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Posted on Jun 20, 2005 in Boardgames

Roads to Leningrad – Boardgame Review

By Johnny L. Wilson

Lücken und Flächentaktik (Maneuver Warfare)

When the Germans spoke of pitting strength against weakness as opposed to strength against strength, they used the terms lücken und flächentaktik (tactics of gaps and planes).2 Merely confronting the strong forces of the Soviets would have played to the enemy’s favor. In a battle of attrition, the Soviets had more human resources to throw at the Nazis. In a battle of maneuver and mechanized warfare, however, the Soviets were less flexible and hobbled until the T-34 provided a leveling force.

In RTL, the Germans win with rapid and decisive actions. The Soviets win with careful delaying tactics. As a result, the game beautifully illustrates the importance of creating what the Germans called Auftragstaktik (a unity of effort from mission tactics while giving subordinate commanders maximum latitude in accomplishing those tactics). Since there is no way that the Soviets can build a defensive line without gaps, all four scenarios have a certain amount of bluff and counterbluff, misdirection and reaction to them. Can the Soviets cut off the supply of a German commander who is too aggressive?3 Do the Germans risk going for the victory points early to "please the fuehrer" or do they build defensible strongpoints as they go?


MOBILITY, MOBILITY, MOBILITY In the first Soltsy scenario, units of the German 8th Panzer Division use their superior
mobility to move by the 202nd Soviet Rifle Division and overrun the 614th Soviet Artillery. Moving through the ZOC cost extra,
but the 6 MP Panzers could afford it. From the Cyberboard version.

To illustrate the value of mobility, some counters have red squares around their movement factors. These represent armored vehicles that can: 1) continue to move (albeit at a penalty of +1) in enemy zones of control (ZOC); 2) retreat before combat (assuming they are not blocked by enemy ZOCs; 3) react (with an appropriate die roll) to nearby attacks; or 4) execute a mobile assault rather than a regular assault (allowing for overrun and greater flexibility of movement). Whatever overall objectives the respective commanders have, such flexible maneuvering has its share of friction. To illustrate the necessity of coordination over such friction, the attacker makes three rolls for combat coordination (if possible) for each attack. If the attacker fails the combat unit coordination, the assault becomes less effective by adding +2 to the die roll.

The first roll is for CAS (Close Air Support). At first, the mere 40-50% probability for getting Stukas into one’s attack as the Germans (in Scenario #1 while going up to 80% in later scenarios) and never going beyond 60% for the Soviet air support seemed unreasonable. Then, I remembered the words of an air commander on a different front: "It takes close coordination with the Army to achieve the maximum misuse of air power."4 Naturally, air resources have to be committed to air superiority before they can be committed to ground support. This die roll reflects other considerations such as command points and leader points (that lower the die roll and increase the odds in the attacker’s favor) or a wooded target hex and inclement weather (that raises die roll and lowers the odds in favor of the defender).

The second roll is for artillery. Again, the 50-60% chance of adding artillery fire to the attack for the Germans and 40-50% for the Soviets seems low, but reflects potential friction with regard to spotting and communications. Though the ER ratings for German artillery only represent an efficiency of circa 10% above similar Soviet units, this one pip on a d10 makes a huge difference in terms of potential success and should be exploited by the German player whenever possible. Again, command/leader points increase the odds (as does a planned Assault instead of mobile attack) in the aggressor’s favor and a mobile assault (less time for coordination) and wooded target hex lowers the odds. Weather does not affect artillery.

BATTERIES INCLUDED Even Out-of-Supply artillery can fire (ONCE!) in RTL. Here, the Soviet player makes a
desperate 1:1 because Scenario #4 stipulations force attacks to the north and west in the first phase and OOS units
assault at half-value. The artillery was in range and able to fire, but could not fire again until resupplied. From the Cyberboard version.

The final roll is for attacking combat units outside the hex from which the lead unit is attacking. For any additional hexes involved in the combat, a die is rolled against the lead combat unit’s efficiency rating. If successful, the additional hex participates in the combat. If unsuccessful, the combat die roll goes against the attacker by two pips of the combat die roll (adding two to the roll where lower is better). The same types of modifiers exist in this die roll with the addition of an additional modifier for each non-artillery combat unit within 3 or more hexes. This makes it harder to coordinate because of the possibility of confusion from friendly forces.

Schwerpunkt (Strongpoint)

In summary, RTL is not merely a game where armies are like sumo wrestlers, going belly to belly. Rather, RTL is more like hockey where speed and grace is combined with exciting confrontations. RTL coordinates trade-offs with regard to speed vs. logistical support, concentration of force vs. command coordination, and support units vs. assault vehicles. It offers enough variety that, while there are opening moves that usually work, those moves are not always maximized due to the coordination rolls. It is probably the most interesting board game that I have played in years. It is certainly the game that has sent me back to my library to find out more about Army Group North’s fascinating thrust toward Leningrad.

Armchair General Score — 96%

38/40 — Gameplay
14/15 — Components
19/20 — Rules/Documentation
15/15 — Replay Value
10/10 — General’s Rating

GMT Website for Roads To Leningrad

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Author’s Information

Johnny L. Wilson is the former editorial director of Computer Gaming World and publisher of Dragon, Dungeon, Star Wars Gamer, Star Wars Insider, TopDeck and Undefeated magazines. He is the author of The Sim City Planning Commission Handbook and co-author of Sid Meier’s Civilization or Rome on 640K a Day. His most recent game-related book is High Score: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games, written with Rusel Demaria. Today, he balances his game playing with his work as a freelance novelist and author of multimedia study guides for the books of the Bible. His passion is any game that causes him to study more history. Not the strongest player, he is nonetheless an avid player. Johnny and his wife live on the shore of Castle Lake in Tyrone, Georgia.

1William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1960), p. 853.
2William S. Lind, "Maneuver," in (ed.) Franklin D. Margiotta, Brassey’s Encyclopedia of Land Forces and Warfare (Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 2000 (paperback, original hardbound, 1996), p. 665.
3Such was Hans Röttiger’s (XXXXI Panzer Corps Chief of Staff) complaint about the armor from Army Group Central outrunning its supplies in its race for Moscow, as noted in Steven H. Newton, German Battle Tactics on the Russian Front: 1941-1945 (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1994), pp. 28, 47.
4Carl A. Spaatz, quoted in Vincent Orange, David R. Mets, Daniel R. Mortensen and David Spires, Airpower and Ground Armies: Essays on the Evolution of Anglo-American Air Doctrine 1940-1943 (Montgomery, AL: Air University Press, 1998), p. 89 n29.

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1 Comment

  1. a very underrated game. a pleasure to play. great components. easy rules. and multiple plays lead to different outcomes. not too many counters to handle…so a lot of movement and combat results.

    earns an A in my book