Well, I’m on my usual week+ vacation to see my parents. I should probably talk a little about it at some point, though it’s mostly pretty routine.

Of course, part of the point is that I get some time to play wargames with my Dad. I had a serious case of indecision, and some new stuff to show, and brought three bags worth of games (at about three boxes per bag). The initial talk was over whether to play Stalin’s War or Paths of Glory, both games I’ve gotten on preorder this year. Stalin’s War had the advantage of a familiar subject, though my Dad was hesitant after looking at the rules, as it was fairly obvious that it would take some work to play well.

But we ended up with that anyway, partially following the script of the sample game to begin with (our own card draws, and die rolls, but using that game to generate advice on what to do next). My Dad took the Germans, and only had a three OPS card to use for the June ’41 attack, but it went fairly well. He kept the panzer corps under control, and there was not a lot of Blitzing, mostly because I kept out of Blitzable terrain as much as possible.

We were under the misapprehension that towns were not Blitzable, like cities, for quite a while before we noticed the mistake, I’m not sure when we started making that mistake however. It may have affected the advance in the north, which eventually halted a couple hexes from Leningrad. (I pulled back into the city, but the Germans did not want to get involved).

In the south, I quickly fell back to the Don River, but only had minimal defenses in the Caucasus. Since most of the German drive was in the center, this took a while to become any sort of problem. During the fall, the Germans played Taifun only accentuating the focus in the center. I played Industrial Evacuation and shortly after evacuated Stalin to the Urals. This was good thing, as Moscow fell shortly thereafter. During the next year, the line wavered back and forth. I retook Moscow, and moved Stalin back in during Spring 1942, in time for the play of Lend Lease, the line south ran through Tula, which was in constant danger of being out of supply, and I tried to hold at Tambov, but kept getting forced to pull back to Saratov and the Volga River.

Keeping a line on the Volga was also a challenge. he couldn’t attack across it, and Stalingrad was relatively safe, but keeping up zones of control so he couldn’t move across it was a challenge. I was doing a similar thing in the Caucasus, but I didn’t properly think through just what a lack of ZOC on a unit meant, and he moved into the Caucuses.

To the north of Moscow, not much was going on. I had a gap in my line, but there is no rail that doesn’t go through Moscow or Leningrad, so the Germans couldn’t get far. Outflanking Moscow was an invitation to be outflanked in turn, as I usually tried to keep some sort of reserve in Gorki.

Most of 1942 saw the tense see-saw continue as I tried to keep up with losses with replacements, and start refitting the army as the Total War Reinforcement cards started coming in. One lesson I learned on the fly is to try and keep a good number of the 2-3 one-step infantry armies on the board as they are needed to create the 4-4 mechanized armies. Also, keeping a good number of the Fronts flipped to 2-3 is fine, as the replacement fronts will come in full strength without having to spend replacement points on them.

I was generally busy enough that I only used the Soviet ability to take two replacement cards in a turn, once or twice in the entire game. There were two Reinforcement cards I never played (27 & 28) and one that I only played very late (31).

I hesitated over starting any major Soviet offensives. I was afraid that I’d hesitated too long. The main problem was that the main area for offensives was the clear area between the Don and the Volga, which would put me into Blitzable terrain, and I was worried about getting units cut off, and chewed up, and having the even more fatal delay of having to build up again.

In the end, I managed to launch three thrusts at once, which I think did a lot towards getting the Germans solidly onto the defensive. The trouble started in the Caucuses, where we were still maneuvering for slight edges in position. The Romanians were holding much of that part of the line, with the Italian 8th Army moving into the area as back up. I attacked with the Front that I had in the area, and used Maskirovka to bring enough troops into the combat to destroy the German mountain corps operating in there. A further attack drained the Romanian forces, and the Italians came up. I then played The Duce Falls, removing the Italians from the game, and leaving him with no large units on that flank.

Meanwhile, I launched an attack on the Germans entrenched in Voronezh, backed up with troops to hold the line, if things should go bad. North of Moscow, I finally had built up enough troops to start attacking the German units holding the flank, and started driving at the soft part of his line, hoping to drive him away from Leningrad and the outskirts of Moscow.

Of course, with the amount of pressure I was applying at that point, there was no choice to fall back, especially when, after a couple of poor rolls, I finally had a round where everything went well for me. PQ-17 had been played right after Lend Lease and it finally ran out as this was starting, and the three Banked OPS per turn really make a difference in getting and keeping momentum going. At the very least, it allows an extra 0 OPS round, with combat fueled by the Banked OPS.

In Spring 1944, as the offensive tried to gain momentum, I played Hitler Opposes Defensive Works, more or less taking German trenches out of the game. The next turn, my Dad played Festung, which gave him a whole new way to stymie the defense. In the end, he relied on them too heavily, tying up the German army in immobile positions. I saw this from the beginning, but progress was slow enough, and there was always another position with more units, and more time tied up in several attacks to reduce them. I was seriously worried about running out of time.

The main offensive was in the north all along, from the initial drive between Moscow and Leningrad to the north of the Pripiet Marshes and the Baltic States. It was in there that I hoped to break the line and finally make it through.

I had also kept up pressure in the extreme south, and it was there that the initial break came. The Romanians had still had the bulk of holding the line down there, and finally ran out of strength. I had pushed up through the Crimea to the Dniepr, and finally broke through, sneaking around the end of the line, and into Odessa in late Winter 1945.

As the final action before the raputitsa set in, I finally achieved the breakthrough in the north, clearing the way free into Germany. There was nothing left in the German army to stop me, and Berlin fell in the fourth round of Spring 1945, the last of the Soviet victory cities (Konigsburg fell when the next festung to the north, guarding it fell the previous round).

Aside from a final Reinforcements play, the last event I played was Overlord in Fall 1944. I skipped Battle of the Bulge, wanting the ops more than the ability to choke off the panzers (though it was very tempting, and I had held the card for a couple turns hoping to play it). The final German event was The Bunker near the very end, and a few starred CC cards; the last non-new unit, non-CC even was Festung.

So a Soviet victory, slightly ahead of schedule, in large part due to a tough, but brittle, German defense. It was hard fought all the way, and I had to constantly worry about losing too much strength to keep mounting the powerful attacks to clear the way. A very good, and very tense game.