Campaign: Fortress Budapest – Game 1 – Hold the Ojtozi Pass

Over 16 missions, Joe & Andrew will battle through the full campaign – each trying to secure victory in a desperate fight for control of Fortress Budapest.

The first of many games between our two commanders; Joe leading the Soviet advance and Andrew organizing the combined German and Hungarian defense. Our two seasoned Bolt Action veterans have never attempted to play through the entirety of a Campaign book before! There are 16 unique missions contained within the mighty Campaign: Fortress Budapest and neither commander knows if they have what it takes to see this journey through to the end. It shall be a test that pushes strength, endurance, and generalship to the absolute limit. Let the campaign begin!

The first mission tasks an outnumbered and outgunned Hungarian defense force (with German Gebirgsjäger support) with holding back the Soviet assault. Andrew commanded a 1,000pt Carpathian Mountains Border Guards Platoon against Joe’s 1,250pt Operation Bagration Platoon. Players earn 1 Victory Point per enemy unit destroyed and 5 VPs for holding the Objective at the end of the game. The game would last six turns with a possible seventh.

The Pre-Game

The Hungarian Strategy

The mission goal is simple – hold off a numerically superior force for an undetermined number of turns. Shouldn’t be too tricky right? Oh, and my stalwart Hungarian defenders lacked armor or any serious AT. I had two Panzerfausts in each of the Gebirgsjäger squads and an AT Rifle but that was it. I knew Joe would be brining up some Soviet armor, probably a T-34, testing my forces AT capabilities. I rolled for my Defensive Positions and placed three Hard Cover walls behind the Objective.

With the Objective worth a massive 5 VPs, my strategic focus was keeping the Soviet units from getting within 3″. With two squads of Border Guards and one of Gebirgsjäger forming my Flanking Force I should have enough firepower to Pins the Soviets down in the village for at least a couple of turns. If I could do that, just keep the enemy back, I’d be fine. – Andrew

The Soviet Strategy

At the behest of Comrade Stalin and the STAVKA, the glorious Red Army needed to seize the mountain pass in order to drive onwards to Budapest. The strategy was simple. Using two Forward Artillery Observers, a Zis-3 Divisional gun, Heavy Autocannon, and a Heavy Mortar, I would pin the Hungarians down in/near their deployment zone. This would allow the massed infantry squads to charge up with T-34/85 support and seize the objective at the far end of the valley. I figured the Hungarians would concentrate at their defensive line to hold the Objective, maybe putting a squad into Outflank to try and snipe an artillery/team weapon. With this in mind, I set my Artillery into buildings in the town and kept my armor and specialty team units in reserve. – Joe

The Game

  • Andrew deployed half his force (six units) in a defensive position by the Objective with the remaining units held back in First Wave.
    • Unlike your typical Frist Wave, these units would arrive out of the woods on the two long table edges.
  • Joe had to deploy half his force within 12″ of the village center, the rest was held in Reserve.
    • Within the village the Soviet artillery (Zis-3, Heavy Autocannon), both Forward Artillery Observers, Heavy Mortar and a three squads of Infantry took up position.
  • No vehicles could be deployed but with a road running the length of the table, any vehicle would be able to make quick progress toward the defenders.
  • All six Hungarian and Gebirgsjäger flanking units arrived on the table.
    • Two squads of Border Guards, the Lt, Medic and one squad of Gebirgsjäger. 
  • The Border Guard Squad containing a Flamethrower marched through the woods and torched one of the two Soviet Forward Artillery Observers.
  • The Soviet forces stayed put in the village and fired on the defensive positions around the objective with little effect.
  • The Turn ended with both a Hungarian and Soviet Artillery Bombardment marked for barrage at the top of Turn 2 (note the smoke markers next to the Objective and in the village center).
Soviet VPsHungarian VPs
  • Heavy damage from both Artillery strikes!
  • The Soviet barrage miscalculated and scattered in a random direction but with a 12″ blast radius, still struck several Hungarian units and killed the Medium Mortar Team.
  • The Hungarian barrage, also with a 12″ blast radius, put pins onto six Soviet units and brought down the house containing the Soviet Heavy Autocannon, destroying the unit and turning the building into a ruin.
  • The end of Turn 2 saw the arrival of the Soviet Reservers led by a mighty T-34/85.
Soviet VPsHungarian VPs
  • The Hungarian and Gebirgsjäger Flanking force was able to keep the Soviets contained within the village limits but had no answer for the T-34/85.
  • The Soviet infantry was taking punishing small arms fire and was not able to advance. But with all the reserves on the table, the weight of numbers would soon take a toll on the outnumbered Borders Guards and Gebirgsjäger.
  • T-34/85 Advanced quickly up the road, Hungarian AT Rifle put on a single Pin.
  • No units were killed by either side.
Soviet VPsHungarian VPs
  • Soviet Lt. was gunned down by the remaining three members of a Border Guards Squad who broke cover to also apply pressure on the Soviet Heavy Mortar.
  • T-34/85 rolls a FUBAR on its Order Test and reverses 9″ back down the road.
  • Two Soviet Infantry Squads manage to press out of the village and towards the Objective. Each squad takes a few Pins from the units holding the Hungarian defensive line.
Soviet VPsHungarian VPs
  • Now out of cover, the Border Guards were assaulted by a full squad of Guards Infantry and killed to a man.
  • The T-34/85 passes its Order Test and resumes its advance, firing MMGs at the defenders.
  • Hungarian Lt puts a single shot through the Soviet Artillery Tractor, immobilizing the vehicle.
Soviet VPsHungarian VPs
  • A big Soviet Turn! The Hungarian Lt and Medic are both cut down in close combat and the T-34/85 holds just outside the Objective, putting all guns to full effect against the defenders.
  • The flanking force has been reduced to a single squad of pinned Gebirgsjäger and combat ineffective Border Guards. The Soviets surge forth, unopposed.

The death of the Medic. Fairly certain this was against the Geneva Convention.

Soviet VPsHungarian VPs
  • The Soviets secure their fifth kill by assaulting the last of the flanking Border Guards.
  • At this point, the only way for the Hungarians to hold back the invaders is to destroy the charging T-34/85 and stop it from contesting the Objective (worth 5 VPs to the army that holds it).
    • There was no other Soviet that could get into scoring range of the Objective. It would all come down to the Soviet Steel.
  • The Hungarian Forward Artillery Observer and a squad of Gebirgsjäger both sprint out of cover in an attempt to block the road but are unable to get in front of the tank.
  • With the final Order Die of the game, Joe Advances the T-34/85 to within 3″ of the Objective. At the conclusion of the move, the final Gebirgsjäger squad in Ambush fires a volley of two Panzerfausts scoring one hit.
    • Unfortunately for the defenders, the hit fails to damage the tank thus contesting the Objective and taking the Objective out of Hungarian control.
  • The game ended on kill points – 5 for the Soviets and 3 for the Hungarians. A two-point VP difference was required resulting in the Soviet forces securing the win by the slimmest margins.
Final Soviet VPsFinal Hungarian VPs

The Post-Game

The Hungarian Conclusion

What a tense game! I cannot believe it came down to an Ambush off the last Order Die of the game! If we hadn’t rolled a Turn 7, I would have been able to hold. Maybe I should have added more Panzerfausts to the Gebirgsjäger? I had two in each squad (the max is four).

The T-34/85’s FUBAR is exactly what I needed but it was a turn too early. Even though my AT Rifle could not actually cause any damage to the Soviet beast, it would still take a Pin on a 4+ (being a Reg. Tank). However, I only managed to place one single Pin the whole game.

Finding balance in an asymmetrical Attacker/Defender scenario is no easy task but the writers of Fortress Budapest rose to the challenge. I felt like I was on the back foot during the initial creation of my Platoon – no armor and very limited AT options. I was also down by 250pts! But the mission design gave me significant flanking options and handed my force the initiative. The game ended as close as possible, the final Order Die on the final Turn and Joe just managed to score two more kills than me (the bare minimum required for the win). Honestly, what more can you ask for? Truly a fantastic game and I could not have hoped for a better way to kick off this campaign with Joe. He is already proving to be a cunning opponent.

For now, my forces have retreated in good order and are gathering strength for the next mission. – Andrew

The Soviet Conclusion

Wow did I underestimate the Axis flanking forces! Or at least how many units Andrew would commit to the flanks. With the Gebirgsjäger coming in on one side and the Border Guards on the other it was a costly mistake by the Soviets to underestimate them. Luckily, a poor showing by the Border Guards flamethrower and the steadfast nerves on both the Guards Infantry and Mortar kept the Soviet line from collapsing. Though a Forward Artillery Observer Team was not as fortunate. If that wasn’t bad enough, his Artillery Bombardment took out the Heavy Autocannon when the building collapsed! With the Heavy Mortar Team and Zis-3 heavily pinned, and losing two other forms of artillery, and down 0-2 on Order Dice early, I was forced to change the plan. Soviet ATR Teams and the reinvigorated Guards squad would put pressure on the Border Guards with the flamethrower and Hungarian Lt on the right flank, while on the left the untested Inexperienced troops would hold off the lone Gebirgsjäger squad. With the flanks holding (for now) and time running out I had to make a play.

The Soviet armor could still win the day. So the T-34/85 and Artillery Tractor could rush up the middle and sit on the Objective contesting it and try to kill the Hungarian defenders. More setbacks as the T-34/85 FUBARs backwards and blocks the path of the Artillery Tractor. At this point I’m starting to worry that the game is lost. Down on kills and my revised strategy crumbling the Red Army was in trouble. But with a failed close range shot from the Axis Lt, the tide seemed to turn. The Axis had a failed Order Test and lost two units in close assault, but my Artillery Tractor was immobilized. With a Turn 7 being played, the T-34/85 managed to survive two Panzerfaust shots and contest the main Objective while some finally good dice on my side enable the Soviets to at last take the lead in kills. Soviets 5 and Hungarians 3.

This mission was wild! I must thank Andrew, my partner in this journey, for not only a great game and opponent but for doing this full campaign play-through. My deployment is what hurt me the most. I should have stayed more to the center of my village zone to avoid a Turn 1 close range attack by the Border Guards units. This mission had me make some tough decisions, especially since my army had limited mobility due to lack of trucks. I didn’t take Trucks as the table was pretty open and I thought Andrew would have taken the Light Howitzer/AT gun, which would have ripped my Trucks to pieces. The Soviet player is in a tough spot. With the threat of outflanking, and a distant Objective covered by a bunker and defensive obstacles, you have to book it to the Objective but stay strong on your flanks to avoid becoming surrounded. That being said, I thought it was extremely well balanced and put together, and just like real life, it took a T-34/85 crashing the Hungarian defensive line to win the day.

Soviet Campaign ScoreHungarian Campaign Score

Game 2 – Into the Valley of Death

7 thoughts on “Campaign: Fortress Budapest – Game 1 – Hold the Ojtozi Pass

    1. It’s my favorite Campaign book. It stands above the rest of the field by a not insignificant margin! I’ve been wanting to do something like this (a full Campaign book playthrough) for a long time and so far, it’s fantastic!

      Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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