|The 1st Panzer Army is able to encircle a large number of Soviet units near Kiev.|
The first Soviet HQ represents their supreme marshal Zhukov. He works with a range of 3 hexes, just like the German Panzer HQs. The second represents STAVKA, the Soviet Supreme Command Reserve. This important HQ has a range of 6 hexes. Unlike most other chits in the game, the Soviet player may choose to play the STAVKA chit whenever he wishes, except that it cannot be played before the Axis selects a chit on turns when the Axis has initiative.
The Soviets may place any number of reinforcements into a “reserve pool.” When the STAVKA chit is played, these reserve units may be placed anywhere within range of the STAVKA (and/or Zhukov) HQ, then move and attack (as long as they remain within range). There are limits as to how many reserve units can enter the map, however. In 1941 that limit is whatever the result is on a 2 dice roll. Later in the game the Soviets will receive “combat” chits for each of these HQs, making them even more flexible and powerful.
With 14 armies to place, the Soviet player decides to put half of them into STAVKA reserve (7 is a likely roll on 2 dice) and scatter the other half in major cities across the map. The STAVKA HQ is placed in Smolensk. Zhukov goes to Kiev.
The German air units flip to their “ready” side, having transferred bases closer to the front last turn. No rail movement is allowed for either side yet. The Soviets use naval movement in the Baltic Sea to reinforce the port of Ventspils. This will tied down a few German infantry units trying to clear that area of the map. Anything the Soviets can do to slow down and reduce the Axis advance should be attempted. Since the grandiosity of Axis operations is beyond the Soviet capability at this point, an accumulation of little things like this particular sea movement is necessary to make the Axis advance as cumbersome as possible.
The Axis still has the initiative and selects the “Move” chit first. This will allow the infantry to catch-up a bit to the Panzers. This is particularly important in the central portion of the map since the Germans are out of supply there at the moment and are thus subject to negative modifiers if attacked. The Axis moves forward and consolidates positions, careful to place some infantry corps within range of the Panzer HQs so that they can be activated again later in the turn. Near Kiev, the German Panzers move to encircle a large number of Soviet units. Further to the south, Romanian and German units move toward Odessa.
The Soviet player now has the option to “trump” the chit draw process and play the STAVKA chit or save it for later. Since Army Group Center is mostly out of supply, the Soviets will play STAVKA and attempt to damage the Panzers. A “6” is rolled. So 6 of the 7 infantry armies in reserve can move onto the board. In this case all of them will go to the center to attack there. They must remain in range of the STAVKA HQ at Smolensk. The last infantry army remains in STAVKA Reserve to be deployed on a future turn.
The attacks force two Panzer stacks to retreat with one step loss while a third attack resulted in both sides losing one step but remaining in place. In addition to that, the Soviets now have some powerful infantry armies guarding Vitebsk and Smolensk. So, the attacks were moderately successful.
|The front line of Army Group Center begins August out of supply. This negatively impacts their ability to attack and defend which is a huge advantage to the Soviets.|
|The first Soviet STAVKA attacks of the game pushed some of the Panzers back and, more importantly, inflicts step losses on the Germans.|
|This is the situation in the center at the end of the turn. The Germans went virtually nowhere which throws the time table to capture Moscow completely out the window. A major setback for the Axis and an important win for the Soviets.|
|The 4th Panzer Army approaches Leningrad.|
|Several Soviet units are isolated as the Germans manage to capture Luga, only 5 hexes away from Leningrad, though Army Group North is very scattered and the infantry can not offer much support as things currently stand.|
|End of August in the north. Many isolated Soviets have been eliminated and the most advanced Panzer divisions require air supply.|
July through September the 1st and 2nd Panzer receive two chits in the draw cup. This helps reflect better German mobility in the early part of Barbarossa. So, when the next draw out of the cup is the 1st Panzer again it, if effect, gets a double move. The Germans adjust their forces within range of the 1st Panzer HQ. The use of available air support in combined attacks along the Kiev defensive works yields two captured hexes at a cost of a couple of Panzer steps. They are now on the outskirts of the city.
Now the Soviet “Counterattack” chit is drawn. An “8” is rolled on 2 dice, so that’s how many attacks Stalin mandates for this turn. Matters are in such disarray in the north that no attacks are really possible there. Decent odds of 1-1 and even 2-1 are possible at six points in the center. The other two can be fulfilled in the south including an attack on the weaker Romanian units. The net result is that the Soviets lose six 1-4 infantry division steps while the Germans lose four steps and the Romanians lose one step. Plus the counterattack at Kiev forces the Germans back and the Soviets retake part of the fortified line. This exchange of loses works in the Soviets favor, as the Axis step loses are “greater” in that one step loss actually reduces each unit more in terms of combat factors than the loss of the Soviet 1-4’s. Axis units lose their zone of control when they flip, which also helps the Soviets.
This is followed by the second Axis Move/Combat chit, which must be used as combat in this case since the first chit was used for movement bat the beginning of the Action Phase. The Germans take the Baltic port of Ventspils which gives them another victory point. The northern army group could attack several Soviet units, but there’s no real advantage to it. Each attack carries the risk of an “Exchange” result which will eliminate the defenders but at a cost of an equal number of attacker steps. The Germans can just wait things out there since many of the Soviets are isolated and will likely be eliminated by attrition later in the turn.
There are plenty of combat opportunities in the center but many of the German units are now of reduced strength. This weakness can be mostly offset, however, by using air units in combat support. The Germans also possess a special “assault gun” marker in /The Dark Valley/. This marker becomes more powerful as the game goes along. For now it adds +1 to each attack and +2 to each defense. It can be used once per action round but otherwise it can be reused round after round throughout any given game turn. Altogether this is enough support to cobble together a couple of decent attacks which don’t really accomplish much.
The Air Units stationed in Minsk are within range to not only assist in the center but also to bombard the portion of the Kiev fortified area that was recaptured by the Soviets during their counterattack. This frees up the other German air unit in the south to assist with another attack. The fortified line hex is retaken – a lot of back and forth action involving it. Additional combats force the Soviets to retreat and the Germans take the entire fortified line adjacent to Kiev. There is minimal combat further south.
The 2nd Panzer chit is drawn next. The units within range of that HQ are now weakened from so much combat. They manage to drive the Soviets back a bit but mainly the action is used to consolidate their line and bring up some additional infantry for support. This is followed by the 3rd Panzer chit, whose units are in better condition. They manage to cut off and destroy two Soviet divisions and a mechanized corps at the cost of a Panzer step. This captures the town of Mogilev.
At last the Soviet Move chit comes into play. This turn could have worked out much differently had this chit been drawn earlier. But that is true of almost every turn in The Dark Valley and one reason this game is so much fun. The chaos created by the random chit draw makes each turn unpredictable and often squelches the best laid plans while also opening up unexpected opportunities. In the north the Soviets make moves to better protect Leningrad, suddenly under threat with the fall of Luga. In the center and south lines are reformed and consolidated. Units initially deployed deep in Russia are brought forward, the infantry moving 6 movement points instead of the usual 4 due to “strategic” movement – basically moving without ever entering an enemy zone of control.
The remaining chit is the second 2nd Panzer activation of the turn. These units are weak so no attacks are made and a couple of infantry corps are brought up to strength the line. The Germans are far behind their historical advance in the center whereas actions in the north and south are on par with the historical results. Overall, the Soviets have done well to this point and both sides have been impacted by errors I made in playing each side.
The Axis Depots move forward at 4 hexes this turn due to their die roll check on the Depot Advance Table. The German air unit in the north flies limited supply to the advanced Panzers at and near Luga which offsets the OOS status. Special markers are placed on these units to reflect this and the air unit is flipped to “Done.” Lastly, the Attrition Segment sees a number of isolated Soviets eliminated including the largest pocket so far north of Vinnitsa – six mechanized corps and five infantry divisions.
But the “main” advance against Moscow was completely frustrated by the large number of Soviet’s deployed there, some timely counterattacks and the fact that the front line Germans began the turn out of supply in that sector with no air units available to assist. Going into the September turn the Germans still have not captured Vitebsk or Smolensk.
|The Germans attack the pocket north of Vinnitsa, compressing it. You can see pro-Axis Romanian and even Hungarian units further south.|
|With the pocket now isolated (after the Logistics chit is drawn) the Panzers turn east again and capture part of Kiev's defensive line.|
|The end of August. The huge pocket is captured/destroyed and the 1st Panzer Army is at the gates of Kiev.|