Lessons Learned the Hard Way Playing Thunder in the East
By Frank Chadwick
I am not a big fan of Perfect Plan instructions but some operational advice for conducting the Axis during Operation Barbarossa is in order based on numerous plays and some painful lessons learned. There are so many variables to consider, so many ways the Soviets can mess you up, and so many ways to throw away a victory, I thought that, instead of a Perfect Plan, I would look at some of the mistakes I have seen cost Axis players the early game in Thunder in the East.
If you want to play the Axis and lose, just do these things:
1. Don't clobber the Red Air Force via your Sneak Attack
I've seen this several times. Those Stuka's are so good for Close Support, how could you not peel off both for use assisting your Ground Combat on the first turn? Surely it will not hurt to hold them back from the Airfields Attack Missions you plan to conduct anyway with the rest of your airpower. You do want to help ensure a clean breakthrough first turn, right? So maybe a couple Bomber units, or better still a Stuka and a Bomber unit – those make a nice combination… will they really be missed?
After all, the Red Air Force is so inept, leaving a few of its planes undestroyed and operational won’t make that much difference, will it?
Yes, it absolutely will! If you do not flatten the Red Air Force on turn one, and I mean flatten it, it will come back to haunt you and fast. The Soviets have all the fuel they need to hasten the return of their air force, and you will never have a Blitzkrieg! card Sneak Attack opportunity like this again. Historically, you will have one Major Air unit "to play with" on the opening turn, so enjoy a lone Stuka unit as part of your opening gambit -- just make sure to leave the Red Air Force a pile of cinders on the first turn!
2. Don't ever push your Panzer units beyond their supply range
That sounds like sensible advice, right? Ugh!
Do not be afraid of merely being out of supply (but avoid putting your forces out of communication such that they become Isolated). An Out of Supply marker does not affect your Defense Strength or Movement Allowance – it only halves your Attack Strength. If you can keep the Soviets spread thin, even a halved-for-being-out-of-supply attacking Panzer Corps can still punch a hole.
If you play so conservatively with the Germans that their armor is always in supply, the Soviet front line will firm up ahead of you very quickly (unless you are red hot with your dice, but it is hard to offer "be very lucky" as practical advice).
3. Don't ever risk your Panzers in chancy overruns
You could lose steps that cost Equipment Points (EPs) to replace and have nothing to show for your effort, right? Why would you do that when you coul