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In the Kessel – A Chain of Command Campaign

2014-05-16 14.07.41It’ll be no secret to regular readers of this blog that I have been building up my forces for a late war campaign on the Eastern Front and I am very pleased to say that I have pretty much finished both sides. We have our first game set up for tomorrow and the second on Monday with Nick taking charge of the Germans and the Soviets coming under my control.
I’ve been reading a fair bit Battleground Prussia by Prit Buttar to get me into the mood and that has an excellent chapter on the Heiligenbeil Pocket which caught my eye. With the Soviet onslaught in the East and Hitler’s lunatic orders to not give an inch of ground, the Germany army found itself systematically broken down into pockets, or Kessel to use the German term. What was interesting about this pocket was that it wasn’t centred on one of the large cities such as Konigsberg or Danzig, so I wouldn’t need to constrict a big urban area for gaming over. I also liked the fact that the main German objective was humanitarian, namely to hold the line for long enough for the civilian population to be evacuated by sea. For a start this is “nice” because it’s a bit fluffy and cuddly, but more importantly it provides a great opportunity to add some interesting issues to our scenarios. “Hold the bridge for as long as you can” is great, but here was an opportunity to add some additional time constraints with a field hospital being evacuated, or a column of civvies needing time to get away. These were all issues which would put the German player under pressure in order to replicate some of the stresses of life in the kessel.
Heil DetailNow, period maps of East Prussia are pretty easy to come by on line and I could spend a lot of time doing a lot of research in order to pin down specific units to specific bits of ground. The problem there is that I have some new toys waiting to get onto the table. As a result I am going to start this campaign as a standard “No Map Campaign” and add detail as I progress. I know, for example, that the Soviet brief is to reach the coast and cut off the pocket from Konigsberg where a route currently still remains open whilst the German brief is to resist for long enough to get the civilians away. The first game in No-Mans-Land could be anywhere, so I am happy playing that tomorrow in order to get started.
A few changes to the basic set-up have already been made. For example I am tailor making the support lists to replicate what we know was available in the kessel. So the Germans will have plenty of panzerfausts but very few anti-tank guns or tanks. There are also some rule changes which reflect the use of some support options. Selecting Volkssturm or Hitler Jugend as supports is fine, but if you get them killed this is likely to have a serious affect on morale – afterall you’re here to help these people. On the Soviet side there are a number of issues which will affect the leader’s outlook, so if he wants to maintain his own self-respect and sanity he’ll need to be careful about how he controls his men. But more on that as we get there.
In our next post we’ll take a look at the forces involved. Got to rush now to get to the Post Office with all of your orders!

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