The Soviets have moved forward and concentrated a number of troops around Smolensk. A direct assault on their position would be a poor strategy, as the infantry dug into the city have a substantial defense bonus, and the armor divisions there could be an effective mobile reserve. Instead, I will attempt to use my mobile elements to get around the line, surrounding Smolensk and isolating its defenders. Here is the situation at the beginning of turn six:
4th and 9th armies liquidate the pocket, and the panzer groups advance around Smolensk. I am a little concerned that the Soviets may break through, but luck has been with me so far.
In the north, the front has broken down, but some elements of the 3rd Panzer Group managed to take Velikie Luki. I think they will be able to hold on.
Turn seven begins, and disaster strikes. Not only did the 14th Motorized Division (the light green motorized division in the north, most exposed to the Soviets) get surrounded, but I missed my chance to get a screen shot of it. Further, the 16th Army (purple) has been withdrawn, leaving me with a hole on the northern front.
That led to a relief effort, disproportionate to the value of the 14th motorized, with the goals of relieving the 14th, establishing some kind of new line, and cutting off a few Soviet units. The result was successful, but it left the northern front further fragmented:
In the south, the pocket was liquidated and a new pocket formed in front of Smolensk. Again, the infantry lag behind, leaving a gap between Soviet line and my own. I don’t anticipate this being too much of a problem, however, because the important issue here is containing any breakout attempt to the East. It is unlikely that the cut off Soviet units are going to go on a successful offensive. Even if they do, they shouldn’t make it past the infantry line a few hexes to their west.
Soviet losses are now almost 1,250,000. Axis losses are less than 40,000.
As of the end of turn seven, the Axis controls Velikie Luki, Vitebsk, Mogilev, Gomel, Bryansk, and Smolensk. Assuming I retain control of these six cities until the end of the game, I will have 1050 Victory Points in cities. I will also have at least 500 points in losses. Assuming no further progress, the Soviets will have 400 points for Moscow, along with 450 points for Kaluga, Rzhev, and Vyazma.
At this point, I probably have the scenario in the bag, barring a significant Soviet counter attack. The plan for future turns is to swing the 2nd Panzer Group (light blue) north, in an attempt to take Rzhev and Vyazma. If I get bold, I may even make a push for Moscow (worth 1000) victory points.
If I prove successful, I’ll have to try something a little more difficult. Perhaps I should switch sides and try to keep the Soviets from being completely overrun?
Next Post: Endgame.