The expansion features entirely new units for both NATO and the Soviet Union. NATO gets the 11th Armored Division, which is a mix of standard infantry and M-60 armored battalions. The Soviets get the 23rd Guards Tank Division, which includes powerful T-80 tanks. Overall, the expansion sort of reverses the situation from the original DEL as the NATO player now has large numbers of weak units while the Soviets have fewer units but packed with a lot more punch.
The Gerzenburg expansion also presents the player with a brand new map and two scenarios,which are just right for an evening of light gaming. The first scenario, "Three Crossroads", features a Warsaw Pact attempt to capture 3 of 5 cities on the west side of the map. The Pact gets the 23rd Guards Tank Division to accomplish this feat while NATO has the 11th Armored Division and the West German 27th Panzergrenadier Brigade.
|High Noon at Gerzenburg: A DEL expansion|
NATO can prevent a Pact win by holding on to the 3 cities on the west side of the map or cutting off the line of communication from the captured cities to the east side of the map. Not an easy task.
The game starts on Day 1 Turn 3 and ends after the Night phase of Day 3.
Here's the rundown of my first play:
Day 1 Turn 3 and 4:
Col. Yurichev watched with a smile on his face as his lead battalions raced across the bridge west of Jadefurt. As commander of the 23rd Guards Tank Division, he was proud of being chosen to lead the attacks south of the Eisenbach Gap. As he looked out at the bare stretch of plains in front of him, he knew instinctively that he would send his tanks in a two-pronged attack to capture the West German towns of Kloppmund in the north and Gross Glowe in the south. After that, it would only be a matter of time before his forces could meet up in the middle and simply pluck the jewel of Gerzenburg from NATO's hand.
The Soviets get a "5" for initiative on the first two turns, which means they can bring on the tanks from the 23rd Guards Tank Division while the Russian infantry have to wait for activation. Due to the high activation number, the tanks speed ahead, heading straight for two key cities before NATO has time to even react. The Soviets are sweeping to certain victory.
|Soviets in the south head for Gross Glowe.|
|In the north, they make a dash for Kloppmund.|
During the night phase, the NATO and Soviet player pull assets. The NATO player gets AH-1 Cobra gunships and airstrikes while the Soviets get artillery and Hind gunships.
General Oleson paced wearily around his command tent the in the center of Eppertsfeld. So the Soviets were finally coming, he thought. No matter - the 11th Armored Division was ready for a fight and would soon halt the incoming waves of Russians. Their obsolete tanks and conscript army was no match for the well-trained and organized fighting machine that he had staked his entire career on reshaping to meet his own high expectations.
"Sir,we've lost contact with Gross Glowe and Kloppmund," his aide suddenly said in quiet awe. Oleson's haggard face turned a new shade of red. A shocked "Wha...?" was all he could muster in response. How could they have gotten there so fast?
The light of the bright blue morning revealed one more surprise for Oleson, however, as he turned to look out towards the east and was greeted by the sight of an ocean of refugees coming west from Kloppmund, Gross Glowe, and Gurzenburg. A great snaking caravan of civilian vehicles extended as far back as the horizon. The refugees' possessions were tied to the tops of their cars and trucks and entire extended families were stuffed inside or even sitting in the trunks.
Tanks and APCs from the 11th Armored Division headed out of Eppertsfeld were swerving to find a way around the incoming traffic but this only sowed more confusion amid the civilians and made a bad problem worse. He watched in horror as an M60 tank drove effortlessly over the hood of a Volkswagen Beetle that had either refused or been unable to move. All that was left behind was a pile of crushed metal. Entire columns of soldiers and armored vehicles were halted as they fruitlessly tried to find a way east out of town and towards the front. Oleson's heart sank.
Sensing his disbelief, his aide murmured, "We don't have an exact number of refugees yet sir...but traffic is backed up for twelve kilometers." They stood in silence.
The sun comes up over the West German landscape and the Soviets have nearly consolidated their gains on the map. Both Kloppmund to the north and Gross Glowe to the south awaken to the sight of the hammer and sickle being raised over the town square. Soviet tankers freshen up their morning coffee with a bit of celebratory vodka before heading west again to capture the remaining West German cities. The motorized infantry battalions, however, are far behind and have only just entered the sector this morning. With the armor advancing so fast and the infantry so far behind, there will be no one left to hold the captured cities. If NATO can move fast enough, they might be able to exploit this window of opportunity.
|The motorized infantry lags far behind to the east.|
Before NATO can react, however, the Soviet commander pushes everything at the real prize on the map, the city of Gerzenburg. With all the roads from the other towns connecting to it, Gerzenburg is the main hub of this sector and it must be captured and held. The NATO commander knows this as well but the Russians have sent their tanks far ahead to the westernmost towns Bosenwald and Eppertsfeld to hold off American reinforcements from arriving. The astonishing speed of the Soviets has simply overwhelmed NATO and it needs to quickly reinforce both of these rear cities for fear of handing the Soviets an overwhelming victory.
|The Russians are knocking on Bosenwald's door.|
While the Americans rush reinforcements to Eppertsfeld and Bosenwald, the Germans are the only ones able to send a small force of infantry to help defend Gerzenburg from the tanks of the Soviet 23rd. Unfortunately, for the West Germans, the Soviets throw everything at them. Hind gunships lay waste to any exposed infantry positions while airstrikes completely prevent any attempt to build prepared positions. When the Soviet tanks to the east roll in, the West German infantry is in complete disarray and whoever does not surrender is immediately eliminated. The Soviets now have their prize in hand. Gerzenburg is theirs.
|The Russians take Gerzenburg from the Germans.|
Up north near Bosenwald and down south near Eppertsfeld, the Soviet tanks start maneuvering units and hitting at these cities. It's not enough force to capture them but NATO is forced to divert reinforcements again to these places in order to hold them. NATO units make it down towards Gerzenburg in piecemeal fashion.
As the late afternoon turns to dusk, the Soviet infantry finally comes west and fortifies Kloppmund. They immediately begin preparing defenses against any American push from nearby Bosenwald.
|Soviets take losses near Bosenwald and reinforce Kloppmund to the rear.|
Hind gunships completely eliminate an American armored force of M-60 tanks heading down toward Gerzenburg. The American commander has been told that AH-1 Cobras will be available in the area but every time someone in the field requests air support, the Cobras just never seem to arrive.
|Hind gunships about to lay the hurt on American tanks.|
Despite taking damage on the way there from gunships Soviet tanks, the NATO commander has managed to get some of this forces around the city of Gerzenburg. However, the Russian commander has played it smart and has kept his forces not just in the city but completely around it, in a horseshoe fashion. This has prevented NATO encirclement of the city.
|The horseshoe defense around Gerzenburg.|
As night comes, the Soviets have an iron grip on their three cities and show no signs of letting go any time soon. NATO draws gunship and airstrike assets again while the Soviets get chemical strikes and the dreaded gunships. It's going to be a long and deadly day for both sides.
Maj. Grechko swallowed two of the orange pills that the battalion doctors had been handing out like candy since three days ago...or was it two days ago? It didn't matter. Time no longer meant anything to him anymore. All that mattered was trying to stay alive. So far, his T-72 battalion had not only survived but had used cunning and longe range accuracy to knock out several American M60 tanks defending the outskirts of Eppertsfeld.
Despite these small successes, every time Colonel Yurichev radioed Grechko to advance his battalion on the city, his men would charge forward but were forced to fall back in tatters after a hail of NATO anti-tank missiles sliced into them. "Damn Yurichev," he thought. He blamed his commander for all the misery around him as he scanned the bumper crop of wrecked Soviet tank hulls burning just on the edge of the city limits. An infinite number of broken bodies and suffering men continually streamed past him towards the rear. All Grechko knew was that it was better not to be one of them. For now, that was enough. He dutifully swallowed another orange pill and waited for Yurichev's next order.
Dawn breaks and the fighting from last night continues at a higher tempo. The Soviets have grudgingly given up on capturing Eppertsfeld. NATO has reinforced the city with so many units that the only real option is just to plant some tanks in the area and prevent these fresh American units from reaching Gerzenburg.
|Eppertsfeld is a lost cause. Soviets start to pull back from their attack on the city.|
|The Russians pull back from Bosenwald after their offensive here fails.|
Bosenwald is also a bust. The Americans have managed to push some tanks and motorized infantry down towards Gerzenburg and the Soviets have taken some heart-wrenching losses in trying to keep them from being reinforced. So far, the lone American units have been kept at bay but this has sapped the offensive up north as more and more Soviet tanks are brought back to defend the city. The Americans respond by sending a force of tanks and men straight for Kloppmund. The meager Soviet defenders wait patiently. Everything could be riding on this one fight.
NATO gunships and airstrikes pound the Soviet infantry in Gerzenburg all morning and afternoon. By the time the Americans enter the city, there isn't even much left to mop up. The Soviet commander is in dismay as he sees his key prize taken away from him. The Hinds are called in and chemical weapons are unleashed. The weary American defenders don't last long in the face of such attacks and the Soviets retake the city late in the afternoon.
|The Americans try to hold on to Gerzenburg.|
Meanwhile, up near Kloppmund, the NATO player makes his final gamble as the sun begins to set and night falls. The M-60 tanks and infantry maneuvered near the outskirts of the city, looking desperately for a weakness of some kind. Although they had eliminated an infantry unit earlier in the day, there was still strong Soviet resistance from inside the city. They pushed forward here and there but the only result was a rain of AT Sagger missiles and wrecked M-113 APCs. The men and tanks of the 11th Armored Division shook their heads and finally pulled back into the night and headed for the west.
|NATO attacks fail to put a dent in Kloppmund.|
Conclusion: The Soviets barely managed to hold on to the three key cities, scoring a victory. It was incredibly touch-and-go at times as the Soviet gunships really laid a lickin' down on the NATO units. The less powerful M-60s really do make a big difference in the game. They get damaged more easily than the M-1s and they also lose initiative when they lose strength, which really hurts the NATO player.
The Soviet player had his share of lucky breaks in the form of two very high activation rolls right at the beginning of the game. This allowed them to basically steamroll west without any opposition on the board. Kloppmund and Gross Glowe were captured without firing a shot and that left only one more city for them to worry about it.
NATO could have tried to win it by cutting off Soviet communication to the east. However, this would have been tough due to the nature of the road network. Also, the Pact forces were very well positioned and basically kept NATO from advancing too far east. Looking back, however, the NATO player should have at least made the effort to do this as it would have kept the Russians from reinforcing captured cities or maybe created some opportunities later in the game.