DRIVE ON MOSCOW by Shenandoah Studios, Preview

“After three months of preparations, we finally have the possibility to crush our enemy before the winter comes. All possible preparations were done…; today starts the last battle of the year..” — Adolph Hitler on Operation Typhoon, Völkischer Beobachter, 10 October 1941.

I had opportunity to get a preview of DRIVE ON MOSCOW lately and have already taken it out for a couple of test drives. Drive on Moscow is volume 2 in the “Crisis in Command” series of two player war games that started with Battle of the Bulge. It will cost 9.99 and the release date is 21 November, 2013. Players can play asynchronously, via hotseat, or against the AI.

Drive on Moscow, in case you’ve been secluding yourself under a rock, is the follow on to the wildly successful Battle of the Bulge, by Shenandoah Studios. Shenandoah Studios is helmed by ex-SPI and VG Staffers Eric Lee Smith and Nick Karp. Their company is doing their best to bring real wargames to the Ipad format, and last year’s Bulge has set an industry standard.

Main Menu, Drive on Moscow

Drive on Moscow is based upon a Ted Racier design. The game plays out the very tip of the spearhead of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, when German forces were halted within sight of the city of Moscow. Barbarossa was Germany’s first and best chance at winning the war in the East; they came within a hair’s breadth of success. After 1941, the German forces would suffer attrition at an alarming rate and never again enjoy the numbers they had attacking Moscow in 1941. The Soviets, by contrast, start out somewhat weak and disorganized strategically and only gain in strength as the days and weeks pass and Soviet Russia’s phenomenal manpower and industrial resources come into play. Drive on Moscow features area movement and an identical game engine to the Bulge game. There are many similarities, but many differences. For one thing, the scale is much larger. Players now attack with Panzer Corps and defend with Soviet Shock armies. In Bulge, the player plays the role of a harassed area commander, either trying to stave off disaster by funneling reinforcements to weak points, or a very understrength attacker, trying for an breakthrough before the faltering supply chain gets compromised. In Moscow, the player steps into the shoes (or jackboots?) of Army commanders the like of Guderian, Von Beck and Zhukov. Units are larger and have greater staying power.

The situation at start. Piece of cake, right?

Above is the basic scenario. There are victory objectives on the map, as there were in Bulge, but very clearly labelled. Of course, the plum is Moscow (top left).

The German player, will enjoy early success, as he has several panzer corps to use as his spearhead. A reasonably proficient player should be able to break through the Soviet line, especially on the left. That can be where the problems start, however.

Clearing space in the road to Moscow

The Soviets will have more and more infantry to throw into the equation and any spearhead at the gates of Moscow will soon find itself isolated by lots of annoying infantry armies and some very good tank armies rapidly popping in out of nowhere. So German attacks must be supported if they have any chance to make it to the big city. The unit mix is roughly the same, adding in railway (strategic) movement, cavalry and airborne troops which are very handy inded for the defender.

Victory is decisive and easy to understand– it’s not all about capturing Moscow.  There are multiple strong points all over the map that the Soviets will fanatically defend.  If the Axis player captures one, victory points are given for the initial capture of a strong point and more for each turn it is held; the initial bonus is lost if the Soviets recapture it. So it’s safe to say that the Germans should attack the named VP areas as long as possible and not lose a lot of time worrying about the open countryside where they won’t gain anything and lose both units and time in costly battles.

Setup Screen

Although the engine and general look and feel are very similar to Bulge, the scale and situation are very different. For one thing, Drive on Moscow just seems more colorful and bright! It must be the muted color palette that the graphic artists at Shenandoah Studios used for Battle of the Bulge, but that game always makes me think I’m playing at night– I much prefer Moscow’s big, bright maps, with clearly marked objectives, railroad movement, and wide open areas. Though I’d play either game, any day.

The New Game’s map and units

I’m only 3 games into Drive on Moscow, so consider this a preview. I’ve only played the AI opponent so far; it seems fairly competent but will cluster around the strong point VP areas after you break through the first defensive line, or at least has in the last 3 games. That’s roughly historical, I suppose. The game has elements of the Bulge experience; one side disorganized and nearly paralyzed at first (see: Stalin’s Command Paralysis, which is part of the game), the other ruthless and efficient, but at the end of a very long supply chain, and with no slack in the timetable of conquest. However, the differences become evident after the first play– railroad movement, and the terrain the map is representing, has very different consequences and outcomes. Drive on Moscow is in every way a fantastic sequel to Battle of the Bulge and will provide wargamers of varying levels of experience and competence endless hours of fun.

I strongly recommend DRIVE ON MOSCOW, which will be in the Itunes App store this week.