Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Companion Guide to Episode 23.0 The "Retrosode"

The reviews/ratings for the Eastern Front games shared in this episode are from:
 As well as:
War in the East: The Russo-German Conflict, 1941-45 Strategy & Tactics Staff Study.  (The book has the same cover as the game by the same name.)

Some of the games: 
Note: these game reviews do not necessarily reflect MY opinions and span only up until around 1990.
Score: 4 stars
Score: 4 stars

Score: 3 1/2 stars
Score: 3 1/2 stars

Score: 4 stars

Score: 3 1/2 stars

Score: 3 1/2 stars

Score: 3 1/2 stars

 Score: 4 stars

Score: 3 1/2 stars

Score: 3 /12 stars

And finally, a still from the new movie Fury coming out on Nov. 14 of this year.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A "wargame" of another kind...

So a "wargame" of another kind once again comes to an end.  I had hoped it would last a little longer but the St. Louis Blues hockey club has checked out for the season getting knocked out in the first round by the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.  Looks like we'll have to continue to wait for our first Stanley Cup. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Side Project

     As many of you may or may not know, my passion resides with world war 2, specifically Europe and even more specifically the eastern front and trust me, i game this the most.  But there is something about a good old fashioned Napoleonic era game that just grabs hold and refuses to let go.  Within this particular blog, i'll be waxing on the latter in total.
     What is it about a game that causes me to admire its mechanical beauty and then compel me to dismantle it, then put it back together in my own way?  In the past I've pointed at the dormant designer within me, that sleeping giant that occasionally yawns loudly enough to demand attention.  Well, he's been yawning quite a lot these days.
     The latest side project is turning into an ongoing lingering table surfer of the breed that refuses to move on, content to lay about and showing no signs of leaving any time soon.  Luckily that's just fine with me.
     The situation:
What we have here is a hybrid, mutated version of a game that vaguely resembles its former self, grafted onto another game which has suffered a similar fate.  Battles of Napoleon has provided me with many hours of entertaining play, but perhaps just as entertaining was my endeavor to reverse engineer it.  Point of fact, this fate has befallen many a game, but unlike previous forays and attempts, this time is different.  There seems to be some sort of coagulation going on.  That is to say, that which tends to be in motion, to an often chaotic extent has begun to slow to a near, accessible, analyzable pause.
     Let me back up.  The game Battles of Napoleon (hereafter denoted as B.O.N) is basically a set of Napoleonic miniatures rules, tidied up and tightened up for mass consumption.  That sounds bad right?  Not at all.  Of all the Nappy mini rules out there, and there are more than a lot, to find the correct/proper balance within a single rules set can be quite daunting.  Not that i've played them all, but it reminds me of Goldie lox and the three bears.  This game has too many dice throws, this game too much chrome, this game not enough and on and on.  B.O.N. is the porridge that is just right.  Included within the game is a chart for morale checks, a chart for melee combat, a chart for fire combat, plastic figures, cards (used for resolving combat and adding tactical flavor), and a fair amount of command and control.  One of the more interesting game mechanics includes unit groups which are color coded and correspond to a particular unit group leader.  When orders are assigned, each order has a numerical value which determines the sequence of unit activation, a process that may include either side.  This effectively and simply negates the you go I go system.  
     Then you have a game called Napoleon's Triumph.  A game the design of which should have a corresponding holiday.  From its slim rectangular blocks to its map which consists of spacious areas as opposed to hexes (B.O.N.)   This game is the grail of Napoleonic board games.  The position of the blocks within a particular area is crucial to game function and works brilliantly.  So after a few plays, I "strip" this too.
      So the first thing I do is to rid myself of the cards.  Not that it didn't work.  It worked rather well providing an inability to predict any particular combat result.  But my overall approach here was that of streamlining to such an extent that austerity itself might nearly become a function of the game.  In its place, I systematize the Combat results into a table and incorporate 2d6 as opposed to the 1d10 that drove B.O.N. thus allowing for special cases when rolling doubles.
Next I replace the figures with blocks from Commands and Colors Napoleonics, and though it has the right look, it doesn't have the right feel.  The next immediate candidate was the blocks from Napoleon's Triumph (N.T.)  Actually, what I had was a homemade version of these blocks.  With the blocks from N.T., each block has one particular strength, which aids in two player play.  But again, I lean towards what I know and solitaire play is it.  So rather than incorporating multiple blocks to represent the varying strengths of a single block, I simply depict the strengths on each side of the block (more minimalism).
I keep the game board from B.O.N. (which any board I create would be very similar too) not only for its aesthetic, but the hex sizes.  It is the hex sizes within which the pieces reveal their orders and completely does away with an orders chart.  Here I borrow a somewhat similar theme from N.T.  Pieces pushed toward the front of the hex=attack, pieces towards the rear of the hex=defend, and those in the middle=maneuver.  Reserve has more or less been axed (I never found myself willingly wanting to place a unit group in reserve) though a solution for this could be easily remedied.  Each piece has two sides of strength depiction: The top is what is in play.  So if a two strength unit loses one strength point, simply flip the block to depict the new strength.  Facing is not a problem as one has a couple of ways to deal with this including the use of a blank side to represent the front.   Units typically consist of two blocks but this is not always the case.  This merely serves as a kind of carry over from B.O.N. which aids in depicting line formation.  (As a result of casualties, if only one block is left, it is considered to be in column.)
     Within B.O.N. cards are also used to represent varying units as well as leaders and tactic bonuses.  The cards allow for varying stats when it comes to melee, fire, morale, etc.  Again, like the CRT, I have systematized these to a base number for infantry, cavalry, and artillery, as well as French and British.  As for the leaders, each side will have roughly five leaders which are represented by tiny blocks with roman numerals from one to five. The numbers of each represent the overall average of a number of numerical strengths with one being the worst and five representing the Commander in Chief.  But there is another reason for this,  chit pull!  Five corresponding chits for each side are placed in a cup and drawn during a turn.  Each leader may activate any one group (which is different from B.O.N which places restrictions on a leader's ability to activate any other group than his own) which he is adjacent to, limited to only one group activation per turn. 
The command "chain" now only extends one additional hex.  So if a leader is adjacent to a unit then any unit adjacent to that unit is also in command but that is where it ends.  There are no wildly, long snake like chains of command in this game.
       Of minor note is all the counters that come with B.O.N to represent various states.  This too was boiled down so that units which are: disordered, routed, in square etc. are easily recognized with a simple colored block.
     So in all, the design bug continues to bite.  I've been teething on others finished projects but I think its a necessary function of the design process.  After all, there is no such thing as originality.  Its all been done before, in every aspect of life, not just games. However, one thing we can still do is tailor something so that it reflects our own tastes, our own likes and in the end stands out as a reflection of ourselves.

Note: the custom CRT can be found on BGG under files in Battles of Napoleon: The Eagle and The Lion.

Remaining possibilities:  Upping the 1d10 to 2d6 for Morale checks.  This would allow special events to occur upon rolling box cars (something akin to berserk or blood lust)  or snake eyes (some as yet to be determined, adverse affect.)  As a result of using 2d6, the magic number for passing a morale check would be upped to 13 (after factoring in bonuses etc.) or greater.  Yet, for some reason, keeping the 1d10 for morale checks adds diversity to the dice (trivial I know, but appealing for some reason.)

Additionally, the tactical bonuses that occur through card accumulation, could be boiled down to a random events chard which is activated and rolled on when a particular chit is pulled. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Episode 22 Supplementary Material

“I had never seen and never again saw such a vast number of corpses in such a small area. The Germans had made a hopeless attempt to extricate themselves…we had not planned a bloodbath.” –Zhukov
     With the Korsun offensive, the Red Army demonstrated an evolving ability to carry out complex operations. (This wasn’t your grandma’s Red Army of ’41) With the Korsun offensive, the intention was to eradicate a large German presence along the west bank of the Dnieper river, which posed a threat to the flanks of the 2 soviet fronts, as well as the city of Kiev. But the Operation was only partially successful as it failed to completely destroy the Germans trapped within the pocket. The lessons learned here and the tactics used would become fine tuned and serve As the standard for soviet operations in the future, including: Operation Bagration, among others.
      Here the Russians laid the foundation of deception, diversion, deep armor thrusts, overwhelming force ratios as well as selected narrow breakthrough points, and synchronized operations between fronts which incorporated all combat branches.
     Prior to this, similar operations rarely occurred and produced only minor success barring of course Stalingrad. After this, successful operations of this type became common place.
     Launched in mid winter, the soviets attempted to deceive German armor, and encircled most of 2 German Corps equal roughly to 58,000 men and ripped a hole 100 kilometers wide in army group south’s main defensive line. Swift German reaction caused problems for the Soviets, who underestimated German capabilities.
     Within this operation, the soviets expected a 2nd Stalingrad, a Stalingrad on the Dnieper, but it wouldn’t happen as German panzer divisions ensured the event would turn into a tug of war rather than a push over. Yet, 40,000 Germans would escape, and the possibility of destroying the entire southern wing of army group south slipped through the red army’s hands. Instead, only 2 German corps were expunged from the German order of battle and as it turned out, the price for this was more costly then the Soviets had intended it to be, but it’s the lessons learned that were so valuable.
     On the other side, only too many Germans were all too willing to place blame on Hitler (some deservedly so) or the sheer numbers they faced, or the weather. But seldom did the Germans give credit to the Russians for evolving into a formidable foe. True 3 years of attrition had taken its toll on the Germans but, during this operation the Germans would face a roughly equal number of armor. The Soviets too tended to pat themselves on the back a little too heartily, long after the fact, stating that the operation was a complete success in every respect-the fascists were crushed and the encircled grouping was “liquidated.” Other accounts laud Soviet technique and capability but at the time the situation was much more tenuous.     
     Background: “The time for grand style operation in the east is now past.” –Hitler
     You might say that for Germany, what was begun in Kursk, ended at Korsun. It was roughly 1943 and army group south fell back to the relative safety of defensive positions along the Dnieper river. These consisted of the Panther-Wotan lines which provided Hitler with a false sense of security. Eventually, the soviets broke through and pushed the Germans away from the Dneiper, that is, except for a portion that stretched from Kanev in the North to a few kilometers North West of Cherkassy, all told, this German hold out only existed because A: the soviets had yet to give it the proper attention and B: because of Hitler’s stand fast decree. Unfortunately, Hitler saw potential in this area (thought he might use this as a stepping stone to re-take Kiev) , rather than correctly recognizing it as a reliability. Eventually the soviets came to see the salient as an opportunity of their own, being that it was wedged between the two flanks of the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian fronts making it prime for encirclement.
     Jan. 44, For 2 and a half years the war had grinded on and for 2 and a half years the Soviets had been engaged in a crash course of strategy and tactics. Hitler should have recognized this after the likes of Stalingrad and Kursk.
      Believe it or not, by Jan. of ’44 the Soviets were suffering a shortage of manpower having lost over 3 million men in ’41 alone. To reflect this, many infantry divisions were operating at less than half strength. AS a result, men from countless villages were conscripted. But the problem was that these men were inexperienced and this may have contributed to a German breakout. Not that the Germans didn’t have their own manpower issues, having lost 800,000 men in ’41 themselves.
     By mid Jan of ’44, to say that the 1st panzer and 8th armies were overextended, exhausted and decimated was and understatement and more, Hitler insisted on defending every inch of territory so freeing up any one to help out in a particular area was a challenge in itself. But if Hitler would have just allowed even a tiny step back to better defensive positions, this would have greatly eased the pressure on a number of areas. Perhaps above all, in the back of every German’s mind was a fear of encirclement abandonment as had occurred in Stalingrad.
     Tanks: The Germans had the panther but the Russians had the t-34 and I guess you can argue all day which one was better and never really get anywhere. The Russians also had The Joseph Stalin II with its 122 mm gun. At Korsun, the Soviets may have enjoyed 5-1 odds in armor, but the Germans made up for this in crew training, leadership and command/control (every German tank had a radio).
     Artillery: The soviets had 7 to 12 times the artillery the Germans had. Fortunately for the Germans at Korsun, the usual rates of fire required to sustain the offensive was hampered do to supply routes. Perhaps more than anything, Soviet artillery proved more psychologically devastating than anything else.
     Unlike Stalingrad, the Luftwaffe proved capable of supplying the Korsun pocket but regardless of this fact, the soviets were actually faring much better supply wise as they had thousands of 4 wheel drive studabaker and Ford trucks acquired through the U.S. Lend Lease program. German trucks on the other hand were two wheel drive and so became stuck way more often. Also regarding German Supply: They had a ton of non essential, creature comforts. The Soviets focused on fuel and ammo, were capable of living of the land and were making use of captured German supplies.
       Soviet strategy up to this point: The soviets had been trading space for time. Only when an opportunity to counter attack presented itself did they do so.
     Regarding soviet encirclement doctrine: consisted of forming not one but two rings, and inner and an outer ring. The inner was comprised of armor while the outer was made up of artillery and infantry. There were also 3 phases involved: 1) Penetrate the enemy flanks 2) Conduct the actual encircling with mechanized units 3) Liquidate the encircled force For the Soviets, the destruction of forces vie encirclement was a badge of honor and often times this tactic was used while another may have proved better suited and yielded greater gains. And contrary to popular belief, soviet commanders were afforded a modicum of freedom in carrying out field operations. They weren’t necessarily as restricted and unimaginative as one might think. In fact, one could more effectively blame the lower echelon of soviet field commanders for failures at this time then actual soviet doctrine. Oddly, the Germans who had once gained much success through a freedom of command, was dealing to a great extent, with the unrealistic whims and orders of Hitler.
     The Germans, who had once been the master of encirclement, was now having to become just as adept at getting out of them, and would often times do amazingly well, so much so that a U.S. army pamphlet written on the subject would use specific examples as its models (Velikiye luki, Cherkassy or Korsun-shevchenkovsky as well as kamenets-podoskiy.)
     Summary: Where the Germans once enjoyed a decisive advantage in skill, experience, and training, the soviets were rapidly improving. What is more, battlefield freedom once enjoyed by the Germans was now restricted to Hitler’s approval for ex. the stand fast order. Finally, soviet encirclement doctrine was maturing in parallel with the forces and commanders that would implement it.
     The Plan Of Attack: Why attack? Namely because the Soviets saw this salient as a threat to their flanks, additionally, it disallowed soviet freedom of action as it prevented close cooperation between the fronts. Of more importance was that from this area a deep attack into the rear or the flank might occur. Finally, to say that the Soviets were just plain keeping a nervous eye on Manstein wouldn’t be inaccurate. But perhaps another incentive was the fact that soviet intelligence had determined that the entire German 8th army could be “bagged” and another Stalingrad repeated.
     Typically the Red Army would have just driven deep into German lines, but past experiences with this tactic was proving less than satisfactory especially when faced with the brilliant tactics of a man like Manstein, so the Soviets had decided to “play it safe” and simply encircle the salient.
     On Jan 12 of 1944 the order was given for the first and second Ukrainian fronts to begin maneuvers. The unusual thing was that soviet commanders: Vatutin and Konev had only been given two weeks to prepare. The plan was fairly straightforward, Konev’s second Ukrainian front would attack in the east, using the fifth guards tank army as the tip of his spear. He planned to pass them through the attacking infantry who was tasked with removing German Positions in the vicinity of Kapitanovka. Once clear of the front line, this army would drive to the base of the salient and seize the towns of shpola and Zvenigoradka, thus cutting the German lines of communication to the salient. The fifth guards tank army would then link up with the sixth tank army from Vatutin’s 1st Ukranian front attacking from the west near Tinovka.
     Now you have to remember that this attack was taking place almost right after the attacks on Zhitomir-berdichev and Kirovograd which meant the forces involved were under strength and exhausted.
      Finally, on the morning of Jan. 25, the Soviets began to move. Zhukov expected the encirclement to take 2-3 days and it did. He also expected the liquidation of the encircled forces to take another 3 – 4 days and here he was wrong, having greatly underestimated German capabilities. The Soviet commanders had placed the utmost faith in their combat power, diversionary attacks and deception efforts which may account for such wild optimism regarding the success of the operation. In actuality, two rings of encirclement ensued, the inner ring, purposed with the task of destroying the encircled forces and an outer ring which fended off any relief attacks. Massive soviet artillery barrages softened up hardened defensive areas.
     German Response: Stemmerman, with no reserves, had merely 35,000 men and 50 tanks to throw at the 2nd ukranian front while three battered divisions faced Vatutin’s 1st Ukrainian front. Acting commander Lieb had 30,000 men and no tanks. As it was, the Soviets greatly overestimated the overall Size and strengths of the German defenders. Oddly, the German defensive lines were not deep by any means and any breakthrough could have easily been exploited by the Russians, allowing them to drive all the way to the Bug river, the Black sea, or the Rumanian frontier. The fact that they didn’t do this, choosing instead to form a Kessel, baffled Manstein. The terrain of the area was well suited to a defender, with many various commanding heights existing thus providing superb fields of fire. What is more, the soviets would have numerous issues when it came to negotiating the broken terrain and lack of improved roads. The numerous swollen rivers proved problematic for both an attack and any relief effort for the Germans. Winter in this region was typically rough, The weather forecast was for temp. hovering right around freezing with snow storms, but the spring thaw came nearly two months early, catching both sides by surprise.
     In order for the attack to succeed, Army group south had to be deceived about its time and place. Using maskirovka, to mislead the Germans in to believing the attack was anywhere but where they intended. The Russians went so far as to use mannequins and loud speakers and dummy tanks, which gave the appearance of getting ready for a major assault in a particular area. Meanwhile, the real 5th guards tank army moved north just prior to the opening phase under cover of darkness and radio silence to prepared, camouflaged staging areas. The opening was being prepared in chess like fashion, with feints here, bait there. If all worked according to soviet plan, the Germans would be watching the south and the west, instead of the center where the encirclement would take place. But for all the effort that went into the Maskirovka operation, it simply failed. The Germans weren’t exactly sure where an attack would take place, but they knew that one would and they knew it would occur sooner rather than later. German intelligence had in fact predicted that army group south would receive special attention for the remainder of the season and that they should not rule out an attempted encirclement of the Kanev salient. So though details and specifics eluded the Germans, they were in fact preparing for something. As it turns out, the Germans saw through the masquerade, correctly located the 5th guards tank army’s movement north, and correctly recognized the tanks to the west as dummies. When Konev launched a recon mission the day before the attack, he was startled to learn the Germans were expecting it.
      Logistically the attack wasn’t ready. The soviets had not had enough time to build up the amount of supply necessary.
       As it was, when the Germans realized the official attack was underway, they couldn’t believe that such an operation could be pulled off so quickly after the previous two. In fact, the Red Army had prepared in record time, sacrificing the overall time needed for necessary preparation for speed. In essence, the plan should have worked. With the implementation of maskirovka, diversionary attacks, a superiority of numbers, and the initiative. Additionally, Hitler’s stand fast decree only stood to aid the Russians, as the eyes of the OKH were now trained on Anzio and Leningrad. However, the Germans had Manstein, who was willing to disobey Hitler, not to mention his overall tactical ability. Plus the Germans were able to quickly move units from one part of the front to another. You also had the Russians underestimating German capabilities. Finally, the Germans ability to see through the maskirovka and diversionary attacks further buttressed their chances of survival. As for the Russians, poorly disciplined troops, a lack of sufficient troops and armor that might allow both encircling rings to do their job, insufficient ammo for the artillery due to mud, poor air coordinating with the ground forces and no overall command at the scene, (Zhukov could not direct commanders actions on the field) had all worked against the plan’s overall success. What is more, a deeper drive could have payed off in great dividends but the Soviets were dedicated to a concept known as Do Kantsa “to the very end” such that they cared only about destruction of the kessel at the expense of greater gains. On paper, the plan was a success, but the actual players involved proved still not quite up to the task. The 6th tank army was new and untested, the artillery couldn’t keep up with rapidly advancing tank spearheads. Soviet intel, was wrong in underestimating German capabilities, such that what should have been a rapidly executed plan quickly turned into a slugfest.
      The conduct of the operation: “You can rely on me like you would a wall of stone. You will be freed from the ring”. –Hitler
     “There is no need to worry, Comrade Stalin. The encircled enemy will not escape.” Konev
     In actuality, the korsun operation had every chance of achieving success. The relatively simple concept of operations, utilizing tank armies to conduct deep attacks to achieve the encirclement, allowed the front commanders to concentrate enormous combat power at two selected points to ensure that the encirclement could be achieved quickly and the entrapped Germans wiped out. It included an intricate deception plan that utilized both maskirovka and diversionary attacks. Preparations though hastily executed were adequate. The red army possessed other advantages for this operation as well. It enjoyed an overall superiority in numbers of tanks, guns and troops. Knowledge of German order of battle and terrain were complete, and the red army also held the initiative in that it could determine the time and place of the attack. The Germans had the unfortunate situation of being tied down to an overextended front line. The Germans were also extremely vulnerable in the kanev salient due to Hitler’s stand fast decree. The exposed salient invited a double envelopment, with its thinly held flanks and the overall exhaustion of the Germans. What is more the 42nd corps had not tanks or assault guns at all. Mansteins armor was elsewhere and Hitler seemed currently too infatuated with Anzio and Italy as well as Leningrad that he pretty much shelved the Dnieper. But regarding the overall soviet plan, perhaps most peculiar was no plan at all save the destruction or (unichtozhenie) of the encircled Germans. The initial deep attacks would not be followed up by subsequent deep attacks to keep pushing the Germans back. The Russians were devoted only to the eradication of the encircled troops, this “do kontsa” or “to the very end” ideology would cost them greater gains here and time and again in future battles.
     End game: The Korsun operation was an alarming demonstration of what the soviets had become capable of, during a time when German capabilities were diminishing. Prior to this, the Germans were able to maintain a coherent front line, and yet after this desperate breakout, things would only deteriorate further.
        Even though the Germans broke out, thus costing the Russians an overall success, this operation proved that for the soviets, Stalingrad wasn’t a fluke or some stroke of luck. Soviet operational capabilities were evolving and improving while the Germans simply refused to recognize this. Though the use of maskirovka, and diversionary attacks in this operation had failed, the soviets would only get better and better at it. Remember, the korsun operation wasn’t the grand success that The soviets would later make it out to be. And for the Germans, even though they would break out, this was no great success either as all of their equipment was ditched and roughly 1 out of 3 men were killed or taken prisoner. The overall result of the soviet operation was the bisection of army group south, which forced the Germans to vacate the Ukraine 3 months later.
     Now the Germans should have been getting déjà vu all over again as the Stalingrad tragedy had just occurred and it seems this may have been the case as 8 armored divisions were sent in to help those in the kessel break out. Outnumbered and facing a foe who was improving daily, they were able to pull it off, but it would be the last full scale bail out the Germans would muster on the eastern front. So what was going on with the Soviets? How could they pull something like this off? You could point at numbers but it wasn’t just this, the Russians were finally using these numbers in a constructive rather than destructive way. Additionally, the mobility of the red army was superior and this was due in part to lend lease trucks. There were massive artillery preparations, but most importantly the soviets were simply learning. Learning from previous mistakes, and learning from the ones they would commit at Korsun. They had become great students of The German Way of War and soviet commanders were gaining both confidence and experience. Meanwhile, the opposite was occurring for the Germans. Hitler was only helping the Soviets by refusing to allow any backward movement.
      It had taken the soviets almost 3 months to wipe out the encircled 6th army, and true with this they had bitten of a much bigger bite, but this was in stark contrast with the rapid encircling that occurred at Korsun.
     An analysis of the soviet recipe: The deep attack by 2 tank armies was extremely well executed and allowed them to punch a hole in the German lines which effectively cut off lines of communication, prior to this, the soviets really only used tanks in concert with infantry. Konev’s deception plan would have worked were his troops more adept at carrying it out. As such, its failure allowed the Germans advance notice but as the war would go on, the soviets would master the art of maskerovka. Regarding the soviet diversionary attacks, they were poorly orchestrated which tipped the soviets hand to the Germans but again this too would improve greatly as the war went on. Oddly, the soviets would continue to underestimate German capabilities. With korsun, the soviets were certain that the Germans would not be able to react quickly enough to the encirclement. However, Von Manstein proved once again, that he was a master tactician. What is more, he disobeyed Hitler’s orders to attack towards Kiev choosing instead to focus on the pocket. But manstein was a dime a dozen and as Hitler replaced various commanders (compare to Stalin’s early purges) and further implemented his stand fast strategy, the soviets were only able to use this to their advantage. The soviets also utilized Echelonment in depth. Through this, they were able to build up force ratios in certain areas and allow the Germans no breathers as fresh troops were continually fed into the battle. The use of artillery to blast a hole in a defensive position and then exploit it with armor was used rather effectively as well, though the artillery did eventually have trouble keeping up with the armor. Soviet air support on the other hand proved ineffective do to the lack of coordination with ground troops. Air elements simply attacked supply routes rather than defensive positions or attacking German armor. Again, the soviets would learn from this. Finally, the soviets only helped the Germans by underestimating their full potential. Simply put, the soviets thought the whole thing would be over in a jiffy and as a result paid way too much attention to annihilating the encircled stemmerman than was perhaps necessary. The soviets should have kept pushing the German front line back. In the future, the Soviets would drive much deeper into German lines. In a sense, the korsun pocket was an intermediate class from which the soviets would learn and perfect advanced techniques throughout 44. IT was also a litmus test, as the Germans revealed that still had a few punches to pull. Korsun was also important for here, the soviets ACTED, choosing the time and place of the operation, which limited German re-action and as a result, allowed the soviets to counter any “counter” rather quickly. Here, the soviets more or less forced the Germans into playing their game.
      Though the red army didn’t drive as deep as they should have, the attacks by the two tank armies, even while disregarding their flanks) proved the soviets capable of correctly judging the most vulnerable part of the German defensive effort. With this in mind, only the slowness of the soviet infantry and quick thinking of Lieb and stemmerman allowed the Germans to create an all around defense in the pocket. The overall synchronization of the operation seemed too slow once the German front line had broken and it wasn’t until the German relief attack commenced that the counter-counter by the soviets was able to get the ball rolling again, in fact, to such a degree that although the 2 opposing forces were relatively equal the 2 German panzer corps could not break through despite destroying 2-3 times the number of tanks they los

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Companion Guide to Episode 22: The Korsun Megasode

 Wiking SS division Breaks out of the Korsun Pocket. 

The Korsun–Shevchenkovsky Offensive led to the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkasy Pocket which took place from 24 January to 16 February 1944. The offensive was part of the Dnieper-Carpathian Offensive. In it, the 1st and 2nd, commanded, respectively, by Vatutin and Konev, trapped German forces of Army Group  South in a pocket near the Dnieper river. During weeks of fighting, the two Red Army Fronts tried to eradicate the pocket. The encircled German units broke out in coordination with a relief attempt by other German forces, with "roughly two out of three" encircled men succeeding in escaping the pocket, "and almost one third of their men ... dead or prisoners."
The Soviet victory in the Korsun–Shevchenkovsky Offensive marked the successful implementation of Soviet deep operations. Soviet Deep Battle doctrine envisaged the breaking of the enemy's forward Soviet   defences to allow fresh operational reserves to exploit the break through by driving into the strategic depth  of the enemy front. The arrival of large numbers of U.S. and British built trucks and halftracks gave the Soviet forces much greater mobility than they had in the earlier portion of the war. This, coupled with the Soviet capacity to hold large formations in reserve gave the Soviets the ability to drive deep behind German defenses again and again. Though the Soviet operation at Korsun did not result in the collapse in the German front that the Soviet command had hoped for, it marked a significant change in operations. Through the rest of the war the Soviets would place large German forces in jeopardy, while the Germans were stretched thin and constantly attempting to extract themselves from one crisis to the next. Mobile Soviet offensives were the hallmark of the Eastern front for the remainder of the war.

What to read:
What to play:


Friday, April 18, 2014

Coming Soon...

Keep your eyes peeled, Hexes and Soldiers Special Episode/s regarding the Korsun Pocket is coming!!!
We will be taking an in depth look at this moment in history and then analyze the games that have attempted to portray it. 

Currently accepting possible show titles.  The submissions thus far:
Hot Pocket (not happening)
Manstein, corner pocket (better)
Pickpocket (note: not all submissions have to contain the word pocket but ok, now its a challenge)
Pocket protector (um.....)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Happy Birthday Chad Jensen!

Chad Jensen, designer of:


Thanks for your contributions to the industry!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mail Call 4-15-14

This just in!

Out of the Bunker is a package of 14 ASL scenarios from the ASL Fanzine "Dispatches from the Bunker". The scenarios include some of MMP's favorites:
  • Riding the Coattails, Poland 1939
  • Point 247, France 1940
  • Brasche Encounter, France 1940
  • Headhunting for Bloody Huns, Crete 1941
  • Clearing Kamienka, Russia 1941
  • First Clash in Tunisia, Tunisia 1942
  • Crisis at Kasserine, Tunisia 1943
  • Unhappy Trails, Bougainville 1943
  • First Crack at Hellzapoppin' Ridge, Bougainville 1943
  • The Men From Zadig, France 1944
  • Avril Action, France 1944
  • Block at Ville-Sur-Illon, France 1944
  • A Hotly Contested Crossroads, Germany 1945
  • Pursuing Kobayashi, The Philippines 1945

TO THE BRIDGE!, the ninth “action pack” for Advanced Squad Leader, focuses on the 1942 Japanese invasion of Burma and the crushing Allied defeat and retreat to India. Beginning with the December 1941 invasion of Thailand and ending with the disaster at the Sittang bridge in February 1942, TO THE BRIDGE! is the first of three planned Action Packs covering the campaign from the Japanese invasion to the Allied liberation. TO THE BRIDGE! features Japanese infantry forces against Commonwealth infantry supported by light armored cars and carriers: Burma Rifles, Gurkha Rifles, Indian Brigade, and various frontier forces. Plus a Japanese seaborne assault opposed by the Thai army supported by the Pattani Provinicial Police Force and units from the military academy.
TO THE BRIDGE! also includes optional “Australian Balancing (Bidding) System” (ABS) provisions for each scenario. ABS is intended to allow for scenario side selection via a series of escalating handicap bids. Among other advantages, this can help balance scenarios between players of varying ability.
Three double-sided 11˝ × 16˝ maps round out the package. Each board is completely geomorphic and compatible with previous ASL mapboards. Offering novel map configurations, these are sure to spark the interest of designers and players alike. Featuring a number of tournament length scenarios, TO THE BRIDGE! is the perfect companion to the recently released RISING SUN.
Action Pack #9: To The Bridge! contains:
• three 11˝ × 16˝ double-sided geomorphic mapboards (7a/b, 8a/b, 9a/b)
• ten ASL scenarios featuring the new maps:
      • AP83 Thai Hot – 7 turns, 8 December 1941, Pattani Province, Thailand
      • AP84 Double Trouble – 5 1⁄2 turns,  28 December 1941, Bokpyin, Burma
      • AP85 Slicing The Throat – 6 1⁄2 turns, 19 January 1942, Tavoy, Burma
      • AP86 Milling About – 5 1⁄2 turns, 20 January 1942, Miyawadi, Burma
      • AP87 Empire’s Fall – 9 1⁄2 turns, 31 January 1942, Moulmein, Burma
      • AP88 Full Moon Madness – 5 1⁄2 turns, 11 February 1942, near Kuziek, Burma
      • AP89 To The Pain – 6 1⁄2 turns, 17 February 1942, Danyingon, Burma
      • AP90 Smashing The Hook – 5 1⁄2 turns, 18 February 1942, near Danyingon, Burma,
      • AP91 Parting Shots – 6 1⁄2 turns, 21 February 1942, Thebyuchuang, Burma
      • AP92 End Of The Beginning – 8 1⁄2 turns, 22 February 1942, Sittang, Burma
Designed for the aficionado, Action Pack #9 is not a complete product and assumes the buyer owns the core Advanced Squad Leader game system.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Episode 21.0 Companion Guide

The Battle of Narva was a military campaign between the German Army Detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front fought for possession of the strategically important Narva Isthums on 2 February – 10 August 1944 during World War II.
The campaign took place in the northern section of the Eastern Front and consisted of two major phases: the Battle for the Narva Bridgehead (The game Army Group Narwa focuses on the first three months of this campaign) February to July 1944 and the Battle of Tannenberg Line (July–August 1944). The Soviet Kingisepp-Gdov Offensive and Narva Offensives (15-28 February, 1-4 March, and 18-24 March) were part of the Red Army Winter Spring Campaign of 1944. Following Stalin's "Broad Front" strategy, these battles coincided with the Dnieper-Carpathian Offensive. (December 1943 – April 1944) and the Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive (July–August 1944). A number of foreign volunteers and local Estonian Conscripts participated in the battle as part of the German forces. By giving its support to the illegal German conscription call, the Estonian Resistance Movement had hoped to recreate a national army and restore the independence of the country.
As a continuation of the Leningrad-Novgorod Offensive of January 1944, the Soviet Estonian operation pushed the front westward to the Narva river, aiming to destroy "Narwa" and to thrust deep into Estonia. The Soviet units established a number of bridgeheads on the opposite bank of the river in February. Subsequent attempts failed to expand their toehold. German counterattacks annihilated the bridgeheads to the north of Narva and reduced the bridgehead south of the town, stabilizing the front until July 1944. The Soviet Narva Offensive (July 1944) led to the capture of the city forcing the German troops to retreat to their prepared Tannenberg Defence Line in the Sinimaed hills 16 kilometres from Narva. In the ensuing fierce Battle of Tannenberg Line, the German army group held its ground. Stalin's main strategic goal—a quick recovery of Estonia as a base for air and seaborne attacks against Finland and an invasion of East Prussia—was not achieved. As a result of the tough defence of the German forces the Soviet war effort in the Baltic Sea region was hampered for seven and a half months.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Companion Guide to Epsidoe 20.0

The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory in the Hundred years war.   The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 near modern-day Azincourt in northern France. Henry V's victory at Agincourt, against a numerically superior French army, crippled France and started a new period in the war during which Henry married the French king's daughter and then Henry's son, was made heir to the throne of France.
Henry V led his troops into battle and participated in hand-to-hand fighting. The French king of the time, Charles VI did not command the French army himself as he suffered from severe, repeating illnesses and moderate mental incapacitation. Instead, the French were commanded by Constable Charles d'Albert.  and various prominent French noblemen of the Armagnac party.
The battle is notable for the use of the English longbow, which Henry used in very large numbers, with English and Welsh archers forming most of his army. The battle is also the centrepiece of the play by Shakespeare and later movie Henry V by Kenneth Branagh.

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