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Subject: East Front Tactics rss

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Doug Cooley
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In a previous thread that discussed the rationale behind the supply rules and what behavior they drove, I had the following exchange with David Kennedy (Mine is the question, his the response). He also suggested that this would make for a good thread on it's own, which I've done.

The question is how the Germans should prosecute the war in the east, especially early on, but the obvious sub-question is how the Russians fight back.

For the record, I am a very experienced wargamer with dozens of different titles played over nearly 40 years. I have some experience with the first edition of TK back in the late 90's but never really got into it, partly because I didn't have space to leave a game set up until the last four years. I am enjoying the new Axis Empires edition quite a bit, but it definitely plays differently than many other ETO or East Front games.

My experience in playing the A.2 Barbarossa scenario was that if the Germans go for point attacks at relatively high odds, that the Russians can just sit there and allow their units to be bypassed since there is no "fatal" out-of-supply penalty for those units, especially if they are at a rail junction. They can't move if an Axis unit projects an EZOC into their hex, but they often don't have to.

If the Germans go for lower odds attacks (3-1 through 5-1, or even lower) then they tend to lose too many steps to keep the offensive going.

My initial impression is that the way to do this is by first penetrating the Soviet line to go after HQs that make it much harder to get those high-odds attacks. Once the HQs are out of play, things get easier as there are fewer shifts and defensive factors for the defenders, but still a lot of Russians and not as many Germans as you'd like (especially as they drive eastward).

Anyway, David had a very good response, but I think there's some discussion to be had here. Any thoughts?

Here is the original exchange - I am the one asking the question, David is responding:

Quote:
Quote:

Which brings up another question - what odds should the Germans be shooting for in Barbarossa? My impression was that they wanted high odds attacks, which leaves a lot of Russians hanging around. Again, my previous experience with East Front games suggested that the most efficient way to take out Soviet steps is to pocket them, but here it seems that works on an occasional basis rather than as a primary tactic. Since the Germans have so few replacements coming in (comparatively speaking), is the priority to avoid losses or to cause them without regard to your own?


Well, it has been a few years. However, I recall the Germans and the Soviets had very distinct styles. The Germans conducted precision high-odds blitz attacks with massed panzers and air support. Early on, their ability to slice through most Soviets defenses is akin to a hot knife through butter. I don't really recall any problems with encircled Soviet units.

Conversely, when the Soviets attack, they typically seek to swamp and overwhelm German defenders. Oft times the Germans can hold on initially, but eventually they become brittle and break. The results can be equally dramatic as the Soviets breakthrough in multiple sectors. It is also quite chaotic as German units are trapped behind Soviet lines in kessels. There are desperate battles to rescue these units.

Indeed, the most powerful memory I have of the game is the sense desperation both players feel throughout. Even as the Germans seem to romp early on, they are driven forward by a sense "if this doesn't work out in a turn or two, I am screwed." Conversely, when the Soviets are fighting to hang on, they feel as if every turn is going to be their last. When the tide turns, the Germans alternate between periods of confidence as they seem to get their defenses in order -- "Hmm, we just might be able to hold them here" -- and desperation again as the Soviets finally breakthrough. Again, you scrape together some reserves to counterattack and try to pull back in some semblance of good order.

Indeed, regardless of your situation, a player must always think offensively. The game system really rewards this. The back and forth as each side dishes it out -- "Oh yeah? Take this!" -- is highly engaging. It is also very psychologically rewarding, which I believe is the reason the game is so appealing.

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Harald Torvatn
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A very important tactic for the germans is to force some soviets to retreat onto other units. This has two effects:

The entire stack can take losses, so a fight which originally included only one soviet two step units can now suffer four step losses. (ideally in an area with low counter density, the germans want the soviets to retreat one hex, onto another unit, and then being unable to retreat furter. Thus all combat results, exept one retreat, will be resolved as step losses.)

and

If many units cam be forced to into the same stack, some of them willl die because of overstacking. (In areas with high counter density, you want the defending stack to retreat through as many fully stacked hexes as possible, froming a mega stack, most of which dies at the end of the segment)


Air units, units which have already exploited and paratoopers can all be used to force the retreats into the directions the germans want.
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David Kennedy
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Harald is right on. I've been away from the game for a while and I'd forgotten about this. Channelling the enemy through retreats to create over-stacking situations is very effective. Yes, thoughtfully placed air units and precise lanes of advances create efficient killing corridors.

That curious TK rule wherein retreating units 'scoop up' other units makes it contribution to the design for effect mix. During the design process it must have been a circumstance of sheer happenstance and inspiration, since they seem so counter-intuitive to classic wargaming mechanics. I'm glad in the early mists of creation the design team tried it out. And here we are.

By the way, this works like a charm on every other front. The U.S. Army isn't large. But, it has a lot of firepower, including tons of air support units.
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Doug Cooley
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I'd noticed the retreat effect with the Fall of France scenario - placing the Belgian unit in Antwerp resulted in the Fr/Br units in Calais being forced back, and there was some chance of getting a similar result in Paris, which was very handy if you had placed a blitz marker in the city (which may be a new rule - Blitz markers prevent units from taking losses rather than retreating when placed in that hex).

Doug
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Mark Wightman
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Units in cities can cancel the retreat part of the combat result by losing additional steps. So, a Belgian unit in Antwerp cannot be forced to "scoop" up Br/Fr units in Calais, assuming it hasn't been scooped up bey another retreating unit ...
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Doug Cooley
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shalamanser wrote:
Units in cities can cancel the retreat part of the combat result by losing additional steps. So, a Belgian unit in Antwerp cannot be forced to "scoop" up Br/Fr units in Calais, assuming it hasn't been scooped up bey another retreating unit ...


Unless the unit in Antwerp has a Blitz marker on it. That's a new part of the game, in case you're working from the original TK ruleset. Blitz markers allow for combat by all friendly units within two spaces of the Blitz marker during the Blitz Combat segment, and also prevents voluntary conversion of retreat results to step losses in a city.

Very useful to know when you're trying to get Case Yellow to trigger when attacking Paris. In my last play of Fall of France, I had a small unit in Paris when my opponent blew through Antwerp in this way, and he could probably have won the game right there by sending an 8-6-4 Panzer unit into the breach and attacking Paris directly.

I should note that if you have a fortress unit in a city, it must involuntarily convert any retreats to step losses, so a Blitz marker won't prevent conversion in that case. The Amsterdam (Rotterdam in the previous edition) space is an example of such a space, but Antwerp is not. Note that Fortress units are automatically placed in their named city if one is denoted on the counter.

Doug
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Patrick Parker
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Also, Blitz markers cannot prevent the involuntary conversion of retreats into hits due to a HQ. This makes the French HQ about the only thing that can save Paris during Case Yellow.
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Doug Cooley
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patparker wrote:
Also, Blitz markers cannot prevent the involuntary conversion of retreats into hits due to a HQ. This makes the French HQ about the only thing that can save Paris during Case Yellow.


Good catch, I'd forgotten that part. Note to self - put FR HQ in Paris!
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Doug Cooley
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patparker wrote:
Also, Blitz markers cannot prevent the involuntary conversion of retreats into hits due to a HQ. This makes the French HQ about the only thing that can save Paris during Case Yellow.


I just realized that HQ participation means no retreat even when it's providing Ranged Support, so the Soviets have to choose early between losing steps or losing HQs when HQs are involved. I was not playing with that rule, so the danged Soviets weren't losing enough steps but were easily able to back up slowly while keeping their force intact.

I think that this mistake, more than anything, was part of why the East Front felt "wrong" to me. I can still see immense value in pushing for the HQs to knock them out, and forcing retreats in certain directions to cause overstacks, but involuntary step losses are definitely the thing that I was missing.
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