HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDIn the winter of 1943, the Red Army seemed invincible, and Hitler’s armies in southern Russia appeared to be on the verge of collapse. The commander of the surrounded German Sixth Army in Stalingrad, Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, had surrendered his forces on 31 January and the last German holdouts in the city had finally capitulated on 2 February. Stalingrad was again totally in Soviet hands. With this victory, the tide of battle seemed to have finally turned decisively in favor of Soviet forces.
With an entire German army destroyed at Stalingrad, Stalin and the senior commanders of the Red Army thought that one more major blow would destroy the remaining German units scattered along an uneven line between Kharkov and the Sea of Azov. Within days, the Russian Armies — newly released by the fall of Stalingrad — surged west, confident that victory over the invading Germans was close.
However, the Wehrmacht in southern Russia was not yet finished as a military threat. On 19 February 1943, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, with the recently reinforced divisions of Army Group Don, launched a surprise counteroffensive against the northern flank of the Soviet forces advancing across the open steppes between the southern Donets and the Dnepr. In the space of a few short weeks, the attacking Germans — often outnumbered by their enemy eight to one — smashed four Soviet armies and, more importantly, halted and then threw back the Soviet offensive completely.
Manstein’s “backhand blow” had succeeded in retrieving German fortunes in southern Russia: by the time his brilliantly successful offensive had run its course, Manstein’s forces had regained most of the ground lost in January and had reestablished a relatively straight and stable German defensive line stretching from Belgorod to Taganrog on the Sea of Azov.
LOST BATTLES is a historical simulation, at the regimental/battalion level, of several types of combat actions that were typical of the fighting between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in Russia between 1942 and 1944. The different engagements presented in the game are hypothetical, but the situations they describe were all quite common on the Eastern Front during these years.
The game makes use a rich palette of different unit types: infantry, motorized, armor, antitank, direct fire artillery, ranged artillery, engineers, headquarters, supply, and even abstract air power to model combat at the operational level during this period. The combat and movement rules are also interesting. Each player turn consists of two regular combat segments plus an armored attack segment, a ranged artillery segment, an air strike segment (depending on the scenario) and two movement phases: one at the start of the player turn, and the second at the end. In addition, the players must also contend with rules governing supply, command and control, bridging engineers, and even road march formations. The graphics may be simple, even primitive, by today’s standards, but the game and the wealth of different design ideas it introduced 35 years ago are not.
LOST BATTLES offers four scenarios each representing a different, but common, combat situation on the Eastern Front: the Russian Tank Offensive; the Russian Defensive Position scenario; the Meeting Engagement; and the German Mobile Defense scenario. In addition, because the game system is so open and flexible, the game’s designer, James Dunnigan, invites the players to construct their own scenarios. He writes: “Practically any possible combination of forces appeared on the eastern front during the war. Practically anything you could conjure up probably did occur. Give it a try.”
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONLOST BATTLES was originally published as the insert game for S&T #28; later it was reissued as an independent game in the standard SPI flat plastic game tray format. For East Front game collectors, this title is interesting both for its innovative game system; and because Frank Chadwick (of GDW) publicly acknowledged, many years ago, that the simulation ideas first introduced in LOST BATTLES were the inspiration for many of the game concepts that he ultimately put into the design of DNO (1973). For this reason, it is probably not too great a stretch to suggest that — whatever the game’s flaws — had there not been a LOST BATTLES, then there just might not have been a EUROPA Series of games from GDW.
- Time Scale: 24 hours per game turn
- Map Scale: 2 kilometers per hex
- Unit Size: battalions/regiments
- Unit Types: armor, mechanized, infantry, assault gun, reconnaissance, headquarters, engineer, artillery supply, anti-aircraft artillery (direct fire), direct fire artillery, anti-tank artillery (direct fire), infantry, ranged artillery, and information markers
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: medium/high
- Solitaire Suitability: average
- Average Playing Time: 2–2½ hours
- One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Chart, Terrain Effects Chart, Combat Results Tables, and Scenario Set-up Charts incorporated)
- 255 ½” cardboard Counters
- One 5½” x 11” map-fold style Set of Rules
- One 8½” x 11” Errata Sheet (31 May 1973)
- One small six-sided Die
- One 4” x 8½” SPI Catalogue and Order Form
- One SPI 12” x 15”x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet