governato -> Eastern Front 41-45. Design Features. Things that worked and things that did not. (3/12/2012 7:12:12 PM)
EASTERN FRONT 41-45
The goal of Eastern Front 41-45 was to take an existing scenario ('Russian Front' by Piero Falotti) and bring it up to TOAW 3.4 standards. I wanted to improve on it by using some new features made available by the last update and test some new ideas presented in recent scenario. The scenario events had been completely rewritten, but unit TOEs and OOBs only received minor changes. I have seen a renewed interest on East Front Scenarios (East & West Fronts 42-45 by Mark Dabbs, the 'Road to Moscow' series by Rob Kunz, 'Battle for Moscow 41-43' by Brian Topp, a new version of FITE is in the works, Matrix's "War in The East" and 'Unit of Command' and I think it would be useful for the TOAW designers to trade ideas on how to develop a new generation of Russian Front scenarios. This is a first attempt on my part. Maybe USxPat, who helped me testing the scenario will stop by to add some comments too.
The first eighteen months of the Eastern Front 41-45 campaign were able to give a good description of the Operational choices faced by the theater commanders, on a very fluid front with large initiative swings largely driven by the weather and the logistic capabilities of the two forces. That was good!
Things that worked:
- Blizzard, rain season and Winter supply effects. I used 4 cold fronts per winter and shock+supply penalties during Spring and Fall rain season. Turned out lot of snow turns are necessary to add a significant snow cover in Winter and then many 'mud' hexes in Spring. These effects added a strong element of seasonality to the game.
[EDIT: added 3/18]
Variable ZOC costs for the Axis. The Axis units pay 20% (for most of 1941) to 10% ( till Fall 42) less MPs when moving across enemy ZOCs. This makes it easier to achieve the multi Army encirclements typical of that stage of the Axis campaign and adds a very realistic feel to the Axis Offensives. I am happy with this feature. It should be used more often!
- Soviet Replacement Rates: As in 'Soviet Union 41' .Soviet infantry replacements are mostly described by unit disbandments. This allowed me to separate the slow decline of infantry replacement that peaked in Summer 41, with the substantial increase in production of tanks, guns and planes, which is still modeled by events. I think this is one of the most important features for any long scenario on the Russian front.
- Variable supply points: Adding a low supply point to Sevastopol made for a realistic siege and Crimea campaign, that lasted several months. This would have worked well for Leningrad or German cities if they had been isolated.
- The map: While necessarily low resolution, adding major rivers + escarpments to describe the Don, Volga, Dniepr and Oka rivers forced the campaigns along realistic lines, making strategic planning on where/when to attack important. The freezing of rivers in Winter also added realism. There will be a few small changes for V1.1, in the Caucasus (making Baku further away and harder to reach) and creating a set of 'distant' airfields for the Soviet to shield some air units from the Luftwaffe.
- Low Recon Levels: Limited recon (at least compared to other scenarios) made for much more realistic/historical play. The Soviet had recon of 5-8% most of the time. the German 10-25%. Recon levels can be lowered when a Strategic option is activated, simulating the hiding of strategic forces movements before large offensives ( Summer 41, Uranus, Bagration). I never knew were the next German Offensive was going to happen and Mark did not really know where my deep reserves were.
- Proficiency: the Summer 1941 campaign depends crucially on modeling the relative quality of the troops and logistics of both sides. Germans started at 70-80 Proficiency, most Soviet units start at 30-50, with heavy losses bringing them often back to 'untried' status. That made for realistic (read horrifying) loss ratios for Soviet attacks onto fortified German lines.
- Supply levels: adding slots for supply squads to Soviet Front HQs allowed to increase (see also Europe 44 and East & West Fronts 42-45 ) the logistic capabilities of the Red Army using a small number of Supply Squads replacements. By Spring 1943 Fronts were finally able to sustain Offensives for 2-3 turns, compared to only 1-2 weeks in 1941. It is a feature I highly recommend to scenario developers.
- Game time managing: It is obviously a matter of personal preference, but at 30-45 mins/turn I liked having the extra time to think over the next move, rather than spending several hours per turn moving hordes of divisions to achieve optimal tactical gains. I do not plan to add many more units in the coming upgrades (one exception will be the Soviet Breakthrough Artillery Corps).
- Maximum Number of Rounds per Battle: I used 4. That seems to work well.
German Force Proficiency: 78 Wish I could decrease it with time. Will change to 77.
Soviet Force Proficiency: 63 It's on the average side, it makes it more likely for fronts to go on reorganization when suffering heavy losses or shock penalties. Will change to 62. (not sure how sensitive these figures are, so incremental changes are best for those global parameters)
Things that need to be improved:
- Modeling attrition of forces. Eastern Front (and most scenarios at this scale) neglects the high rate of losses due to 'attrition', a combination of illness, breakdown of equipment at the frontlines and low intensity combat that is below the 'TOAW horizon' at the scale of this scenario (armies and corps). On the Russian front these losses amounted to 10% of the Total (see 'Colossus Reborn', by D.Glantz). This can be easily implemented by adding a 1% pestilence term for both side for several (10-20) every year. See a thread on Attrition here.
- Entrenchment rates: Eastern Front has an entrenchment level of 45. This means that it takes twice as long to increase entrenchment levels compared to the default value of 100, but this is still too fast for for a scenario of this scale. Historically it would take many months, not weeks to get to 'Fortified status'. I plan to decrease it further, to 30.
- Engineer vs Assault squads: I plan to replace most German engineers at the Korps level with Assault squads. German Pioneers where highly skilled troops armed with flame throwers and explosive satchels. The majority of engineer squads should be attached to the many HQs. This change will increase the offensive capabilities of the German army, and have the nice side effect to slow down the entrenchment speed of German troops vs the Soviet ones. It will also make crossing rivers a bit trickier for the Germans, again as historical.
- The Attrition Divider: I was planning to decrease it a bit from its default of 10. (see a thread here) to increase (confusing I know) the casualty rate for week long turns. But losses were pretty high already so not much to change here. So I plan to stick to AD 10. My thinking is that the AD *scales* as suggested at different scales (basically if I change a scenario turn structure from week long to say half weeks) but the absolute value for a given historical situation should first be found by testing.
- Composition of Russian Armies (TOE & OOBS). Russian Armies arriving in 1942 or later will have a revised/enlarged TOE. The initial version of the scenario adopted a TOE that was representative of what Russian armies fielded in 1941 (4 divisions each + small amount of Support Tank and Arty battalions). In 42 and later each army was fielding 6 divisions and several construction, tank and artillery regiments. In the scenarios this started to become a serious problem in late 1942, when the Soviet would have a large number of infantry and artillery units in the inventory, but not enough slots in the armies to actually field them. The OOB is also a bit too beer and pretzel'.
- German Infantry replacements: As for the Russian infantry, it will be partially be managed by timed unit disbandments, (see also the great 'Soviet Union 41' scenario) by Bob Cross. German Infantry replacements are a bit too high in the current version of 'Eastern Front' as they were still tied to the global replacement rates (which increases with time!). Historically the Werhmacht and its Allies were able to replace about 25k men/week in 41 but only 15k/week in 43 and later. (once the needs of logistic support is factored in, this translates into only ~ 600 TOAW infantry squads/week being replaced in 41, less in later years). This means that the German player will have to watch his infantry losses quite carefully in future updates, a lot closer to the historical situation.
- Soviet Airplanes and tank replacements. They need to be upped (in some cases significantly) to make them close to historical.
- Victory Levels: some adjustments will be required to focus the VP count mostly on territorial gains rather than on unit losses. They never mattered for the Red Army anyway.
There are of course many more of small and not so small changes to further add realism and detail to the scenario, but these will have to wait for V2.0 which will include a complete redesign of the scenario OOB and TOEs and will take some time. However, the above changes should achieve the goal of designing a 'non monster scenario' that a) allows the players to make historically motivated operational choices and b) have fun playing it!
Well, this was along post... but it will help me remember what I need to do before I forget. Hope other designers will find these ramblings useful!