The Let's Play Archive

No Retreat! The Russian Front

by Tevery Best

Part 22: Turn 4 - Soviet Org Phase: The Pocket Reopened. NKVD at Second Leningrad. Russian Courage. Fall of Kharkov.

AGN vs Leningrad
NKVD played, odds irrelevant
Axis roll: 2
Soviet roll: 6
18th Army takes a step loss

The relentless German onslaught convinces the Leningrad Defence Commissariat to deploy the newly-arrived NKVD regiments both as blocking measures and front-line units in the most threatened sectors of the city's defensive perimeter. These disciplined and well-equipped units manage to keep the Axis at bay and contribute greatly to causing significant casualties to the enemy, but in the end bleed themselves out. This time, however, the defenders retain cohesion and are still combat-ready after a German offensive - for the first time in the war.

NKVD border guards in 1941

What exactly was the NKVD? The short answer is "The People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs". A serious answer would be "a state within a state". The institution was the fourth one in the long and convoluted chain of Soviet "security" agencies, inheriting from the infamous Chrezvychaynaya Kommissiya (CheKa) and the less internationally notorious GPU and OGPU. NKVD officers functioned as political police, sometimes regular police, military police, border guards, military intelligence, military counter-intelligence, government hitmen (both at home and abroad), prison camp guards and managers and a myriad of other things. The NKVD even had its own combat units, up to division strength. In short, they were Stalin's go-to guys when he wanted things done. Usually bad things. I don't want to go any deeper into just how awful those guys could get (since the thread is generally light-hearted), so if you want to know, a quick googling will tell you more than you ever wanted to learn.

Not all of them were evil, mind you. Most people in the NKVD military units were conscripts, who had no intention of doing any really horrible stuff. One such unit was the 10th NKVD Rifle Division, formed in Stalingrad in the winter of 1942. Most of its troops were regular guys from the general Stalingrad area, who got a rifle, a uniform and a place to defend. Unfortunately, that place happened to be right smack in the middle of the German push towards Stalingrad. They fought bravely to defend their homes, taking part in the famous defence of the Stalingrad Tractor Factory (which made tanks, because that's Soviet Russia for you) and of the Mamayev Kurgan, suffering horrible casualties (but they gave as hard as they received). As the Division dwindled in men, going from 7,500 soldiers in February to barely 200 in October, its name grew instead, eventually turning the unit into the 10th Stalingrad Rifle Division of the Order of Lenin of the Internal Troops of the NKVD of the USSR. The unit was dissolved and reintegrated into the Red Army proper in February 1943. There are several monuments to it in Volgograd today.

Russian Courage is played to place a counterblow marker on the Moscow Front.

2nd Panzer, 4th Army vs Southwest Front
Combat odds: 11/5 = 2:1 - shifted -1 for Forest for a total of 3:2
Roll: 5 - DR

9th Army vs Moscow Front
Combat odds: 3/2 = 3:2 - no terrain shifts due to Counterblow
Roll: 2 - No effect

3rd Panzer vs Reserve Front
Combat odds: 5/4 = 1:1 - no shifts
Roll: 6 - DR

Guderian is back in charge of the 2nd Panzer Group and it shows. From his HQ in Smolensk, he organizes a determined advance against the Soviet divisions to the north-east of the city. The 2nd Panzer has little issue breaking through the Soviet lines, but cannot properly exploit it, allowing Marshal Semyon Timoshenko to withdraw his troops in a mostly orderly fashion. Still, this helps open up a supply line to the east, where the rest of AGC is currently fighting for their lives.

The Moscow Front is a little overeager. The undisciplined volunteers from the general Moscow area are just waiting for an opportunity to fight. Hearing about the weakness the fascists display in the region, their commanders decide to do exactly that - but being mostly inexperienced and poorly trained, they botch the attack, while their subordinates quickly realise battlegrounds are hardly places you want to be in. They do, nevertheless, force the Germans to respond to this advance, which they do half-heartedly and eventually the clashes die down.

The 3rd Panzer, meanwhile, gears up to fight the most important engagement in the war thus far. Facing a life or death struggle, they hit hard against the Reserve Front, sending the Soviets reeling back, but not destroying them. Thus they reopen the supply line from Smolensk, but the German forces in the area are definitely not out of the woods just yet.

17th Army, 6th Army, 1st Panzer vs Kharkov
Combat odds: 13/4 = 3:1 - shifted -1 for City for a total of 2:1
Roll: 4 - DR

Meanwhile, the newly-renamed Army Group Centre Rear begins a major offensive all across the front line. Its first objective is Kharkov, a critical Soviet industrial centre. Most of its defenders have been pulled up north to defend Moscow, which makes it easy pickings for the resolute German advance. The Axis take Kharkov. Axis VPs now at 22.

2nd Army, 11th Army vs Bryansk Front
Combat odds: 9/3 = 3:1 - no shifts
Roll: 2 - EX
11th Army takes a step loss.
Bryansk Front takes a step loss and is eliminated. It goes to the Destroyed Units Box.

The Bryansk Front is also undermanned and isolated. With maximum priority given to the central sector of the line, AGCR is able to advance upon it with overwhelming superiority. Still, the Red Army troops here display incredible personal bravery, struggling bravely until they lose most of their tanks and a large number of personnel. The unit is no longer combat fit, but the Germans have been kept out of Stalino - for now.

Russian Courage is played to place a counterblow marker on the South Front.

4th Rumanian, South Front
Combat odds: 2/3 = 1:2 - no terrain shifts due to counterblow
Roll: 5 - DR

The South Front commanders notice that they are only up against the weak Rumanian forces and start to threaten their positions, hoping to draw them into an extended clash and attrition them. What they did not anticipate is that the enemy commanders will display an unprecedented resolve and decisively engage the Soviet Front. The surprised Soviet force quickly loses several key positions and withdraws to the east. The Axis opt not to enter the wide open door to the Crimea, however.

Axis Removals Phase
OOS markers removed from 3rd Panzer and 9th Army.

Axis Detraining Phase
Nothing to detrain.

The Soviets have nothing to discard and draw 4 cards.

Both sides are fine at this point.

Two Soviet units are eligible to be flipped: the Leningrad Front and the Moscow Front can both be flipped over to their Fortress side. This costs 1 card per unit.

Two new units for the Soviets: the Crimea Front and the Volkhov Front.

In addition, the Soviets now receive the Strategic Reserve marker. This little funny thing allows you to pick up a (supplied, checked when you declare using Strategic Reserve) unit at the end of your Movement Phase and place it in the Railroad Movement Box, just like usual. Except the unit marked with Strategic Reserve can detrain either in your Detraining Phase or the German Detraining Phase, making it easier to respond to threats. As an added bonus, this unit is always free to entrain - even if you have entrained something that turn already. You cannot use it to entrain another unit once it is on something, but you can move the marker between units in the Rail Movement Box from turn to turn.

As you can see, only one unit was added to the Shattered, Destroyed and Surrendered unit boxes this turn. The German advance is losing a lot of its initial intensity.

I need placements (and discards to pay for replacements and upgrades) from Fangz. He can also move units between commands now (and add the new ones to either of his subordinates' HQs). Deadline: Sunday, December 15, 7 PM GMT.

Soviet hand: 5 cards
Axis hand: 4 cards