The Meat Grinder – Part 3

Early 1942 Soviet Rifle Squad at Full Strength

“Q & E Campaigning”

Gaming campaigns have appeared in Two Hour Wargames for some time, but I never played any of them until the Q&E Campaigning system in Fortunes Won and Lost, a rule set now sold by Rebel Minis. This system uses a minimum amount of bookkeeping and its best features are a morale clock, called Campaign Morale in NUTS!, coupled with a Next Mission Table. You play missions until one side’s Campaign Morale reaches zero and therefore loses, hopefully your opponent and not you.

I could, and in some instances would, just play a general campaign and call it the Rzhev Campaign and follow it up with either a Smolensk Campaign or Kursk Campaign. But if you want to add a little more detail or specific events to your campaign, the Eastern Front Book Draft has a Campaign Map Area section. The Campaign Map is broken into map areas representing geographic objectives, specific events or points in time you wish to play in the campaign. The idea is to reduce the enemy’s Campaign Morale to zero in an area before moving on to the next area.

The best way to give you an example of this, is to show you how I’ve constructed my own Rzhev Campaign.

The Historical Campaign

In The Rzhev Slaughterhouse, author Svetlana Gerasimova breaks her book into chapters covering the major operations in a chronological order. If you count only the major operations, there were six of them and inside of these operations there were significant other operations, but for now let’s just list the main six:

  • The First Rzhev – Viaz’ma Offensive, 8 January – 20 April 1942
  • Operations Hannover-1 and Hannover-2, 24 May – 30 June 1942
  • Operation Seydliz, 2 July – 19 July 1942
  • The First Rzhev – Syckevka Offensive, 30 July – 30 September 1942
  • The Second Rzhev – Syckevka Offensive, 25 November – 20 December 1942
  • Operation Buffel (Buffalo), 2 March – 31 March 1942

As my character is a part of the 39th Army, the 39th Army did not participate in all of the major operations, so her Campaign timeline looks like:

  • The First Rzhev – Viaz’ma Offensive
  • Missions in the Rzhev – Belyi Salient & Operation Seydlitz
  • Kalinin Front Missions Near Rzhev
  • The Second Rzhev – Syckevka Offensive (Operation Mars)
  • Kalinin Front Missions Near Molodoi Tud & Operation Buffel

I’m going to plan each operation as a mini-campaign or Campaign Map Area on its own. To be honest, it will take a miracle for my character to survive Operation Seydlitz. Since there is a large amount of time between operations and offensives, I’ll incorporate Chocolate and Cigarettes missions to help fill the gaps. It’s quite an ambitious campaign and if my character does survive Operation Seydlitz, I’ll probably be playing this most of the rest of the year!

Heavy Machine Gun Team

Rzhev-Viaz’ma Offensive

It starts with orders from Stavka, the Soviet High Command:

Stavka VGK Directive No. 151141 to the Commanders of the Western and Kalinin Fronts

7 January 1942, 20 hr 40 min

The Stavka of the Supreme High Command orders the Western and Kalinin Fronts to direct further efforts toward the encirclement of the enemy’s Mozhaisk – Gzhatsk – Viaz’ma grouping for which:

  1. The commander of the Kalinin Front is to detach part of its force in order to smash the enemy’s Rzhev grouping and to occupy Rzhev, and with a shock grouping in strength of two armies consisting of fourteen-fifteen rifle divisions, a cavalry corps and a large number of tanks, to attack in the general direction of Sychevka, Viaz’ma with the task, having seized the railroad and major Gzhatsk – Smolensk road west of the railroad, to deprive the enemy of his main communications. Next, encircle and then capture or destroy the enemy’s entire Mozhaisk – Gzhatsk – Viaz’ma grouping jointly with the Western Front.
  2. Without waiting for the approach of the cavalry corps and the full assembly of all the forces of the shock grouping in the area of Rzhev, with the available forces of the 39th Army as the primary force of the main grouping, develop the offensive immediately in the Sychevka, Viaz’ma direction, while keeping the remaining forces as a second echelon behind the main grouping, with the intent of emerging in the Sychevka area and occupying Sychevka no later than 12 January 1942.
  3. The Commander of the Western Front is to destroy the enemy’s Iukhnov – Mosal’sk grouping no later than 11 January, to launch the main attack with the forces of Group Belov and the 50th Army toward Viaz’ma, and then to complete the encirclement of the enemy’s Mozhaisk – Gzhatsh – Viaz’ma grouping in cooperation with the forces of Kalinin Front’s shock grouping.
  4. Simultaneously with the forces of the 20th Army penetrate the enemy’s front and attack in the direction of Shakhovskaia, Gzhatsk; direct part of the army from Shakhovskaia into the rear of the enemy’s Latoshino grouping and encircle and destroy it in cooperation with Kalinin Front’s 30th Army.
  5. Confirm receipt.

Stavka of the Supreme High Command I.V. Stalin A. Vasilevsky

Supreme Commander I.V. Stalin
Chief of General Staff A. Vasilevsky
Commander of Kalinin Front, I. Konev
Commander of Western Front, G.K. Zhukov

These orders would be amended and changed almost daily in the first weeks of the offensive. With the orders and accounts of events, I can construct a 5-node Campaign Map Area. Once I reduce the enemy’s Campaign Morale to zero, I can move to the next area: Missions in the Rzhev – Belyi Salient & Operation Seydlitz. If my Campaign Morale is reduced to zero, I’ve lost the campaign before it’s had a chance to begin.

  • Smash through enemy front – the 39th Army was the spearhead.
  • While the 29th Army turned toward Rzhev, the 39th advanced to Sychevka.
  • Part of the 39th Army was redirected to Rzhev.
  • The 39th at Rzhev ordered to assault Semlevo rail station.
  • The rest of 39th ordered to retake old defensive line at the Desna River.
82mm Mortar Team

Next Time

Now that I’ve defined the first Campaign Map Area, the next thing to prepare is the terrain needed for the missions. Next time, we’ll begin looking at terrain and prepare for my character’s first mission.

I hope these posts are helpful as I try to put together a campaign and play its missions. I know it’s a lot of work, simply because I’m starting from scratch getting into this period.

Please, please, comments, suggestions, observations and your own experiences playing NUTS! is really appreciated.

One thought on “The Meat Grinder – Part 3

  1. Great post. It is good to see your planning work. I’ve run a couple of campaigns with NUTS! – one went really well, one was crushed under the wheels of a tanks. You have to be a bit canny to know when to stand and fight and when to cut and run.



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