Aegean Strike - Closing the Curtains

I've been playing out scenario 2 of Aegean Strike lately and I've finally made it to a point where I can see a resolution coming along to it.  Basically, the Warsaw Pact is set to lose this scenario for a couple of reasons.  Just to recap, the objectives in this scenario are for the Pact to capture Istanbul within 7 turns.  They're fighting against the combined might of Greece, Turkey, and the American Sixth Fleet.

The Bulgarians made some nice initial gains into western Turkey at the start of the scenario but they soon got bogged down in fighting several tough Turkish infantry divisions that stood their ground and occasionally pushed back.  The Greeks tried to take advantage of the relatively few (and weak) Bulgarian divisions that were guarding the homeland.  Greek infantry poured across the border and engaged in arduous mountain fighting with the Bulgarians, without managing much success.  Eventually, the Soviets stepped in and started to slowly get some divisions down through Romania and towards the frontline.

The first order of business was to push back the Greek gains in southern Bulgaria, which the Soviet mechanized infantry did without any problem whatsoever.  By the 4th turn, Drama was captured by a single Soviet armored brigade and Thessaloniki looked to be ready to fall to two Soviet mechanized infantry divisions barreling through the southwest of Bulgaria and into Greece.

The problem with this strategy was that it took care of the Greeks but left too little Soviet help for pushing back the Turks over to the east.  A Soviet mechanized division with artillery failed miserably in dislodging a stubborn Turkish mechanized division that was protecting the way to Istanbul.

The 4th turn was a really good example of how most of my game went so I'll describe the events in greater detail below, recounted from my notes.

First Action Stage

Movement plus Declared Combats from Initiative Player Movement Segment

1.  The Soviet 34th Armored division plus an artillery brigade move to 2407 and declare combat against the Greek 9th infantry in 2408.
2. The Soviet 3rd Mech. Inf. division in 2009 attacks Greek 6th infantry in 2009.
3.  The Soviet 128th Mech Inf. division plus arty brigade in 3508 attack the Turkish 66th Mechanized Infantry in 3509 (with a Turkish HQ stacked with it to boot).
4.  2nd Bulgarian Mechanized Inf. Division in 3209 activates and moves to 3309, declares Deliberate Assault and declares combat vs. Turkish 4th Infantry Division in 3409.

The Pact had 3:1 attacks with all but the 3rd attack.  This is because in case 1,2, and 4, I had armor attacking non-armor units, which gave the Pact a 2-column shift in its favor on the CRT.

So I decided to push hard for close air support in the Initiative Player CAS phase.  An Su-24 was used to hit at the Turkish Mechanized Infantry division, which it did without any problem,scoring 2 hits. I should note that in the Reaction Player CAS phase prior to this, the Turks had tried to get an F-16 up to deliver CAS but it got intercepted by MiG-21 and had to abort.  The Soviets had varying rates of success with the other CAS missions but the hit on the Turkish division was the one they needed the most so failed CAS strikes for the other declared combats was kind of met with a shrug.  The Greeks had nothing to put in the air for the Reaction player segment.  Everything they threw up got detected by the nearby Soviet naval units south of the Turkish Straits and the Bulgarians and Soviets were able to scramble well in advance.

During the Assault Segment, all of the declared combats occurred and the Greeks were hit hard on every single one of them.  The Greek 9th Infantry division was slammed especially hard, taking 4 hits and retreating into an interdicted hex.  The Soviet 34th Armored Division pursued and got ready to hit them again in the next action stage.  Wheeee!

The much-anticipated battle between the Soviet 128th Mech. Inf. and the Turkish 66th Mech. Infantry Division was a total bust for the Pact.  Rolling a "1", the CRT showed a (1/0) result against the attacker.

In the next and final declared combat, the Turks and Bulgarians traded hits.  The Turkish 4 Infantry division fell back to 3510, which had been interdicted by the Soviets.  The Bulgarian 2nd Mech pursued.  I thought I had managed to put an infantry division (the Turkish 33rd Infantry to be exact) out of supply but nope!  It seemed to be safe and sound.

With the first action stage complete, the Pact got to move and attack with its Reserve formations and attack with its pursuing units.

The Soviet 92nd Mech in hex 1909 would conduct a hasty attack on the Greek 2nd Infantry division to the south, pushing south towards Thessaloniki.  In the meantime, the Soviet armored brigade stacked with it was sent southeast straight towards Drama in 2210, easily capturing the city without any resistance.  The nearby Greek HQ stacked with an armored brigade to the southeast of the city was still in coastal supply from NATO supply sources.

The Greeks decided to try for CAS in the Reaction Player CAS segment, launching an F-4 to escort an A-7 to hit at the Soviet 92nd Mech Infantry.  A MiG-23 launched to intercept but failed to score any hits on the incoming planes.  The 92nd took two hits from the A-7 but managed to score 2 hits on the strike package with air defenses.  "From hell's heart, I stab at thee!"

Initiative Player CAS segment consisted of the Pact trying to outdo the Greek CAS strikes by pummeling the Greek 2nd Infantry division even harder.  Wave upon wave of Soviet aircraft were launched until finally a pair of Su-24s managed to score 3 hits on the Greek infantry far below.

Mi-24 Hinds were used to great success at striking the hapless Greek units that had attempted to retreat from combat in the first action stage.

In the assault segment, the Soviet player rolled an 8 (+2 modified to a "10").  The Greek 2nd infantry was completely eliminated and the door to Thessaloniki lay wide open at this point.

In the pursuit combats, the Greeks got absolutely hammered once again from ground attacks (after already suffering mightily during the CAS segment).  Most of the fighting was now south of the Greek border and it was pretty obvious that Greece was not going to hold on much longer.

In the Third Action Stage, the Greeks basically licked their wounds and brought their divisions back to protect the cities nearest the border with Bulgaria.  The Greek 21st armor brigade pulled all the way back to Verina while the 8th Infantry division, which was the only one to have even moderate success against the Bulgarians in earlier turns, was forced to withdraw (taking a hit) and come back south.  This had the unintended effect of cutting off the Soviet armored brigade sitting in Drama.

The Greek 10th and 21st Infantry Divisions pulled back from near the Turkish- Greek-Bulgarian border.

The Turks were still spirited and ready to fight despite suffering at the hands of yet more Mi-24 Hind units during the Initiative CAS segment.  The 2nd Bulgarian Mechanized Division got mauled by the Turkish 65th and 4th Infantry Divisions working in tandem with the 68th Mech. Infantry Division.  The Bulgarians were once again pushed back towards their own border after taking a hit.

And that's pretty much how the turn ended.

Blue lines mark extent of Bulgarian incursion into Greece and Turkey by end of Turn 4

A look at the area around the Greek/Turkish/Bulgarian border. Not much success for the Pact player.


It seems clear to me that the Pact player didn't balance properly between the forces needed to fend off Greece while successfully invading Turkey.  Had the game continued to 7 turns, I'm almost certain that the Greeks would have been easily taken out of the picture but the Turks would have remained a problem.  I suspect part of the issue is that for the Soviet player to be successful here, he needs to take some gambles here and there with amphibious landings, raids, and naval and air bombardment - and these were all things that I was really not doing as I was focused on just trying to get the feel of the ground combat (which I think I finally did).

I learned a lot here!  For example, I could see the air and ground game slowly coming together as I started to put my planes on interdiction missions.   I was reminded of how GMT's Next War: Korea uses interdiction in similar ways to great effect.  I also really like how GS/AS use supply.  Tracing supply is cumbersome at first but it becomes second nature after a few turns.  The hardest part of the system is just not getting overwhelmed by all the moving parts.  My advice for anyone trying out AS/GS is to just do what I did here - pick a scenario and focus on either the ground, naval, or air aspect and play it out.  Slowly start to integrate the systems together as you play and suddenly a really cool game starts to unfold before your eyes.

I would really like to go back and try Gulf Strike again soon and compare how it feels with what I've just been through in Aegean Strike.  In the meantime, I have other projects I need to get to work on so I'm putting this one away for now.  Thanks for checking out my updates!


Comments

  1. On objectives and obeying them strictly or not: that's each commander's style. (Although real life politics can limit the amount of excessive freedom, see MacArthur). If the objective was written take Ankara OR Istanbul, it would have given harder choices for both sides.

    Do you consider GS/AS having more moving parts to consider (with their consequences! considerations for decisions!) than VG Vietnam?

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    1. Good point and an extremely good question. Having tried to play VG Vietnam, I would have to say that it has many more moving parts than GS or AS. They are both very complex game systems and well-designed. I think they demand patience and attention (not to mention table space) to sit down and work out but I got the sense that Vietnam was especially (maybe excessively?) responsive to a wider variety of player input. Have you played VG Vietnam? What did you think?

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    2. No, I don't have VG Vietnam, nor have I ever seen the rules in detail. Have only seen your gamed war stories here - thanks for them too! It clearly resulted it was intricate and needing brain-space hard to swap to other games or life interests, but I wasn't sure of the comparison with GS/AS.

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    3. As crazy as it sounds, I thought VG Vietnam was one of the most memorable gaming experiences of my life. I doubt I played it correctly and I didn't have much of a strategy but darned if I didn't learn so much from playing that game. There are so many interesting aspects of design in it. Vietnam has kind of spoiled me for other games. I really think it's one of those games that all wargamers should at least attempt one time in their life. It's that amazing.

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  2. Also: what useful effects did you get out of Interdiction air mission (besides making use certainly of low-rated planes) ? I remember in GS effects were minor _except_ cutting a link of supply depot chains (if they were at their maximum each-4-hexes and without redundancy).

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    1. I think with less space for both sides to maneuver, it's easier in AS to use interdiction to greater effect. The geography of the region is so different from that of GS that you can trap units much easier with one or two strikes and cut off their retreat. I found supply in AS was surprisingly hard to cut off with so many supply sources nearby for everyone. Supply lines were so short and plentiful that I didn't need to create or transport a single supply depot nor did I make any use of my trucks! That's unheard of in GS, I think.

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