Saturday, July 3, 2010

VOTG2 AAR - Part Zero - Stalingrad in Print

Well it's been two weeks since "The Drubbing of Andy" and where's the AAR?

Well funny thing. I went to Chapters/Indigo the day after with the family and they had a nice selection of military books on the discount table and lo and behold... there was Jon Bastable's Voices from Stalingrad and William Craig's Enemy at the Gates. I added a couple of reference books (planes and tanks from WWII to present day) and I started reading.

The AAR was delayed because I love reading about Stalingrad. And these two particular books (along with some of the others I have on the topic and Eastern Front in general) specifically address the action in VOTG2. The scenario falls on a fairly early date in the Battle for Stalingrad while the Wehrmacht is attempting to close the Volga life-line to the Soviet defenders of the city (something they were never able to fully do). The title itself comes from the taunting of the German soldiers in the surrounding state buildings as they tried to push the last few defenders in this sector into the river.

Russ! Zavtra bul-bul! Translation: "Russians, you're going glug!-glug! soon!"

So, this peculiarly named HASL scenario actually has some neat backstory! See pages 91-93 from Enemy at the Gates.

What is key to the scenario though are the reinforcements. Their story? It was on that day in history that General Chuikov, commander of the Russian forces in the city asked for and got the ultra-critical reinforcements he wanted from STAVKA, the 13th Guards Rifle Division. The scenario takes place at dusk (SSR indicates growing light hindrance as the game progresses), the only time the Russians could safely cross the river without getting blown away. All this is simulated in the scenario, again, on just a small sub-set of the main VOTG map (which Andy cannot stop raving about and I'd concur). What is critical in the scenario was critical in history: the trickle of men to merely keep the fascist invaders at bay.

Speaking of SSR, the Russians start the scenario with an INF Gun and according to the history, the commissar in charge, a Col. Petrakov, impressed a few of his conscript troops to handle the thing. So, if the commissar is incapacitated in the scenario, so too is the Russian player's ability to use the Gun as their "crews" don't know what they are doing.

What impresses me is really seeing the link between the history and what is possible in ASL. The designer, Tom Morin, took what is a semi-exciting narrative in a few history books and is able to create such a credible and exciting gaming experience. It's funny because ASL, as I understand it, was originally built to service DYO scenarios where you'd put points of troops up against others in some hodge-podge melee. The H(istory) part of the HASL in the game is where the vast majority of the game's current adherents truly focus. It's not a stretch to say that many scenarios need to be as close to airtight as possible on the historical aspects or players won't even bother.

So kudos to Tom Morin and other scenario designers who put in such efforts. In this particular instance, someone (me!) has noticed. Nice job.

Here's a brief annotated bibliography for Eastern Front/Stalingradists:

Antill, Peter. Stalingrad 1942. Osprey Publishing. Great Britain: 2007.
- Your standard, basic, Osprey title on the campaign for Stalingrad. Beginners start here.

Bastable, Jonathan. Voices of Stalingrad: Nemesis on the Volga. F+W Publishing. United Kingdom: 2006.
- Bastable does a superb job with collecting and showing us the words from the combatants and victims themselves from the 200-day long battle.

Beevor, Antony. Stalingrad - The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943. Penguin Books. Great Britain: 1998.
- Absolutely required reading from one of today's most popular historians. Beevor also has books on the fall of Berlin, Crete and most recently, D-Day. This book on Stalingrad is awesome.

Craig, William. Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad. Konecky & Konecky. USA: 1973.
- The basis for the movie (which is NOT history but Hollywood). Some of the stories in the book have apparently not stood the test of time academically -- however, it was the first, and for a little while, best, book on the subject. Well worth a read too.

Glantz, David & Jonathan House. When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. University Press of Kansas: 1995.
- Glantz is well known these days for his huge treatises on the Eastern Front which have absorbed the now (more) open Soviet archives into their narrative. Can be a bit dry but has fascinating detail into the Ostfront and how the Russian Operational Art of War stopped the Wehrmacht cold.

So there you have it. I've been reading. Part One up next!


Jorgen said...

Here are some more great books on Stalingrad for you. They are my favorite ones:

Jason D. Mark : Island of Fire

Michael K. Jones: Stalingrad - How the Red Army Survived the German Onslaught

David M. Glantz: Armageddon in Stalingrad, September-November 1942, The Stalingrad Trilogy volume 2

Lots of great reading for the ASL player/designer. I've used a lot from Island of Fire for some SASL Missions that I've done for MMP.

Jorgen Holmquist

scrub said...

Thanks for the list Jorgen. That Glantz Trilogy looks awful interesting... is the whole thing out?

Jorgen said...

No, the third one is to be released this year. There is a letter published in this thread on Axis History forum
from David were he tells about his books. Very interesting. I'm approx. 450 pages into the second volume and I really enjoy the reading. I've got a much better understanding of the whole Stalingrad battle.

Andy said...

"Drubbing"? That's a big word for some guys clinging to the dock in last turn close combat!

scrub said...

Drubbing sounds awesome!