 1A while the Axis 2E and 3A.

Across the front short-range aircraft transfer to a number of newly built forward air basses to be in position to provide air support for the planned Summer Offensive.

Combat Report

Attacks: 9
Losses: Soviets = 4, Air = 4

Axis: 2 Forts
German Isolated = 2
Un-isolated 11
Air = 2
Slovakian = 4
Italian =  1
Finnish = 8, 6 Air

Loss Ratio; April II ’43 = 0.65

1943 APR II Axis Turn

The Calm Before the Storm – a very quiet turn as the Axis go entirely on the defence in all sectors except the Voronezh Operation which is drawing to a close.

The Axis thin the line where possible to extract the larger panzer and mobile formations to reserve positions and continue to fortify in depth.  Resource points are thinning as they use up their stockpiles.

Weather: A one is rolled signifying Snow continuing in A/B with Mud elsewhere.

Finland and Army of Norway: A couple of battalions are shipped to Norway. 3 ships continue to supply Murmansk but an isolated 6-8 mtn xx on the road 30 miles south of Ivalo is reduced from Isolation.

AGN: No attacks.  Mobile units pull out of the line and a small bulge in the extreme NE is left with only a thin screen which will save a hex length of front for the cost of abandoning two forts. All aircraft fly DAS missions.

AGC: No attacks. Aircraft fly DAS and a second fortified line starts to solidify 50 miles west of Moscow in case the toehold in the city should fall. As an exception to the general rule a Panzer division enters the city to bolsters the Moscow defence.

AGS: Alone at U2 and Isolated the defenders of the city of Voronezh fold to a massive 9:1 (-1) attack. NKVD fanaticism allows 3x 2-6 Guards infantry cadres to remain defending the rubble. Axis forces hampered by cloying mud lack the mobility to assemble a strong enough overrun force in exploitation but a stack with an effective strength of 30 points is formed ready to overrun the rump next turn.

Air War:  The Axis forces are singular in their intent and all missions are DAS. Dog fights here and there with the VVS interceptors result in 3 Aborts of Soviets and 1 Luftwaffe Abort. South of Voronezh a Rumanian IAR80 goes head-to-head with a Mig13 and eliminates it. 

Combat Report:

Soviets Isolated = 20, Air=1

1943 APR I Soviet Turn

Turn Report

Partisans: 2 rail cuts.

Finnish front.  The Axis defence of Murmansk will be a tough nut for the Soviets to attack with 5 full strength mountain divisions including Nord securing the perimeter. These troops can be easily supplied by sea from Norway. The Soviets will need to assemble a strike force able to maximise attack success possibilities so any further advance against the city will be halted. They will also need to construct more airfields to attempt a bombing campaign on the port to reduce the Axis re-supply capacity but will also need long range bombers flying in from the south to minimise RP expenditure and these units are in short supply.

At the moment they are prepared to play the long game and are not minded to use guards assets in this theatre. 

To the south and west the long march north continues, and the last Axis unit is surrounded. It will be starved out.

April 1943: The Nothern Front

April 1943: The Nothern Front

Leningrad front. All offensive operations directly south have now ceased with the tank corps’ withdrawn to Leningrad for strategic redeployment.  On the Kalinin sector a single attack is launched against a 21 point stack north of the city. The defenders avoid losses by abandoning their prepared position and withdrawing 16 miles westward.

Moscow Front: With three NKVD units to provide political fervour the Soviets launch a surprise attack against the central west Moscow hex (the sole remaining in Axis hands) With engineers nullifying the adverse modifier the low odds 2:1 attack goes in but achieves a AR changed to a NE by the NKVD ensuring no retreats despite the resolute Axis resistance. Those in the Soviet command who objected to the attack on the grounds that it would prematurely alert the Germans to the possibility of such an attack are vindicated.

Voronezh Front: Still unable to attack the ring of steel around Voronezh the Soviets continue their broad front attack south of the city pushing back Axis the line 16 miles and inflicting 18 point losses on the Axis. They closely miss overrunning some valuable truck units behind the front line as retreating Axis cadres cover the rear preventing any meaningful exploitation.

April 1943: The Southern Front

April 1943: The Southern Front t

Stalingrad Front no action.

Air War; 8 deep raids are a complete flop inflicting no hits.  Similarly battles for fighter superiority in the Moscow area inflict a single loss on the Axis at the cost of 4 losses on the Soviet attackers.

Combat Report

Attacks= 6
Losses Axis = German Isolated = 4,  Un-isolated = 1x  fort, Italian = 12, Hungarian = 8, German Air = 1
Soviets = 14, Air = 4
Loss Ratio for the turn: All Axis/Soviets = 0.52

1943 APR I Axis Turn

AGS is desperately fighting to capture Voronezh from the Soviets before the start of the Summer Campaigning season.  The battle has been ranging for the city over the last two months and the struggle is nearing its conclusion. The following is an analysis of Axis options.

Analysis of a battle

for Voronezh and adjacent fort:

Strategic Overview – The Soviet counteroffensive which blunted and reversed the German attempt to end the game by the isolation of Leningrad and Karelia has now run its course in the north. The Soviets have throughout the winter pressed forward in central Moscow and the Axis now only hold 1 hex of the city. In the South the Axis Summer 1942 offensive gained the great bend of the Don and Rostov. The front line runs from that city north around the bend of the river then running around the west side if Voronezh, all the time in contact with the Soviet fortified defensive MLR. North of Voronezh the lines then diverge running north to Tula which is a large 7 hex fortified hub anchoring the southern end of the Soviet defence of Moscow district. Again in direct face to face contact the opposing forces follow the river line to Moscow then directly north through Kalinin to the Valdai hills where the lines turn westward through to north of Veliki Luki. From here the lines diverge again to swing directly north. Lake Piepus separates the forces to the Baltic at Narva.

Voronezh area in detail: Just south of Voronezh the geography and rail net is such that the Soviet fortified line east of the upper Don was out of supply while the Axis to the West were in supply part stretched by truck transport.  Thus the Axis attempt to gain some momentum by attacking this section of the line with the hope of drawing off some forces and easing the pressure on the retreating Axis forces north of Moscow an aspiration, unfulfilled was to cut the main line north from Stalingrad forcing a wide detour for enemy forces moving north.

The attack was launched and initially made good ground against the out of supply Soviet defenders stalling when Soviet reserves reached the front and the Soviets retreated into a supplied position.

However the Axis took advantage of Soviet weakness and lack of mobile reserves in the area and swung North behind Voronezh with a second pincer moving from the north. These met and isolated a pocket containing the city and 4 stacks of units including Voronezh and an adjacent fort.  Two turns of pocket reduction have resulted in the current situation.

This comprises an isolated pocket of the city itself and a fortified clear hex immediately to the southwest of the city. The Soviet front line is separated from the city by a single hex occupied by strong Axis (mainly German) mobile forces too strong for in-theatre Soviet forces to unseat.

The conundrum faced by the Axis forces is what action to take next.

Options;

The Axis face a number of options

  1. to attempt to eliminate both Voronezh and the adjacent fought in two simultaneous attacks in one turn
  2. to eliminate Voronezh leaving the fort for later conquest
  3. to eliminate the Fort leaving Voronezh for later conquest
  4. to leave both hexes until they become half strength due to supply difficulties
  5. to initiate a siege and attempt to starve out the defenders

In considering these options the Axis commanders are conscious of the following facts

  1. That the Date is now April I and that the winter thaw has begun in the south and there is a possibility of clear weather in two or three turns time.
  2. That delay would enable the Soviet forces to muster additional troops to relieve the city or to mount a counter offensive against the flanks of the incursion.
  3. That it is clear that the Soviets are not committing all their forces to their current assaults and that there is a build-up of offensive forces preparing for their major summer offensive at a point or points as yet undetermined.
  4. That the strategic initiative for the summer of 1943 will be with the Soviet forces and it is vital therefore to extract all mobile Axis forces to a reserve position to any offensive.

On the tactical level the city and adjacent fort are both stacked to the full with 26 and 21 points respectively. The city has NKVD political troops present which would prevent the retreat of cadred survivors and there are three Guards infantry divisions present which would give a residual post combat value of six points. Even if these were halved owning to a deteriorating supply condition any overrun or attack would be halved due to the city so over-run in the mechanised phase is unlikly.

Considerations

Options four and five are not considered advisable given the timeframe available and are quickly discounted.

The Axis consider the other 3 options in detail.

The Tactical situation

Voronezh is surrounded on three sides by rivers the adjacent Fort to the Southwest clear hex also has rivers on three sides, one of which is that between the city and the Fort. The total number of hexes surrounding the pair is eight of which two have the opportunity of contributing their strength to either hex.

Available Axis forces

In considering available forces I have included all those which could reach any hex adjacent to the defending units by normal movement and have for the purpose of simplicity excluded rail movement from any distance.

Option one  of attacking both the fort and adjacent city in one turn is examined by a crude examination of the force ratios to avoid moving units prematurely. Axis stacking points are reasonably evenly distributed around the perimeter although do vary in terms of the strength. They have available a total of 25 divisions 17 non-divisional units and 16 artillery units. In addition there are a number of railguns which can be added to any attack on Voronezh. A simple calculation will show that there is an excess of one division and one non-divisional unit which can be committed from those available. A German infantry division and an Italian ski unit are excluded. A count of the total strength which can be brought to bear against the two hexes divided by the number of hexes reveals an average gross combat strength of 28 per hex excluding artillery.

However due to the terrain it is necessary to modify this figure to account for the rivers and the city. Of the total hexes three are across rivers into Voronezh giving an effective strength of 7 each; One hex is across open terrain into the city while two are across rivers into the Fort thus each of these hexes would have an effective strength of 14. The remaining two hexes are open ground into the fort and thus unmodified. This produces a total non-artillery contribution of 119 factors with 25 additional unmodified artillery points. Added to this are 18 siege railgun factors which will be directed at Voronezh and are doubled producing total attack strength of 180 points.

The 180 attack points is divided by the total defence strength of 57 points. Both hexes enjoy -1 modify because of the fort modifier and a lack of engineering assets against the city.

This is very crude analysis does not allow for the shifting strengths between the two targets from the co-joined hexes but nevertheless it shows convincingly that the attack ratio will be in the region of 3:1  and with a -1 modifier this is an unacceptable risk both in terms of exchanges and the possibility of a retreat which would eliminate further units from those holding the perimeter where Soviet forces outside the ring are adjacent to the attackers.  Accordingly, therefore an attack on both hexes must be discounted.  This leaves only options 2 and 3.

Option two or three, an attack on either the Fort or Voronezh In considering which of the two hexes to attack first the Axis are mindful of a number of factors. If they attack the city first and are successful, the incentive for Soviet forces to continue to press the counterattack will be diminished as it would only be rescuing a small force within a fort. On the other hand the fort can be more easily eliminated as it is slightly weaker and less well protected by rivers.

The final factor of consideration is the NKVD political unit. If the attack on the city goes in first the survivors can be reinforced from the fort requiring a 3 turn assault 1st to reduce the city then a similar strength attack to reduce the city reinforced from the fort and then a third attack to finish off the residue.

On the other hand if the Fort is attacked first this can be destroyed in its entirety because it doesn’t have the benefit of a NKVD defender and the city is fully stacked so no retreats would be possible by any surviving cadres.

On balance the Axis decide the safer course is to eliminate Fort first and then concentrate in full against the city attempting if possible in the two turns this will take to create a supper stack strong enough to overrun the 3xGuard cadres which would survive such an assault and thus shorten the siege by  a turn and by which time, assuming no soviet breakthrough half strength.

This having determined the size and target of the attack forces are moved into place and a detailed calculation is carried out.

The Fort is attacked at a ratio of 7 to 1 with a -1 modifier.  It is eliminated in its entirety and the Germans holding the outer ring exploit to prepare for a Soviet relief attempt.

April 1943: Battle of Voronezh

April 1943: Battle of Voronezh

Turn Report

Weather: No change Mud South of the B line, snow to the north

Finland & The Army of Norway: The last remnants of the Finish Army in the south converge in Turku and await destruction.

The Murmansk garrison counterattack a Soviet ski incursion attempting an end run along the coast and burns two RPs to bring in air cover and secure a safe attack. The perimeter is straightened but there are no RPs left for future operations.   Murmansk is supplied by sea and is a tough bastion but is the commitment of 5 mountain divisions warranted? Norway remains largely undefended and shipping troops there will reduce the supply to Murmansk. Some interesting dilemmas for the Germans here over the coming weeks and months as Soviet troops draw ever nearer to the Finish/Norwegian border.

AGN: On the Leningrad axis the annoying part supplied one hex intrusion in the line is finally attacked and nipped off.

Elsewhere the Axis forces take advantage of the scaling down of the Soviet offensive operations and extracts 3 Panzer divisions and supporting troops from the line. This reduces the defences and will potentially expose one or two hexes to a massed infantry assault but is considered a risk worth taking to form a mobile reserve against the expected Soviet Summer Offensive.

AGC: Festung Ost takes shape as fort construction continues around rail hubs and linking hexes.

AGS: Per the preamble above the fort hex adjacent to Voronezh is attacked at safe odds and eliminated without survivors. Only Voronezh itself remains to be eliminated to secure a locus of future defence in the south/central area. The Axis forces are keen to conclude this as soon as possible to redeploy the mobile forces before the summer campaigning season.

Air War:  Medium depth raids against the Soviet rail net around Voronezh eliminate 2 VVS fighters for the loss a  Hungarian aircraft.

Battle Report

Attacks = 3

Losses:
Soviet; un-isolated = 18, Isolated = 18, Air = 2
Axis: German Isolated = 2; Hungarian Air = 1