The Let's Play Archive

No Retreat! The Russian Front

by Tevery Best

Part 47: Turn 7 - Soviet Movement Phase: What a Shock

The defenders of Leningrad make the best of the limited supplies they have and rebuild their fortifications, anticipating yet another wave of Axis attacks. Having defeated the strongest push yet, however, they are confident in their defences and optimistic about the future of their stronghold.

Further south, near Moscow, the Stavka pours in enormous quantities of men and materiel into rebuilding the military zone around the capital. The Southwest Front is rebuilt pretty much from the ground up, with veteran troops and incredible amounts of artillery making up the core of the new 1st Byelorussian Front. Meanwhile, two more smaller Fronts are deployed in Moscow and Tula.

As you can see, the Southwest Front is no longer an Infantry unit. It is now a Shock Front. These units represent extremely powerful assault infantry groups with large artillery complement. Their function is to create a breakthrough to be exploited by more mobile armour regiments.

In game terms, the 1st Byelorussian has another advantage to complement its exorbitant combat strength: any time it attacks, regardless of weather, terrain or opponents, it receives one extra combat shift to the right. This bonus does not work while on defence (but it does work when counter-attacking).

This makes the unit very powerful, but the 1st Byelorussian Front also has a range of drawbacks. First of all, it's slow. It's even slower than regular Soviet infantry units. What is more, if it is destroyed, it costs 2 cards to replace, even from the Destroyed Units Box. The final drawback is that whenever the unit attacks or counter-attacks and rolls an EX, it has to take the step loss, even if other units are present.

Around the Sea of Azov, the Soviets deploy additional forces to the defence of the Caucasus. The Caucasus Front itself, however, is reorganized: more armour is added to the unit, while most of the infantry is removed or reduced to a support role. The group is then dubbed the 2nd Tank Army.

In game terms, the Soviet Tank Armies are identical to German Panzer Armies, with one caveat: they do not receive the extra third hex while advancing, regardless of the weather or terrain.

Most of the tanks of the 2nd Tank Army are the variants of the T-34, the most produced tank of the war and the second most produced tank in history. Of course, numbers are not the only claim to fame the T-34 has. Paul von Kleist called them "the finest tanks in the world", and at the time of Barbarossa he was right on the money. The T-34 was fast, well armoured and packed a nasty gun. In 1941, it outclassed any and all variants of the Panzers, with perhaps the PzIV being able to fight it roughly equally.

However, after a few weeks of combat, most of the T-34s were destroyed or abandoned. The reason for that is twofold. One, they were not yet an example of good engineering. The horrible suspension kept on breaking, reducing the actual range of the tank to about 200 kilometres. Second, the Soviet tank tactics and commanders were awful at every level, starting with the central command and going all the way down to individual tank commanders. It didn't matter how good their gear was, since the top brass hardly provided them with any training, the middle level commanders sent them to fight piecemeal and without infantry support, and platoon commanders simply did not have a good grasp of the rules of armoured combat. Meanwhile, their German counterparts were veterans and enjoyed perfect communications, letting them use the Luftwaffe air supremacy to the fullest or pull up AT guns where necessary.

It took the Red Army tank force a couple of years to become good, and - tank for tank - it probably never became as good as the Panzerwaffe. However, it didn't matter, as the Soviets simply didn't have to fight tank for tank, they could just bring three or ten tanks for each one the Germans had. That doesn't mean they didn't try to make the best weaponry they could, as the T-34 constantly evolved.

I myself can't bring myself to like the damn thing at all. I grew up watching TV series of brave tankers crushing the awful Germans with their plucky little T-34 and their smart and resourceful dog, and I loved the show, but I never liked this particular tank. Not imposing enough for me, perhaps?

I need movement orders from Spookydonut, Hipster Rooster and cokerpilot. The deadline for those is Wednesday, January 29, 7 PM GMT. Good luck.