Saturday, January 4, 2014

Operation Hubertus - German AAR

For the past several days I've been mercilessly playtesting Chris' Command Ops East Front scenario Operation Hubertus from the German side.  I'm pleased to say that this is one of the most interesting and challenging Command Ops scenarios I've played.  This is not an easy scenario for the Germans; indeed I've yet to do better than a draw.  The complexity of the attacks, the need for excellent timing to allow the divisions to be mutually supportive, and the challenge of having to rotate units in and out of reserve to rest them while always feeling that you don't have enough troops to take that critical objective - well, I've learned more about both Command Ops and commanding multiple divisions in an attack than in just about anything else I've played.

Here then, is a complete AAR of the German side of Operation Hubertus.

I begin by plotting a number of artillery fire missions against Soviet strong points.  Barrages last 30 to 60 minutes and focus on enemy concentrations along my planned routes of advance.

Initial positions the first morning of the operation.  Most of the Pioneer units have not yet arrived.

I have coordinated a series of attacks from south to north to begin at 0700, after extensive artillery preparation. Above, KG 578, Sturmkompanies 212 and 226 and a Pioneer battlegroup begin the assault on the Red October factory.

Counter-battery fire to support the factory assault.

To the south, 79. Division begins their attack on Pavlov's House. Investing an entire Division into this attack was a mistake. It would have been better to launch a small probe to tie up the defenders while attacking north toward the Tennis Racket and Lazur Chemical Factory in support of 71. Division.

The Red October Factory is occupied by 0800, but heavy artillery fire prevents consolidation of the objective. I attack with KG Seydel against some Soviets fortified near the factory to take pressure off the attackers.

79. Division has early success and pushes the Soviets off the Pavlov's House objective.  The Soviets are firmly fortified north and south of the objective, however.  Counterattacks from these locations will tie up the division for the remainder of the operation, albeit at a high cost in Russian casualties.

The Pioneer battlegroups are in position. I send them against a concentration of Soviets that block the path to the Crossing 62 objective and threaten the Red October objective. Destroying these troops will also clear the flank of the advancing 305. Division to the north.

KG Seydel, Sturmkompanies 212 and 226 and a Pioneer battlegroup attack to clear the fortification south of Red October.

As midnight approaches at the end of D1, the only objective I hold is the Red October Factory. While the 71. and 305. Divisions are near their objectives significant Soviet forces remain in the area, preventing capture of Pavlov's House, the Barrikady Gun Factory, and Crossing 62.  79. Division's attack on the Lazur Chemical Factory has been completely unsuccessful, and the division is resting and reorganizing to the north of the Lazur objective and west of the Red October objective.  389. Division has encountered serious resistance on its northern flank and is stalled on the way to the Skudri Crossing objective. (This is why playtesting is so important.  Early on, taking Skudri was very easy.  Playtesting revealed that there were some missing Soviet forces in that area.  Taking this objective is no longer that easy!)

KG Scheel plans a probe toward some fortified Soviet units south of the Tennis Racket.  I want to keep these units occupied and out of the morning attack of 79. Division on Lazur.

This action would be an interesting scenario when Battlefront releases their East Front Combat Mission game.

Fighting rages across the city throughout the morning.  By 1300 or so, 305. Division has taken the Barrikady Factory and is moving toward Crossing 62. Assault Group Linden (Pioneers) is still too fatigued from last evening's fighting to have started their own attack toward Crossing 62, but they have managed to clear the center sector of the city.

An hour later 71. Division takes the Lazur Chemical Factory.  They will lose control of the objective a few times due to weak Soviet counter-attacks during fierce fighting in the Tennis Racket.

Meanwhile, the Soviets are concentrating around the Commissar's and Chemist's Houses, and launching strong attacks against the German units around the Red October factory.

389. Division had to fight hard to clear its line of advance.  Once the Soviets had been destroyed, had surrendered, or had retreated, heavy artillery fire still delayed the advance.  Unit fatigue is high.  The original route was north of the one pictured, but the division shifted south to get away from flank attacks from the north.  This caused them to be exposed crossing a lot of open ground, making them ideal artillery targets.

The center and north, late afternoon on D2. Progress has not been good today.

The south is not looking much better.  We've lost control of Lazur due to a counterattack. 71. Division is wasting its strength at Pavlov's House.

305. Division takes Crossing 62.

A Soviet attack briefly causes a loss of control of the Red October objective.  Historically, this sort of thing was a real issue during Hubertus.  Strong German attacks would take a position, only to be forced back from it by pressure on the unit's flanks by Soviet counterattacks.

 As night falls, the Germans are exhausted.  I halt units, stop attacks, and order rest.  I plan another set of coordinated attacks to begin at 0400.  This will be the final push.

Around midnight,  a Pioneer company attached to 389. Division slips past the defenders and takes control of the Skudri Crossing.  As you can see from the objective display on the left, I control most of the high point value objectives now.

In the past 24 hours, 389. Division has hardly moved.

Assault Group Linden attacks the Commissar's House.  The troops are too tired and the fortifications too strongly defended.  Even with the support of massed artillery and airstrikes the Pioneers can't dislodge the Soviets.

79. Division concentrates to retake the Lazur Chemical Factory.

71. Division's attack on Pavlov's House has accounted for a lot of Russians, and probably deprived the Tennis Racket area of reinforcements.  It certainly hasn't taken the objective, even once.

389. Division finally gets moving and takes the Tractor Factory objective while reinforcing the Skudri Crossing objective.

At the end of D3, the German forces, despite causing significantly more casualties and taking a number of important objectives can't get the job done.  Like the historical Hubertus, the Germans suffer a marginal defeat and Stalingrad remains in Soviet hands.

I learn something everytime I play this scenario.  I have some idea for my next run at it in my never-ending quest to score a marginal victory.  I think I need to bypass Pavlov's House and attack the Tennis Racket from the south with 71. Division while 79. Division attacks from the west.  I think I need to attack north with 389. Division to clear that flank while 305 Division attacks east in support.  Both divisions can then be turned to attack the Skudri Crossing and Crossing 62.  I should concentrate the attack of the Linden Group on the Commissar's House on D1 or early D2, when they are still fresh.

I think Chris is planning to release the scenario this weekend.  I'm going to take a Command Ops break and engage in some early 20th Century naval warfare this weekend.