SPI, WAR IN THE EAST, 2nd ED. (1976)

WAR IN THE EAST, 2nd Edition (II) is an operational level simulation, based on the KURSK Game System, of World War II on the Eastern Front. WAR IN THE EAST II was published as an updated replacement for SPI’s original, 1974 version of the same title. Besides incorporating a number of new design concepts and game features, this second edition is also the East Front companion game to WAR IN THE WEST and, when combined with its West Front counterpart, forms WAR IN EUROPE. This second edition game version was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1976.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The greatest military campaign ever embarked upon began at 0300 hours on 22 June 1941 with a massive German offensive — codenamed Operation "Barbarossa" — along the entire length of the western Soviet frontier from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The Russo-German War, 1941-45, would ultimately rage — on a scale never seen before or since — from above the Arctic Circle in the North, to the Caucasus Mountains in the South. It would also turn out to be the largest, most destructive and most brutal military campaign in modern European history.

The stakes for both sides in this struggle could not have been higher: control of the vast natural and agricultural resources of the Soviet Union. An Axis victory would have destroyed the Soviet State and plunged the Russian people into conditions of indescribable misery. A German victory would also have established Nazi hegemony over virtually all of mainland Europe, and vastly prolonged, if not changed the course of the Second World War. It should be noted that, in the years since the end of World War II, many observers have commented that the Russo-German War essentially pitted one murderous scoundrel, Hitler, against another, Stalin. Be that as it may, history also shows that however desperate the condition of the Russian people was under Stalin, it would have become immeasurably worse under a racist, exploitative, and murderous German occupation.

DESCRIPTION

WAR IN THE EAST II is a historical simulation, at the brigade/division/corps level, of the Russo-German War, 1941-45. This War began with a stunningly successful series of Luftwaffe air attacks against virtually all of the Soviet air forces and their bases in the west. These surprise Axis bombing raids were followed, almost immediately, by a massive attack by 4,500,000 German and allied troops against a Russian force of nearly 3,500,000. Mistrustful of Hitler's intentions in the east, Stalin had ordered these powerful Russian armies to the west in order to shield the Soviet Union's long and vulnerable frontier with the bordering territories of Hitler's Third Reich and its Axis Satellites. When the Germans struck, the Russian forces were woefully unprepared. For this reason, the Soviet frontier armies that received the brunt of the initial German assaults would, for the most part, be smashed within a few weeks of the invasion; and, tragically, few of the Russian soldiers who faced the initial Axis onslaught would survive to see the end of the war, almost four years hence. Players can refight part or all of this titanic conflict by refighting one of the comparatively short (one campaign season) scenarios or by slugging it out to the bitter end in the much-longer Campaign Game. Despite the game's size, most combat units are divisions (for the Axis) and corps (for the Soviets). This design approach makes for a very interesting and richly-detailed simulation; and, although WAR IN THE EAST, 2nd Ed. is operational in scale, it is actually strategic in scope and concept.

WAR IN THE EAST II is played in weekly game turns; and for those familiar with the KURSK family of games, the turn sequence is both familiar and easy to execute. A typical game turn in WAR IN THE EAST II begins with a Joint Tactical Air War turn prior to the game turn proper. Once this 'Joint Air War' segment is completed, each player turn then proceeds to the following phases: the Reinforcement/Replacement phase; Initial Movement phase; Rail Movement phase; Sea Movement phase; Air Movement phase; Combat phase; Mechanized Movement phase; and Air Interdiction phase. At the end of every fourth game turn, both players execute the operations called for in the strategic cycle. These are: the Axis Reinforcement phase; and the Soviet Production phase. Although this outline of the turn sequence may suggest that play is cumbersome and slow, the typical game turn actually moves logically and relatively quickly. As an added plus, the game tracks make all of these operations easier, and a minimum of bookkeeping is required to keep track of production and other game routines during play.

WAR IN THE EAST II offers four standard scenarios: the Barbarossa Scenario; the Stalingrad Scenario; the Kursk Scenario; and the Destruction of Army Group Center Scenario. In addition, players may opt to begin the Campaign Game at any of these historical junctures, as campaign deployment information is furnished for each.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION

When SPI published the original WAR IN THE EAST in 1974, it represented a real leap forward in game design. First, it was big — really BIG! More importantly, however, it took the popular and well-tested KURSK Game System and added a number of exciting new game concepts. WAR IN THE EAST introduced numerous innovations — many of which we now take for granted — such as (modern) infantry forced marching, conversion of infantry units to static fortification units, specialized Soviet anti-tank gun units, ranged Soviet artillery, and most importantly: player programmed Soviet Production of combat units. For the first time — thanks to the new Russian Production rules — the Soviet commander could decide on precisely which types of forces he wanted, and then go ahead and actually produce them. Of course, because of this revolutionary new design concept, the Soviet player suddenly had not only to execute his regular move, he also had to choose the exact mix of air units, artillery, anti-tank guns, railroad repair units, infantry, cavalry, mechanized, and tank units that he wanted in order to prosecute his overall war aims. The introduction of specific Soviet Population Centers, Arms Centers, and Training Centers also added an important element to the strategic focus of the game. Now, for instance, there were logical reasons for the Wehrmacht to drive on Moscow, or to attempt to capture Leningrad or Stalingrad, beyond the usual German need to eliminate an abstract and arbitrary source of Soviet replacements, or the lame requirement that: “the rules say you have to in order to win.”

WAR IN THE EAST II takes an already excellent game design and improves on it in subtle, but important ways. The units are better differentiated, more colorful, and more varied in type (one example: the better-equipped Waffen SS units are now stronger and colored black). The maps have been completely redone: they are now colored, inaccuracies have been corrected, and additional types of terrain have been included. In addition, the rules governing logistics, particularly for the Germans, have been greatly improved. Baltic ports, once captured, can now be used (once converted) as independent supply sources; and because of the introduction of mobile “supply heads,” advancing German forces now have much more flexibility with their supply lines than in the old version. And finally, the Soviet Production process has been streamlined and made much simpler by the elimination of individual Production Tracks, and their replacement by a single Soviet Production Spiral.

WAR IN THE EAST, 2nd Edition is a great game in its own right; but beyond that, it is also one-half of the biggest, most detailed monster game published prior to the expansion of the Europa series by GDW. Thirty-two years after it first appeared, WAR IN THE EAST II is still a monster by contemporary standards. But, despite the passage of three decades, it really isn’t outdated. In my opinion, it still remains both a terrific game, and a fascinating challenge to play.
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Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 week per game turn
  • Map Scale: 33 kilometers per hex
  • Unit Size: kampfgrüppen/battle groups/brigades/divisions/corps
  • Unit Types: infantry/rifle/security/static (fort)/mountain, cavalry, airborne, panzer grenadier/mechanized infantry, panzer/tank, artillery, anti-tank guns, mobile supply, railroad repair, air/air transport, replacement (infantry and armor), partisan (Russian and Finnish), and information markers
  • Number of Players: two or more (teams highly recommended)
  • Complexity: above average/high
  • Solitaire Suitability: average (if pushing around 2,000+ unit counters doesn’t bother you)
  • Average Playing Time: 6+ hours (assuming experienced teams and depending on the scenario; for the Barbarossa Campaign Game: with hundreds of game turns, think in terms of months, not hours)

Game Components:

  • Three 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (WAR IN EUROPE Maps: F, G & H, with Terrain Key incorporated)
  • 2400 ½” back-printed cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” WAR IN EUROPE Standard Rules Booklet (with Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
  • One 8½” x 11” WAR IN THE EAST (2nd Edition) Exclusive Rules Booklet (with scenario instructions)
  • Two identical back-printed 11½” x 14” Combined Game Charts and Tables (with Land Combat Results Table, Land Combat Locator Table, Air Superiority Combat Results Table, Sea Superiority Table, and Sequence of Play Chart included)
  • One 10½” x 19” Axis Game-Turn Cycle Record Chart (with standard scenarios Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, and East Front Tactical Air Points Display incorporated)
  • One 10½” x 19” Soviet Game-Turn Cycle Record Track (with standard scenarios Turn Record/Reinforcement Track and Air Allocation Displays by Front)
  • One 16” x 22” Soviet Production Spiral (with Soviet Production Cost Chart, Production Cadre Box, Game Distribution Box, Personnel Point Pool Track, Arms Point Pool Track, and Siberian Transit Display incorporated)
  • Two small six-sided Dice
  • Two SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Boxes (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic box covers with Title Sheets

Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; all five of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background. Blog Reviews:  Command Decisions, A Genius for War, The Battle for Kursk, Panzer Battles, and the West Point Atlas of American Wars.
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THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU

5 comments:

  • Back in the late 1970s I played the full campaign game solo, from start to finish. I was unemployed at the time which is why I was able to see it through. I haven't had it out of the box since, but it had such an impact on me that I haven't forgotten the experience. The Germans won by the middle of 1942 IIRC, but I was playing every pro-German option (e.g. being kind to the Ukrainians generated extra divisions I think)! From the German point of view I remember the dreaded mud season approaching when I knew in advance that I wouldn't be able to move anywhere. Soviet side memories are of the production spiral, not deploying any airpower until it outnumbered the Luftwaffe, and wondering where to start trying to form my fortified lines once the frontier was breached. So, only played once, and that was over 30 years ago, but I have really good memories of this game. Must get it out again before it's too late!

  • Greetings Anon:

    Yes, I know what you mean; I still have fond memories of a number of the older 'monster' games, and "WAR IN THE EAST" (both editions) and DNO/UNT (despite their various problems and inaccuracies) are at or near the top of my list.

    I was fortunate, in my younger days, to belong to a group of avid gamers who were all former college classmates, so rounding up skilled opponents willing to take on some of these 'monsters' was usually not particularly difficult. And although I have sold-off a great many of my games, over the last few years, I still retain copies of my old favorites, even now.

    Best Regards, JCBIII

  • Hello Joseph. Thanks for your kind reply. I'm sorry that I have been recorded as Anon, but I didn't see where to leave my name. I have only just discovered your site and it really brings back memories. I live in the UK and was an avid collector and player of SPI games in the late 70s and early 80s. Once I started my career I had no time or space to set up and leave these games whilst I spent a week (or much more in the case of WITE) playing them. So I moved on to miniatures and shorter games and have stuck with them ever since. I still have every SPI game from those years and I will now explore your site to see what you have to say about some of my other favourites (Op. Cobra, Panzergruppe Guderian, World War I, World War II, Ney v Wellington etc.)

    Andrew

  • Whoops - should have said Cobra and not Op. Cobra!

  • Greetings Again Andrew:

    Thank you for visiting my blog; I sincerely appreciate your interest.

    In so far as your short list of SPI favorites goes: I have commented, at varying length, on all of them. In fact, all of the S&T Magazine games made it onto my list of "Top 20" titles. In addition, even the much maligned "WORLD WAR II" received relatively favorable treatment at my hands.

    Thanks again for taking the time to visit my site and to comment on my posts and

    Best Regards, Joe

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