Back to the Game - Turns 11 - 20

Continuing the play test of “Third Reich 1942 - 1945″ under The Operational Art of War, we already up to Turn 34 with no major game issues, only minor details to refine. Instead of going turn by turn, I’ll switch to covering larger blocks of turns.

Finland/Karelian Front - Historically, Arctic Cicle Lend Lease Convoys unloaded at three Russian ports - Archangelsk, Murmansk and Kandalaksha. While today, icebreakers keep sea transit open all year round, this was not the case during World War 2. Taking any of these three ports serves to deprive the Soviet Union a significant portion of the materials and equipment provided by the United States and England. The details of the Lend Lease program will be covered in detail with a feature article.

The capture of the port city of Kandalaksha, about 240 km south of Murmansk, was a surprise even to the Axis leadership. The Finnish II Corps was deployed north in pursuit of remnants of the Russian 19th Army. This effectively cuts of Murmansk from reinforcements, except those arriving by sea. The situation here is effectively at a stalemate and will remain this way until reinforcements are available. For practical purposes, this means that Leningrad will have to be taken to free up the Finnish Isthmus Army and parts of Germany’s Army Group North. Historically though… Leningrad never fell despite a prolonged siege.

Army Group North and Army Group Center - All is quiet on the Eastern Front, at least from the east and south of Leningrad to Orel. Leningrad itself, is a different story. Reinforced by Manstein’s 11th Armee - two infantry corps plus the heaviest rail artillery available, Army Group North has breached the outermost defensive perimeter. This will be hard going - the Soviets have fortified positions in very good defensive terrain. They just are not getting reinforcements.

Sporadic fighting continues over control of the road and rail net between Yelets and Voronezh - 300 to 400 km south of Moscow. Soviet reinforcements to this area have arrived on such scale to temper further offensive activity.

Army Group South - The advance to the Upper Don River was not seriously contested by the Soviet Army. Consequently, the majority of the forces under Sixth Armee remain at or close to full strength. The Don River makes for a very nice defensive buffer - for both sides. This line, at its weakest, is defended by a German infantry brigade. Each Italian division is supported by a full strength German infantry regiment.

Unlike other areas, this portion of the front has no reserves available. It is also very light on armor. Aside from the Hungarian 1st Armored Field Division (with about 120 tanks of which 80 are the almost useless Pz38′s) - the whole segment boasts a mere total of 70 self-propelled anti-tank or assault guns (Marders/STG III’s) and 50 tankettes.

However, most of the German divisions now have several 75mm anti-tank guns. In an extreme situation, 8 anti-aircraft regiments/brigades, boasting up to two dozen 88mm multi-purpose flak guns can bolster the defenses. The Soviet Air Force has wreaked havoc with Axis logistics at every opportunity though, blowing bridges and rail lines, left right and center. As there is only one rail line that fully feeds the route into the Caucasus - the flak is assigned to air defense on each major bridge.

North Caucasus - XLIX Mountain Corps with the support the Italian Alpini Corps and XLVIII Panzer Korps (including Grossdeutchland Division) have pressed along the coast of the Black Sea and are closing in on Sochi. After Sochi, Sohumi, then Poti, and Batumi. Whether they will get that far is a good question. Averaging only a 15-20 km advance per week, the Soviet Army continues to bring in wave after wave of reinforcements. Every army that can be tied down here is actually good — that’s one less army elsewhere.

The Russian Army ultimately amounted to about 70 regular Armies, 5 Shock Armies, 5 Tank Armies, 12 Guards Armies, and another 16 Air Armies to top it off. Functionally, a Russian Army in 1942 was still about the strength of a large German Infantry Corps - so it is not quite as bad as it sounds.

Maikop fell far easier than anticipated, netting the first - but the smallest of the three oil field objectives. Over sufficient time, within the game, the Axis receive two chances to get a +1 point supply boost. Ultimately, it pans out that the Axis get both +1′s in this scenario. Given how quickly it was secured -it even caught me by surprise, so in this case, perhaps it caught the Russian engineers off guard, too.

Grozny offers a much bigger surprise, a +1 Supply after 4 weeks, +2 Supply after 12 weeks, and another +2 Supply after 24 weeks. This might be somewhat excessive relative to historical capabilities, but Germany only needed to procure about 10% of the Caucasus’ oil production to fulfill its wartime needs. The fall of Maikop definitely sent shivers into STAVKA - more and more forces are observed heading to Astrakahn. I have no doubt that a major offensive will be launched against my weak flank. Anticipation of this is forcing all available reserves to the area… with the added maxim that if I can’t find any, to make some…

North Africa — Now a quiet area, the English have retreated to El Alamein and the Afrika Korps is enjoying some rest and relaxation before jumping into another major offensive. It’ll need every last ounce of strength to survive the months ahead.

Coming up next — Turns 21 - 30 — Can Leningrad hold out? Will Grozny fall to the Axis onslaught? Will the Russian Army breakthrough to relieve the Caucasus from the North - or will German reinforcements arrive in time? Will they be enough? Will there be a Battle of El Alamein? What other surprises might be in store? And might they have anything to do with Vichy French forces?

The following is a video showing the full “glory” and “living space” of a traditional “board game” lay out.

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  • David

    I don’t know a whole lot about the subject, but I have one concern to present: how much would the loss of the European ports really hurt Lend-Lease acquisition of materiel? I was under the impression that most of the Lend-Lease equipment to the SU came in through Vladivostok.

    For Wikipedia’s part: “During the conflict the Pacific Route saw a steady stream of goods moved from the west coast of the United States and overall accounted for some 50% of all Lend-lease goods to the Soviet Union”

    Of course, I don’t suppose that all of the lost traffic could have been made up for through this route, but…still, something to be considered in the representation of Lend-Lease in the scenario.

    My apologies in advance if you are not the scenario creator.

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