‘Operation Konrad,’ a Scenario for ‘Gary Grigsby’s War in the East: Lost Battles’ – AAR
This article by Rich “Captain B” Bartosik is an AAR (After Action Report) of the Operation Konrad scenario that is included on the Gary Grigsby’s War in the East: Lost Battles scenario disk published by Matrix Games. The disk contains 10 new scenarios that can be played using Gary Grigsby’s War in the East computer game. The AAR is written from the German player’s point of view. The game was a PBEM game played between two testers using a beta copy of the scenario, and this test led to a few minor changes made to the scenario prior to release.
In December, 1944 the Axis Alliance was crumbling. Italy, Finland, Rumania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria had surrendered. Would Germany’s one remaining ally, Hungary, be next?
Budapest was surrounded. Portions of the IX SS Mountain Corps and the I Hungarian Corps are surrounded by the Soviets. Historically this siege lasted some 102 days. Operation Konrad was Hitler’s attempt to relieve the siege and prevent the one ally he had left, Hungary, from capitulating. After the Konrad offensive failed, the numbers were grim: 40,000 civilians, 40,000 German and Hungarian troops and 80,000 Soviet soldiers were dead. A little over two months later the Third Reich also had fallen.
This scenario should only be played by two human players or by an Axis player against the AI. The key is holding Budapest, which means creating a supply line to the city. The scenario is 8 turns long. Captain B will be playing as the Axis player. Timmyab will be the Soviet Player. Fog of War (FOW) will be turned on and historical weather will be used. Since this is a Play by E-mail (PBEM) game, we will play the game on Normal, which gives neither player an advantage. It should be noted that if players with different skill levels do a PBEM game, the settings can be adjusted to give one player an advantage.
The first screenshot shows the overall positions at the start of the scenario. FOW is turned off, hex control and objectives are turned on. The surrounded city of Budapest is located about in the center of the playing map area. The second shows the starting position with units displayed.
Captain B, as the German Player will move first.
My overall strategy is simple. Open up a land supply route to Budapest and keep the Hungarian forces in the war for as long as possible. And while the strategy is simple enough, the execution will be difficult. I have two choices for my opening turns.
- The first is the move my units on northern approach to the city going through Esztergom and linking up with the SS Maria Cavalry Division. The advantage of this route is that it requires clearing only two hexes of soviet forces to open up the land supply route. The disadvantage to this route is that the soviets are much stronger here with a defense in depth.
- The second choice is the southern approach, attacking through Szekesfehevar and linking up with the 10th Hungarian Infantry Division. The advantage of this route is that the Soviet forces are slightly weaker in this area. The disadvantage to this route is that it is three hexes to the link up point.
So my first decision is to determine whether I believe I can create the corridor to Budapest on Turn 1. Since many of my panzer and motorized units do not have their full movement allowance, I do not believe I can breakthrough on either approach on the first turn. So, I will use that turn to “set up” subsequent attacks and to airdrop supplies to Budapest. I will try the southern corridor as Szekesfehevar is also an objective and taking that hex will allow me to accumulate needed victory points. I will also try some “spoiling attacks” and stabilize the southern front and prepare for the attacks that will come in the north.
Turn one Axis player – 31 DEC 44 through 6 JAN 45.
My attacks on the first turn were about what I expected:
- In the Budapest area, I first resupplied the cities defenders with a series of supply drops. If you don’t do this, there is no way to hold on to Budapest as you will soon run out of supplies and ammunition. In a series of attacks I was able to push the soviet player back 2 hexes, capture Szekesfehevar (Red X on the next figure), and opened up a corridor (yellow outline) to Budapest. Quite surprising, In my games against the AI on Challenging, I was not able to penetrate all the way to Budapest. It will be interesting to see how timmyab reacts to these attacks.
- In the South I launched a spoiling attack against the 4th Gds Mechanized Corps with good results. Because I forced the 4th Gds to retreat, they took additional casualties and lost about 1/3 their strength and about 40% of their armored vehicles. I launched one additional spoiling attack and dislodged the 5th Gds Mechanized Brigade with about 1/2 of their strength and about 1/3 of their armored vehicles lost.
Turn 1 results
Turn two Axis player 7 JAN 45 through 13 JAN 45
The Budapest Corridor remained open! I’m guessing that the Soviet player is positioning his forces for the eventual assault on Budapest. Therefore, I want to widen the supply corridor, and send some reinforcements into Budapest. Unfortunately, with the poor axis supply situation, the blizzard, and my lack of reserves, I cannot attack and widen the corridor as much as I would like. Luckily, reinforcements are on their way.
So I have to limit my attacks near Budapest and set up for the next turn. I widen the bottom half of the corridor (red outline), but cannot do much more than that. I’ve sent SS Wiking Panzer Division into Budapest so I can reinforce the outer perimeter. I’ve moved SS Totenkopf into position as a reserve (circled in yellow). Additionally, I drop some fuel to the three Panzer Divisions in the narrow part of the Budapest Corridor so I can make some attacks next turn and widen the corridor. I may also go for Sarbogard as I widen the corridor to add some more Victory Points (VPs) that I will desperately need later in the game.
In the south, I advance slowly towards another objective, Kaposvar, but again, I manage only limited gains.
Turn 2 results
Turn three Axis player 14 JAN 45 through 20 JAN 45
Tim appears to be marshalling his forces for an attack towards Bratislava, so while my overall strategy remains to hold on to Budapest, I cannot ignore the threats to the other portions of my front. Luckily, I received several reinforcements from OKH, the 2nd Panzer Army, and XXIV Corps (8th Army).
I limited my attacks to Budapest and Kaposvar and did manage to widen the Budapest corridor to 2 hexes. I really want to widen it to three hexes, So, I have started moving forces for an assault on the Soviet 34th Rifle Corps (circled in Pink in the screenshot below). In the next turn (or maybe the turn after) I will assault the 34th Rifle Corps.
The real effort of my current turn was to reinforce the Bratislava approach (the northernmost yellow circles, and to place some powerful reserve forces, indicated by the red circles, east of Gyor, west of Kaposvar, and at the eastern edge of Lake Balaton.
Next Turn the II SS Panzer Corps arrives as reinforcements and I should be able to use them to stabilize any Soviet penetrations towards Bratislava. So far the victory point total indicates a minor German victory, but the only way I will be able to maintain that edge is to hold on to Budapest.
Turn 3 results
Turn four Axis player 21 JAN 45 through 27 JAN 45
Well, Tim temporarily closed the Budapest corridor (highlighted in yellow on the screenshot below) with a series of attacks, but he was unable to move any troops into the gap, which means that I can reopen the corridor by moving units back into the gap he created southwest of Budapest. The bigger issue for me is now that the Soviet Player has moved his Rifle Corps in for the kill. The 34th Rifle Corps, which I wanted to clear off of the Budapest perimeter was reinforced by the 78th rifle Corps (circled in Blue). To the south of the corridor, Tim has maneuvered the 5th Guards Tank Corps, the 5th Mechanized Corps, and the 1st Guards Mechanized Corps, as well as the 135th Rifle Corps and the 20th Guards Rifle Corps (also circled in Blue). The advantage now enjoyed by the Soviets is simple. Every time he attacks, I lose soldiers and materials that are irreplaceable. And the soviets have a seemingly infinite supply of Rifle Corps. So, the question becomes, can I hold on to Budapest for 5 more turns. We shall see.
Turn 4, Budapest corridor
I moved several infantry divisions and the 23rd Panzer Division back into the corridor and moved the II SS Panzer Corps (SS Hohenstaufen and SS Das Reich) into a reserve role behind the corridor. Hopefully, this will help me keep the corridor open, which will give me further options for the next few turns.
Turn five Axis player 28 JAN 45 through 3 FEB 45
Well, as expected the soviets have closed the corridor with a vengeance. Tim attacked all along the length of the corridor and has moved the 5th Gds Tank Corps, the 5th Mechanized Corps, and the 1st Guards Mechanized Corps directly into the corridor. However, the blockade is only one deep. I have to counterattack to try and relieve the garrison as I have too many units trapped in there now to simply let them starve. Other soviet corps line the former corridor as well…the 18th Tank Corps, the 135th Rifle Corps, the 20th Guards Rifle Corps, and the 7th Mechanized Corps. And my units are now quickly being depleted from 4 weeks of continuous fighting. The 23rd Panzer Division is at 50% strength, SS Totenkopf is at 45% strength, the 3rd Panzer Division is at 35% strength. All of the infantry divisions in the immediate vicinity of Budapest are also at less than 50% strength, with most being around 40% strength. the following screenshot shows the almost impossible task ahead of me now:
Turn 5 beginning
The former corridor is highlighted in yellow. I will first launch some airstrikes against the 5th Gds Tank Corps location and hopefully, this will soften them up. I will then dislodge the 18th Tank Corps (black arrows), so I can attack the 5th Guards Tank Corps from two directions at once (blue arrows). I will not use any mobile units to attack the 18th Tank Corps as I need the panzers to try and force open the corridor again. After looking at the odds of success, I have decided to use SS Totenkopf, and the 3rd Panzer Division (located in the pocket near Budapest). My hope is to get some of the units out of the pocket and air supply the remainder until the final turn.
The one thing that I have going for me is that Tim has not started attacking the level 4 forts around Budapest. He has been focused on crushing the corridor (which he has done a mighty fine job of mind you), so that if the forts are still there on Turn 6, I have a reasonable chance of holding on to Budapest and scoring a minor victory.
In the south, I do not think that I can take Kaspovar, but I will at least continue to threaten it so that Tim cannot divert additional forces to Budapest. In the north, it appears that Bratislava is safe, so I may divert some of those units to Budapest so that Turn 6 (when the blizzard is over for most of Budapest) I will have additional mobile units to try and reopen the corridor.
I routed the 18th Tank Corps as planned with losses of about 10% men and 30% tanks to the soviet tank corps. Now on to phase two and my attempt to reopen the Budapest Corridor. I attacked with 4 Panzer Brigades as well as SS Hohenstaufen and SS Das Reich Panzer Divisions and SS Totenkopf and 3rd SS Panzer Division from inside the pocket. The attacks were unsuccessful. I have now pulled back into a defensive shell inside of Budapest, merged several of my understrength Panzer Divisions, and will get ready to face the final onslaught. Looking back at the game so far, my biggest mistake was to try and widen the pocket to three wide. I lost valuable men and material with these attacks. I should have strengthened each of the stacks with the reserve infantry that had arrived instead of using the panzers to attack. Oh well, live and learn. On to the next turn.
Turn six Axis player 4 FEB 45 through 10 FEB 45
The assault on Budapest has finally started. Tim has attacked the westernmost hex of the Budapest Citadel and has routed my air base, which means supplying the troops in there will become next to impossible. He has also widened the siege area back to the original starting point. I fear that without some luck, the next turn Budapest will fall.
First things first. I merge some of the divisions in Budapest and resupply them by air. The strongest units I move to the citadel itself. Each of the 6 remaining hexes has about 20,000 to 30,000 men with about 85% supply. I am hoping that this will enable me to hold out for another turn, since Tim should only be able to attack the citadel at more than a single point. In the citadel itself now sits the SS Wiking Panzer Division, SS Maria Theresia and SS Florian Geyer Cavalry Divisions. This stack has full supplies, near full fuel, and roughly 130% ammunition.
Turn 6 plan
My plan for Turn 6 and 7 will focus on trying one last push to relieve Budapest. To do this, I take several half strength infantry divisions and panzer brigades and merge them into near full strength divisions, allowing me to stack multiple full strength divisions for an assault on the 5th Guards Tank Corp, the 5th Mechanized Corps and the 1st Guards Mechanized Division (red arrows). Success! I routed the 5th Mechanized Corps and forced the other two corps to retreat multiple hexes. The soviets lost some 200 AFVs and 5000 men with my casualties being about 2000 men and 35 AFVs. Bolstered by one success, I attack the 18th Tank Corps and the 7th Mechanized Corps with some success, causing them to retreat also. The casualties here are much more even due to the fact that neither of the units routed. Soviets, 1600 men and 36 AFVs. Germans 1200 men and 4 AFVs. This leaves only one hex between my forces and Budapest again. I would have liked to attack and relieve Budapest (blue arrows) But I cannot advance any further this turn. The assault on the forces between me and Budapest will have to wait till next turn.
Here is a small diagram showing the final positions for this turn near Budapest.
Turn 6 results
Turn seven Axis player 11 FEB 45 through 17 FEB 45
Three more hexes guarding the city of Budapest have fallen (blue circles). The soviets just have too many men guarding the approach to Budapest now. They will most likely breakthrough to the city on their next turn.
Turn 7 plan
And yet, I will try once more. I have made airdrops into the city and have fully supplied the citadel garrison and dropped the remainder of my supplies to the two panzer divisions that are still guarding approaches to the city. Outside of the city I have changed my attack approach from southwest of the city to due west as that approach remains only two hexes deep. Once more, my attack allows me to penetrate one hex (red line), but lack of reserves and mobile units make any further penetration impossible. I once more try and position my forces so I can relieve the Budapest garrison on Turn 8, but frankly I don’t think that will be possible. I am anticipating that the soviets will capture Budapest on their half of the turn, thereby forcing the surrender of my Hungarian forces. Then it is a question of how much I can delay the advancing Soviets. To that end I have moved some of the German forces that had approached Kaspovar to behind the main defensive line west of Budapest. If the Hungarian forces surrender, then these units will be used to plug holes. If Budapest holds on one more turn, then they may join in the final assault if I can get them close enough.
Turn 7 results
Turn eight Axis player 18 FEB 45 through 24 FEB 45
Budapest has fallen and the Hungarian forces have surrendered. This is about the same time as Budapest historically was taken by the soviets. Looking at the situation, I have a relatively solid defensive line thanks to moving German units into stacks with Hungarian units and some relatively strong Forts. I do not think that the soviets can get to their next big objective (Bratislava) in their final turn and I will ensure that doesn’t happen.
The question is where to attack to gather the most Victory Points. Ersekujvar can probably be taken. This would also prevent the soviets from taking Bratislava. Szekesfehevar has potential, but it is garrisoned with 3 Rifle Corps in a level 1 fort. Probably too strong for me to seize. Esztergom has a level 3 fort garrissoned only with 3 artillery units, so it is a possibility also.
After due consideration, I believe my two best bets are Ersekujvar in the north and Esztergom near Budapest. I now have to try and marshall my forces and launch the attacks. To the north I will move the units westward to plug the gaps where the Hungarian forces surrendered. The assault on Ersekujvar will be launched through the 23rd Tank Corps with 4-6 infantry divisions (red arrows below), depending on how many I can maneuver with sufficient movement points to launch a deliberate attack. In addition, I will use a couple of Panzer divisions (blue arrows) to launch the final assault on Ersekujvar. If I have sufficient units after executing those attacks, I will launch the assault of Esztergom (light green arrows). I do not believe that this objective is achievable, but I need to try to gather some victory points.
Turn 8 plan
My infantry divisions dislodged the 23rd Tank Corps, so the first phase of my assault is on track. I now move two panzer divisions and one infantry division into the gap in the line caused by the retreating 23rd Tank Corps and launch my attack on Ersekujvar. I dislodged the 5th Tank Corps once again which had retreated into Ersekujvar and a couple of Engineer Brigades that were garrisoning the city. I now use my third panzer division to occcupy the objective with the hope that Tim cannot get enough forces to knock the division out of the city. However, the assault on Ersekujvar has used up all of my available forces that were available to counterattack. At the end of my turn 8, I do have a relatively strong defensive line and hold on to one objective. While the fall of Budapest guarantees that I cannot achieve victory the attacks in the north will have prevented my opponent from launching a late offensive towards Bratislava and have given me a few needed victory points.
Turn 8 results
The Soviets did manage to dislodge the SS Hitlerjugend SS Panzer Division so I did not hold any of the German objectives at the end of the game. While I understand that the attack did cause Tim a moment of consternation, he was able to roll the 18th and 23rd Tank Corps as well as the 1st Guards Mechanized Corps back into Ersekujvar. Here is the final map and the final score:
I managed to keep the soviets to a minor victory. I did learn several lessons from this game.
- The first is to make sure that the airbase providing the Airhead supply must be in the strongest defended hex. After Tim closed the corridor, I failed to reinforce the hex with the airbase and when that hex fell, I no longer had a way to effectively supply my forces in Budapest
- Second, I opened the corridor to Budapest on Turn 1 and held it open til turn 4. I should have reinforced the shoulders of the corridor with more infantry and held my panzer units out of the pocket. The next time I play this game, I will definitely use this strategy.
- Third and last, after Turn one, my attacks on Kaposvar did nothing but keep needed infantry forces tied up. After the turn one spoiling attacks, I would have been better off to move some of the infantry forces from in front of Kaposvar to bolster the Budapest corridor.
All in all, this is a very enjoyable scenario. It is only 8 turns long so it allows you to complete the scenario in a few days (even with PBEM). And while the Germans historically did not manage to open the corridor, this scenario allows the player to try different attack strategies and see if you can change history. A thoroughly enjoyable scenario.