darksurtur
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A lot of historians, I think, would tend to agree that World War II, at least in Europe, was won and lost on the Russian front. It’s certainly the arena of the war that seems to receive the most attention from game designers. I’m going to presume that much of this stems from a belief that this front of the war could have gone either way, or that, at least, the disposition of forces was balanced enough that, with little tweaking to a game design, a decisive victory is possible for either side.

As I start to play more and more historical wargames, I find myself drawn to balanced situations like this rather than games that emulate history and track progress through victory points. A recent case in point: Empire of the Sun. The game is certainly highly historical and appears to be strategically rich. But Japan wins, I believe, if it prevents an invasion of its home islands before the game ends. Yes, I know that the U.S. devoted less than a quarter of its resources to the Pacific theater and the Japanese were battling from an essentially hopeless position, hoping for a truce or negotiated settlement that would have let them keep part of their wartime acquisitions. But it just doesn’t seem that satisfying to play a side in a game in such a hopeless position, “winning” through a designer-mandated, possibly arbitrary, set of victory conditions instead of winning the war.

But, really, could Germany have taken out Russia in WW2? Russia’s industrial capacity and manpower reserves were far larger and Barbarossa was much too ambitious to have any chance of success, right? I’m not asking for speculation on the outcome if different operational choices has been made (thought they are welcome) ... I’m wondering what people’s opinions are on historical games were the sides have asymmetric chances for total victory (in real-world terms, not game terms), and what conflicts they would consider historically balanced (i.e., where the outcome could have easily gone the other way). Could Carthage really have overcome Rome’s manpower advantage and stubborn refusal to surrender in the second Punic wars, or is that simply romantic speculation?

I am still a novice wargamer, so my opinions might change. But am I alone in feeling unsatisfied if I have to play Germany during Overlord or in the Ukraine in ‘43, or Japan after Pearl Harbor, or France and the low countries in 1940? Do people prefer historical accuracy over equality in victory chance, or vice versa?
 
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Christopher Brandon
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If you are interested in the historical possibility (well researched, argued and laid out) read Hitler's Panzers East by a guy with the last name Stolfi. Very well researched and argued-a good history book that explores how the germans (not the ruusians) defeated themselves. When you look at all the data and research that went into it-he makes a very credible argument.

Fairly short at a bit overt 200 pages, but anyone interested in the East Front should own it, or at least read it.
 
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Steve Hope
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It doesn't bother me to play with victory conditions based off comparisons with historical results rather than any real sense of "winning". Off the top of my head, I'd guess that:

Napoleonic Wars (at least grand strategy)
7 Years War
Revolutionary War

are all reasonable eras where the players of a game can hope to win on "real" terms.
 
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Eric "Shippy McShipperson" Mowrer
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This topic intrigues me as well. I made a geeklist about hopeless scenarios. I'm not a wargamer as such, but I am a closet tactician/war historian. Lopsided victory conditions don't bother me that much. I think I would prefer than over a game that is either impossible to win with a certain side, or a game that is balanced by making it historicly inaccurate (like giving the Polish 10 extra devisions of tanks at the onset of WWII or whatever).

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=view&listi...
 
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Eric "Shippy McShipperson" Mowrer
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Oh, and to answer your WWII question, yes I think it was possible. Let Hitler handle the politics (he was clearly very gifted in this area) and let his Generals handle the war (also, clearly very gifted). Ok, it wasn't ONLY Hitler's fault, but he made a lot of bad calls later on in the war... Some earlier, like allowing his over ambitious Luftwaffe to 'finish off' the British at Dunkirk.

PS - This doesn't speak AT ALL to the morality of hitler or his generals. I'm simply stating that it was possible, not that they were justified in any way in starting a world war or murdering millions of people.... nor was Stalin... nor were the US justified in fire bombing Dresden, etc, etc.
 
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Neil Carr
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This is something I've mulled over on occasion, especially after playing various scenerios in wargames. I'm a big fan of reading counter-factual essays on history and how many times small things can swing the course of events. I think a lot of historical wargames want to give leeway that operational decisions, and thus the outcome of battles, can have a larger political impact on what would happen. A lot of issues come down to political will and how the morale of a nation can falter and thus change what could happen.

US isolationism was a huge factor in WW2. Roosevelt wanted to get into the fight but couldn't get past congress. What if Pearl Harbor didn't happen, or what if Hitler didn't declare war on the US? Would Britain have fallen?

Churchill bombed Germany during the Battle for Britain. This caused Hitler to start bombing London out of spite, which in the end was a huge mistake as it allowed the brits to have just enough space to revitalize their air force.

In either of these situations Britain might very well have fallen and then there would have been a completely different operational and political makeup to deal with that could have resulted in a German dominated Europa.

I haven't read enough about the war with Japan to really know what is possible, but it seems at least on the surface plausible that if they hadn't attacked at Pearl Harbor and relied on the US remaining in an isolationist position then it seems that they could have consolidated their empire and create an industrial machine that would have led to a pacific cold war, or at least a later war that was more equal in capacities.

Still, I get what you are saying, that there is something unsatisfying with one side simply "not losing" after a certain amount of time. It seems as if a lot of historical wargames aren't being gutsy enough with their vision to inject more counter-factual outcomes. Rather than keeping the outcome vague it would be more interesting to boldly posit some dramatic reversals in one side's inevitable win through attrition.

There are some asymetrical situations where the underdog won that seem to allow for more games to be constructed this way. The British had the resources and manpower to crush the Americans in the revolutionary war, but they didn't have the political will. They were hit by enough setbacks and they pretty much shrugged their shoulders and walked away rather than go into a frenzied "total war" state of mind and thus mobilize on a scale that would allow for them to stamp out and hunt down the American leaders.

Likewise, the battles between the Greeks and Persians were absurdly one sided and yet the Greeks came out on top because of the amazing performance of Spartans at Thermopylae, which gave the greeks time to prepare for the battle of Salamis. Salamis was possible because you had a one man crusade by Themistocles to create a political alliance of the city states to build just large enough of a fleet to count against the Persian hordes. If Themistocles didn't spend a decade campaigning among the fragmented city states to donate the resources and manpower to create the fleet then Greek culture would have been smothered in the greater Persian empire.

As for the Russian front during WW2, it seems like a great deal comes down to the political will of Stalin. If Barbarossa had handled better, and Hitler not interfere with his generals, they should have been able to reach their objectives. If that were the case and Moscow and the oil fields were taken then would Stalin have the willpower himself to continue on, or would he even have had the consent of those he ruled over to continue on? If Moscow was taken would Stalin have been a student of Romanov from Napolean's invasion and simply said, "So what if you've taken Moscow, you haven't defeated the Russian people!"

Stalin seemed to have the will, but if the Russians were pushed back to the Urals, even with their factories carried beyond, would they have the resources and infrastructure to put that political will to systematic use?
 
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Jeffrey McBeth
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Lee Brimmicombe-Wood (designer of Downtown and Burning Blue) has some very convincing arguments as to why the Battle of Britain was already going to the Brits before the exclusive bombing of London started.
Links to CSW seem to break the BGG posting, so I can't really point you there. Around message 1268 in The Burning Blue and 9227 in GMT Games forums of ConsimWorld go into it
 
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Xander Fulton
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darksurtur wrote:
A recent case in point: Empire of the Sun. The game is certainly highly historical and appears to be strategically rich. But Japan wins, I believe, if it prevents an invasion of its home islands before the game ends. Yes, I know that the U.S. devoted less than a quarter of its resources to the Pacific theater and the Japanese were battling from an essentially hopeless position, hoping for a truce or negotiated settlement that would have let them keep part of their wartime acquisitions.


I find that statement a LITTLE suspicious. Quarter of the US's military MANPOWER? Sure. RESOURCES? Ummm...no. Tanks are substantially easier to make than an aircraft carrier or battleship - and the Pacific theater had tanks, fighters, and bombers in ADDITION to literally hundreds of carriers and dozens of battleships.

That said, Japan WAS in a 'losing position' - but only due to poor leadership before the war. Japan already understood that the carrier would be the dominant force in naval combat - indeed, they started the war with TWICE the number of carriers the US had. Yet...they still proceeded to build nearly a quarter million tons worth of Yamato-class battleship. Granted, the third in the class was eventually converted to a carrier...but far too late in the war. The designs should have been scrapped at the drawing board, and the resources dedicated to carriers. For the same tonnage, Japan could have started the war with 7 more Shokaku-class carriers - starting the war with FOUR TIMES the US carrier force.

The key error, of course, was timing the declaration of war to arrive simultaneously with the attack at Pearl Harbor...when the declaration was delayed, the attack came first and the American public reacted strongly in such a way that a negotiated peace became impossible. If the declaration of war had arrived the previous night...likely, the US fleet at Pearl Harbor would still not be expecting attack in the morning (so far from Japan - and an enemy nobody took seriously at the time). The element of surprise would be minimized...but with twice the carriers available? And, more likely, the carriers currently stationed on the west coast would have been deployed to sea to become targets of the Japanese vanguard.

Combine a much more crushing defeat at Pearl Harbor with the historical series of Japanese victories throughout 1942 (and likely Midway, as well - heck, it would have been won by the Japanese as it was except for the error of a naval aviator), the drain on resources the European war was providing - and Japan would likely have gotten the negotiated peace treaty they wanted. After all, Japanese aggression did not DIRECTLY threaten US interests or allies like Germany did - Japan was more interested in Asia and the southwest Pacific...which the US could really have cared less about.
 
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Once I get home, perhaps I can add more detail, but it was by no means certain that Japan "knew" that aircraft carriers were going to be the dominant means of sea power in the coming war. The Japanese navy was not much different than the US Navy prewar - the doctrine in both navies still centered on a decisive battleship encounter, with carriers providing air cover for their respective fleets. The Japanese navy, like the US, still had the majority of its senior officer billets filled with "battleship" admirals. Remember that Yammamoto had to do quite an internal sales job on the rest of the IJN admiralty to convince them to go with the Pearl Harbor attack, due to its risky and unconventional nature. And even as late as Midway, the final and decisive phase of the battle was to be fought by Yammamoto's battleships, trailing some 200 miles behind the carriers, once air superiority was achieved. As for the US Fleet, it only turned to the aircraft carrier out of necessity, as its battleline was resting in the mud of Pearl Harbon on December 8th. If Pearl Harbor doesn't happen, and the Japanese go for a more conventional assault in the Southeast Pacific, it is possible that the prewar plans (i.e. USN Case Orange) get enacted, the battleships play the role foreseen for them, and the aircraft carrier does not get the opportunity to assume the place that history now records. Just a thought.
 
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darksurtur
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I am not a historian, so I was just relying on things I have read and heard about from second- and third-hand sources. But I am pretty sure that the U.S. leadership and the U.K. collectively agreed that Germany was the more important target, both because it represented the greater threat and because it was more industrialized, and that the split of resources would be roughly 80/20. The war in the Atlantic also required a substantial naval resources, especially as in the early years of U.S. involvement they were hammered by U-boat attacks on merchant shipping.

Japan was already stretched in various ways prior to American involvement; it was down in shipping, a problem magnified by U.S. submarine attacks. The attack on Pearl Harbor was, I believe, at the edge of its logisitical supply capability. And I don't think anyone at the time realized how important aircraft carriers would ultimately become to naval warfare, so the emphasis continued to be placed on battleships.
 
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Xander Fulton
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desertfox2004 wrote:
The Japanese navy, like the US, still had the majority of its senior officer billets filled with "battleship" admirals. Remember that Yammamoto had to do quite an internal sales job on the rest of the IJN admiralty to convince them to go with the Pearl Harbor attack, due to its risky and unconventional nature.

Oh, I have no doubt that a substantial force existed who were strongly pro-battleship...and the battleships certainly were useful (loaded down with AA weapons, there were few things more effective at escorting a carrier)...but I think Japan had more foresight than the US in this regard. A little MORE foresight would have 'won' them the war.

desertfox2004 wrote:
And even as late as Midway, the final and decisive phase of the battle was to be fought by Yammamoto's battleships, trailing some 200 miles behind the carriers, once air superiority was achieved.

I think, by the time of Midway, that was no longer the case. The battleships were brought along due to the need for shore bombardment - Midway, if taken, would have been only the first of a series of targets...several of which the battleships would be needed for. Remember that the Japanese were NOT expecting any US forces to be present due to their 'distraction' attacks against the Aleutians. They had not known their codes were broken.

desertfox2004 wrote:
As for the US Fleet, it only turned to the aircraft carrier out of necessity, as its battleline was resting in the mud of Pearl Harbon on December 8th. If Pearl Harbor doesn't happen, and the Japanese go for a more conventional assault in the Southeast Pacific, it is possible that the prewar plans (i.e. USN Case Orange) get enacted, the battleships play the role foreseen for them, and the aircraft carrier does not get the opportunity to assume the place that history now records. Just a thought.


I'm not so sure I'd agree with that. Japan's early war triumphs - Pearl Harbor aside - proved pretty conclusively that battleships were obsolete without air cover (RE: the sinking of Repulse and Prince of Wales). Even in the Med and Atlantic - where air power was SUBSTANTIALLY less capable than in the Pacific - it was understood by Italy and the UK that a fleet deployed within range of enemy aircraft without air cover was a suicide mission.

darksurtur wrote:
I am not a historian, so I was just relying on things I have read and heard about from second- and third-hand sources. But I am pretty sure that the U.S. leadership and the U.K. collectively agreed that Germany was the more important target, both because it represented the greater threat and because it was more industrialized, and that the split of resources would be roughly 80/20.

Of course they agreed on a 'Germany first' strategy - but I was never under the impression it was nearly so great a difference in priority.

darksurtur wrote:
The war in the Atlantic also required a substantial naval resources, especially as in the early years of U.S. involvement they were hammered by U-boat attacks on merchant shipping.

But merchant ships and frigates are a dime a dozen - easy and fast to build. An aircraft carrier is a rather huge investment of time and resources, forget battleships!
 
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darksurtur
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Hey everyone, thanks for the responses! There's been some good debate here, and it's good to know I'm not alone in my preference for certains types of victory scenarios.
 
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Seth Owen
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At the tactical level and operational level it's not too hard to find a lot of situations that could have gone either way and you can come up with a game where the winner wins in a real "military" sense, not just some game balanced sense.
When you move up to campaigns and entire wars it becomes harder, because factors such as economic strength and national will come into play, as well as more purely miltary factors. In addition, game designers are often constrained because they may be criticized if the course of the game doesn't follow the history rather closely. That's why I think it's interesting to play some of the alternative history games. Not so much for the plausibility of the situation, but rather because it puts the player more in the position of the actual commanders, without historical precedents providing guidance (or restricting choices). Both players/commanders go in believing they can win. Now in historical conflicts both sides normally start off believing they can win, too. Otherwise the weaker side will normally give in unless threatened with destruction and having nothing to lose. Of course, one side (and often both) is wrong about its chances. Misjudging the relative strength of the sides is a common mistake. The Japanese made that error. While a few individuals, such as Yamamoto, understood the true correlation of force, most of the Japanese decision makers didn't, or dismissed it as unimportant compared to more intangible factors such a national will and fighting spirit, where they believed Japan had the advantage.
Among classic wargame situations, I think the Eastern Front, along with the Western Desert campaign, Midway, the Guadalacal naval campaign, the Revolution, and Normandy are all good subjects where a real military victory was possible for the losing side.
There are some other classic wargame subjects where one side has its work cut out for it, but a military win is possible/plausible. Some examples include Gettysburg, the Waterloo campaign, the U.S. Civil War, the 1914 campaign and Jutland.
But there are some fairly hopeless fights that nonetheless continue to be popular for wargamers, such as the Battle of the Bulge, the Pacific War and the 1940 campaign.
Of course, a big part of the fun of wargaming is debating these very points, and I'm sure somebody will disagree with my examples ("The South had no chance to win at Gettysburg!" or "The French could have achieved a stalemate in 1940")
 
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Jonathan
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What an interesting question. I'm actually reading Fire in the Sky right now, which deals with the air war in the Pacific. The author, Eric Bergerud, spends a lot of the book slamming Japanese strategy and mistakes. I don't know if all of his criticisms were fair, but many have the ring of truth to them. There is a lot to point to in the Pacific campaign as terrible mistakes made by the Japanese. Their ability to maintain and service aircraft was not good, to the point where a damaged aircraft might as well have been shot down in most cases. That's very important in what was a war of attrition, especially when you consider that Japanese planes were by design much lighter than allied planes were. This made planes like the Zero more nimble, but it really hurt when they came under fire. At the same time the Japanese had trouble replacing planes, they also were having issues training new pilots fast enough to replaces the old veterans who were lost to combat. Finally, the Japanese industrial base was terrible. The Zero was a good plane at the start of the war, but by the middle it was already left behind by American design, and by the end it was totally obsolete. Japan just never had the industrial ability to make and produce a better fighter in the middle of the war the way America did. This isn't even touching on the disasterous inter-service rivalry the Japanese had, or their misadventures in China. So I guess that's a long way to say that I think it's fair to design a a game that, from a board game standpoint, allows the Japanese to win if they don't collapse as fast as they did in reality.
Aalok, btw, I'm almost done with finals. Hopefully I'll have some time this summer to hang out and play a few boardgames!
 
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My Masters thesis was on Japanese security culture, and during my honours work I did a lot of research and papers on Japan in general, and WWII.

1.) Germany declared war on the United States due to the Axis agreement with Japan. The US congress was primed for war against Japan after pearl harbour, but less so against Germany. They conceivably could have decided to fight a one front war against Japan (FDR wanted the 2 front war from day one, but elements of congress and senate were against it)

2.) Japan only went to war with the US because they needed resources to continue the war in China. They had studied US culture and believed if they dealt a critical blow at pearl they could sue for peace in a few months after capturing the oil, rubber, and metals they needed for the war in China. No one knew the US would react the way it did. Literraly, japan awoke the sleeping giant. Japans high command gave themselves 6 months to win against the US's industrial might.

3.) Germany had already lost the war on the eastern front by June 6, 1944. D-Day being called "the turning point of world war II" by numerous american movies and games is a joke. germany lost the Iniative to Russia at stalingrad, and then lost its offensive capability at Khursk. It was all retreat/counter attack/ retreat from that point on. DDay however may be the most important event leading up to the cold war, as it stopped Russia from occupying all of Germany, and perhaps all of Europe.

4.) The eastern front is the most critical front of the war. It was total war between two ideologically opposed nations of great power. The western front was a limited war in comparrison to the east (far fewer casualties, honouring geneva and hague conventions), and the war against japan was a mismatch.

Germany could have won the eastern front if they had done a few things differently.

1.)If they had rallied the baltic states, Ukraine and Belorussia behind them they would have had a bigger man power pool to draw on. (in the early days of the war the german were treated as liberators by the oppressed people in the west of the USSR, that changed after the death squads etc showed up.).

2.)If the spent more time and effort in winning the war as opposed to exterminating civilians. (The holocaust and other anticivilian activites took a lot of manpower, industry, and effort). 6 Million died in death camps that could have been used in work camps to make weapons and machinery (Dont take this the wrong way, germanys conduct in the war was disgusting and by no means am I saying that workcamps would have be fine)

3.) Retreating and counter attacking around Stalingrad instead of being drawn into a bloodbath. if Stalingrad had been encircled and bypassed they could have driven on further. By being drawn into Stalingrad they lost the iniative, lost control over the location of the fight, played into city warfare where their mobility and technology was nullified by teh russians numbers, and they lost an entire army group and some good leaders.

4.) Having Japan not attack the US, but instead attack Russia would also have helped.


wow..... thats a bit of writing.

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Jeff Johnson
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At least in Russia, I think the Germans were lucky to get as far as they did. The Russian prewar preparations were laughable, and in the first few weeks of the war, the Russians repeatedly made terrible mistakes that wasted whole armies at a time.

The one chance I can see for a German victory would be Russian political fragmentation. The possibility for this seems greatest right at the start - perhaps in the wake of a partially successful military coup during Stalin's virtual disappearance in the first couple weeks.

Quote:

1.)If they had rallied the baltic states, Ukraine and Belorussia behind them...

2.)If the spent more time and effort in winning the war as opposed to exterminating civilians...


These two were realistically not an option.

The Nazi war goals in Russia were to eliminate or enslave the populace, and colonize the east. For them to treat the conquered populations humanely would require them to no longer be Nazis... and the non-Nazis in Germany didn't want to start a war against Russia.

Quote:

If Stalingrad had been encircled and bypassed they could have driven on further.


This one wasn't likely either.

The Germans were already heavily overextended by the time they had driven their front to the Volga. I doubt that widening the front even further was within their means; at best I believe they could manage only tactical flanking moves.

Seiging the city and using the limited resources saved against the Caucasus might have helped, in that driving to the Turkish border could conceivably end up shortening the front, which the Germans desperately needed to do. However, the terrain made such a strategy extremely difficult.

Quote:

4.) Having Japan not attack the US, but instead attack Russia would also have helped.


This too doesn't seem likely. Japan had little to gain from in the Russian eastern territories. It'd also require both the Japanese army and navy having much less political influence, so that someone could force them to do things they didn't want to do.

The navy wasn't interested in Russia. They just wanted the East Indies.

The army wasn't interested in Russia either; indeed, Khalkin-Ghol had made the option decidedly unpopular. The army just wanted to finish off China, and begrudged even the limited forces used to attack the East Indies and extend the island perimiter - the oil embargo affected the Navy much more than the army.
 
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Just a point of contention about why Germany declared war on the USA...

I believe you refer to the Tripartite Pact when discussing the "Axis Agreement". The Tripartite Pact Between Nazi Germany, Facist Italy, and Imperial Japan was, so far as military matters were concerned, a defensive pact. See Article Three:

ARTICLE THREE
Germany, Italy and Japan agree to co-operate in their efforts on aforesaid lines. They further undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means when one of the three contracting powers is attacked by a power at present not involved in the European war or in the Chinese-Japanese conflict.


The Japanese were not attacked by the US, but instead initiated hostilities. Therefore, the Germans (or Italians, for that matter) were not obligated by the terms of the Tripartite Pact to declare war on the US. This decision was solely motivated by Hitler, who in a fit of madness (stupidity, ignorance,... choose your favorite term) decided that the US was ripe for the picking and that the "soft" American democracy could be gotten rid of once and for all.

Given that the US was completely enraged due to the Japanese attack, and given racial attitudes in the US at that time, it was, IMHO, extremely likely that, had Hitler not gone completely bonkers and declared war on the US, the US public (and therefore its political will) would have demanded that the government focus its entire effort on Japan and allow Britain and the Soviets to deal with Hitler by themselves, despite Roosevelt's personal feelings towards England and Churchill. It's important to remember that Churchill was quoted as saying that the night Hitler declared war on the US was the first good night's sleep he had gotten during the war - he knew what it meant, England's survival!

BTW - I love BGG for fostering this kind of exchange! This is fun!
 
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Jeff

Im not saying any of that was likely, or indeed possible. But we are looking at "what ifs" here.

Theres also that "What if" Stalin got word of the invasion before hand, believed it, and prepared Russia for the german attack. With preperation, foresight, and good leadership the germans could very well have been crushed and routed after the first winter.

But.. The eastern front remains a great setting for board games. Im a fan of Europe Aflame, and some people complain about how important the russia vs germany battle is compared to everything else. Indeed, England and France are used mainly to inflict casualties on germany and tie up troops that could be used in the east. In one game, I lost 70% of my germany armys in one turn on the eastern front to a cunning double envelopment by my opponent. Ah well, you do that when your 14!

Oh, and yeah. Tripartite agreement was what i meant when i refered to axis agreement. (Its been a while).
 
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I too have always found this an interesting topic in history period. Just some thoughts and observations:
1. I think the Germans would have been hard pressed to win even if everything had gone right from the start. One of the great myths is their great mechanized army. The truth is the Germans still relied heavily on horsepower (literally) They used 300,000 horses alone for the initial stike in Barbarossa. Throw in the railway gague being different (which I think Russian Front by AH does a nice job of simulating that annoying aspect) plus the lack of infrastructure and you have a logistical nightmare of epic proportions. Factor in the lack of preparation for winter and you have a recipe for disaster.
2. That being said I do believe that the Germans could have fought the Russians to a stalemate somewhere around the Dniper River line if they have followed Von Manstein's advice of mobile defense. Hitler's obsession with holding ALL ground defies all logic. Given the Russian doctrine of building up resources and the unleashing attacks and running them until they ran out of supplies, that is ready made for the type of mobile retreat/counterattack that Manstein proposed. I think Manstein is highly underrated, and I think if Hitler had made him CinC if the Eastern Front, the outcome might have been VERY different.
All this being said I will close by saying here are my favorite East Front game. You might want to check some out at your convience.
Russian Front (AH)
East Front Series (GMT Games)
Von Manstein's Backhand Blow (GMT Games)

BTW Bryan Clarke did an interesting book where he looked at the prisoner numbers during the first 6 months of Barbarossa and concluded that, other than the giant Kiev pocket, the Germans did not encircle the huge numbers that are sometimes given in other sources. Intersting thought and something to mull over.
Tim
 
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Xander Fulton
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FWIW, Hitler's declaration of war on the US had little to do with perceived weakness - treaty terms aside, all indication is that he HOPED Japan would return the favor and declare war on Russia - relieving his eastern front.
 
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Leo Zappa
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I had never read of Hitler's hopes in this area (Japan declaring war on Russia in appreciation of Germany's declaration on the US), but it's not hard to believe that he would hope for such a thing. Obviously, he didn't spent much time actually communicating with his Asian "allies", otherwise, he would have known that there was no chance of Japan doing this once the decision had been made to attack the US instead. Just as obvious, the German spy network in Japan (if it can be called that) certainly didn't figure this out, even though the Soviet spies in Tokyo (headed by Richard Sorge) knew of the decision, which allowed Stalin to pull the Siberian divisions out of their Asian positions and into the fray with the Nazis (anyone playing The Russian Campaign wargame as the Russians loves it when these divisions show up - on the other hand, the German player dreads this event!)
 
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Michael @mgouker
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I've always thoughtt that if Germany had a bit more luck in the north and had concentrated exclusively on Leningrad, Mannstein might have been able to take it. Perhaps if Leningrad fell instead of holding out heroically under siege, Russia may have capitulated.
 
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My thought on Leningrad is that it seems to have been the least important of the big three objectives(Moscow and the Caucasus (as represented by Stalingrad) being the other two). My thinking is that while Moscow was not only the capital but also the primary rail hub linking North and South, and Stalingrad was the key to dominating the resource rich Caucasus region, Leningrad was more or less of a dead end. I suppose that a successful capture of Leningrad might have allowed the Germans a thrust to Archangel, receiving port for the Russians' Western Lend Lease, so perhaps such a capture would have significantly helped the Germans. Also, I guess Leningrad falling would possibly freed the northern arm of the German army to sweep south to envelop Moscow. An interesting thought.

Has anyone seen this happen in one of their wargame sessions (perhaps Russian Campaign, Russian Front, or similar game)? What was the end result?
 
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darksurtur
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I'm glad this thread could stimulate some good conversation. I was talking about similar issues with a friend over the weekend and we both came to the conclusion that all sides of the war failed to take into account the difficulty in forcing an enemy people to surrender. Doctrines of strategic bombing were invalidated by the intransigence of the British, Soviet, and German forces to capitulate in what seemed to be hopeless situations. This is especially striking given that Europe historically had been more amenable to creating armistices in such situations (as opposed to the dogged pursuit of unconditional surrender by the U.S.).

As another case in point, in the U.S. Civil War, the manpower advantage and economic production of the North far outstripped that of the South--maybe by 100 times--yet a people whose entire lifestyle seemed to be under siege nearly brought the North to truce or defeat. Germany had made it quite clear that they were not interested in assimilating Slavic peoples into their empire, but enslaving or exterminating them, which turned the war into one of survival and not just of land and resources for Russia.
 
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Seth Owen
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The northern edge over the South in the ACW was not on the order of 100 times in any category that I've ever heard of. The North did have some significant advanatges in terms of population and, especially, industrial strength. On the otehr hand the CSA was a VERY big country and quite a bit of it wilderness, too, so that balanced out a lot of the uniuon strength. Balancing out most of the rest of the federal advanatges was the generally superior higher level leadership in the Army of Northern Virgina, makingt he wholwe thing a very near run thing indeed. It's easy to look back and see events as inevitable, but from the perspective of the time it was all too easy to imagine a federal defeat. Lincoln, himself, thought as late as Augsut 1864 that he would be turned out of office, which would have led to a CSA victory.
As far as the Eastern Front goes, I think the Germans did have a chance of beating the Russians. Again, it's easy to see historical events as ineveitable in hindsight, but at the time things were not nearly so clear. That the Germans did NOT win in the East was less about capability, than about a series of bad decisions (Stalingrad, Race policy, economic inefficiency are just some of those). This implies thye could have made better decisions. It's true that Moscow was far from Berlin, but it's just as far the other way and the Russians sid make it to Berlin. And waging war across the entire Globe (as the U.S. did) was hardly easy and it's easy to imagine things going badly.
Japan against the U.S. is another case, altogether. Even at the time the disparity between the two sides was recognized, with the Japanse placing their hopes in a belief that more intangible factors of national will and racial superiority (theirs) would redress the imbalnce and lead to victory. That they grossly misread their adversary and provoked the very response they were trying to avoid almost goes without saying.
 
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