War in the East - Road to Minsk

By James Cobb 24 Feb 2011 0

The ?Road to Minsk? scenario in War in the East is a good choice for beginners and an After Action Report; its short ? three turns -.but has high unit density Also, the Russians have a good chance of denying the Germans of their goals if the AI in the 1.02 patch performs better than STAVKA did.

The game was played as German on normal level with fog of war on. In terms of game preferences, I let movement points per hex show, use graphic unit display and icons with combat value and movement numbers. I use long combat message displays to see exactly who did what to whom. I leave game options at default.


Target-Rich Environment

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On June 22, 1941, Army Groups North and Center have seven victory hexes they can grab with their twenty corps and well-equipped air fleet. The elements of advance planning and surprise are compounded with bombing advanced Soviet airbases.  Elements of the II and XXIII Corps dissolve the units in front of them and race to the outskirts of the Kaunas victory hex. Motorized divisions of the XXXIX Panzer Corps take Vilnius. Two infantry divisions of the VIII Corps drive deep into the rear of the Russian lines by moving southeast. However, the Russian 27th Rifle Davison uses its position in a swamp to repel several hasty and deliberate attacks by two infantry divisions of the XLI Corp, possibly exposing the flank of the advance immediately to the north. About twenty kilometers to the south, the 2nd Rifle Division makes a similar stand against elements of the same corps. In cooperation with divisions of II Corps, other elements of the XLI Corps have better success, crossing the Bug River. A huge pincer attack by seven divisions of the XXXVII Panzer Corps and XII Corps takes Litovsk.

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The end of the first turn sees the Germans lose 7,189 men, 107 guns and 43 armored vehicles as opposed to the Soviets? losses of 99,681, 1,961 and 543 respectively. During its turn, the AI simply sent over recon aircraft and moved something behind the lines. No attempt was made to pull out the Russian units stranded in the center. The Russian northern and southern flanks have disappeared and the center is overripe fruit. My concerns are maintaining supply and corps integrity. The first German attacks were made with great air support and without transferring assets.

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Racing with the Moon

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At first glance, the situation on June 26 seems a dream for the Germans. No organized resistance appears likely; Minsk is in easy reach of ArmyGroupCenter while Army Group North can easily get to the eastern victory hexes. The center has all the makings of a pocket if I choose not to waste resources on gobbling up bypassed Russians. However, I?m concerned about Germany?s two great enemies: time and logistics. I can easily outrun my supplies but, if I don?t move fast and far, I won?t make the three turn deadline.

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If anything can rain on my parade, it?ll be organized resistance around Minsk. A few air recon flights do show that Ivan has moved some units along my probable axis of advance. That?s fine; anything to make this interesting. A Waffen SS unit attached to XXXVI Panzer Corps overruns an airbase and then turns north towards Minsk. Two panzer divisions from XXV Panzer Corps exhaust their movement points heading straight for Minsk. Before sending units in the south further, two Russian divisions need to disappear. They cost units from XXXVII precious movement points by holding out, but a corridor is open. The Kaunas defenders cause the same problems before that victory hex falls to Army Group North. Observing the German advances, the AI?s strategy becomes clear: using the game?s gradation of zones of control on movement points, placing units behind the lines creates a band of controlled hexes. Moving next to that band creates a contested hex which costs more movement points. Attacking units can leapfrog each other to open a path but only at the cost of time. Understanding this concert, units from the north strike southeast and the valiant Russian divisions in the center are destroyed. The center is cleared and units from the west are brought up by rail.

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The end of turn 2 sees 12,512 Germans lost with 132 of their guns and 77 AFVs gone. These sums seem miniscule compared to the Russian 172,838 men, 3,191 guns and 1,029 guns gone. Soviet activity seems lax this turn but I?m frustrated with the speed of German advance.


Ashes in Adolph?s Mouth

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Air recon on July 3 shows a few more Russian units north of Minsk, making a quick strike at the city more doubtful. By the same token, one of my worst fears has been realized; three units of the XLI Corps and an airbase have supply problems. Fortunately, they are toward the rear. I do something I should have done much earlier: breakdown German divisions into their constituent regiments. This trick would have given me more flexibility to bypass Russian units instead of just dispersing them.

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Alas, this revelation comes too late. German units from the north and south come within one hex of Minsk before running out of movement points. The rest of the turn dissolves into an unorganized scramble to gain points by killing Russians. The game ends in a decisive Russian victory. The Germans fail to take the victory hexes that really matter and just gained points by inflicting tremendous casualties.

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Debrief

This scenario lacks many of the finer points of War in the East such as administrative points, commanders, weather, production, transferring assets and complicated logistical problems. However, one can learn the essence of combat. So how did I throw away the incredible German advantages? Here are some of my more glaring errors:

  • Overkill ? Hitting single Russian divisions with stacks of German units wasn?t necessary. This tactic wasted movement points and time while not actually clearing corridors through the Russian lines.
  • Not breaking divisions down ? The tutorial emphasizes building strong Russian units. This logic doesn?t work for the Germans early in the war. German divisions are strong enough. Breaking a few down into regiments allows the fast tactical movements necessary for blitzkrieg.
  • ?Victory Sickness? ? The incredible successes on the first turn left me giddy, thinking the rest of the game would be a cakewalk. I didn?t think the second turn through.
  • Not knowing the victory points ? I forgot to look at the victory point screen. The three victory hexes I grabbed early were worthless. Most of the time and assets I put into their capture were wasted. The attack on Litovsk was a prime example of this idiocy.

 

War in the East exemplifies the best goal of gaming: learning, not winning. I learned much about the system while getting my head handed to me. I?ll use those lessons not only in future games but also when studying the Russo-German War.


About the Author

Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he deals with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online, Ganesquad and Gaming Chronicle.

 

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