Recap of Soviet defense Oct-Nov ’41 thru a structured lens

Back ground videos if you are new to this play thru!

Axis Approaches

Initial Thoughts on Soviet Defense:

So lets use the previous posts that guided the planning for the Soviets and score the defense so far!

Op Art and CB/GBII using this post as our benchmark [edited version below with comments on play to date

Eric Walters summed up Operational Art and Strategy in a nutshell:

Eric M. Walters wrote :”Operational Art or “Campaigning” (which is how I prefer to think about it)–really is about deciding when, where, and why to have battles and when not, where not, and why not to fight battles. ” Which translates for me to:

Operational Vision (OV) or Theater vision.

Aim (A) a set of targets focused upon enabling the OV. Which will identify the Center of Gravity (COG) for us. That can be achieved via Flexibility & Distributed Maneuver (DM). 

Which in turn are limited by : Command and Control (C&C) – Lines of communication and Logistics

Eric continued: “There’s an element of freedom of action that underlies this…and this often translates into logistical questions as well just the combat capability of the units involved. Military Strategy or OV sets the Strategic Aim (Aims) and provides the means (forces) and ways (deployment/employment) parameters (DM).”

 So how did the Soviets do and what was their plan to?

October, November The Soviet plan was to hold Moscow at all costs, relinquish Kharkov and or Rostov [ideally hold as it is a gateway to VC cities and goals in 1942] if needed but hold Sevastopol. In this longer article I outline by area likely targets of the Germans and 5 key strategies I needed to use to interfere with the German decision cycle, and break up his ability to achieve his aims via DM and effective C&C. For the short version skip down to those 5 items.

Inserted text is preceded by /then bold italic:

[DM] The Enemy and his capabilities: in raw capacity Axis forces are fast, mobile, and highly effective, but typically the best units are one step in size, thus  susceptible to being brittle. They are limited by total supplies available and an inflexible transportation network. That and the game mandated transport losses, and reduced supply in the winter months hamstring any effort for a decisive win before December 31st 1941 via the capture of Moscow/Sevastopol. 

Ends, means and ways….We know the Axis can afford very few lines of supply for logistics transport on each map set [GBII/EATG/CB]. We also know that Rail and rail conversion will dominate and indeed limit their ability to project power. Other factors such as reinforcement entry points, locations of existing airfields and over run friendly terrain will play into the hand that the Axis attempt to deal to the Soviet defender. In order to deny DM we must factor the above into our chosen defense locations. 

These elements will drive the Lines of Communication and Logistics of the Enemy.


Northern Map GBII – North Moscow. 

Iin the North the Axis may race to Orel in turn one and capture it, and even fly in supplies to the captured airfield. But without a secure supply network or a converted rail line via various towns…it is for naught. The proper assessment and identification of CoG’s is vital, they are not VC towns!!! Should the Axis player choose the wrong approach the Soviets can make his life hell. /The Soviets failed to really do any damage or inflict the slows, other than in Brnsk which held until late Nov.

South Moscow-Orel 

/Feels like a debacle, the Germans brush aside all resistance and are driving out of the hills South of Kursk to finish off Kharkov and move on Stalingrad for all I know!!!

For the Soviet player the CoG’s are all about then the SS. What? 

Yes the SS – Steps and Supply Points: No position is invulnerable from the German onslaught. If it can be surrounded, it is my understanding given time it can be beaten.

Steps: If a location is of primary consideration to the Axis, the Soviet must make it costly in terms of steps spent to acquire it.

This can be done in FIVE KEY ways.

Robust defensive lines – Hedgehogs, and proper mixes of high Combat Factor (CF) units combined with high value Action Rating (AR) units at key locations: At odds in Open/Closed terrain of 4:1, 5:1 and 7:1 the attacker is going to lose a step if he wants

/A lot of SP was spent building lines of Hedgehog, placing units in terrain that was hard to fight in. The Soviets however chose to defend too far forward. A deeper, richer defense closer to Moscow would have been more well advised.

the hex in 11 of 12 of the most likely results. The Soviet must force that loss!


  1. Spoiling attacks- As forces mass to attack, push units across the defensive boundaries to attack potentially weaker units or kill off a step of a formation that might be used for AR rating. Ignore your losses and grind away. /A few spoiling attacks were tried, many failed, and chewed up a little SP for a lot of losses. Spoiling attacks were suspended when replacement rolls continued to be crappy.


  2. Effective use of Reserves- keeping powder dry, especially units to drop into DG’d hexes, or Arty to DG an attackers stack or units to counter attack, or Air strikes on attackers are critical

    /Continual trying to pop units in reserve was marginally well done, as forces were to thinly spread.

  3. Even when all is lost focus on surviving that one extra turn., and taking a step with you.

    /This we did do. Constantly. No retreat orders often saw forces stay 2-3 extra turns on key road junctions.

  4. Counter Attack. If the game is about maneuver, and we want to deny that we must mount an attack that is savage enough to pause the Axis offensive or stop it all together. As referenced in Supply Points below the link to my exploration of the Counter Attack is detailed in another post.

    /Not well done.

Make the Axis pay for each hex that matters.

EATG/CB maps: Orel-Voro-Kharkov 

/Kharkov held quiet well until an HQ was used to bridge to the South East. This collapsed the defense and the Soviets had to run!

The other S… Supply Points: If the enemies have no SP they cannot move. As previously discussed , the Germans forces in particular are more than a ‘fierce’ fighting force. They are a mobile force.

Denying mobility helps win games. If they cannot move they cannot surround and isolate you! In my play attempting to identify SP dumps will not be a major factor as they will mostly be clearly marked. BUT….

Transport networks will not. Thus identifying where these networks are and mounting a formidable counter attack/attack into one of those locations that he will be FORCED to defend or recover is worth many turns of movement. In economic terms the Opportunity Cost is huge.

EATG/CB maps: Kharkov- Stalino Area

/Axis advances here were slow due to activity North and No progress was made towards Sevastopol.

Similarly forcing the Axis to use SP for non-movement related actions is highly valuable and desirable also. Making them use SP for defense, for a defensive Arty hit, on extra air sorties etc all add up.


/In conclusion with Moscow still safely protected and the Port of Sevastopol not under threat only the loss of Kharkov and massive unit losses has caused us worry. Weather has played havoc with Axis supply slowing the advance, for that they Soviets are grateful.

However they must learn to use AIR/ARTY/RESERVES more EFFECTIVELY. As throughout the campaign the Germans have won decisively where they have decided to give battle.



2 thoughts on “Recap of Soviet defense Oct-Nov ’41 thru a structured lens

  1. As for the Axis plan, well if you need three cities to win dedicating virtually all your forces to the map with most of the defenders and the longest distance to go and the worst weather seems odd.

    I get the feeling that either nobody can play the Russians, or the OCS in long campaigns has a bit too much supply flexibility, especially for the Axis who were terrible at logistics. They were far to inclined to press on and hope things would turn up as if by magic.

    I’m currently reading a very good Russian book on the disaster at Vyazma and the author gives a enemy’s eye view on German operational tactics and a huge difference from the standard OCS ‘pencil’ thrust with a chain of single units to allow trace through was that the Germans always attacked laterally in the breakthrough zones to widen the breach while Panzers thrust deep. This would use more supply than the ‘wait to die or breakout’ as the infantry and support armor would use SPs to secure the rearward supply corridor.

    The lines of fortifications I see used by the Soviets also seem problematical because the Germans just rip through at one spot and the others are wasted – or worse yet used by the Germans. This is mentioned in another book by Russians I am reading – where Russian forts around Rzhev (and broken down Russian tanks) were turned into defenses by the Axis.

    The few successes the USSR did have was delay by holding nodal positions with a hedgehog, bad terrain, with supply which blocks a logistical route the Axis needs. Then the wait to death strategy backfires and a more aggressive Axis would lose steps and SP chewing them up.

    If you really want a wild option – what if Guderian’s pincer went towards Veronezh and the Don after taking Orel while the Roslavl pincer covered him and threatened Moscow from the south? Once the Bryansk pocket is closed off, Guderian either has to chase Moscow which seem an illusion, or prepare for a Southern strategy by driving south. In real life, wear on the Panzers makes this laughable, having them drive in a zig zag across the center of the USSR to take Kiev, then bite off Kharkov and Rostov. In this game, though, it is probably easier to do that then supply a probe towards Moscow.

  2. It seems we are kindred souls when it comes to strategy. My PLAN A was take 5 Pzr Div + all the SS and go South 1st December. Reinforcing the Drive to Rostov. and Oil. With a plan to strike quickly from the North @ Stalingrad. The Kharkov forces (6th Army would head South to the Oil, and drop a Div or two to capture Sevastopol.

    However I was looking at the SE sector of Moscow the map around there I thought I could crash thru and encircle Moscow and OOS them to death. It is now the 5th of December, A pincer from the SE and from Klin area are driving hard in a all or nothing press to choke out Stalin.

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