Sectors: Veliki Luki-Rzhev
The managed withdrawal from the Vyazma salient has gone well. Not perfectly, but what can you expect in war? The line is forming (1) from the 4 Shock Army to the 10 Guards Army, with the 22, 41, and 39 Armies moving into the void. I'm concerned about the 39 Army (2), which is getting squeezed by the XXIII Korps and XLI Panzer Korps. Once this withdrawal is complete, this sector should remain quiet for a while.
I've been caught off guard here, with a much larger attack coming than the last time I played against Mark. He is using the textbook Blitzkreig tactic of punching a hole on both sides of the defenders (1 & 2) using the Panzers, sending them in a pincer move around the flanks (3), and then crushing the pocket with the infantry up the middle. The 3 & 48 Armies are in danger of being completely cut off, as is the 13 Army (4). There is not a single Russian soldier between the Panzers and Yelets. I'm going to have to pull reserves from other areas (like the already-threatened Rostov sectors) to plug this hole until more reinforcements arrive in a few weeks.
The evacuation of the entire Kharkov front went splendidly. All five armies (38, 9, 57, 37, 6) made it (1) to safety. However, I'm going to have to order them across the river sooner than expected. This is partly to facilitate the defense of Yelets (previous slide), and partly to help in the south near Rostov. The 1 Panzer Armee is committing itself fully to the push on Rostov. I'm afraid this area will fall into German hands much more quickly than the last game. Compounding this problem is that I'll likely have to transfer the 2 Shock Army (near Stalingrad) and possibly even the 54 Army (east of Stalingrad) to the forward defenses. I don't have enough strength to simply pull back to a defensive line in the east, so delaying the Axis for at least three or four weeks is critical. Otherwise, I'm not sure I can hold the oil fields to the south, or even Stalingrad to the east.
I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here, planning the defense of the Caucasus oil fields at Maikop and Grozny. But if I can establish some decent fortifications in these three gaps, I can use the natural defensive positions in the mountains. This should only require about five or six more armies. Unfortunately, I don't have five or six armies to spare right now.