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The Soviets' Barbarossa Bullet Points

The Soviets' Barbarossa Bullet Points

Posted by Alan Emrich & the ETO Development Team on May 5th 2019

The Arduous Beginning

By Alan Emrich and the ETO development team

With a lot of Thunder in the East Barbarossa campaigns launched by myriad enthusiastic players since the game was published, and with their feedback pouring in at our ETO HQ, we have noticed some things that might have fallen off your radar on the first turn of Operation Barbarossa (June IV, ’41) and the first Seasonal turn that follows afterward (July I, ’40).

To help you, here is our checklist of important things to remember for the Soviets:


Soviet Setup (free deployment)

  • Soviet Front Line 8-4 Army units have two Scenario Setup restrictions (3.2, #3):

Soviet 8-4 Army

1. They cannot set up in adjacent hexes. Thus, they will not be shoulder-to-shoulder and, where most densely deployed, will be in every-other hex).

2. You must place within 3 hexes of the Front line. This is critical! Many people try to fob off the front line with other units and deploy their Front Line 8-4s deep in the rear; don’t do that or Stalin will have you shot! Those 8-4s are stuck near the front. Now, you could put a bunch of them down in Bessarabia if you really wish to preserve them… but then they’re in Bessarabia at a time when there are already many demands on Soviet Rail Capacity and the Axis will meet that much less resistance in the North and Center.

  • Conversely, Soviet Rear Area units not starting on Soviet Supply Cities must setup, one per City hex maximum, at least 3 hexes away from the Front Line. Consequently, there is some intersectionality between Front Line and Rear Area units at City hexes 3 hexes distance from the Front Line.


Advice

There are two strategic objectives to Soviet deployment:

1) Force preservation (because almost every step starting in near-proximity of the invading Axis is doomed); and

2) Denying ground to the Axis Advance.

Every Soviet player naturally comprehends force preservation; who doesn’t love having more units with which to build a stronger, better line? Thus, a good Soviet player derives immediate gratification in running the heck away to accomplish just that. However, giving ground too quickly and cheaply to the Axis can lead to a Soviet ’41 Morale Collapse. As much as you would like to save those Front Line lads, they have a job to do (dying for their country).

Rails CutA vitally important goal of the Soviet Barbarossa Front Line is to bog down the Axis advance – not their units so much (as those will go whizzing past you on the first turn thanks to their Sneak Attack Regular Move bonus), but slowing down the German HQs! You must bog down the Axis’ logistics for as long as possible. How?

The Soviet player must think in terms of fighting a war of Friendly Rail Lines. The cities you can hang onto (ostensibly in pockets some time into July while the Axis mop them up) prevent the enemy from placing HQs into those cities and, more critically, after the first turntracing Axis Rail LoCs into and beyond them. A German HQ is not going to leap ahead to a city that does not have a Rail LoC back to Germany so you need to study the map and find places to thwart the enemy from advancing their logistics forward.

3) David Brown: Russia seeks the converse of the Axis’ desires. Preventing Soviet collapse is priority #1 for 1941. Preserving the Red Army and denying German advances are essential, but these goals often conflict; you must give up some of one for more of the other and so tightrope your way to a considered balance. Inflicting Axis losses, although highly desirable, is only an important tertiary concern.

  • Operationally, establish a Second Line that is immune to overrun (usually because 2+ steps per hex are present). That line needs to be back just far enough so that Axis Breakthrough advances and ensuing Regular Movement exploitation remain contained.
    • Counterattack aggressively to rescue trapped defenders, to recapture key cities, or to keep doomed units in communication. I do not press with my “good order” units just inflict attrition unless I can achieve good odds.
    • An excellent “trick” is to Disband your units that have an OLoC but which are in grave peril.
    • Typically, Improved Position (<1) markers present a good investment only if in a Clear or key City hex. While the lines are fluid, these “trenches” quickly lose their utility and are often abandoned when the lines adjust yet again. Don’t pay for Improved Position markers and place them where you might have to abandon them before they provide any value.
    • Soviet Air DefenseBuild one Air Defense marker right away; those wascally Axis just love to do level bombing missions on Overcast turns and hit your Airfields all the time, and you will be glad to have that first Flak marker!
    • I like to attack with untried Mystery Mech units early just to locate where the best ones are so that I can protect them through the summer. The second line and strategic reserves are great positions for them where they can wait in the wings for a needed counterattack.
  • I prefer Army units at full-strength and in non-clear terrain (or with an Improved Defense marker if they reside on Clear hexes) so they can absorb a step loss without giving up any Morale Points; these I place on the Front Line (where they belong). My ideal front line has stacks of 3 or 4 steps per hex during July through October of '41; it is only during inclement weather that 4-5-4's become reliably sufficient for front line duty. Alone or stacked with a pal, these “big stacks” of 3+ steps, while good, are often vulnerable to enemy-inflicted Eliminated results from determined Panzer Armies raining down multiple CAS shifts.


Soviet Blitzkrieg! Blowback

After the Axis has made a complete pig’s breakfast of your nice, tidy Front Line forces, ripping holes and driving into the Soviet heartland, what can the Soviet player do?

  • First, with the Soviet Air Force kaput, don’t look to it for help. Even if the Axis don’t completely wipe it out using the Blitzkrieg! Sneak Attack bonus (the fools!), you still cannot conduct Air Missions on that turn.
  • Second, not that it makes any sense at this inopportune moment, but no Soviet card play on the first turn is allowed, either. Your Scorched Earth card is more wisely played when the Axis are juggling a lot of Countdown markers on the map.


Launching Counterattacks

  • Something the Red Army can and should do is look for the cleverest possible counterattacks they can make. With this being many units’ last turn of supply before Isolation and their certain death in pockets, you want to fling them at the invader with great abandon. Some key counterattack priorities are:

1. Like Xenophon’s 10,000, a top priority should be fighting your way back into communication – if not for actual rescue to the rear, at least to stave off Isolation for another turn at the front. This means considering where your units might Advance After Combat and move during the Soviet Regular Movement Phase that turn. You want to establish a “lifeline of communication” on the first turn to prevent as many units’ Isolation as possible at the start of the second turn!

2. Never tell me the odds: If you can muster 3:2 Odds or better, pick up the die and hurl it anger during the Combat Phase. If you’re lucky, the War Gods will bless your doomed forces with results that will cost the Axis some steps (which is a real bonus for you as your pockets are going to die anyway). “Glory odds” for the Soviets at this juncture are 2+:1.

3. They shoot panzers, don’t they?: If there is a way to inflict a panzer step loss, it becomes worth sacrificing to counterattack against it during Barbarossa IF 1) You can obtain at least 2:1 odds on it (because the CRT grants you a 1/3 chance to ding a step from it); AND 2) It will be the Axis’ third or more panzer step loss that turn (which means they won’t be able to replace every depleted Panzer Corps unit on the map leaving them with key depleted units on their next turn). Whenever the German’s are bleeding more steps than they can replace on the following turn, you can celebrate another small victory.

Mystery Mech4. Unknown Unknowns: Here is a tip: when setting up an attack and trying to calculate odds or setting up a defense line, figure your “Mystery Meat” (Rifle Infantry Corps) units have an attack of 2 and a defense of 3 while they are unknown. Your “Mystery Mech” units average about 2.5 on defense (which isn’t great) but are so mercurial in their Attack Strengths (ranging from 1 to 8!) that all you can do when throwing them into battle is to figure out your chances among those remaining and hope for the best.

5. Go East Young Man: Try not to deliberately make your troops’ positions more hopeless by attacking westward (even if you can get slightly better odds). At that point, a pocket is often more useful as a starving roadblock and “rail interdictor” with its units and ZOCs than as a threat to invade westward unless you can legitimately take out an Axis HQ marker; if you can do that, seriously consider doing so as success can potentially throw the Axis off their game at this, the worst possible time for them.

  • HQ Helper: Your HQs can go into Attack Mode on the first turn if eligible (and that is a big IF). The Axis tends to target your two starting HQ markers, so this is a happy occasion when they get a chance to slap the Axis back on the first turn. If you can do this, don’t forget to buy some OPs!
  • Soviet 8-4-5 MechGravity is not always your friend. That is, most Mystery Mech units will not be Heavy (there is about a 60% chance that they are merely Motorized and not Mechanized units). Therefore, when you surround a Panzer with unrevealed Mystery Mech units hoping to discover they are Heavy exactly where you need them to be can be disappointing. Although mere Motorized units do not hinder the Heavy Panzers’ ability to retreat through their ZOCs (as they are Light units), they do have one great virtue in that their ZOCs do cut off those Panzer’s LoCs. Oh ho! The threat of Soviet Motorized units and their ZOCs to the Axis’ rear can sometimes make the arrogant Panzer Corp units think twice about risky advances.


Establishing a New Soviet Defense Line

Where’s the Beef?

When using the normal (free deployment) setup, Soviet players try to “game the system” by placing as many of their 3-step 8-4 Army units as far from harm as possible on the first turn. However, you must place them within 3 hexes of the border. This often results in contorting your deployment so that many (there is room for up to six) deploy out of harm’s way in Bessarabia or accept their fate and make a fight for it at the border.


Bessarabia

The Bessarabian Build Out

If you opt to “hide” your 8-4s in the pastoral quiet of Bessarabia then, when the Axis kick the door down on the first turn, much of your line-holding and counterattacking strength is, well, in Bessarabia; and, while is lovely in late June, only a few of them, at most, will be able to get the rail out of there to plug up the mess their initial deployment away from the fighting engendered. 

Worse, their need to hustle away on the first turn is exactly when the Soviet’s Rail Capacity is in full demand! A Bessarabian Build Out is a viable gambit, but anticipate Axis units will punish and mop up your front line pockets in Poland and the Baltic States with alacrity. This will cost you in other, weaker forces left to fend for themselves north of Bessarabia and this can also make it faster and easier for the Axis to bound their HQs forward in the north and center. Everything then depends on your next defense line and its ability to thwart the Axis’ advance!


Good Places for Fallback Defense Lines

There are a lot of Soviets units that setup in their Rear Area including eleven 8-4s. Their initial deployment is typically centered around one of two principal defensive strategies: 1) Stay close and make the most effective first turn counterattacks you can before Soviet communications and supply break down; or 2) Fall back to reward defense lines and hope the Axis’ digesting your pocketed forces on the Front Line will take long enough to your to build a new, credible “Red Wall.” 

Whether it is your first priority or second, eventually the fighting in July ’41 moves to the next Soviet defensive line; the question is, where and how do you draw it?

Drawing an arrow from East Prussia to LeningradAGN Advances offers myriad defensible locations for a new line. Forest and swamp hexes abound (even if units to place in them do not); the Luga River is another potential Axis stopping point. Your considered opinion and experience can guide you here as God has done His part assisting you with sufficient natural obstacles. The “line that cannot be surrendered” is pretty much the historical set up lines along the 91XX hex row. If you mean to hold Leningrad do not let the Axis reach Volkhov, Tikhvin, or even the green fields beyond the Valdai Hills – any of those foreshadows a likely failure to hold onto Leningrad.

Experienced players well know things will be intense in the center along the road to Moscow. This is really the sector to fear the Axis Army Organization card (should they select it for play in July ’41) as it allows them to hit your rear line “on the bounce” – in supply and two weeks ahead of schedule. That means they can blow open holes in any direction (or possibly multiple directions) from there: north, east, or south. Building adequate defensive lines to stop them in all three of those directions is likely more than you can achieve. Worse, the Axis have a habit of choosing the path of least resistance to keep stretching your lines and preventing you from establishing order from the chaos.

Rear Area Armies (8-4s) can set up in a nice arc with one each along the City hexes along the rail line from Polotsk to Babruysk. They might not be close enough for first turn counterattacks, but they are certainly pillars you might hope to cage the panzers with. Combine that line with the (very few) survivors you can expect to limp eastward plus the myriad replacements pouring in early on… and you might, just might be able to stymie the Axis with a defense strong enough that they must wait and organize a prepared assault against it (and that is about the best you should hope for at this juncture; playing for time to reassert order along the line).

Really, the question is, how expensive can you make the ground between this line of cities and Moscow? In addition, what can you do to hold Moscow’s flanks until you live to see some inclement weather fall from the skies to assist you? Beyond this Orsha setup line, there are some sparse patches of Forest and even a couple of Swamp hexes that might be useful, but you really must be stingy with any space traded for time in this area. Losing Moscow is a natural prerequisite for losing the game!

In the South, the Axis have a long way to go from their starting line along their border south of the Pripyat Marsh before they reach real Barbarossa Objectives beyond the Dnepr River which, itself is a great defense line. The matter of setting up defense lines in front of or, once crossed, behind the Dnepr River is where the problems arise. There are rivers flowing into the Black Sea, to be sure, but not a lot of useful terrain to hold onto. It is here where those <1 Improved Defense markers are about the best you can hope for (but they are probably more urgently assigned to Moscow or Leningrad’s defense).

Key locations in the south include

  • Lwow, when "jammed up" with a strong stack of defenders, is quickly bypassed by panzer units (who are halved attacking the hardened city) and so is often left only confronting pitiful Axis Infantry at sad odds. Like Brest-Litovsk (with its <2 Fortified Defense marker), sticking around to hopefully survive a long isolation stay can be a real burr in the Axis' butt. But the Attrition roll has to be favorable for a few turns to really see benefits from this ploy; if the die is against their holding out this quickly becomes and inferior gambit.
  • Odessa, which you can make a very hard pill for the Axis to swallow as it can receive replacements via its NLoC and reinforcements can sail in, if needed. You can even use the Black Sea Fleet to contribute additional hemorrhoids to this Axis pain-in-the-butt city.
  • Kiev and the hexes just north and east of it. Holding this real estate is a delicate operation as it is a magnet for the Axis to try to turn (to its north) and force (to its south). If the Axis combine these, turning from the north with any sort of bridgehead lower down on the Dnepr, you’re looking at a pocket of massive proportions centered of Kiev’s defenders (as happened historically) and that will be very, very difficult to recover from. Losing 15+ steps in a Kiev Pocket is going to leave you very thin on the ground somewhere as the Axis push southeast and really stretch your lines thin.
  • Crimea has a neck that you should be able to defend. The Axis’ attention should be more focused on the lower-hanging fruit east of the Dnepr and will probably bypass Crimea for the time being. Let them; holding the neck of this peninsula helps keep your lines short, but don’t forget to leave someone in hex 9861 or they will be able to ooze-filtrate down the Rail Line and outflank your position!
  • Dnepropetrovsk and the lower Dnepr River make a great “Stalling Line” in the south. Just know when to withdraw if your line breaks further up the Dnepr River.
  • If the Panzers strike from the Ukraine northward to threaten Moscow from the south, Voronezh is your “hill to die on.” As long as you maintain that avenger waiting in the wings to springboard a counterattack from, the OKW will count increasing gray hairs worrying about it. Here, brute stubbornness and sheer guts at this key strongpoint (and that is about as much as you have to hold onto it with, and hold it you must).

David Brown: When I play the Soviets, these are my line concerns:

1.To spike Axis Special Movement Phase oozing wherever they have a Mobile unit on the front line.

2.To keep my front line as short as possible so that every unit can be where it will count the most and not spread too thin.

3.Give up as little ground as possible by not fleeing, but charging the Axis a toll for every City and terrain line I can.

I often don’t concern myself with exact “defensive lines.” The Dnieper River is great and I strive to hold that line as long as possible and often I will “count hexes” and back up my line just to be out of enemy HQ Attack Support shift range (though grudgingly).


Defense in Strength or Defense in Depth?

At the very least, the Soviet lines should include as much Strength as possible and some depth, particularly where Panzers might breakthrough. Let us examine these as separate but closely related notions:


Defense in Strength means the following achievements in priority order:

  1. Have at least 2 steps per a hex (so that they cannot be overrun).
  2. Find terrain (or build Improved Defense markers) so that as much of the line as possible receive the benefit of at least one defensive terrain shift in combat.
  3. Seek the “magic numbers” for the hex’s total Defense Strength. These are 7 or, better still, 9. As the Axis forces tend to roll against you in even numbers, you can find a small (but important) mathematical advantage in odd numbers (which makes them work a bit harder for their attacks to achieve the next odds column). Having 9-strength defending is a particular pain in the posterior for Panzers; if they can’t summon Close Air Support for a brace of column shifts, they are looking at a real chance of “Exchange attrition.”


Defense in ClumpsSize and Shape Matters: Throughout the game, workable broad Front Lines (for all Factions in all places and at all times) need not be too “solid” with shoulder-to-shoulder units, nor should they be too sparse with every-other-hex (or, gasp, every three hexes) occupied (except, perhaps, behind Major Rivers).You typically form an optimal line in “clumps.”

Clumps are generally shoulder-to-shoulder groups 3 or 4 hexes along the front line separated by 1 hex gaps where the enemy has only Leg (or no) units opposite (so nothing can ooze into the gap before combat). Where the enemy has a lot of non-Leg units on the front, you will want to form a solid phalanx of shoulder-to-shoulder defended hexes in front of them to block their ooze-filtration. Where they have only Leg units and nothing mobile on the front, smaller clumps can suffice.


Why Clump?: The advantages to “clumping” your front line defenses in small groups are:

  • The enemy will tend to go around them rather than through them; this means you can more readily predict where to set up second lines and have counterattack forces available.
  • If attacked, they should be able to maintain viable Retreat routes and keep additional step losses from retreating through EZOCs to a minimum.
  • They should be small enough groups that you can survive losing them outright if pocketed, but
  • They should be large enough groups to try to reach their way back from potential Isolation to an OLoC (even via a narrow “finger of life” OLoC) unless pocketed by an iron ring of enemy units. Keeping them from Isolation can really pay off in both the short and the long run.


Defense in Depth: There are two kinds of “second lines,” in Frank Chadwick’s ETO. The first is the traditional second line with Ground units on the map a hex (or two or three) behind the front line to hold key hexes in the rear and block enemy breakthroughs with their presence and Zones of Control. Putting 2-steps (so it cannot be overrun) in a rear hex is a nice plug, and these can be enhanced with replacements if they need to bulk up for a counterattack.

This material second line is especially important in a game with such fluid Mobile units as ETO. The trick is predicting where those breakthroughs are most likely to occur and knowing what is most important for you to hold in the rear. Making this all the more difficult is that your opponent can attack wherever they choose, and that will usually be where they can find the greatest weakness in your front and rear lines!

The other type of second line forces are those in your Strategic Reserves awaiting deployment onto the map through your HQ markers. Their great advantage is that the enemy does not see them in any particular location, so they cannot predict exactly when and where they might appear. Even their great disadvantages are surmountable:

  • HQ markers that are not yet functional can still excrete “defensive reserves” after the opponent’s Combat Phase and plug up a hole or appear on the HQ marker itself to prevent its capture.
  • You can also place these Reserve units as normal Reinforcements. This makes them handy for a needed counterattack even if their neighborhood HQ marker is not yet functioning (or is presently on the map!).

It only takes a handful of units, especially a couple of 2-steppers (that cannot be overrun) to create an HQ-issued emergency stopgap that can plug up a hole long enough for your turn to come around. At that point, you can consider your options, but the choices are far better if you prevent the enemy from a complete breakthrough to your rear areas (thus stretching your line even further).


How Good are My <1 Improved Defense Markers?

While everyone loves placing a single Improved Defense (<1) marker as their “free stuff” item, during the Barbarossa crisis the Soviets confront a need to place “trenches” on the map at a faster rate. For the record, you can make a good case for not using the Soviet free stuff item to dig trenches, but to Rush Recover another Air unit early on and help get a semblance of an Air Force up there contesting the skies.

Improved Defense marker

The Soviet player can spray EPs (and, in a Campaign Game, MPs) like water from a firehose along their lines and flood them with Improved Defense markers. That looks okay in the short term, but those RPs are not easily recovered and, especially when playing a Campaign Game, their loss will be sorely felt in the long term.

Here is what you need to know: The Axis will break through somewhere. This will likely necessitate falling back to your next defensive position. Something is almost always lost in the fallback (pinned Leg units in pockets, primarily, but also abandoned Improved Position markers that you paid for), and the fewer RPs’ worth of units and markers lost with each repositioning, the better your chances of winning. Remember, you’re playing a “long game,” a war of attrition, so you must “bean count” your way to glory and keep the numbers tilted to your advantage.

Say Goodbye to Your Prepared Defense Line: Brace yourself for more body-blows against whatever defense line you establish. The Axis will be able to chew up your lines and breakthrough somewhere (probably in multiple places during 1941). After all, the Axis still have Panzer Armies, Stukas, and 2-shift HQ attack support, so any hex on the map they can eventually point to and go “boom!” 

Ask yourself, if you were the Axis player, where would you attack? How does your defense look from their side of the table? A canny player will make an effort to defend those weak spot carefully, but doing so might change the answer to the question you just asked! The Axis is going to keep coming, and your best defense remains a strong counterattack to punish the panzers for their arrogance!


Where Should I Place My Soviet HQs?

Soviet HQ markerHere the Soviets face real problems. If their HQs position too close to the danger, they face destruction before they are fully-functional (or soon thereafter). If placed too far back then it is almost like not having them at all. What is a communist totalitarian dictator to do (besides assign blame and purge the victims of your frustration)?

Keep calm and think “strong points.” That is the best guideline for placing HQs during a fallback defense. You want them in support of Happy Halting Grounds. Fortunately, while they are waiting to become functional, they can still issue a Reserve unit for their local defense (when those are available). If you had to establish a strong point in your rear, where would you place it? Where are you willing and able to commit masses of men to fight and die for that ground? Even when placed in a Supply City (which is only a bit redundant), be prepared to counterattack and fight tooth-and-nail for it.


The Second Turn: July I, ‘41

It being the start of a new Month, a new Season, and a new war, there are a lot of signposts pointing in different directions as you assess the second game turn. Here we offer some tips to help you navigate your way forward.


Advice for the Soviets

  • The War of Resources: You fight the war on the ground mostly with Personnel Points in 1941. Therefore, lavish your Equipment and Fuel Points on the Soviet Air Force at this stage and try to get something back in the air as quickly as you can.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: As you raise your first Air units out of the Destroyed box, you may well want them in the Air Reserve so that the Axis player doesn’t smash their few numbers back into the Destroyed box again with Airfields Attacks. You will want at least 6 or so Air units Available before removing them, en masse, from your Air Reserve to the front line Flown box.
  • Fighters or Some Bombers, Too?: Your best Fighters are a top priority to get back into play so, at the very least, the Axis will have to start escorting their Bombers again (which will stop their Fighters from Strafing everywhere). Your paratroop-capable Night Bomber should go up early so that you can threaten Paradrop Missions and force the Axis to garrison their forward-rear targets (HQs and Rail Hubs) with some care. Serving the Axis a steady diet of SB-2 Night Bomber raids on Airfields Attacks can sometimes make for a furious Fuhrer, but Fighters, Fighters, and more Fighters is never a bad idea until you can wrest occasional air parity.
  • Which Air Units to Upgrade?: There are some real turkeys still flying among the obsolete Soviet Fighter units (the I-153s in particular, with the I-16s close behind). Make those your priority upgrades.
  • Should you Build a New Air Unit?: Probably not. You’ve got plenty in the Destroyed Box already and a lot of PPs invested in them. In fact, some players demobilize a few of their undesirable Air units just to get those PPs back on the map as Rifle Infantry units! If you opt to demobilize some of the Soviet Air Force, don’t go too far. It is a long road back if you have to rebuild the VVS from your Force Pool instead of merely the Destroyed box!
  • What to upgrade to a Guards?: With only two choices at this early juncture, a Rifle Infantry Corps or a 2-(4) Cavalry Corps, you cannot go wrong with either, but will probably go more “right” starting to improve the Infantry. After all, a 4-4 Guard Infantry Corps unit is almost as strong as a two-step Soviet Army… and at this point in the war that counts for a lot.
  • What goes in the Soviet Reserves?: Somehow, you must try to find something to limp into the Soviet Reserve on a regular basis. The most valuable thing at this stage of the war is a ready 4-5-4 in the Soviet Reserves. That is because it is an un-overrunable 2 step unit and that makes it an ideal panzer blocker. Two step Reserve units are hard to come by during the destructive times of Barbarossa, but somehow you must keep that Reserve threat and HQs that spew them to keep the Axis player off-balance (or, at least, honest).
  • Do you start buying HQs early?: This is always a quandary. Each HQ marker purchased from the Force Pool eats up 2 precious PPs (and 2 each of less-precious-this-moment EPs and FPs) – and those 2 PPs are another 4-5-4 that could exist plugging a hole or shoring up a second line of defense. That is a high cost during the Barbarossa crisis! And, while you will have to figure out where you can safely place them (hopefully for long enough to become functional), they have one vital use in the meantime – they can pop out “defensive Reserves” (see above).


Soviet Card Selection

This is pretty much a “no brainer.” Without playing the Emergency Mobilization card in July it will be very rough to plug the holes and blunt the blitz. As some point, too, be mindful of your best opportunity to play your Scorched Earth card and stop the Axis’ clocks for one turn!

In August you will have some real card selection decisions to make.


An In Valdai Response:

Just as Julius Caesar needed to beware the ides of March, so too must the Soviets beware an Axis breakthrough in the Valdai Hills. If the Axis cut that Rail (Life) Line between Moscow and Leningrad, the road ahead defending either becomes much, much harder. 

The Soviets need to plant a spear in the ground at Kalinin and make that their “Stalingrad on the Ivankovo Reservoir,” the cities of Demyansk and especially Bologoye their “Hills to die on.” If the Axis grabs those hexes to the Rybinsk Reservoir, parking panzers on the Volga River to descend on Moscow from the rear and/or push north to cut Leningrad’s lifeline Rail Line, it will be a dastardly challenge to overcome. 

Of all the places where the Soviet line might stretch and break, this is exactly where you don’t want it to!



Final Thoughts

  • Lance McMillan says, “Major River lines are great defensive barriers, but remember their defensive bonus cuts both ways. If your line is getting thin, the section holding a Major River line is usually safe to strip out of some units to shore up weak points elsewhere; however, if your opponent obtains a bridgehead over that river, you're in big trouble. Often it's best just to go around a Major River obstacle rather than assault your way across it.”