Deep Battle: Soviet Doctrine for Operational Level Warfare

Operation Uranus - Successful Deep Battle -Eastern Front 1942-11 to 1943-03 - Banner

Everybody knows about the German’s Blitzkrieg style of warfare. But I was surprised to discover the Soviets had a similar approach to warfare called “Deep Operations” or “Deep Battle”. This was a well defined doctrine for Operational Level Warfare, was invented during the 1920s, and deliberately applied during WW2. Admittedly Deep Battle had mixed success during the war, but this was probably more to do with the previous purge of Soviet military leadership than with any fundamental flaw in the doctrine. Soviet doctrine in the Cold War period is still based on Deep Battle.

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Tabletop Operational Wargame Inspired by Drive on Moscow

Balagan Operational Warfare Example Map - Roads and Railways - Banner

I’m still looking at my options for Wargaming Rules to use for the Operational Level of War. This time I thought I’d have a look at the iPad wargame “Drive on Moscow” by Shenandoah Studio. It is right up my alley being an operational level warfare and on the Eastern Front. Continuing my experiment of translating other game systems to the table top, I wondered what Drive on Moscow would look like as a generic set of table top rules. I haven’t tried to follow the original game slavishly, just get something with the same flavour.

Previously I did the same thing with Hell’s Gate. Now I’m trying a bigger scale (1 hex/square = 40km; units are corps or armies), different turn sequence, more ground conditions (easy, mud, frozen and snow), and different combat mechanism.

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Operational Terrain 1: Experimenting with River Templates for 4 Inch Hexes

Rivers for 4 inch hexes 1 – Templates for most likely options - Banner

Quite a lot of the Operational Level Wargames I looked at recently use a hex grid. And 4 inch hexes seem about the right size for the table top – at least to me – so I have been wondering what to do about terrain. My normal terrain will sit on hexes fine. But rivers are different. That realisation lead to experimenting with templates for generating river features to sit on top of a hex mat.

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Tabletop Operational Wargame Inspired by Hell’s Gate

Balagan Operational Warfare Example Map 1 - Lots of Supply - Banner

During my review of operational level wargames, Martin Rapier put me onto Philip Sabin’s game “Hell’s Gate” within the book “Simulating War” (Sabin, 2012). Hell’s Gate is an operational level board game focusing on the Korsun Pocket of 24 Jan – 16 Feb 1944. I wondered what this game system would might look like as a generic set of tabletop rules for operational level warfare on the Eastern Front. As an experiment, I drafted such a set of rules. Here is what I came up with. It is my work, I have for example completely replaced the combat system, but the link to Hell’s Gate is clear.

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What Wargaming Rules to use for the Operational Level of War?

What Wargaming Rules are really for the Operational Level of Warfare - Banner

I’ve tried Megablitz a few times but I wondered what other wargaming rules there are to use for Operational Warfare in WW2. I quickly found there are a lot of game systems that claim to be large scale rules. But you have to careful in this space as many rules that claim to be Operational are actually Tactical. Others are Operational-Tactical and a fourth group are what I call Operational-Map-And-Tactical. These groupings are from my categorisation scheme using my criteria for what makes a set of wargaming rules operational level – both found later in this post.

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What is the Operational Level of War?

What is the Operational Level of Warfare - Banner

I’m interested in operational level wargames for World War II. But my definition of “operational level” has been pretty vague. Something about campaigns and major offensives. So I thought I’d explore operational level war in more detail … and it turns out I was right. It is all about campaigns and major offensives.

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How to use Crossfire Armies for Megablitz

R-2-3 Yellow Diamond - Regimental Sabot - Banner

It must be age but sometimes I find a solution to a problem and then, after a couple of years, I completely forget and look for a solution again. That is what happened recently with ground scale in Megablitz. The rules recommend two ground scales and suggests some base sizes to match. All my WW2 kit is based for Crossfire so does not match the Megablitz recommendations. In this post I outline what I’ve done so that I can use my Crossfire armies for Megablitz.

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Wargaming Rules for WW2

There are lots of wargaming rules for World War 2. These are the ones I play: Crossfire, Megablitz, Rapier Offensive and Engle Matrix Games. One day I might write up my thoughts on the competitors, of which there are many.

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You can never have too many trucks

Trucks-86 Russian Zis-5 3-ton truck - Banner

“You can never have too many trucks” is a catch phrase of Megablitz players, and, in fact, of players of other operational games such as Not Quite Mechanised. You see Megablitz includes rules for logistics and transport for those supplies is very important. Megablitz forces also need headquarters and signals units; signals units in particular are something that rarely appear on a wargaming table.

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Position Four – A Megablitz Battle Report

Position 4 Day 1 Turn 1 Table - Banner

Chris Harrod and I played my Position Four Scenario for Megablitz. The game featured a few firsts:

  • The first outing of my of my four horse artillery limbers.
  • The first time I’ve fielded my Russian and German supply carts.
  • The first time I’ve used one of my newly painted MDF base boards.
  • The first time I’ve used by 45x45mm sabots for Russian Rifle Regiments.
  • The first time we’ve played a game on a ridiculously skinny table.
  • The first Megablitz game in a long time

Chris took some snaps on his phone.

Setting: Eastern Front, Central Sector; Sometime 1 Feb – 22 Nov 1943

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