Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Thunder in the East – Citadel
by Robert Lloyd
This is my third start at Citadel. I am playing the Scenario but with a potential Campaign extension. I am anxious to consider how the Wehrmacht can live with the revival of the Soviets and survive until the winter of 1943 – 1944 and even up to the start of Bagration in June 1944.
The Thunder in the East Citadel Scenario starts with the Axis in a position to win an Operational Victory. However, the margin they have is fragile. Five Objective Cities are within two hexes of the front line on the Axis side. I began my exploration of this Scenario by calculating that a German offensive had a chance of success because Soviet morale is only 20 MPs. A few turns of sustained attacks in which the Russians held their lines but had heavy losses could see them collapse.
However, the results of my first efforts were not encouraging. In my second game, three turns of attacks reduced the Soviets to 13 MP. Still, the Axis in the same space of time had Army Group Centre almost destroyed in the encirclement. The Russian Armour burst out, overrunning Army Group South and capturing six Objectives, including Dnepropetrovsk in one disastrous July III turn. Soviet Morale bounced back to 37 MP and so completely out of the danger zone.
In these prior games, I accepted the logic of the Kursk offensive. It offered a potential morale victory, and gaining even a little ground would give more space to protect Orel and Kharkov. If the Germans attacked elsewhere where the Soviets are not so strong, that would leave the Ukraine exposed, and the Russians would perhaps gain an easy victory. Some confrontations cannot be dodged. In my previous games, I attacked at Kursk and used the Blitzkrieg Event on July I or July II.
However, it is now clear; the Axis will have to box cleverer and avoid being sucked into a struggle where they lose their ability to manoeuvre. They cannot afford to lose sight of the Soviet hitting power and their ability to use mechanised units to penetrate German lines. A flexible defence must be prioritised. That applies to the use of the Blitzkrieg! event which may be better used for a major counterattack after the Soviets have committed to a line of advance. These tactics also apply to the use of the Luftwaffe. In previous games, in attempting to support offensive operations, the Luftwaffe exhausted itself too quickly and suffered excessively from Flak and “Aircraft” CAS results. This time they will hold back more and be available for defensive air support.
The Soviets have a much less complex strategic problem in this scenario. They have ample reserves at the start of the Scenario, and the Axis line is far from being an ideal defensive position. In previous games, the Red Army struck hard when the Germans pushed their heads into the noose. They may find it harder if the Axis are more cautious. I have found this Scenario gave good scope for the Soviet Air Offensive Event, which will be chosen again.
In the longer run, the Soviets will want to take advantage of the summer weather to allow for rapid exploitation once they can turn the tide so that they do not find the Germans securely entrenched on the Dnieper with the mud season on the horizon. They must not either deplete their own resources excessively. If the Soviets lose more than 4 MP per Objective liberated, then they are going backwards. Once they are out of the USSR, positive MP gains depend on preserving manpower (no more Objectives to liberate). The Soviet economy is weakened by the damage of the invasion, and if attrition is greater than the seasonal limits, then the Red Army will decline from its 1943 peak.
I am using the updated 2020 TITE Vassal Module and the ETO rules as of February 2021 (in development).
There are no great innovations in my third set-up of this Scenario. The set-up demands the covering of the whole front. Hence, creativity is in the options to reduce and strengthen units and in the placement of improved positions, garrisons, and reserves.
The Soviets make the Kursk salient a tough proposition, including fortifications and some Hardened Garrisons. They make sure Leningrad is strong enough to resist a surprise attack. Elsewhere the front is mainly held by reduced Armies and, in places, Corps.