Drive on Moscow Design Diary #2: Building on Bulge
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Drive on Moscow marks the first time that I’ve used an entire game system from another designer. Though I’ve certainly taken ideas from many other games in the past, those were choices where I was free to take as much or as little as I liked, and twist it however I wanted. Here I was clearly doing a game based on John Butterfield’s Crisis in Command: Bulge, and while I was encouraged to make the changes needed to allow the system to work properly for the Eastern Front in 1941(as opposed to the West in late 1944), I was also advised to retain as much of the Bulge system as I could. It was an interesting challenge, but fortunately the CinC system proved to be both sturdy and flexible, allowing me to bend it in some places without breaking it.
My first decision was to retain the basic movement, time passage, and combat results systems of Bulge. These are the core of CinC, and keeping them would most readily allow Bulge players to jump into Drive on Moscow. But the Bulge and Operation Typhoon were two very different campaigns. Taking those systems from Bulge also meant tweaking them to show those differences.
For example, though the Axis did encircle and force the surrender of most of the US 106th Division at the start of the Ardennes offensive, the only other large scale encirclement, of the US 101st Airborne and supporting units at Bastogne, failed to eliminate the pocketed forces. In contrast, Typhoon opened with enormous operational encirclements by the Axis, surrounding and eliminating entire Soviet armies. And in the opening of Typhoon, Axis panzer units under Heinz Guderian, advanced farther in three days than the Axis managed in the entire Ardennes campaign. And this despite the fact that the Soviets had roughly the same number of troops as the Axis forces facing them, whereas in the Ardennes the Axis initially outnumbered the US forces by more than three to one. If no changes were made to the Bulge system, it would be impossible to duplicate the Axis initial spectacular success in Typhoon.
Again, John gave me a very robust system to work with, so I could make small but significant changes without worrying the entire system would unravel. Some of the changes were built into the geography: the Soviets made significant use of rail lines to shift reserves and move reinforcements to the front, so rail movement was added to Drive on Moscow, and the Soviets were aided (to a limited degree) by constructed defense lines. Given the clear superiority of Axis units over their Soviet counterparts during this stage of the war, I was able to simplify combat modifiers. The historical speed of the Axis advance and the large pockets formed meant I had to increase the ability of mechanized forces to advance after combat, while modifications to the retreat rules and the addition of a rule for Soviet Command Confusion showed the shattering impact of Typhoon’s opening blows.
The rules for the opening German attacks in Bulge became the Prepared Offensives of both sides in Drive on Moscow. By allowing a player to take multiple actions before his opponent can respond, this demonstrates both the effects of surprise and the logistical preparations of a major attack. It also allowed me to model the three distinct major offensives of the campaign: the opening of Typhoon, the second Axis offensive when the ground froze in November, and the Soviet counteroffensive in the snows of December.
Weather was obviously a major factor in both the Battle of the Bulge and the Moscow Campaign. In the Bulge, weather largely affected the ability of the Allied air forces to get into the battle. The effects of weather (or perhaps more accurately at this scale, climate) on Typhoon were even more fundamental. Basically, once the seasonal fall rains set in, turning the area around Moscow into a sea of mud, the Axis offensive was reduced to the pace of a pre-mechanized army. Once the ground froze in November, the panzers could move again, but the increasing cold and snow would eventually cripple Axis forces still mostly in their summer uniforms. Weather, as much as the Prepared Offensives, gives Drive on Moscow a distinct rhythm: Axis offensive followed by attrition in the mud followed by another Axis offensive during frost followed by a Soviet counterblow in December. If the Soviets survive.
But if the rhythm of play in Drive on Moscow is predictable, the actual course of the campaign is not. The large map area combined with the size of the forces involved provides both players with multiple strategies. No two games of DoM are going to be exactly alike, and some will be wildly different. The CinC system proved an excellent match for the challenges of the Eastern Front in WWII, and I believe Bulge players will find Drive on Moscow a worthy addition to the Crisis in Command series.
(And my thanks to John Butterfield for giving me such a solid platform to build on.)
- Ted Raicer