My original goal was to play the whole campaign game of Europe Engulfed at GMT West, which I have still not done. I easily found a couple opponents (one of whom was in my Sword of Rome game), but they hadn’t played much at all, so I thought 1942-45 would be a more interesting game.
I had been playing the US/UK and Soviets a lot of late, so I stumped for the Germans. The situation facing the Germans in 1942 is daunting. If you’re going to take Stalingrad or Moscow, you really have only one turn to do it. If you don’t do serious damage with your first move, it’ll be back to the Don and a whole lot of entrenching.
My Soviet opponent had loaded up Moscow, so Stalingrad/Baku seemed to be the way to go since it was comparatively weak. But I didn’t play that first turn very well. The Soviets used their special action (SA) to evacuate the Don River Basin, which surprised me a bit (I usually see the Soviets spending their SA to pour in reinforcements to this entrenched position). I think the right thing to do then would have been to spend the first SA to redeploy 7 more infantry units into the spot, another SA to breach the river, then leaving two more SAs to reduce the defenders and/or redeploy. But I instead spent the SAs to press on with the forces on hand, which was a loser. I got over the river but didn’t kill enough Soviet units, and my position ended up too weak. So I had to withdraw.
This in and of itself this wasn’t a game-loser. I’ve won the 1942 scenario just by digging in behind the Don after taking Tula and the Don River Basin. But it’s not a promising start.
I then proceeded to concentrate on building up my defenses. I spent some money on interceptors, built fortifications, and maxed out the German force pool. The US/UK player attempted a gutsy 1942 invasion of Calais, which was brutally crushed; I then briefly considered a Mediterranean campaign, but with the US landing in Morocco right away, this wasn’t going to be viable. Instead, I just focused on beefing up the defense of the Italian mainland, including building an Italian fleet.
The following year was rough on the US/UK, while little happened on the Eastern Front as both of us simply built up. Another invasion into Denmark was crushed, and a major invasion of Italy was successful but just barely, and with massive casualties. With a some fighter builds, the bombers (which the US/UK never built aggressively) were kept in check and never got critical mass.
The problem was that all this activity was consuming a lot of special actions, as forces were constantly being shuttled back and forth between east and west. If you don’t eradicate them on the beach, you need several SAs: during your normal SR phase, you bring in the troops; then 1 SA to move operationally into the contested beachhead, and a second to actually do the counter-assault; then maybe another SA to redeploy the counterattacking forces back the Eastern Front. I think I over-relied on using the SAs for this purpose, as I got clobbered by the Soviets on a couple turns after I had to spend several SAs to redeploy guys near a beachhead and then counterattack; I probably committed too many guys, thinking “hey, I can just burn a SA to redeploy them back to Russia”, but that then left me with too few SAs for the inevitable reinforcements and counterattacks. The Germans get used to burning SAs somewhat freely when they’ve got four and are really only facing the Soviets, but when they fall down to 3 and have to seriously deal with the US/UK, things get very tight indeed.
Things then started getting really, really ugly. The first major Soviet counteroffensive, when I was sitting on 3 SAs, suffered a major reverse as reinforcements and counterattacks wiped out the attackers, keeping the river line and fortifications intact. After that, the Soviets very carefully picked their spots when I had not saved enough SAs (from dealing with a US/UK landing), and started eviscerating the eastern armies.
I got to fire off some V-1s, but I only held out until early 1945. The US/UK finally got it right about the fifth time, landing a ton of guys in France. I didn’t deal with that landing very well, and with my supply of SAs again exhausted, the German army was too battered to hold out.
I think ultimately the two major mistakes I made were: a) not doing enough damage to the Soviets in the early turns, and b) reacting too strongly to the various dinky Allied landings, which left me with not enough SAs in reserve. I think otherwise my position was reasonably strong, and I was generally not unhappy. But I’m still learning the techniques of the mobile defense, something I’ve never been terribly good at.
Anyway, I look forward to giving this a try again. Defending the Reich definitely seems very tricky after 1943, but I think I’ll do better next time.