Red & White:
Scenario Preview, Part One

By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
August 2014

Alternative history has a long history at Avalanche Press, but it’s only with the arrival of developers John Stafford and Jim Stear in the last few years that we’ve started to delve into the creative potential and therefore fun gaming that the genre provides. The secret - and it’s not much of a secret – is that the game has to tell a story.

John Stafford, a fine designer in his own right as well as a crack game developer, tells a compelling story with our new Panzer Grenadier book, Iron Curtain: Red & White. He posits a democratic Poland established in 1945, ringed by Soviet-dominated enemies. In late 1951, the Soviets invade from all sides to extinguish Polish liberty, or to finally eradicate this outpost of predatory capitalism, depending on one’s point of view.

The scenarios are divided by front; there are a lot of fronts for the surrounded Poles to cover. One sure fact of modern history is that Poles love Poland and will fight for her to the death; the same is true in an alternate reality. Here’s a look at the first ten scenarios of John’s tale, all from the Northern Front:

Crossing the Pasłęka River
13 October 1951
General Belakin's 10th Guards Army, comprised of four rifle divisions and two mechanized divisions, faced the Polish Pomeranian Military District's forces. The Poles under the legendary General Stanisław Maczek fielded three mechanized and one armored division, though they defended the whole of the northern border area and coast. The Polish defense would rely upon natural obstacles in the north due the plethora of north-south running rivers opposing an east-west advancing enemy. The first such main line of defense lay along the Pasłęka River and the town of Braniewo. This river bisected the two main roads of advance for the Soviets: highways S4 and S22. With the known bridges likely mined, and not wanting to get bogged down in a city fight, the Soviets planned to force the river both upstream and downstream of the town.

Polish soldiers fought for six years to liberate their homeland, shedding their blood in Africa, Italy, France and the Soviet Union. Now that they had their country back and had paid the price of freedom, no one would take it away again while their hearts still beat in their chests.

A Soviet river crossing in the face of high-morale but outnumbered Polish defenders. The Soviets bring a balanced combined-arms force with armored bridgelayers (this is cool); the Poles don’t really have the troops to cover the line but they do eventually get help from a strong force of Polish Pershing tanks.

Not So Fast: Counterattack
15 October 1951
The valiant Poles fought the Soviet horde for every meter of ground for two days. Meanwhile, General Stanisław Maczek, a World War Two hero and now the Pomeranian Military District Commander, carefully husbanded his resources, resisting most of the cries for reinforcements while he sought a suitable situation to set the Soviets back. Now, intelligence reported a seam developing between the 1st Guards Rifle Division and the 26th Rifle Division of the 16th Königsberg Red Banner Rifle Corps. Time for some payback.

Maczek's orders directed a deep penetration raid since he did not possess sufficient forces to launch a full scale counterattack. Nevertheless, the potential damage would hopefully knock the Soviets off their game for a day or two.

A relatively small force of Polish tanks and mechanized infantry has a chance to shoot up a foot-bound Soviet infantry force, on a fairly large playing area. That sky-high Polish morale equipped with modern Western weaponry (and in this case, some leftover German tanks as well) is highly reminiscent of some scenarios from Sword of Israel.

Elblag: Second Line of Defense
18 October 1951
Although the Poles inflicted serious casualties on the advancing Soviets, the Red Army pushed on relentlessly as new units moved to the front to replace worn-out ones. The Pomeranian Military District planned a second line of defense at the town of Elblag, along the canal of the same name that empties Lake Druzno. The low-lying ground, crisscrossed with numerous rivers and streams, might prove a challenge to the Soviets.

The Soviets bypass strongpoints where they are able, letting follow-on forces reduce them. But sometimes you just have to bull your way through. This battle is a straight-up combined-arms slugfest in goopy terrain.

Pretty much as the conclusion states. Those reconditioned Tiger II tanks are sort of a drag on the powerful, fast Pershings.

Forcing the Nogat
20 October 1951
Elblag cost General Belakin and his 11th Guards Army another tithe to the red god of war in dead and wounded men and destroyed vehicles. He ordered his corps to minimize their consolidation time to prevent the Poles from reinforcing the next line of defense on the Nogat River just a few miles away. Luckily it's a fordable river so the badly depleted bridging equipment and engineers should not be needed. The outskirts of Gdansk are almost within artillery range now.

Often in war a commander must push on with battered forces in contact to keep the momentum of battle going. If it begins raining, it can slow the Soviet advance considerably with mud, but also prevent long range sniping of their vehicles. In either case, the Soviets know that American help may be on the way. They must seize the major ports of Gdansk and Gdynia before American divisions start unloading there.

The Soviets have to get over the river at any cost, in the face of high-morale Polish defenders backed by a force of the slow but powerful Black Prince tank. This is not going to be easy.

Defending the Vistula
22 October 1951
The Korean War had entered a stalemate phase against the Chinese and the remaining North Koreans, but still commanded significant American resources. With the opening of a new conflict in Europe, President Truman agreed to commit his strategic reserve, the 82nd Airborne Division, to help the Poles halt the Soviets. The Pomeranian Military District, exhausted and shredded, badly needed a break. General Gregory Bart, Commander of the U.S. 1st Expeditionary Army, offered the recently-arrived 82nd to hold the Vistula River line fronting the main Soviet advance along Highway 7. General Maczek gratefully ordered the appropriate withdrawal and reconstitution of his battered Polish units. The Soviets had forced one bridgehead already; that would be the first target.

Anxious to make a good showing, the Americans charged in with vigor. The tired Soviets, short on supplies and caught unawares by the new arrivals, fell back to the relative safety of the east bank and awaited reinforcements.

The Americans have arrived! Paratroopers with even higher morale but not that many heavy weapons are on the attack.

Here Come the Yankees
29 October 1951
With the help of the 82nd Airborne and significant air and naval assistance, Polish forces held onto the ports of Gdansk and Gdynia. However, while the Soviet 16th Königsberg Red Banner Rifle Corps maintained pressure from the east, the 36th Nemanskiy Red Banner Rifle Corps under General Vitikov pushed around the southern flank and threatened to envelop the defenders. Meanwhile, a delayed Soviet assault crossed the Oder River on the Polish-German border in the west, capturing the bay and surrounding peninsula, and threatening Szczecin from the north. The timely arrival of the rest of General Bart's U.S. 1st Expeditionary Army at the ports of Ustka and Darlowo allowed the forces to flow almost directly into battle against the implacable Soviets.

Lt. General Vivo immediately engaged his 1st Expeditionary Corps, which included the 1st Ranger Battalion, 3rd Armored Division, and 4th Infantry Division. Lt. General Allen Dickerson's 2nd Expeditionary Corps comprised of the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 2nd Armored Division, and 32nd Infantry Division would follow shortly.

This meeting engagement favors the Americans who are fresh and well supplied. However, the Soviets can win if they use their time to dig in and employ their hard-hitting units well.

Like the conclusion says. This time you get to use the big American toys from Patton’s Nightmare in a giant scenario.

Stabilize that Flank!
30 October 1951
After being pushed back by the unexpected American advance on the 29th, the Soviets probed their left flank (the American right) to see if they could complete the envelopment. They threw their best unit into the attack, using the early morning fog to cover their approach, and hoped the forecast overcast would protect them from NATO aircraft.

Based on the campaign to this point, it was not hard for Lt. General Christian Vivo to anticipate the Soviet move toward the flank and prepare a trap. Of course success depends on the anvil force deployed on the board to survive long enough for the hammer to fall.

The Spearhead Division outflanks the communists, or at least tries to. It’s another brawl with big tanks, but this time in a constricted area.

30 October 1951
To support the drive upon the NATO left flank, the 16th Königsberg Red Banner Rifle Corps launched a diversionary attack upon the Polish-held center of the Gdansk defense. Well-manned with a tough veteran core, the Polish defense would rely on its supporting armor to plug any breaches in their lines.

The Soviet push continues, adding more pressure to the General Maczek's Polish defenders. If the Soviets can use their early strength in numbers to overwhelm the defenders then the Polish reinforcements won't matter. The American arrival allowed for some rest and refitting, which allows the Poles to hold on a bit longer. But who will break first?

The Soviets have numbers, and as the war grinds on the Polish edge in morale is slipping. Both sides have balanced tank-infantry forces, on a large battlefield.

Probing for the Flank
3 November 1951
Although Soviet forces on the western front captured Szczecin, at the end of the week the French 1st Army began landings along the coast to protect the American right flank and prepare to recapture Szczecin and its approaches, or at least contain the Soviets. Meanwhile, the American ground forces, supplemented by airpower, began to feel their way toward the Soviet left flank. The Soviets not only resisted this probing, but expanded their front against residual Polish forces, though giving up ground south of Gdansk to do so. The fighting between the Americans, Soviets, and Poles reached a culminating point near Grudziadz as the Americans strove to liberate the A1 Highway and force the Soviets back over the Vistula. Sometimes in the swirl of battle awkward situations arise.

The Poles are trying to hold on, while the Soviets are trying to defeat their enemies on two fronts. The Americans are trying to establish a link with the local Polish forces and force the Soviets back. The two-front fight and the odd three-section turn ought to make for some interesting challenges, especially for the Soviet player.

A three-player scenario, with separate Polish and American players. There aren’t many Poles, but they are tough, and they have to hold on until the Americans can come to the rescue.

Attrition Warfare
5 November 1951
A few miles south of Gdansk, the American and Polish forces continue to face off against the Soviets. Second-tier Soviet units have begun to appear on the battlefield as battered front line units are pulled of the line to refit. Both sides want to push the other back, whatever the state of their own forces.

This kind of battle, where the forces are roughly equal, is the greatest challenge for a commander. It requires the most cunning use of terrain and unit abilities, the finest use of terrain for cover and maneuver, and a little luck. Both sides need a big win.

Like the conclusion says, it’s an exercise in positional warfare, with both American and Polish infantry-based forces facing the Red Army.

And that’s the first segment.

Get in the game! Click here to order Iron Curtain: Red & White.

Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.