Robert "Smitty" Smith
BATTLE FOR RUSSIA REPLAY SESSION
Giving a new game is always a test run of a different type. Giving a test run to any game concerning Operation Barbarossa has its own special set of criteria to overcome as we are so well versed in this area of military history. We have nearly a book case dedicated to the East Front alone. Add on the game condition of making the onus of victory to be decided between two German Players in a head to head competition made this truly a different approach to a 1941 East Front game.
Battle for Russia is another “small” game offering by War Drum Games, or so one might think. This is actually more in line with say a magazine game in terms of components and overall size and value. The concept here is pretty simple at first glance, for after all it is Operation Barbarossa. What is different is there are two German Players who compete against one another to see who wins on points. This means the two German players also fill in as their opponent’s Soviet Army counterpart ala Battle for Germany.
AR – DR Attacker/Defender Retreats
AS - Attacker Stalled
AE – DE Attacker – Defender Eliminated
1R -1L – Column shifts
PZ – Panzer
MECH – Mechanized
MA – Mobile Assault
Game Turn 1 – with so few German units you must PLAN for just like Operation Barbarossa your margin of error is indeed quite thin!
TURN 1 in the South is even more dicey with but one Panzer Group!
I love the use of small arrows or such devices to help me focus my efforts. It feels like what I did in my previous life except there it was often with grease pencils! Our option on Turn One is simply fight/Move by the rules. Thereafter in subsequent turns we can choose how we exercise our option. If we choose attack first we get a 1R shift. Things to remember are the Panzers Advance Rule to get as much forward offensive momentum as possible. For the Soviet side, you want to set it up so that your counterpart loses as many units as possible in mandatory counterattacks in the first three game turns.
NORTH – The 18th Army has a 4-1 attack that would be a BB except for the first turn !R shift. However 4th PZ suffered a 1 step loss. The 16th German Army and 3rd PZ killed the 3rd Soviet Army and the 13th MECT but got a BB result. However the 16th Army forms a pocket shoulder with its forward movement. The 9th German Army achieves a 3-1 DE result on the 10th Soviet Army and the 6th Soviet MECH. The 4th German Army gets a DE on the 4th Soviet Army. The 2nd Panzer Army had to take Brest-Litovsk and did so but in a bloodbath against the 14th MECT. Of note in the old Version 1 of SPI’s War in the East, you could so screw the Germans logistical advance by contesting this fight there as rail units only converted one hex per turn.
8th PZ Army MA achieves a DE on the 65th Soviet Army, as does the 3rd PZ Army MA against a Soviet Airborne Corps. Now in the Soviet breakout effort, the 18th and 19th German Armies each lose one step. But the 2nd, and 3rd MECH Corps and the 11th Army die. 2 VP’s are gained for Riga and Brest-Litovsk – what an awesome start it appears. The 17th Soviet MECH dies in a mandatory attack, as does the 4th Soviet Army. But the Soviets (South German Player) recaptures Riga.
SOUTH – The 17th German Army forces the Soviet 12th Army and 8th MECH Corps to retreat at a 2-1 attack. Now that is a less than auspicious start! The 1st Panzer Army attacks the 6th Soviet Army and 22nd MECH Corps, achieving a BB with its 3-1 attack. Worse for the Germans is a 2-step loss here to its only Panzer unit in the south. 1st PZ Army conducts a MA against the 36th Soviet Army, losing 1 step in a bloodbath. This then forms a pocket. Six Soviet units die in a huge pocket BUT, and this is huge – the Germans lose four steps.
The Soviets on a 1-2 attack achieve a BB on the 1st Panzer, so that is quite the success. But the Soviets lost a total of four units on mandatory attacks but did cause a total of two step losses to the Germans.
TURN 1 SOVIET LOSSES – units with a dot aren’t recycled so they simply never return to play
Soviet reinforcements went to Moscow, Leningrad, Smolensk and Bryansk.
NORTH – The choice was obvious Move & Fight! The 4th PZ Army achieved a DE on the 1st Soviet MECH Corps with Luftwaffe support. We wanted to limit the chance of an EX or BB here. Assaulted Riga as the previous turns security detachments failed to hold it as they were too busy conducting special actions and “Anti-Partisan” sweeps. The 18th & 16th Armies had a 14-4 but Riga is a 1L shift for being a city. BB result with the result of losing 1 GE step but reclaimed 1 VP. 9th Army killed the 21st MECH Corps but lost 1 step.
Minsk falls as the 44th Soviet IN Corps and 20th MECH meet their doom. The 2nd PZ Army attacked the 2nd Corps in the marshes, getting a BB result and losing 1 step. The 5th Mech attempts a breakout and causes 2 Step losses.
The Soviet 22nd Army attacks the 3rd PZ Army and achieves a BB, resulting in 1 GE step loss. The 10th MECH Corps self-immolates with an AE result against the 4th PZ. The 47th Corps died against the 2nd PZ.
SOUTH – We chose Move/Fight as well.
The ICA was eliminated in the South, making the odds to take Odessa better. The 6th German Army eliminated the 23rd Soviet MECH Corps. The 1st PZ Army causes the 9th MECH to retreat. The 17th Army got an AS result against the 16th Soviet Army. So ok turn but not as much movement. The weak Rumanians forces are a factor here.
The Soviet 19th Army forces the Rumanians to retreat. The 6th Soviet Army had to launch a 1-2 attack but it was an AS so it was a success. The 16th Soviet Army was lost on a mandatory attack to the German 17th Army.
Some game thoughts from the German North Commander. We are ill-positioned at this point for German Infantry to get close enough to seize Leningrad after the Riga fiasco. It seems to make more sense now to push towards Moscow.
NORTH – Most of my north turn was spent redeploying and pushing forces to the East. Although 8 units were killed it felt like we were policing up areas rather than moving forward to the lines needed for Operation Typhoon.
SOUTH – The attack on Kiev is 15-10 which is 1-1 except the city shift makes it 1-2. However strong Luftwaffe Close Air Support brings the odds back to 1-2 and with DR result Kiev Falls! Is it too early to say the war in the East is looking as if it is won? We rebuilt the 19th Army and 1st PZ Army, along with 6th Army of later Stalingrad fame. The Soviet 19th Army launches an attack against the 3rd Rumanian Army and gets a BB result. 2nd Soviet Mech dies but the Rumanians take a step loss. The 31st Soviet Army, 18th Soviet Army and 9th Soviet Mech strike the flank of the 1st Panzer Army north of Kiev. The result? An AS result. Not good at all here.
Getting to Smolensk awful late in the campaigning season – we need a really good German turn. Notice how the Soviet fortified lines are starting to fill up.
NORTH – Well 2nd Panzer Army was lost to us, but hey it’s all good as it means the South is now down 1 VP for “renting” it. The Soviets in the North get 8 units for reinforcements, the South only 1. This does reflect the continued meat grinder post Smolensk. The 4th PZ Army and 16th Army suffer a BB result at Rzhev when it is discovered it is a HERO CITY – crap all mighty. We didn’t realize the implications of hat a pain these are for the Germans. To make it worse a 1 step loss for the Germans. But we gained 1VP for the capture of Smolensk, which was 23-12 factor attack. That translates to 1-1 odds but with city defense a 1L shift it becomes 1-2 but here comes the Luftwaffe to make it 1-1. Add in it was a concentric attack and it’s now 2-1. Bryansk fell as well this turn for 1 VP.
SOUTH – 1st German Army and 2 PZ attack the 40th Soviet Army and get a DE result. It’s nice not to lose a step on attacks at times. 6th German Army achieves a DE against the 1st Soviet Airborne Corps. The 17th German Army achieves a DE against the 25th Soviet MECH. (I need to review the Soviet MECH units to see if any in the South are better than 2’s). The 11th Army and the 2nd Rumanian Army achieve a DE against the Soviet 19th Army. The Soviets saw their 18th, 21st and 55th Armies die in a valiant breakout attempt. But the Germans suffered two step losses, one to the 6th Army and one to the 17th Army.
Here the goal was to make a pocket of three Soviet units in the South. As only Axis units have Zones of Control, it makes life harder for the Soviets here on Turn 4. We also borrowed one Panzer Army from the north at the cost of 1 VP. This is a cool concept Bomba uses here, that you can “borrow” panzers units from the northern army but at a cost of 1 VP per unit. Good luck reaching Kharkov without at least renting one Panzer Army is all I can say.
Fuzz and Petunia provide “Overwatch”
North - 2nd PZ Army MA a Soviet Army and needed to kill it but instead only forced it to DR from hex 2107 NW of Kursk to now NE of Kursk. But another MA did kill the 55th Army at the cost of one Panzer step loss. 4th PZ Army suffered a BB result at hex 1609 near Bryansk, although it did kill the 32nd Soviet Army. 3rd PZ Army suffered a BB on its MA against the 48th Soviet Army, taking a step loss. 3rd PZ army executes a subsequent MA into hex 1906.4th PZ Army suffered 1 step ;loss here against the 43rd Soviet Army at 1808 to clear way to Tula. Bryansk was also cleared. The 9th GE Army cleared hex 1708 with a DR which at least forces the Soviets back. 4th PZ Army and the 18th Army attacked hex 1508 killing the 24th Army. Now on to Kursk. The initial attack was 19-12 which is 1-2, but becomes 1-2 due to the city shift which becomes 1-1 due to it being concentric. The Soviet 39th and 8th Armies die here, but the Germans lost 3 steps. We did get a DR at Tula. The Soviets counter-attached the 18th Army and it was an AS result. However, they did force 2nd PZ Army to retreat. Making the Germans lose any hex in a game of this scale, particularly late in the game, is worth the loss of any units.
South – The attack on Kharkov which we saw as a game winner against our foe in the north turned into an AS result as Kharkov is a HERO City! As the German Player you so learn to hate those, unless it shows up in an well-defended city facing your foe. Some disaster at Dnepropetrovsk for the Soviets, well large disaster as a 1-2 DR happened and led to three Soviet armies being bagged. The 17th and 11th Army commanders get their Field Marshall Batons for this smashing victory. The Soviets repositioned forces from Maikop to Rostov. Moved the unit in Rostov northwards.
NORTH - The 2nd PZ army conducted a MA against the 31st Army with a BB result. But it meant we moved beside Tula. 3rd P’s MA against the 42nd Army got an attacker stalled, which lessened our chances of driving deeper into the defensive lines. Rzhev held out against a 4-1 which because of Hero City eventually is a 2-1. Hero Cities are very hard to kill off. But we did manage to capture Tula – I did one than the actual Fast Heinz. I seldom capture Tula in any East Front game. But the Soviets came right back and recaptured Tula.
South – The 11th Army considered doing a 1-2 assault on Stalino that would become a 1-3 and said if we do we have no chance of getting a tie if we manage to seize Kharkov, as we would lose the city of Dnepr if the Stalino force died. So we played for the tie here – sounds like a woosie sports coach now don’t I? Kharkov – our chance for glory in the South with its “trove” of 2VP would put me at 8 total for VPs for captured cities minus my debit for renting a Panzer Army. It was 30-8…and we got an Attacker Stalled. North wins 6-5 due to our “renting” of the one panzer army as our total of VPs was 6 – boo-hoo. But had we not rented that Panzer Army, I am uncertain we would have unhinged the area post seizing Kiev enough to break into the far eastern regions of the Ukraine where the greatest collection of VPs await the German Southern Player. Oh well.
When a game hooks you on the first turn while writing a session report, you know you are going to have fun writing it up. It becomes less work and more fun to talk more about how the game unfolds in more nuances.
I thank WDG for sending me a review copy AS WE NAGGED AND NAGGED. Seriously, we thank them for their trust and confidence that I would endeavor to be both fair and impartial.