Third Reich and Great Pacific War:
Soviet Operational Limitations
By Mark Verdeur
In 1939, the armed forces of the Soviet Union were in a dreadful state. Stalin’s staff purges had crippled the officer corps of the Soviet military, leaving behind commanders selected more for their unquestioned loyalty to Stalin than for their military acumen. To simulate the strategic and logistical problems caused by the inadequate Soviet command structure during the early years of the war, players may use the variant rule below if desired:
22.5 Soviet Operational Limitations
In Third Reich, Great Pacific War and Second World War scenarios that begin before the Spring 1943 turn, players should treat some or all of the Soviet HQ Offensive impulse chits as Attrition chits per the table below:
Game Years Status of Soviet HQ Offensive Impulse Chits
1939-1940 Treat all Soviet HQ Offensive chits as Attrition chits
1941 Treat one HQ chit of the Soviet player’s choice as an HQ
Offensive chit, and treat the remaining HQ chits as Attrition
1942 Treat two HQ chits of the Soviet player’s choice as HQ
Offensive chits, and treat the remaining one or two HQ chits
as Attrition chits
1943 onward Treat all Soviet HQ chits as HQ Offensive chits
In the Spring 1941 turn (or on the first turn of any scenario that starts in 1941), the Soviet player writes down which of his HQ chits he will treat as Attrition chits for the current game year. He does this during the Impulse Chit subsegment (3.15) of the Spring 1941 Production Segment (or the Production Segment of the first turn if the scenario starts in 1941). Then in the Spring 1942 turn (or on the first turn of the game if the scenario starts in 1942), he does the same thing except that he may designate two HQs chits as HQ Offensive chits. In the Spring 1943 turn (or on the first turn of any scenario starting in 1943 or later) all Soviet HQs are treated as HQ Offensive chits on that turn and for the rest of the game.
Note that due to Red Army bureaucracy, once a chit has been designated as an HQ Offensive Chit it cannot be changed back to an Attrition chit. The designated chit must remain an HQ Offensive chit for the rest of the game.
Example: The 1939 Campaign scenario of Third Reich begins on the Fall 1939 turn. All three Soviet HQ Offensive chits are therefore treated as Attrition chits for all turns of 1939 and 1940, and may be bought for 2 BRPs apiece just like the normal Soviet attrition chit. When drawn during 1939 and 1940, Soviet HQ chits act as Attrition chits for all purposes (4.33). Then in the Impulse Chit subsegment of the Spring 1941 Production Segment, the Soviet player may designate one of his HQ chits as an actual HQ Offensive impulse chit. He chooses the West Offensive chit, so that will be his only HQ Offensive impulse chit for all of 1941. He may purchase the West Offensive chit normally during 1941 Production Segments for 5 BRPs, and may purchase the other HQ chits as Attrition chits for 2 BRPs each just like the normal Attrition chit. Then in the Spring 1942 turn, he must again designate the West Offensive chit as an HQ Offensive chit, and he decides to designate the South Offensive chit as an HQ Offensive chit for 1942 and leave the North Offensive chit as an Attrition chit for the rest of 1942. Then starting in Spring 1943 all Soviet HQs are treated as HQs for the rest of the game.
NOTE: This rule does not prevent or alter use of the Soviet General Offensive impulse chit, which may be purchased normally as desired per rule 4.35 (or as designated in scenario instructions).
In Third Reich, the Red Army in Europe is initially able to deploy 11 elite ground units (6 x 3-5 ARM and 5 x 3-3 INF) plus 30 combat factors of non-elite, non-GAR ground units. This force comprises the second largest army in Europe at the beginning of the war. With its three HQ units, the Red Army is also the second most operationally flexible army in Europe capable of mounting multiple simultaneous offensives. Historically, in 1939, the Red Army was very large, but it was definitely not operationally flexible.
The Soviet invasion of Finland in late 1939 and early 1940 exposed the poor state of the Red Army. With three times the soldiers, thirty times the aircraft, and one hundred times the tanks, the Red Army was only able to wrest Karelia from the Finns. But in Third Reich and Second World War scenarios, the Red Army can reliably conquer Finland in two turns by launching a General Offensive on the turn when they declare war and then following it up with an HQ offensive on the second turn. Finnish deployment options are limited: deploy 1 x 3-3 INF in each hex along the Soviet border and 1 x 3-3 INF in Helsinki or bunch up the 3-3 INFs around Helsinki. The Soviets can deploy 2 x 3-5 ARM in hex 2101, 1 x 0-3 HQ in Leningrad, 1 x 3-5 ARM in any Soviet hex next to Leningrad, 2 x 5-4 TAC in Leningrad, build an airfield in Leningrad, build 2 x 3-5 ARM, 1 x LC and 1 x 5-4 TAC in Leningrad for their initial strike force. If the Finns leave Helsinki ungarrisoned, then during a General Offensive the Soviets can land amphibiously at Helsinki with one half-strength unit (since Helsinki doesn’t have a beach) and attack every Finnish unit they can get to in the hope of reducing the Finnish 3-3 INFs to 1-3 INFs (thereby eliminating any Finnish hope of retaking Helsinki). If the Finns do garrison Helsinki, then the Soviets simply hammer the Finns on the border with two separate attacks by 2 x 3-5 ARM supported by 6 TAC factors each (note: they should fly 7 TAC to each attacked hex as the Finnish 1-4 TAC might shoot down one of the Soviet TAC factors). Average dice rolls will yield 4 hits per attack, reducing two of the Finnish 3-3 INFs. Average rolls for the Finnish player will yield 1 or 2 hits, so the Soviets should again be able to hit the Finnish line with at least two attacks by 2 x 3-5 ARM during exploitation combat to further reduce the Finnish line. That done, Helsinki should fall to an HQ Offensive on the next turn, giving the Soviets a major victory that they were unable to earn historically.
But with the Soviet operational limitations rule in place, the Soviet player can no longer reliably conquer Finland in a two-turn blitzkrieg. The Soviets might only deploy two of the 5-4 TAC units in Leningrad, but otherwise the first turn unfolds in essentially the same manner. The second turn is now an Attrition impulse, not an HQ offensive impulse. The Soviets can attack only a single hex and support that attack with only a single TAC unit. Unless the Finns were extremely lucky in the first turn, they will not be able to shield Helsinki from a direct attack. The Soviets will be able to muster 2 x 3-5 ARM supported by a single 5-4 TAC. The Finnish 1-4 TAC might be able to reduce the Soviet TAC to 4 points, but they can’t count on it. Therefore, the Soviets will attack Helsinki with 11 combat factors that hit on die rolls of 5 or 6. Average dice rolls yield 3.66 hits. The Finns should have either 4 or 6 INF factors in Helsinki by the beginning of the second turn after retreating there with an on-board unit or building a 1-3 INF directly in Helsinki. The Soviets need better than average dice rolls to get 4 hits and incredible luck to get 6 hits. Finnish resistance will eventually weaken as the Finnish BRP stockpile cannot absorb hits at the rate the Soviets can generate them, so with sufficient resolve the Soviets can still conquer Finland but it will be a much tougher fight.
An analysis of a Soviet invasion of Romania shows the Soviets cannot guarantee a rapid conquest in the south either. An invasion of Hungary gains the Soviets little as it is indefensible in the coming Barbarossa storm, and any Soviet units deployed in Hungary during Barbarossa face an extreme risk of being eliminated while out of supply, never to return. But the Baltic countries are still easy pickings for the Soviets, so at least in the early stages of the war the Soviet operational limitations rule gives the Soviets just enough capability to replicate their historical accomplishments (but not a whole lot more).
So how does use of the Soviet operational limitations rule affect the game? For the Soviets, the opening stages of Operation Barbarossa are nearly all defensive. Even if an opportunity to attack an exposed German 3-3 INF or 4-6 ARM unit arises, the risks of the attack usually outweigh the rewards. The aftermath of the attack will almost assuredly leave the Soviet forces weakened and more exposed. What the Soviets must be able to do in 1941 and 1942 is to move away from the Germans into or behind defensible terrain and to make opportunistic (or desperate) attacks if Moscow or Leningrad is threatened. Using the operational limitations rule, in 1941 the Soviets will have three Attrition impulse chits and one HQ offensive impulse chit with which to accomplish this task. Ironically, this situation actually increases the Red Army’s ability to move all of its units! It costs 6 BRPs to cover the entire front from Leningrad to Rostov with three Attrition impulse chits, but it costs 7 BRPs to cover the same front with one HQ offensive chit and one Attrition chit. The three Attrition chit option can cover a maximum front of 21 hexes and the one HQ and one Attrition chit option can cover a maximum front of 16 hexes. There are 15 hexes from Leningrad to Rostov, so the one HQ plus one Attrition chit option requires much more accurate HQ unit placement (only 1 hex of slack) than the three Attrition chit option (6 hexes of slack). On the down side, Attrition impulses do not allow exploitation movement, but most of the time the better movement ratings of the ARM and CAV units will allow them to form up with the masses of INF even without exploitation movement. So in this case, the cheaper option is actually better. Also keep in mind that the Soviets still have one HQ impulse chit and their General Offensive chit to use for those desperate attacks in 1941.
In 1942, the Soviets will lose one of the Attrition chits and gain another HQ offensive chit. This situation should not severely impact Soviet operations since the Germans will still be dominating the battlefield and the Soviets will still be in reactive mode. Then by 1943, the Soviets are fully up to their operational capabilities and ready to carry the war to the German heartland.
In Second World War the Soviets have four HQ units in their initial order of battle. So in 1941 and 1942, the Soviet player must decide whether to deploy his one or two HQ units corresponding to his one or two designated HQ Offensive chits to the Pacific map or the Europe map (recalling Zhukov early). How long can the Soviets contain the Japanese in the Far East with a single General Offensive impulse and only three Attrition impulses per year on the Pacific map? This is a strategic decision with long-term consequences — perfect for Second World War!