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East Front 41-45: Mark v Fabio Playtest/AAR

 
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East Front 41-45: Mark v Fabio Playtest/AAR - 1/8/2012 1:13:17 AM   
USXpat

 

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Fabio Governato's reworked the original East Front 41-45 scenario to bring it up to TOAW 3.4 standards. This is a quick corps level scenario with about 350 units per side. We're about 10 turns into it and a good time to recap the opening and see how the scenario progresses.

As with all Barbarossa scenarios, the Axis objective is to move fast, strike hard and deep. Doing so and taking important cities is rewarded by a reduction in the Soviet Supply and Replacement Rates. But, as we all know, the Russians can take a pounding, then take a beating, then get totally clobbered - and it's like they've just started to get warmed up. Rail lines and supply are very important to the Axis, too. In this scenario, it is very easy to outdistance the railhead fast - limited rail repair assets force decisions.

A couple quick notes. One is that many units receive substantial late war equipment, and while the supply situation is brutal, being "in the red" is not always a matter of being 33/1 in readiness and supply. I try to not move, much less attack with units in this condition. I also rotate units in and out of the front regularly - when possible. I'm a firm believer in using the right tools for the right job and that haste makes waste... but sometimes, you don't have the luxury of waiting for the infantry or the artillery.

My opening strategy is simply to drive everywhere, as hard and as fast as possible to see where the main lines of resistance would form. Wherever possible, the actual fighting is left to the infantry... with panzers enjoying scenic rides and waving to the defenders and trying to persuade them (sometimes through RBC's) that the front lines are far to the east. Well, that worked for a few turns.

At Turn 10, AGN has made it across the Luga, but supply issues have ground the offensive there to a near stand-still. The situation there isn't worth a screen shot - will keep this 1 per post with the most interesting situation. The terrain there isn't much suited to panzers, so I'm pulling the three korps I have there out to rest and redeploy.

Army Group Center has been sitting next to Smolensk for a few turns, several worn out and facing strong, fresh and fortified Russians with a defense in depth - which I would interpret as a main line of resistance. The AGC offensive renewed just in T10 making a significant impact on the defense north of Smolensk. Sitting on par with historic progress at present.

AGS has seen some fairly dramatic Axis victories with Kyiv falling in July, Odessa in August, followed by Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporzye, and a potentially overextended drive on Stalino by the Romanian Mech Korps. Kharkov and Kursk are also within immediate striking distance. But, as you can see - the units in this area are pretty worn out. The AGS rail line has had three turns of failed RR repair - consequently its reserves are having to move into action with only partially recovered supply levels.

Overall, I'm satisfied with progress to this point - though I would not call it "game winning" - Fabio's made good use of terrain and units to create a series of bottlenecks and to contain my advance as much as possible. The scenario plays smooth enough and the attacks typically yield losses as would be expected. Present losses amount to about 7000 rifle squads, 400 tanks and 200 aircraft - which is not a real strain on the Replacement Pool. That's just a drop in the bucket...

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RE: East Front 41-45: Mark v Fabio Playtest/AAR - 1/8/2012 5:07:38 AM   
governato

 

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The plan with this AAR is that I will chime in often to give the Red Army perspective and add a few designer's tips while Mark (aka USXpat) armies try to get to Moscow. Btw, Mark designed "East & West Front 42-45", so he is a strong player!

The scenario is described here. in a thread on the Scenario Design Forum.


"Eastern Front 41-45" is designed to be fast to play but also to be as realistic as possible. The players should spend their time thinking about their strategic options rather than having to move a ton of ant units around. I really like playing 'War in the East', Matrix's Monster game on the Russian Front, but at 3-4 hours per turn it's quite a commitment. I decided to take an existing TOAW scenario (Russian Front, by Silvanski and Falotti) and update map, OOB and events and incorporate a lot of the new features allowed by TOAW 3.4. While most obvious bugs have likely been ironed out, this AAR is the first time I play it against a human opponent.

So far the game has been fun. Mark has pushed hard with his tank columns and in Ukrainia he is well ahead of schedule. Kiev fell on Turn 4, he crossed the Dniepr in force around turn 5 is now taking over the industrial region around Dnepropetrovks, which will cost me in Replacement rates. He is taking it easier around Leningrad, where I have sent a lot of reinforcements.


During the first turns Red Army player is in a tight spot. Should he try to hold ground and bleed the Axis or retreat in order to the Dniepr - Smolensk - Leningrad line? I am trying the latter, but most of my units and their parent formation start with low proficiency and low supply, so they are not very mobile, when they are not into 'reorganize mode' that is.

A couple of design features are working as planned, at least as seen from my side: To simulate the ability of the Wehrmacht to create 'pockets' of Russian units, the cost for moving out of ZOC for the Axis player is only 0.8 the normal. The opposite is true for the Red Army with a ZOC cost of 1.2 times normal. As a result a few of my armies have been (sadly) surrounded and chewed up quickly by relatively weaker Axis units that were able to move around them.

Also, the Red Army recon is very low during 1941: 5%. So while Mark claims to be planning a strong push towards Moscow he might as well be planning something else....


Here are the losses and current line up for the Red Army


------------------- Rifle Squads --------- Tanks ----------- Airplanes
Losses/Assigned
Turn 8 --------- 28000/74000 -------- 5000/7600 ---------- 2000/3300


Huge? About historical.... (note: to convert from squads to men I multiply by 10 and then by 4 to include men involved in the logistics. Other designers might have different opinions). Also, tanks and planes include all the obsolete models that the Red Army start with. I am OK with cleaning the shelves and make some space for a few shiny T34's.
Note: the map does not show some of the Red Army reserves as we are currently only a few turns ahead of turn 8...




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< Message edited by governato -- 1/27/2012 6:35:02 PM >

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Summer Battles. Russian point of view. T13-16 Sep 1941 - 1/19/2012 11:22:20 PM   
governato

 

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AGC: captured Smolensk and is pressing on to the outskirt of Vyazima. I had a pretty good defense line prepared but it crumbled quickly with most of the units in the Kalinin Front going into reorganization. That lead to several units (equivalent to almost three armies) begin surrounded and destroyed. Werhmacht units move fasts and I have underestimated their capacity to move around my units. My counterattacks using STAVKA reserve units have slowed down a few Panzer spearheads, but the loss ratio is usually 5:1 or worse. Pretty historical so far.

AGN: stopped The Fascists just after the Luga River in front of a line of fortifications hastily put by the Leningrad and Karelian Fronts. I think Mark should have pushed harder here a couple of weeks ago. The door for Leningrad is now shut until he gets his railheads closer.
The Reserve units are proving themselves useful and at this point I have a decent inventory of rifle squads, if not of modern tanks.

[Designer note: the Axis has four RR units. 1 for AGN and AGS respectively, two for AGC. That will simulate the historical rate of advance of the railheads. They can of course be shifted around].


AGS: AGS and the Axis Allies encountered weak resistance from the remnant of a couple of Red Army Fronts. He conquered the Industrial area around Dnepropetrovsk, which will cost the Red Army in replacement rates. The Crimean Front however, managed to turtle up and is solidly entrenched.

-----------------------Losses/Assigned
--------------Infantry Squads ------ Tanks ------ Airframes

Turn 13 ------ 38k/76k -----6k/7k ------ 2400/3300




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Mud Season T17-19 October 1941 - 1/21/2012 8:30:41 PM   
governato

 

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Turns 17-19 Mud Season. Late October 41
The Rains have finally arrived. Not a moment too soon for a hard pressed and tired Red Army. These turns go quickly as neither forces can do attacks as Cease Fire and shock penalties model the break down of communications. This gives the Red Army time to fill in gaps in the front line and dig some basic defense lines. For a scenario of this scale entrenchment rates have been cut by 50% and that seems to give realistic results. The Crimean Peninsula has been isolated and left to fend of by itself. But I have two armies entrenched at the isthmus. It won't be easy for the Axis to break through unless some heavy artillery is brought in. Sevastopol is a supply point, but only at 50% or so, so the railway does not carry much supplies to the front lines anyway...hard to start an offensive from down there, but easy to turtle up in the city if the isthmus defenses. Mark lets me look at his inventory, which looks pretty good. Werhmacht losses have been small so far, has he has not tank many risks: 600 tanks lost, 10k rifle squads. That bodes well for his final push East (for 1941 at least).




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RE: Mud Season T17-19 October 1941 - 1/21/2012 9:05:05 PM   
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Patience is a virtue, so they say; but its persistence that pays. From T11 to T20, it's been pretty quiet for Army Groups North and South.

The only actions with AGS involved significant efforts to break into the Crimea, all of which failed. One could practically see the proficiency of the units guarding the gates increase in proficiency with each attack. I gave up after six turns of fighting - mud season offering the defenders a break.

Most of the action has focused on Army Group Center - aiming to reach Vyazma-Rhzev, 1 hex sometimes 2, per turn. Losses have been light as I've taken care to rotate the fighting to units typically having good supply and readiness. The screenshot here shows the situation in this area.

Advances near Demyansk - to the north of Rhzev produced some interesting information - three unguarded hexes... And up to this point, everything was going very well - not game winning, but light losses, roughly historical gains, plus or minus a bit...




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RE: Mud Season T17-19 October 1941 - 1/21/2012 9:19:07 PM   
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And... this is where the Axis stood two turns later - moving up the 3 panzer korps SE of Demyansk to... add further pressure on Moscow? No!

Seeing the back door to Leningrad practically unguarded, a push was made toward Tikhvin, hoping at the very least to bust the last rail line into Leningrad before reinforcements and the deep winter could arrive. And besides, three fresh panzer korps!!!

I knew there were plenty of reserves defending Moscow, but a situation like this is just too good to be true... too good to not make a gamble, besides... my losses to this point were light. heh...








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RE: Mud Season T17-19 October 1941 - 1/23/2012 6:07:22 PM   
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And things were going pretty good up through Turn 24. But - easy to see how fast a fresh panzer korps can be reduced when overextended from its supply source. Coupled with the lack of a continuous line of units and at a juncture where Soviet supply is at its highest - and one can easily guess what would be happening very shortly...




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RE: Mud Season T17-19 October 1941 - 1/23/2012 6:26:37 PM   
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And here, on Turn 25 - we see the impact of the harsh winter blizzard sending the panzer korps into reorganization. To make a short story very short - the relief effort came very, very close to succeeding (1 MP) but failed. Losses due to the failed Leningrad offensive - 3 Panzer and 1 Infantry Korps. Two more panzer korps and 1 Infantry Korps were lost at Rhzev.

Very serious losses at this stage of the game - mitigated only by very light losses elsewhere. One of the destroyed panzer korps along with one of the infantry korps were able to reconstitute. An expensive lesson to be sure.

It's not catastrophic as in the long-haul, it means the remaining panzer and panzergrenadier korps will be receiving proportionately more replacements per turn. Most of my play is at the regiment/division level - where you can say, "Ah, it's just a division" - but here, korps level losses do bite deeper.

A good defensive operation on Fabio's part sealed the deal - he contained the threats to both Leningrad and Moscow... for now...




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The Bear Strikes back. Blizzard and Russian Counteratta... - 1/23/2012 9:32:06 PM   
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Turn 24 marks the peak of the Werhmacht offensive. Two Panzer Gruppen are just two hexes away from Moscow after routing some infatry units, while another one breaks through two weak Mech Corps and head NE, with the goal of encircling Leningrad. Did STAVKA failed to save the Motherland from the Teutonic menace? Is it the end for The Soviet Union?

It's time to spring the trap.


The Red Army counterattacks with 5 fresh armies, several Infantry Corps and a few mech units (still of low quality though, with a lot of old tanks) with the goal of cutting of the Panzer spearheads as the German infantry was not able to follow and adequately protect the 'shoulders' of the tanks advance. The Valdai Hills is an ideal region for this as no road from the West goes into this heavily forested area and even units starting well rested will ran out of ammos and fuel after one or two turns (see the supply reates in the area shown in Marks' latest post). STAVKA was hoping that leaving a weak sector of the front would tempt the Werhmacht to split its Panzer forces and overextend them towards a far away objective. The image show the front just before the Red Army attacks (from the Russian perspective of course). Notice how the Leningrad-Moscow railway allows the Red Army to bring supply and forces exactly where they are needed.

The images posted by Mark in the last post showed how the Red Army was able to isolate the Panzers and lower their supply level. When blizzard started the following turn it carried severe penalties for the Axis (1% pestilence effects. negative shock and supply penalties, weak Luftwaffe) and the trap closed shut.






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25 Dec 1941, 6am. 20 miles East from the Kremlin - 1/23/2012 9:35:02 PM   
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This the frontline around Moscow at the same time. Just before the Red Army offensive. Note how both sides of the pincer
are on roads to make sure they get enough supply.




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T28 - The Aftermath. Dec-Jan 1941 - 1/27/2012 2:09:07 AM   
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The screenshot shows the area around Moscow. The front has stabilized and the Werhmacht has been able to dug in and form a continous front. However, the Red Army was able to surround and destroy a few Panzer Korps that had ventured too far and A couple of Infantry Korps went down with them. Mark tells me that Axis tank losses over the whole campaign now approach 3000. The Leningrad-Moscow rail has been reopened and will be functional again in a few weeks. [The Soviet repairs a couple of hexes/turn, the first proper Rail repair Unit arrives in Spring 42]. At the end of December the front-line for Army Group center has been pushed back 70 miles. The Kremlin is safe. For now…






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RE: T28 - The Aftermath. Dec-Jan 1941 - 1/27/2012 2:32:17 PM   
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The Kharkov Campaign... or The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Battles of Kharkov.

Following the terrible losses at Tikhvin and Rhzev, the entire front shifted over to the defense. Well, technically, most of the entire front was already on excellent defensive footing. Rail lines had reach the front lines. Everything was in good order, the troops were happily sitting out the cold winter with hot chocolate, verenikye, shashlik, borscht and pampushki. Most units were sitting at 80-90% strength or better of available equipment... but tank losses from the failed offensive had jumped from 1,000 to over 3,000. Ultimately though, two of the five lost panzer korps would reconstitute.

The rest of the winter focused squarely upon Kharkov. Repeated attacks over numerous turns failed to dislodge all of its defenders. An army would be routed, a mech corps forced to retreat, so on and so on and so on. Victory came close time and time again, but always, some commander of an AA brigade or a local militia would manage to hold the line.

Brutalized at Tikhvin, stiff-armed at the gateway to the Crimea, kicked out of Rhzev and repeatedly thwarted at Kharkov... Korps commanders were given the order to conduct a very thorough review of their troops and to isolate the root cause of their shortcomings.

And a very thorough review it was...




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RE: T28 - The Aftermath. Dec-Jan 1941 - 1/27/2012 3:24:43 PM   
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Pampushki.

Per Directive 36, the Special Investigations Committee under the Inspector General of OKW, has concluded its fact finding mission for the repeated failures of the Heeresgruppen on the Eastern Front. Our findings conclude this is the direct result of the troops consumption of too much Pampushki. It is also believed that portions of locally procured consumables were tampered with by partisans. Henceforth, all troops will be served Mamalega and Yeitsa from Moldova, known as Grits and Eggs in the US Army, supplemented by a healthy portion of SOS, Hashbrowns and Belgian Waffles. We will continue to monitor the nutritional needs of our troops and recommend additional dietary adjustments as needed.

Fast forward...through the mud season.

Turn 45 - The Planning of Operation Frederikus, Frederickus, Frederick, Frederik, and Fred.

The Fuhrer had forgotten how to spell it - leading to several, mostly identical battle plans with similar names but different start dates, 5/6/42 and 6/5/42, being distributed to participating unit commanders.

The attachment shows the three assembly areas, whereupon Army Group South would be divided into Groups M, N, and O. O would be further subdivided into O and 0 - not that any particular heed would be given to their actual objectives.

Objectives remain classified...





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Turns 29-44. Mud Season before Frederikus. - 1/27/2012 6:00:04 PM   
governato

 

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Here is an image of the frontlines (seen from the Red Army side) in early April. Ivan has been eating tasty borsch in his foxhole for the past few weeks, with the exception of units of the 1st Bielorussian armies which were used to test AGC defenses, unfortunately with only small gains to claim for a loss ratio of 5-8:1. A few units have gained significant experience(from the mid 40ies up to 60) and will now form the backbone of the Red Army. I have about 50 Armies at the front, plus a numbe rof Mech Corps that were able to survive the brutal Summer, but are still loaded with a lot of small tanks (T-60) and a few KV-Is (I love those).

Mark has been flexing his muscle with the airwar and bombed a lot of my forward airfields, causing significant (if replacable) losses. He has also been hammering at Karkhov for the past few weeks (hoping I'd send my strategic reserves?) and recon is spotting an increased railway traffic towards AGS. My lines are fragile there, but I decided to prioritize the defense of Moscow and the large depots of pyrogy and pelmeni I have stashed there (this seems to be a food oriented AAR..). I decide to avoid a Spring offensive ala Karkhov, but I have sent my new Tank Army (attached to Steppe Front) to the frontline to lose its 'untried' status.

The next few weeks will be an interesting test for the quality of the scenario: The Whermacht must be in a condition to regain the strategic initiative on a good part of the front even after the blizzard. What it will achieve...will see! A lot of it will depend on the amount of surprise Mark can get for the first crucial turns. A recon of 8% in ealry 42 is realistic for the Red Army, which is far from having any kind of Air Superiority. That means I can barely see anything behind the frontline, but some railway movements and those can be telling (from the previous post you can see that his armor has been positioned on both sides of Karkhov, they do not show this map though because they have not been detected). I have a few armies as a deep reserve and used the Reserve armies to dig a defense line along the Don. I have a feeling that they will come up useful as soon as the mud dries and the shock penalties that come with it go away. But will Mark head for Moscow or the Caucasus?






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May 1942 Turns 44-48 Encirclements at Kharkov - 1/30/2012 7:28:50 AM   
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As the mud dries the Whermacht attacks. Two pincer movements once centered around Karkhov just south of the 1 Ukrainian Front and one in the South West Front sector. The objective seems to be isolate as many units as possible along the frontlines. I think the Whermacht has learned a couple of tricks since Winter and the Panzer movements are impeccable while I make the mistake to underestimate its speed in open terrain. Several units including two Armies and a few Corps are isolated. My bad... And then... I make the bigger mistake to throw good money after bad and try to reopen the pocket and that costs me a Shock Army. It will reconstitute but I also lose my favorite old Tank Corp that had survived since the Kiev battles....A total of three armies and a few Corps (including two Paratroops Corps) lost. The Red Army starts retreating to a fortified line behind the Don and make a stand at Rostov (which has a supply point) and Kursk. Both will most likely fall soon. More digging ensues. The morale of this: the Red Army is still pretty vulnerable and it should not get too overambitious in Spring 42. I should have withdrawn as fast as possible. Parallels with the failed historical Red Army offensive in May 1942 come too easy.

Uncle Joe wont' be happy when he gets the news.





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RE: May 1942 Turns 44-48 Encirclements at Kharkov - 1/30/2012 6:14:19 PM   
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T46. Stalino

It was my intention to hold off one turn for the arrival of two more panzer korps, and to have two more arriving behind them. However, two tests of the enemy lines resulted in two RBC's, one of which indicated a possible empty backfield (similar to what was seen at Tikhvin...). As the first round of combat fared better than expected, I decided to go ahead and commit - but expecting the offensive to take a few turns before getting a payoff.




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RE: May 1942 Turns 44-48 Encirclements at Kharkov - 1/30/2012 6:22:16 PM   
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T46. Kharkov

This shows the northern portion of the offensive at the end of the T46. I expected it to take a few turns before seeing any empty hexes - and initially thought this could be a trap. However, this wasn't December and while I didn't have all panzer korps in their staging areas, I was pretty confident those present would be able to prevent any catastrophes like Tikhvin.




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RE: May 1942 Turns 44-48 Encirclements at Kharkov - 1/30/2012 6:51:15 PM   
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T47. Army Group South

This attachment shows the majority, but not the full scope, of the offensive. Namely, 4 korps have advanced to positions parallel (and east of) Kursk. One aim of this offensive is to get the various nationalities properly grouped together in consideration of cooperation penalties - and also help observe the honor rule of not stacking different nationalities with one another, except as applies to German units.

Two airborne units were deployed to help prevent reinforcements arriving immediately at the front, 1 in T46 and 1 in T47 - and hoping for a very hasty link-up.

The primary objective of this stage of this operation is to eliminate all resistance South of Orel, West of the Don River. Depending upon how long this would take and at what cost would significantly determine which follow-on objectives to pursue next.

With just two turns into the offensive and the Soviet defenses already clearly threatened, two additional panzer korps were rotated in to help continue the offensive and to relieve the two that were already low on S&R. Very easy to go from full green to deep red in just two turns - and that with mild-moderate casualties.

A note on breakthroughs and exploitation - the ZOC cost should probably be increased somewhat. It's possible to get a good mobile unit through 2x ZOC's and up to 3, possibly even 4 hexes beyond the main line - weather and terrain permitting.




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RE: May 1942 Turns 44-48 Encirclements at Kharkov - 1/31/2012 12:01:16 AM   
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T49. Army Group South

This offensive went far better than expected. By T49, SS units were leading an advance en force toward the Don. After the 9th Battle of Kharkov, a lone and troubled fighter unit was still occupying the city. Despite its disorganization, the pilots managed to come to their senses and fly away - though there was some consternation, that they too, could hold the city for another month. Thankfully, they weren't flying SB-2's.

The remnants of a local militia compensated by holding onto Stakhanov even after their regular army counterparts had surrendered. Hoping not to have to contend with it again, an assault by six korps (although on minimize losses) was repulsed.

Reinforcements were coming up from the Caucasus, requiring two panzer korps to take up defensive positions on the outskirts of Rostov - one city I was not going to have panzers taking on alone (or at all) without significant infantry.

Finally, on the northern flank of the offensive, progress also continues, albeit at a slower clip. The defense of Kursk is gradually getting reduced. Concurrently, I'm having to regularly rotate units in and out of the front lines - in some cases to combat losses, but mostly for supply and readiness. Fortunately, this time around, the rail lines are close at hand, and continuing to gauge forward.

Governato's defense, in my estimation, has taken the way of prudence realizing the situation for what it was and deciding to accept certain losses and reform closer to his supply lines and better terrain. Not being guaranteed a chance of digging in - as a consequence of reduced entrenchment rates, really forces considerable thought on whether to attack or dig in. In many scenarios, you get the best of both worlds - especially if you can consistently get more than 1 round of combat. Here, you can still get to "(D)efend" after attacking, but it's not guaranteed.

At this point, my initial objectives are more or less complete - excepting Kursk and Stalino. The situation is a close remake of Case Blue... So, my next moves are probably not too difficult to guess.

There's only one rail line into the Caucasus in this scenario.




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Race to the Caucasus May-July 1942. Turns 50-54 - 2/5/2012 1:51:01 AM   
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After taking Rostov the SS motorized units advance unopposed South-East all along the Don to the gates of Stalingrad. But the timely arrival of the Summer Soviet reserves allows me to prepare a hasty defense of the city and of the East bank. Mark does not press is motorized forces and does not attempt to storm the city or gain a bridgehead across the Volga. I think he could have done it. Perhaps the major success of the Soviet Winter offensive was to make the Panzer spearheads a little more cautions. Still the speed of his advance is impressive and Army Groups A and B and a whole Panzer Group head south towards the Caucasus and the Maykop oilfields [that is a -4% supply penalty for the Red Army]. My forces there are scarce. On the upside the first Tank Armies take position as mobile reserves. They are roughly the strength of a good Panzer division, but start at a low proficiency so it will take them a few months before they will be able to really push their weight around. Still it is good to have some units with good mobility to use as a fire brigade. I dig around Orel and Vorhonezh, but I suspect that when Mark is done South he will try another offensive aimed at splitting the Red Army in two.




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RE: May 1942 Turns 44-48 Encirclements at Kharkov - 2/5/2012 2:08:43 AM   
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June 7: Baku or Bust!

As the screenshot shows, a concentration of SS forces have advanced to the Don. Trying to get all SS units together as then they have Full vs. Limited Cooperation. Being some of the best units at my disposal, their mere presence should be a direct and imminent threat to Stalingrad.

River crossings are made east of Rostov, encircling the city. Italian, Slovakian and Luftwaffe ground troops - supported by regular German infantry and an SS Division are swinging down and advancing toward Stalingrad south of the Don.

No attack is made into Stalingrad. Their only objectives are to keep that rail line broken and to impede Russian units from being able to access the Caucasus.

The freshest available panzer and panzergrenadier divisions, along with two German Mountain korps, some regular infantry, assault and rail engineers will be the main force to drive on the Caucasus.




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RE: May 1942 Turns 44-48 Encirclements at Kharkov - 2/5/2012 2:44:43 AM   
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T55 - Baku or Bust.

Rostov fell the third week of June and rail engineers started in earnest trying to play catch up with Army Detachments M, N, O and 0. The drive into the Kuban region and northernmost Caucasus met with moderate resistance, first at Maikop and then a running battle toward Grozny.

Group M as shown here just exhausted itself (less than 10% supply), so they are on the process of rotating into R&R south of Armavir and link up with the RR engineers so they can redeploy back to AGC. Group N is the follow-on wave, with the semi-rested panzer divisions picking up where Group M left off.

Group O... heh - is on a site seeing tour... to Baku, mostly to make sure hordes of screaming Soviets don't come pouring out of the mountains.

Group 0's only job is hex conversion, unless they meet up with any enemy's in the course of this role. Once finished, they'll go back and hang with the Italians.

And then there's a Slovakian unit advancing on Grozny. They weren't given orders to do this, I think this is the unit that ran into an MG battalion and kept it following through multiple RBC's.

Meanwhile... aside from the Crimea (and Baku), I only had one other secondary objective. This was to reduce the frontage for Army Group Center near Orel, and so that it would have some extra road, rail and a defensive line behind a river.

Here, the Fuhrer went bonkers! The first wave of attacks against this heavily fortified line was repulsed with little if any gain. This offensive was called off, only to be turned on again, and bloodily repulsed again - this time with a two hex gain. The attack was called off again.

At this point, the Fuhrer read the Scenario Instructions after seeing a unit showing up in the upcoming Reinforcement/Withdrawal Report called, "Summer 42 Offensive" or the like. Hmmm... I wonder what that could be? Oh! That's my Theater Option! (and I should know better because that's how I do mine.) But, I was sort of feeling as if the whole time, except during the winter, the Axis had some small shock benefit.

This left me with a window of 1 turn to use it, before it would be withdrawn... but at this point, most of my units in AGC were still recovering from the on/off series of attacks against an increasingly reinforced Front. However, most of my forces were at close to full strength and I always have at least one group of semi-rested mobile forces in reserve.

Breaking the Orel Line? Fat chance there, good Soviet units, fortified, with plenty of artillery support...




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August 1942 Turns 55-59 The Calm before the Storm. - 2/9/2012 10:02:18 PM   
governato

 

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Baku is under siege and it will fall soon. The rest of the Front has been quiet for the last few turns, but Mark has activated the Axis Summer Offensive, which will enable him to regain the initiative for a few crucial turns before the arrival of mud season. That TO has several effects: 1) The Red Army recon drops to 0. I can only see units at the front and I am left guessing about his railway movements 2) The Axis will get a 120% shock bonus for 4 turns. That is BIG. I am preparing a defense in depth and placed the strategic reserve (several armies) on the main railway lines to react quickly to any breakthrough. Sevastopol is isolated, but it should be able to resist for a while, hopefully tying a good number of Axis units.

Now that we are well past the first year of the Eastern Front Campaign here are a few things that I have learned playing the scenario.

For the Axis player: the best option is to be where your enemy is not. Your units are fast but cannot take many losses, especially in infantry. So head on battles are tempting, but they will cost you. It's a though balance between pushing through 'Ignore Losses' to gain a strategic objective ((Leningrad in 41 and Stalingrad in 42 were really close and I think Mark could have grabbed them, but who knows!) and over reaching. Sometimes it's a matter of attacking just one or two turns too many. A good example was Winter 41, when the Blizzard caught the Panzer spearheads exposed.

For the Red Army: guessing where the next blow is going to be and prepare accordingly is vital. The frontline will be breached no matter how fortified. It's not a matter of if, just where and when a breakthrough will happen. Trade space for time. Trying to save pocketed units is often just throwing good money after bad as the Axis units are very mobile (and have a ZOC bonus till Summer 42). It's painful, but sometimes it's better to dig them and have them fight to the last men while the other units reform a resemblance of a front. When the chips are down it's worth it to make a stand, dig, in, set units to 'Ignore Losses' and hope that the Axis units bleed themselves out. Remember you have almost unlimited Rifle Squads,at least until 1943. Red Army Air units suck till late 42, and the best way to use them is trying to achieve local superiority and then protect them in the rear. The first generation Formations/units (light red background) are useful to keep around until late 1942 at least, when the unit density is still not that high, and having as many boots on the ground as possible is crucial. Try to bring them up to a decent proficiency and save their HQs at all costs. Remember that their supply efficiency is low, so they tire quickly. They are good defensive units, especially if stacked with an AT or AA units (which are on Free Support). Otherwise try no to mix units with different counter backgrounds to avoid stacking penalties. This is by design as the Red Army improves its logistics and switches to stronger Formations with a dark red background.

For both:
- Always keep strategic reserves. I mean an entire Army/Front if possible, several hexes away from the front and on a railine. This is a fluid game that goes from weeks where nothing happens to intense periods where the front moves by hundred of miles. In this scenario Recon level are kept (realistically I think) very low so it's hard to predict where the focal points are going to be (well the Axis has it easier in 41 while he has air superiority, but it does not last forever).
- Counterattacks are vital. An overextended force that is not entrenched is weak.
- Rotate your units and keep your forces rested.

Overall I am happy about how the scenario is playing.






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RE: August 1942 Turns 55-59 The Calm before the Storm. - 2/10/2012 3:09:34 PM   
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T60 - Stalingrad. To Be or Not To Be?

After cutting off the single rail line leading to the Caucasus, the mixed assembly of Axis forces proceeded up to the lower Don. Their only job in this operation was to prevent Soviet troops from reinforcing the Caucasus.

With the remnants of the Soviet navy finished off at Rostov, the Romanian Black Sea Fleet set up a naval blockade of Poti. This shut off reinforcements to Baku by way of evacuating forces from Sevastopol.

As of T60, Axis forces had advanced directly to the outskirts of Baku. It would fall in short order. Sevastapol was also a matter of time - isolated without hope of reinforcements, the main thing needed there was more artillery and more infantry. And while the infantry was available, the artillery was not - so it could wait. Attacks would still be made just to keep the defender's supplies depleted.

The next posts will take a look at the Orel-Voronezh Operations...

But why... why not Stalingrad?

If the map extended a bit further to the east and allowed a second rail line to the Caucasus (via Astrakahn) then perhaps Stalingrad would be more important - or technically, cutting off that second rail line would be very important. With Baku - Axis meets overwhelming victory standards, and Sevastopol will buffer that a bit further.

Stalingrad is worth a full 40 VP and is itself a replacement city making it a prime target. Could it be taken? I really don't know - I don't know what the Soviet OOB is, and while I can see what is on the front lines; Governato has units in tactical reserve everywhere (that I can't see) and the ability to rapidly rail substantial reinforcements anywhere.

Just holding the opposite bank of the Don River is ownership of some of the best defensive property available. Attacking into Stalingrad, from across the Don, whether it could be done or not, presents the flip side of the equation.

This, however, is a test of the scenario, to see what needs to be fixed. One concern was whether the Axis were strong enough to achieve historical results in 1941 and be able to execute a major offensive in 1942. That much has been tested true. And it could be that the Axis are too strong...

So, now we need to test whether the Soviets are capable of recovering and pushing the Axis back. here though, the Soviets will be facing an Axis defense that is significantly stronger and in better positions than was historically the case.






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Before the Leaves Fall. Orel sector Turn 65. - 2/20/2012 2:50:05 AM   
governato

 

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USXPat late Summer Offensive strikes in the sector of the Steppe Front around turn 63. Helped my the 120% Shock Bonus option he makes substantial gains in the first couple of turns, although only minor units are encircled. He is aiming towards Moscow or trying to encircle the 1st Ukrainian Front. The Werhmacht is showing some really good tactical skills and the spearheads are much better supported than during the ill fated strike at Moscow. I quickly move most reserves to the area of the breakthrough, but I will likely have to throw the kitchen sink at him to plug the gap.




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RE: Before the Leaves Fall. Orel sector Turn 65. - 2/22/2012 10:01:22 PM   
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T.80 - The Oreo Cookie Offensive - Orel.

Fast forwarding a bit to Turn 80. The Slovakians, Italians, Luftewaffe ground units remain in their positions S/SW of Stalingrad. Mostly the entire contingent of SS forces stand off across the Don to Stalingrad's west - occasionally fishing on the river for some fresh, local osaletetz... where the spelling may be wrong, but is basically salty fish by any other name.

Army Group South is otherwise quiet. Army Group North has taken up yoga practice.

Alas, Army Group Center's leadership became fixated upon reducing the frontage between Orel and Vyazma. This has been an ongoing series of on/off-on/off-and on again offensives. The occasional punctures of the increasingly rugged Soviet lines are met with brutal counterattacks, time and time again.

Governato's maintained a stand and die stance - refusing to budge despite a possible 5-6 hex encirclement. At this stage, that's exactly what he needs to do - as anything less than a fortified position backed by his artillery and mobile reserves does have a good chance of being ejected from its position.

Instead of "reducing total frontage" - I managed to expand it...




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January 13th 1943. Turn 82. Russian Counterattacks. - 2/29/2012 10:20:55 PM   
governato

 

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I picked Winter of 1942 to stage the first major offensive for the Red Army. The Axis is in a stronger position than historically and well dug in allong the whole frontline. Still I have just got a new Front with several fresh Armies and it is a good opportunity to test them and have new Tank Armies get some experience fighting the Panzers. One thing is slowly working in the Red Army favor: Supply efficiency for each Front starts at 30%, but will grow up to 60% (of the global rate for the Soviet side) over several months, due to a slow trickle of Support Squads to the Fronts HQs. [designer's note: this is one of the most efficient way to boost the Red Army over time].


The map shows the situation before the beginning of major operations. It will involve the 2nd Ukrainian Front and several Shock Armies striking North-west of Vorhonez and Stavka reserves hitting 4th Panzer Army East of Orel. I will try to severe the Axis salient pointing to Moscow, but I would settle for inflicting severe losses to the Whermacht.

Current Assigned/Losses for the Red Army

Infantry squads 125k/190k
Tanks 10k/13k
Airplanes 4.5k/10k

The assigned squads are on the low side (it will be addressed in the Scenario update, which will have closer to historical replacement rates). I would be curious to know what the Assigned and Losses figures are at a similar stage for other Russian Front scenarios!
An infantry squad is ~ 10 men, but total losses including the support troops would be several times higher. I have been considering increasing the 'Attrition Divider' for the Scenario as it is supposed to scale with the turn length, with an AD of 10 being the default, and 2 the suggested value for week long ones. Losses are already pretty high for the Red Army. I am using the default value of 10, At about 200.000 squads loss I would not recommend lowering AD to 2 as in the excellent 'Soviet Union 41' as that would multiply losses by 5! I will likely settle for something around [edit AD=6-7, i.e 50-70% more losses] My suspicion is that the best AD may also depend on the scenario hex scale. Nothing like testing vs a Human opponent to figure things out.




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Turn 92. Mid March 1943. The Last Offensive - I - 3/12/2012 6:27:19 PM   
governato

 

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The past few turns have seen a bloody series of attacks and counterattacks around what it has become known as the 'Orel salient'. Soviet losses in infantry and tanks have skyrocketed and German Tank losses have been high. Kursk style he Germans have not been able to break the Soviet line and deliver a final blow to the Red Army and conquer Moscow. However, the Red Army is still on the defensive, with no strength to regain the initiative even if the Werhmacht has been on the offensive for most of the past six months and with minimal gains. With the Soviet and German armies stopped along somewhat historical lines, Mark and I both agreed that after 90 turns the scenario was starting to deviate from what should be the historical reality and that it was a good time to wrap things up and for me to go back to the design board to work on an updated version of the scenario. Last but not least..did I mention that it was a ton of fun? Nothing like testing with a skilled human opponent who knows the game well. Plus we managed to get to Spring 43 in *just* two months of play ;-).

The first image is the front at Turn 92 (March 43) showing units form both sides (shaded units were invisible to the other side). The one in the next post summarizes infantry losses. A rough conversion from infantry squads to total losses is: squads x 10 x 3-4 for the Germans and squads x 10 x 2.5-3 for the Russians (based on Glantz's books) They [EDIT 3/18] fairly historical for both sides at this stage of the war. The Red Army vs German+Allies squads ratio is about 1.45, (2.4 if 'on hand' squads are included) which is lower than it should be. This is partially do to the intense 'trench warfare of the last turns. The Red Army is low on tanks, planes and artillery.]

The next post will be dedicated to a short discussion of what needs to be improved in 'Eastern Front' and on what features I plan to implement first in a '1.1' version (to be finished by late March) and possibly a v2.0 version of the scenario, to happen on a longer timescale.







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Eastern Front 41-45. Design Features. Things that worke... - 3/12/2012 7:12:12 PM   
governato

 

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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!



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