I’ll be playing as the Axis here against the AI, as the other way around the game tends to be too easy. Hence the check-mark on Computer Controlled for Soviets.
Fog of War should be a familiar concept, it simply means that neither side can see what the other is up to. The meaning of Movement FoW isn’t immediately obvious, but the WitE manual tells us that it has to do with units moving in enemy territory, in which case the Movement Point costs aren’t always obvious.
Lock HQ Support is turned off. This option simply has all HQs on locked status at the start of the game, and even when on you can change the HQs as you wish as the game progresses.
We’re going with random weather, which mostly means that you might have mud here and there occasionally, or that the mud ends a turn or two earlier. No major impact on gameplay.
Reduced Blizzard effect helps the Axis, and I’ve decided not to have it on, giving the AI at least some sort of chance for a counter-attack.
There’s no Soviet Combat bonus either, as I find it too distracting for overall game balance. If it would be turned on it would give them a bonus for attack or defence, affecting the odds of the winner of individual battles.
The CV Mode doesn’t change anything gameplay-wise, there are no changes to combat outcomes. It simply calculates the combat values displayed a bit differently. This allows you to make better-informed decisions whom to attack.
The options that actually make a difference
Then there’s everything from morale to admin level. This is basically a percentage value which gives either side bonuses or maluses on all these calculations. I leave them as is. Most experienced players crank up the figures for the AI, but I’m going for a bit more relaxed gaming experience here. These figures can be changed throughout the game.
If you tinker around with these you should know that when the morale level is set to 110 or higher, all admin and movement point check are always successful. Furthermore, the Soviet AI will be able to maintain 300 and 100 brigades at no additional admin cost (though if short on manpower, they’ll just have 400 shell units).
Now that we’ve checked the basics, let’s get on with the scenario.
1941 – 45 Campaign – Bitter End
The Bitter End campaign starts with Operation Barbarossa and runs until 2nd of October 1945 for a total of 224 turns. The Winner is determined by the last man standing. Besides this, there are no changes to the scenario parameters.
I am using the WitE Map Mod, which changes the look of the game and the interface quite a lot. For the better in my opinion.
Now, as for the strategy. I am going to push for Leningrad and Rostov, whilst probably stopping in front of Moscow. In my experience, it’s quite hard to get further than this, simply because the railroads can’t be repaired fast enough.
For the next winter, my Axis troops will be slowly pulling back, hopefully without giving any major positions. ’42 will see the war expand in the South, with Stalingrad and Baku as the objectives. The panzer and motorised forces will eat up the Soviet army one bite at a time.
During 1943 I’ll aim for the destruction of the Red Army by causing casualties. Sooner or later this will lead to a situation where the AI cannot form proper lines anymore. I doubt the game will run all the way into 1945, but regardless this AAR should offer you something interesting to read for a hundred turns or more.
War in the East Axis Opening Moves
There are three important routes at the very beginning: north, centre and south. This much is probably obvious to anyone who has read anything about the war, eastern front or played the game for a single turn.
When it comes to WitE there are three main objectives for the first few turns when playing as Axis:
Head for Riga and Pskov
Head for Minsk and Smolensk
Create the Lvov-pocket, head for Rumanian border and then East
In the north, heading for Leningrad, there doesn’t tend to be much in the way of pockets. In the centre, the Brest-Litovsk pocket is a substantial one, and always easy to close. In the south, the opening gambit should always result in creation of the Lvov-pocket.
Before we start moving our ground units we have to take care of the air war.
Bombing runs everywhere
The first two moves are going through the air doctrine and flying recon. For recon, I always turn on recon escort. This saves the fighters to fly later when you’re set to bomb the airfields back to the stone age.
As the Axis have fewer planes but better overall quality, I tend to tune down all of these percentage numbers. Better have a handful of planes at every battle than a ton of planes in just a few select big battles.
Recon missions are flown all over the map to determine where enemy units and airplanes are. The airfield bombings I run on automatic settings (just select airfield bombing mode, and then press a). Doing this twice results in ten lost planes for me, and over 2000 planes lost for the Soviets.
A few hand-made bombing runs later and the results rise to over 3300 planes lost for the Soviets and 19 for the Axis. Most of these losses aren’t necessarily from bombing the airfields, as it is the enemy planes being caught in friendly fighter sweeps when they rise to defend the airfields. That’s why airfields out of my fighter range don’t suffer as many losses.
After the first turn, the airfield attacks are quite pointless.
Heading for Riga
Starting off, your units are well supplied and rested. The Soviets are surprised and low on supplies. This makes it easy to bring down the initial frontline with just hasty-attacks. In fact, your movement is going to be limited by your movement points rather than enemy presence.
Still, you gotta count your moves carefully to make sure you clear the main route. And in the north, that main route leads to Riga first, and it must fall on the first turn.
The infantry here clears the initial forces, and the panzers then head for the city itself. As the infantry divisions lack the range to even engage all of the enemy units, some of the roadblocks need to be removed. I use the Totenkopf SS Motorized division for this, as it is the furthest away from the border.
With the road cleared I move the 36th motorized division for assault, and luckily the Soviet defenders fail their checks, lowering their final combat value. The 6th panzer division then moves to occupy Riga, giving us a bridgehead across Daugava.
Rest of the units here simply form up to secure the pockets (which are not fully sealed due to the ports), and to make sure we are ready to move on next turn. Not much fighting.
The Center Advances
Part of Army Group North head for Riga and part head towards Kaunas, Vilnius and then Minsk. This is the northern pincer of the Brest-Litovsk pocket. Resistance here is a lot stronger, but nothing the infantry can’t handle. Once again, first the infantry deals with the frontline, and then the panzers drive as fast and far as they can.
Our first hasty attack on Kaunas fails, but a deliberate attack over a river succeeds. Once again the infantry reaches their limit only due to movement points. Advancing via this axis is important as the rail line here will be used to supply the push towards Smolensk. The panzers only have to conduct a handful of attacks, as most enemy units are routed, and thus retreat automatically.
Some here prefer to leave only a screen of infantry unit on the original frontline to secure the pocket. I prefer to take as much ground as possible.
Historically, the fortress of Brest-Litovsk held for weeks. That is beyond the scale of WitE. You might have to invest a bit more units than for most attacks, but the city should still easily fall within the first turn.
We being our march again with infantry, and seek to position our troops to take this important city. First we clean the river line and then screen the pocket. After this, the panzers break through towards Minsk.
As the river-line is held by a group of rather weak units, the infantry divisions make short work of them. Only one deliberate attack is needed to dislodge the Soviet 25th tank division. After doing this the process is repeated south of the city, after which we line up for the main attack.
I order a few bombing runs just in case to soften up the defenders a bit. They don’t do much damage, but cause some disruption…and you never know how close the attack comes.
With three infantry divisions present for the attack we easily wipe out the garrison. Now our tanks are free to move!
Once again the armoured forces only deliver a few attacks, simply closing the pocket and preparing to move forwards next turn. The result is satisfactory, though if I was playing against a human opponent they would probably break my pocket. Against the AI I am fairly confident that the result will hold.
An extra Panzer Corps for the South
You’ll find that the Southern Front is where the Soviets are at their strongest. This is historical, as the advance there was harder fought than in North and Center. This is why the 46th Panzer Corps is detached from Army Group Center, and sent to AG South.
The primary objective here is to advance along Lvov – Tarnpolo – Chernovtsy axis, or in other words from Poland to Romanian border. This creates a rather big pocket. However, there are still more than enough units outside the pocket to make a stand all the way into Rostov. More importantly, reaching the Romanian border will activate the country starting next turn, as opposed to several turns later.
The extra panzer corps makes a difference, both in the first and subsequent turns. I’ll also have to manage the railroads rather carefully, as once again they limit the maximum advance. Worth noting that some of the panzer and motorized division assigned to AGS only become available on the second turn.
The initial fighting here is much harder, with several deliberate attacks needed to dislodge the enemy units. Several of them simply retreat to more defensible positions.
As it turns out, it only takes one or two attacks to break through the above. This leaves a couple of panzer divisions for use to encircle further troops, which is easier said than done. The Lvov-pocket will hold, but the smaller one east of it might not.
Ending the turn with some more airwar
With the troops marching and the railroad repair groups moving along, it’s time to switch back to the air mode. Now, when airfields are bombed, or the units take part in air combat, some planes are destroyed and others are damaged. The damaged ones are also destroyed if an enemy land unit overruns the airbase.
This has added some 200 planes to enemy air casualties, which is a lot less than I thought. I guess the initial destruction was overwhelming.
The last action to be taken this turn is moving all those airbases closer to the front. This ensures that next turn they get to take part in the action again, and that during the Soviet turn they can run interdiction on all enemy units within range.
You can’t move them too close to your advance though, as then the airplanes will be out of supply. After moving the units we run another round of airfield bombings, with the end result for the turn being 3980 airframes lost for Soviets and 54 for the Axis.
Finally, before letting the AI do its moves we do some unit management. In order for the Axis to be an effective fighting machine in ’42 we need to have some manpower spared.
This is why I set all of my units to only reinforce up to 80% of their TOE. For artillery units, I set the percentage even lower at 60%. This is to simply save up manpower and armament points. You won’t see the effect of this until some forty turns from now. Only FBDs (railroad repair groups) are kept at full strength, to make sure we can always repair as many rail lines as possible.