Monday, January 3, 2011

Gary Grigsby's War in the East - AAR(eview) - To the Western Dvina!

This is an AAR of an scenario of the game Gary Grigsby's War in the East. I have included some comments and screenshots as a supplement of a review that will be published by the end of this week.

Continuing from the previous entry, welcome back to the line of departure of Army Group North. A short refresher of the plan of operations follows.
Please click the image for a more detailed view.
The most pivotal event in the next one or two weeks (truly hoping one week!), will be the 4th Panzer Group (4th PzGrp) securing a railroad crossing over the Western Dvina river in order to establish a future railroad supply line that will reach Pskov. Upon crossing the Western Dvina river, a detachment of 4th PzGrp will pivot northwest to encircle Russian forces south of the river. 18th Army is to push northeast in the direction of Riga and destroy Russian forces trapped south of the Western Dvina River. 16th Army is to advance in the general direction of Velikie Luki through the fortified city of Kaunas.

The next screenshot offers a close up of the area of operations just beyond the line of departure of the Army Group North. The yellow arrows were added with an image processing software.

To truly enjoy this game, I suggest you keep your order of battle in mind. Depending on which side you are playing and the time period of the scenario, your operational "atom" formation (smallest formation to be tasked with a mission within the operational realm) is the Corps (German side) or the Army (Russian side). Keep these formations together and task them with missions that are coherent with the ones of Armies, Fronts or Army Groups. Careless "counter pushing" will most likely lead you to failure. Just a reminder, in the game, units belonging to the same army have the same color. Purple for the 9th Army, fucsia for the 4th PzGrp and pink for the 16th Army. In the image above, the yellow arrows represent the planned axis of advance for every army. Note how the 4th PzGrp axis of advance coincides with a railroad line that runs west-east towards the Western Dvina river (AKA Daugava river). Railroads play a crucial role in this game as they transport the bulk of supplies, ammo and fuel needed for your operations. So, you better have railroads thought of when you make plans.

The hour of battle has come, let's wake the Juggernaut!

In the game, attacking is a simple matter of selecting the attacking unit(s) and left clicking in an adjacent enemy unit. There are two types of attack: hasty and deliberate (you have to hold the shift key besides the right mouse click to activate it). Your unit(s) in a hasty attack will use only a fraction of its/their assets, but its/their mobility after the attack will be bigger than after a deliberate attack in which all the unit(s) assets will be used. In the image below, all infantry divisions in the I Corps/16th Army (12th, 32nd and 121st Inf Div.) are conducting a hasty attack on a hapless Russian infantry division. The decision of conducting a hasty or deliberate attack is upon your shoulders and you should consider the defending forces, their fortification levels and the terrain. More or less, the borders battles are a cakewalk and the Russian defenders retreat, rout or surrender in mass. So all my attacks on the border were hasty. And successful. 

I Corps, 16th Army hasty attack. Note the circular icon over the defending unit.
The tactical battle results are shown in an overlay that automatically appears on the screen. In the image below, units from the 4th PzGrp have started their hasty attacks.

4th PzGrp units start rolling. The black and red lines indicate air support. The green line represents the route of enemy airplanes arriving to the battlefield. Click the image for an expanded view.
Note the details in the battle report. At this moment, the battle is still unfolding (Ju-88s are bombing the Russian 5th Rifle Division).  In the left panel of the battle report there is a list of the friendly forces engaged. Besides the aircraft (dude! do we really need 100+ Bf109 fighters?) there is one land unit that came from the Corps HQ to support the attack (846th Howitzer Bn). This automatic assignment of combat support units from HQ units is tunable (your can adjust the level of support a HQ unit gives away) and can be turned off if you want to manually assign combat support units to specific combat units. This lack of counters for combat support units is really convenient as it takes away from the player the tedious task of moving additional counters and (as seen in other games) the shock of seeing an enemy division overrun that artillery battalion somebody forgot to move out of harms way. But, keep in mind that HQ units will provide combat support units only in proximity of the subordinate combat units (within a distance of 5 hexes). That's why, I insist, you need to watch for your forces' deployment carefully.

And before we continue rolling up the frontier defenses one more word about air support and the air war in general. The air warfare aspect of the game is handled almost automatically. There is a an "air doctrine" page in the game in which you can specify how much of your assets will be devoted to ground combat support, enemy airbases and cities bombing, interdiction escorting, and air superiority.
The air campaign is for the most part in the hands of the computer.
Air bases and air fleets have their own counters, which you should move up close to the front line as your land forces advance because your airplanes eventually will not be able to reach their targets (this is a big country!). Individual, user-driven by "click on target" aerial operations are also available: air recon (F5 key), bomb a specific unit (F6 key), bomb a specific airfield (F7 key), bomb a specific city (F7 key), aerial resupply of a friendly unit (F8 key) and transfer of air groups between air units (F9 key). Be advised that in the middle of your ground combat operations is very easy to loose track of how many aircraft you have ready (they may have used up all their available miles per turn) at a certain point. I myself cringed in frustration when I found out there were no more aircraft available to bomb a specific Russian division entrenched in a swamp. I'm sure there has to be a screen with that information consolidated, but I just couldn't find it.

By a series of front-wide hasty attacks with units from all my armies, the front is ruptured and the flood gates are open for my troops. Time to move on those boots, wheels and tracks! 

This is a turn based (IGOYOUGO) game with turns that simulate one week of operations. It also uses hexes that represent 10 miles of terrain.
Military geography. Click the image for an expanded view.
In a pretty much standard way, every unit in the game has a movement points allowance per turn.
These movement points are specified in the right side number at each unit counter.
This is the counter of a German infantry division. It has a total of 16 movement points. The number in the left is the total combat power of the unit.

For comparison purposes, this is the counter of a German panzer division. It has a total of 50 movement points. The number in the left is the total combat power of the unit.
The previous counter images are intended to give an idea about the mobility and firepower these two types of combat units have. Each unit will loose movement points as they move through different types of terrain or hexes that are enemy-controlled. All of these mechanics and design are pretty much standard in turn/hexagon based war games. The question is: how it works for a theater of war like Barbarossa?

In the screenshot below, the 6th Panzer Division (XLI Corps, 4th PzGrp) is attacking a Russian infantry division. Through a combination of combat (combat uses movement points) and movement (of course movement uses movement points, meh!), the 6th Panzer Division has advanced some 70 miles from the line of departure and still has 31 movement points (out of 50) left. Lots of punch left in this unit and in my opinion this kind of in-game mobility simulates the real life one pretty well.

Click the image for a better view. The 6th Panzer Division (highlighted yellow) is halfway towards its objective. Note the advance of 18th Army (purple counters) and how the 16th Army is knocking the door of Kaunas.
At the end of the week the 4th PzGrp has succeeded in brushing aside any opposition found on its route but failed in securing a crossing over the Western Dvina river (Daugava river). The railroad crossing appears to be defended by an airborne brigade. 16th Army has advanced some 40 miles after the initial break-through attacks and now has to conduct a cross-river assault into the fortified city of Kaunas. 19th Army has eliminated or routed all units it faced in the border and now is slowing its pace despite the clear terrain ahead: note the Russian armored division on its right flank.

End of first week of operations.
To be continued. Stay tuned. 


Johan said...

Thanks for the very interresting info on WITE. I still haven't decided if I'm going to invest in this very expensive game or not, hopefully your upcoming review will help me make up my mind!

JC said...

Hi Johan,

I plan to have this thing (AAR and review) by the end of this week.

Thanks for visiting!