Cardboard Wars

War is the continuation of politics by other means

Lost Victories: The Battle of Stalingrad: Jan I 1943 (Soviet)

The situation: Soviet initial phase (click to enlarge)

The Soviet turn begins with the Axis lines in disarray. The Soviets should be able to rush through and get into the Axis rear.

In a perfect world. The reality is that the Soviet supply lines are still very tight, especially in the northern sector. The circled area shows the rail line that the Axis are tenaciously hanging onto, refusing to leave and let the Soviets advance. I’m sure every post sounds like a broken record. The whole offensive hinges on this rail line.

In order to drive the Axis off this rail line and try to open that line, all Soviet reinforcements and replacements are committed to this sector (the highlighted hex). Yes, there are a lot of units stacked there, but this is legal for the initial phase, and they will spread out as the turn goes on.

Soviet initial phase – southern sector (click to enlarge)

The southern sector is pretty stable. Well, if you count the German Panzers attempting to destroy the Soviet tanks at Millerovo stable.

I anticipate losing all of them. Every last one. That may seem kind of cold, but they are doing their job! As long as the Germans are focused on them, Forces to the east are being given time to liquidate the Stalingrad Pocket. In my last post, I wrote that these forces may have overstayed their welcome, but as I reviewed the situation, I remembered the reason they were there to begin with, and they are accomplishing their mission.

The squeezing of the pocket (click to enlarge)

The Germans have attempted to surround them, but have left areas where the tanks can hopefully escape. Since winter brings about reduced Zones of Control, it is easier to move from ZOC to ZOC, and that is what the Soviet armored formations attempt to do. This also means that the screen is breaking down, and that the Soviets must liquidate the pocket as fast as they can.

To this end, four of the five stacks trapped in the Stalingrad pocket are attacked. The weakest are chosen for destruction, and the combat odds range from 5:1 to 9:1. All stacks are destroyed, except for 1 unit. The 16th Panzer cadre escapes west to the last bastion of the 14th Panzer Army. However, as I look at this now, it looks as though that escape was a mistake. The entire division should have been eliminated due to the results of the combat in that hex.  In the end it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything. It’s also not the first mistake made, I’m sure.

But the German pocket has now been reduced from 5 hexes down to 1,

In the north, now that I am looking at it again, has few attacks. There is one attack that I either missed or for whatever reason, I chose not to perform. First things first.

Northern sector combat (click to enlarge)

The picture shows an attack just outside Voronezh, but I ended up calling it off. There was a 1 in 6 chance that half the attacking force would be eliminated, and  Voronezh would become vulnerable. There was a 3 in 6 chance that the Germans would have taken casualties, and a 1 in 3 chance of essentially nothing happening at all (attacker effect or attacker retreat). I forgot the NKVD rule that had the result been attacker retreat, the Soviets in Voronezh would have ignored that result.

I called it off due to nerves.

The possible combat results (click to enlarge)

A close look at the map shows a stack that has a single defense point (in Hungarian colors). This is a stack of engineers that I could not overrun this hex because there were not enough movement points available. Just above that, there is another Axis stack that has a defense strength of 15, and for some reason, I chose not to attack this hex. Could have been the rough terrain, or the fort in the hex. The attack would have had a total DRM of -3 (see graphic to the right).

I probably should have taken the chance to push the Axis back further in both cases, but I lost my nerve. More’s the pity, I guess.

Only two combats were performed to force the Axis off that all important rail line. In both cases, the Axis were forced to back up. The Italian units lost half their strength and were forced to retreat.

The hex that is nearly completely surrounded is loaded with Hungarian units, backed up by a German infantry division. The Germans send Ju-87Ds as defensive support, but their escorts miss the interceptors and the Ju-87s are shot down.

Northern sector – end of turn (click to enlarge)

Deprived of air cover, the Hungarians are forced to retreat, but there is nowhere to go, and all units are eliminated. Not even the German infantry cadre can escape the wrath of the Soviets.

In the post combat exploitation, the engineers I pointed out earlier are finally overrun, tearing a 50 mile gap in the Axis lines, and almost finally claiming that all important rail line.

Southern sector – end of turn (click to enlarge)

Readers may be wondering why the southern flank of the Soviet line curls around to the east instead of advancing to meet the enemy. Having to move overland, they have moved about as far as they can, and not all of the stacks are at full strength (yet). They have formed a defensive line to keep the advancing German Panzers from striking into the rear. Unfortunately, the withdrawing Soviet tanks are not able to reach the safety of this defensive line.

Because the artillery is not motorized, it has to be abandoned as the tanks withdraw. When I go to move the other stack, I realize it is overstacked, so I have to separate a tank brigade out to move north and lead the Germans on a merry chase. I have a feeling the Germans are going to clean up the last of these armored formations next turn.

The Stalingrad pocket is almost fully liquidated. The Soviets have almost driven the Axis off the vital rail line that is holding up the offensive. Good progress for the turn, but not good enough. Time is starting to turn against the Soviets. Rostov & Kharkov are tantalizing, and just out of reach, but the Axis line is cracking. Cracking, yes, but it may hold together long enough to prevent the Soviets from attaining their goals.

We shall see.

Update that has little to do with Europa

For those who only make it out here when I post a notification on the Europa Association forum, I would like to point out that I am posting about another game series (Der Weltkrieg), a game series that covers the First World War. The game series is WWI in 4 day turns. So far, the Germans have invaded France & Belgium. I have recently acquired the Eastern Front,  so the Austrians will be invading Serbia and the Russians will move into East Prussia soon.

I still have the Italian Front & the Campaign Game to get, so I may only play through May 1915 (the Italian entry into the war) before resetting and adding the campaign game rules into the mix. Der Weltkrieg is not as complicated or as detailed as The Great War, but it is interesting to say the least. I hope it stacks up well.

If you are interested in this sort of thing,  pop on over here, be sure to check back for updates. I will post as I am able.


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