And the other thing I’ve been meaning to write for a week….

Finally got a second chance to play A Victory Lost last Saturday. I’m afraid it got started later than I wanted, and went much longer than I expected. At any rate, I got to be the Germans/Axis and Dave took the Soviets. (I would like to try a game on the other side…)

Things started as expected. The initial Soviet push demolished the center of the line and destroyed a good portion of the Italian 8th Army. I tried to put up a defense at Melikovo, the first defensible spot south of the break, but the Soviet army nearly beat me there, and certainly got to the city before I could put up much of a defensive line. I managed a counter attack that reduced two armor corps, but a pair of further attacks failed to do anything.

This is the same type of thing that caused a large problem for me in my last game. So when a pair of 1s left me out of position, and ultimately led to the destruction of two valuable panzer divisions and five German infantry divisions… I knew I was getting behind the curve.

Worse, I was just barely avoiding getting the extreme southern flank turned, and 1st Panzer Army, which enters from down there hadn’t arrived yet. Thankfully, I put just enough low-power infantry in the road to Rostov to keep Dave from just taking it uncontested. As he arrived across the river from the city, I managed to pull out my southern flank and start redeploying it on the Don River line. Then the 1st Panzer Army shows up and starts to engage the Soviet forces in the way.

This seems to be one of the critical points of the game. Those reinforcements are too valuable too loose, but come in late enough that it’s tough not to have them cut off on entry. In this case, they were aided by AVL‘s supply rules, which are exceedingly generous. There’s a road off in the extreme south-east corner of the map that goes nowhere (nowhere on map that is). But it does provide a bridge that allows tracing a line of supply out of the area. There was a gap elsewhere in the line that allowed supply to be traced to that. A single Soviet unit sitting on or next to this bridge would have put the German formation out of supply, and complicated command to no end. Something to remember for the future.

In the event, the Germans were in supply, and the powerful units systematically ground up the entire Soviet force in the area, and Rostov was under no serious threat for the rest of the game. Then I passed the heavy offensive armor units around the area patching up the various defensive lines I had established.

I now begin to understand the “backhand blow”. An active, flexible concentration of armor and mechanized units can do wonders. Dave’s problem for the rest of the game on 2/3rds of the line was that he could push me back, and cross the various rivers that I was set up on, but then he was across the river, away from defensive terrain of his own, and my counter-attacks would promptly push him back. Or, if he’d gotten a little deeper in, I’d cut off some of the offending units and eliminate them.

Meanwhile in the north, after the usual slow start, the Soviets had started grinding their way forward, against opposition that was slowly pulling back, and slowly getting ground up. With all the high-profile events in the south, I never paid as much attention to this sector as I would have liked, and towards the end the Soviet forces were making some good time. The last turn of the game saw the Soviets unexpectedly get to and occupy Kharkov after pushing out the defending units. This was not enough to win the game, but with my high early losses, it put him close. The final total was 28 to 24 for a German win.

I’m still exploring aspects of the game, but it is holding up well, and is really subtle in some places.

On another note, I just got an email from Against the Odds for a game named Wintergewitter, on the last German attempt to relieve Stalingrad (which the Germans are in the middle of as AVL starts). Hmm… where to get the money….