More Recommended Rules Changes for WAR IN THE EAST
MORE OPTIONAL RULES CHANGES
3a. Effect of Russian Anti-tank Units on Attacking Axis Mechanized Units (changes to Rules Case 10.5):The combat strength of Axis mechanized units that participate in an attack against a Soviet-occupied hex containing one or more anti-tank brigades is unaffected by the presence of the anti-tank unit or units. All other modifications (weather, supply, etc.) to the attacking unit or units’ combat strength still apply, but the presence of a Soviet anti-tank brigade in a defending hex NO LONGER HALVES the attack strength of assaulting Axis mechanized units. Instead, Russian anti-tank units have the following effect on combat: whenever Axis mechanized units participate in an attack against a Soviet stack containing one or more anti-tank units, at least half, rounded up, of all of the attacker’s combat losses (whatever the cause: unsupplied attack, Attacker Exchange, Exchange, ½ Exchange, etc.) must be extracted in the form of armored or mechanized strength points. The single exception to this rule arises in those cases in which the attacking Axis force does not include sufficient mechanized combat factors to satisfy this loss requirement. Such a situation might occur, for example, if the attacking force possessed no full strength German mechanized divisions but did include mechanized kampfgruppen or brigade strength units.
3b. Retreat Limitations on Soviet Anti-Tank Units (‘experimental’ changes to Combat Resolution Rules Case 11.0):Whenever a Russian anti-tank unit is forced to retreat as a direct result of an Axis attack which, after all Axis combat losses have been removed, includes at least one surviving mechanized unit of any size, the anti-tank brigade may not retreat but is eliminated instead. Please note, however, that this rule applies ONLY to anti-tank brigades: all other types of Soviet units required by the Combat Results Table to retreat — whether infantry, cavalry, mechanized, or artillery — are retreated normally.
|Soviet anti-tank gun in the Battle of Kursk|
|German panzer division moves up to attack, WWII.|
|German anti-tank gun in the Battle of Stalingrad.|
|German Tiger destroys Soviet T34 at Kursk|
And that's not all: there is another irksome problem with the designer’s somewhat mystical approach to Soviet anti-tank units in WAR IN THE EAST that warrants attention: Dunnigan treats all of these brigades, at least for movement purposes, as being motorized. To be fair, it is true that a certain percentage of the Red Army’s anti-tank regiments were assigned their own organic motor transport; however, from my own reading of the historical record, it appears that a substantial number, if not the majority of these specialized units, depended on horses for their mobility, particularly during the first three years of the war. This factor, when considered along with the standard Soviet practice of aggressive forward deployment of their anti-tank assets, made any kind of organized withdrawal in the face of a powerful enemy armored attack — particularly one supported by air power — exceedingly difficult, if not almost impossible. Individual gunners might escape to fight another day, but the anti-tank guns — whether pulled by horses or by trucks — were most unlikely to survive a retreat across a battlefield dominated by roving enemy armor.
Probable Effects of Recommended Rules Change 3a:Substituting the optional (3a) rules case for the standard Soviet “armored effects” rule, as might be expected given the preceding commentary, will fundamentally alter certain key aspects of play in WAR IN THE EAST. For example, players who opt to use the experimental Russian anti-tank rule instead of the regular “halving” version will quickly discover that traditional German and Soviet tactical formulas — beginning with the initial invasion game turns — are more problematical than in the regular game; moreover, adopting this procedural change will also noticeably increase battlefield attrition for both belligerents. One reason for this result, of course, is that incorporating this rules modification into the game significantly enhances the offensive hitting-power of the German mechanized forces, especially during the first few years of the war when the Wehrmacht is still ascendant; in addition, besides improving Axis offensive prospects, it also encourages the Soviets to expand the defensive role of their own mechanized units, as well. Perhaps, most importantly, this change operates to realistically redirect the general flow and tempo of the Campaign Game; and for this reason, it tends to produce — in my opinion, at least — a more historically satisfying model of mobile warfare on the Russian Front. Moreover, my reasons for recommending this rules change will, I believe, become apparent as soon as the very different battlefield effects of the standard and modified versions of the anti-tank rules are compared.
|Trench warfare at Leningrad.|
|Battle for Moscow, Soviet Siberian soldiers.|
|Russian soldiers and train.|
|Soviet 76mm anti-tank artillery|
|Soviet howitzers at the Battle of Kursk|
|Soviet machinegun crew|
|Germans advance at Kursk, July 1943|
|Soviet women dig anti-tank ditch in front of|
Leningrad, Summer, 1941.
|Soviet POWs under German guard, sumer 1941|
Last but not least, of course, is the increased attrition that this change will introduce into the dynamic of the WAR IN THE EAST game system. Simply stated, the Soviets will, because of this change, suffer much higher losses among their “high value” units than in the standard game; however, just as importantly, the Germans will also be forced to accept significantly higher casualties among their mechanized forces if they choose, as they almost certainly will, to commit their panzer and panzer grenadier divisions to high-odds assaults against the Russian line. Thus, this rules change will tend to produce — typically, by early 1942 — a battlefield environment in which the orders of battle of the two opposing armies will be both weaker and more brittle than in the standard game.
Probable Effects of Recommended Rules Change 3b:In the standard game of WAR IN THE EAST, the Soviet side usually constructs about forty-five to fifty anti-tank brigades during the first months of the war, and then never builds another one of these units for the rest of the game. This, in its own way, is just as ridiculously unrealistic, from a historical standpoint, as the already-railed against, but nonetheless typical game phenomenon of German panzer divisions operating for much of the war without (figuratively speaking) ever suffering so much as a scratch as a result of combat operations.
|Soviet WWII tank production factory|
More Recommended WAR IN THE EAST Rules Changes are Coming Soon:
|Soviet Anti-tank Hunters with mine dogs|
Finally, for those players who prefer to leave the ‘rules writing’ to others, I want to repeat my earlier warning: some of the rules modifications recommended in this set of essays have been tested fairly extensively, but some have not (much like most commercially-produced games). For this reason, those readers who are tempted to actually experiment with one or both of the above optional rules are urged to proceed with caution; some of the changes that have been recommended in Part I, as already noted, will have only a modest effect on the game, but the two listed in this installment have the potential to affect play and play-balance significantly. Consider this “a word to the wise.”