Chris Buhl
United States
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Defending Russia – First (Real) Line of Defense in the South

I plan to spend a fair bit of time analyzing the defense of Russia before finalizing Soviet defensive preparations. I'll post my thoughts and will be eager to hear any reactions you have. In my BitE game, I did such a poor job of playing the Russian supreme commander that the war ended in 1943. I must improve on that performance, at least marginally.

First Consideration – Victory Cities

These are the victory cities in the game:

1. Berlin
2. Roma
3. Paris
4. London
5. New York
6. Moscow
7. Stalingrad
8. Leningrad
9. Baku
10. The Delta

At least in the campaign I'm involved in, when Germany launches Operation Barbarossa, the Axis will control 3 of them. It seems unlikely Germany will conquer the Delta, but it's possible. In order to immediately end the war, Germany must capture all 4 Russian victory cities. Even if that is possible, by the time Baku falls, it is possible that the Western Front will have opened and Paris may be liberated.

So I don't expect Germany to win by sudden death (7 VP in one victory phase). That means Germany needs to possess 6 victory cities at the end of the war to win. That is a tall order I think. It seems unlikely that Germany can hope to hold Paris if the war goes all the way to 1945. Even if Germany captures the Delta, unless it wins by sudden death it seems risky to assume being able to hold that conquest. And as we know from history, holding Rome is no easy task if the Western Allies get rolling.

So Germany really does have to consider taking at least 3 Russian victory cities a must. So two thrusts, one to the North and one the south.

As the Russians, how to defend against that?

I hope to identify rail hubs that can be adequately defended once the Axis breakthrough starts. I'm also thinking I will spend YPP in a way that helps me shield as many armor units and HQ from early encirclement as possible. If I can set the Russians up to be able to save most of their armor, I hope to be able to mount an effective defense until winter arrives.

In my BitE game a couple years back the frontline Russian units were only relevant as obstacles the Germans had to stop in. It barely mattered if they were 1-step or 4-step, the Axis surprise bonus along with Panzers attack (optional rule) makes the early German offensive irresistible. IIRC the military districts force most units to set up within 2 hexes of the border. This means that Russia can't very often, on the first turn, prevent exploiting armor spearheads from killing more Red Army units. 

So many units will die, but can Russia limit the numbers of their troops who surrender? And if so, how? Off the top of my head I think there are some areas of the front line that are doomed to encirclement, so putting any PP into their defense is a waste of time. How well I will be able to identify those areas remains to be seen.

Another thing I am considering is not spending the entire Soviet PP pool right away. There will be many blocks available to be rebuilt in July. Having a manpower reserve may turn out to be very helpful.

Question #1 – Where to draw the First (Real) Line of Defense (F.L.o.D.) for Moscow / Leningrad and for Stalingrad / Baku?

The Pripet Marshes will certainly be the dividing line for the two German thrusts. Forces designated to capture Moscow and/or Lenningrad will drive north of the marshes, those heading for the resource rich southern part of Russia south. So to defend against each front, where is the best place to make an initial stand?

Southern Defense

I left the last post with these two questions about the defense against Germany's inevitable southern thrust:

1) Lvov and the surrounding hexes seem to make a tempting bottleneck. Sadly, the first turn Axis surprise bonus probably means they will fall immediately. Is there a way to make use of that area to slow German troops in the south?
2) The Dniepr River seems to present an obvious choice to defend. However, in BitE the impact of ZOC's is limited to interdicting supply. This allows for breakthroughs into hexes in clear terrain. With the Dnieper being so long a river, can Russia actually utilize it as a defensive line? The highlighted hexes Dnepropetovsk and Zaporoshe look promising, but also look vulnerable to being flanked in the north. If Russia could hold the Germans along the Dniepr, that would create an inviting salient for a counter attack. Is it reasonable to consider that as a F.L.o.D.?

To that, I'll add:

3) Would defending Lvov's bottleneck (#1, above) then having a fall back position centered around Kiev and the swamp there be effective? Could that be combined with using the Dniepr (#2, above)?

I tend to think not, I don't imagine the Axis juggernaught being stopped at the Dniepr, and I tend to think spending many resources trying that is a mistake.

So then, what of the Donets? There are few good positions immediately behind that river, but a line of sorts exist made up of major cities / forest. Kharkov seems essential to any German effort, any supply line for an assault on Stalingrad will have to run through Kharkov's rail hub. The Kursk – Voronezh line is a possible alternate route, but will Germany have enough blocks left to garrison that far north, with enough strength to resist counter-attack?

Even if so, how can Germany take and hold enough territory from the border to Stalingrad, and still hope to take Baku? The terrain in the south is indeed very open, which seems ideal for potent armored and combined arms attacks. But if Russian can inflict losses on German armor as it tries to fight through Karkov / Stalino / Rostov, maybe those forces will be reduced enough for later arriving Russian guards troops to counter-attack and cut supply? That seems like a reasonable hope.
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Jim F
United Kingdom
West Midlands
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Who knew trench warfare could be such fun?
Ashwin in front of Tiger 131

Look forward to seeing how things pan out
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preston smith
United States
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One thing, the German's must keep moving when they can or the Russian reinforcements will "Clog" the way. Russian Armor is weak but Artillery is strong-especially after the upgrade.

I think my loss was more on my lack of Abilitiy with the Axis on the Eastern Front.whistle

My main push was toward the south I hit a brick wall there first and then the Center. But your thoughts and strategic reasoning seem's right on. Give e'm Hell General.gulp
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