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Jim Tracy drove up from Dayton to Columbus on 1/7 to participate with me at our local CABS meeting in playtesting the upcoming reprint for PanzerGruppe Guderian from L2 Design. James F Dunnigan is behind the re-design effort and there are some changes in the works for the game from it's original, first published in S&T #57 in 1976. The game was reprinted by Avalon Hill in 1984 with very minimal changes.

Jim Tracy was a gracious opponent and very aggressive as the Germans, making this game an interesting and effective exercise of the system and new map (in progress by Art Lupinacci). We learned some interesting things and in addition to this set of photos, there's feedback once again sent off to JFD in the interest of sharing our experience in the game.

My pictures are of mixed quality, however even the blurred ones are used here if they can show where the two sides were positioned during the turn.

Posted with permission of Art Lupinacci of L2 Design Group. Map art is by no means final, and subject to change. Counters are not representative of actual artwork intended. Counters will be 5/8" and map will accomodate them when this title is published.

Jim Tracy across the table from me on Turn 8

This is the end of turn 1 for the Soviets, so there's no German units on the board at all. The Soviet 16th Army was released turn 1 and was used to fill in some of the forward positions against an immediate German advance near Vitebsk.

Jim was telling me he's used to people defending back and using those 2 armies to build up the secondary defense line before Smolensk. I am used to defending forward more than apparently he's seen being effective, and since that's been successful for me many times in the past, I stuck with it.

The Germans peel open the southern flank pretty strongly on turn 1. The end of turn 1 sees Jim taking Orsha and holding the critical crossroads just north of that city. That road is the supply road for the Germans, so it's pretty touchy for the Soviet to lose it this early.

The German did have a bad setback in one way. Jim committed an attempted overrun that turned out to be a 1-2 attack and obtained an Attacker Eliminated result, taking a full panzer division out of the game early.

There is however only very weak German forces on the board at this point, the advance guard moving as much South as possible, ignoring Vitebsk entirely.

Early Casualties

Soviet Turn 2

The Soviet cuts the supply paths and attempted to clear away the motorized regiment on the southern flank. That attack went awry however, and ultimately what resulted was simply road blocks being placed in the path of the German advance. The isolated status of the Germans was obviously tenuous, but the goal of limiting the mobility of the advance elements was achieved for at least the first movement phase.

German Turn 2

The Germans clear the Supply threat, lock down the northern flank to some degree by posting units up against the Soviets so they can't move, and kick again at the Southern flank to keep the threat of simply zipping across the to Smolensk. Jim never takes his eyes off the VP cities deep in the back areas of the Soviet lines. Nasty habit he's got there.

Notice that the Soviets have nothing solid to the south even though there is a road for supply down there cutting in towards Smolensk. A serious weakness I had no easy means to correct.

Soviet Turn 3

Soviet troops pour in along the southern rail line the best they can, but it looks like a measure of too little to really keep that vast open terrain secure. The northern flank is utterly ignored by the Germans. Soviet reinforcements coming down from the north are unable to do more than trickle towards the critical parts of the line.

But an attempt has been made to get some troops into place along the Dnepr, and to cut up some of the forward German units. Once again, a few advance German units have been cut off, but the Soviet hasn't the force to do any damage other than to get in the way of the steamroller.

Note the German reinforcements on the edge of the map waiting to enter on Turn 3. I'm sure Jim put them out in advance deliberately as an intimidation tactic! Actually, I know he was just trying to prepare for his turn, as watching me maneuver had to be boring.

German Turn 3

At this point, the German main strength pours onto the board, and right through the Soviet line in the south like a hot knife through butter. An immediate and direct threat to Smolensk is now in place. This is that lesson Jim is trying to convey about defending forward in this game.

The Soviet northern flank is well displaced forward now, in no position to react, even if it could move. And  here's where the Soviet is pinned in place too, unable to attack for withdrawal purposes, an aggressive forward defense is put at risk here. None the less, the Germans are not clearing the critical supply road they will require to get to and past Smolensk. Those woods and swamp will require clearing before there is a suitable supply path.

Soviet Turn 4

Smolensk receives a rush of reinforcements by rail that pile in as heavily as possible. The Soviets also mount a sharp counter attack against the advanced 10th Panzer division which was surrounded and out of supply for the attack. The result was a split loss of steps, 2 for the Panzers and 1 for the Soviets. The effect of taking a Soviet step loss puts the panzers back in supply at the end of the Soviet turn. The 4th Panzer is in the woods closest to Smolensk.

Though speed bumps are in the way, the path to Smolensk is pretty clear for the German to reach at the end of Turn 4. Still, that critical supply route is choked with Soviet units. Several motorized German divisions have been bled a bit, and the 10th Motorized is split apart, as is the 3rd Panzer, making overruns with those units unlikely.

We started counting supply paths at this point because it was beginning to look like it could become an issue.

German Turn 4

The panzers roll around the flank and take up positions around Smolensk. There's a couple benefits to doing this so strongly even though there is a possible supply issue. The main reason, it keeps additional units from squeezing into Smolensk to defend in the city proper. Notice the northern flank still is in position, unable to draw back to defend the city.

The Germans also roll the 4th Panzer in behind the Soviet lines along the road to work on cutting supply to the powerful divisions that have taken up positions in stronger defensive terrain. To reduce the threat of counter attack, the Stukas are positioned to reduce Soviet mobility around their flank.

The wide open Southern flank is having a very negative effect on the Soviet defense, but it's far from conclusively broken.

Soviet Turn 5 (Smolensk area)

A counter attack is thrown against the eastern most Panzer division next to Smolensk to relieve some pressure. It does damage, reducing the panzers a bit, but ultimately, all that is happening is the Soviet reinforcements pouring in from the Northeast are still unable to do more to provide relief. But the Germans are pressed at the limits of their logistical tail, supply will be carefully calculated for any of the easternmost units.

Soviet Turn 5 (road to Smolensk)

Meanwhile along the roadway, efforts to block supply from opening up are ongoing. The 10th Panzer is badly depleted, but by no means crippled, and the 4th panzer gets cut off from supply, a counter attack having caused damage to the 4th but equally dinging the Soviets. The disrupted marker should have been removed before the picture was taken.

One of the arguments against this forward defense is the effectiveness of the German infantry divisions in participating in clearing the woods, as is evidenced by the infantry working in through the swamp area.

German Turn 5 (the road to Smolensk)

The effort to encircle the Soviets is pushed in a bit tighter. More of the defensive are in forward sections is being cut up. It becomes just a matter of time before the larger stacks of Soviet infantry and armor are peeled away, leaving open the critical supply road.

German Turn 5 (Smolensk area)

Meanwhile, the forward troops make an attempt to crack at least one of the city hexes, resulting only in the loss of a leader. Concerns of flanking efforts by the Soviets lead to the placement of Stukas to protect against the movement of the one armor unit in the area sneaking around the flanks of the Panzers.

Soviet Turn 6 (Smolensk)

Another effort is made to displace the forward Panzer division, with a split result again, bleeding them slowly at best.

Despite the best efforts to keep the panzers in supply, some Soviets slip around the flanks to cut off supply. A defensive position along the Dnepr is forming Southeast of Smolensk, but poorly due to the fact the Panzers are already across the river east of the city.

Soviet Turn 6 (road to Smolensk)

The encircling panzers are themselves cut off, but the counter attacks fall flat, leaving them in place with the pocketed Soviet troops still just barely holding the road to keep the German advance slowed.

Off map on the north and west, the northern flank remains unchanged, still holding at Vitebsk, with minimal German screening forces holding the Soviets in place.

German Turn 6 (Smolensk area)

Jim starts to force the city. The southern hex falls to the German attacks, and flanking threats to supply are swept aside. The Stukas once again are positioned to prevent any effort to flank exposed panzers. Threats from the south are being answered by screening efforts also.

German Turn 6 (road to Smolensk)

Efforts to clear the supply road continue, but now the German infantry is helping to provide flanking for Vitebsk and the Northern flank that's been so long static.

The Soviets continue to hold out at least another turn though, providing even further barriers to easy advances by all the German forces. Some panzer forces to the west have been scattered by failed overrun attempts.

Soviet Turn 7

The Soviet once again piles on the Panzers across the Dnepr, causing more damage, but by no means displacing them. Additional forces slip in to prevent flanking of the city to the north or south. The swarm coming in from the east isn't nearly enough, but it's causing the German to work harder on clearing his rear areas more.

Down south a handful of Soviets hold back just a couple German units from advancing towards Roslavl, with one division sitting in the city proper, and a couple other units tying up the few Germans advancing near Mstislavi.

The Soviet interdiction marker is placed on the supply road as far West as possible to affect the German capacity forward at this point.

German Turn 7

At this point, the road path is still being blocked by the Soviets, and though the southern hex of Smolensk has fallen, the forces inside the northern hex are still too strong to contemplate a head on assault without holding more space around the city to make a significant attack. There is some maneuvering going on in the south to try getting to Roslovl. Jim catches me out on a rule I'd missed before, that being the Soviet air interdiction cannot be placed on top of a German unit (a side effect of the interdiction marker in part being not just air, but partisans). Note the line of German units developing along the roadway. Jim has mechanized forces working to flank around Smolensk to the north and south, targeting any supply path into the city proper. He has effectively prevented reinforcement of the city, though when he took the southern hex, a very powerful Soviet armored unit was retreated into the northern city hex. He's also been frustrated in the attack to take Vitebsk, which holds out against attack while surrounded. None the less, some of the powerful German infantry will make it to the Smolensk fight soon.

Soviet Turn 8

With a bit of a rush, the Soviet works to prevent easy flanking of either North or South. The German will have to choose between the two to make his advance during his turn. The maneuvering down south around the Mstislavi area is slowly turning into a real attempt to break through to Roslavl, so the positions are more critical in the south than they've been for a while. The lightly held southern flank once again represents a threat to areas east of Smolensk now.  The major effort is being placed by the Soviets on keeping the advanced German units from having supply. Once again, attempts to displace the Panzer Division east of Smolensk fails. Each turn though brings more damage to that division.

German Turn 8

The road to Smolensk is finally cleared of roadblocks and Vitebsk is also crushed. The German force in the south has done a bit of rear area clean up too, as a mechanized unit rushes to roll into the unprotected Roslavl. The main effort to cut the rail line up from the south so no more reinforcements can creep up from down there. Additionally, the GD is pushed into Velna, to seize the VP city behind Smolensk. However, best efforts to clear Smolensk itself failed and the flanking move around the north has been held up. Great rear area successes, but the front area is still in question.

Soviet Turn 9

The Soviets frantically fill in open spaces, bringing in the first 5 divisions of the optional Southwest Front units. The position is simply dangerous enough for the Soviet that without them, the east edge of the map is within easy reach. Another attack on the Panzers east of Smolensk brings no result though it's apparent the jockeying German flanking moves to the north will get around eventually anyway.

German Turn 9

An attempt to force Smolensk fails. The Germans that had been fighting for the supply road start catching up with the rest of the battle, and the road to Roslavl is cleared to the south.

Soviet Turn 10

Yelna is recaptured, Roslavl is re-entered, effectively recapturing that city as well. The attack on the panzers east of Smolensk finally pays off and the Dnepr river becomes the defensive line again southeast of the city proper. An attempt to crush the one German unit flanking from the north fails, but the northern flank to Smolensk is becoming thicker. Another 5 divisions of the Southwest Front reinforcements pour onto the board, the southwest section of the board showing signs of weakness that the Soviet cannot ignore.

German Turn 10

The German forces, having finally cleared the last blocking defender near Mstislavi push back towards Roslavl in force. Partly to pin the forces coming up from the south, partly to regain the VP city. A couple Panzer divisions and a Motorized division wheel behind the Smolensk area to pocket the defenders from behind. The serious effort is undertaking destroying the northern flank comprised of Soviet infantry that has been occupying so much German force's left. Despite clearing many Soviet units from the map, the Germans end up with several divisions dispersed as the result of failed overruns. The steady pocketing of Soviet units out of supply does however yield a collapse and the German advance is once again pushing east.

Soviet Turn 11

Soviet efforts to relieve their supply state in the Smolensk pocket fail, but several German division  are put out of supply. Additional road blocks are put in place to prevent an easy movement east by the German forces.  The pocket is large enough to take a bit of effort by the Germans to clear. The serious effort is put merely on holding onto what the Soviets still hold though.

German Turn 11

Defenses in Roslavl are crushed and a serious drive started towards the east edge of the map. Most importantly, the right flank of the Smolensk defense is completely crushed, leaving an encircling penetration on the northern edge of the board as well. Smolensk, still held by a few strong units is cut off and isolated now beyond hope of any relief.

Soviet Turn 12

In a desperate effort, the Soviets form a line to cut off supply to the advancing German forces in the south. By this means the Germans are prevented from being able to reach the 20-60 VP hexes along the eastern most edge of the map due to insufficient movement while out of supply. All that is left to the Soviet is to block movement that could reach VP hexes remaining on the map during Turn 12 for the German.

German Turn 12

German forces reclaim Yelna and a wild rush to Gzhatsk snaps up the VP there too. But critically, the final assault on Smolensk fails, leaving the city still in Soviet hands at the end of the game.

Victory points:

Soviet VP German VP
7th Panzer Destroyed 5 Vitebsk 10
Yelna recaptured 2 Orsha 5
Roslavl recaptured 2 Yelna 10
total 9 Roslavl 10
Mogilev 5
Gzhatsk 5
1st five SW front divisions 5
2nd five SW front divisions 10
total 60

End result is 51 VP, the German marginal victory starts at 50 VP, so this was a marginal German Victory.