The Nazi war machine begins to roll
So, the campaign day kicked off with a planning session. Each team was given a briefing covering the three battles to be fought and the number of reinforcement and air sortie tokens they had to play with. The Soviets because of their superior intelligence apparatus (to say nothing of Ultra intercepts) were told where the German reserves were being put before they had to assign their own.
Field Marshal Von Fatzington led the German team up to the bar where they did their planning, while the Soviets luxuriated by the board. Now, normally Memoir '44 scenarios come with the troops pre deployed. everybody has a position on the map before the game begins, for the first game, I deployed the Soviet troops pretty much as they were in reality. The Soviet players were allowed to pick and choose where they put their reinforcements however. The Soviets also had the advantage of being deployed behind a 26 hex by two hex deep minefield.
The game was beginning on the second day of the assault, so the Germans had already been beaten back once, were aware of the minefield and had sent engineers forward during the night to knock gaps in it, so they were allowed remove seven hexes worth of mines from each sector of the battlefield. This was a surprise to the Soviet players and monkey wrenched their plans somewhat. The Germans also were allowed a considerable degree of latitude in deploying their troops, though in the end, they settled for the same plan - a heavily armoured wedge spearheaded by Tigers designed to blow a hole in the centre of the Soviet line.
The German Team surveying the field of Cherkassaye.
Note the position of the central road. The Soviet board edge by the road were exit hexes for the German players, which means that they were able to claim victory points by exiting units from the board via those hexes. The Germans had to reach 16 victory points to win, but three of those needed to be from units exited from the board.
Soviet defences facing the fields
As we were a player short, I took up the cudgels for the Soviets on the right flank and faced Krisztian leading a combined combat group of German armour and infantry at my defences.
German armour advancing in the centre
General Von Fatzington opened the ball with an infantry led assault on the centre. He used infantry units to clear the way for his heavy armour with the plan of bursting the Soviet centre wide open.
General Von K on the German right led with his armour. Time would tell how effective that would prove to be.
Despite some casualties, Krisztians armour charged through the gaps in the minefields to dispute with the Soviet defenders. I had concentrated fire on his infantry, but it remained to be seen whether it would be enough.
Airpower over Cherkasskoye
A key part of this battle and the battles to come was the use of airpower. The Germans put their airpower into play first before the Soviets really grasped what was going on (it was the first time we'd played with these rules) and were able to achieve near total aerial dominance for several turns before the Soviets managed to assemble an appropriate counter.
Interestingly, the Germans chose to focus their attacks on the Soviet reserves and second line, rather than supporting the immediate attack. This proved to be a very successful tactic as it crippled the Soviet ability to plug gaps in the line.
Comrade Sydney reflects as Stukas pummel the Soviet left and the Soviet Katyusha launchers in the centre.
Meanwhile over the German right, General Von K's advance has gotten hung up on the Soviet minefields. The infantry eventually breakthrough, but not before the panzers have taken a severe kicking and the Germans have been punished by the Soviet artillery.
The game ended with the Germans breaking through in the centre. In the end, the score of 19-12 was an interesting one. The Germans only needed 15 medals to win, but couldn't break through the Soviet centre despite decimating the Soviet left and right. This meant that despite racking up plenty of kills, the score line was 16-8 at one point, they weren't able to claim a win immediately. The Soviets managed to claw back some German units, but the combination of German heavy armour supported by air power was just too much and they managed break through.
This was the longest game, in part because the campaign setup and the pre game deployment. The German players had to do quite a bit of homework. It was rewarding, but it did take time and I don't think the day would have benefited from a second dose of it. It would have disrupted the pacing rather too much.
But after the first game, the Germans were one campaign point ahead and were looking like they were in good shape heading into the second battle.