Barbarossa Derailed

From tactical level combat on the East Front, to operational level. On the table isĀ Smolensk, one of MMP’s OCS games, this one featuring the summer ’41 battles to take Smolensk and open the road to Moscow. The historian David Glantz wrote a number of books about the campaign suggesting that the seeds of Nazi defeat on the East Front were to be found here. More typically, commentators have pointed at Stalingrad or Kursk, but rarely an event so early in the war. The arguments will continue and meantime I can game the situation and draw my own conclusions.

OCS is an intensive gaming experience. You have to plan ahead, sequencing your moves, maximizing your meager supply, pushing your cardboard soldiers to the limit, and extracting every last advantage from the interaction of the various rules systems.

For example, some air forces can conduct ‘hip shoots’ which, if they go well, cause enemy forces to lose their protective Zone of Control and reduce their fighting power. Timing such a strike is crucial. For example, the combat system gives huge bonuses if your lead unit – in attack or defense – has a higher Action Rating (troop quality). So small high quality units are best deployed wherever the action is or might be.

There’s lots more. OCS game turns are not short affairs. The downside is that when playing face-to-face there’s not much to do. I think that’s why some OCS games in conventions have lots of side games going on at the same time. This is not so much a disadvantage if you are playing solitaire, but it does mean there’s a big burden on the solo player. It’s hard work. Whether it’s enjoyable is a matter of personal taste.

On top of all of this is the perennial discussion of whether the system is an accurate model of WW2 operational level combat. I’ll not go there now. What I will say is that even setting up a scenario and getting a couple of turns in can be very educational about the campaign being portrayed. As usual, this means my non-fiction reading list has been expanded by a couple of books on the campaign.

I love this hobby.