Operation Star is a sequel to Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943 and is developed by Graviteam based in Kharkov, Ukraine. The game focuses solely on single-player and surrounds combat operations on the Eastern Front in which the Soviets were initially successful in their offensive activities in Kharkov and Kursk, but were defeated by a German counteroffensive in the Third Battle of Kharkov.
While the game has proven difficult to learn, Phil over at Sim Deck has put together the first of a couple of YouTube instructional videos for my benefit. This video helped me a great deal in getting past a perceived brick wall in learning the basic functionality of the game. While there is help information in the game itself provided in the form of typewriter text on paper, it is a clumsy overall solution.
For the Soviets their force will consist of the following units: a Rifle Battalion Commander (2.1) on the northern node, two Rifle Platoons (2.3) one each on the east and west node, and finally an Engineer Platoon on the southernmost node closest to the German starting positions.
For the Germans their force (intentionally overwhelming) will consist of the following units: four Rifle Platoons (1.3) along the forward most nodes of each grid, a Rifle Battalion Commander (1.1) in the southern most node of the center grid, a Light Artillery Battery (1.9) on the southern node of the eastern grid, and finally a Tank Platoon (IV) (2.11) on the southernmost node of the western grid.
This should be sufficient to win the scenario.
The forces are scattered about somewhat due to an automatic deployment scheme.
Here I rearrange them to make some visual sense on the map (but not necessarily a tactically sound footprint in terms of cover and concealment). The four Rifle Platoons are out front (three will have armor support), the Artillery Battery is arrayed to the east, and the Battalion Commander is situated in the center.
The first thing I do is select the spotter unit in the Battalion Commander group and situate the off map artillery pre-fire orders to three lines along the roads near the Soviet defensive position "Amethyst 1".
On the left flank I order the Rifle Platoon "Seidler" to move fast to secure the "Sigma 1" flag and orientate them toward the Soviet position in the center.
On the right flank I group a tank with the Rifle Platoon "Steiner" and order them to move fast to secure the "Gamma 2" flag, also orientating them toward the Soviet position in the center.
These two platoons will serve as my reserve force (albeit positioned forward) in case the Soviets put up any kind of a fight.
On the left center flank I group a tank with the Rifle Platoon "Wenzl" and order them forward to a road line to take up a defensive position just south of the Bedovka marker, orientated to the Soviet position.
On the right center flank I group a tank with the Rifle Platoon "Oswald" and order them forward to a road line to take up a defensive position orientated to the Soviet position.
These two center flank groups will be held until after I call in the off map barrage at the start of the action. Once that has peppered the position, I will use both platoons to assault the Soviets.
The Recon and Sniper groups are ordered to move forward stealthily to take up a position near a crossroads just south of the Soviet position (I do not even to pretend to be using these units correctly here; I am just positioning them somewhere).
The two remaining tanks on the extreme right are ordered to move fast on a tour of the following flags: "Eta 5", "Alpha 4", and "Gamma 3", ending to the northwest of the Soviet position.
The Artillery Battery "Hoffman" is ordered to strike behind the Soviet position where I would expect their commander to be situated.
The battle commences and I order the off map artillery assets to barrage target area one (setup earlier) with high explosive rounds, 10 shells per tube for 30 seconds.
The on map artillery units are firing at the Soviet position in the center of the area of operations.
Question for the more advances players: I am ordering this group to fire on positions as they are revealed through the fog of war. Should this group be situated where one of the units has line of sight to the enemy and would they initiate fire missions on their own or at the behest of the AI infantry commanders?
The Rifle Platoon “Wenzl” in the left center is exposed in the open and is taking fire from the enemy. I should have routed them through the village to their immediate left to provide some form of concealment to the entrenched Soviets.
The Rifle Platoon “Oswald” is just about at the edge of the tree line and should be able to engage the enemy when visibly sighted from this range.
Both groups are taking a beating against the enemy.
The Rifle Platoon “Steiner” that was sent off to secure the “Gamma 2" flag is bogged down in the woods with the attached tank, so I order the armor unit to stand down to allow for the infantry to clear the trees.
More off map artillery is ordered along one of the road in front of the Soviet flag.
The Rifle Platoon “Steiner” has advanced far enough now to take the “Gamma 2" flag as their armor support is about to emerge along the road by the tree line.
The Rifle Platoon “Wenzl” in the left center is taking a severe beating while “Oswald” is likewise being reduced in strength.
The on map artillery group “Hofmann” is ordered to fire on visible trenches that still contain enemy soldiers in an effort to assist the advance in the center.
While the Rifle Platoon "Seidler" is having tea and cleaning their nails at the "Sigma 1" flag they captured, I decide to bring them forward into the battle from the left flank.
They are ordered to advance to the tree line directly in front of them and once there I will order them directly into the fray.
The two center rifle platoons are fairly wrecked fighting forces now and need the intervention of the reserve forces on either flank of the Soviet position. While the Cease Fire offer is tempting, I continue on with the fight seeking total domination.
During the battle I periodically detach a tank from a rifle platoon and send it incrementally forward to attack visible enemy units.
I continue to liberally apply high explosive rounds to the Soviet position as I move certain units forward to pick off the fleeing Soviets.
The Rifle Platoon “Steiner” is ordered to advance from the “Gamma 2” flag in an attempt to encircle the Soviet position in the center.
The tank that was separated from that group earlier and moved to the tree line is also brought forward as the nightmarish artillery barrage can be seen on the horizon.
The tank finally buttons up and can properly join the fighting ahead.
Some stragglers (probably from Rifle Platoon “Wenzl” are panicking as the two reserve forces are prepared to clamp down on the enemy from both sides.
One of the things that I like about this game is the scalability of micro managing the groups: you can pretty much fine tune it to where your comfort level is, down to an individual unit.
The Rifle Platoon "Seidler" is given a specific route to advance from the tree line they had assembled at having finished their noon tea service.
The two tanks sent north and west on their tour of “Capture the Flag” have one more to go.
No quarter is given.
Various detached armor units are crept forward to a dwindling target environment.
It is time to do some more landscaping with the off map artillery.
This tank barely made it up out of a crater.
I don’t know if there is much left on that ridge line running along the road other than spent artillery rounds.
The Rifle Platoon “Steiner” is ordered to attack the enemy position.
Even though it seems as if the battle is winding down there are still some targets left to be engaged and the Soviet position taken.
The Soviet position in the center finally falls to the Germans at 12:30.
I initiate a Cease Fire and the countdown clock winds down to the end of the scenario.
The battle ends in a Total Victory outcome (a first for me in this game probably because I went with a Capture Flags game mode) and a very clean presentation of the battle results is available.
My only criticism is that it could have been shortened up a bit to appear on one screen without the need of a slider bar to get to the last few pieces of information).
Review Final Situation
There is a significant amount of statistics available post battle that I will not be going into here. Overall the Germans captured all of the flags and secured the Soviet position in the center.
I will admit that this entry drug on a bit longer than I would have liked for a survey post. It was a fun battle to engage in and it ended half way through the one hour scheduled. There is a lot to learn in this game and hopefully with help from Phil at Sim Deck as well as Chris at the Sharp End Gaming and Doug at Cry Havoc! I can approach this game with a better appreciation for what it is.