Monday, July 27, 2009

Grinding down

So, where did we last leave our intrepid heroes?

Oh, yeah. Trying to liberate Sicily.

Last post, we had just finished the August 10 turn. Allies had just taken Catania, and were one hex away from taking Palermo. (Which historically fell on July 22, btw.)

I'm going to organize this post by sector. First, the west as its story is the shortest.

On August 12, Palermo was completely cleared. Another motorized infantry division was dispatched north through the center of the island to help clear the coast as the armor wasn't going to be as effective in some of the terrain along the north coast of the island.

By the 14th, contact was made with the Luftwaffe rearguard at San Stefano, about 45 miles east of Palermo. Engineers had been left behind in Palermo to repair the port in order to accelerate needed supply to this front.

After the 17th, the rearguard had taken positions further east and units were being reorganized to maintain pressure on this front with the hopes of linking up with the Commonwealth troops fighting up the east coast of the island. Determined bombing by the Luftwaffe hampered progress along the north coast.

The 19th saw the rearguard pushed back to Acquedolci. 15 miles further on in 5 days. Progress would need to be faster as the Germans were evacuating in force. Orders come to accelerate intensity of the attacks.

(no further images here - they're included in the ones below as we're now down within a single picture.)

Germans execute a highly effective fighting retreat on the 21st and 22nd, pulling back another 7 miles to Sant'Agata while inflicting severe damage to the remains of 2nd Armored and 3rd Motorized.

In the East, things went kinda like this:

August 12, good progress up the coast. 8 miles in two days. Captured a forward air base and ejected some units from the slopes of Mt. Etna.

August 14. Slower progress. Only 3 miles today. Suffering heavy and effective bombardment.

August 17. Operational pause to accumulate supply and swap in fresh troops. Italians and Germans fighting hard in the rough terrain. Heard large explosions coming from off shore. Rumors floating among the troops is some ships were sunk.

August 19. Good progress. 7 miles over two days. Germans seen pulling back in large numbers leaving mostly Italians as a rearguard. Cost has been high, though. We're probably losing two units for every one Axis loss. Still, orders coming down to fight harder and take ground faster. We're hearing large numbers of German troops have been sighted crossing the straights into Italy and are creating reinforced positions on the mainland. The drive up the boot is going to be a tough one.

August 21. 7 more miles today. Commander says it's not enough, though. Not sure how much longer we can keep up this pace. Almost as many ambulance units moving south as troops moving north.

At this point Mike already had 7 VPs, and he only needed 13 for a major victory. I was nowhere close to Messina, and he had six units within range to be evacuated within two turns. That was enough to clinch the major victory for him, and there wasn't a lot I could do about it. As it was, I only had 20 attack capable units left on the map. As I was losing them at 4-5 per turn, I simply wouldn't have had anything left to contest anything.

So, we called it at that point. By my estimate, we played for about 50 hours, and we knew a LOT more about OCS when we finished than when we started. I could point to a large number of things I did wrong as the Allies. The biggest was not being aggressive enough early on. I figured I could catch up over time, but that's harder to do than you think. In the end, we were averaging close to 3 turns/night or about 40 minutes per player turn. Things definitely went faster towards the end as the terrain in question closed down to the tip of the island around Messina.

OCS Technique #2.

Keep artillery units in reserve on defense.

Mike developed a very effective technique of putting artillery units in reserve. He would release these units in his reaction phase and target likely attacking stacks. (Usually determined by where I'd managed to DG him along the front line with my aircraft or ships.) After I noticed what he was doing, I tried to counter by attacking these stacks with my aircraft to hopefully cause a DG on him, and removing the reserve marker. Given the restrictions on air support in the game (1d6 ground attacks per turn) and the fact that these targets aren't spotted made this harder to pull off than you'd think. Too many targets and not enough firepower.

I'll go through a post-mortem of sorts in my next post. Which, given my work schedule has lessened a tad, should be later this week.

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