Michael Eckenfels, 7 November 2021
Random Event: Soviets Falter. This gives +1 to the SSI marker immediately, moving it back up from 8 to 9.
Weather: Should I even bother to draw a card to determine this? Probably not, but I do it anyway, and yeppers, it’s Poor.
Luftwaffe Commitment: I rolled a 5, so it stays at Strong.
Relief Force Commitment: I rolled a 6, so it stays at Strong.
Determine German Morale Level: This stays at 35, as we lost no further Areas last turn.
Determine Initiative Points. With a Morale of 35, that gives us 7 IPs, but we reduce that by 1 since we have 9 Wounded. (If we had 10, we’d have to subtract two IP instead of just one, but fractions of every five wounded are ignored.) We have 6 IPs.
Resolve Airlift: I rolled a 2, which is modified to a 4 for the Luftwaffe’s Strong commitment. That means 2 Supply make it in, increasing our total to 5. That is, of course, reduced to 4 thanks to Milch.
I choose the 60th Panzergrenadier and 20th Romanian Divisions again to not supply. Unfortunately, I roll a 5, meaning one of these units needs to be eliminated. I choose the Romanians, not for any other reason than they’re the odd man out in this game; both are Depleted formations so it doesn’t really matter which one. In any case, the decision is made.
For my first Action, I need to clear the wounded from the Pocket. I might have played this incorrectly earlier by spending one IP and sending out up to five Wounded, when it’s supposed to be three. If I messed that up, that’s my bad, though the numbers haven’t been so huge as to be terribly impactful game-wise. I hope.
I spend three of my six IPs to clear out these nine Wounded, reducing that total to zero.
I spend another two IPs to place a UA marker in the Karpovka area, where the 29th and 3rd Panzergrenadier Divisions are awaiting Hoth’s arrival. I don’t have but one IP left, so I can’t turn it into a full-fledged Prepared Defense yet.
I spend the last IP on an Airlift Appeal to try to get more of that crunk supply. I roll a 4, getting 2 extra Supply. While not crunk levels, it’s pretty okay.
Resolve Hoth Relief Force Attack: I roll a 5, giving us another Advance result. Hoth moves one space closer to the Pocket!
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Stalingrad Solitaire is published by Canvas Temple Publishing
I find it comforting that we were able to come up with enough resources – through promises, threats, and even a few lies, to line up enough transports to enter the Pocket to pull out our wounded. The organization on their end of things is something that leaves a lot to be desired, given that several of these planes arrived empty. I don’t know who’s running the supply situation at Army Group, but it could be much better. Some inquiries towards this have been vaguely answered, including the promise that there’s an entire “supply train” worth of trucks transporting fuel, food, and medicine into the Pocket that are accompanying Hoth’s troops. Speaking of, even here in our bunker at Gumrak, we can hear the distant sounds of battle to the south. I hope it gets louder than the cacophony that’s been wailing all along the perimeter in a dire melody for weeks now.
The Soviet attacks this turn were more effective; they inflicted four Wounded and destroyed a depleted 60th Panzergrenadier Division, on the north side of the Pocket. Fortunately, it was in place with the 113th Infantry Division, which is itself at full strength, so while it’s bad enough to lose a Division from the 6th Army, it could have been much worse had the 113th not been there to hold the line.
The 60th Panzergrenadier (originally a non-motorized infantry division) was organized from the Danzig Heimswehr (Home Army) and the S.A. (Brownshirt) Brigade Eberhardt – a German combat force smuggled into Danzig before the war. These units took part in the struggle for the Free City of Danzig, the Westerplatte, the Hela peninsula, and surrounding areas of Poland in September 1939. The new infantry division, which included the 242nd, 243rd, and 244th Infantry Divisions in 1939, was formed in September, after northern Poland had been cleared. It fought in France in 1940, after which it was reorganized as a motorized division in the fall of 1940. It dropped its previous regimental numbers and received the 12th Motorized Infantry Regiment (formerly of he 2nd Motorized Infantry Division) and the Headquarters, 120th Motorized Infantry Regiment. After helping overrun Yugoslavia, it fought on the southern zone of the Russian Front in 1941 and 1942, during the advance through the Ukraine and the Donets Basin. It fought in the Battles of Kiev, Rostov, and Kharkov, and the drive to the Volga. It was surrounded at Stalingrad with the 6th Army and was destroyed there in January 1943. (Hitler’s Legions, pg. 407)
The loss of the 60th is not terrible in game, as we still hold the line well enough. The SSI drops like a stone here, though, as I roll a 1 and with a -2, that drops it to the lowest possible result (a negative 1). That’s a -2 to the SSI, so it goes from 9 to 7. A 7 is not terrible, but that’s a big drop, regardless.
We’re seeing larger cracks in our defenses…
Random Event: I draw the “Acute Petrol Shortage!” card, which triples movement for the remainder of the game. We’re really getting close to the end, now.
Weather Determination: I draw a “Same” card, so we’re still pestered with Poor weather. Which makes sense. I mean, this IS winter in the Soviet Union, after all.
For Luftwaffe Commitment, I roll a 6 – so it’s Strong again this turn. And for Relief Force Commitment, I roll a 4, which gets a +1 since our SSI is at 7, making it a 5 – another Strong turn. This might be the turn we see the Pocket rescued.
German Morale remains at a strong 35, as no Areas have been lost and Hoth is now very close to meeting up with our cauldron.
Our IP Point total this turn is 7; we have 4 Wounded, but this does not impact our IPs. If our Wounded level were 5 or more, we’d suffer some loss to IPs.
Michael’s Stalingrad Solitaire AAR has been running for a month of Sundays
Rolling for our Airlift, I get a 4, which gets a +2 thanks to the Strong Luftwaffe commitment, bringing us to a 6. This nets +4 Supply for the Pocket, and brings our grand total to 6, thankfully.
Conduct Unit Upkeep: With 21 units in the pocket, I need to spend 5 Supply to keep them all in fighting trim. At this point, though, that extra 1 unit costs me 1 full Supply, so I’m going to take the chance of leaving one unit out of supply this turn, to avoid that cost. The unit in question will be the 94th Infantry Division, as it is already depleted, and there’s a full-strength unit present (so it won’t leave a big gap in our lines if it disappears).
I roll a 6, which is the worst possible roll. The 94th cannot stand up to the lack of supply, and falls apart as a unit. That leaves us with 20 units now, and also, we’re 4 Supply short (for a total of 2 Supply now).
Composed of reservists from Saxony and the Sudetenland, this division was mobilized in September 1939, shortly after the beginning of the war. The next year it took part in the French campaign, where it was involved in the 6th Army’s river crossing operation on the Somme. It took part in the invasion of Russia in 1941, including the sweep across the Ukraine, the Battle of Kiev, and the subsequent Soviet counteroffensive of the winter of 1941-42. In May 1942 it was involved in the Kharkov-Izyum fighting, in the drive across the Don, and in the Battle of Kalack, which opened the route to the Volga. In November 1942 the 94th Infantry Division was surrounded at Stalingrad, where it initially held a sector in the northeastern corner of the pocket; the divisional headquarters, however, was evacuated and attached to the XLVIII Panzer Corps of the hastily formed Army Detachment Hollidt of Army Group Don, where it controlled miscellaneous units under Lieutenant General Georg Pfeiffer (1942-43). Meanwhile, the combat troops of the division were assigned to the 24th Panzer and 16th Panzer Divisions… (Hitler’s Legions, pp. 109-110)
Perform Actions, Including Appeals: I spend my first IP (of 7) to do yet another Airlift Appeal, to pad our Supply situation. I roll a 5, which nets us +2 extra Supply for a now-grand total of 4 Supply.
My next IP is spent to evacuate our four Wounded out of the pocket, leaving us with no Wounded and 5 IPs left to spend.
Now, here’s something interesting: I can try an Attack Action, which I’ve yet to do. This costs 1 IP and up to 3 Supply (the more Supply I spend, the better its chances are) to attack an adjacent Soviet-held area. Each Supply point so spent gives me a +1 to my roll, and if it’s a Panzer or Motorized (Panzergrenadier) unit attacking, that’s another +1.
I’m eying this part of the line, naturally:
That Soviet 57th Army unit is the only thing between me and an endgame. A successful one I would think, considering how well I’ve done thus far (or, how lucky I’ve been), because the moment a link-up is effected, the game ends and I determine victory.
I honestly don’t see WHY I would not try for this right now. I could wait and see if Hoth advances, of course, but if he does not for whatever reason, we have to go another turn. The odds of an Attack Action succeeding are much higher, I think.
So, that’s it. The 29th Panzergrenadier Division is tasked by 6th Army to attempt to link up with Hoth; the 3rd Panzergrenadier will hold the Area. I’m spending 3 Supply to give me +3, and since the 29th is a Panzergrenadier/Motorized unit, that’s another +1, for a total modifier of +4.
I need to roll 7 or higher to get a Retreat result on that Soviet 57th Army unit.
Soviet 57th Army
The 57th Army was formed in October 1941 and subordinated to the Reserve of the Supreme High Command (RVGK). Still under RVGK control in December 1941, the 57th Army was made up of the following units: The 333rd, 335th, 337th, 341st, 349th, and 351s Rifle Divisions, as well as the 60th and 79th Cavalry Divisions.
During the May 1942 Battle of Kharkov, the army was surrounded and practically destroyed. Attempting to break out, General Podlas, the army commander, was killed in action. Slowly rebuilt, by December 1942, the army was part of the Stalingrad Front. The 57th Army was disbanded in February 1943 to form the headquarters of the 68th Army. (Wikipedia article)
I spend my third IP this turn, and also use up 3 Supply, to make this Attack Action…
…and I roll a 3. That, +4, is a 7, which is enough to push the 57th Army out of the way and effect a link-up with Hoth!
Only thing is, since we made an Attack WITHOUT Freedom of Action, we’d be penalized for that later in the game; making an Attack without permission (via the FoA marker being awarded, through Appeals). This reflects the obstinacy of the OKH in supporting the 6th Army to make an effective break-out. Seeing how this makes the game end (the goal should be effecting that link-up, otherwise 6th Army will die on the vine eventually, even with a good, constant supply in place).
That ends the game immediately. I now move on to determine how well we did.
Our SSI was 7; from the table here, we get another +4 for a total SSI of 11 (15 or more German units linked up for +3, and German Morale is over 25 for +1). That gives us a German Decisive Victory, the best possible outcome.
So, that’s a fairly fanciful way of seeing things, but definitely reflective of the ‘best possible outcome’ via the game’s Victory levels.
And, here’s the Pocket in its final state:
We waited anxiously for word from the 29th Division and its assault on the 57th Army. Our intelligence suggested that the commander of the Soviet 57th Army had more units facing Hoth than our Pocket, which did him in, ultimately; though weakened, the Falcons of this division linked up with Hoth, and even more supply poured into the pocket, along with weapons and much-needed ammunition – not to mention desperately-needed reinforcements! With those in place, there was little doubt in our minds that we’d hold and turn the tables on Ivan.
I’ve played this game a handful of times before I wrote this AAR, and my other playthroughs always managed to end in a German disaster of different magnitudes. This is by far the best result I’ve had, as I’ve never had the SSI above a 5, so this is a pretty good result, even if absolutely ahistorical.
Admittedly, there’s not much reason to go for any different kind of Appeal other than Airlift, to get that extra Supply. I was lucky with a few rolls there, because that is indeed your lifeline. Those Out of Supply rolls can be murderous to the Germans, which is why you saw me concentrate on that rather than seeking Freedom of Action or a Conference. I didn’t see the point in either of those after a few games, and when it’s the last turn and victory rides on taking a chance, despite the FoA penalty I’d receive later if the game went on, I went for it and barely managed to link up. I can only imagine if OKH and Hitler were furious at 6th Army taking the offensive to meet up with Hoth, that Paulus could simply have answered, “If you would like me to hand Novy Put back over to the Russians, please let me know.” You can’t argue with success.
The game is enjoyable, though limited in scope as there’s not much you can do in the Pocket other than mitigate supply issues and try not to wear your forces too thinly. I’d done that in previous games, moving units around and trying to take Stalingrad, but those were all futile and hastened the death of the 6th Army. This more conservative approach to things paid off. I have my doubts that it would work a second time were I to follow the same strategy, as so much really depends on luck, here (card draws and die rolls), but the uncertainty of the campaign and events is really thematic for a game of this type. While it might feel there are not a lot of choices you can make, I think this falls nicely into a narrative-driven game where the story unfolds before your eyes. Your choices do impact things down the line; don’t get me wrong. Previous games are testimony to my choices being wrong ones, though I think you could make bad choices and the die rolls or card draws could help to mitigate them. You eventually get a good feel for what your best course(s) of action are, and hope for the best – even a good chance of making a roll doesn’t mean the die will cooperate, of course.
Hope you enjoyed it!
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