Road To Smolensk - An AAR/Tutorial/Tips
Or in other words how to play War in the East for Noobs
Disclaimer - I won't be going too much into the details on the mechanics of the games and the functionality of the buttons etc. I am going to assume that those can be learned from the manual instead I want to focus on what are the tricks and tips in order to successfully complete in my opinion one of the harder scenarios.
First things first
War in the East requires some careful planning and discipline to sticking to the plan. Of course this all needs to get thrown out the window when the bullets start flying but at least you will feel more like a General because you have a plan to pin the blame on.
I am playing under Normal Difficulty with no Fog of War as the Axis (Germans)
There are 4 main components that work together in WitE.
Air power (bombers and escorts)
Logistics (Railheads and HQs)
lets look at the Big Picture
This scenario is 10 turns long and depicts the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa. It is focusing on just the center portion of the Eastern Front Campaign which is the destruction of the Red Army and the capture of Smolensk and Moscow if possible.
Looking at the objectives you get certain victory points for cities held at the end of the game and a multiplier for number of Soviet men/guns/armor/aircraft lost. You need to kill significantly greater numbers of Soviets to get a victory point compared to what the soviets need to gain a victory point for the number of Germans killed. For these scenarios captured counts as killed.
So basically you need to attack and hold cities inflict maximum casualties on the Russians and keep yours to a minimum.
The area where the action takes place is the colored section. Any hexes in grey cannot be entered by the German player. They can however be used by the Soviets to pull troops away and reinforce. - I understand why but this makes it much harder to try and get encirclement etc for the German player of the Soviets.
Before we get into the tactical stuff we need to decide on the big picture. Taking Moscow in 10 turns is a pipe dream. Thus we want a plan that captures the most valuable cities. First decision. Concentrate our forces and go straight down the middle or split up into multiple fronts. I am choosing to go with the multiple fronts it gives more flexibility to changing situations puts pressure on the Soviets on a broader front and historically was more accurate as well.
I have decided on two main thrusts and will split my forces accordingly between the Northern Front and the Southern Front. As I push along those axis I will split off parts off from each army to capture as many objective cities as possible.
Rough axis of attacks
Now that the grand strategy has been assigned its time to look at the railroad logistics. Its safe to say in WitE railroads are more important than the tanks and infantry. You have to keep your units supplied and that is done by calculating the combat units distance from their HQ and the HQs distance from the railhead. Those crafty Russians had changed the rail width so the Germans were forced to convert hundreds of Km of rail line in order to be able to supply their armies. In this scenario you have two FBD (Feldeisenbahndirektionen) -Railway Administration units. These are the railway repair units that you as the player can control to replace the Soviet with a suitable German width railway.
In the North is the Baltic zone where due to a closer similarity in rail stock the repair costs are roughly half to 1/3 for the Germans compared to the Soviet.
We want our railways to supply our two main thrusts. I like to use the Baltic zone as much as possible to push my railway network out further as well. That means our railway supply network is going to look roughly like this
Rail Network plan
Your FBD units have manual control and are essentially a simulation of a coordinated repair and administrative unit. You can move them along the rail network and repair it as you move. This takes movement points. Right now since they are already on a German rail network the RRC check is blank. When you move them onto the Soviet rail network this RRC button become active and shows a number which corresponds to the number of movement points used to repair that hexes rail network. As you push forward your rail network becomes vulnerable to attack. The soviets only have to move a combat unit into a repaired hex and they will destroy the network meaning that all the track past that point is no longer active. Partisans can also appear and destroy a rail hex. These things mean you need to plan on how to protect your rail networks in your plan as well. Keeping partisans activity low is also important and will be covered later.
FBD Unit Detail
Prior to Turn 1 - Withdrawals dont get surprised
The Germans stockpiled men and supplies for the attack on Russia. But not all the units and divisions were slated for the entire Smolensk operation. For instance the 8th armored Panzer division was part of Army Group North and tasked to capture Leningrad. To simulate that it has a commitment to the Baltic theater this division will be taken away from the German player after turn 1. Other divisions and units will likewise be withdrawn (and a few will be provided) over the course of the scenario. You will need to carefully check which units leave and when so you don't suddenly lose an entire corps that was guarding a vulnerable flank or railway supply network.
The Reinforcement and Withdrawal tab will provide a better overview of which ones leave and when. There are also warnings on the units as well but it is important to note who is leaving. For this campaign the key withdrawals take place early predominantly in the North. To plan for this I will send reinforcements to the Northern thrust when they become available.
The Turn order that I usually use based on the WitE turn Guide. Basically it is
1. Check Logistics Event Log (especially focus on status of trucks lost) Trucks are key in maintaining supply.
2 Look at battle outcomes
3. Look at losses screen
4. Planning = Recon/Bombing/Ground Moves/Hasty or Deliberate attacks/Rail repair
5. Logistics = Check distance of units from HQ/HQ from railhead (Commanders report is very useful for these checks)
For the start of this scenario I focus on Air/Ground/Logistics in that order.
Turn 1 is Special
The Germans get a lot of advantages on turn 1 to simulate the surprise attack on Russia. In order to get the full benefit of these advantages there needs to be a lot of micromanaging on the first turn. The first benefit is the surprise attack on Russian airfields that can damage many soviet aircraft on the ground. The AI does a competent job but to really maximize the damage the player will need to run this manually.
Turn 1 Air
The Air doctrines set how many planes fly and for what missions. All you really want to do is fly your bombers to kill as many soviet planes on the ground as possible. Basically the game calculates planes ability to fly based on fatigue and the number of miles flown. Turn 1 you want those aircrews pounding the airfields. The Soviets cannot send a significant number of fighter intercepts up so what you want to do on the first turn is pick a soviet base that is close by send a small bomber force against it but one that has a good escort and then pick off the Soviet CAP on that phase. Later air phases in turn 1 you can risk sending bomber unescorted due to the lack of Soviet intercept power. Be careful this will only work on turn 1. You need to make sure that you turn the Air Doctrine settings back to normal levels after turn 1 or your aircraft will get swatted out of the sky.
You want to set your percent to fly at 30% this will maximize the number of sorties.
You wont need any ground support for attacks or air recon this turn keep the aircraft focused on destroying soviet airframes.
Air Doctrine settings
Lets look at the German Aircraft
Right clicking on a German airfield brings up the airfield details screen. Right clicking on the light blue attached units brings up the unit details
Airbase units details etc
You can have fighters, bombers, level bombers, fighter bombers and transports. A key attribute to watch out for is the distance in hexes that the plane can fly from its base. Many level bombers can significantly out fly their fighter escorts.
Tactical Bomber Range (Ju 87B)
Level Bomber example
Attributes which make your planes more effective
Getting ready to bomb a soviet airfield
First select the bomb airfield button. All Soviet airfield potential targets hexes are shaded in red. Since we are playing without Fog of War enabled we have perfect intelligence on what number of planes and types are on the airfield. For Turn 1 the Germans have perfect intelligence but on later turns if you had FoW on you would need to do recon missions to be able to find the airbases. Those recon missions would need to be escorted as well.
Before you start bombing you want to start consolidating your airbases with their HQs and thinking about making sure that your shorter range bombers (the Stukas) are in range of the closest soviet airbases. Check the airbase details to see which airbases have the Ju87B. These airbases can be no further than 11 hexes away from their targets. As you push soviet combat units out of the way you will continue to move these airbases up into soviet territory later in the turn.
In the image below the colors indicate critical relationships and supply states.
I have selected the HQ unit in Purple. Its higher HQ (that it reports to and from which supplies roll down) is in gold. Subordinate units (combat or in this case airbases) are in blue if in supply and red if not in supply. Being out of supply is always a bad thing. Yellow means that the unit is a peer of the selected unit (ie that unit is also attached to the higher HQ)
Basically any combat unit that is more than 5 hexes away from its HQ is out of supply. Its way more complicated than that but this is a good enough rule to follow. So now we want to find spots for our airbases where they can move so the Stukas are within 11 hexes of the Soviet airbases we want to bomb as well as grouping all the German airbases within 5 hexes of their reporting HQ.
Supply/Distance and HQ relationships
To do this I move the II FliegerCorps HQ to Siedice and the 9th LW airbase that was immediately to the west of it now two hexes to the east of the II FliegerCorps HQ. I bring the 7th LW airbase across the Bug river to just east of Wyszkow. With these moves completed all my airbases that report to II FliegerCorps are now within 5 hexes of the HQ and are in supply.
I make similar arrangements for the Northern Airbases consolidating them within 5 hexes of their superior HQ VII FliegerCorps.
Another tip for airbases they need to be in woods or open hexes in order to allow their units to fly.
On Turn 1 you want to find as many juicy target fields packed with plenty of planes as possible. The soviets mostly used pre war generation planes and their better more modern planes were further back from the front.
Bombing an airfield
For turn 1 the best choice is the soviet airbase SW of Bialystock. Its packed with fighter planes (over 300 of them) which will put a sever dent in the Soviets ability to put CAP in the air. It is also close to our current airbases (remember our Stukas only have an 11 hex range from their airbase). You can and will move airbases but doing so will add miles and fatigue to the air units reducing their number of air miles that they can fly. So moving them has to be done strategically.
Hold the shift key and click on the soviet air base and the manual allocation of available units (in range with enough airframes etc) comes up.
The AI has already selected units but you can change these. In this case I want to send a small crew of Stukas with limited range and a small but decent number of fighter escorts. This will hopefully draw what Soviet CAP is available up and let me destroy it.
Micro Managing air
In my selection I have deselected all the longer range bombers and fighter bombers but taken a good number of fighters and tactical (Stuka Bombers). This has a total of 69 fighters and 55 bombers.
Now there is a lot that occurs under the hood of the game engine dealing with hundreds of different factors the manual is pages thick going into explanations of how odds and results are calculated. However I am not going to go into all the factors. Suffice to say because of the doctrines we had set earlier and many other factors (leadership moral fatigue etc) the attack consisted of 66 fighters with 22 bombers. When you look at the results of the battle you can see that the Germans lost no planes but the Russians lost 58 fighters and 34 bombers. A nice result and hopefully will allow our longer range bombers to penetrate unmolested deeper into soviet airspace.
Continue bombing close airfields with the closer range JU87 Stukas and good fighter escorts. Once the plane density on the soviet airbase has fallen below 30 total planes it is no longer a good target. This simulates the planes no longer being parked next to each other in neat organized rows ripe for the picking. Move on to airfields further on. As you continue to bomb you will see your Used Percentage tick up. For the first couple of turns you want to ride your airplanes hard. Eventually you will have destroyed all the planes on airbases within reach of the JU87 Stukas.
Dont feel like you have to bomb everything nonstop. Its OK to leave movement points available at your airbases to allow them to move deep into occupied territory on Turn 1. But a couple of things to remember when you so this.
Any soviet combat unit that moves adjacent to an airbase will cause it to displace destroying a certain number of planes and all the planes that are damaged. I have read in forums that airbases do not work when in urban and swamp hexes (I cant find this in the manual so just to be safe I always put my airbases in clear/tree hexes).
Here is a good point to stop and next we will start looking at the ground phase of turn 1