Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hex Grid Coordinates

Quick one, from the 'Why haven't I thought of it before?' Department.  Reading off the coordinates of a hex-grid map might be made easier by where you place the numbers or letters beside the 'zig-zag row or column.

Here's one I have made up:


Hex-Grid with Row Coordinates aligned with the
bottom half of the hexes in the odd columns, and
so with the top half of the even-column hexes.
Mitigates against visual ambiguity.
The letters marking the row I have aligned with the bottom half of the grid area adjacent, and of the odd numbered columns.  They then, of course, align with the top half of the even numbered columns of grid areas.  Labelled in this way I find it a whole lot easier to determine to which row a given grid area belongs.

Just by the way, in the above map L-even (e.g. L2 etc) are not really on the map.  But L-odd (L1, L3 etc) is on the map.
I always like to add an actual picture to these posts, even
though of doubtful relevance!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Operation Uranus: Day Two.

3rd Romanian Army's front, daybreak, 20 November, 1942.
Though achieving a breakthrough close by the headwaters of the Tsuskan stream, and a more serious one east of Perelazkovskiy, the Red Army was unable even during the early hours of darkness to exploit on.  Overnight the Soviets pulled back a space to recover some of their strength, and to reorganise.  The Romanian Army was therefore allowed along most of the front to retain hold of their original defensive locations.

Soviet right flank, mid-morning 20 November, 1942.
Of the 63 Soviet and 37 Romanian strength points lost, 24 and 12 could be restored to depleted units. Units destroyed being permanently written off (16 Russian and 14 Romanian), the Soviets were able to recover proportionately more SPs.  Even so, such were the losses already taken, that even 24 returned seemed too few to go around.  In my previous posting I mentioned a priority system of restoring SPs, but I don't think I used that here in quite such a formal fashion.  At any rate, 1st Guards Army received just half their lost 6 SPs in return.  I think all I did was return half each unit's losses, rounding halves up and down in turn.  So one of the depleted Tank Brigades of 1st Guards Army received 2 SP, the other just the one.
Soviet left flank.  13th Romanian Division already
overrun by tanks.
An alternative system might have been to 'merge' depleted units into one - e.g. converge the two tank brigades into a single 3SP unit.  I think it possible that's what 'Jacko' did with his, judging by the 6SPs beside several of his Divisions as seen in the photos.  I didn't actually notice at the time, and it's likely I'm quite mistaken about that, anyhow.

The Soviet surge, looking southwest.  But several Soviet
formations have been depleted to exhaustion level.
To distract 65th Army, the remnants of Romanian IV Corps retired due south and tried to hold a rather tenuous line beyond the headwaters of the Kurlak River.  The advance of 27th Guards and 252 Divisions allowed room for 4th Tank Corps to swing inwards against a reserve line centred on Perelazovskiy, once 13th Division was overrun.
Looking westward along the Romanian line.  IV Corps HQ
will soon be overrun as will the AT guns.  Only the
artillery will remain.
Though strong in places, the Romanian line looked very porous elsewhere.  The surviving centre Divisions (13th and I think the 6th, mislabelled the 14th in one of the pictures) remained unsupported on their flanks, but I Corps presented a fairly solid front at the left end of the line.  By midday, tanks of 4th Tank Corps overran 13th Division, and 6th Division had also been driven in.  First Corps's line was also bent back on 11th Division's front, but once again, at considerable cost to 1st Guards Army.  Finally, the remnants of IV Corps were overrun by 65th Army, and its commander killed or captured.
65th on the left and 21st Army have made great progress.

These Soviet successes were dearly bought.  All three Tank Corps had one brigade depleted by this time, and 1st Guards Army's single fresh tank unit exhausted itself driving the equally exhausted 11th Division out of its position.    Though losses in armour had been fairly inconsiderable on the 19th, they were a deal more severe on the 20th.  Romanian armour had yet to be engaged.  Yet the Red Army retained considerable tank reserves still.
Heavy losses: 2 Rifle Divisions, 3 Tank Brigades and a
Tank Regiment all in an exhausted state.  So are two of
the surviving Romanian infantry Divisions.
All morning the Soviets expected a powerful counterattack to develop from the Romanian armoured reserves.  Puzzled by this I asked Jacko why he wasn't counterattacking.  Partly it had to do with traffic control I think, but he allowed that his reluctance was due more to the likelihood of counter-attackers simply being swamped by hordes of Russians. 
Half I Corps line has collapsed, but 7th Division stands firm.
That was a reasonable fear, I think, but probably worth a crack, because his moving units would have been striking my moving units, an advantage for whoever gets his licks in first.  That was the moot point, of course: when the priority chits were dealt, who would get 'first strike'?  Chancy business!
Now looks to be a fine moment to launch a counter-attack!
but it would be late afternoon before it could strike...
We called the game at 1200m* of the 20th November 1942, with the Soviets having broken through on the Romanian right flank, and pushed the centre back some 5 km.  The much feared Romanian counter-attacks never materialised.
3rd Guards Cavalry scores a success: overrunning V Corps
anti-tank gun line.
On balance we both accepted the Operation was a Soviet victory, however costly. The bulk of its infantry gone, 3rd Romanian Army would have been hard put to hold for much longer.  Even so it had hardly been a walkover.  Nor had there been any real sophistication in my handling of the attack.  We had to bludgeon our way through, so bludgeon we did.  Over the two days the Soviets losses had increased to 78-80; the Romanians to 45.  That suggested gross losses were 117 (78 + 39) Soviet and 70 (45 + 25) Romanian.  Taking the net loss as a percentage of original strength:

Soviet: Original Strength overall, 233 SP.  Net loss, 78-80 SP.  % loss: 33-34%
Romanian: Original Strength, 105 SP.  Net loss, 45 SP.  % loss: 43%
IV Corps is no more...
Altogether, we both found this action a whole lot of fun.  Had it not been such a hot day, we might have carried it on another move or two, but I think the action was already tilting in favour of the Red Army by the end of Day One.
Count 'em: 6 depleted Soviet formations, and 2 Romanian.
In my previous article I mentioned a series of issues and ideas that came out of our first attempt at playing such a large scale action upon so small a playing area.  Mind you, I have played an even larger scale action in Memoir '44!    There is at least one more that I haven't mentioned so far, and that concerns armoured units against other units and formations.


Can Perelazovskiy be held?
For these battles, I have been using consolidated infantry Divisions of (usually)  6 stands each, with a baseline strength equal to the number of stands.  These were modified in the case of the Russians by reducing the SP by 1 for all the ordinary Rifle Divisions.  That is probably unfair to the Russians, and it would have been more appropriate probably, to have given the Guards Rifle Divisions 7 SP each, and the others 6.  What, then, of the Romanians?  6SP seems about right, bearing in mind the 1 extra SP for their forward defence line fortifications.  Of course, those extra SPs would have made the Russian task a little easier.  As set up, the scenario was reasonably balanced - enough at least to make a game of it
Close up of 1st Romanian Panzer Division.

Strength Points for AFVs:

Where the difficulty comes in is in their relationship with tank units.  For this game I allowed 1 medium tank or panzer at 3 SP to represent 50 tanks.  Assuming, as we did, that freezing field mice had no taste for the electrical wiring within AFVs, that gave 2 Panzers at SP3 for each of 1st Romanian and 22nd Panzer Divisions (about 100 tanks each).  Both were equipped with Pz38(t) or PzIII vehicles.  The Soviet T34s in 1st Guards and 65th Armies I also placed at SP=3, but in the Tank corps, to each was added a single infantry stand with an additional SP.  In effect, the latter were regarded as tank brigades, and the former, tank regiments.  The heavies - the KV1 tanks - I added a further SP again - to 5 SP overall, for their additional weight and 'scariness'.  At the other end of the tank scale, both Cavalry corps got light tanks (T26s specifically) at SP=2 each.  So the Soviets had 10x T34s, 3x KV1s, and 2x T26s; 15 AFVs representing the 770 available for this part of the Operation.

A rather tired looking Soviet Rifle Division attacking a Romanian
gun line close by Perelazovskiy.  A dangerous situation with
15th Division close by...
The tank battalion SPs were less than the infantry Divisions, is my point, and that seemed (vaguely) to deprive them of their 'tankishness'.  Their 'tankocity' lacked a certain oomph, one felt.  That was why I was more than happy to lead off with the infantry (as did the Russians in the historical Operation) - probably the right approach in general terms anyhow.  Even so, the tanks seem to need something, lest they are reduced to an auxiliary role.  I am certain in my mind that had Jacko reason to be confident of his tanks achieving something useful, I would not have had to wait long for the armoured counter-attack to come hurtling in.

A number of ideas spring to mind:
1.  Tanks count double SPs if, and only if, attacking infantry (i.e. Tanks count as the attacker, and is in 'M' mode).
2.  Keeping the system 'as is' but attacking tanks that induce a retreat may follow up.
3.  Keeping the system 'as is' but attacking tanks that induce a retreat may follow up and engage in a second combat against the same opponent.
4.  Beef up the SPs a little for AFVs. 

At the moment they are merely ideas.  It is quite likely that what we already have is about right, and the extra mobility allowed to tanks might well be sufficient.  Put succinctly: the problem is that I'm not sure whether or not there is a problem.

Traffic ControlOwing to the size of the units and models relative to the grid cells, I don't allow stacking apart from the location of formation commanders.  This led to all kinds of traffic control problems with the amount of stuff on the table.  Reducing the amount of stuff is not the solution!  A certain degree of congestion made the scenario even more interesting - and, from my reading, was indeed something of a problem for the Russians during the actual event.

Possible solutions:
1.   Priority chits by formation and/or sector.  In this action, I turned to prioritising by rows (columns or files) of hexes, and that seemed to work OK.  Another idea is to prioritise by formation front, though that could get pretty complicated.
2.  Allow 'passage of lines' for 'fast moving' troops - that is, any troops that can move more than 1 grid area per turn.
Example:

The RED infantry, already in contact with the BLUE defenders, attacks, and in the same turn pulls back into the empty grid area to their immediate rear.  The armour then passes through the infantry to attack the blue infantry in their turn.  If the priority chits work out right, this can all be achieved in one game turn.
3.  Allow stacking under two conditions: (a) that the stacked units all fit inside a single grid area (give or take the tows of towed weapons), and (b) the combined SP of the units occupying the grid area does not exceed 6 (say).  That means that any units of SP6 or more can not be 'stacked' with any but a formation commander.  Note that the Soviet Tank Brigades, comprising, for this action, one Tank and one infantry stand, were treated as an integral whole, and not 'stacked' as such.  Neither could they be split into separate Tank and infantry stands.

Well, I think that will do it for this chapter of Operation Uranus.  I hope readers have enjoyed my ruminations upon it; it was fun for me to think about the game, and to play it. It has given me a lot of food for thought.  I'm now thinking of doing a Hexblitz version of the Panzer General II action around Kanev, Ukraine, September, 1943.


* Small quiz.
1. What is the meaning of 12 m?
2. What is the meaning of 12 a.m?
3. What is the meaning of 12 p.m?

Answers: 1. midday (meridian); 2. midnight (ante meridian); 3. midnight (post meridian).

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Operation Uranus: The Battle Begins...

Red Army, 65th and 21st Armies.  The strength point (SP)
dice are 'colour coded': the green ones denoting 65th Army
units.
The foggy down of 19 November, 1942 broke to the eruption of the Russian bombardment of the Romanian line.  Months in the planning and preparation, Operation Uranus launched into motion with the advance of the leading Rifle Divisions all along the line.  They were preceded by artillery bombardment of the fortified line. 

(Aside 1: In the following pictures you will see dice, lettered chits and numbered chits scattered about.  The dice indicate strength points.  At Jacko's suggestion, red counters replaced the dice once a unit reached 0 SP.  If the unit were subsequently destroyed, it would be removed.  Otherwise, it was still capable of movement (out of the action if it could).  The lettered chits indicated each unit's stance, and the numbered, the move priority.  This latter became something of a nuisance, especially owing to traffic jams.  I thought that a unit prevented from moving owing to intervening troops with a higher number (the units moving in numerical order) could 'reserve' its move until it was free to carry it out.  Towards the end of the action I was assigning the chits by 'sector' - that is, by 'vertical' rows of hexes.  That worked OK this time, but may need to be thought through.  Jacko did observe that it had an effect not dissimilar to the orders system used in Memoir '44.).
The blue SP dice markers denote 5th Tank Army, the black
dice the LOG values by Army.
This bombardment was carried out by the 6 'Army' artillery 'regiments', rated at 3 strength points each.  I don't recall that any of the Corps artillery (SP=2) ever did get to within range, though the 3rd Cav Corps heavy mortar did on the morning of the 20th November (where it made a useful contribution to the destruction of 13th Romanian Division). Though it is true that there was no forward observer/artillery reconnaissance present,  the arty preparation had been thoroughly reconnoitred and plotted on maps.  The destructiveness of that preliminary bombardment historically bore testament to just how well the fire missions had been plotted.  For the purposes of this game, I just directed the artillery directly along the hex row (file; column) onto the trench line.  The exceptions were one of the 5th Tank Army guns aiming one row to the right, the better to combine with its companion battery, and the 65th Army's single available regiment concentrating on the one enemy sector it could reach - that of 1st Romanian Cavalry.
The red SP markers denote 1st Guards Army.
Of course, I didn't expect much damage to the defending troops, but it would have been enough to have knocked out some of the protection of the fortifications.  For their part, the Romanian artillery (2SP only, but had one unit for each Corps, and two at Army level) did some damage to the advancing Russian infantry.  Now, the combat system we used had been adapted from Hexblitz into the following.   Both sides in a given combat roll as many dice as they had strength points (SP) available, including attacking and defensive artillery support.

Combat Table for Hexblitz
Defender is
Attacker rolls
Defender loses
Defender rolls
Attacker loses
In ‘Defence’ ‘D’
6
1 SP
4,5,6
1 SP
‘Stationary’ ‘S’
6
1 SP
5,6
1 SP

‘Moving’ normally ‘M’
5,6
1 SP
6
1 SP
‘Moving’ changing position, ‘M’ OR is attacked in flank in any posture
4,5,6
1 SP
6
1 SP



Being fortified, the Romanians could ignore the first SP loss, provided it was in 'Defence' ('D') and provided it never moved from its position.  We signalled this by removing the fortification.

(Aside 2:  The game systems upon which this action was based generally has each side rolling the enemy's dice to determine effects upon their own units.  The dice rolls and their results are concealed from the enemy.  As I have no intention (well, no practical method, to be candid) of concealing SP markers, I simply had both sides roll their own attack dice.  The 'combat box' served to keep the dice from rolling around the table knocking over troops,  or onto the floor.  My attitude to such things is that troops in action are likely to have some notion of how the enemy is 'feeling'.  Given the scales, too, one might imagine that if the defenders have been reduced, say, from 6 to 3 SP, the attackers have made some inroad into their position, and are starting to feel a little slackening in the resistance.  Conversely, the defenders will have some idea by the weight of incoming attacks whether they are likely to throw them back or to be overrun.
Looking north towards the Don River from behind the
Romanian I and II Corps.
 A few other points I should mention.

Most of the front line Romanian infantry Divisions were stretched across two grid areas.  This gave them a broader front to defend.  Now, this did not affect their defensive capacity, whether attacked in the centre or their right or left front: they got their whole available SP, regardless, including artillery supports. This makes defence very powerful, but there is a little bit of a trade-off.  The attacker has three grid areas from which to attack, but, also, the attacker moving into contact, though adjacent to more than one defending unit, can select which to attack.  If the enemy wants to counter-attack, he has to change posture from 'D' to 'S' to 'M' - two game-turns.

(Aside 3:  I am considering that defenders immediately flanking an attacked unit, if unattacked themselves, might add 1 SP to the defence of their comrades.  If I do this, though, I think I'd be inclined to revisit the SP available to the defending unit depending upon which sector it is being attacked from.  For the purposes of this game we kept it simple, and it seemed to work satisfactorily.)
Looking north towards the Don River from behind V and
IV Corps.
That brings me to the time scale.  One game-turn represented two hours of daylight.  So close to the winter solstice, indicated 4 game turns from dawn to nightfall.  Either side had the option to prolong the day's action into the early evening for one further game turn.  Of course, as it will have become then a night action, visibility would be correspondingly reduced to one grid area.

WW2 Operations War Games: Chart of daylight hours (Europe)


Months
Hours of daylight (approximate)
Game turns
January, November, December
0800-1600
4
February, October
0700-1700
5
March, September (Equinoctial months)
0600-1800
6
April, August
0500-1900
7
May, June, July
0400-2000
8

Behind the Romanian centre: Army HQ, reserve artillery, 
1st Romanian Panzer Division and Kampfgruppe Simons.

Part of the German XLVIII Panzer Corps, mainly
22nd Panzer Division supporting the Romanian army.
Of course, the expectation was that the operation would take several 'days' to complete.  During the course of this game, the action opened at 0800, but, by 1000, only 78th Rifle Division had made contact with the Romanian defences.  Defending that part of the line - the Romanian right flank bordering the German 6th Army - lay the 1st Romanian Cavalry Division.  The action here turned out to be a microcosm of the day's events, right across the front.  The Russians, supported by artillery from 21st and 65th Armies, rolled 11 dice (Div SP=5, +6 for the Artillery), looking for 6s; the Romanians rolled 8 (Div SP=6, +2 for the Corps Artillery), looking for 4s, 5s and 6s.  In the picture below, the 'high explosive flashes' marked artillery targets - a useful aide memoire.   Scoring 2 hits, the Russians received 4, a very reasonable result for both sides.  The Cavalry could no longer rely upon its fortifications for protection, and had lost a SP into the bargain.  Reduced from 5 SP to 1, of course 78th Rifle Div wasn't going to last much longer.  All the same, that Division was to survive the action, though depleted.

The battle between 13th Cavalry and 78th Rifle Divisions.
Both sides gave good accounts of themselves.
It was between 1000 and 1200 when the Russian infantry closed with the whole of the Romanian line. By this time, the preliminary bombardments had breached the fortifications in a couple of places - on Romanian 5th and 9th Divisions' fronts. Naturally, the Russian attacks concentrated upon these weakened points.  Even without the SP 'protection', the defenders were still rolling dice with three times the probability of a hit per die than the Russians could expect. The expectation, therefore, was that the attacking Russians could early on would take much heavier losses than the Romanian defenders.
General view of the early morning action.  The positions of
5th and 9th Divisions have taken damage.
This was the reason why Jacko and I both had, at the outset of the action, viewed prospects with more than a little trepidation.  Taking one look at the hordes in front of him, Jacko felt that the Red Army would roll - almost as they had done historically - straight over his 'thin brown line'.  With luck he might slow them down. A little. Maybe. My concern was that I had been over-generous with the Romanian strength points - or maybe under-generous with the Russian.  I apprehended my Armies simply dashing themselves to pieces against the  adamantine Romanian wall. 

Fortunately, neither fears were realised - or at least, not completely.
Action on the western flank, early afternoon. On 1st Guards
Army front, 203 Rifle Division is exhausted, and the 266th
has been knocked about too.  But some inroads have been made in the
Romanian I Corps line.  
One problem I did anticipate, and this action was partially intended to test, had to do with traffic control.  In particular, what could be done about depleted units - by which I mean those reduced to 0 SP?  Now, the wise commander, my military advisers tell me, would withdraw units that are getting knocked about, and shove in fresh ones.  I certainly had the reserves, more or less available.  Now, the Hexblitz game system 'proper' allows stacking and 'passage of lines'.  Apart from Army and Formation commanders, I didn't allow this.  So I was forced to shuffle units around if I wanted to preserve them.  Alternatively, I considered removing the depleted units as if destroyed (with a consequence I'll mention later), in order to make room for reinforcements to enter the action.

(Aside 4: This will have to be revisited.  I have considered one or two possibilities, but they will require testing.  Of course, the main solution is to have a less crowded battlefield.  But the spectacle!  To keep the spectacle, one has to seek other solutions).
South of Serafimovitch, early afternoon. 
The Romanian line is holding - though 6th Division has hardly been engaged.
 Several Soviet  Divisions have taken heavy losses.
In some respects, Jacko solved the problem for me: dropping an artillery stonk upon the stricken Division and removing it by such means from the Red Army Order of Battle.  Such was the fate of 47th Guards Rifle Division, and a couple of others.  Other depleted Divisions I managed, by considerable contortions, to extricate without letting up the pressure against the Romanian defence line.
Looking SW from behind 65th Army position.
For all the losses the Red Army was taking, the Romanian line was starting by late afternoon to show visible signs of sagging.  The first collapse occurred where the first contact was made.  Reduced to 1 SP, 78th Division managed to pull back and make room for 27th Guards Rifle Division from 65th Army to enter the fray.  First Cavalry collapsed shortly afterwards, leaving IV Corps artillery and anti-tank units to try to hold the right flank of the Romanian line.  In reserve, 15th Division might have advanced to reoccupy at least some of the lost ground, but chose to remain in its defensive posture close by Perelazovskiy village.
Breakthrough! Late in the day and 13th Cavalry Division
has collapsed.  
Small beginning though it was, yet it was a start.  The increased room to manoeuvre allowed the Red Army to bring a heavy weight to bear upon the remaining IV Corps Division, where losses also began to mount rapidly.
Looking NW from behind Romanian lines.  By mid afternoon
 the Romanians were still holding, but have taken some losses 
Meanwhile, 9th and 5th Divisions were coming in for most of the punishment, though the pressure was being felt all along the line.  At the time 1st Cavalry were overrun, 9th Division, facing 5th Tank Army was already down to half strength (3SP remaining) and 5th Division almost as badly placed.  It could only  be a matter of time before one or both were overrun.
The Romanian IV Corps under heavy pressure.
The firmest held Romanian positions seemed to be those of I Corps.  Although they had suffered some erosion, the cost to 1st Guards Army had been the complete depletion and later destruction of 203rd Rifle Division, and the 266th being withdrawn before that formation also succumbed.  To sustain the attack, the Army commander began to filter though his crumbling infantry lines his independent tank brigades.  Could they break through 7th Romanian Division?  Prospects looked unpromising.


Infantry attacks going in against the 5th Division salient.
In the centre, the powerful 5th Tank Army commander was also beginning to bring ahead his tanks.  In this whole operation, the arrangements of the Rifle divisions and Tank and cavalry formations indicated the idea that the initial wearing down and penetrations were to be carried out by the infantry.  The tanks would exploit, if possible, any breakthrough or collapse; or, the enemy line still holding, be the final heave to bring about a breakthrough.  
A view of the 5th Tank Army rear areas.
The tank formations in 1st Guards Army proved too weak to effect the desired breakthrough on their front, two of the three Tank brigades being flung back exhausted and hardly denting the 7th Division's line.  Two-six-six Division was equally decimated.  Better success attended the assault upon 11th Division.  Although 197th Division had taken heavy losses, the 11th were just barely hanging on as the sun set behind a gloom of clouds to the west.
Close of the action:  Two tank and one rifle brigade of
1st Guards Army have taken exhausting losses.


Russian infantry batter down the IV Corps defence line.
With the Romanian line apparently teetering along most of its front I elected to spend one more game turn in the darkness of early evening to bring about a more general collapse.  Struck in front and flank, the resistance of 13th Division was very soon overcome.  In the centre, 1st Tank Corps punched through the battered  9th Division at about dusk.  

There was no time for a counterattack.  The day's action ended on a note that the Russians were inclined to view with considerable satisfaction. The Romanian right had been crushed, and the left centre pushed in, with 5th and 9th Divisions destroyed. 

Breakthrough in the centre.  Russians poised to pour through on
either side of 14th Division.
The operation was far from over, of course.  But it seemed to me appropriate that the hours of darkness would be used by both sides to regroup and rally some of the scattered stragglers and restore some strength to depleted units. First of all, we placed, as far as possible one grid area between the respective armies.  This meant the Russians doing most of the pulling back, and in one place a depleted tank brigade had perforce to spend the night in close proximity to the enemy.  
Romanian right pushed back several kilometres, apart from
remnants of IV Corps (out of picture to the right.).

Then we totted up our losses, and subtracted from that total the SPs of all destroyed units.  Of the remainder, half, rounded up, could be added to depleted units.  The following conventions were to be followed:
1.  No more than half (rounded up) of losses to respective 'specialty' forces could be recovered: Armour, cavalry, artillery, engineers, respectively.  However, a 'recovered' infantry SP could be substituted for a specialty SP.
2. Units could not be restored to greater than their original strength.


I also have it in mind that:
3.  Priority should be given to the most depleted units/formations, beginning with units whose SP have been reduced to 0.  
(Example: suppose 3 infantry units, each SP=6, have in the course of fighting, been reduced to 0, 2 and 5 SP.  Eleven SP have been lost.  Overnight, 6 SP may be allocated to these units.  Two SP will bring the units up to 2,2,5; and the remaining four to 4,4,5 )

Crisis on the left.
Here is the table of SPs lost and recovered:
SPs lost
Red Army
Romanians
Total
63
37
SPs Destroyed*
16
14
Remainder
47
23
Recovered
24
12
Net loss
39
25
* Soviets lost 47th Guards, 203rd and one other Rifle Division destroyed.  Romanians had lost 1st cavalry and I think the 9th.  It appears that an AT gun unit had also gone.
Crisis in the centre.  Fortunately for the Romanians, darkness
ends the Russian assaults for the day.

Night.  Regrouping on the Russian left.


Altogether it has been a strenuous day for the Russian Armies: heavy losses but breakthroughs achieved.  On the whole I felt progress was satisfactory, losses, though expectedly severe, were not excessive.  Jacko and I both thought the game was enjoyable to play, despite little niggles with some of the mechanics that often occur on a crowded table.  They could be got around.

After the reallocation of restorative SPs we were free to carry on the battle into the next 'day' - 20th November, 1942.  What happened then can wait for my next posting.  There I will dilate upon the game mechanics and conventions we used, and where we might go from there.


Night.  Regrouping, rallying and restoring units and formations.

Before closing, here, I ought belatedly to thank Jacko for the supply of LOG (biscuits) and POL (beer).  It's being such a hot day (first day of summer and even inside it hit 30C (86F)), the POL in particular was most welcome.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Operation Uranus: The Assault against Third Romanian Army

The battlefield layout seen from the Russian side of the
Don River.  A very crowded board.  Both of us were
apprehensive of the outcome...

This last weekend (2nd December) Paul 'Jacko' Jackson and I had our first full blown action based on the Not Quite Mechanised/Hexblitz/Megablitz game systems.  This was a pretty ambitious affair, based upon the attack by no fewer than four Soviet Armies against the 3rd Romanian Army.  Historically, the assault began on 19 November 1942, after an 80-minute preliminary artillery preparation, with the leading troops advancing to the attack at 0850 hours.

This huge undertaking we contrived to compass on one 120cm x 134cm game board, as you will see in the above picture.  Why so crowded?  I have a fair amount of kit, and I want to use it!  The unseasonably summery look to the table was more than matched by a very warm early December day, reaching 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).  The set up was developed from maps translated to a hex map representing the table.  Next time we play this - a treat Jacko and I have promised ourselves - I'll alter the eastern part of the map to and stretch the Romanian line that extra hex to fit, and I'll push the Romanian defence line up one hex (nearer, in fact, to where it should be).  My reasons for maintaining as far as possible a two-hex no-man's-land are, upon reflexion, not so very compelling.


The map of the game board.  The villages were there to
relieve the appearance of a bare playing surface.

Ho! for the Orders of Battle.

3rd Romanian Army:

Marshal Dmitrescu and HQ: SP = 1
Logistics element LOG = 3

I Corps:
Commander and HQ, SP = 1
Logistics element (lorry or wagon) LOG = 3

7th, 11th Infantry Divisions, each 6 stands, SP=6
Reserve Artillery: 1 field gun 7.5cm or light howitzer 10.5cm SP=2
1 47mm Anti-tank gun SP=2

 
II and V Corps front.  

II Corps:

Commander and HQ, SP = 1
Logistics element (lorry or wagon) LOG = 3

9th, 14th Infantry Divisions, each 6 stands, SP=6
Reserve Artillery:  SP=2

1 47mm Anti-tank gun SP=2

 
Romanian right centre

V Corps:

Commander and HQ, SP = 1
Logistics element (lorry or wagon) LOG = 3

5th, 6th Infantry Divisions, each 6 stands, SP=6
Reserve Artillery: SP=2
 

1 47mm Anti-tank gun SP=2

IV Corps, on the Romanian right.

IV Corps:

Commander and HQ, SP = 1
Logistics element (lorry or wagon) LOG = 3

13th Infantry Division, 6 stands SP=6
1st Cavalry Division, 6 stands SP=6
Reserve Artillery: SP=2

1 47mm Anti-tank gun SP=2

Under III Army Command:
15th Infantry Division, 6 stands, SP=6
7th Cavalry Division, 6 stands, SP=6

1st Panzer Division,
          2 AFVs (Pz38(t) or PzIIIH) each SP=3
          Infantry: 2 infantry stands, SP=2 

Reserve Artillery: SP=2

  
A glimpse of the Romanian Army HQ.

XLVIII Panzer Corps (German)
    (22 Panzer Division)         Commander and HQ, SP = 1       
         Logistics element (lorry or wagon) LOG = 3

         Pz Rgt 204: 2 AFVs (Pz38(t) or PzIIIH) @ SP=3
         Pz Gr Rgt 129: 2 infantry stands, SP=2
         Pz Artillery Rgt 140: 1x 10.5cm @ SP=1

Kampfgruppe Simons (German):
         1 Marder or towed PaK 38 or PaK40 @ SP=2
         2 Infantry stands, SP=2

Soviet Forces:

1st Guards Army (part):
GoC and HQ, SP=1
Supply Column, lorry, SP=3
266th, 197th, 203rd, 278th Rifle Divisions, each SP=5
3 Independent Tank regiments each SP=3 (T34/76)
Army Reserve Artillery, Heavy guns, SP=3
Soviet right flank.  First Guard Army was partially positioned
in front of 8th Italian Army, but had deployed 2/3 of its
strength in front of I Romanian Corps.
5th Tank Army:
GoC and HQ, SP=1
Supply Column, lorry, SP=3
14th Guards and 47th Guards Rifle Divisions, each SP=6
228th, 118th, 210th, 159th, 124th, 346th Rifle Divisions, each SP=5
1st Tank Corps and 26th Tank Corps, each with
     Corps Command and HQ, SP=1
     Corps supply column, lorry, LOG=3
     2 Medium Brigades (T34 plus rifle/SMG stand), SP=4 
     1 Heavy Tank Brigade (KV1 plus rifle/SMG stand), SP=5 
     1 Motor Rifle Brigade (4 rifle stands plus lorry), SP=4
     1 Corps Artillery (76.2mm field gun) SP=2
8th Cavalry Corps with
     Corps command and HQ: SP=1
     Supply column, Lorry, wagons or pack horses, SP=3
     2 Cavalry Brigades, each SP=4
     1 Light Tank regiment (T26, T60 or BT) SP=2
     1 Field Artillery (76.2mm field gun (SP=2)

2 Heavy Artillery Regiments (152mm+) each SP=3



Where the main Soviet strength lay: 5th tank and 21st Armies.

21st Army:
GoC and HQ, SP=1 
Supply Column, Lorry LOG=3
346th, 96th, 63rd, 333rd, 293rd, 78th, 277th Rifle Divisions, each SP=5
4th Tank Corps with:
     Corps Command and HQ, SP=1
     Corps supply column, lorry, LOG=3
     2 Medium Brigades (T34 plus rifle/SMG stand), SP=4 
     1 Heavy Tank Brigade (KV1 plus rifle/SMG stand), SP=5 
     1 Motor Rifle Brigade (4 rifle stands plus lorry), SP=4
     1 Corps Artillery (76.2mm field gun) SP=2

3rd Guards Cavalry Corps with:
     
Corps command and HQ: SP=1
     Supply column, Lorry, wagons or pack horses, SP=3
     2 Cavalry Brigades, each SP=4
     1 Light Tank regiment (T26, T60 or BT) SP=2
     1 Heavy Mortar (120mm Mortar carried on light truck) (SP=2)

2 Heavy Artillery Regiments each SP=3
The left flank of the Soviet offensive.  65th Army had also
earmarked 3 of its 5 Divisions, and its 49 tanks to this
attack.  

65th Army (part)
GoC and HQ, SP=1
Supply column, LOG=3
27th Guards Rifle Division, SP=6
252nd, 258th Rifle Divisions, each SP=5
1 Tank regiment (T34/76). SP=3

1 Heavy Artillery Regiment SP=3

Notes on Soviet Army:
1.   All Rifle and Guards Rifle Divisions comprised 6 stands
2.   Motor Rifle Brigades comprised 4 stands, plus transport vehicle.
3.   The Cavalry Brigades comprised 2 stands only, though ought to have had 4.

4.   The Tank units of 1st Guards and 65th Armies I treated as independent regiments rather than Tank brigades, and were given SP=3.  It was purely an arbitrary decision.  The integral rifle/SMG stands in the Tank brigades of the 5th Tank and 21st Armies beefed their SP to 4, or, in the case of the KVs, 5 SP. 
5.   The supply columns had really only a nominal role in this game, both sides assumed to have stockpiled copious quantities of fuel, ammunition and victuals during the quiescent weeks leading up to this battle.


Overall picture with the Soviet barrage about to begin.
The '88' signifies part of the German 6th Army front and
'no go' to the Russians.  That left 65th Army a very narrow front
upon which to operate.  That will be amended another time.

A few comments on the set-up.  First of all, having misremembered the artillery ranges, I ought to have had them closer to the action (there are slight differences among NQM, Hexblitz and Megablitz, that, among rules sets so similar, confound the memory).  That is one reason (but not the only) for bringing the Romanian front line closer to the Don River than I had it.  

But the main feature is the fortified Romanian front line.  The fortifications were all given 1 SP, to be removed upon the unit occupying it first receiving a strength point 'hit'.  In effect it gave all the Romanian front line units 7 SP instead of their actual 6.  As the action develops you will see those fortified sections gradually disappear.

We'll leave the narrative of the battle for another posting.  I will say this ahead of time, though.  Yes, the set up brought up a few problems - traffic control, mainly, but a few other things as well.  But, man it was fun!