Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Reconnaissance by Assault at Ulianovo: The Feedback

Diligence is defined by Webster as "a steady, earnest, and energetic effort: devoted and painstaking work and application to accomplish an undertaking."

For our 13th (!) game of the Ulianovo assault, I'm going to say that we're approaching "diligent" levels of playtesting here.  Alex and Ken played, and then Alex replayed the Ulianovo assault and I was very pleased with both the feedback received by both, and the thoughts it stimulated in Ken and Alex's wargaming brains, who continued to text into the night about tactics to solve this tactical puzzle, long after the guns fell silent on the battlefield.

  Ken and Alex's combined 80 years of wargaming experience greatly helped in ironing out some issues with the scenario and certainly gave me food for thought as we approach the final two weeks before the Russians step off onto Operation Kutuzov at the convention.

Rather than a blow-by-blow, I'll post some of the feedback for the convention game along with cool pictures.  (Also you can access the Ulianovo scenario here)

First blood to the Germans as mortar bombs rain down on Russian infantry columns

Ken tried a very Napoleonic strategy and launched 4 prongs of columns at the Germans, trading speed for protection.  While his plan was crazy, Alex tried it again and it worked!

A pivotal moment as Ken failed to pin Alex's Germans and one of his flanking companies was shot to pieces.

Include Quick Reference Sheets for the Players.  This was huge and so obvious I cant believe I missed it.  Will have QRS and the scenario printed off for all participants.

Attempt the FOLLOW ME movement order for the Soviets when moving.  Ken made a good observation that the movement orders in FOW should be used to maximum effect.  This is especially true as the Soviets have much ground to cover and then must assault.  Ken "Cross Country Dash" moved 12 inches, and when passing the FOLLOW ME motivation test, moved an extra 4 inches to 16 inches.  This turned out to be a game-changer and puts the Soviets right up in the Germans' faces!  Hence Ken's penchant for forming ad hoc columns and tearing down the table, human wave style!  While the lads were massacred the first time, their sacrifice taught the next wave how to do it right!

Keep the option open for "ReRoll Cards" - IE allow the Germans and the Soviets "mulligans" for re-rolling dice.  During Ken's game, all 4 companies were pinned and he failed to unpin them.  

If I get a bunch of inexperienced gamers at the table, or younger kids, it will be important that they can make decisions that can affect the outcome.  If it's a bunch of Ken and Alex type gamers, we can possibly forego the re-roll cards/chits.  This will have to be a last-minute decision on game-day.

Forget the Sniper?  Alex was talking about "pin-producing weapons" and game balance.  The Germans have a guaranteed pin with the mortars (assuming they hit), and a guaranteed pin with the sniper.  They also have HMGs and 9 infantry stands in the trench.  Assuming their dice are good, they could potentially pin all of the Soviet companies, especially if they make their reserve roll early-on getting the reduced platoon on the table.

Forget the variable objective?  Ken and Alex both agreed they did not want to waste their commander's mortar spotting or company commander movement on a spotting roll for the objective.  Should we just tell the Soviet player where the objective is right away and dispense with the unknown?  I wanted to keep the recce roll in there to keep the ethos of the "Red Recon" roots where this scenario comes from.

Move the Houses Up To Within 6" of the Trenchline:  This is an easy one.  I'm not going to do it.  While in FoW, the presence of the Commander adds an automatic reroll to a morale failure, watching Alex's Soviets capture the trenchline, and then plan their assault on the village it became a whole new game!  I ended up digging in my German reserve platoon right on my baseline to overwatch the command post.  I dont want the houses within easy striking distance of the trench since it presents a new tactical problem to the Soviets if they can get this far.

A pensive Alex weighing his options.  Note the 4 speedy columns moving up.  Alex tried a hybrid of Ken's plan and it worked - very, very well as it turned out!

Soviets going "over the top" at the trenchline

The first batch of Germans are annihilated in the first round of close combat!

Alex squeezes the Germans from both sides - those troops on the left are SMG troops - deadly in Close Quarters!

Another of Alex's companies gains the trenchline.  Forget those Germans in the upper left - they're going for blood!  Alex eyes the command post up.  He guesses, correctly, that it's in the center.

My reserves dig in behind the village - an unexpected turn of events!  THe remnants of the trenchline platoon are behind the center building

Soviet Turn 5, The SMG gunners move in to assault the first house, which holds some of the remnants from the 1st Platoon

Soviet Turn 6, the Soviets capture the center house and the game is an automatic Soviet victory!

unwanted dinner guests...

So there you have it!  A very clean and clear Soviet victory with some very experienced gamers.  I fought as hard as I could, trying to maximize shots and firepower and the Soviets won the scenario handily.  I think, things being even, with players making the best choices (Soviets move forward FAST to get to the trench and assault, Soviet mortars pinning the Germans, Germans shooting every conceivable weapon every turn) both sides have a reasonable chance for victory.  It's a safe bet that the Germans are going to need their reserve platoon to counter attack either by fire or by assault.  

Now it's time to think about the changes above, and sculpt some flamethrower backpack tanks for my Russians out of "green stuff" as I get ready for the convention!  Stay tuned!  


  1. Nice process Steve and tested to destruction. Is the idea that the ‘guests’ run the Soviet companies? I think it would be nice to keep the Soviet player(s) guessing which house contains the objective, even if they just have to find it by stumbling upon it.

    1. I like that, Norm. "Tested to destruction" :). I agree I like keeping the Soviets guessing which house it is. In our games, Ken played SOCs and Alex initially played Germans. Ken could not make the next game so I took over as the Germans. My hope is that I get 2 to 3 players for the Soviets and 2 for the Germans.

  2. Superb stuff. Good to see Alex and Ken back at it again. Game looks great and will be a hit Steve.

    1. Thanks Darren! Stay tuned sir. And stand by for an important communique from the Kremlin ;)

  3. Certainly no one can accuse you of under preparing Steve - you will be dreaming (or having nightmares) about this scenario before you are done! And yet - something unexpected will probably happen at the convention game - you do know, no plan survives the first contact with the enemy, dont you?!