All this World War II tabletop gaming I’ve been doing lately has had me brush off a rancid classic of the DOS era: V-For-Victory.
Bringing an insane degree of crunch to hex-and-chit wargaming that was only possible in the age of PC gaming, the V4V series offered several lengthy “campaign” games as well as shortened scenarios. I put “campaign” in quotes, because really these are battles, granular to the battalion level, and don’t include full theater scope. So, for example, you’re not playing the entirety of the D-Day invasion, you’re playing Utah Beach.
The battle I’m revisiting is Velikiye Luki. I’ll admit, when this game was the new hotness, I didn’t have the patience to play more than the shortest of scenarios, but this time I’m going full-blown, hundreds of turns, the supposedly “90 hour” “full battle”.
Worth noting, each day has 7 turns, and the full Veliki Luki scenario covers the ENTIRE battle from November 19 1942 – January 16, 1943. Thankfully, you can automate some of the functions, which takes a little bit off your hands, and you’re not going to be moving ALL of your units each turn (fatigue and disruption of units that move every turn builds up quick and severely cripple your divisions), but if you’re a micromanager, it can take a bit.
Partly because of the fact that I wouldn’t have nearly as many pieces I’d have to regularly move and implement commands for, and partly because I didn’t have a strong grasp of the system’s nuances going in, I picked the Germans, in an attempt to keep the Soviet tides from overwhelming the fortress city.
I’ve managed to make it up to mid-December, and in some regards, I’ve done better than historically, and in other ways, I’ve done much worse. The score tracking says it’s still a near-run thing, and despite some of impressive tactical successes, the gap is narrowing.
Velikiye Luki itself is doing fine at this point, but my deep rear is in trouble. In the opening days of the battle, my front line was almost completely overrun. Amazingly enough, one engineer and one mountain infantry battalion were dug in snug enough that they were never dislodged, and a few artillery batteries from the south managed to pull back to the city, but the rest were wiped out. The Red Army bypassed Velikiye Luki to the North, took the small stops along the rail line between Nasva and Novosokolniki. The van then turned south and has been just pounding the garrison of Novosokolniki ever since.
I managed to keep Velikiye Luki from being encircled, however. When I saw what would happen if the Soviets could reach the rail to Nevel, I pulled some infantry out the city to create an entrenched flank to mask the rail bridge. This provided the necessary cover for the 1st SS Motorized Infantry, which acted as a siege-breaker, preventing the Soviets who were coming around the north of the city from fully encircling. I was thinking these guys would get MVP, but the 6th Luftwaffe Field Division have proved to be the heroes of the Op.
Even if I’d kept the rail bridge open, it wouldn’t matter if the southern contingent of Soviets overran the rail on the west side of the Lovat. The 6th managed to stop those infantry who’d crossed the Lovat, and with some assists from the 1st SS Mot, kept broke the southern portion of the assault. The 1st SS made a failed attempt to relieve Novosokolniki, but quickly had to return to Velikiye Luki, because supplies were spread too, thin, and the northern encircling forces were still much too strong and still needed to be dealt with. But, with the southern forces being pushed back, the entrenched line could break and join in the push, and the 20th Mot, 6th FJ, and 291st Inf. were able to lift the siege. There are still too many Reds north of the city to take head on, but they’ve pulled back and are no longer putting pressure on the garrison. The 6th FJ has pushed too far east in an attempt to break as many Soviet divisions as possible, capturing headquarters and desperately needed supplies, and finally came to a soviet armored division that wasn’t on ¼ beet-soup rations. At this point, they’re slowly withdrawing back toward the city, in hopes that they can draw the soviets into the range of the garrison’s batteries.
Now that the pressure is gone from the south and largely off from the north and the east, and the final big group of reinforcements have arrived from Nevel, I’m turning my attention back towards Novosokolniki. I’ve GOT to do something to relieve the forces who are trapped there. I’m hoping that the soviet groups who’ve taken the junction are also on garbage rations—there’s next to no way they can trace supplies, because I’ve got all the roads covered, the rail north recovered, and the Lovat (now nearly frozen solid) fairly secure. The Soviets are getting points off me every turn they have guys in Novosokolniki, and over 2k points on casualties. If I can get it back and collect those points for the rest of the game, I should be in the clear. It’ll be up to the very slowly advancing 1st SS Mot, the remnants of Group Chevallerie, and maybe even the 6th FJ, if they can make it around or through the city in their retreat, to relieve the beleaguered security forces at the critical rail junction.