Session Report, October 29, 2011 and November 5, 2011:
With not a little anticipation, Dan and I sat down to our first S&T operational game since the abortion that was Bastogne. I had read a lot about this game, and most had fond memories of it. Construction of the game was something of an effort, not quite as bad as Bastogne, but still taking about five hours. I think the final result was attractive and playable. Of course, Lorelei drew the box art.
Eager to get into the game and knowing little about the best way to proceed, I set up my Russians in a very lackadaisical fashion. In the back of my head was the knowledge that this was a very tough game for the Germans, and I didn’t want it to be over too quickly. Be careful what you wish for!!!
October, 1st Week (German)
As can be seen, Leningrad starts the month isolated. Germany elected to avoid my strong defenses in front of Moscow, instead dividing into two flanks. He quickly enveloped the two 4-3s on my left flank, and his forces trudged across the hills south of the Pripet Marshes in order to sever the rail link between my two capitals.
October, 1st Week (Russian)
I took know time in doing what I do best, establishing a defensive perimeter around Moscow with plenty of collapse room. In the North, my unsupplied forces west of Leningrad had a lucky break and destroyed some of the Germans outside the city. It was not enough to break the siege, but it did make his position precarious.
October, 2nd Week (German)
Torrential rains turned plains into swamps, slowing the German advance. His forces continued to creep around to the left of Moscow while his right-flank forces consolidated their hold on the Leningrad-Moscow rail route.
October, 2nd Week (Russian)
The Russian response was to extend the Moscow defensive perimeter east of the city. A daring raid by Soviet replacements railed in to the north broke the siege of Leningrad momentarily. The situation was promising–if the rains held out.
October, 3rd Week (German)
But they didn’t. The third week of October broke with sunny skies, and the German blitzkrieg sprang again into action. The long line of Wehrmacht troops spearheaded by Panzers raced past my southern Moscow defenses cutting off one of the three lines to Moscow. Meanwhile, forces in the north trapped my relief group causing several units to become logistically isolated.
October, 3rd Week (Russian)
The Russian semi-circle in front of Moscow collapsed further and railed forces completed the eastern defenses. It was time to prepare for possible encirclement. Unable to break free of their trap in the north, Soviet soliders curses the warm sunlight as their comrades collapsed from hunger. Things were looking bleak once more.
October, 4th Week (German)
Blessedly for the Russians, the German luck did not hold. Savage rainstorms flooded roads again in the last week of October, making supply a nightmare. The southern Moscow advance stalled. The German engineers made good use of their captured railroads, however, sending forces around the northeast of Moscow. The cruel siege of Leningrad continued.
October, 4th Week (Russian)
Reinforcements arrived by rail, emplacing to defend the two tenuous rail lines to Moscow from the east. At the same time, fresh forces arrived by rail to the north to break the German stranglehold on the northern front. Leningrad remained surrounded, but the formerly-isolated forces were supplied.
November, 1st Week (German)
Foul weather continued to be a bane to Hitler’s forces freezing all Moscow fronts save the northern. Rivers and forts presented an unassailable barrier (while they remained filled with liquid water…) In the northeast, however, panzers closed off another rail line from the east. Only one line remained. This week also marked the first participation of the Finns who marched in to tighten the noose around Leningrad.
November, 1st Week (Russian)
Seizing the potential weakness of the overextended Germans, Soviet troops raced to cut off supply lines in the hope of isolating massive columns of Germans before Moscow was surrounded. Russian cavalry forces threatened the Moscow-Leningrad line and the Finnish railroad. Beleaguered forces in Leningrad pushed out to seize critical junctures. If the weather remained bad, it was all over for the Germans.
(and it is here that we adjourned for a week. We knew the game wasn’t over because we had already rolled for the next game-week’s weather.)
November, 2nd Week (German)
The clouds rolled away leaving the skies clear and bitterly cold. The Pripet marshes froze and the rivers presented no obstacles. It was the absolute worst turn of events possible for the Russians. This is the week the German encirclement of Moscow became complete. The grip on Leningrad tightened, threatening to starve yet more Soviet troops. Demoralization set into the Russian camp. Was this the end?
November, 2nd Week (Russian)
It was make-it-or-break-it time for the Soviets who poured forces to the defense of Moscow. They positioned themselves to cut supply for the easternmost panzers, the strongest forces the Germans had fielded. Southern Moscow defenders, though unsupplied, bravely pushed back the Germans on that front to further cut supply. Leningrad was left to wither, and soldiers fell at their positions, dying of hunger.
November, 3rd Week (German)
The clouds returned half-way through November, but this time the precipitation was snow, not rain. While this kept the swamps frozen, the plains and roads were as bad as they had been in the muddy season. The Germans desperately tried to break out of their trap, but they failed, and hundreds of tanks were left in the snow without fuel. Moscow remained surrounded, however, and the Germans prepared to storm the defenses of Leningrad.
November, 3rd Week (Russian)
No reinforcements arrived this week and only scant replacements. As a result, the Russians were not able to break the siege of either of the Soviet capitals. Forces did manage to exploit the chink in the northeastern German forces to bring some of the Moscow defenders back into supply, however. In the north, the rail was opened to Lake Ladoga, saving the Soviets on that front from further starvation.
November, 4th Week (German)
The snow continued to fall mercilessly from the sky. The Germans regrouped, managing to pocket the Moscow defenders again, but theirs was a much weaker line. The outer ring of Leningrad’s defenses were breached.
November, 4th Week (Russian)
And then the hammer of Communism fell on the German aggressors. Powerful reinforcements slammed at the Germans in the east and south utterly savaging tanks and infantry. The siege of Moscow was lifted! Strong forces in the north secured the rail to Lake Ladoga again, though Leningrad, itself, was in dire straights.
(At this point, the Germans lost any chance of winning the game, as the Germans have to isolate both cities by turn 7 and hold them through turn 10. The shoe went to the other foot–the Soviets had to counter-attack and drive the Germans off the map to score a Russian win. That will be the subject of my next session report! A review will follow soon after.)