Michael Eckenfels, 24 October 2021
Random Event: Special Delivery of Food! This gives us an immediate +2 to Supply, bringing our total to 5 Supply. This will help give me options later during the German Phase, possibly.
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Weather Determination: I draw a card and get Poor. If it were Fair at this point, that would be a shock.
Luftwaffe Commitment: I get a ‘Strong’ commitment from the Luftwaffe this turn.
Relief Force Commitment: I get a ‘Weak’ commitment from the Relief Force this turn. I’m guessing despite being so close to us, the Soviets are putting up desperately stiff resistance to keep them from linking up. Either that or the pressures elsewhere along the front are causing the Relief Force to lose troop strength. Regardless of reason, it’s highly doubtful Hoth will link up with us this turn.
Determine German Morale Level: The number of locations (32) plus Hoth’s current location (4) equals 36. Morale has never been higher!
Determine Initiative Points: We get 7 IPs this turn. Our Wounded is only at a 2, so it won’t impact this like it did last turn.
Resolve Airlift: I roll a 5, and despite the weather being Poor, that gives us 3 more Supply for a grand total of 8. We’re rich! Though I doubt it’ll be around too long.
Conduct Unit Upkeep: Like I said, I doubt it’ll be around too long. I spend 5 of them to keep all units in top form. At least, as top as they can be here and now.
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Perform Actions, including Appeals: With 7 IPs and 3 Supply, I’m more confident in performing a Tactical Attack Action. This will put the Soviet units around us off guard as all German units conduct limited attacks across the entire Pocket, keeping them off guard and making them think twice about conducting their final offensive. I spend 1 IP and 2 Supply (reducing our totals to 6 IP and 1 Supply), and draw a card. The Random result on that card is ’10,’ which means I move the Final Offensive marker back one, to the ‘4’ space.
Here’s the state of all markers, as of this moment. Supply is 1, Wounded is 2, Final Offensive is now at 4, it’s turn 5, we have 6 IPs remaining, and the SSI stands at 8.
Next, I’m going to spend an IP to evacuate the 2 Wounded from the pocket. That reduces that marker down to zero. We have 5 IPs remaining.
I’m also going to conduct another Airlift Appeal Action to try to add some more Supply. But you might be wondering, what are the other Appeal actions?
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There are two others – Conference and Freedom of Action. The Conference Appeal is us trying to appeal to High Command to allow us greater freedom of action; the best you can hope for here is getting a marker that allows a positive die roll modifier for future Freedom of Action (FoA) requests. The Freedom of Action Appeal is where you try to get High Command (aka Mr. Hitler) to agree to allowing the Sixth Army to gain freedom of action to conduct its own attacks. The best use of this ability is in the south, to try to link up with Hoth, but the limited supply situation in the Pocket equates to this being a very bad idea. At least, not the best one, considering everything else that needs to happen.
Oh, we can still order an attack and spend the IPs and Supply to do so, but if we DO NOT have the Freedom of Action marker granted to us through our efforts, this will negatively impact us moving forward. The game doesn’t make this impossible, but it does make a hard situation more difficult (much how High Command made things more difficult for Paulus and the Sixth Army by hamstringing them, not to mention Paulus’s very own lack of decisiveness). Regardless, given our current situation, the Airlift Appeal is our best option here.
I rolled a 3, giving us +1 Supply, bringing our total now to 2 Supply. As usual, not great but not bad.
We have four IPs remaining. I’m spending all of it to flip the UA counters for both the 384th and 76th Infantry Divisions over to their Prepared sides (2 IPs each).
That’s all of our IPs for this turn.
Now we resolve Hoth’s Relief Force attack. With a Weak commitment, I’m not terribly hopeful. This table can give an Advance, No Effect (NE), or Retreat result. A Retreat would be disastrous right now and this is most likely to occur now when their commitment level is Weak.
Fortunately, I rolled a 4, which is a NE result. Hoth isn’t going anywhere this turn – neither backwards nor forwards.
Status of Final Offensive Checked: I draw a card and get a “+2,” which is awful. That moves the Final Offensive marker up to 6; they’re only two spaces away from conducting that Final Offensive.
What does that mean, exactly? Once the Soviets commit to their Final Offensive, it remains in effect for the rest of the game. This effect means that on the first turn this happens, each Soviet unit attacking that turn attacks a second time, no matter the result. Additional follow-up attacks are possible with certain die roll results. This can be very bad for the Germans. Also, in subsequent turns, ALL German areas are attacked; no card draw is required each turn for the remainder of the game. (The follow-up attacks only occur on the first turn of the Final Offensive, to be clear – at least, that’s how I interpret the rules).
Determine Soviet Target Areas: I draw a card and get “Any 3,” so once again I can select which three Areas the Soviets attack. Of course, I’m going to select areas with defenses in place. Specifically, these three:
The results are, from left to right, NE, NE, and DX. ‘DX’ is only applicable when a depleted unit is the sole unit defending in the area; that area has a depleted unit but also a full-strength unit, so this is another NE. We’re weathering the offensives well, for the time being.
Modify Strategic Situation Index: The Luftwaffe’s commitment was Strong (-1 modifier), while the Relief Force’s commitment was Weak (+1 modifier); the modifiers cancel each other out. And I rolled a 6, which means the SSI increases by 1, to 9. That’s unexpected.
We continue to hold our own against the Soviet’s assaults along our perimeter, and our supply situation, while not ideal, is keeping us in fighting trim. We’ve received intelligence from High Command, though, that the Soviets are preparing a major attack on our Pocket, which no doubt has been hamstringing Hoth’s efforts to get to us. If he could only get to us before they launch their assault! Meanwhile, we’ve heard the situation in general with Army Group South is improving and that Soviet attacks in the Caucasus are not as effective as once thought. I dare to hope we will not need to withdraw all of Army Group A to us here in the Don / Volga area, but that’s a big hope. As it is Christmastime, it’s that time to be hopeful, I suppose.
Random Event: I draw ‘Zeitler Persuasive!’ This gives us a +2 to an Appeal roll this turn. This might be the time to request Freedom of Action, though considering how our Supply level is not the greatest, I’m not going to want to conduct many attacks. This could mean a good Airlift, though. We will see.
Weather Determination: What do you think? If you guessed ‘Poor,’ you’d be right!
Luftwaffe Commitment Level: For this turn, I get an ‘Average’ commitment.
Relief Force Commitment Level: We get a ‘Strong’ commitment.
Determine German Morale Level: This remains at 36, so the troops are still in high spirits.
Determine Initiative Points: With no Wounded, we have no negative impact; with a Morale of 36, we get 7 IPs this turn.
Resolve Airlift: I roll a 5, continuing our luck by bringing in 3 Supply, giving us a total of 5.
Conduct Unit Upkeep: That 5 Supply disappears, though, as I keep all German units as strong as possible.
Perform Actions, including Appeals: With that Zeitler Persuasive Random Event card giving us a +2 to an Appeal roll, I hate to blow that on an Airlift Appeal, but our Supply has kept us in fighting trim throughout the game to this point, and I don’t have much use for Freedom of Action right now. So, that’s what I do – spend one IP (leaving 6 left), and roll, hoping for the best.
I get a 5; the +2 is somewhat wasted but bumps it to 6, which gives us +3 Supply. We go from zero to 3 Supply, so that’s a good thing.
I’m tempted, with that 3 Supply, to do another Tactical Attack to reduce that Final Offensive. But I’m also tempted to keep reinforcing our Areas with prepared defenses. For better or worse, I go the latter route and build three UA markers, at a cost of 2 IPs each, in some of our westernmost Areas.
I’m hoping that decision doesn’t prove to be a bad one.
Status of Final Offensive Checked: I draw a +1 for this, bringing it up to 7. That’s one step away from their Final Offensive, so I’m going to hope that supply is good next turn as I’ll likely need to do a Tactical Attack then.
Determine Soviet Target Areas: This time, I draw an ‘Odd’ result, so all odd-numbered areas get attacked.
The Soviet attacks finally gain ground, specifically in the 29th Panzergrenadier Division’s Area. I rolled a 6 there, which means either they retreat OR I flip the 29th to its Depleted side. I wasn’t willing to do that quite yet, and as that Area is pretty vulnerable, I went ahead and retreated that ‘Falcon’ division westwards, keeping it intact for the time being.
Otherwise, the attacks on the perimeter go nowhere, though they do generate 3 Wounded.
Modify Strategic Situation Index: I keep thinking this SSI can’t stay high forever, but I roll a 5; that with the -1 modifier for the Strong commitment from the Relief Force (the Average commitment from the Luftwaffe does not impact the roll here), that’s a zero. The SSI remains at a healthy 9.
And there’s no German collapse here, either. We’re doing a lot better than most of my games go.
Other than the 29th retreating under severe pressure from the Soviet 21st Army, the Pocket has not changed; the ongoing battle south of us has not moved as Hoth’s panzers and Soviet tanks are no doubt still going toe-to-toe in a wild melee among the blankets and flurries of snow. The Soviets are very close to assaulting the Pocket once and for all, I can feel it.
More to come! See you next week…
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