Bruce, playing the cowardly Soviets, is trying to slink his way into the liberated cities of Zhitomir and Korsun. So far, his vast advantage in brainwashed farmers and sheet metal vehicles has done little to help him take these two objectives. Tim, playing the noble Axis, with a strong tradition of discipline and excellence, is putting the finishing touches on a dramatic counterattack that is sure to be praised for decades.
Yes, there are advantages to being the one who writes the intro.
After the jump, Bruce gets me back.
Bruce, Turn 3: Tim seems to forget that this is still happening in 1944, so following the timeline to its historical conclusion, the only people who are going to be “praising his dramatic counterattack” decades from now will be in Bolivia or Paraguay. Not the kind of company I’d be bragging about, even in the world of questionable World War II fan fiction. But he raises a valid point, which is about counterattacks. I really should be doing more to guard my objectives. In the real Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket, described so well in the book Tim mentioned earlier, Hell’s Gate, the only counterattacks were the ones that kept the pocket open long enough for the Germans to escape. Penetrating too deep into the space between the Soviet pincers would just have spelled an early demise for a lot of German armor. But as I learned from the AI commander when I played this scenario solo, that’s the key to winning this as the Germans: if the Soviets use their armor to try and take the objectives early for maximum victory points, there is a chance their own objectives will be vulnerable to a German thrust. I’ll need to take Zhitomir fast enough to be able to free up my armor to deal with any nasty surprises that may develop in the interim.
Tim, Turn 3: German thrust? It seems I’m not the only one writing World War II fan fiction. I immediately lose 10 victory points for a terrible joke. Wow, this game design is impressive.
Unity of Command seamlessly switches between live multiplayer and asynchronous play. I can access the game on the server at any time. When Bruce told me he had taken a turn, I logged in and pressed the play button. Watching the moves play out feels like listening to the grim reports from my command staff. Surely it can’t get any worse. But it did.
Bruce is at the gates of Zhitomir. My strong mobile forces near the city are already cut off from supply. They’re still combat effective this turn. But if I don’t get them back into supply by the end of this turn, they’ll be unable to attack during the next one. So the only option is to retreat toward Zhitomir.
Or is it? Bruce threatens my supply lines in the north. He only needs one breakthrough to cut me off. If that line doesn’t hold, my mobile forces will still be out of supply and unable to fight back.
I make the fateful decision to push my armored units into the Korsun Pocket. My supply lines in the south reach far enough to feed them. This maneuver also lets me threaten Kiev. While Bruce uses his armor to take Zhitomir, I can smash through his rear-guard infantry to capture his supply point and an objective.
I’ll use Zhitomir as bait. Bruce loses points for each additional turn it takes to capture the city. He may decide to commit all his mobile forces to the attack. Even if he does, the objective will only be worth 50 points. The strategic situation still favors me. If Bruce takes the final two objectives as soon as possible, he’ll have 250 points. If I hold a single 100 point objective, I’ll push the margin back to 150 points. Remember, Bruce needs to exceed that number to win. And don’t try to pout about it. Stalin agreed to this beforehand.
This means Bruce is fighting over a distraction. The real battle is for the objectives behind his lines. I can flip the battlefield and counterattack before he realizes what’s happening.
Bruce, Turn 4: Unity of Command is like a baseball game that tells you that you will lose unless you score five runs by the seventh inning. It doesn’t matter if you score six in the eighth, or that your opponent hasn’t scored any runs at all. No, score five runs by the seventh inning, or the ones you score later are worth zero. That’s very demoralizing to hardworking baseball players, many of whom may be out of supply and in danger of being sent to a German prisoner of war camp.
But hey, we all agreed to the rules when we started, just like we agreed that the winner of the All-Star Game would get home-field advantage in the World Series, and everyone knows that’s a stupid rule as well. In a real apocalyptic struggle between two totalitarian war machines (and I don’t mean the National League and American League), one might just surround Zhitomir and wait a few turns until the defenders got softened up from lack of supply, and then crush the pocket. But no, das ist verboten. So the best I can do is strip the Soviet mechanized corps, my best offensive units — which also happen to be my best defensive units — from other sectors of the front and feed them into the breach in Tim’s line to the south of Zhitomir. The problem is I don’t think I can dislodge his dug-in panzers before the now-overused baseball analogy expires.
Tim, Turn 4: Zhitomir is doomed. I hope they can hold out until reinforcements can arrive. Let me see which divisions are enroute. Oh, none of them. Zhitomir is doomed. But not until the next turn.
My supply lines held in the south. That means all my armored divisions south of Kiev are ready to strike toward the city, which holds both a supply point and an objective. I take neither of them this round. At least I’m able to seize the railroad. The Soviets will need to take the long way around to supply the army near Zhitomir.
Bruce still holds the initiative unless I can take an objective. Cherkassy is still in play. 16 Pz Div is right on its doorstep. I call up the commander and rally him to take the city. The heroic efforts of the valiant division — plus a one in ten dice roll — force the defenders from Cherkassy! Bruce will need to throw everything he has at me to kick me back out of the city. Otherwise, he won’t be able to reach the victory point margin.
I think this is where Tom Chick would continue the baseball analogy by calling “touchdown!”
Bruce, Turn 5: “Comrade Stalin, I am able to report that our socialist engineers were able to construct defenses around the town of Cherkassy which were 90 percent resistant against fascist attacks.”
“Then why is your voice trembling, Comrade General?”
“Because it seems, sir, that we are facing fascist invaders who belong to the other 10 percent.”
“Then, Comrade, I hope you have equal luck with my assurance that 90 percent of the time, generals are only imprisoned and not executed when they are arrested for treason.”
Cherkassy has fallen. My counterattacks suffer a lot of casualties but make no progress, which is pretty standard for Soviet counterattacks. I wonder if STAVKA had a big scoreboard in Moscow with objective names and numbers next to them. I can just see a guy taking down the “0” next to the name “Cherkassy,” then looking through the hole in the scoreboard like the guy at Wrigley Field, before putting up a big “-100” in its place. Sorry for bringing back the baseball analogy again.
Tim, Turn 5: That’s too bad about Bruce’s execution. Now I need to ghost write his remaining entries as well as win this battle. I think that deserves an extra gold leaf on the medal I’m sure to receive.
With victory likely, I decide to play it safe. I take the two supply points near Kiev before assaulting the city. I’m sure I can take it later.
Bruce destroys one of my tank divisions in the south. This creates a small gap in my line. I reshuffle some units and use 72 Inf Div to fill the hole. They don’t have time to entrench. I hope Bruce doesn’t notice.
Bruce, Turn 6: I win a crushing victory against German armor but there are no points for inflicting casualties in this game. I am having supply problems near Road to Kiev because one of my supply sources now has a German unit on it. This is sub-optimal.
Tim, Turn 6: It’s just about over. I take the Road to Kiev and surround Kirovograd with no concern for my own lines. Bruce has a straight shot to Korsun. But I’m not sure he can muster a meaningful attack at this point. Losing Zhitomir doesn’t matter anymore. The Soviets don’t have time to recover.
As I survey the operational map and listen to reports of overruns and destroyed Soviet corps, I get a little glimmer in my eye. Could this be the start of Germany’s final drive to Moscow? Well, no. There aren’t any follow-up scenarios. I’ll submit a complaint for bias to the EU — just as soon as it’s created. Until then, there’s always the scenario editor.
Soviet victory point advantage: -30
Margin required to win: 150