Have designers given up on portraying the Russians in WW-II?

Eagle4ty

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This has come to me over the years as a nagging feeling but was made fairly evident in a few play tests relatively recently. By giving up portraying the Russians of WW-II, I mean as ASL had originally laid out per Chapter H 1.74 and leadership given to Russian Formations. Now I realize the initial ASL parameters were quite subjective and vary quite a bit by time period represented, but overall, I felt the general trend was to make [the Russian OB] more German like in their leadership to address balance issues for play and even oft times ignored historical material to the contrary.

To test my hypothesis, I ran a short evaluation of Russian vs German scenarios presented earlier to some of the more recent offerings. I randomly selected 24 scenarios from what I considered the early years (SL Updates, Original BV scenarios, The ASL Annual and The General magazine offerings) to some 24 randomly selected scenarios from what I considered more recent offerings (I used from ASL Journal 6 forward, WO Packs, and Action Packs). In the leader to squad ratio, I used the parameters laid out in H1.74 to determine squad/squad-equivalency. Here's what I came up with:

  • Earlier published scenarios: the average was 6.99 squads/SE per leader for the Russians and 3.06 squads/SE per leader for the Germans.
  • For more recently published scenarios (and this includes one remake/update of an older scenario erroneously selected in the RS process) the results were: An average of 3.83 Sqds/SE per leader for the Russians and 3.025 Sqds/SE per leader for the Germans.
In essence, this equates to the Russians being portrayed as just only a marginally poorer led German like force. A trend I don't believe the original developers of the game envisioned, nor do I believe quite historically accurate (at least not from my understanding).

This leads me to the crux of my inquiry, is this an intentional trend based upon newer information about Russian lower-level leadership (which would surprise me a bit as my degree is in History and I consider myself somewhat of a military history and WW-II nut); Or is it just a very simple (and unfortunate IMHO) game mechanic to reduce the number of Russian troops on our game boards to make a more balanced and quicker game?

Thoughts greatly appreciated.
 
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Actionjick

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This has come to me over the years as a nagging feeling but was made fairly evident in a few play tests relatively recently. By giving up portraying the Russians of WW-II, I mean as ASL had originally laid out per Chapter H 1.74 and leadership given to Russian Formations. Now I realize the initial ASL parameters were quite subjective and vary quite a bit by time period represented, but overall, I felt the general trend was to make more German like in their leadership to address balance issues for play and even oft times ignored historical material to the contrary.

To test my hypothesis, I ran a short evaluation of Russian vs German scenarios presented earlier to some of the more recent offerings. I randomly selected 24 scenarios from what I considered the early years (SL Updates, Original BV scenarios, The ASL Annual and The General magazine offerings) to some 24 randomly selected scenarios from what I considered more recent offerings (I used from ASL Journal 6 forward, WO Packs, and Action Packs). In the leader to squad ratio, I used the parameters laid out in H1.74 to determine squad/squad-equivalency. Here's what I came up with:

  • Earlier published scenarios: the average was 6.99 squads/SE per leader for the Russians and 3.06 squads/SE per leader for the Germans.
  • For more recently published scenarios (and this includes one remake/update of an older scenario erroneously selected in the RS process) the results were: An average of 3.83 Sqds/SE per leader for the Russians and 3.025 Sqds/SE per leader for the Germans.
In essence, this equates to the Russians being portrayed as just only a marginally poorer led German like force. A trend I don't believe the original developers of the game envisioned, nor do I believe quite historically accurate (at least not from my understanding).

This leads me to the crux of my inquiry, is this an intentional trend based upon newer information about Russian lower-level leadership (which would surprise me a bit as my degree is in History and I consider myself somewhat of a military history and WW-II nut); Or is it just a very simple (and unfortunate IMHO) game mechanic to reduce the number of Russian troops on our game boards to make a more balanced and quicker game?

Thoughts greatly appreciated.
I always liked the challenge of numerous Russian troops with few Leaders. Fun stuff!

Interesting topic btw.
 

STAVKA

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Think some designers disregard from the original concept design.
  • Friendly Fire (Best of Friends)
  • Swedish Volunteers
  • Stavka Archives
  • others?
Follow the concept of Avalon Hill early designers almost to the letter with few exceptions.

Some Finnish scenarios have a Leadership ratio as if they were Germans and that is a big no-no, they must have same poor leader ratio as the Russians.
 

Tesgora

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Great idea to analyze the leader/squad ratio. Ideally one would want to control for the period of the war. The low leader ratio is probably appropriate for early- war scenarios; but a fair and historical argument can be made that by summer 1944 and on many Soviet units had as good or better tactical leadership that many depleted Wehrmacht units.
 

FrankH.

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In ASL leaders to some extent act like supply chits. It is harder to rally your troops or move them as fast without supplies. If that is true then a low multiplier of squads to leaders represents a better supplied formation (like developed prior to a major attack). Of course leaders have other effects, like the quality of small unit tactics (including fire direction).

I would think, all else being equal, that early in the war the Russians would have an even higher multiplier; later in the war the Germans would have a somewhat higher multiplier. But, generally, the Russian would (or should) not have a multiplier near as low as the Germans.

All else being equal, playing with a higher ratio of squads to leaders is more challenging, more likely to be the case when on the defense. Playing with a lower ratio of squads to leaders tends to allow for more bold moves (more likely on the attack) but also may make that player's play more careless, reckless and sloppy.
 

Eagle4ty

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Could there be more late-war scenarios being designed?
I started to also look at that aspect but felt it detracted or at least digressed from my basic premise. Looking at my notes and doing a quick review of the scenarios I had selected and the noted dates for the time period covered. Here's some very brief data based upon on only the first 6 scenarios I looked at in each case (I quit doing this after that as I expanded the survey to 24 scenarios for each production time frame I established):

  • For the earlier period of designed/redesigned scenarios, 2 were from 1941, 3 were from 1943 time period and 1 from the 1944 time period. The average Ldr to Sqd/SE was 8.8 for the Russians and 3.1 for the Germans.
  • Comparatively, for "newer" produced offerings, the range of dates were a bit more balanced, 2 for 1941, 1 for 1942, 1 for 1943, 1 for 1944 and 1 for 1945. The average Ldr to Sqd/SE came out to 3.91 for the Russians and 3.25 for the Germans.
I understand this small number of scenarios reviewed offers little except to initially whet my appetite to investigate further but it also started to show the trend I thought had existed. A VERY interesting item in this initial search though was looking at an earlier produced offering which had the biggest discrepancy in leadership to squad/SE rating for each nationality, 14.5 for the Russians and 5.01 for the Germans and a scenario date of 1944. I also looked at the average leadership DRM for each side per scenario, but again I felt this simply detracted from my initial direction of interest.
 

AdrianE

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Part of the problem is that is that when ASL first came out, there was an shortage of good reference material. All we had were the memoirs of the defeated Germans who all claimed the Russians were poorly led at the tactical level. The evolution of scenario design has responded to the improvement in source material over the past 30 to 40 years.
 

Eagle4ty

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Part of the problem is that is that when ASL first came out, there was an shortage of good reference material. All we had were the memoirs of the defeated Germans who all claimed the Russians were poorly led at the tactical level. The evolution of scenario design has responded to the improvement in source material over the past 30 to 40 years.
I believe this is one of the big myths perpetrated in ASL. The Russian army of 1939-45 was basically a commissioned officer led force with their NCOs preforming tasks little other than instituting discipline and to a much lesser degree more technical aspects; And to a large degree this has continued up to the present. Current material has not caused me to revise my evaluation (though fairly extensive, it is most certainly not exhaustive). That lower-level leadership most assuredly improved over the course of the war by sheer necessity and experience of surviving personnel moved into these positions is probably a given. However, I believe this is somewhat offset by their practice of rigid adherence to orders early in the war and the continued practice of impressment of masses of conquered/re-conquered peoples into their ranks with little if any tactical training later in the war (their movement and practices through the Baltic States, Byelorussia and parts of the Ukraine are examples of this not to mention their treatment of the Polish and other nationalities impressed into service). Added to this was the MTOE of the Red Army of the period which simply compounded the leadership difficulties of a lower-level commander given too many units to integrate/command and too few sufficiently trained subordinates to effectively carry out his intentions. Add to this the implementation of Political Commissars at company level and above earlier in the war, and you had a recipe for poor leadership.
  • The Red Army company of the time had 3x rifle platoons nominally commanded by a Junior Lieutenant (if available-seldom) of 4x squads each (Jr NCO); a MMG squad/section (Jr NCO); a Lt Mortar squad/section (Jr NCO); a medical squad/section (Jr NCO); and a very understaffed HQ Section consisting of the Commander (CPT or Sr LT), his executive officer (Sr LT) if he had one, a political officer (CPT-oft times of dubious military quality) and nominally the company senior sergeant. Radios and even wire communication equipment was rare below battalion level. Orders were usually issued as written, down to company level and often times down as far as platoon level, discouraging initiative.
 

von Marwitz

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I believe this is one of the big myths perpetrated in ASL. The Russian army of 1939-45 was basically a commissioned officer led force with their NCOs preforming tasks little other than instituting discipline and to a much lesser degree more technical aspects; And to a large degree this has continued up to the present. Current material has not caused me to revise my evaluation (though fairly extensive, it is most certainly not exhaustive). That lower-level leadership most assuredly improved over the course of the war by sheer necessity and experience of surviving personnel moved into these positions is probably a given. However, I believe this is somewhat offset by their practice of rigid adherence to orders early in the war and the continued practice of impressment of masses of conquered/re-conquered peoples into their ranks with little if any tactical training later in the war (their movement and practices through the Baltic States, Byelorussia and parts of the Ukraine are examples of this not to mention their treatment of the Polish and other nationalities impressed into service). Added to this was the MTOE of the Red Army of the period which simply compounded the leadership difficulties of a lower-level commander given too many units to integrate/command and too few sufficiently trained subordinates to effectively carry out his intentions. Add to this the implementation of Political Commissars at company level and above earlier in the war, and you had a recipe for poor leadership.
  • The Red Army company of the time had 3x rifle platoons nominally commanded by a Junior Lieutenant (if available-seldom) of 4x squads each (Jr NCO); a MMG squad/section (Jr NCO); a Lt Mortar squad/section (Jr NCO); a medical squad/section (Jr NCO); and a very understaffed HQ Section consisting of the Commander (CPT or Sr LT), his executive officer (Sr LT) if he had one, a political officer (CPT-oft times of dubious military quality) and nominally the company senior sergeant. Radios and even wire communication equipment was rare below battalion level. Orders were usually issued as written, down to company level and often times down as far as platoon level, discouraging initiative.
Good and reasonable post.

von Marwitz
 

wrongway149

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I believe this is one of the big myths perpetrated in ASL. The Russian army of 1939-45 was basically a commissioned officer led force with their NCOs preforming tasks little other than instituting discipline and to a much lesser degree more technical aspects; And to a large degree this has continued up to the present. Current material has not caused me to revise my evaluation (though fairly extensive, it is most certainly not exhaustive). That lower-level leadership most assuredly improved over the course of the war by sheer necessity and experience of surviving personnel moved into these positions is probably a given. However, I believe this is somewhat offset by their practice of rigid adherence to orders early in the war and the continued practice of impressment of masses of conquered/re-conquered peoples into their ranks with little if any tactical training later in the war (their movement and practices through the Baltic States, Byelorussia and parts of the Ukraine are examples of this not to mention their treatment of the Polish and other nationalities impressed into service). Added to this was the MTOE of the Red Army of the period which simply compounded the leadership difficulties of a lower-level commander given too many units to integrate/command and too few sufficiently trained subordinates to effectively carry out his intentions. Add to this the implementation of Political Commissars at company level and above earlier in the war, and you had a recipe for poor leadership.
Plus we need to remember that if we tying to design a simulation (even an abstract one), we must be 'outcome-based'
Or as we say regarding ASL: "Design for effect'.
 

Eagle4ty

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Plus we need to remember that if we tying to design a simulation (even an abstract one), we must be 'outcome-based'
Or as we say regarding ASL: "Design for effect'.
I agree with both of your responses, but still believe a better balancing function for a great number of Russian inclusive scenarios would be to increase the number of squads and possibly reduce the number of leaders available to them. Of course, this is a very subjective assessment and I really enjoy your scenario submissions. I'm not sure how hard it is to take into account the number of squads compared to including a leader to address balance issues, but I would venture a guess the latter is an easier solution as opposed to the former.
 

Tuomo

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Plus we need to remember that if we tying to design a simulation (even an abstract one), we must be 'outcome-based'
Or as we say regarding ASL: "Design for effect'.
Yes but the effect seems to be ahistorical, albeit more fun in game terms. If Russian NCOs were not there or not doing the things that leaders in ASL do/enable, then it seems that we've skewed away from one of the most important Nationality Characteristics.
 

FrankH.

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With scenarios in which the Russians are short on leaders they can use Human Waves to increase their movement rates, and to slightly reduce their chances of breaking. I would tend to think the Russian units with (in ASL terms) a higher leader content would be mostly be elite or veteran units.

Another idea would be to reduce the number of higher ranking Russian leaders in any scenario, and increase the number of 7-0s, and even 6+1s. Leaders with lower morale levels tend to act quite differently from those with higher morale.
 

von Marwitz

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With scenarios in which the Russians are short on leaders they can use Human Waves to increase their movement rates, and to slightly reduce their chances of breaking.
As Human Waves are much riskier and require a lot more units and preparation than the more versatile Banzai Charges, in my experience, they rarely happen in ASL. Especially with few Leaders around, you will think twice before you have one of them charging around.

It might be a good idea to have the accompanying Leader charge through "speedbump" terrain, to keep him out of harm's way. But in practice, this is often difficult to achieve.

At times, it seems, the scenario design has to be "crafted" in order to create a situation that warrants a Human Wave "Russian style" at all.

von Marwitz
 

Tuomo

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On the double other hand, I'd rather play a fun-looking scenario about 3x as often as one with a "historical" SLR (Squad-Leader Ratio) for the Russians, especially on the attack. Shrug. I like rules like the Russian Early War Doctrine stuff (where did that make its appearance, anyway? Will it ever get moved into A25?) but ultimately the play needs to be fun. You can have rules for something, but that doesn't make it fun (see: Panjis, Caves, OBA, DTO, ...)

Wonder if the ASL Scenario Archive could start adding the SLR to its scenario statistics. @daveramsey?
 

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Russian Early war doctrine 25.212 can also be used in the battle for Berlin regarding AFV's moving before infantry (except berserkers) There are many reports of the tank units rushing ahead of the infantry. Or maybe the infantry were just "hanging" back and being cautious.
 
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