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Do I Stay or Do I Go?

April 30th, 2011 by Troy Goodfellow · 9 Comments · Wargames

This week I started a PBEM game of War in the East with Bruce Geryk. Because apparently my mess of a life had room for one more colossal failure, I opted to play the Soviets.

The Soviet opening position in Operation Barbarossa in WitE is a little bit of panic. You will lose hundreds of thousands of men on the first turn no matter what happens, and there isn’t a lot you can do – your troops aren’t ready and the Nazis go first. Once the Soviet turn begins, it’s a matter of seeing what has survived and deciding which troops will take the turn to move from reserve status to something less crappy, and which will just hightail it out of Ukraine.

The decision to retreat is not one that is often imposed on strategy gamers, but it is really central to the wargame experience. Most strategy games make it pretty clear that sitting on the defense and waiting for an attack is usually not the best strategy – sure wait for and absorb the first assault but have your counter attack planned and you’ll be fine.

Wargames, however, especially long ones, are much more likely to force you to reconsider whether to hold the line against a stronger enemy or pull back to a better defensive position. Because the scale is smaller, you can think about whether a Fabian strategy makes sense against overwhelming odds or whether you can persuade a unit or two to block a narrow pass to stall an enemy advance.

“In yon straight path a thousand may well be stopped by three” and all that.

The great thing about Operation Barbarossa for a Soviet general is that you can retreat forever if you know where you are retreating too and for what purpose. And that’s always the challenge for a delaying strategy – when and where do you decide to take your stand. Unlike a strategy game, you can’t wait for production points to get exhausted, just fuel. You can’t hope for an ally to absorb some of the heat, because you are it.

So far, my plan is to run like hell away from the advance and see what happens to his supply lines. And yeah, I know he’ll read this.

Screenshots and casualty reports to follow.


9 Comments so far ↓

  • CFKane

    I am very excited for the reports. I love War in the East.

  • James Allen

    If you go, there will be trouble. But if you stay, it will be double.

  • Zer0s

    This indecision’s bugging me :\

  • FhnuZoag

    This seems interesting, because this is a freedom that is completely ahistorical, right? Try and advocate a fighting retreat before Josef Stalin, and well… it’s not going to work out for you.

  • MikeO

    Shoulda made Bruce play the Soviets.

  • Bruce

    Isn’t it “should I stay or should I go?”

  • Rez

    Reading Bruce’s articles over at QT3 makes me realize WitE isn’t the game for me, but AARs are a joy to read. Does anybody else just follow AARs without actually playing the game?

  • Kingdaddy

    Absolutely agree with you, Troy. Not only is retreat not very common in many strategy games, it’s not common enough. The Eastern Front is fascinating, from a strategic perspective, because it makes retreat an important skill for both players to master, at different points in the game. I only wish more games did a better job of showing how, at the same point in time, a combatant might be primarily attacking, but also in some locations retreating, and vice-versa.

  • Jon Gad


    “Get out! Get out of there!”