Okay, it’s time for the Warsaw Pact to get this party started on the ground. The first echelon impulse begins and we start with some jostling around the intra German border, hoping to hit at nearby NATO units and push hard past them.
|The Intra German border at the start of WW3|
Everything in the south part of the board suddenly looks pretty vulnerable right now on the western side of the border. A couple of the Pact units in the extreme south make it including the Czechs in the far south, who are hitting at the 4th Panzergrenadiers Division to the east of Augsburg. The odds here are actually pretty low (only 1.5: 1 in the Pact’s favor) for this attack due to the low proficiency rating of the Czech divisions. It probably would have been wiser to support their attack with a Soviet unit but I wanted to hit the 2nd ACR up north as hard as possible. I also think that I can supplement the attack with air support, especially since the WP has air superiority this turn.
|Su-25 Frogfoots revved up for the attack|
Further north of that, to the east of Nürnberg, the 8th Guards Tank Army piles on the attack factors versus the 2nd Air Cav of the US 5th Division at odds of 5 – 1. Again, I’m going to be sending in aircraft to bring up the odds even further and hopefully earn enough of a victory to send my Pact units far forward in the second echelon phase.
|Everyone jumps in against the 1st Armored Division (15-15-7)|
Going further up north, the Warsaw Pact is going to throw everything it can at the US VII Corps’ 1st Armored Division. I’d like to start clearing out the big units here to free up my other guys so they can surge forward without having to worry about them too much. This attack is a big combined operation consisting of the 8th Guards Army, 1st Guards Tank Army, and 8th Guards Tank Army. Of course, I’d like to throw air into this battle too, even at 6-1 to make for a nice schmorgesborg of destruction.
The US V Corps’ 11th ACR is slated for annihilation next at 9-1 odds against. No need to throw air into this one. Unless something really bad happens, the poor 11th should be just a nice little speedbump on the way to Paris.
I’m gambling big time with a 1.5 – 1 attack vs. the British 1st Armored Division. I know this isn’t a good idea but a good result for the Pact here could really set back NATO in the northern area and let the Warsaw Pact make some big gains in the ensuing second echelon phase. Airstrikes are going in to help improve Pact odds.
As we get further north, up near Magdeburg, the 1st Panzer Division is about to get its lumps. Facing off against the entire 3rd Shock Army at odds of 8 to 1, a victory for the Pact here could rip open the entire northern area for advance since there are so many gaps in the line around here. At the northernmost point, the area around Hamburg is getting crowded with NATO units, so it’s time to at least try and send one of them packing. The West German 1st Airborne Helo Regiment and the 3rd Panzer Division are attacked by 2nd Guards Army and 4th Guards Tank Army (which has just rolled in from Poland, I believe) at 2-1. Hopefully, Pact air strikes will make the difference here by shifting the odds a little further in the Soviets’ favor.
Over to the east, the Poles are assigned the task of crushing NATO forces in West Berlin. Although the fight looks easy enough at first due to overwhelming numbers, the proficiency of NATO units (especially the British) in West Berlin and the perils of urban fighting help to tip the balance a little further towards the beleaguered NATO units. At 3 – 1, the Poles should be able to pull of a win here but I’ll throw some air at the situation to try and ensure success.
A total of 5 Su-25 air units are assigned to hit at the NATO forces along the border and in West Berlin. NATO decides to stay its hand and doesn’t send up any counter-air as it would likely get shot down pretty quick. Also, with the impending loss of two flights from the runway cratering mission, it might be wise to be a bit conservative with its air right now. Hopefully, air defense will manage to be enough.
The missions take off and…hol…ee…crow. Only one mission succeeds while air defenses cause two aborted missions and shoot down the remaining two air strike missions. The good news for the Pact is that the West German 1st Helo and 3rd Panzer Division are now being attacked at 5-1 near Hamburg. However, there were two missions that really needed to get through that cause me great concern (the 1.5-1 fight between the Czechs and West Germans in the deep south and the 1.5 – 1 fight against the British 1st Armored Division near Hamburg in the north). I’m suddenly starting to get a sinking feeling here about the coming battle.
The terrible effects of losing so many aircraft on ground attack missions is sobering and the lesson has hopefully been learned – air support is is to be used as additional insurance for attacks rather than a substitute for a lack of ground attack strength. It can shift the odds in your favor but shouldn’t be relied upon too heavily.
|The frontline after the first echelon attack phase|
Despite all that, the attack rolls don’t go too badly for the Warsaw Pact. Near Hamburg, the 3rd Panzer Division and 1st Helo are take 2 disruptions and get pushed all the way back to the city. The 1st Panzer Division east of Hannover gets completely destroyed as does the poor 11th ACR further to the south near the Fulda Gap. South of that, the 2nd ACR takes two disruptions and retreats back southwest.
The attack against the British ends up with nothing gained, nothing lost as both sides take a disruption hit. The big loser here is the US VII Corps 1st Armored Division, which takes 2 disruptions and is forced to retreat. This was the most powerful unit the Pact attacked this turn and this result hurts NATO. To make matters worse, because it passes through the LOC of a Pact unit on its way back, it takes yet another disruption. Down at the very south of the map, the Czechs fail to gain any ground, inflicting a disruption against the West Germans and suffering disruptions themselves. I believe the Pact will be able to carry out a few interesting moves here in the second echelon phase.
I think I got everything right in this phase! I’m sure I could have allocated the attacks in a better way but as this is my first playthrough, it felt pretty good to actually get some units past the border. Now let’s see what we can do with the gaps we’ve created.
Up Next: Warsaw Pact Second Echelon Impulse!