Saturday, December 23, 2017

Panzer Campaigns Smolensk '41 Gold - How Vitebsk Ate my 7th Panzer Division

I'm playing the newly released Smolensk '41 Gold. I'm so glad I did upgrade to the Gold version and getting an all consolidated install of mods, scenarios and other loose ends that I had before.

The Panzer Campaigns engine is one of my favorites for grand-tactical, operational warfare.

Vitebsk is a great scenario of maneuver and armored/mechanized warfare. In the screenshot above you notice the 7th PzDiv (dark green icons) approaching Vitebsk head on. This should have triggered some caution on my part. It didn't, and although I did capture the objective, I mauled the 7th PzDiv almost beyond recognition.

At Vitebsk, a quick reconnaissance was followed by a no less speedy gain of a foothold on the west suburbs of the city. The deployment the 7th PzDiv. was narrow, but it still allowed the replacement of frontline combat units in case it was needed. In the south, the 12thPzDiv. (light green icons) is still trying to find out a good crossing point across the Luchesa River.

For a better view, please open this screenshot in a different window or tab. The left panel shows the 20thPzDiv (blue icons) trying to secure a crossing across the Dvina River. Now in the right main program panel, you can see some drops in morale for units fighting in the suburbs of Vitebsk.

This was one of those very satisfying war gaming moments where your virtual battlefield throws you stories like the ones you read in the books. This one reads (right panel, main program window): "While the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Schutzen Regiment, supported by tanks of the 29th Panzer Regiment struggled to secure a wooden bridge 4 km east of Schemilovka, the men of the 20th Motorcycle Infantry Battalion secured a ford near the village of Pecayoz". The left panel shows the still ongoing meat grinder/ hull crushing struggle at Vitebsk. 

Another great war gaming moment: the flood gates from hell have been opened. A pioneer battalion completed a bridge across the Dvina, allowing the 20th PzDiv and the 20thMotDiv to start encircling Vitebsk from the northeast.

The main objective at Vitebsk captured, but still the Soviets pushing from the south using a bridge that was never contested by my forces. The 20th MotDiv is approaching from the southeast, but a complete encirclement is far from complete.
In retrospect, there were very unfortunate decisions I made. But the one I regret the most is my chosen axis of advance through the west suburbs of Vitebsk.

Although there is a nice bonus using combined arms in built up areas, a Panzer Division is to leave this urban strong points alone until they are fully starved of supplies and options. The 7th PzDiv had no other options other than to fight in the west of Vitebsk. But I failed to secure a south bridge that allowed the Soviets to be reinforced over and over. It is remarkable that a turn based war game engine with 1 km wide hexes can reflect a purely tactical (poor) decision making so well.



Marco said...

In this Gold edition, the AI improves or there are only cosmetic modifications.

JC said...

Hi Marco,

I actually don't know ... I've not been tracking the recent developments. From what I remember from the old HPS-published version, the AI looks now more dynamic, pulling out from defensive lines and trying to reinforce Vitebsk. I don't know if this is scripted, but it works out really nice.

I will try to find out from the Wargame Design Studio Team and I will get back to you.


JC said...

Hi Marco,

I checked with Wargame Design Studio's head honcho and he indicated that the last big overhaul of the AI was in the early 2010's. He also said that they are generally content and graphics/sounds upgrades.


Chris said...

JC, some additional thoughts on this scenario and the Gold upgrades:

Marco said...

Thannks JC, that was really some great info.

Then it's still a matter of find people to play it in Perhaps when they release my favorite, Market Garden 44, I'll buy it and get into the moving of hundreds of counters per turn again.

Anonymous said...

Great games I played many of the first ones but moving so many counters. Its time to implement a more realist command structure.