Updated: Mar 6, 2021
Help for the Opening Axis Gambits in Thunder in the East
By Frank Chadwick
Barbarossa starts with a bang, and we designed it that way.
By the end of the first turn (i.e., the first week) it is not uncommon to see Minsk surrounded with Panzer ZOCs. In fact, one player lambasted Thunder in the East on the forums for that, saying it was clearly "impossible" and "ridiculous." No, it's historical. Minsk was surrounded by the end of June.
Granted, many veteran East Front players think it must be impossible because they have never seen a game actually produce that result before. Well, now they have. We made sure that, with the Blitzkrieg card, the Germans hit the ground running and that, by the end of their first turn, they have an excellent shot at being right where the Germans were historically after that shattering first week.
Therefore, we did our bit. From there on out, it is up to you . However, to win as the Axis in Thunder in the East, you need to play aggressively – very aggressively. Why?
Because the Soviets have more than you do! They have more people and more fuel than you do; and with Lend-Lease they will end up with nearly as much industry. Moreover, they are on defense; all the Soviets need to do is regain their balance and stabilize the front. They want to see a boring, predictable attrition struggle across the map because, if they do, they have an excellent chance of eventually winning.
Your best chance of winning outright is never to let them regain their balance after the shattering first turn. That means hitting them as hard as you can, in every way you can, every turn, so they never feel as if they can quite catch their breath or firmly plant their feet. Order is the Soviets’ greatest ally, so you know what that means, right? Chaos is yours.
I enjoy playing games where I have to play aggressively, but I recognize that is not everyone's play style. If aggression and chaos are not what your normal play style is, then think of this as a role-playing game experience. It is time to channel your inner berserker and start harvesting heads.
Now, this is all well and good as an admonition, but in practical terms how do you go about turning this sage goal into reality on the map? I've been considering about how I play and it occurred to me there were things I did without really thinking about them. Although every game is different, and every unique situation calls for a unique response, allow me to offer some guiding principles to achieve success as the Axis during Barbarossa.
Principle 1: Know Where You Are Going
Figure out what the Germans need to do to win. They can collapse Soviet morale, which usually means killing a bunch of units and then taking Moscow (or other sets of Objective hexes; see The Whole Rotten Structure Will Come Crashing Down). Or they can go for production and recruiting cities so eventually they have a shot in 1942 of winning the attrition fight. Merely floundering around just killing Soviet units and pushing east in the hope that things will eventually turn out okay is not a plan. Well, it's not a winning plan. Think about your path to victory before you start playing, remind yourself of it every turn, then maneuver and strike according to your plan until it no longer applies (for whatever reason).