For many people who play and collect traditional wargames, there almost always comes a point at which — seduced by the twin devils of acquisitiveness and curiosity — they decide that they just have to try their hand at a “really, really, really BIG game.” The unique pleasure of surveying a map surface the size of a small swimming pool decorated with thousands of small, colorful cardboard counters, some of which occasionally and mysteriously catapult themselves into the air without warning, is something that every game player should experience — at least once. But maps and counters are not the only source of delight for a “monster” game’s owner: there are all the other accessories that come with this unique type of game. For instance, there are the numerous charts, and the combat results tables, and the turn record/reinforcement tracks, and, of course, there are the rules: pages and pages of rules. And once everyone has (sort of) read the rules, there are the pages and pages of errata. Then there are the always helpful “player’s notes” which seem, even after multiple readings, to have been either mistakenly included with the wrong game, or to have been badly translated from some unknown and incomprehensible foreign language. Next, assuming that you still decide that you really want to play the thing, then someone has to round up enough warm bodies to actually get a game underway. Nothing, except perhaps organizing a multi-lingual family reunion, even comes close to the fun one can have when it comes to coordinating the schedules of multiple players over a period of months.

I know the feeling well. Over the years, I have owned almost two dozen of these “monsters” and I have actually played most of them. I’m not quite sure what this says about me and my friends, but I have to admit that, in the case of more than a few of these titles, I have even played them multiple times — often, all the way to the “bitter end”. In the course of these many gaming sessions, one particularly frustrating aspect of playing really big, really long games came through time and time again: the shallow learning curve of most players, myself included. There is no feeling that quite matches the panic that — with dozens of hours already invested in a game — suddenly freezes everyone around the game table when they realize either that a) a crucial rule has been ignored or misinterpreted, or b) that everyone (usually on my side) has been oblivious to a simple and obvious tactic that, had it actually been used, would have completely changed the course of the game.

After repeatedly experiencing the major letdown from having one of these huge, multi-player games suddenly and unexpectedly self-destruct, I finally came up with a strategy for tackling these “monsters” that seems, at least for me, to work pretty well.

DNO/UNT Workbook

The first thing I discovered was that, for those of us who do not have photographic memories, it is best to write down anything that seems relevant or interesting the minute it crops up during both the planning and the play of a “monster” game. In fact, for major projects like GDW’s DNO/UNT or SPI’s WAR IN THE EAST, I took to preparing a notebook in advance of the start of each new match. Then, during both the planning and the actual play of the game, I wrote down anything that I thought might be useful as the game progressed. Very soon, I discovered that it was worthwhile to record even simple things; things such as: map peculiarities and irregularities; general thoughts on the defense and offense; the maximum offensive strength of attacks from one, two, and three hexes. I made entries on the use of air power and paratroops; the optimal placement of fortifications; and possible force organizations. I also made notes on the distances between different map locations, and even a record of the numbers and types of units lost. I still have most of these old notebooks, today — you never know.

The second discovery I made was that, if a player understood enough about a game’s rules and its mechanics of play to construct a competent defense, then he probably had a reasonable command of the basic details of the game system. For this reason, I began to volunteer to play the defense, at least during the first attempt at a game, whenever I and my friends embarked on one of these major gaming projects. And when I did play the offense, I made it a point to carefully inspect the opposing side’s defensive arrangements to see if their dispositions revealed anything about the game that I hadn’t tumbled to on my own.

This is the somewhat dubious logic behind my decision to post one of my old Soviet “Barbarossa” opening set-ups (I actually had three) for SPI’s WAR IN THE EAST (2nd Edition). I am not offering this set-up as some sort of “perfect” Russian plan, or even as particularly clever approach to the first turn defense of the Soviet frontier. I present this “Barbarossa” defense only as a play aide for those who may own this title, but who have never actually set it up and played it. I hope that this “pre-packaged” opening will provide those players who are interested, with a shortcut to learning the game system and to how the different factors of terrain, unit strengths, and unit types all come together on the game map. Also, it will quickly become apparent that no hex locations are included in this “Barbarossa” defense either for the Soviet armies in the interior, or for the units on the Finnish border. The interior reserve units will typically be deployed on rail lines so that they can either rail to a Training Center or, in the case of many of the infantry divisions, to positions where they can begin to construct the “winter” fortified line. The Soviet forces on the Finnish border are pretty easy to deploy as they won’t initially be under any significant offensive pressure from the Finns: Finland is neutral on the first game turn of “Barbarossa.”

I should add a final observation about the following Soviet set-up: it is intended to accomplish two primary goals during the first German game turn of the “Barbarossa” scenario. First, this deployment prevents the Wehrmacht from breaking through the Russian front and exploiting into the Red Army’s rear during the German mechanized movement phase on turn one. Second, this set-up also prevents the initial advance of the German Army’s three most important units: the railroad repair units. Because the scope of the Wehrmacht’s advance during the first summer is limited only by its supply range, every game turn that the railroad repair units are delayed, is one hex further west that the Red Army can hold during Germany’s first campaign season. And while the Soviets can only expect to delay the German railroad repair units attached to Army Group North and Army Group Center one game turn. The repair unit advancing out of Romania could well be held up for two and maybe even three game turns. This multi-turn delay means that, if the Germans intend to capture Kharkov during the first summer, then they will probably have to begin their assault against the city’s outer defenses before their supply line can reach the battle area.

Soviet Deployment for Barbarossa Scenario

Riga Reserve: 1 x 3-5, 5 x 2-5, 8 x 1-4, 2 x (1)-10, 1 x 1-3

Map Hex #
G 1510 1-3
1412 3 x 1-4
1413 1-4, (1)-10
1414 1-4, 2-5
1311 1-4, 2-5
1312 1-4, 2-5
1313 2-5, 3-5, (1)-10
1314 1-4, 2-5

Lithuania: 2 x 3-5, 5 x 2-5, 16 x 1-4, 3 x (1)-10

Map Hex #
G 1415 1-4, (1)-10
1416 1-4, (1)-10
1315 1-4, 2-5
1316 1-4, 2-5
1317 2 x 3-5, (1)-10
1318 3 x 1-4
1319 2 x 1-4
1212 1-4, 2-5
1214 1-4
1217 3 x 1-4
1218 1-4, 2-5
1112 1-4, 2-5


Poland: 5 x 3-5, 13 x 2-5, 52 x 1-4, 5 x (1)-10, 3 x 1-3, 3 x 10-1-10

Map Hex #
G 1219 3 x 1-4
1119 1-4, 2-5
1120 2 x 3-5, (1)-10
1121 3 x 1-4
1123 2 x 1-4, 10-1-10
1124 1-4, 2 x 10-1-10
1020 1-4, 2-5
1021 2 x 3-5, (1)-10
1022 3 x 1-4
0922 1-4, 2-5

Map Hex #
G 0923 1-4, 2-5
0924 2 x 1-4
0925 2 x 1-4
0926 1-4, 2-5, (1)-10
0927 3 x 1-4
0928 3 x 1-4
0820 1-4
0826 2 x 1-4
0827 2 x 1-4
0828 1-4, 2-5, (1)-10
0829 2 x 1-4
0729 1-4, 2-5
0730 3 x 1-4
0629 1-3, 2-5
0630 1-4, 2-5
0530 1-4, 2-5
0531 1-4, (1)-10
0430 1-3, 2-5
0431 3-5
0331 1-4, 2-5
0332 1-4, 2-5
0231 2 x 1-4, 1-3

Map Hex #
H 0904 1-4
0703 1-4
0602 1-4
0503 2 x 1-4
0401 1-4


Bessarabia: 2 x 3-5, 4 x 2-5, 20 x 1-4, 1-3

Map Hex #
H 1209 1-4
1210 1-4
1211 1-4
1214 2-5

Map Hex #
H 1215 1-3
1106 1-4
1107 1-4
1108 1-4
1109 2-5, 3-5
1110 1-4
1111 1-4
1115 2 x 1-4
1004 1-4
1005 2-5, 3-5
1006 1-4
1007 1-4
1008 1-4
0905 1-4
0914 1-4
0803 2-5
0804 1-4
0704 1-4
0603 2 x 1-4

Odessa Reserve: 3-5, 2-5, 8 x 1-4, 2 x 1-3

Map Hex #
H 1712 3-5
1612 2-5
1509 2 x 1-4
1409 3 x 1-4
1212 1-4
1213 1-4
1112 1-3
1113 1-3
1114 1-4


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