Chris Buhl
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"As a result of the cold, the machine-guns were no longer able to fire...the result of all this was a panic...”

BitE Dortmund Campaign AAR, pt 9
November 1941



I am playing out a solo campaign of Blocks in the East using all optional rules. As I play, I'm taking photos for a session report, which I hope will function also as a review of this game that I have become enthralled by. This is Part 9.

Past installments: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8


Captain Shultz strained to see farther, but it was simply impossible. Even standing on the turret of his Mk IV, he recognized that he had been proven right. Sending tanks into these woodlands was folly. He could barely maneuver his platoon at all, much less maintain proper formations. And the cold... never had he known it could be so cold. His entire platoon, at least, was operational. Many tanks were not, which given the space constraints in these horrible forests seemed unlikely to matter. It certainly hadn't mattered earlier, when the “light infantry screen” they were expected to fight had turned out to be a full strength Russian formation. When the infantry panicked and ran, he had done his best to provide cover. His commander would like to believe that the enemy had been held back because of their units' actions, but Shultz doubted that. He couldn't really say why they hadn't pressed their advantage. Perhaps they were waiting for something?

The Germans made some limited attacks in November, freeing supply lines to their forces besieging Sevastopol, tightening the ring around Leningrad just a bit further, and moving slowly east from Kharkov and Stalino. Near Moscow, they met their first real surprise of the war. Despite the first winter effects, they sent a combined armored, infantry force to push aside what they were expecting to be light infantry screens in the forest east of Moscow.




Instead of a weak infantry screen, they found two full strength Russian infantry armies! Even in Stalinorgorsk, where they won a battle, they found a full strength Russian unit. The Germans were lucky to retreat with as minor losses as they suffered, and to take Stalinogorsk (crazy hot die rolls there, plus a winter unit which doesn't suffer the usual winter penalties, only the original malus for German forces in the first winter).

Basically, I think that Germany will be content to push their lines forward slowly, husband valuable production to best use later, and prepare for their inevitable 1942 offensive. The Russians seem unlikely to mount a significant counterattack this winter, but could push the Germans back a bit around Moscow.

Yushin was proud of his men. After the brief joy at liberating Poltava, they had been summarily crushed by a German counterattack. Nearly cut off again, he and his outfit had escaped. And again, they were packed up on a train, this time heading for Moscow. As they'd headed north, the cold winds blew ever harder. He did not fear the cold, he knew plenty about how to live in cold, how to fight in the cold. He learned that the hard way, as a boy on the steppes and as a man in those hellish Finnish wetlands. And now, they had struck a true and deadly blow for the Rodina! Two entire German brigades had attacked, foolishly sending tanks into the woods, without even artillery support. Yushin was only disappointed that they hadn't followed up and counter attacked. Apparently, higher command didn't want to weaken their units which defended Moscow. Not with the help that was rumored to be on its way.




The Soviets spent the winter regrouping. Realizing that the defense of Stalingrad is in much better shape than the defense of the rich Caucasus oil fields, they sent two of their new shock armies to Moscow and two to Krasnodar and Stavropol. The Germans are semi-threatening a ring around Moscow, but given that it's winter, there is almost no way they can complete that encirclement now that a shock army is on the rear flank. The Russians have no evacuated all three armor factories from Leningrad, so armor production is at a temporary low point. They will be rebuilt soon, and other factories are on their way to full production as well.





A note about the Partisans optional rule. Especially given that it's winter, I think that the rule as written forces the Germans to keep too many of their troops in the rear to deal with the partisan problem, given the scale of the game. Even with the RHG and security troops, and the Slovaks, the Germans have to keep many 4 step (even if not full strength) infantry units in the rear. Given the size of these units (30,000 or so troops at full strength), that seems off to me. I toyed with the idea of halving the production of partisans, but decided instead on this house rule. The Germans must garrison every major city they capture with a ground unit, or partisan production happens in accord with the rules. That will forces the Germans to keep some troops stuck. I expect that I'll find that compromise goes too far the other way, I'm not sure what I'll do in the end. I may just stop using that rule altogether, as I think that overall the impact of partisans on German operations in Russia is overstated in most places. Still, they were a real threat, and should be in the game somewhere. Perhaps keep the “garrison every major city” rule, and remove the RHG / Security / Slovak troops from the game? That would stretch the Germans a little thinner. In any case, that is the only optional rule that I have even the slightest problem with, I think the rest of them combine to make a truly excellent game.

The AARs this winter may not be as juicy as they've been so far, the action may be quite limited outside of attempts at fortress busting.


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Marcin Woźniak
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That is in fact great AAR. Thank you for this.

Partisan problem is much more subtle than most games can tell.

Not only Poles, but also Byelorussians, Lithouanians, Ukraine Cossacks, and many Russians had greeted Wehrmacht as liberators. There were of course Einsetzgruppen that eliminated Jewish people, moving behind Wehrmacht, and that is another, though terrible story.

Most people of countries occupied previously by Soviets hated sovkhoz system and wanted their freedom back; only after they learned, that Hitler was not going to privatize sovkhozes, they went angry and disappointed.

There were also many other factors. Germans, in order to focus civil anger somewhere else, supported some nations against the others: like winning Ukrainians (infamous murderous UPA) against Polish people, or creating SS militias from eg Lithouanians to kill Jewish people.

But there was also one major factor. NKVD sent hundreds of thousands soldiers to infiltrate through the front and start waging war against Germans from behind. Those soldiers were supposed to fight so it looked like civilians did this - so they murdered single German soldiers they encountered, and were leaving their mutilated corpses in the open.

Those bodies were screaming for retribution. And it started coming. Germans in the Eastern Front would not surrender - as they were afraid of tortures, so they fought even more bravely than on any other front. They were of course treating civilians badly - and civilians turned many "partisan" groups to Germans to bring relative peace back to their area. Out of 200000 "special soldiers" sent in 1941 to create this "bloody diversion" about 10% survived till 1942. And it was not because Germans left so many troops to watch their backs - as Americans found in Vietnam, when fighting against real "people guerilla" in large area, army needs to have 10:1 advantage.

So to summarize: I guess that designer's rule is overstated, and Your halving it is more than right.
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Raoul Netherlands
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I agree that this is a good AAR. The partisans however were only well organized since Spring-Summer of 1942 as the Stavka had the Russians defenses under control and it could focus on activity behind enemy lines.
While I agree that this rule is more effective as more cities are conquered and is used for the Russian and German gameplay balance, I would personally prefer other optional rules to decrease the German advance (like the axis first winter or free strategic warfare with bombers).

Towards the game, what you also mentioned Chris in your pervious AAR; there is no real difference between winter and summer attacking fortresses. As you have at least 1 dice per block there is also no difference to attack with a full stack or with a (partially) damage unit. I believe that there should be a penalty attacking fortresses in the winter.
Still this is a fantastic game.
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Greg Rogers
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I haven't yet experienced that the Partisan Rule as written gives the Soviets an unfair advantage. Partisans can only show up in areas where the Germans do not have units within three hexes of each other. Air units and HQs have ZOCs so they also block Partisan appearance. One must be somewhat judicious in keeping an active web of Axis units behind the front lines but I think that utilizing the bomber forces and the Air HQs away from the front lines is a key to this. It is true that sometimes 4-step German infantry (at whatever step they may be at) have to garrison, or should garrison at any rate in order to keep major cities occupied, but this is a matter of expediency and they can always be changed out through SRM over time. By November 1941 and with a normal advance into the Russian steppe, the Germans can most likely count on roughly 9 Minor cities which cannot really be garrisoned at any one time. That brings on 3 Partisans which, if the German rear unit net is configured in an orderly manner, can really only be brought on in a few places. Since German infantry can move two hexes during Snow turns in both clear and forest, they can cover some ground and get those Partisans in their Movement Phase without any problem as long as there is only one Partisan in the hex. Axis Minor infantry are less mobile and will have some problems in being a good reaction force. If German rear units are four hexes apart from each other in the important areas, they can pretty much cover the terrain in one turn if they need to react. If 3 new Partisans come on in a turn and two to three can be removed, I think that the Germans are doing a good job. If the Soviets try to get tricky and start stacking Partisans in two or three unit groups, that's actually better for the Germans in terms of reaction.

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Chris Buhl
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I understand where you're coming from. I didn't mean to say it gave the Soviets an unfair advantage (although that is what I would take from reading what I wrote). I probably should have said something along the lines of "I think it causes the German player to do too much more work than, at this scale, I think the case should be." Something like that anyway. More than anything, it's the only item in the game that I think adds more work than the fun / excitement it produces.
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Greg Rogers
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The Partisan problem is a mind bender. It can disrupt rail into an area where, in a particular turn, you really want a unit to appear or you really need a unit to appear. But, this only happens if things aren't planned out a couple of turns ahead of time. This, I think, is really how strategic and operational planning operates. I think the game simulates the issues with enemy units in the rear pretty well. They aren't really that effective unless you ignore them. If you decide to ignore them, then you continue the war at your own peril.

Partisans will really get out of hand if major cities are left ungarrisoned or the Germans let four or five turns go by without doing anything about them and they begin to accumulate. In either case, that is not the way to run a war.
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Kev.
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grogers64 wrote:
The Partisan problem is a mind bender. It can disrupt rail into an area where, in a particular turn, you really want a unit to appear or you really need a unit to appear. But, this only happens if things aren't planned out a couple of turns ahead of time. This, I think, is really how strategic and operational planning operates. I think the game simulates the issues with enemy units in the rear pretty well. They aren't really that effective unless you ignore them. If you decide to ignore them, then you continue the war at your own peril.

Partisans will really get out of hand if major cities are left ungarrisoned or the Germans let four or five turns go by without doing anything about them and they begin to accumulate. In either case, that is not the way to run a war.

planning in advance.. bah....lol.. who does this...blushzombie
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