Design of the Game:
Designer's Comments, Advice on Strategy and Tactics,
Historical Background, and Bibliography
(Copyright 2007 Louis R. Coatney)
I have been designing military history boardgames about the Battle of Moscow since 1973.
This game is the littlest brother of two larger scale games. MD!'s scale is 60 miles -- or 100 kilometers -- per hex, and its Russian order of battle (roster of units) especially is greatly abstracted.
Discarding the use of "zones of control" -- hexes adjacent to a hex occupied by a unit --
for stopping enemy movement for korps level units works. Just the prohibition
against retreating into hexes adjacent to attackers -- reminiscent of Robert Bradley's
old classic, FALL BARBAROSSA -- is adequate for surrounding and annihilating enemy
units in combat conditions.
The air rules are similar to those in 1st ALAMEIN, my also-free desert game on my webpage
-- insisted upon by my aeronautical engineer son Robert. ("Airpower Joe" Miranda is also partial to air units being included in Russian Front games.)
Of course, the key to this comparatively simple wargame system is that German armies
and corps are mutually supporting in defense, but this is not true for
the Russians. This reflects the better, radio-facilitated defensive/artillery coordination of the Germans, and it enables the German Player to penetrate deeply with narrow breakthroughs made by spearhead -- Schwerpunkt -- units, like the Panzer groups/armies.
Advice on Strategy and Tactics:
For the Germans:
For the Russians:
- Tactically advance eastward after combat as much and often as you can, without exposing your forces with complete recklessness.
- As the Panzer general "Schnell Heinz" [my nickname for him] Guderian used to say,
"Rocks! Not pebbles!" High-odds attacks with chances of Breakthroughs can
obliterate entire defending lines.
On the other hand, the Combat Results Table is constructed so that a roll of "1" can
frustrate even those high odds attacks, so ...
- If you have sufficient units, a low-odds attack can Disperse or Spend large numbers of
German units. (Just "Spending" German units in operational combat is useless, though,
since they are to be recovered/refaced at the impending end of the game-turn.) Indeed,
when attacking, try doing so in "waves," so that a low-odds attack may Disperse/weaken --
"soften up" -- German defenders for a big attack to follow.
- I'd advise not declaring "No Retreat!" in the first 2 or 3 turns of the game.
When the Germans are at the very gates of Moscow, THAT is a good time!
Historical Background:-- More to come.
Historically, the Nazi Germans' offensive against Moscow -- "Operation Typhoon" --
started on October 1, 1941, and stopped with Stalin's unleashing of Marshal Zhukov's
massive counteroffensive on December 5, 1941 (only 2 days before we Americans were
shocked into the war by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor).
Although the Russians' opening losses were horrendous -- estimates are as high as 800,000
men killed (or captured and then mostly killed in German concentration camps) and thousands
of tanks and guns destroyed or captured -- the Russian people had now realized that the
Germans were killers and enslavers, not liberators, and those soldiers fought stubbornly,
diverting the attackers from a straight advance to and capture of Moscow.
Thereafter, the Russian winter offensive railed against the German outposts until casualties
and the spring thaw forced its complete cessation on April 30, 1942.
In fairness, it should be noted that contrary to general impression in the West, German
troops outnumbered Russian troops, especially after the Russians' fearful opening losses.
- Bergstrom, Christer, and Andrey Mikailov. "Chapter 23: Typhoon against Moscow."
BLACK CROSS/RED STAR: AIR WAR OVER THE EASTERN FRONT. Vol. 1, Operation Barbarossa, 1941.
Pacifica CA: Pacifica Military History, 2000.
A good summary, covering key encounters and bombing targets, with some indication of
strengths and losses.
- Eremenko, A.I. V NACHALYE VOINI. Moscow: NAUKA, 1964.
Published in English as ARDUOUS BEGINNING, Eremenko was the Bryansk Front commander in
the opening days of the German offensive ... until wounded. The Russian edition contains
the one map that helped me identify Reiter's tank-cavalry group behind the front, east of
- Fedorov, A.G. AVIATSIYA V BITVE POD MOSKVOI. Moscow: NAUKA, 1975.
The air battle, from the Russian point of view, with detailed tables of units and their
strengths and nice photographs.
- Harvey, A.D. "The Soviet Air Force versus the Luftwaffe: A.D. Harvey assesses the role
of the Soviet Air Force in the defeat of Nazism." HISTORY TODAY 15, no. 1. 48-53.
Excellent little summary of Red Air Force losses and recovery.
- Jukes, Geoffrey. THE DEFENSE OF MOSCOW. (Ballantine's Illustrated History of World
War II, Battle Book no. 13.) NY: Ballantine, 1970.
A nice summary of the battle, but drawing heavily on quotes from Zhukov.
- MOSCOW, STALINGRAD, 1941/1942: RECOLLECTIONS, STORIES, REPORTS. Moscow: Progress
A collection of brief accounts by principal figures of the battle -- Zhukov, Rokossovsky,
Vasilevsky, etc. -- intended for Western readers and historians.
- Muriyev, Dado. THE ROUT OF "TYPHOON." Moscow: Novosti Press Agency, 1979.
A small booklet, picked up at the Soviet DC embassy, typical for its stressing of force
ratios and other factual aspects of the battle.
- Pegova, A.M. OPOLCHENIYE NA ZASHCHITYE MOSKVI. Moscow: Moscow Workers, 1978.
Describes the formation and battle histories of Moscow's "people's" -- militia --
divisions in the defense of the city.
- Piekalkiewicz, Janusz. DIE SCHLACHT UM MOSKAU. Pawlak, 1981.
Another of Piekalkiewicz's excellent books on major battles of the European theater. Others I know of include Stalingrad and Arnhem.
- Seaton, Albert. THE BATTLE FOR MOSCOW. Rockville Centre NY: Playboy Press[!}, 1971.
A colonel in the British Army, Seaton's account is a useful survey, but much of his
analysis has been bitterly resented by Russian historians.
- Sokolovski, . RAZGROM NEMETSKO-FASHISTSKIKH VOISK POD MOSKVOI
The official account of operations, with a supplementary album of beautiful situation
maps down to brigade level detail.
Poroskov, Nikolai. "The Battle for Moscow." RUSSIAN LIFE, Nov/Dec01, pp. 49-55.
- BATTLE FOR MOSCOW. New York: SPI, .
Interestingly, this old classic -- published in issue no. 24 of STRATEGY & TACTICS
magazine -- included the Russian Front all the way up to Finland, forcing both players
to choose which objectives to attack/defend.
While the Russian armies and tank forces were nicely grouped, the German units were all
division level and therefore time-consumingly numerous for the game's scale. Terrain was
... shall we say ... abbreviated.
Nonetheless, this remains a good introductory game for beginners, although it is now a
highly prized collector's item.
- BATTLE FOR MOSCOW. Bloomington IL: Game Designers Workshop, 1986.
Another comparatively simple wargame about the Battle of Moscow, this designed by the
company's owner, Frank Chadwick, and was printed and distributed as a free!
It too can be printed off, assembled, and played, from the "Grognard" webpage
- MOSCOW CAMPAIGN. New York: SPI, .
This used an early SPI move/combat/breakthrough-movement game system which included
overruns of unsupported Russian tank brigades.
- MOSCOW '41: A HISTORICAL SIMULATION -- THE BATTLE FOR MOSCOW, 1941. Dean S. Ross, 1981.
A fascinating, strange little boardgame without pieces/units! Using transparent covers,
players are supposed to mark units' positions and strengths on a typical hexagon-grid mapsheet
-- approximately 12 hexes from Smolensk to Moscow for ... 20 miles per hex? -- and then erase
and remark unit redeployments. Lots of players' aids and addenda.
- TYPHOON: THE DRIVE ON MOSCOW, 1941. GMT, 1995
Designed by Vance von Borries -- maps by Joe Youst -- "Research Assistance" by ... me. :-)
A very large-scale treatment with beautiful maps and graphics -- division level for the
Russians, regiment level (usually) for the Germans. Hundreds of units/pieces!
- MOSCOW 1941: THE ENEMY AT THE GATES. TSR/SPI, 1987.
Designed by David Cook -- maps by Kevin Zucker. Although at division-level for Russian
units, they are generalized in strength. Cook describes difficulties he/TSR had researching
the Russian units. I can sympathize.
- EAST FRONT BATTLES II: SPIRES OF THE KREMLIN. 3W, 1993-95.
Game and maps designed by Joe Youst -- see above -- and published by the indefatigable
Keith Poulter. A very large-scale game with 3 full-size mapsheets from north to south
and hundreds of pieces/units. Oddly, the map coverage seems to stop just east of Moscow.