Grogheads AAR! Second Front

frontier wars 728x90 KS

Founded in 1656, the Russian Orthodox New Jerusalem Monastery stood for centuries as a religious beacon in Moscow, right up until it was unceremoniously ransacked and destroyed by the invading German army in December 1941 during the Great Battle of Moscow. Grab your stahlhelm and a few potato mashers and recreate the battle over this hallowed ground with Uberhaus in this custom made scenario for Second Front, developed by Hexdraw and published by Microprose Software. Pay attention to the tactical tips offered in this invaluable guide for new players, and you may survive long enough to become a veteran of the grueling combat taking place within this popular PC title.

By: Uberhaus and Grogheads Staff

pthomas351 contributes a lot of scenarios to the Second Front workshop. They are all of good quality or better but I can’t think of any that are easy. Some are downright tough and are setup with defenses that need to be carefully isolated and destroyed. The monthly contests Paul prepares aren’t impossible, but they can be the most difficult to beat.

This guide will feature an initial analysis before starting play, a play-through with screenshots of the initial positions at the start of the player turn, comments on player and AI actions, results and hopefully what are some advanced player tips for the game. To master the basics of the game, especially if you are not familiar with SL/ASL, it is essential to do the tutorials for Jo Bader’s fantastic Second Front. I also highly recommend CheerfullyInsane’s 9(ish) Simple Rules for New Players.

Initial Setup and Analysis

This scenario depicts a German attack on the New Jerusalem Monastery in Istra, Moscow Oblast, taking place in December 1941, shortly after the commencement of the Soviet winter counter offensive.

Map Soviet 1941 Winter counteroffensive

The big picture – Soviet 1941 Winter counteroffensive



The initial setup for both sides with north being to the left of the screen

For planning, METT-C (something I’ve picked up in my reading) will be used to help.


The Mission is to capture two objectives. The first is the Cathedral worth 100 Victory Points.


Objective1 – Cathedral

The second is a building in the southeast corner of the map worth 130 Victory Points.  It bears in mind that the Mission is the objective to strive for and that all actions should support its accomplishment. Deviating from such actions impedes the accomplishment of the mission.


Objective2 – A small building


Most of the enemy starts off concealed but there is a HMG (DShK) manned by a squad with a good leader visible. Under concealment, are another thirty-one infantry units which will be mostly infantry squads, of which a few will be leaders. They will have support weapons like Maxim MMGs and DP-27/28s LMGs. Also concealed are two medium guns in open (not hidden at least) and six concealed AFVs (two appear to be medium and four are light, with two of these in the SE corner of the map.)


The terrain that the enemy occupy on and around the first objective are stone buildings, the cathedral having two level three towers, the NW one housing the HMG nest. The buildings at the second objective are wooden. There is also a stone wall surrounding the monastery, which blocks hull hits against AFVs and line of sight past. The AFVs at the second objective also are behind stone walls.

For friendly forces, there is forest blocking initial sight of enemy units. Also, the monastery is on a plateau one level higher than the deployment area of the Germans. For the approaches to the monastery, there is a valley (an actual defensive ditch) that will slow movement for the attacker and be deadspace for the defender. South of the deployment zone are plowed fields which slow movement for vehicles and men and will add extra time for a flanking movement to the south. North of the monastery past the ditch is open ground with wooded areas.

The defender is in great defensive terrain, but with mostly limited LOS due to the wall and plateau. The approaches for the attacker will require breaking cover and moving through open areas covered by the HMG and probably others. Obscuration with smoke will be essential for any attack to succeed. There is also a cemetery surrounded by a hedge that will provide some cover to close with the cathedral.

As for weather, there is snow on the ground, but there are no detrimental weather effects.

Troops and Support

The Germans are assigned a reinforced company of troops, nine veteran squads with machine guns, three elite assault engineers with a HMG, two demo charges and a flammenwerfer (flamethrower), as well as a leader per platoon. There are two 81mm mortars in support with LOS to the Soviet HMG. The Germans also have a Sdkz 231 with 20mm gun, two PZIVs with short barrel 75mm guns with limited AP and HEAT as well as four PzIIIs with 50mm main armament. The PzIVs will be good against infantry with limited use against AFVs which the PzIIIs will go after.


Sdkz 231 with 20mm gun


For time, the scenario provides ten turns to take the first objective and thirteen turns to take the second. For the first objective to be taken, no enemy unit can be in the cathedral. They have to be eliminated or driven out. If all enemy units are eliminated, all objectives are considered controlled.

Turn 1

The initial plan will be to close on the monastery with all forces. This will require moving the infantry stacked as platoons with movement bonus from leadership. Normally, this shouldn’t be done, but all forces need to get through the valley and up to the monastery’s surrounding wall as quickly as possible. Smoke from the two 81mm mortars will be used to obscure the Soviets machine guns. Also, vehicle smoke dispensers will be used where they will obscure enemy fire without impeding friendly movement.


It is advantageous to look at the Soviet defensive coverage, especially at the Soviet HMG

There is also a second position, most likely with a MG, which could possibly fire on friendly units as they move towards the valley.


Concealed Soviet coverage

The plan (assault engineers’ movement marked in black, infantry in light grey (close to white) and AFVs with magenta (close to pink).


Turn 1

The mortars will fire smoke to obscure the third level HMG. All infantry will move towards and through the valley with the assault engineer platoon advancing up to the monastery wall closest to the cemetery. From another infantry platoon, two squads with MMG will advance to the northernmost part of the western wall, one squad will stay in the valley. The armored car will cover the right flank, the PzIVs will move into the valley with orders to move out of the valley to engage infantry in the occupied westernmost building. The PzIIIs will move to positions in the NW portion of the valley ready to move up to the NW wall or the NE portion of the valley. The hero will sprint up to the wall, survive all fire and then try and destroy the nearest tank in CC. Lucky him.

Confused yet? I am, hopefully the next screenshot from the beginning of Turn 2 will clear everything up.

Turn 2


Turn 2

So, the mortars were able to lay down smoke on the cathedral obscuring the HMG, two platoons are firing on the enemy. The hero survived, driving off the BT-7 light tank. The other BT-7 is beside it and the T-34s are covering the NW lip of the plateau and wall. On both sides only an assault pioneer with one demo charge was broken (transferred the second one to the FT squad) and routed away.  A single Soviet squad has been broken. Gretchen (the AI) has started to move her infantry in the S and SW towards the first objective, the cathedral.

This turn the PZIIIs will engage the T-34s and BT-7s. T-34s have really good armour so with 50mm and short 75mm guns, it is necessary to maneuver for a rear or less desirable side shot. The wall surrounding the monastery will also make hull hits misses. So, the German player wants to set up shots that protect the panzers with the wall, while stripping the Soviet tanks of this advantage, all while hitting a weak armor face and showing the best armor face. Twister might be an easier game. Can’t always do all those things, but try for at least some of your armor.

t34 12

T-34 armor diagram

The PzIVs will move to engage the infantry at pointblank range in the building just north of the cemetery. The Sdkfz 231 will engage a BT-7 with LOS passing through the cemetery. The assault pioneers will engage the same infantry before the Panzers move in. The one infantry platoon on the plateau engages the same targets. While another platoon moves in the valley towards the T-34s. The last platoon moves up the plateau behind the pioneers.

Turn 3


Turn 3

The T-34s were destroyed, one by infantry close assault and one by a HEAT shot into the side hull from a Pz-IV. The Pz IIIs were ineffective losing one to a BT-7 even though hull down behind the wall. The hero has been eliminated attempting to close on a T-34. A lucky critical hit from a mortar takes out the Soviet HMG and both mortars will begin moving up. The infantry platoon first up the plateau has been routed and will need to rally. But the enemy infantry have been expelled from the western buildings taking losses while routing to the cathedral. German infantry will move into these vacated buildings and begin moving through the cemetery. One squad will close with a BT-7 in an attempt to destroy it. The Soviets in the NE buildings have begun firing on the German infantry near the destroyed T-34s.

One BT-7 has maneuvered to threaten the right flank. The Sdkfz 231 will engage it, eventually destroying it. The Pz IIIs and IVs will move to engage the cathedral and NE buildings being wary of the AT guns.

Turn 4


Turn 4

The remaining BT-7 refuses to go down to close assault by enemy infantry. A Pz IV is lost to a 76.2mm AT gun even though it is traveling behind a stone wall. Maybe the owner of the property should speak to his contractor about the quality of said “stone walls”. The remaining panzers will stay clear of the LOS of the two guns and engage enemy infantry in the buildings.

Both mortars are on the plateau with the necessity of leader aided movement, staying in place would mean they do nothing for the rest of the game. They will move to where they can engage both AT guns. The infantry are rallying and will return to the fight. The crew that survived the Pz III wreck grabs a Maxim MG which turns out to be malfunctioned, they manage to destroy it. Infantry will keep pushing through the cemetery and engage the southern gun. Infantry on the left flank will move into the first NE building to clear it, supported by Pz IIIs. The last Pz IV and the AC will move behind the wall to where they can engage the southern portions of the cathedral.

Gretchen commits all of her infantry to defend the first objective. This will prove to be a mistake for the AI which a human can readily exploit.

Turn 5


Turn 5

The BT-7 is still refusing to go under, even after being immobilized multiple times. While German infantry have been lost to a CH in the NE building (look for the collapsed roof) and a broken squad north of the valley has been eliminated by LMG fire. The Pz III crew has a new Maxim and will use it to fire on broken units to keep them desperate and harder to rally. These are two good tactics to use. Pro-tip 1: Captured equipment will take vehicle crews from low firepower and short range to good firepower and range making them very useful. Pro-tip  2: Fire on as many broken units at least once, keeping them under desperation morale

The mortars are in place and will fire against the ATGs. In general, infantry will fire on the guns, while AFVs will target infantry. The Soviets are slowly being driven out of the cathedral. It is time to push into it. One squad will move adjacent to the southern ATG and the eastern crew will be broken and lost for failure to rout. The Sdkfz will move to the southern wall out of sight of the gun and fire on broken units. The armored car will also make it difficult for Gretchen to send her infantry back to the second objective when she second guesses herself.

Turn 6


Turn 6

The BT-7 is finally destroyed. Both ATG crews are killed, but the southern crew kills its attacking squad. With the ATGs no longer a threat, the German AFVs can dance around the board. Gretchen does manage to get a squad with average leader to close with one Pz III, but the attack is ineffective.

German infantry are in the cathedral and all German infantry units can readily close. Tanks continue to blast away and the mortar crews give up on the indirect approach, preferring to be more direct with Zis-3 76.2mm guns.

Turn 7


Turn 7

At this stage, the Germans are just mopping up the Soviets around the first objective so they cannot retake it, before moving on to the second objective. A critical hit from the now German ATG hits the Soviets in the last NE building. The second mortar crew dashes from the cathedral to the eastern ATG, gets to it and fires away.

Turn 8


Turn 8

Alas, the Soviet infantry are no more, and the Germans can turn their attention to the final objective. In Second Front, to play the game well, it’s really important to know how to cut off rout paths and eliminate enemy units. Often in buildings, broken units rout up. Pro-tip 3: Just put two units, one below and one beside, say a squad and a leader. For larger buildings you may need more units, but row-houses are deathtraps for routing. If you can’t block the rout paths completely force them into open ground in the line of fire of your units. Keep firing on broken units and advance on them, chase them down in movement. Don’t worry, I won’t make you chant anything, unless you really want to.

Turn 9


Turn 9

Gee, what happened to those ATGs?

Of importance in this final attack are the covered arcs of the remaining tanks.  Attacking first outside of an enemy AFV’s CA allows an attack before that AFV can respond in the defensive fire phase.


Luck was with me, three times. I didn’t follow the advice above and sent the Sdkfz 231 into danger, which was fortunately missed. It moved behind the SW tank missing, the Pz III behind it then moved in getting both remaining AFVs for the win. Even if I hadn’t been so lucky, I still had another three AFVs to move in, infantry to occupy the objective and attempt to close with and destroy any surviving tanks in CC.

If you haven’t been bored to death yet, I’ll finish with a roaring yarn from Rimmer on Red Dwarf about his Risk games:

Final Comments

One thing I should add to this AAR is not to be tempted to divide forces in this scenario and try for both objectives at once. This will weaken the main force at the primary objective and as the light tanks are so well protected at the secondary, attacking it requires a strong attacking force to deal with. Never mind the time to transit to the secondary objective, successfully attack it, then travel back to support the primary attack which won’t have succeeded, lacking maximum force.

Also, I will stress the importance of planning, METT-T (mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time) being a really useful tool for any wargame. The mission, enemy, troops and time were relatively straightforward to analyze, but especially for the complicated terrain in this scenario, taking a good luck at the defending terrain, fields of fire as well as the approaches was really important to the plan.

Have fun with this great game and don’t forget to roll low!

ALP 2010 0407 063 Ruins of Resurrection Church in December 1941 New Jerusalem Istra

Ruins of Resurrection Church in December 1941 New Jerusalem Istra

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