My friend, Sutty, and I got together over a public holiday to play as much of Russian Front as we could fit in. We have both played before, but only once made it into '43. We pretty win even numbers of games against each other.
Russian Front is a strategic level boardgame of the WWII conflict in Russia. Units are corps (axis) and armies (soviet). Unit types are infantry, armour, air and navies. The map goes from Helsinki to Stalingrad, Gorky to Warsaw.
Turn sequence is fairly standard for a wargame:
1) weather (fair, wet, mud & snow)
2) reinforcements & replacements (i.e. repairing damaged units)
3) German normal movement
4) German combat
5) German mech move
6 - 7) soviet move, combat, mech move
Combat is fairly unusual. Land units move into the hex occupied by the defender. Then move any naval support (attacker first, then defender may react to naval movement), and air support (attacker first, defender air may move to any battle).
First of all fight any air battles (German air is stronger than Soviet and wins most of the time), then any naval battles (with air support), then any land battles (with air & naval support). Combat is only fought between one attacker and one defender (plus supporting units) and works on a differential. Hence air/naval support makes a big difference. Damage is inflicted - each unit may sustain a number of hits equal to its defence rating before dying, damaged units fight at full strength. Compulsory retreats can be forced and voluntary retreats are allowed for both attacker and defender.
Victory Conditions: Points are awared by holding major cities, soviet factories and oil fields. Victory is calculated every six months with the result carrying forward. Generally the amount the Axis have to achieve matches their historical position (so capturing Moscow almost guarantees a +1 in Nov '41).
1941 - Barbarossa
From the soviets followed a policy of retreating as fast as possible to try to minimise casualties in the inital offensive. He was particularly successful, partially because we played "out of supply" inflicts damage rather than automatic elimination - an optional rule, and partially because he abandoned Kiev pretty much without a fight.
The only real significant event during the initial thrust was my capture of Smolensk without a fight. This left one armour out of supply but ensured a rapid advance to the gates of Moscow.
Come September everything had gone as expected. The South was progressing smoothly, Kharkov would fall with little resistance. I had given up on attacking Leningrad early - the terrain does not favour an armoured assault. In the centre a difficult decision: go for Moscow, risky and bound to cause my armour lots of hits, or move south and get Brysank, Orel, Kursk and Tula. I opted for the latter. I almost certainly could not have stopped the numerous soviet reinforcements getting deploying in Moscow, and once there it would be very difficult getting through.
Then in November I rolled fair weather. 1 in 6 chance! This was annoying since my Sept & Oct moves meant that I could not now launch a decent attack on Moscow. However all the central cities fell and we went into the winter all square.
Then comes the soviet winter offensive - all german units at -1 attack & defence, combined with the arrival of the powerful soviet shock armies and withdrawl of 40% of Lutwaffe. Somehow I managed to survive the offensive relatively unscathed. I only had a couple of weak infantry destroyed. This is partly because the Soviets concentrated their efforts against the center - my strongest point - and left the minor allies (Romanians etc.) and the south pretty much alone. The only problem was that it takes a few turns for my Panzers to recover.
1942 - Operation Blue
This is a very difficult year for the Germans. I have to capture Voronezh (central on the Volga) and Rostov to make a even VP for November and then take Stalingrad, Leningrad or Moscow to take even VP in May '43. I decided on an initial push to Voronezh and then split my force - half pushing towards Moscow and threatening encirclement of his forces west of Moscow, and the rest pushing south to Rostov and then to Stalingrad.
The push started well with my destruction of much of the soviet air force and taking Voronezh. Then an opportunity loomed. No soviet air cover in the South. All my units could attack without fear of the odds dropping dramatically. I seized the opportunity and thrashed the soviets. Unfortunately (it was 3am) I made a critical error. Voronzezh was taken and 5 units destroyed (including the best German infantry unit), my supply line cut and a hole 8 hexes wide left in my line. By sheer luck I managed to roll mud for the following turn's weather, preventing the soviets exploiting the hole and giving me an opportunity to recover.
The rest of '42 was characterised by slow methodical German advance. I lacked the infantry support to effect a major breakthrough and recovered soviet air power effectively reduced my attacking capabilites. Voronezh was now occupied by Soviet Guard Infantry and almost invulnerable. I did briefly manage to take Rostov but it wasn't enough to stop a Soviet +1 in November.
1943 The Final Year
The game was still finely balanced. Although the soviets were bound to get another +1 in May the German army - especially the armour and air - were still strong and it seemed likely that the soviets would not be able to push the Germans back to allow big German bonuses in '44.
'43 Started with a major Russian offensive in the North. Slow progress by Army Group North and the Finns had got me close to Leningrad and made it possible that I could take it - especially since the Russian navy was badly damaged and unable to prevent my navy operating at will. Then he moved 5 air to the North against my 1 and attacked along the front. All my replacements still left the North dangerously weak and they were forced to pull back.
Then his attacks shifted to the forces in front of Moscow. A deployment of a couple of panzer corps, the arrival of 1SS (the best unit in the game) and the reduction of his air power allowed me to stablize and then inflict disproportionate casulties.
In the south I had been making steady progress. The Russians were getting badly hurt by my Panzers and Rostov was begining to come under threat. The Romanians had been performing spectacularly well, destroying two soviet air and driving into the crimea. It sometimes felt like they were always rolling 6's.
Then the disaster. I advanced one of my best Panzers too far and it could not withdraw to safety. So I commited several other panzers into protecting it for the next turn's recovery. Unfortunately I had severely underestimated the increased soviet counter attacking strength. 6 excellent attacking units suddenly appeared - thanks to rail movement and timely reinforcements. Attacks against all my Panzers with minimal air support available to either side made sure my losses were going to be heavy. Some luck (none of the attacks were guaranteed wins) and four panzer corps (nearly half of the total) were destroyed and another two severely damaged.
At that point I conceded. With the soviets already well ahead in the victory points stakes my chances of dragging it back in '44 had gone. Given that we could only have played out a few more turns anyway (this is after 20+ hours of play) there didn't seem much point.
Conclusions and Analysis
This is an excellent game. It is very well balanced and you really get a feel for the ebb and flow of the war. Two losses in concentration cost me the game. The first pretty much ensured that I couldn't win, the second that I wouldn't. My opponent played very well and made no mistakes that I could exploit to good effect. Not bad for 20+ hours of play.
Air power is critical. A +4 on offense (+3 soviet) makes a huge difference. When the Germans have 5 air they can make 5 attacks at +6/7 per turn. This causes heavy casualties to the Russians and normally kills some units. The Germans can't afford to lose one air unit since they cost so much to replace. On the soviet side air power is an effective deterrent for unsupported German attacks. A Panzer corps should never attack at less than +3 (given the probable loses). They can normally get +3/4 against unsupported infantry. Soviet air makes that +1/+2. Given that armour costs twice as much as infantry to repair and +1 is equal losses the conclusion is obvious. Soviet air is relatively weak and undamaged German air must fight it at every opportunity. Otherwise you will be overwhelmed.
Conversely the soviet player must pick his air battles carefully (i.e. never) and should, in my opinion, always double up air in attack to deter Germans engaging in air-to-air and vastly increase the chances of soviet air supporting the battle.
Excellent report ian you got me right into the action, iam currently playing against my friend and doing rather well as the germans i too threw a 1 for weather in November and more than likley to get an A1 result after 6 months but i also know the russians are getting stronger and stronger as each month passes.
hope fully you will be reading my session report when we eventually finish the game:
Well now the winter of 41-42 is over i have been pushed back in several areas its not looking good for me at the moment most of my armour has been severly hit, i havnt made the best use of my re-fit counters either, i am now 25miles away from leningrad with the fins and about a 100 miles away with the germans not good, and i am 150 miles away from moscow now and defending, bryansk kursk and orel lost but still holding strongly around kharkov dneproptevosk areas almost ready for a three pronged attack for the summer against sevastopol, kursk, and rostov but we will see how it goes the russians have effectivley doubled there money with a transfer of replacement pionts of all non replaceable armour so there will be plenty more russian divisions taking to the field this summer of 42 but without armour for a couple of months at least. But because of my A1 result last victory count and the mud that we have at the moment i am assured of a 0 on the victory count this may of 42, so it stays as an A1 overall so its not all doom and gloom
- Last edited Thu Dec 21, 2006 8:38 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Dec 21, 2006 8:35 am