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Posted on Apr 11, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Moscow ’41 – Game Review (PC)

By Jim Cobb

"But, Feldwebel, It’s Cold Outside!"

The mechanics of the Panzer Campaigns series have been detailed before in numerous places. Basically, movement consists of selecting a unit and right clicking on an adjacent hex or left clicking and dragging to a more distant hex. Movement is enhanced at a cost in combat effectiveness by travel mode. Weather conditions, supply, and obstacles affect movement. Fire combat for non-artillery is a mere matter of right clicking on an enemy within range. Indirect artillery fire requires a target to be spotted by a component of the battery’s organization or a unit with special spotting abilities. Air strikes are simply a matter of selecting the air unit and clicking the target. Assaults are initiated by right clicking on an adjacent enemy and surviving defensive fire. All combat costs movement points and is modified by supply, fatigue, morale, terrain, fortifications, and weather. Combat results include loss of men and equipment, fatigue, disruption, rout and surrender, and are shown on the screen.


Using the 3D mode in large battles lacks some perspective.

Moscow ’41 is set apart by new variations to these mechanics and supply. The series has always had five weather conditions – clear, soft, mud, snow, and frozen – but their effects have been primarily aimed at modifying movement points. In this game, frozen weather brings more drastic effects. Streams and gullies disappear; movement becomes better for some units but worse for others; mechanized units get the option of climbing out of their immobile vehicles and walking. The Germans are especially hard hit with the Frozen Penalty. German defense values are reduced by 20% in clear terrain and 10% in other terrain. Offensive values are reduced by 10%. Vehicle movement allowance is reduced by 40% (their mothers told them to bundle up but NOOOO!). Bad weather also grounds large parts of the Luftwaffe. Another detail less focused designers might overlook concerns the solstice. Most Panzer Campaigns games have ten turns per day but here scenarios have nine turns per day with three four-hour night turns.

In an unusual move, the Virtual Supply Truck supply option is the default setting. The basic supply rules have each unit rolling against their hex’s supply value with or without help from their headquarters. This rule traces a route from the unit to a supply source and calculates the movement point cost. This cost then reduces the supply value – actually the chances of a successful supply role – at the hex. This rule illustrates the horrible supply problems during the bad weather.

A final major change in the engine revolves around anti-tank guns. In early games, they weren’t too good at stopping tanks but could help create lines of zones of control and prepare fieldworks for other groups. The Tiller mafia at Tiller Con pressed these issues. Now, anti-tank guns have double disruption effects against hard targets, no zones of control and, unlike other towed artillery, can retreat with some of their guns.

Almost In The Kremlin

All the neat new changes in the world don’t necessarily improve a system. How the changes are implemented is the real test. Moscow ’41 tries to do this in twenty-seven scenarios, seven of which are hypothetical and five optimized for head-to-head play. The list of scenarios is a nice mix of situations including three variations of Operation Typhoon as well as the historical setup. Fifteen scenarios are twenty-four turns or less, some battles occur in normal weather conditions that allow significant movement, while some later ones have a low enough unit density for fast games. However, the later larger scenarios hit a similar wall as the Germans did; things may just become too much for some players. In almost all scenarios, the Germans are on the offensive and the particularly interesting battles are about the last grab for Moscow. These scenarios are long and have massive numbers of units. The German player not only struggles with immense numbers of dug-in and well-supported Russians but also with crippling supply and movement handicaps. The AI has been tweaked so that its defensive play is dotted with well-executed retreats and sacrifices; that it’s still weak on attack is moot because the Russians are rarely on the offensive. (One wishes the Russian counter-offensive in December could have been added – perhaps in a later game.) Playing as the German then becomes a frustrating grind. Is this a flaw in the engine? No, because that is an accurate depiction of events. Yet, new players should work their way up to it. Using the powerful Order of Battle and scenario editors can allow them to create bite-sized parts of Typhoon. Certainly, LAN, PBEM, and TCP/IP play against fellow gamers will hone their skills.

Smaller engagements are manageable and fun. So close yet…Operation Typhoon starts near Moscow.

Moscow ’41 is a hidden jewel of the Panzer Campaigns series, despite not having the glamor of titles like Stalingrad or Normandy. The most interesting scenarios may be work to finish. However, the creativity and inventiveness in applying new concepts in a very difficult environment stand out as some of the best work Tiller and friends have done. Schnapps all around!

Armchair General’s Rating: 79%

52/60 — Gameplay
13/20 — Graphics
04/10 — Sound
10/10 — Documentation and Technical

Discuss Moscow ’41 on the Armchair General forums.

Moscow ’41 at HPS Simulations

Author Information

Jim Cobb has a PhD in History, having studied at the Universities of Missouri, Wisconsin and Marburg, Germany. He is a member of the adjunct faculty at Cardinal Stritch University Madison, WI. Jim has been playing wargames seriously since 1968 and has been writing about them incessantly since 1993.

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