Eastern Front Series AGS, Campaign [AAR & Comments]

The Barbarossa system has been around for a long time, 22 years and counting. The first module was Typhoon in 1995, followed by the three modules AGS, AGC, and AGN, ’96,’98 and 2000 respectively. Two other modules were released in 2008 and 2010 that dealt with Kiev-Rostov and the Crimea. Of course linking rules were created, the rules have gone thru extensive revisions and the fans are fairly rabid [CSW has 20,305 post as of this writing]. Many based on AARs posted on Consim World seem to like to follow the war day by day and ‘see what happens’ historically. Large groups gather to play the whole thing or two or three modules and all of it laid out is a sight to behold. The draw here is the speactle of the Eastern Front from day 1 in total at a few days a turn. Amazing scope.

Map art work is stunning [three full maps], the counters [840] are old school small but pretty easy to read. For me the older low resolution printing of charts and tables, as well as setup charts leaves much to be desired and adds yet more space requirements to your game play area [ Each side has a set up chart with counters drawn on it, and turn by turn reinforcements, air holding boxes, a replacements track an arbitrary A4 sized thing that is both too small and too large at the same time. But these are minor quibbles, quickly over looked, as you focus on those maps! So Components get a passing grade for sure!

The Decision Space places you into the mode or Role of Army Commander for both sides managing multiple Corps at the divisional and lower scale [Battalions for Panzer and Motorized Axis formations.]. You will manage Supply, direct movement conduct combat [fairly easily] and have a 100% intelligence and control [ except air placement and stack perusal which is restricted.] Turns are 2 days long, hexes a 6 clicks across and weather is rolled for every turn. Game Play Time -This game is time consuming due to area and counter density. Each turn however once the rules are assimilated moves very quickly, arguably quick than similar scale games such as OCS. Budget around an hour a turn per side to start reducing to 30-45 minutes with familiarity.

Player Objectives are defined via VP’s which are accumulated for geographical capture or key locations [ in this campaign Kiev is a priority], time based bonus’s apply for early or on time capture and enemy units destroyed also will accrue points. The Soviets are further incentivsed or penalized depending on your view point for not conducting accumulated  ‘Mandatory Attacks’ [ attacks at a minimum effort level per turn based on some factors applied due cities lost etc]. If you fail to conduct the required attacks each one not completed costs 1 VP. Success is then judged  on a sliding scale against historical actualities.

 

Supply is a simple affair to calculate. It is not however a simple affair to manage. Calculations are 7 hexes back to a road. 21 hexes back along a road to a rail net, then an infinite distance back to a supply source.

The complexity comes with the location and progress of rail heads and the number of MSU which can be transported by either rail or road. Each supply chit has a dump side worth 2 supply pts, or a truck side worth 1. The number of truck points is defined and adjusted via scenario rules. Rail capacity is not sufficient to transport all the supply that becomes available from Turns 1 thru 10. There will always be some residual supply points that either cannot be brought onto the at start maps. These are lost. Or you can divert them using rail cap on Map F where they sit for 6 turns until action starts in the South.

Apparently new rules are in the works with 3 rated dumps. But when a dump is flipped to its transportable side you have now 1 SP not two and the other is ‘lost’ I’ll go so far as to say that the opening 6 turns of the game are a Logistics frustration that I dont understand, how it came to be or why it is structured how it is? If the game was played correctly, and if the means to move supply, place supply on board and via truck is as I believe it to be then the Axis player cannot get all of the eligible supply onto the board or move it to where it needs to be without at least losing 2 supply points a turn + or – what ever is sacrificed as troops outstrip dump ranges. I’m hoping I played the game wrong. So much so that a second campaign starting much later in the cycle is being played t assess if the issues are still there mid to late game.

This is the ground that needs to be covered in the first 6 turns!

OOB is detailed considering the date it was designed, more recent data may be applied in the upcoming 2nd edition.

Map with cities for opening of conflict., note Lvov at bottom of image.:

Combat is odds based with a maximum of +/- 3 DRM to any combat. The results do offer up some squirrel like results that puzzled me even at high odds [ 4:1 or higher], typically, supply, engineers, combined arms and terrain are your big DRM impacts -3.  With attacks made with no expenditure of supply suffering a +2 DRM [ high is typically bad in this game across the board.]. Most other DRM’s are +1 or -1.

Game Turn 1 June 22nd -23rd .

Running North to South.

Advance upon Lyuboml is repulsed.

Village of Ustilug on the rail line to Lutsk is taken.[Lug River]

Approach Pavlovka across the Bug River, and capture Sokal and push forces back via the wooded roads south of there.

Northern approaches @ border up from Lvov demonstrate fierce fighting.

Attacks across the San River have mixed success.

This image looks from North to South.

6 steps vs 1 step lost.

Mot Phase:

11th and 14th Pzr use Sokal to penetrate the Bug River. 25th Mot follows on their heels. 13th Pzr. & 16th Mot. Cross the San river via Radymno avoiding the fortifications.

Note: ASP limits combat via range and # of MSU available. In turn 1 all attacks are deemed supplied.

Soviets Game Turn #1

No attacks, limits to reaction movement, however this costs VP’ due to Mandatory attack counter, that penalizes 1 VP per mandatory attack not made.

There appears to be much love for the asynchronous nature of the Sequence of Play for this game. The intent of it is simple, how do you stymie the Soviets to show historical limitations? The implications far reaching. The Germans follow a move/shoot/mech moves again model that is common place in many games. This reflects a wide range of factors, better command and control, more refined logistical capabilities at the Division or Corps levels etc etc. The Soviets however must Mech move first, fight then do general movement with Mot. units moving just half of their MP’s in that phase. This is what is considered innovative. Why?

It obviously has a huge impact. First only Mech/Mot. units can be moved into place to conduct combat, other infantry style units may not conduct movement but can attack if adjacent. So Soviets kind of get the raw end of the deal. Which makes their limited armour very  valuable for counter attacking and places them high on the German hit list for targets right after HQ’s and possibly Arty.

This mechanism also give the Germans the chance to dance away from attacks that are infantry only, as generally those foot sloggers will take a turn to get in place then the German can toddle off in interim. There several other rules around Soviet forces that bring flavour also – NKVD rules, Tank unit proximity rules and some other nuances. All good chrome and very historical as far as we know.

The game also has a reaction movement capabilities tied to a range from declared attack hexes and proximity to HQ’s for the Soviet player.

How heavy is scripting? The historical narrative can potentially go off the rails here. If the German player is of a mind or if the Soviet player wants to break the narrative, it is well within both players means to do so. How can it not be with such a massive number of counters, expanse of terrain and flexibility of movement. Forces on the Axis side can plunge on into the Soviet heartland unsupplied, with little or no real consequence [ they can never lose steps for being out of supply] , Soviets can abandon post and run, saving armor, and protect stronger units for some eventual counter attack as the Germans close in on Kiev. That said the  narrative exposed shows us the disparate nature of the conflict and the game system drives that home very well.

Intelligence is only partially limited [no stack peeking], but a good player is going to be studying the reinforcement track and min maxing the odds of what sorts of replacements the Soviets will receive.

Game Turn #2. 24th –25th June

Map F Supply: 2 trucks max 3 wagons max. Map E 7 trucks max and 0 wagons.

Supplies received per turn: Turn 1 – 6 SP, T2-T5= 10 SP. By Turn 5 you get +2 trucks and +3 wagons. Turn 6 supply goes up to 12.

Move 4 SP onto the map per rules via RAIL as dumps on Map E and 2 via Map F rail. Turn 2 we have 10 ASP, 5 left ..10 in dumps.

Logistics as shown above and in images at the very top is simple but potentially flawed. It has a huge impact on play to as the German player not losing units via OOS impacts. All that happens is you are slowed down and face strength penalties as well as +2 DRMs. But as previously stated you can get thru this with some usage of air and engineers to square off a high value attack. Versus the Soivets who if surrounded can be isolated and will have to roll for survival. [Note we play a handful of turns with the wrong definitions of OOS for Soviets, which is later rectified].

Movement Phase –

11th Pzr. Overrun then take Lakachi [East of Ustilug] along the West-East Road. 14th Pzr. & 25th Mot. Advance just west Brody. 16th Pzr. Breach defences outside Rava, while 16th Mot, aid the attacks by 95th XX. 13th Pzr. Take Peremyshl.

At this point it appears that the attacks in turn 3 will be stymied by lack of rail access in primary or main battle area.

Soviets.

Focus on moving units to create layers and thwart overruns, move attack, overrun cadence. Begin moving HQ’s to allow support in defense. Elect to pass on mandated attacks and lose VPs.

Still sifting thru the quagmire of rules and steps on holding boxes for replacements, surely there is a better way?

Turn 3 June 26th-27th

Dry Weather. Air interdiction focuses on HQ’s. Soviet repl roll earns level 6E.

16th Mot. Overruns forces in Yavorov @ 7:1. 11th Pzr. & 25th mot. clear area between Torchin & Gordkhov.

Meanwhile 13th Pzr. loses a step on a 10 roll., 16th Pzr. loses a step and 14th Pzr. knocks the stuffing out of 32nd Tank who retreat. Germans lose 4 steps this turn taking out 11 steps in return.

While solid gains are made it seems that Lvov is a bridge too far for turn 4 historical run.


Turn 4 28-29 June.

Dry + Storm, Soviets roll a 7 for Repl.

9th and 13th Pzr clear Sambor-Rudki road seeking to isolate units. 14th and 16th Pzr. hit Lvov. An oversight in the North of Lvov gives the 75th XX and 2 armored formations a chance to attack! Lvov falls. A huge windfall fall for the Axis forces.

Other attacks along the Svinya River inflict losses, but not without cost. The 18th Mot. incurs losses in hills north of Rudki. 11th & 25th cross river north of Brody.

Soviets counter attack on Lvov @ 3:4 earning a retreat….the breakout near Rudki fails also.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9th and 13th Pzr clear Sambor-Rudki road seeking to isolate units. 14th and 16th Pzr. hit Lvov. An oversight in the North of Lvov gives the 75th XX and 2 armored formations a chance to attack! Lvov falls. A huge windfall fall for the Axis forces.

Other attacks along the Svinya River inflict losses, but not without cost. The 18th Mot. incurs losses in hills north of Rudki. 11th & 25th cross river north of Brody.

Soviets counter attack on Lvov @ 3:4 earning a retreat….the breakout near Rudki fails also.

 

Turn 5 June 30- July 1

Dry weather. Luckily air is in range for our plans, as I had not been watching this for either side.

9th and 13th Pzr attack Stryy. 16th Mot. and supporting forces clear highway East of Lvov. 14th Pzr. attacks towards Zbrov and Body is surrounded! 11th and 25th Mot. advance upon Verba. This turn 5 Soviets surrender.

Soviets.

Isolated units attack sth west @ 3:1 +2 DRM. Roll a 9….2steps and a retreat.

Turn 6 July 2-3

South Map F now comes into play. 11th Army attack along a broad front to probe for weakness on and near the Prut River. Karpeny falls, the Axis team take Brynzeny and Ungeny.

LAH clear area near Stryy, Rogatin falls to 13th Pzr. while 14th take the ground at the outskirts of Temopol in a 10:1 smack down. 25th Mot. clears the low hills near Kremenets. And 11th Pzr attacks and is repulsed from Verba losing a step of armour.

During the Soviet turn forces stream into secondary defensive positions and adjust their line in the south. A line begins to form along : Korets-ProkurovpKhotin inside the Ukraine border

Situation overview

Turn 7, July 4th – 5th.

Weather is clear again, soviets roll a 7 again for replacements. [Image]

German infantry begin making impactful attacks, the 44th assaults Lutsk, additional infantry units strike again at Verba clearing units near the area. Part 11th Pzr. supported by 25th Mot assault past Ostrog while the rest of 11th Pzr. take Yampol. With the ground before Temopol cleared 13th,14th and 16th Pzr mount a significant attack clearing the town. 16th Mot. take out a Soviet HQ near the Stypa River, while a lone soviet arty unit falls prey to 9th Pzr. near Stanislov.

MAP F

Rumanian [RO] attack Yedyntsy and air interdict Beltsy. 23rd NKVD block the road to Kishinev and air support attacks go in.

Again we are seeing a fundamental supply issue. The counfluence of available counters, versus supply received and the ability to move it or lose it is frustrating in these opening turns.

Soviets make several smaller mandated attacks all ending in either retreats or eliminations. One near Temopol, and another near Chorkov. The Axis forces at this time plan to forego ASP support attacks and eat or negate the malus +2 DRM fo unsupplied attacks.

Soviets forces align again and in the south seek to deepen defences at key road junctions.

 

Turn 8 July 6-7th

Weather is dry +Storm. Soviets roll 9 on support table which gives 5+3E+1A+R – which if taken costs 1 VP. [see image above]

Axis forces attack Verba again at 4:1 +2 this time clearing the town. North of Brody a attack goes in @ 9:1, German and Axis forces do a modicum of supply shuffling and alignment of forces allowing some infantry and lower units to catch up to the armour.

The above image captures the concept that we wanted to execute against. Where possible put the Soviets on the horns of a dilemma. Here we make them either abandon post or suffer attrition for being

OOS [Note it seems the Supply /OOS attrition rule was played incorrectly, in part of this game play, as Soviet units ALSO have to adjacent to a Axis unit AND OOS] . While chances a re not high all units will die, some will. Or do you allow the Axis an easy advance by leaving posts?

Turn 9 July 8th-9th

Dry weather remains the order of the day. Soviets roll a 3 for support earning just 4 Infantry replacements and 3 SP and one motorized unit.

The primary focu is taking Proskorov this turn which requires a significant massing of force. The effort is rewarded with Soviet elimination. It ended up taking 3 armoured formations and support units to crack it. NE Brody road clearing continues. Further west the OOS forces are driven into a smaller pocket and towards map F the Germans seek to pocket a large Soviet group of unit.

RO force cross the Dnester river @ Rybnitsa [ this is an error we fixe later due to scenario rules]

The Soviets are flummoxed about the south, the area is wide open from Yompol-Rezina. OOS rolls kill off units

Here we can see that advance has outstripped supply line reach back to converted rail. Regardless the Axis press on. As there are few consequences.

Turn 10 July 10th-11th.

Mud. Finally a break for the Soviets. This means several things, besides slower movement. Supply distance is shrunk, and armour has no ZOC!

In the south the area near Rbynitsa units are placed in Emergency supply. Soviets roll up a 9 for replacements. Its at this point we realize that RO units cannot enter Ukraine yet. So we look to reverse that and move Germans up!

10th Pzr division armor focus on the North South line near Proskurov and look to target Vinnetisa and Beroichev.

Not much happens in this turn due to mud, the Germans consolidate, move rail heads and truck supply where possible, converting dumps to truck automatically losing 1 supply point for each dump converted to a truck format.

What is the Soviet game plan here…other than be a punching bag. Pull way back, build strong points and hold on? Pull armour out and build a counter punching force? – where, when do you use it, how do we avoid the German massing of force? I think its pretty clear here that we must not ‘play as the Soviets executed in reality’ which is what I feel like we are doing here.

In the South the Soviet cluster around townships and key junctions.

Game Turn 11 July 12th -13th.

Dry. German supply of MSU units goes to 6. This helps a lot. German forces can now shuttle supply more efficiently.

Despite this extra support the German press ahead of their supply chain. Screw it at 8-9-10 :1 They can eat the +2 DRM penalty .

Thus it begins attacks roll out as follows:

25th Mot. Sheptovka, Khmelnik by 16th Pzr. and 60th Mot. 11th Pzr and elements from 60th Mot. plus infantry units attack across the Bug. Recon unit from 14th Pzr try the defenses of Bar and are repulsed. In the south on Map F forces mass near Sth Dnestr and Rybnitsa. SS LAH 4th GEB and 90th Light take Cherovitsy.

Soviets move back…again. Build SP’s – Strong Points, bring more reinforcements on via rail.

Summary of situation at start of turn 12.

Turn 12, 14th and 15th of July

Weather is dry again. In the North, Berdichev falls to attacks from 11th and 16th Pzr. 16th Mot. takes Krasnopol. A significant lump of forces in the south pivot NE. and continue to Vinnitsa – Proskurov.

 

It is at this point that I call the game.  I think I’ve seen enough as a solo player to understand the mechanics of the game and to see that this is a solid system, with some early game quirks related to supply, transports and rail capacity. The question is does that continue deeper into the game or not?  Makes me wonder if similar issues occur in AGC & AGN. The opening turns where supply is being lost is really very, very frustrating.

I can only put it down to my poor play or not understanding the rules. However a few questions on line reveals that the new version of this system is indeed taking on a revision of Supply Depot capacities and other changes, which was my primary beef.

Tying the depots to trucks [by flipping] is really really annoying, as you lose a SP for ‘no reason’, I dont know if that is being addressed or not.

All that said, this would..or could..be awesome played opposed. I hope to do this via vassal with a friend. We are setting up UMAN Pocket. With an opposed play I’ll be able to make a more informed opinion on what I think of the system as  whole. It clearly is designed for Pre Soviet role reversal due to the sequence of play. I cannot see some massive offensive being planned with that hobbling Soviet sequence, especially post 42.

To an extent the game plays pretty quickly, the combat resolution is rapid, the air war is there but abstracted enough to not make a ‘2nd game of it’ and the movement rules once resolved for the odd hexside crossing are fine.

I dont know that this would replace OCS for me on the Eastern Front, but both systems seem to favor the uber mensch German machine, and treat the Soviets like a punching bag early game [1941-1942], which while true does not really see the attrition or wearing down of the Germans that we know happened. For the price point I think one would have to be a huge fan of Eastern Front conflict to justify buying into it as an OOP title, and the price would have to right for the new series planned., for me to consider the huge investment in dollars, time and space.

 

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