War in the East – The Road to Smolensk – Initial Plan

Welcome to the first real post of Fog of Wargames, in which I attempt to play Gary Grigsby’s War in the East.

Inspired by Spelk’s post over at Sugar Free Gamer “The Secret to Operational Wargaming,” I recently decided to really take the plunge into operational level wargames. My wargame experience tends towards the tactical (ASL, Field of Glory, etc.), so this will be a new challenge for me.

I have played through the tutorial scenario and introductory scenario for War in the East (Road to Minsk, for the curious), and am now ready to take on one of the slightly longer scenarios.

For this set of posts, I’ve decided to start out by playing the Road to Smolensk scenario as the Axis. The scenario is described as “A good scenario for learning how to cross defended major river lines and how to defend them.” The description further notes that “to encircle
Smolensk, the Axis player will have to cross the Dvina to the north and the Dnepr to the south.”

The secret to operational wargaming, as identified by Spelk, is to start with “Top Down” strategic planning, followed up by “Bottom up” tactical play. Following this model, I will review the overall situation, and then determine how to accomplish goals on an army by army basis (considering a total of 7 armies this turn).

First, an overview of the frontlines:

The Situation at the Beginning of Turn One

And the eventual objectives:

An Overview, Showing the Objectives

 

The first thing I notice is that there is a fair bit of ground to cover. I have 10 turns to take most of the objectives on the map. Moscow, the eastern-most objective, is probably not totally feasible. My goal, on first glance, is to capture the 8 objectives in the West, leaving Moscow and Kaluga in Soviet hands. That should, along with points for destroying the Soviet army, leave me with enough victory points to win the scenario. If Kaluga or Moscow fall into my lap (unlikely), I will happily take them, but at this point my aims are somewhat more modest.

To accomplish that goal, I should first encircle as many of the Soviet front line units as I can during turn one, planning to liquidate the pockets and push forward during turn two. After that, my best bet seems to be to take 2 infantry armies and one panzer group north, and push the remaining two infantry and two panzer armies through the center, around the Pripyat marshes, and then split them, with one group linking up with the northern armies to encircle Smolensk and the other splitting off to take Gomel and push towards Bryansk. Hopefully that will help me to encircle the concentration along the Rzhev, Vyazma, Bryansk axis.  This screenshot should (crudely) show my initial plan:

The Plan, as of Turn One

In the north we have the 18th Army (dark purple), the 16th Army (light purple), and the 4th Panzer Group (pink). The infantry armies (18th and 16th) will make the initial breach in the Soviet lines, and form the beginnings of the encirclement. After the lines are breached and infantry units placed, the 4th Panzer Group will exploit, attempting to close around as many units as possible.

The southern strategy will be similar. The infantry elements of the 3rd Panzer Group (light green) will attempt to breakthrough the lines, with the armored and motorized elements of the 3rd Panzer exploiting and forming the left arm of the envelopment. The 9th Army (dark green) and the 4th Army (dark blue) will hold position, unless a few units are needed to shore up the shoulders of the envelopment. The infantry elements of the 2nd Panzer Group (light blue) will force a breakthrough near Brest Litovsk, after which the armored elements will attempt to link up with the 3rd Panzer Group, completing the encirclement.

Before any of this happens, however, I will use my airforce to strike at Soviet airbases, taking advantage of the element of surprise.
Too busy to actually execute this turn tonight, but I will do so tomorrow and post an update.

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