In the north, having taken Vitebsk on Turn 1, General Keating is advancing NE along both banks of the Dvina, looking at this stage as though he is making a serious push for Velizh (see Shot 5). Velizh is a town on the Dvina almost due north of Demidov, which is another important objective
In the south, Keating is facing the predictable last ditch defense of Orsha and Mogilev (see Shot 6). General Alston has snuck an NKVD unit into Orsha, which is bad news for General Keating. Perhaps the Germans won’t be strolling into Orsha after all. The NKVD can’t fight very well, but they are superb at gunning down any of their own soldiers who want to leave a battle early, so there will be no retreat from Orsha. With General Keating’s heavy artillery yet to come up, it looks like costly frontal assaults will be the order of the day if Orsha, (which has its own supply dump), is to fall.
South of Orsha, General Keating has flung all his leg movement units across the Dnepr, faithfully following the game plan encapsulated in the game title. These have been joined by the tracked vehicles using the bridge at Shklov, which was blown but not otherwise defended by General Alston. However, General Keating has to be careful. Many of the Russian units already on the map are fated for destruction, so the Russian player will happily swap a bunch of doomed units for the death of German attackers. General Keating has already lost two Recon units, that had ventured a hex too far.
By the end of Turn 3, the stouthearted defenders of Orsha, subtly encouraged by their NKVD comrades, are still holding out (see Shot 7). Below Orsha, the battle sweeps onwards, with General Alston refusing to defend in the open, clinging instead to the more defensive terrain of Woods and Forest. Unfortunately for General Alston, this tactic is not always feasible.
The defenders of Mogilev, lacking the support and encouragement afforded by the NKVD in Orsha, have succumbed to overwhelming German pressure. A road through clear terrain runs due east from Mogilev to Mstislavl. The German attack will naturally proceed down this corridor, and General Alston has lined up some of his best units to delay the German thrust (see Shot 8).
The German attack in the south seems to be progressing nicely, with what appears to be only a Russian artillery park defending Mstislavl from the Germans to its northwest (see Shot 9). General Keating’s attack in the center is a decidedly half hearted affair, being left to a motley collection of infantry divisions. This is because every single panzer division north of the Dnepr is aimed at Velizh (see Shot 10).
Blessed with what seems like a miraculous ability to conjure steps from the steppes, General Alston has slammed shut the door to Mstislavl (see Shot 11). Good news for General Keating is that Velizh has fallen, and a host of heavily armed Germans are poised above Demidov (see Shot 12)
General Alston has chosen this turn to initiate a general withdrawal, though I’m not sure that Stalin is going to like that. A token defense has been left in Mstislavl, but all the defenders conjured up the turn before are now sitting somewhat east of the town. Demidov is still defended, but the forces along the banks of the Dnepr have taken a step backwards. A snapshot of the entire front from the Russian viewpoint will show the scene (see Shot 13). The small number of German units in shot testify to the facts of General Alston’s withdrawal.
General Keating is still not making a serious effort to advance along the Dnepr itself. In one way this is understandable, as the northern bank contains some of the best defensive terrain on the map. However, General Keating is also ignoring the line of approach running from Vitebsk to Smolensk. Instead General Keating has stretched the German defenses east of Demidov and looks likely to make a breakthrough somewhat north of Yartsevo (see Shot 14). Admittedly, this incursion is some distance from Smolensk, but perhaps something can be made of it. In the south, Mstislavl has fallen, but General Alston’s lines protecting Roslavl, (the major objective south of the Dnepr), seem to be in good order.
General Keating continues to press hard in the north, stretching the defenses and using air interdiction to inhibit the Russian player’s ability to move reinforcements into critical sectors. Smolensk, while not exactly in sight, is at least in prospect (see Shot 15).
General Keating has also opened up a second approach to Smolensk. Some of the units who took Mstislavl have started a push north east to approach Smolensk from the south (see Shot 16).
General Keating’s continuing pressure just east of Yartsevo has forced General Alston to contract his lines all along the northern front. General Keating’s forces on the Dnepr are getting to advance by default, with remarkably few casualties, (see Shot 17).
In the south, General Keating continues to make progress without making any serious encirclements. General Alston has been able to fall back in relatively good order and to avoid too many unnecessary casualties.
It’s the halfway point of the battle, and General Alston has bent but not broken. The Germans, while threatening Yartsevo are still some distance from Smolensk. In the south, the Germans are close to Roslavl, but haven’t taken it (see Shot 18). Moreover, General Keating has paid a very high price for the progress be has made. At this point the Germans have lost 54 units, while the Russians have lost 156. At this stage of the war, the Russians would be very, very happy with a 3:1 exchange ratio, the Fuhrer would be not so happy. General Alston is obviously a master of the local counterattack and the Germans have paid heavily for their progress. While many German units can be reconstituted, this process takes several turns, and wastes replacement resources which could otherwise be used to strengthen frontline units.
The battle is very finely balanced and at this stage, it’s not easy to pick a winner.
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