Several people here have suggested that Russia defend against the initial German assault by leaving one screening infantry in each border territory and hold back a counter strike force. This will take the German air force out of the equation for the first round of fighting and presumably present an advantage to the Russians. I present here several moves to counter this strategy.
There are too many variables to predict what the balance of forces will be between Germany and the USSR at whatever point the Germans choose to attack, so I will predicate all of this discussion on the assumption that the full Russian stack is large enough to counter attack and destroy the full German stack, but that it is small enough that split to cover two territories, the half Russian stack is insufficient to destroy the full German stack (and vice-versa). (If the Russian stack is smaller than this, then what they do doesn’t matter so much. If it is bigger, then the Germans probably shouldn’t be attacking yet).
First off, there are two simple tactics that can be used.
- Instead of attacking the screening infantry with one or two infantry, plus a fighter each, instead bring slightly larger stacks (3-5 INF each). Doing so ups the attrition rate, and does so fairly evenly (you’ll take the first loss, but over time, it works out). This favors whichever country is committing more forces to the front (hopefully that’s the Germans). Also, on counter attack, the Russians are more likely to over- or under-commit their forces, leaving you holding the territory, or allowing you to bite off a healthy chunk.
- Use the Italians as a can opener. This will let you do one of two things. If you are strong in infantry, you can then move into the territory and bring your planes in to defend. This should shift the balance of the equation. If you are strong in Mech Inf and tanks, you can drive through the Italians and get that attack after all.
- Maneuver. This is the crux of my presentation.
a) Ring around the Rosie (AKA, the Pripet Marsh)- One turn before you could plausibly attack, but two turns before you really want to attack, concentrate your forces in Slovakia/Hungary, threatening Eastern Poland. They will have to park in Belarus or Western Ukraine to cover it (they could also be in Bessarabia or Baltic States, but those would be even worse.
If they’re in Belarus, move to Romania, threatening East Poland and Bessarabia. They can’t move to Poland as you’d attack them directly, so they move to Bryansk (sp?). You then move to East Poland. If they move to Western Ukraine, you take Belarus and threaten Leningrad and Moscow. If they move to Belarus, you take Western Ukraine and race them to Stalingrad. If they stay in Beryansk, you take Baltic states and threaten Leningrad.
If they’re in Western Ukraine, move to Poland. If they move to East Poland, you attack them. If they move te Bryansk, you move to Baltic States and threaten Leningrad. If they stay put, you move to Belarus and again threaten Leningrad and Moscow.
b) If you’re mostly Mech inf and Tanks, then you have the additional option to move your mobile force from Romania, Bessarabia or Slovakia/Hungary (possibly with an Italian can-opener) to the Baltic States, threatening Leningrad if they ever leave Belarus. Pinning them there, you can then advance on Stalingrad.
Things will obviously get far more complicated as both sides will have streams of forces joining their main armies, and it may very well be possible to support multiple armies, north and south, plus the Russians may be able to threaten Germany if the German army gets too far afield. My point is that there is finally some room for a real battle of maneuver on the eastern front, and if my opponent thinks they can scare me by screening and threatening counter strike, then I welcome the opportunity to dance.