East Front: The Partisan War Video Game

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A strategic level video game about the Eastern Front of the Second World War

East Front simulates the Soviet Union’s fight against Germany during World War II. This is certainly not the first war game or video game to cover this conflict. However, East Front does offer a few features that make it unique, and worthy of an experienced gamer’s attention. The Germans mastered a style of warfare that allowed small numbers of mechanized troops to outmaneuver larger, less coordinated opponents. Creating a war game that simulates the German’s early mastery of European battlefields is notoriously difficult. This is mainly due to the fact that the Wehrmacht invested in training a generation of officers to conduct well coordinated, fast moving offensives. Germany’s real advantage was flexibility and coordination. These are qualities that are hard to model in a game.

You could give the Wehrmacht units higher movement point allowances and higher strength ratings then allied units. However, this tends to overrate the capabilities of the Germans: they do well in the early days of the war, but they continue to outperform as you get to 1944 and 1945. With this system, you end up with easy German victories at Kursk and El Alamein. Furthermore, higher strength and movement abilities do not really reflect the realities of German combat power. Even in the early days of the war, Germany was often at a disadvantage in terms of man power and equipment. Boosting the capabilities of individual units is fine for tactical and operational simulations, but the approach tends to breakdown with multi-year, strategic level games.

You can also write rules that give the Germans special advantages. An extra movement phase for the German player or die roll modifiers that kick in when German units attack non-entrenched enemy units often make things more realistic. Special “shock” rules that limit Allied player actions also often work. Again, however, these things work well for tactical simulations, but fall a bit flat with strategic level games. They might make sense in 1940, but they seem weird by the time you get to 1943. This is because the Allies found ways to counter the German’s advantages, but these countermeasures do not translate well into hex based map games. By late 1943, the air superiority of the Western Allies made it nearly impossible for the Germans to amass large numbers of troops and tanks to carry out offensive operations. Similarly, the logistical difficulties of supplying an army deep inside the Soviet Union made conducting large scale, mobile operations almost impossible. To add insult to injury, the British broke German codes and the Soviets had good human intelligence coming out of Berlin by 1943. Consequently, the Allies could usually see a German attack coming, eliminating the element of surprise that was crucial to early German victories. Unfortunately for strategy gamers, simulating air power, logistics and intelligence is really hard to do with traditional gaming systems.

East Front’s card driven combat and resource management system captures Germany’s early mastery of the battlefield and the counter measures that the Soviet Union developed in response. Unique game features include:

1) BLITZKRIEG Cards: this card is designed to simulate the German’s ability to launch fast moving, deep penetrating attacks. These German cards capture 4 human player hexes when played. One hex must be adjacent to a computer hex that is in supply. Each hex must be adjacent to another computer controlled hex. These rules allow the computer player to penetrate deep into human controlled territory by playing only one card. This card requires lots of scarce ARMOR and TRUCKS resources to block, so you will have to come up with some clever strategies to stop German offensives.

2) Intelligence: as with other games on this site, the human player can see the next card that the computer intends to play by maintaining a balance of 5 INTELLIGENCE points. Being able to predict German actions was a big advantage for the Soviet Union during WWII, and it is a big advantage in this game.

3) Partisans: the Soviet Union mobilized hundreds of thousands of resistance fighters behind enemy lines during the Great Patriotic War. These partisans provided intelligence on enemy units and attacked German supply lines. Partisan units were typically led by Soviet officers that had air dropped behind enemy lines with a radio team. Consequently, Moscow was able to tightly control and coordinate partisan activity. This allowed for coordinated attacks on German supply lines across thousands of miles, and involving hundreds of thousands of resistance fighters. With radio contact, partisans could also report enemy troop movements back to Moscow. In a way, Soviet partisans functioned like a second air force for the Soviet Union: they tracked enemy movements and interdicted enemy supply.

East Front simulates this partisan activity with liberal use of SECRET AGENT markers. When a SECRET AGENT marker is placed in an enemy hex, that hex is out of supply. This simulates the partisan’s coordinated attacks on German railways and telephone lines. The Germans still control the hex, but they cannot do much with it. The WATCHERS card also allows you to gather INTELLIGENCE points from SECRET AGENT markers on computer controlled hexes. This models the partisans ability to monitor and report on German movements in real-time. The OPERATION CONCERT card allows partisans to take control of their hexes for the human player.

4) Production: German forces quickly captured the Soviet Union’s agricultural and industrial heart land in Eastern Russia. Consequently, the Soviets needed to move entire factories to new sites beyond the Ural Mountains. This took a while, so the Soviet Union’s ability to produce weapons and munitions starts from a low base at the beginning of the game. After a decade of rapid industrialization, Soviet bureaucrats were uniquely qualified to mobilize the Soviet economy for war, and production grew quickly. The game simulates this challenge by using PRODUCTION cards that can generate resources from supply heads, and NEW FACTORY cards that increase a supply head’s ability to generate resources. To win, you will need to balance the need to produce weapons today with the need to grow future production capacity.

As always, you can change anything you don’t like about the game by using the GAME EDITOR feature.