Sunday, June 19, 2011

Last few days before the storm

David Low, Someone is taking someone for a walk (1939)

On June 22, 1941 the entire nature of World War II changed with the Gemran invasion of the Soviet Union, inaugerating the most massive land campaign seen in history -- and one unlikely to ever be matched, given the changing nature of warfare in the decades since. We won't ever see multiple army groups with millions of men locked in combat over a thousand mile front for more than four years again.

The Eastern Front has held a fascination for wargamers since the hobby's beginning. The classic Avalon Hill Stalingrad was just the first in a long series of games covering every conceivable aspect of the war, at every level. Proof that there seems to be a wargame on everything is one of the four games included in the 2010 Against the Odds Annual called Codeword: Barbarossa - Preparing for the German-Soviet War. It may be a stretch to call this a wargame at all, because it ends when the war starts, but it's an interesting exercise as the two players try to create the conditions for a successful campaign when (and if, war breaks out).

It's rated at having a "low" solitaire suitability, which is too bad because it seems to be the kind of game that will be hard to get on the table against an opponent (obscure topic magazine wargame -- in this case competing against three other wargames in the same issue). I did fiddle with it a bit solitaire and it's an unusual enough game that I think players will need to play it a few times to get the hang of it -- so I can't write a proper review.

I am intrigued though, so I do hope to get a chance to play it sometime. Essentially the players have to balance aggressive actions such as redeploying to the front and raising new troops with a need to to be so provocative that the war starts before they are ready. Each side has to select from a menu of strategies and the final victory point total depends on the interaction between the chosen strategies and how well your deployment matches the strategy.

Map detail

The choices for the Germans are "Historical," "Northern Emphasis," "Moscow Central" and "Ukraine Emphasis." Interestingly this seems to imply that the Historical German strategy lacked a clear focus. The Soviet choices don't include a "historical" option but are "Border Defense," "Defense in Depth" and "Offensive." I think the first of those is the closest to the historical strategy, although in the end the Soviets were forced into a defense in depth. An "Offensive" strategy was explicitly rejected by Stalin and it's hard to see how a real-life adoption of that strategy would have been anything other than disastrous. Still, it's an option in the game and the Soviets can try it.

No comments:

Post a Comment